Archive for November, 2009

Climate change denial, or, NOLA.com commenters are an (in)breed apart

Global warming

Not only has the Times-Picayune run an alarming article on the rapid pace of climate change, but they’ve also posted it to NOLA.com — which means it’s been opened up to comments. And as much as I love New Orleans, I have to admit that we have some really, really stupid people living in south Louisiana. What’s worse: they’ve learned to type. After the second page of numbskullery, I had to close the tab. (There are five pages of comments in all. So far.)

Of course, I know that climate change denial takes place across the globe. On the network news, on Fox “news”, on talk radio, on websites, people refute volumes of university studies with Dan Brown-esque flimsy evidence that global warming is some kind of conspiracy. Of course, none of these knuckle-dragging, armchair meteorologists can explain why the world’s best scientific minds would collude on such a scheme — what they’d have to gain, what they’re trying to prove. These are the same people who’d like to see creationism and it’s slightly buffer cousin, intelligent design, taught in classrooms. Their agenda is solely political and solely laughable.

Look, I understand that science can be used as a weapon (cf. the American Psychiatric Association’s former categorization of homosexuality as a mental disorder), and I don’t claim that science is apolitical, but how can anyone — left, right, center, or libertarian — argue that pollution is a great thing? I mean, we all understand those “Your mother doesn’t work here” signs in breakrooms, right? Isn’t this the same thing on a slightly larger scale?

Damn, I think we need to bring that stereotypical-but effective crying American Indian back.*

* Is it just me, or does the narrarator in that spot sound a lot like Ken Nordine?

Ode to Molar No. 30

Molar No. 30
I am fortunate in that I have sucked up all the best dental genetics in my family. I have well spaced teeth which are strong and haven’t had any major issues in life, no braces and had my wisdom teeth out with only novacaine.

However, since turning 40 I have had a number of more pressing dental issues. It seems that my bucks have reached their critical mass due to the pressures of being a first-year law student. Ima grinder. I have gone in an out of grinding over the years. But last year, my regular dentist, Dr. Sturm, at Audubon Dental identified about three possible root canals. My insurance with her as a specially chosen provider was limited to $1k a year. That covered only one root canal.

I was in so much pain at one point that I found that the much dreaded root canal was actually the best thing ever! Whew, that pain is hard to compare since it vascilllates between a 2-10 on the pain spectrum within the same day. I was scared the first time but was at a point where I would have blown the side of my head off to stop the pain.

Dr. Arch, my first endodondist did a good job of the first root canal in short order and life went on for a while. But after that procedure, I had used all of dental benefits. Other issues began to loom, I hoped could wait til the new year. That was not possible.

Then, Molar No. 30 started acting up in early September. It was hard to pinpoint the pain, if you’ve had it, you know what I mean, it’s like the whole side of your head is in a spasm.

Since I had already used all my dental benefits to fix the first one and had no more insurance, Molar No. 30 wasn’t in the math. It HAD to be done ASAP but I had no more insurance. Thank God, Aliya, one of the students told me to go see Dr. Schmidt at Riverbend Dental. I was in so much pain I was unable to function. Dr. Schmidt agreed to take me and let me pay half and half over the course of a month.

So he did the root canal for me and saved my life. However, I still had to come up with about $1,000 for the crown on that tooth which now had a big hole in it. I finally did get enough money, but it was too late. I had already cracked the remainder of my tooth in half. I knew it going in to the office today, I could feel it sagging out of its line with the other teeth. One too may Cheese Nips or a piece of pizza did it in. It was fragile.

As I suspected, Dr. Schmidt said we have to pull it and he gave me the credit for the root canal which is now a null issue and explained I could get a bridge or an implant. I chose the implant.

Pulling Molar No. 30 was sheer hell. And I knew it would be. That molar has done so much chewing for 40 years, it’s not as is if it was suddenly going to just take off without a severence package. . . no way.

The extraction was brutal. Piece by piece, Dr. Delaohussay dug and dug and then dig an x-ray and dug some more to get all of the tooth out. There was blood everwhere and I got a few stitches too. Yikes. I was as brave as I could be.

Don’t take your molars for granted. This was a somber day for me. Molar No. 30 had helped me enjoy a lot of slabs of spare ribs over the years as well as helped ground out a lot of stress and do my best in my roughest times without any credit on his part. But today, as he was brutally relieved from his duties, I felt the least that I could do was take his picture, show my appreciation and verbalize the pain I went through, the only reciprocity for the duty which Molar 30 has absorbed for me years throughout the roller-coaster of crisis of life.

I miss him today, as I fill his spot with gauze on the stitches which mark his place today. Eventually, we’ll put a crown to replace No. 30 on top of a fake buildup of bone in the gum. This fake buildup will take months and is the only option aside from a bridge, which relies on the strength of nearby teeth. Teeth which I don’t feel can take the extra pressure.

