NOLAmotion Blog

April 17, 2010

Climatology vs. Meteorology: Why Do So Many Weather Personalities Deny Climate Change?

OK, time to address a seriously Big Issue: Climate Change. I’ll try to keep this one simple.

For some reason, meteorologists have quite a few prominent deniers in their ranks. They purport to be experts because they are involved in reporting on weather. But, weather is not climate. And for TV weather “forecasters” to make claims that humans cannot and do not impact climate is a logical fallacy; because, they are not climate scientists. Meteorologists typically have a bachelors degree. Scientists, well, they not only are bound by rigid, peer-review methodologies; but, they have years of education above and beyond that of a typical TV weather personality. And research trumps opinion.

So here’s my take: Climate is to weather what the digestive system is to feces and urine. Climatologists are like medical doctors analyzing a system. Meteorologists are like commentators observing the process and predicting the arrival and general composition of an end product.

To put it crudely, when it comes to climate science, TV weather personalities barely know shit. And if it wasn’t for government investment in weather and climate resources—socialized science!—TV weather personalities wouldn’t be able to smile at us daily and make their predictions.

We live in a tiny bubble of life for which we can find no comparison in the known Universe. And on the scale of the Universe, our blue sphere is but an atom.

The biosphere is a relatively small part of Earth. The zone of life-giving atmosphere and land for humans is only a couple of miles thick. We undeniably have–and continue to–profoundly affect systems in the biosphere that normally span tens of thousands, even millions, of years. Whether it be the coastline of Louisiana; the expanding mats of plastic and petrochemical waste in the oceans; the prevalence of 20th century man-made chemical compounds in the tissues of humans, mammals and other species; or the ongoing and massive extinction of species at a rate 1000 times what should be normal–we ARE affecting Life on Earth.

Our short time in this realm of the living can be many things. The impact of one human’s brief life and work can linger for thousands of years. We see that in the wisdom and examples of religious figures, philosophers, scientists and inventors, and those who sacrificed themselves on the altar of basic human rights. If we can have such a positive impact, it is only logical to assume that we can have a long term negative impact.

We are messy and selfish creatures; but, we have the intelligence and imagination to reach the stars, and to live compassionate and productive lives. We know that many of the things we do are harmful to our future both individually and collectively. Climate scientists have clearly shown us that we must take bold steps now to reduce the chances of catastrophic harm to ourselves. This is not about saving the planet. This is about saving us.

The next time you see or hear a media weather personality dismissing the human realities of climate change, contact that media company and express your frustration. Tell them you’re tuning them out for another channel. Media companies understand that language. Vote with your voice and with the remote control.

We live in the most compassionate time in the history of the human race. We instantly communicate tragedies and elicit immediate response from an increasingly aware and generous international population. This is potentially the most transformative era in human history. But naysayers and deniers, many of whom are profiting handsomely from their contrariness, are undermining our response to this global emergency. And transformation can go either way, good or bad. We have no time to waste.

It’s the ultimate “lead, follow or get out of the way” moment. What are you going to do?

NOTE: The Age of Stupid is currently airing on Planet Green. Even if you don’t have cable, you can watch this powerful and compelling movie online. Do it today. If we don’t take immediate action to reduce our impact both individually and collectively, the next generations face catastrophic change.

April 2, 2010

Louisiana Tax Structure Fails Our Education Systems and Threatens Our Economic Future

The repeal of the Stelly Plan that removed certain sales taxes on food and other items and created a more balanced income tax structure is causing a much-predicted crisis in Louisiana. We are facing the worst funding shortage in memory. And cuts announced this week to higher education are going to devastate our universities.

When the Stelly Plan, which voters approved, was ceremoniously repealed, we ended up with two tax cuts. And these cuts are not stimulating our economy, they are causing layoffs, higher tuition and myriad problems that will harm the reputation of Louisiana and that threaten our economic future.

When the Stelly Plan was repealed, we didn’t return to the status quo–we just gave a tax cut to the upper brackets and didn’t replace the funds from the removal of the sales taxes.

