Monday, December 24, 2007

Bah Humbug

Dear reader, you have stumbled across my annual holiday blog. In years past, this has been a post poking fun at the exhausting experience of dealing with the mall during this season. This post will not have the exaggeration and exasperation that was evident in those previous posts. Some people talk about having the Christmas spirit. That dear reader is what this post will be about.

Unfortunately, we are bombarded with Christmas images for about a whole month before Christmas actually arrives. As a Jew growing up in New Orleans (Metairie mostly), I imagine my experience was not that different than most. We celebrated Chanukah , but it was not as all encompassing as Christmas. I thought Christmas was more a part of New Orleans because of the Catholic culture of the Crescent City. I now know that this presumption was mostly incorrect.

Certainly, we can all remember the lights on Al Copeland’s house, or the residential blocks that compete with each other for the best Christmas light displays. There were a few streets in Kenner that were very impressive when I was a child. I can also say that New Orleanians’ love affair with food was infused in the festivities. All of that being said, these are memorable, but relatively small things.

Honestly, Christmas imagery is overwhelming everywhere in this country. As I type this Cassie, my daughter is watching Noggin. Almost, every program has been about Christmas. Every time I’ve entered a store recently, I’ve gotten bombarded with Christmas music. The music in the malls is loud enough to be heard by people in Georgia or Cuba. Maybe the mall managers are just trying to spread the “Spirit”. Or maybe they have stock in Miracle Ear. I’ve never really liked the Christmas holiday season. Even as a child it was not exactly the best time of year for me.

I would imagine as a 4th or 5th grader some of this might have been because I felt somewhat excluded. For whatever reason, I internalized the imagery of Norman Rockwell Americana from a very young age. I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas as much as I wanted the family harmony that seemed to come with Christmas. I’ve sense learned that this harmony is not an uncommon desire. For most people, this holiday season does not bring the harmony and happiness that the American media sells to us. Whether, it is an image of a serviceman surprising his family with a return home for the holidays, {A coffee ad} or Winchester playing secret Santa for Korean orphans (MASH}, there always seemed to be a happy ending. Unfortunately, for many Americans that happy ending does not necessarily come true.

O.K. not everyone is happy during Christmas. This is not exactly big news, right? The networks almost always put together a big story about this. Are the homeless people that live in our country supposed to be magically happier at this time of year? Does the materialism of the season give them a warm feeling as they see people leaving stores with huge bags of presents? Are the poor children I work with supposed to get the Christmas spirit when they continually here about this toy or that new gadget, that they know they won’t get? Are the foster kids supposed to get the Christmas spirit when their vacation most likely spent with family they don’t like, or better yet don’t like them. What is news to me is that those same news outlets consider the stress of the season is news at all.

People all over this country have to fight crowds to keep up with the Jones’. They have to buy things for people that they don’t know well, and are pressured to buy other things that no one needs. People, who are barely making ends meet, are pressured to buy gifts that put them in debt for quite a while.

Most of you know all of this already. The anger and resentment of the season is not mine as an individual, but is felt by most of us. What I am proposing is radical and different. Do your best to avoid the spirit of the season, do your best to be nice to others, and think of them first. Let me tell you, this suggestion is much easier to suggest than to follow.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Latest LRA Press Release


Friday, December 21, 2007


Melissa Landry
Louisiana Recovery Authority
225 342 1788

LRA and OCD Highlight Changes to Assist Road Home Applicants

NEW ORLEANS (December 21, 2007) -
Today the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) and the Office of Community Development (OCD) highlighted two important changes that have recently been made to the Road Home program to assist applicants.

"These common-sense changes were requested by advocates and jointly drafted by the LRA and OCD staff as proposed by the LRA's Housing Task Force," said Walter Leger, Chair of the LRA Housing Task Force. "We believe that it's critical that ICF works quickly to make sure that every member of their staff is knowledgeable about these policies so they can give homeowners timely and accurate information."


The Road Home program is now conducting Field Review Appraisals for applicants who provided their own post-storm appraisals that were not accepted by the Road Home. The Road Home estimates there are less than 200 homeowners that currently fall into this category. The Field Review Appraisal process is automatically triggered when a homeowner submits their own post-storm certified appraisal that exceeds 120% of the pre-storm value as determined by the Road Home program. Applicants with such appraisals should submit them to an ICF staff member in Dispute Resolution, who will schedule a field review appraisal by a Louisiana certified appraiser to validate the homeowner's certified appraisal. The change enables the Road Home to use independent Louisiana certified appraisers to review whether a homeowner's appraisal is valid as the pre-storm value for grant calculation.

In addition to this new procedure, for applicants who are currently in Appeals to dispute their pre-storm value, the Road Home program will now offer the option of having a full appraisal, known as a 1004 appraisal which is provided by the Road Home Program and conducted by a Louisiana certified appraiser.

This procedure is now in place and was effective as of November 9, 2007. All homeowners are being notified of this change and homeowners with questions are encouraged to contact a member of the dispute resolution staff of the Road Home.


In an effort to increase outreach to applicants and assist them to better understand their status in the Road Home program, this change provides a homeowner with written documentation at various stages of the Road Home process. Effective as of January 1, 2008, there are three key points of information that this change of communications will address:

  1. The exact amount of grant awards under options 1, 2, and 3.
  2. Details about dispute resolution status and outcomes.
  3. Current status of the application and details about any information found to be missing from it.

The Road Home program will continue to provide homeowners with supporting documentation used to determine the following at all stages of the process.

  1. Pre-storm value
  2. Estimated Cost of Damages

The Road Home Program was designed by the LRA and is administered by the Division of Administration's Office of Community Development (OCD) and its contractor, ICF International.