Poor Molar No. 30 was in such a state today, at his being declared done, he was not at all ready to give up. We might as well have dropped a grenade in his office to get him out of the way. But at Riverbend Dental, they deal with patients holistically and with dignity. They gave me a nice blanket. After all, fear makes the blood run cold. Dr. Schmidt admitted later that he didn’t let on about how awful this was going to be but I told him that I knew it was a big ass-brutal-bloody-mess. But, it had to be done and I totally trusted his staff.

After they numbed me, they kinda let me sit for a few minutes and suddenly I got all antsy and was like, ” let’s go!” I pestered a staff members to get on with what equates to bullet removal from the jaw. I wanted to just get it done. I had a brief breath of bravery I could not afford to waste.

It was rather horrible but we did well and laughed as pieces of my tooth wound up in the suction tube. Progress.

Dr. Schmidt has been working with students like myself who don’t have insurance to pay as they go to get massive dental work like mine done over the years with no community credit of this quiet contribution. I can tell you that without his compassion, many of us would have nowhere else to turn.

My regular endodontist refused to do the work in two installments, Dr. Arch, who’s also very good but just sent me on my way with some Vicodin and no other option beyond the $1100.00 bill right today. See ya later!

In these economic times, I had to find another solution to my debilitating pain. Thankfully, a fellow law student told me about Dr. Schmidt. He was more than willing to help me past my crisis.

I also appreciate his bedside manner, explaining yesterday, in fact, he admits had this same issue himself. The too late, but good intentioned crown. He’s just wonderful and his office is full of students from med/dental school which is actually really fun. It creates a feeling of mild chaos compared to some offices, but I support teaching people, period. I enjoy talking to the new students and enjoy being a part of their learning. . . . Today, I was the nutty lady who insisted on saving all the pieces of my pain and they were totally cool about it. It seemed liked I was the only one who seemed to notice all the blood!

Cao Steps Up

Screen shot 2009-11-08 at 7.37.48 AMIt’s about freakin’ time the health care bill passed on to the next stage in the process.  I like health care, I bet you like health care too.  Everyone needs it and we all need it to be inexpensive and accessible, to me making that happen as fast as possible is a no brainer but evidently to a lot of congressmen and women it just isn’t.  I didn’t vote for Anh “Joseph” Cao, why?  Because he is a Republican (I’m a Dem) and I was a bad voter who didn’t do any research before hitting the polls. As of last night I have had a change of opinion, I like this guy.

Cao was the one and only Republican Congressman who crossed over and voted to pass the health care bill last night.  Knowing he represents me puts a smile on my face. Here are a few things he said about his vote:

“Tonight, I voted to keep taxpayer dollars from funding abortion and to deliver access to affordable health care to the people of Louisiana.”

“I read the versions of the House [health reform] bill. I listened to the countless stories of Orleans and Jefferson Parish citizens whose health care costs are exploding – if they are able to obtain health care at all. Louisianans needs real options for primary care, for mental health care, and for expanded health care for seniors and children. […]

“Today, I obtained a commitment from President Obama that he and I will work together to address the critical health care issues of Louisiana including the FMAP crisis and community disaster loan forgiveness, as well as issues related to Charity and Methodist Hospitals. And, I call on my constituents to support me as I work with him on these issues.

“I have always said that I would put aside partisan wrangling to do the business of the people. My vote tonight was based on my priority of doing what is best for my constituents.”

I could do without the anti-abortion part but otherwise I couldn’t agree more. He negotiated to get us the best deal, rather than voting down party lines and not really listening to his people.  House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called him “The Future” of the GOP, I hope he is right.

(Quotes taken from huffingtonpost.com)

Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom

The long walk to a jail cell is next

The long walk to a jail cell is next

The Civil Trial regarding the Crime Cameras concluded with a jury finding for the plaintiffs. Dell Inc, along with former City Technology chief Greg Meffert and firms owned by a city vendor were found guilty of conspiracy against two local firms. The jury awarded Southern Electronics and Active Solutions 16.3 million dollars. The lawyers for the defendants claimed that is was a victory for them due to the fact that the plaintiffs had asked for between 660 million and 2 billion in damages. I guess anything can be spun any way someone likes to spin things, but in my eyes a finding of guilty is a finding of guilty. Not that I expected something different, I pretty much have known for sometime now that Mr. Meffert was a corrupt person and that he was running the City’s Tech Office as his own personal money making machine.

So it comes as absolutely no surprise that U.S. Attorney Jim Letten is going to announce today a over 60 count indictment against Greg Meffert, his wife Linda and former City Tech Chief and business partner for Mr. Meffert, Mark St. Pierre on public corruption charges. This isn’t a shock, but Mr. Meffert’s wife being included is surprising and the amount of counts is a surprise to me as well.

