Friday, August 25, 2006

8/26/2006 Community Gumbo

The Hurricane Katrina One-Year Anniversary Episode

audio Carl Brauner
Carl Brauner weathered Hurricane Katrina inside his State Street Drive New Orleans home. He details his experience wading out of his house, the camaraderie he discovered in the city as he escaped the flooding and made his way downtown, his confrontation with Gretna police on the way out of town, and how Hurricane Katrina has provided him with an opportunity for positive growth despite the personal property losses he suffered. Some of the experiences he relates are similar to other disaster accounts reported by Rebecca Solnit (below). This interview was conducted on 3/12/06. Note: Because the interview was anchored when it was broadcast, and the whole audio was uploaded without anchor comments, continuity may be difficult to understand in two places -- when Brauner crossed the CCC bridge, and when he arrived in Baton Rouge where he saw video of the extent of flooding for the first time.

audio Rebecca Solnit
Rebecca Solnit used the authoritarian law enforcement response to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake as the context for describing the response to Hurricane Katrina in a September 2005 Harper's Magazine online essay (an update to an essay to appear in the then forthcoming October Harper's). She argued that the typical state response to disasters defies the countervailing natural social tendency toward cooperation and mutual aid. She also draws similarities between carnivals (as in New Orleans' Mardi Gras), revolution, and disasters, as times when the normal social order of things is turned upside down and true social transformation appears momentarily possible. This interview was conducted on 4/15/06, less than a month before New Orleans municipal elections were held.

People Get Ready -- Disaster, carnival, and revolution

Music tracks played:
Louis Armstrong, "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," on The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans Music.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, "What's Going On," from their brand new CD What's Going On.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

8/19/2006 Community Gumbo

audio Democracy Now (8/18/06)
  • "There Are No Hereditary Kings in America" - Judge Rules NSA Warrantless Spy Program Unconstitutional
  • Can Journalists Be Prosecuted for Receiving Classified Information?
  • "More Propaganda Than Plot" - Former British Ambassador on Alleged UK Terror Plot

Drew Landry and the Dirty Cajuns, "Category 5."

This edition of Community Gumbo will repeat last week's features about homeowners fighting their insurance companies to have their claims settled.

The one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is just a week away. Despite the passage of time, many houses damaged by hurricane-force winds or floodwater look the same as they did the day after Hurricane Katrina destroyed them. Homeowners are frustrated that their insurance providers aren't honoring the policies which homeowners have faithfully paid into for years. The only option remaining to those homeowners so that they don't become victims again is to sue their insurance providers. (See Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon's comments below for an update).

If a homeowner's insurance provider hasn't voluntarily agreed to extend the deadline to file a lawsuit against them for unsettled claims, they should file a lawsuit against their insurance provider by the August 28th deadline for Katrina claims, and September 23rd for Rita claims.

Attorneys Gregory Johnson and Bradley Elizabeth Black (interview below) recommend that homeowners get a piece of paper in hand from their insurance companies written in plain English stating that the right to file a lawsuit has been extended beyond a year. Homeowners who don't file lawsuits should pay close attention to any court challenges to Louisiana Act 802 of the 2006 Regular Session which extended the period during which lawsuits can be filed. If an insurance provider hasn't extended the deadline to file a lawsuit, Johnson and Black recommend that homeowners file lawsuits to protect themselves. Homeowners can always withdraw a lawsuit. Those who don't file lawsuits may open themselves up to losing any right to insurance compensation for damages.

audio Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick, Mid City
Mid-City residents Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick found that Allstate hired an engineering firm to argue in favor of the insurance provider. Haag Engineering wrote a report stating that the damage to their home wasn't caused by wind or flood, but that the racked condition of the house existed before Hurricane Katrina. The house now leans about 4 inches for every 7 1/2 feet of vertical height.

Fred McDowell, "Fred's Worried Life Blues," The Rough Guide to Bottleneck Blues.

audio Lisa Palumbo, Uptown
Lisa Palumbo is filing to sue State Farm for exactly the same type of case Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick are fighting. Her house is racked, and the roof is damaged. Every time it rains, water drains into the ceiling and walls. State Farm can't decide whether to call the damage wind or flood, but appears to be trying to cherry-pick the evidence to squeeze somewhere in between the two.

Just a week ago, Lisa received yet another engineering report. This time, among the evidence engineers presented against wind damage was a map showing that winds weren't strong enough in New Orleans, but the map shows the eye of Hurricane Katrina was still far off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.

Esther Sparks & the Protesters, "On My Side."

audio Gregory Johnson, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Gregory Johnson is an attorney at Southeast Legal Services, a pro bono legal project providing free legal services to the low-income community since 1979.