"We fully support any effort to increase the homeowner's ability to make informed decisions about their grant awards," said Michael Taylor, director of the Disaster Recovery Unit, Office of Community Development.

"Homeowners can now expect to get all the data for determining their grant award and commitments from Road Home staff in writing, and they can expect to get independent appraisals on their homes, said Melanie Ehrlich, a member of the LRA's Housing Task Force and Co-Chairman of the Citizens' Road Home Action Team (CHAT). "These new policies are important, and we want to make sure that homeowners know that these changes are now in place."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Here is the rationale for impeaching Cheney

Here is a letter authored by Congressman Wexler and some other members of the Judiciary.


By Representatives and Members of the Judiciary Committee:
Robert Wexler (D-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.

Now that former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has indicated that the Vice President and his staff purposefully gave him false information about the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent to report to the American people, it is even more important for Congress to investigate what may have been an intentional obstruction of justice. Congress should call Mr. McClellan to testify about what he described as being asked to “unknowingly [pass] along false information.” In addition, recent revelations have shown that the Administration including Vice President Cheney may have again manipulated and exaggerated evidence about weapons of mass destruction -- this time about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Some of us were in Congress during the impeachment hearings of President Clinton. We spent a year and a half listening to testimony about President Clinton’s personal relations. This must not be the model for impeachment inquires. A Democratic Congress can show that it takes its constitutional authority seriously and hold a sober investigation, which will stand in stark contrast to the kangaroo court convened by Republicans for President Clinton. In fact, the worst legacy of the Clinton impeachment – where the GOP pursued trumped up and insignificant allegations - would be that it discourages future Congresses from examining credible and significant allegations of a constitutional nature when they arise.

The charges against Vice President Cheney are not personal. They go to the core of the actions of this Administration, and deserve consideration in a way the Clinton scandal never did. The American people understand this, and a majority support hearings according to a November 13 poll by the American Research Group. In fact, 70% of voters say that Vice President Cheney has abused his powers and 43% say that he should be removed from office right now. The American people understand the magnitude of what has been done and what is at stake if we fail to act. It is time for Congress to catch up.

Some people argue that the Judiciary Committee can not proceed with impeachment hearings because it would distract Congress from passing important legislative initiatives. We disagree. First, hearings need not tie up Congress for a year and shut down the nation. Second, hearings will not prevent Congress from completing its other business. These hearings involve the possible impeachment of the Vice President – not our commander in chief – and the resulting impact on the nation’s business and attention would be significantly less than the Clinton Presidential impeachment hearings. Also, despite the fact that President Bush has thwarted moderate Democratic policies that are supported by a vast majority of Americans -- including children’s health care, stem cell research, and bringing our troops home from Iraq -- the Democratic Congress has already managed to deliver a minimum wage hike, an energy bill to address the climate crisis and bring us closer to energy independence, assistance for college tuition, and other legislative successes. We can continue to deliver on more of our agenda in the coming year while simultaneously fulfilling our constitutional duty by investigating and publicly revealing whether or not Vice President Cheney has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

Holding hearings would put the evidence on the table, and the evidence – not politics – should determine the outcome. Even if the hearings do not lead to removal from office, putting these grievous abuses on the record is important for the sake of history. For an Administration that has consistently skirted the constitution and asserted that it is above the law, it is imperative for Congress to make clear that we do not accept this dangerous precedent. Our Founding Fathers provided Congress the power of impeachment for just this reason, and we must now at least consider using it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rudy Giuliani vs. N.Y. Firefighters

I was at dinner with some of my wife's family last night. One member of her family is a staunch Rudy fan. He asked me why I was not as enthused by Mr. Giuliani . Well honestly, I don't think he is any more qualified than Ray Nagin . That being said, Rudy "9/11" Giuliani does not seem to have a perfect record when it comes to the first responders of New York City. If you want to see the letter that they published click here. If cleaning up a major U.S. city is the major requirement to running the executive branch of this country, then maybe Mayor Menino might be a worthy President. Someone would inevitably complain about The Big Dig though.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Oy! Store Promotes Ham As Delicious For Hanukkah

NEW YORK (AP) ― This was REALLY not kosher. A grocery store in Manhattan made a food faux pas, advertising hams as "Delicious for Chanukah."

Chanukah, an alternate spelling for Hanukkah, is the eight-day Jewish holiday that began Tuesday evening, and hams as well as pork and other products from pigs can't be eaten under Jewish dietary laws.

A woman who saw the mistake over the weekend at the Balducci's store on 14th Street took pictures of the signs and posted them on her blog.

Jennifer Barton, director of marketing, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the signs were changed as soon as the error was noted.

She issued an apology on the company Web site, saying the company would be reviewing its employee training.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Wait you mean they still have an FDA

Anti-smoking drug linked to violent behaviour

* 02 December 2007
* From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.

The anti-smoking drug Chantix is to be investigated by the US Food and Drug Administration after reports linked it to suicidal and violent behaviour. It has been on the US market for 18 months.

The case of Carter Albrecht of Dallas, Texas, who was shot dead while trying to break into a house, has focused attention on the drug. Albrecht's family say he was in a fit of rage at the time, which they link to his use of Chantix.

An autopsy showed that Albrecht had been drinking, and the FDA says that similar factors may explain the reports of violent or suicidal impulses from other users. Chantix is taken by smokers who have quit, and it has been claimed in the drug's defence that the ensuing nicotine withdrawal symptoms may exacerbate any underlying psychiatric illness. But the FDA also notes that the side effects have been reported by Chantix users who have not stopped smoking and by users with no record of psychiatric illness.

Chantix, made by Pfizer, was recommended for use in the UK in May by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.