Stelly was a fair plan. The sales taxes that hurt poor and middle class residents were lightened and we all paid a few dollars more (at least those of us at average income levels, in my case it added less than $100) in income tax. It worked. Now we’re in a pickle. And it’s not even because of some lousy Friedman-esque economic theory–it’s because of political grandstanding and misrepresentation of how taxes work.

Those who want Louisiana to prosper, to have a solid education system, to have better roads, safe and secure drinking water, fair and honest police, fire and emergency service systems, courts that dispense justice and are able to put people in facilities that securely and effectively incarcerate without breeding more crime (or being complete hellholes where you may die within hours whether guilty or not) must pay for these things. That’s what taxes are for. And with federal prosecutors hot on the tails of corruption (thanks in no small way to the fact that all contracts now end up on computers and leave multiple electronic trails), things ARE changing for the better.

But we have to demand vision and leadership from our elected officials, not platitudes and phony political philosophy. And we have to do our parts to participate, to go to meetings, to be watchdogs, to volunteer to help our city halls and parish services, and to vote.

These problems are not going to be solved by name-calling rallies or by shouting down political discourse when our elected officials have public meetings or by calling fellow citizens socialists because we disagree with them. Democracy is hard work. And we in New Orleans have gotten better at it than most of the country. But now we need the rest of Louisiana, the average citizens (not just business and political leaders), to get on the ball and participate.

It took a massive (and man-made) disaster to make us in NOLA get involved. Is that what it’s going to take for the rest of the state to get with it?

February 9, 2010

What Does Mass Euphoria Feel Like? NOLA!

There are so many cliches floating about now that we’ve won the big game. But words and pictures cannot capture the feeling of being a New Orleanian right now. So many life/game-changing things are happening that it’s hard to explain/describe what it all does and could mean. Suffice to say that we’re feeling a lot better about so many things. We have an optimism we didn’t have a few weeks ago. And we’re flying high as we head into the peak days of Mardi Gras.

My thoughts are simply those of gratitude mixed with relief. I love New Orleans. I love Louisiana. I’m glad we get along so well. And, like thousands of Saints fans, I wish my late father had lived to see this day.

So many things feel different today. Oh, there go the cliches again. I’ll stop before I get carried away.

The yin/yang of our experiences have spun us into a state of euphoria right now. I’m going to be out on the streets today, relishing it with the Who Dat Nation. Yes, indeed!

Sign from the Buddy D Memorial Parade Jan 2010

January 27, 2010

Thoughts on the LSU hospital plans

Now that the issue (fill in the blank based on your views/knowledge: is, appears to be, might be, might never be) settled, it’s time to discuss what will happen next. We need to focus on better building techniques, sustainability and resource management. The demolition of buildings needs to be well managed. We must recycle as much of the irreplaceable old-growth lumber and components as possible. There should be a consortium of all the city’s materials recycling entities to handle this. NOLARecycles and the Green Collaborative represent collective efforts and can be tapped for expertise.

There will be lead paint issues, asbestos issues. But we have an enormous opportunity to set new examples of Best Practices in recycling and re-use, and that means economic development. Now is the time for leaders of the Biosciences District to seek assistance from area green organizations and leadership. I can see several sites processing these materials and the possibility of reinvigorating our rebuilding resource organizations with this effort.

A huge concern of this project is water management. Stormwater runoff from this site will be copious. There are many in this area who are well-versed in sustainable development techniques. We must make this site a shining example that exceeds anything ever built in New Orleans when it comes to water systems and ecological footprint. The development team needs to delve deeply into Low Impact Development principles, Regenerative Design techniques and Biomimicry concepts. These should be Living Buildings where healing takes place with the assistance of Nature. And they need to be leading examples of resilience and mitigation. We can make the hospitals state of the art in more than just medicine, but also in how to build in our hot, humid, windy environment and for our soil types.