What does this all really mean? We’ll it means either Mr. Meffert, his wife, Mr. St. Pierre or all three will be going to a federal penitentiary at some point in the future. It could also mean that the squeeze is on to bring the Mayor of New Orleans into the fold. At this point that would not be a shock whatsoever. You need to remember that Greg Meffert was the Mayor of New Orleans right hand man. One of his closest confidants and the most powerful person in the Mayor’s administration. You cannot be in charge without knowing that your “guy” is living off city vendors credit cards and getting paid as a consultant that is getting millions and millions of dollars in city contracts, without the Fed spotlight looking at you can you Mr. Mayor? You cannot be riding high in a yacht in Lake Pontchartrain or sitting on a beach sipping Pina Coladas that are being paid for by said contractors and not expect the Feds to question just what the hell is going on at City Hall can you Mr. Mayor?

I find it very very interesting that the Mayor of New Orleans is always willing to give his opinion on things like communism or on “that big hole in the ground” in New York City, but when his chosen Recovery Director (see below) comes out and says New Orleanians are nothing but lazy racists or his hand-picked right hand man is found guilty in a civil trial and is up for indictment on corruption charges, the Mayor of New Orleans is tight-lipped and unavailable for comment. Be ready for that federal knock on your door Mr. Mayor, because it’s a coming your way and nothing can stop that train at this point.


Ed Blakely: so close, and yet…

Ed Blakely

Few New Orleanians liked former Recovery Czar, Ed Blakely. He was distant, he was presumptuous, and he spoke without thinking. Also — and this is a fault of our own parochialism — he was an outsider and therefore, suspicious.

I never met the man. I don’t know what he was like. All I know is that watching him on TV was unbearable: his comments reeked of the same jackass hubris that still peppers Ray Nagin’s cringe-inducing interviews. Grand pronouncements, back-slapping self-congratulations, all that junk.

However, as this [terribly edited] two-part interview shows, Blakely did pick up a few things here. He may or may not have had any impact on our city’s recovery, but at least he understands now what we’re up against — and I don’t mean levee walls and rising sea temps. Of course, you’d have to be a complete idiot to miss the racism — both black and white — that informs every move in city politics, but given my low expectations of the man…well, I’m pleasantly surprised he got it.

That said, Blakely is way out of line when, speaking of the recovery process, he says that “New Orleanians expected someone else to do it all along…. They never expected to do it themselves.” That may have been true over on Perdido Street (was there ever a more apt street name?), but if the son of a bitch had gotten out of City Hall and into the neighborhoods and seen the work that people were doing — cleaning up, building networks, starting community organizations, attending endless planning meetings — he might’ve understood where the real impediments lay.

The man’s no idiot, but he’s kind of an idiot, if you catch my drift.

On the need to be ever-vigilant, inside and out

Dr. Ralph Newsome, Jr.

New Orleans is not the place to live if you’re paranoid about safety. Things happen here — good, bad, accidental, deliberate, and frequently unpleasant.

Of course, the city’s neighborhoods aren’t created equally. Despite its reputation as a hub for vice, the French Quarter is one of the safest places you can live in New Orleans. The streets are busy, the police patrols are frequent, and many of the residents are tourists, which makes local-on-local crime less likely.

Less likely, but not impossible.

As the big party weekend began ramping up last Friday night, somebody or somebodies decided to celebrate Halloween in a particularly cruel and unusual way: by stabbing a well-known surgeon in his French Quarter home, then setting fire to the place. Dr. Ralph Newsome was pronounced dead that evening, after being taken to the LSU hospital.

I didn’t know Dr. Newsome. I’m not even sure I recognize his face in the photo above — which is unusual, since New Orleans is a pretty small town. Making it doubly unusual is the fact that Newsome was gay, and for one reason or another, we gays tend to know one another, at least on sight.

That’s not to diminish the tragedy of Newsome’s death, of course, only to say that I didn’t know him: I didn’t know his likes, his dislikes, his personal preferences, what he ate for breakfast, how he took his coffee, or the other minutae of his too-short life that friends and family will remember over the weeks, months, years to come. I can’t say anything about Newsome at all, but judging from the fact that he was a gardener and kept tortoises, I think we would’ve hit it off really well.

Over at Towleroad, most commenters have jumped to the conclusion that Newsome was killed by what used to be called “rough trade”. I’m sorry to say, that was the first thought that crossed my mind, too. The area of the Quarter where he Newsome lived is well known for its population of muscled-up straight boys whose allegiance to money and crystal meth frequently outweighs their devotion to the female of the species. Mix gay-for-pay with gay-for-meth and…well, it’s proven lethal before.

But none of that’s been confirmed by the police. So far as I know, no details have been released at all. Conjecture leads to the worst kind of stereotyping (is there a better kind of stereotyping?): as proof, look no further than some of the knuckle-draggers leaving comments at NOLA.com. I’m trying to steer clear.

All I know is that murders in the French Quarter are rare; they galvanize locals who are fed up with the city’s piecemeal system of policing and justice; that New Orleans has lost a handsome, talented, and by all accounts loving man; and that if I were that man’s partner, I would be out for blood.

[Thank you for the reminder, Tyler]

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