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January 05, 2006

Reflections on Katrina

Katrina should have changed everything. Now, more than four months after the levees failed, it appears that the destruction of New Orleans did change much at all. The same powerful interests that doomed the city are shaping its reconstruction. If the city lives on, it will be stamped forever by the warped priorities of the people who wrote it off in the first place.

When I took these pictures I thought that the loss of New Orleans would reshape the entire American political landscape.

In the immediate aftermath, it seemed as if massive change was inevitable. How could Americans ignore the ugly truths that Katrina had laid bare?

Early on, there was real hope not only for reconstruction, but for renewal. New Orleans became the blank slate onto which we all projected our Year Zero fantasies.

There was talk of a new New Deal for the entire Gulf Coast. Media watchers claimed that Katrina had awakened the obsequious press and ushered in a new era of aggressively critical journalism. Evacuees perched on cots in shelters talked animatedly about how they would rebuild their community--stronger, safer, fairer.

In retrospect, these projections seem naive. New Orleans drowned on Bush's terms. Now the city will be rebuilt as another massive experiment in Republican crony capitalism: deregulation, cheap labor, environmental disregard, broken promises of assistance.

It's easy to be bitter about the situation on the Gulf Coast, but we can't afford to give up. The bad news is that the reconstruction process will take years. The good news is that we have time to turn the process around. We can only hope that the 2006 elections will begin to dismantle Republican power.

Update: The Katrina death toll hit 1386 on January 4th after six more bodies were discovered in Louisiana.

See also: The Rude Pundit visited his native New Orleans four months on. Don't miss his powerful photoessay: Parts I, II, III, IV, and V.


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» satyagraha in NOLA from bookofdays
When I 've taught introductory composition to community college students, I often insisted on either beginning or ending with an examination of Martin Luther King's Three Ways of Meeting Oppression. It was in the text as an example of structured [Read More]

» satyagraha in NOLA from bookofdays
Mahatma Gandhi and MLK would both be proud of what they've done in the Ninth Ward. Not the government - the people standing in front of bulldozers. When I 've taught introductory composition to community college students, I often insisted [Read More]

» Just Depressing from Audacity
I've been comtemplating an angry rant about today's political landscape for awhile, but it's a post like Majikthise's that make me not angry, but sad.Katrina should have changed everything. Now, more than four months after the levees failed, it appears [Read More]


New Orleans is significant at least as a measure of the depths and dollars and attention spans with which americans can express empathy for the least fortunate among us. At first we saw that the storm swung a mighty blow at the city as a whole...but the scenes of aftermath show that primarily the poor were struck. As the tardy and inconsistent federal help for the stricken begins to dry up, is american generosity which had come from a broad spectrum of affiliations at first, going to narrow?

If you polled right now, I wonder how many americans would tell you that New Orleans was back in business "except for some poor neighborhoods".

What followed Katrina in NOLA is truely an indictment of bush league priorities and ethics. What precipitated the devastation was years a-brewing and deserves understanding just as much because it is in THAT understanding that people, who consider New Orleans' fate isolated and say to themselves "that can't happen here", will see the need for deeper change of our nation's agendas: many infrastructure enhancements and environmental neglects are going under funded.

First thing I would note is that Katrina was a rainy day. Unfortunately, we have already blown the rainy day fund in Iraq. The second thing I would mention is that I don't think dollar one should be spent in New Orleans unless the flood control can handle a Cat 5 hurricane. As far as cronyism and so forth concerning Bush, the Bush, DeLay, Abramoff, Cheney, Halliburton, Ken Lay, and so forth explains the Bush philosophy.

Forget about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans; Natalee Holloway is STILL MISSING!

On the heavier side, I don't see how any serious reconstruction can take place until our troops are withdrawn from Iraq. Of course we could always ask the Chinese to lend us some more money, but everyone knows that will only make things worse in the long run. Why the Democratic Party hasn't seized on Bush's broken promises to the Gulf Coast and connected this problem to our costly war is beyond me. November is ten months away, which is several political lifetimes. The Dems can't expect the negative views of Bush and the Republicans to carry their candidates to victory by themselves. If the Democrats blow this historic opportunity to reverse their fortunes this coming fall then they might as well sell the shop to the Green Party, which would be just fine with me anyway.

It had a few good episodes to begin with, but its Nielsen's were way down. You can't expect the networks or big-time cable channels to carry it. Maybe it will get picked up by Showtime.

>Of course we could always ask the Chinese to lend us some more money,

That spigot is already open full bore. They've been buying Treasury bonds for years as if they're going out of style. Thus, Chinese and Japanese infusions of (our own) dollars are funding our war in Iraq. Of course, it's in their interests to keep funneling their dollars back here and loaning them back to us, because otherwise, the dollar's value would fall, and China has nearly a trillion of our dollars already. If the dollar fell, and their dollars all became worthless, they'd be hating it. Then they'd have no leverage against us, and they probably want to save it for a more appropriate time to arm-twist us.

However, since we've been deficit-spending since Bush came into office, we could certainly deficit-spend our way to a better New Orleans. I recommend it. Journalist and author Mike Tidwell, who has studied the bayous quite a bit, recommends that instead of only rebuilding the levees, we dedicate several billion dollars to restoring New Orleans' wetlands and coastal islets, which acted once as a natural barrier to hurricane destruction. He mentions plans that have already been drawn up to restore these, which will effectively fire-break the area. These plans, per Tidwell, are supported both by business interests and environmentalists. If President Bush put them into effect, he could then justly take the credit for taking the initiative to rebuild New Orleans properly, and I'd be the first one to give him that credit.