There’s no doubt this project can be measured in both dollars and lives. There’s no doubt Charity Hospital was prevented from opening in the months after the flood by those seeking to build the new hospital. We can (and probably will) debate this issue for decades; because, for too many, the cost was measured in the loss of loved ones like Cayne Miceli. And there is no doubt that far too many of those lives were lost due to a plethora of failures that reach their nadir in the mismanagement and brutality of the operations of Orleans Parish Prison. Unfortunately for us, today’s funding decision changes nothing about life in New Orleans in that regard until both the hospital and new jail are completed, years from now.

So I say it’s time for us to come together and make these entities the best they can be. There will be opportunities for involvement, for cooperation and compromise in the coming days. I intend to do my part, and hope that everyone who worked so hard on both sides will do theirs, to ensure that these projects make New Orleans stronger and become the kind of assets that will improve our lives and economy.

Let’s not settle for the same kind of management, design and construction practices of the past. As yesterday’s Green Collaborative Platform for Candidates proposes, we know how to grow the economy of New Orleans. These hospitals need to be catalysts for green/sustainable development. It’s time to step up, demand the best and build our future.

January 6, 2010

Thoughts on the Anniversary of the Passing of Cayne

Filed under: Blogroll,Music,New Orleans Recovery,Uncategorized — nolamotion @ 1:16 am
Tags:

Cayne Miceli in New Orleans December 2002

Cayne Miceli was a truly mystical and deeply spiritual soul. She was enlightened, vibrant, sexy, colorful, outgoing, outspoken and could turn the most mundane moment into one of great insight, joy and hilarity. She possessed a sharp wit that she wielded with taste and great humor. She was never mean, even when life and friends let her down.

Cayne radiated life. She glowed with an intensity that reflected her spiritual connection. And she could brighten your day with her huge smile, even when she was not in great spirits.

Cayne also had a capacity for understanding and analysis that made her counsel and advice meaningful, thoughtful and soothing. She never gave you a sense that she was patronizing you or was impatient with your thoughts–though she was jumping to put her two cents into the discussion. She shared like nobody I’ve ever known, everything she had: emotional, physical, spiritual. She knew love because she gave love. Her friends and family grew with her passing, despite our pain, as we all connected and continue to share our love for her and for each other. Tuesday night, January 5, some of her friends gathered at a live music club to light candles at midnight to honor the anniversary of her passage and to conjure her spirit. It was a most appropriate setting.

Cayne’s probably laughing at us all as we fight our emotions and try to reflect the true nature of her spirit and joie de vivre. I hear her staccato voice this night, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m great, I’m fine, I’m so connected it’s amazing. You know I knew things could be this way but I never reeeaaaallly knew until I crossed over, really, it’s amazing, it’s so cool, I’m just so happy. It’s like I always said, Peace and Love, Peace and Love! I can’t believe how I got here, but I found it! It’s soooooo cool! I love you guys! Peace and Love! Peace and Love!”

November 5, 2009

City Park: Green Fills the Holes in The Great Concrete and Roosevelt Mall Smells Like Money

Non-native plants ready to plugged into the waiting holes of the hand laid brick and concrete holes in the nearly finished Great Lawn.

Non-native plants ready to be plugged into the hand-laid brick and concrete holes in the nearly finished Great Lawn.

This week an 18 wheeler delivered a truckload of plants for the final stages of The Great Concrete Lawn in City Park. This multi-million dollar project sure provided a lot of money and work. That’s economic development. And that truckload of plants sure helped keep people employed—in Florida!

As the photo shows, a truckload of non-native species plants was delivered from a company with locations in Wisconsin and Florida. Cashio Cochran LLC, whose designs have disguised, smothered and killed the native landscape of City Park for the past couple of decades, ensured their role in history as perhaps the most un-enlightened park designers of the past half century with this last implantation of imported plant life.

Economic development in City Park for an out of state plant provider.

Economic development in City Park...for an out of state plant provider.

But all is not lost…..yet. After this past week’s debacle of destruction, the Voodoo Music Experience (VME), tore up the soil under some of the most beautiful and fragile oaks in the park, we at least can look forward to when these non-native palms, ginger and other decorative plants blossom and bloom and hide those ugly old oaks that obviously were in the way of Cashio Cochran’s Eisenhower Era vision of tidy design.