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services has posted information and forms on to help homeowners file a lawsuit against their insurance providers.

audio Bradley Elizabeth Black, Katrina Staff Attorney at the Loyola Law Clinic
Bradley Elizabeth Black is the Katrina Staff Attorney at the Loyola Law Clinic. The clinic may not be able to take on new cases for a few weeks, but it is still dispensing legal advice, and is distributing information packets to help homeowners file their lawsuits against their companies by the August 28th deadline for Katrina claims, September 23rd for Rita claims.

The Loyola Law Clinic is on the third floor of the Loyola Law School, 526 Pine Street, Room 120, 861-5590 (ext. 2).

Insurance Journal -- "Insurers in Louisiana Agree to Extend Hurricane Lawsuit Deadline" (hat tip: Listener Bob)
Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon says nearly all of Louisiana's homeowners insurance companies, including State Farm and Allstate, have complied with his order to extend the prescriptive period for policyholders to file a lawsuit as result of a hurricane-related insurance claim. ...

Most insurers have agreed to the extra year. Some will extend the prescriptive period to two years but are reserving the limited right to give the Department 30 or 60 days written notice to rescind the stipulation, but only if a court determines that Act 802 of the 2006 Regular Session is unconstitutional.

Commissioner Donelon notes that until there is a final court decision, all hurricane claimants whose companies have filed a stipulation are now fully protected because of his directive.

Louisiana Department of Insurance

Helpful phone numbers:
Louisiana Bar Association attorney referral service: 504-561-8828
New Orleans Pro Bono Project: 504-581-4043
New Orleans Legal Assistance Center: 504-529-1000

WWL Audio on Demand -- Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon comments on State Farm agreeing to extended period for suing the company (audio, 8/11/06)

8/12/2006 Community Gumbo -- photos

Saturday, August 12, 2006

8/12/2006 Community Gumbo

audio Democracy Now (8/10/06)
  • Report Rules FBI Justified in Fatal Shooting of Puerto Rican Independence Leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios
  • Did BP Purposefully Allow its Alaska Pipeline to Corrode in Order to Shut it Down and Boost Oil Prices?
  • Lebanon Facing its Worst Environmental Disaster Ever: Oil Spill From Israeli Strike Still Untreated After One Month
  • Israeli Ambassador Grilled on Targeting of Civilians, Use of Cluster Bombs and Other War Crimes in Lebanon

Sufjian Stevens, "Flint (For The Unemployed And Underpaid)."

audio Sue your insurance company now!
In this edition of Community Gumbo, New Orleans residents fight to get their storm insurance claims settled.

Interviews with Mid-City residents Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick, and Uptown resident Lisa Palumbo, as well as legal advice from Gregory Johnson, an attorney at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, and Bradley Elizabeth Black, the Katrina Staff Attorney at the Loyola Law Clinic.

The bottom line: If you don't have a check from your insurance company for damages caused by Hurricane Katrina, the deadline to file a lawsuit against your insurance company for Katrina-related damages is August 28th, 2006; for Rita-related damages, September 23rd, 2006. Don't become a victim twice. File to sue your insurance company even if you think it's working in good faith, and you may even want to file to sue if you haven't completed repairs to your house.

audio Michael Homan and Therese Fitzpatrick, Mid City

audio Lisa Palumbo, Uptown

Thanks to Rachel for production assistance.

audio Gregory Johnson, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services is a non-profit law office which has served the low-income community since 1979.
A project of a coalition of Louisiana legal services programs, other state advocacy groups, and the national organization Pro Bono Net, to increase access to justice in Louisiana by giving the public easy and free internet access to information that will help with civil legal problems. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation administers the project.

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services has posted information and forms on to help homeowners file a lawsuit against their insurance providers.

audio Bradley Elizabeth Black, Katrina Staff Attorney at the Loyola Law Clinic
The Loyola Law Clinic is also distributing information packets to help people file lawsuits against their insurance companies by the August 28th deadline for Hurricane Katrina, and September 23rd for Hurricane Rita. The Loyola Law Clinic is on the third floor of the Loyola Law School, 526 Pine Street, Room 120, 861-5590 (ext. 2).

Kirk Joseph, "Backyard Joseph" (only available at Audible Vision,


Michael Homan's blog
Michael has written extensively about his insurance problems, including this exposé: "Haag Engineering: An Insurer's Best Friend"

Lisa Palumbo's blog
Read an assortment of Lisa's posts detailing her insurance frustrations.

People Get Ready -- Hold on to your wallet

Other phone numbers:
Louisiana Bar Association attorney referral service: 504-561-8828
New Orleans Pro Bono Project: 504-581-4043
New Orleans Legal Assistance Center: 504-529-1000

MSNBC, "Nearly 700 file suit over denied Katrina claims: Homeowners accuse State Farm of using ‘one-size-fits-all’ method"
The suit claims an engineering firm hired by State Farm drafted a generic, “one-size-fits-all” report that concludes all damage to homes on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast was caused by “storm surge” and not hurricane-force winds.

