I’ve been looking for a winter home somewhere else for a while now, and have been looking at New Orleans since I was down there in February a few years ago. And now, in the security of a coffeeshop with wireless 1200 miles away, this hurricane Katrina devastation is a horrific scene to watch (there was an earlier Katrina, in 1999)

Today is the Iowa brief deadline, no time to surf, so here’s a few quick blurbs from others:

Paul Krugman – A Can’t Do Government

In the STrib lately:
Editorial: Unprepared/Woeful planning for Katrina

The rich occupy the highest ground

10,000 miles of canals

Some insights from Eric Francis (for indepth, check PlanetWaves:


Paris, Friday, Sept. 2, 2005

Daily at http://PlanetWaves.net/
Subscribe! (206) 567-4455

Katrina, the Awakener

ONE IMAGE keeps haunting me from this week’s journalism, spun by William Rivers Pitt at truthout.org — that of presidential advisor Karl Rove standing on the roof of the White House in a magician’s hat and cape, with a big staff, conjuring Hurricane Katrina. Given the witch-hunt against climate change scientists reported in The Guardian earlier this week, that may not be far from the truth (links below, in blue).

On its face, this storm happened at a brilliantly convenient time for world managers who thrive on chaos and distraction, right in the midst of the first meaningful protests against the catastrophic Iraq war gaining momentum — and with George Bush’s approval ratings lower than any president since Nixon at the height of Watergate. If you recall, moments before Katrina arrived, we were in a reflective, concerned moment as the situation in Iraq descended into worse condition than even staunch pessimists predicted.

The US military death toll is near 2,000, and the number of journalists killed in the 30-month conflict has exceeded that of two decades in Vietnam. New, uncontrolled violence takes more Iraqi lives by the day, and sometimes by the hour.

Public attention has now been swayed to a domestic emergency the like of which we have not seen since Sept. 11, 2001. But New Orleans makes what happened four years ago in New York City seem rather dim by comparison, in terms of the number of lives devastated, loss of life, and the destruction of homes. An entire major city has been taken out, not 16 acres of one and the surrounding buildings.

The difference now is, there’s no one to blame, no emotions of hatred and enmity of some alien outsider to whip up and use to dial in the team spirit — and the disaster happened to a poor, predominantly black city instead of at the heart of the world’s financial and banking operations. Deprived of our prerogative to get revenge, we may actually have to pay attention.

News channels are reporting a state of urban warfare, and troops have consent to shoot and kill American citizens. Police officers are turning in their badges. Scanning the news reports reveals that people are still trapped in the city, on rooftops and in high-rises, and thousands are starving.

The condition is deteriorating to the point where vigilante sniper fire at recovery personnel has been reported. Is this even vaguely possible? Who, stranded in their own city, would shoot at rescue workers just for the hell of it?

There is no drinking water. Bodies are everywhere. Widespread disease will be inevitable. Tens of thousands of refugees are still left behind at the Superdome and the Convention Center as people die before the eyes of onlookers. The city remains completely flooded because breached levees and overwhelmed pumping stations have made it impossible to remove the water. Due to a breached levee, water from Lake Pontchartrain is still flowing into the city. The stories of cuts to budgets for maintaining these structures only makes one feel sick, in hindsight.

It’s starting to make the tsunami look good.

CNN reported Thursday that a police officer working in downtown New Orleans said police were siphoning gas from abandoned vehicles in an effort to keep their squad cars running, like a detail straight from the mind of Stephen King.

Incredibly, no organized relief program appears visible. Indeed, police have received federal orders to privilege stopping looters against delivering aid and searching for survivors. In other words: the priority (as we have so often come to expect) is to protect property, though it would seem there is little property left to even bother with. The effect: poor blacks can die. What we are witnessing is beyond incompetence at this stage, and is approaching the level of genocide.

It is important to remember that cities are highly toxic environments, and floods release everything that is usually contained, or held at the bottom or rivers and lakes, into the general environment. Containers and pipes burst. Fires cannot be controlled. In addition, the Mississippi Delta, thanks to generations of contamination by Monsanto, is one of the most dioxin-tainted areas in the world. Though it may not be acknowledged, there is likely to be a serious dioxin problem in New Orleans and nearby areas right now, and for generations to come.

In my mind’s eye, I am seeing this unfold along another strand of time. A fully financed, well prepared Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be on the job years before the hurricane made landfall, as this was a predictable event, contrary to recent assertions. (Indeed, FEMA is being absorbed into Homeland Security and damaged by budget cuts.) Hundreds of Coast Guard helicopters from coastal states and many others would be bringing supplies, and getting those most in need to medical help. Old Army bases, so recently closed by budget cuts, would be used as massive relief centers, complete with airstrips, bathrooms and mess halls. Sports facilities, with all their problems, would not have to be used as refugee camps. America’s standing Army and National Guard units, themselves not trapped in the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan, would be widely available to assist, with all their equipment, rations, supplies and other resources.

There would be enough manpower. There would be plenty of money for the operation; America is the richest country in the world. Which may be the problem.

But this is not happening in a different time, under different national leadership: it is happening now. And due to the damaged oil-refining infrastructure along the Gulf Coast, the effects of this storm will be rippling, or ripping, into the world economy. The price of gasoline has suddenly risen well beyond $3.00 per gallon many places in the U.S., and has exceeded $6.00 per gallon at some retail outlets in the south. Apparently, many places in the southeast have no gas at all. We are hearing the first calls for fuel conservation since the mid-1970s.

Generally, this is the one thing that can key people into the fact that something is wrong; America’s real religion is practiced at the filling station, and nearly all of its transportation energy comes from petroleum.

But it’s becoming obvious many more ways that something else is wrong. Imagine if this were a multiple city emergency — that is, if the damage were to more than one city. Imagine if the casualty toll were higher. Are we now to understand that the federal government is incapable of responding to an emergency? It would seem so.

Leave a Reply