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City Park brings friends together for the production of the Voodoo Music Experience. Rehage and Torres treat the park like, well, like what goes in that portabe potty.

What a year it’s been in City Park! Though I’ve only been blogging about it since March, we’ve seen bad decisions multiply like invasive species. The ironies pile up, too. The post-VME smell on Roosevelt Mall, despite the preponderance of familiar bull horns on the portable toilets, isn’t the aroma of the past couple of years in the French Quarter, but that of Bourbon Street of years gone by–a sour, sickly smell that this week’s blooming Sweet Olives can’t disguise. The damage, the smell, the bad design, the out of state plants, the heavy equipment crushing soil and roots, I guess it all smells like money to somebody. Or else we’d be hearing more than just me moaning and griping.

That copper roof will turn a nice shade of green. You  think the designers planned for that to match the tree?

That copper roof will turn a nice shade of green. You think the designers planned for that to match the tree?

But, I guess I’m lucky. Unlike the those ever-more scraggly old oaks, I get to go home and put those smells and sights out of my mind whenever I want. And I have to assume that the folks who work there find all this quite normal since it keeps happening again and again and again and again and again…………..

Cashio Cochran's big flourish--a palm in front of a pyramid hat building in front of an ancient live oak. Bam!

Cashio Cochran's big flourish--a palm in front of a pyramid hat building in front of an ancient live oak. BAM!

October 28, 2009

City Park Soil Remediation Project: One Step Forward

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Newly hired LSU AgCenter horticultural agent Russell Harris (L) stands with La. Dept. of Agriculture & Forestry arborist Tom Campbell (R) under two live oaks where soil was aerated, remediated and improved at the new City Park Dog Park.

City Park’s consulting arborist, Tom Campbell, working with contract arborist Tom Benton, has taken the first step in best practices for live oaks with a soil remediation project for two trees at the site of the new dog park. This location, where cars parked for decades and compressed the soil, was a great candidate for the effort.

Working with what arborists call an “air knife” that injects compressed air into the soil, loosening it and allowing air, water and nutrients to flow, the soil was also amended with organic matter and now looks rich and life-giving.

The site will now  serve as a test for future efforts. The next likely candidate area is the playground near the Peristyle, where years of human activity have compressed the soil and badly damaged many mature trees.

Kudos to Tom Campbell and City Park for taking the initiative to begin this much-needed process of restoration and best practices!

October 22, 2009

Cashio Cochran Takes “Risks” in City Park

Just what every ancient live oak needs: a man-made building.

Just what every ancient live oak needs: a man-made building.

Thanks to Lolis Elie and the Times-Picayune for telling the story of how I’ve been trying to promote best practices for tree care in our area.

This is just a brief post for new visitors. I’ll be updating in greater detail later. But, I have to address a statement made by landscape architect Carlos Cashio in today’s article. He says that “sometimes you take risks to accomplish certain design elements.” My response is NO, YOU DO NOT TAKE RISKS WITH MATURE LIVE OAKS IN CITY PARK. Ever.

I post these pictures to let you decide for yourself. What is more beautiful: Carlos Cashio’s concrete and brick pyramid-hat building or God’s ancient live oak?

Architectural symmetry is more important to Cashio Cochran than the beauty of an older live oak.

Architectural symmetry is more important to Cashio Cochran than the beauty of an older live oak.

It’s past time to let some of the true stewards and visionaries in the field of landscape architecture shape the future of this precious place. We already know what Cashio Cochran can do, and it does not meet my standards of the concept of legacy.

After I challenged this construction, sand was used under the brick rather than concrete. However, sand has little pore space to allow air, water and nutrients to reach the tree roots, so the tree will suffer so we can walk on bricks. Harming the oaks steals from the future and violates the standards of stewardship needed for the park.

After I challenged this construction, sand was used under the brick rather than concrete. However, sand has little pore space to allow air, water and nutrients to reach the tree roots, so the tree will suffer so we can walk on bricks. Harming the oaks steals from the future and violates our history.