State Farm’s policies cover wind damage, but storm surge is considered flood water and is excluded from coverage.

The report, which Dallas-based HAAG Engineering Co. prepared for State Farm, is “patently biased” because it concludes that Katrina’s storm surge arrived before its wind could do any damage, the lawsuit argues.

“State Farm nonetheless referred to this report as the ’Bible,’ and expected and coerced all of its adjusters and engineers ... to reach conclusions consistent with the HAAG report,” the lawsuit alleges.

Sun Herald, "Damaging opinions: Attorney claims consultants' findings convenient for insurance companies"
Oklahoma attorney Jeff Marr saw what was coming before Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi's shoreline.

Insurance companies, he suspected, would deny or underpay policyholder claims based on expert opinions from failure and damage consultants such as Dallas-based Haag Engineering.

Marr, who recently won a $13 million verdict against State Farm on behalf of Oklahoma tornado victims, learned a great deal about how insurance companies control claim costs as he prepared his case, filed in 2000 and tried this spring.

The disaster may change, Marr said, but the approach to handling claims remains the same.

Many Mississippi policyholders whose homes Katrina pounded with both wind and water agree. Insurers have denied coverage to thousands of their Coast policyholders, blaming damage on tidal surge, covered through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Both Nationwide and State Farm have bought copies of the "Hurricane Katrina Damage Survey" authored by Haag failure and damage consultant Timothy P. Marshall. Marshall happened to be "the closer" for State Farm in the Oklahoma case, Marr said, the last of several Haag engineers to testify for the nation's largest insurer of homes and autos.

The jury found that State Farm "recklessly disregarded its duty to deal fairly and act in good faith," and further, did so with malice. Marshall's name came up when Marr visited with several jurors, at their request, after the trial.

"The jury hated him," Marr said. "They viewed him as a professional witness. They gave him the consideration his expert opinion deserved and wrote him off.

"Haag has been involved with State Farm since the '80s. So (State Farm) knew what they were going to get when they hired them. Not one time did Haag agree with the policyholder as to the nature and extent of the damage. Not once."

Haag Engineering

Haag Hurricane Katrina Damage Survey

Friday, August 04, 2006

8/05/2006 Community Gumbo

audio Democracy Now (8/02/06)
  • Fidel Castro Temporarily Cedes Power While Undergoing Surgery
  • Exclusive From Havana: Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon Says Castro is "Very Alive and Very Alert"; Condemns US Plans for Post-Castro Cuba and Bush’s Meeting With Exiles Advocating Cuba’s Violent Overthrow
  • Cuban 5 Remain Imprisoned Despite Orders For Their Release
  • Israel Launches Massive Ground Invasion of Lebanon

audio The Unified New Orleans Plan
After a couple of false starts, the process of creating one unified plan to rebuild New Orleans neighborhoods destroyed by flooding finally started to gel with a process called the Unified New Orleans Plan. Residents citywide were invited to participate in two meetings to evaluate how the diverse neighborhoods of the city would combine their rebuilding plans with the assistance of various private planning firms.

In order to receive federal Community Development Block Grants to rebuild their neighborhoods, federal guidelines require the City of New Orleans to present a single unified plan.

Residents are now evaluating and voting on their preferred planning assistance teams. Monday, August 7th, is the last day to vote. Video of the planning team presentations can be viewed at UNIFIEDNEWORLEANSPLAN.COM.

The Unified New Orleans Plan (Web site)

The New Orleans Community Support Foundation

Planning District map (pdf)

New Orleans Indymedia (Darwin BondGraham) -- New Orleans Plan kicks off

Adrastos - fubar

Michael Homan -- Red Dots for the UNOP

Metroblogging New Orleans (Maitri) -- What Is UNOP?: Sunday's Unified New Orleans Plan(ning) Meeting

Becky Houtman -- Unified New Orleans Plan -- My Take So Far on 11 Months of Development

Mid-City Neighborhood Organization -- Sunday's UNOP Meeting

People Get Ready -- res ipsa loquitur

People Get Ready -- The veneer of public input

People Get Ready -- The night out against the Night Out Against Crime

People Get Ready -- Lambert criticizes calendar for "dreamscape of the future"

audio Should I Stay or Should I Go?
A reading by Dale Hrebik, an English professor at Loyola University. On the side, Hrebik writes for the blog Flood and Loathing, and plays in a band named Smuteye. He's also busy rebuilding a double shotgun in Mid City which had three to four feet of water inside what is a raised house. He hopes to move back into his house by the end of the year.