It had a few good episodes to begin with, but its Nielsen's were way down. You can't expect the networks or big-time cable channels to carry it. Maybe it will get picked up by Showtime.

No chance. Showtime, remember, cancelled "Dead Like Me" after only two seasons. Philistines all.

Those interested in reading about the plan Mike Tidwell is discussing, for restoration of New Orleans' barrier islands and wetlands, should search under his name and "Coast 2050" (the name of the plan).

Another good site is If you go there and click the link on:

Coalition Guidance to Louisiana's Congressional Delegation

, it will give you a good overview. The site has a lot of good nuts-and-bolts plans for restoring the area.

Lindsay -

I thought of you immediately when I saw> this: Ninth Ward residents channeling MLK and Gandhi, putting their bodies between their homes and the bulldozers.

Some property owners argue that they've been allowed only to look at their homes since the city reopened the 9th Ward December 1 and that there hasn't been adequate time to look for possessions or make big decisions.

Shana Griffin, a community activist, called the city's plans "unfair, illegal and immoral."

"These decisions are being made in our name but without our input," she said at the news conference. "We need to make sure our rights are not further eroded by those who seek to profit from our loss."

State Rep. Charmaine Marchand, who is a resident of the Lower 9th Ward, said it's not right to take someone's property without giving them notification.

"When did we decide that we could usurp the constitutional right to own property?" she asked. "This is not going to be stood for. We are going to fight this battle until the end."

I ssw Brian Williams, in September, say what he says> here in the WaPo , and promise not to take his eye off the ball. Will he make the connections that need to be made between post-Katrina betrayals and current stories, like "We won't rebuild Iraq" or the mine disaster? Will he realize NOLA is never not breaking news?

I hear compassionate people wondering, discussing, what can be done about NOLA and the Gulf coast, how to structure the aid.
Forget about it.
The government will not do anything meaningful for these poor people, because George W Bush has spent all the fucking money, now and for decades, and and badly damaged our ability to respond monetarily to any crises for the forseeable future, including this one.

Thanks a goddamned pantload, Bush voters. The next time you meet a guy "you'd like to have a beer with", buy him a goddamned beer instead of making him the goddamned president.

I live on the Texas Gulf coast, Corpus Christi, and our local and state governments, with the hel[p and blessing of our two Republican senators, are busily developing Padre Island, our local barrier island between us and the Gulf of Mexico. They seem oblivious to the hurricane threat and think nothing of destoying the island and the wetlands for money. Before long the developers will take their money and go and someday a hurricane will wipe the island clean and seemingly none of the lessons of Katrina or Rita have been learned here.

>The next time you meet a guy "you'd like to have a beer with", buy him a goddamned beer instead of making him the goddamned president.

_Loved_ this line.

Dicky Neely, I'm sorry to hear that. In spite of Bush's "grease the crony, step on the poor, and silence the criticism" philosophy, I still hold out hope that he might try to make a public-relations coup out of rebuilding NOLA and the Gulf Coast, as a public works project. After all, if you wanted to shut up your critics--which seems to be Job One for Bush--after a debacle like Michael Brown and Katrina, the only possible way is to actually do something positive, so that your critics have to say, "well I have to admit that at least he..." Like Reagan did by saying "Tear Down That (Berlin) Wall," or Nixon did by detente and his trips to China, or Hitler did with the Autobahn.

At the moment, Bush's critics can plausibly claim that everything he's touched, from Iraq to Katrina to the Economy to our Budget Deficit, has turned to a shambles. Rebuilding New Orleans, in such a way that it won't be done over the exact same way next hurricane season, would achieve what we want, and would mollify his critics. Best we can hope for.

Katrina? New Orleans? Yawn.

(God I hate these people.)

We can only hope that the 2006 elections will begin to dismantle Republican power.
We can only hope that Jack Abramoff will open the Chamber of Secrets and THAT will begin to dismantle Republican power.

Great post, thanks for writing it. I've written a few myself, and as a native of New Orleans I am astonished at the lack of outrage among the American people about what is happening there.

Thanks for writing about New Orleans, I'm living and blogging here and we need the attention. The absolute truth is that unless and until we get significant hurricane protection, this city will not survive. So either the federal government builds it, or Louisiana is allowed to keep a fair share of offshore oil revenue so we can build it ourselves. Just let us know soon.


Oh God. The Rude Pundit> spent his New Years' there. and his words feel unassailable. Just go read and, Norleans reaidents, tell me why he's wrong.

I've read and viewed The Rude One's photo essay on New Orleans. It's wonderful, and heartbreaking. I can't recomend it highly enough. Go read and see.

If dubya had only signed the Kyoto protocol, like the REST of THE WORLD, Katrina might have been prevented. Now no doubt Halliburton will get big contract$ to clean up/rebuild. You'd think this country would finally be admitting that Gore should be Pres.

I just saw Farenheit 9/11 again and I think maybe Michael Moore should be President!

No WAR for OIL! Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton! WHERE are the WMDs, hmmmm? Hillary in '08! IT's FOR THE CHILDREN!!!

The above post reminds me of the fact that Liberalism is a form of mental illness.

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