September 22, 2009

Cayne Miceli Ordeal Included in Justice Dept Report That Declares Sheriff Gusman’s Orleans Parish Prison “Violates the Constitutional Rights of Inmates”

See Nola.com story here.

Orleans Parish Prison and Sheriff Marlin Gusman run a hell hole. The United States Department of Justice, in a 32 page report, spells it out in great detail. And perhaps now something will be done.

After the maiming and deaths of so many people, such as our dear, beautiful friend Cayne Miceli, it’s past time for change. The report is scathing and detailed, and perhaps will help us make that change.

The main fact stated by the report is that “we find that certain conditions at OPP violate the constitutional rights of inmates.” The report further states that “we find that inmates confined at OPP are not adequately protected from harm, including physical harm from excessive force by staff and inmate-on-inmate violence.” It continues, “we find that inmates do not receive adequate mental health care, including proper suicide prevention.” And completing the trifecta of tribulation for anyone with a health condition requiring medication, “we found specific deficiencies in medication management.”

Adding insult to injury, the report found that inmates “face serious risks posed by inadequate environmental and sanitation conditions.”

So, not only is the jail a medieval torture chamber where brutality, poor mental health standards and abominable management of medication can cause death; but, it is a filthy slime pit and potential incubator of disease. Oh, and it has inadequate fire safety standards, too.

The report goes into great legal detail in support of its findings. Then it gets into the meat of the Findings with this paragraph:

“We find that OPP fails to adequately protect inmates from harm and serious risk of harm from staff and other inmates; fails to provide inmates with adequate mental health care; fails to provide adequate suicide prevention; fails to provide adequate medication management; fails to provide safe and sanitary environmental conditions; and fails to provide adequate fire safety precautions.”

Under Finding A, INADEQUATE PROTECTION FROM HARM under item l: Unnecessary and Inappropriate Use of Force, the report states that “We believe there is a pattern and practice of unnecessary and inappropriate uses of force” and goes into detail regarding officers “openly engaged in abusive and retaliatory conduct which resulted in serious injuries to inmates.” The report then delves into OPP records to illustrate examples of brutal incidents.

The report in Item 1 goes into detail regarding Inadequate Policies and Procedures, Inadequate Use of Force Reporting, Inadequate Management Review of Use of Force, and Lack of Investigative Policies and Procedures.

Finding A-2 is that OPP has an Inadequate Classification System that results in inmates being improperly grouped, and produces a situation where “there is very little to safeguard against housing predatory inmates with vulnerable inmates. Not surprisingly, we found a disturbingly high number of assaultive incidents in the multiple occupancy cells.”

Finding A-3 covers Inmate-on-Inmate Assaults, going into detail on 10 incidents between May 2007 and August 2008 calling the situation “a systemic level of violence that poses a serious risk of harm to both inmates and correctional staff at the jail.”

Finding A-4 covers Inadequate Staffing and Inmate Supervision, which explains much about Finding A-2. But this section slams management of the prison, stating that “we found that OPP operates its facility without a staffing plan or analysis to establish the minimum number of security staff needed to safely manage OPP’s population.” This speaks directly to the fact that we elect whomever is popular to be sheriff. Gusman, whose prior positions in city government were purely administrative, is not a lawman or prison specialist. And evidently he hasn’t hired the kind of staff who follow basic guidelines such as this one regarding how many people it takes to safely run a prison with a large population of inmates. Does he rely on any other agencies to help him fill staff shortages when they occur? This report indicates that he has no plan.

On some occasions, the Justice Department report reveals, only a dozen officers were on duty to supervise 900 inmates! Here’s another disturbing quote, “On these occasions, the majority of the multiple occupancy cells housed more than 10 inmates and four of the eight floors had only one officer responsible for over 140 inmates.” If that nightmare doesn’t get you, how about this regarding staffing of the second largest facility at OPP, the Tents, “we found several instances during February 2007 thru May 2008 where the inmate average daily population was more than 580 and the facility had only seven officers on shift.” Of course this “places both inmates and staff at risk.”

