Sunday, August 27, 2006

Louisiana in the news

Usually when Louisiana is in the news it's because of something bad. Katrina was an obvious example last year, but it's usually something smaller than that. Back on the 25th a man shot a woman to death in a mall in Lafayette. The shooting was apparently the result of a domestic dispute. The gunman was shot to death by an off-duty police officer working mall security (it tells you a lot about what they pay police in this state that several mall security workers present were off-duty police).

Here's the story:

The other story that broke this week was that of a bus driver in Coushatta who allegedly told nine black kids to sit at the back of the bus while allowing white students to have seats at the front. Some of the white kids were allowed to sit by themselves while the younger black kids had to sit on the laps of the older kids.

The story is here:

Black folk interviewed by CNN said they couldn't believe that this sort of thing could happen in the 21st century. Unfortunately, I found it believable. The smaller rural areas of Louisiana (and surrounding states, for that matter; Jason and Jimmy relate similar stories from Arkansas) are still very racist. Most of the racism is covert. They'll be friendly enough to black people, but the racism comes out in private. I know for a fact that there are white employers who will not employ blacks (even when they might employ other minorities). Racist jokes abound in the workplace.

The strangest part of the story is that the bus driver was so overtly racist. The driver couldn't have been too bright (yeah, I know that pretty much goes without saying). Most racism that I've seen isn't so "in your face".

Of course racism down here cuts both ways. Alana sees more of that side than I do, seeing as how there are no black folk in my office. Still, when you hear of things like this bus incident it puts into perspective why blacks feel downtrodden.

A lot of the stories about Louisiana these days have to do with FEMA trailers.

There are 18,000 trailers in Louisiana available to hold Katrina victims. Unfortunately most of them can't be placed anywhere because half of Louisiana's parishes don't want them in their neighbourhoods.

Here's the story at CBS's web site:

Some of the new trailer parks are virtually empty. Back in July, the Baton Rouge Advocate reported that a FEMA trailer park has 198 trailers but only 15 families live there. It was hard for the paper to talk to the people living there because until July 20, FEMA prevented people living in FEMA trailers from talking to the press unless a FEMA official was present! This blatantly unconstitutional requirement was rescinded after The Advocate complained.


Maybe one of the reasons they can't get people to live in the trailers is because some fo them are considered toxic. The Sierra Club tested the air quality in 44 trailers and found high levels of formaldehyde.

This story is from Mississippi, but the same trailers are being used in Louisiana:

On a less serious note, it seems that one trailer manufacturer cut only 50 different keys for the trailers they sold to FEMA. On average one key could open 10 trailers in a park of 500. This isn't much different from car manufacturers. Every now and again you hear stories of someone opening someone else's car. It once happened to my brother. Car manufacturers don't usually have to worry about hundreds of the same model car parked side-by-side for months on end in the same parking lot. FEMA says they will replace the locks on 118,000 trailers.

I couldn't find the story online, but one city in Louisiana (Red River?) have pulled a bunch of trailers from a dealer's lot in order to get them to people who need them. They had the dealer's permission, who even helped tow the trailers. FEMA is not amused, as they say they need to take down bar codes of the trailers while they are in the lot, otherwise they won't pay for them. The issue seems to be red tape. FEMA pays for the trailers directly from the manufacturer, and they pay $10,000 per trailer. The dealer wants $16,000, which might be his cost. I don't know. At any rate, for whatever reason FEMA was not getting their stash of trailers to the people who needed them a year after the hurricane.

Finally, not everyone is negative toward the government. Rockey Vacarella of Chalmette towed a trailer (not an official FEMA trailer, as that's illegal) to Washington. He was not protesting any of the myriad issues with the trailers, such as those mentioned above. No, he wanted to thank President Bush personally for the job he and the government had done in Louisiana. Bush met with Vacarella personally the other day. As everyone knows, Bush doesn't meet with people who disagree with him if he can help it. His people stack "town halls" with sycophants, and Bush rarely makes himeself available for press conferences. Sure enough, Vacarella said he wished Bush could run for a third term.

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show covers this quite well. The segment can be found at

(Hopefully that link will work. I'm not sure if you can pull up direct links to YouTube.)

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day Alana and I realized Katrina was definitely going to hit New Orleans. Tuesday is the anniversary of the hurricane striking the city. I'm sure Louisiana will be featured in the news throughout the week. Hopefully we'll actually see some positive Louisiana stories...

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