There is a typo/flaw in the report, rather than Finding B it jumps to Finding C, (this is a typo, not indicative of anything missing from the report) INADEQUATE MENTAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL CARE. This is where the report obviously refers to Cayne Miceli’s case, though she is listed anonymously as “H.H.” Here is the section in its entirety. Note HOD stands for House of Detention.

“On January 6, 2009, H.H., a 43-year-old woman, stopped breathing while in restraints at OPP. H.H. was sent to HOD-10 hours after intake because she was considered hostile and suicidal. While in HOD-10, H.H. was placed in five-point restraints even after she repeatedly complained of asthma and breathing distress. H.H. did not receive physician or psychiatric care to determine if medication was appropriate or if placing an asthmatic individual in a five-point restraint was acceptable. Although she was under direct observation, H.H. was reportedly seen attempting to get out of the restraints. As OPP staff intervened and placed her in the restraints, H.H.’s body went limp. OPP medical staff responded to assess her condition. She was sent to the emergency room, where she was later pronounced dead.”

This is surely a brief and grossly incomplete telling of the horrors Cayne faced on her date with death at the hands of Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s staff– if indeed there were enough officers there that day to run the jail to satisfy his (now proven inadequate) level of standards.

The report also tells the horrible stories of two other inmates who in 2008 were placed in the restraint systems for more than 24 hours in one case and more than 35 hours in the other.

The damning evidence continues, “OPP has neither a restraint chair nor a safe cell. Inmates are restrained to metal beds affixed to a cell wall. The positioning of the bed prohibits 360 degree access to the inmate and, ironically, is itself a suicide hazard as even restrained individuals can strangle themselves by affixing clothing or sheets to this type of bed.”

I won’t go on with more details. We all know that OPP is a hell hole. But now it’s official,  OPP is a threat to the health of all who are incarcerated and/or work there.

The Justice Department politely concludes the report with a pledge to assist and cooperate in helping OPP implement remedies. And it equally politely states that if “we are unable to reach a resolution regarding our concerns, the Attorney General may initiate a lawsuit,” and gives Sheriff Gusman “49 days after appropriate officials have been notified” to get started.

With the elections coming up, this report is damning of Gusman’s management and care, not only of the inmates and citizens of New Orleans, but of his own staff. I find this whole situation reprehensible and outrageous. I hope and pray the people of New Orleans wake up to this horror within our own government. And I also hope that the local papers cover this story in much greater detail than today’s rather short online story.

Cayne Miceli was killed by a chain of events that involved our health care system and our justice system. She received neither care or justice. She was spit-out by a for-profit hospital, then brutally handled by the justice system and died a torturous death at the hands of under-supervised public servants in a jail that is now declared a violation of our Constitution. Welcome to New Orleans, Louisiana U.S.A. in the 21st Century.

If Charity Hospital had been up and running, something we all know was possible within months of the flood and surely by January 2009, Cayne would be alive today. If Tulane/Hospital Corporation of America lived up to the highest principle of care for its patients, Cayne would have never been arrested. And if Sheriff Marlin Gusman was good at his job, his jail would not be a cesspool into which people go in whole and come out damaged or dead.

Our taxes support all these institutions and their managers, including Tulane/HCA. As we strive to make New Orleans whole again, we cannot allow these fundamental systems to operate in this manner.

And we cannot continue to elect incompetent people to positions of power, for it is killing us, quite literally.

Previous stories:

Cayne Micelie R.I.P.

“I think that we gave her maybe the best medical care that we could have given her”

Sheriff all but admits guilt in killing of Cayne Miceli

September 21, 2009

Iowa Film Credit Program Suspended Over Corruption

Filed under: Blogroll,Politics,Uncategorized — nolamotion @ 2:01 pm
Tags:

FilmReel_Photo_01

Geez, I wonder how many of the tragedies that befall us down here are going to happen in Iowa? They’ve flooded and know what it’s like to deal with FEMA.  Now they’ve had corruption of their film tax credit program resulting in their economic development director’s resignation. Who could have imagined it? Corruption in a tax credit program involving the film business! Here’s one link to their story. And here’s another.

Of course, you know how I feel about all this.

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