Thursday, September 29, 2005

Cashing in on catastrophe, the survivors are left behind.

Who will rebuild New Orleans?

Are the citizens coming back to their homes, to clear the debris and begin rebuilding their lives, as we are shown people doing on the nightly cable news in Texas and Mississippi?


The New York Times has revealed that a Florida company with ties to Mississippi Governor has received a contract to remove debris at well above going rates. No companies from the affected Gulf Coast were awarded a share of the $2 billion in contracts, the Washington Post reports.

From the New York Times of Sept. 26
AshBritt, which has won the biggest share of those no-bid contracts, is being paid about $15 per cubic yard to collect and process debris, federal officials said. It is also being reimbursed for costs if it has to dispose of material in landfills.

California-based Environmental Chemical Corp., Ceres Environmental Services Inc. of Minnesota, and Phillips and Jordan Inc. of Zephyrhills, Fla., will remove debris in Louisiana

But three communities in Mississippi, which found their own contractors rather than accept the terms offered by AshBritt, have negotiated contracts of $10.64 a cubic yard to $18.25 a cubic yard, including collection, processing and disposal.

And other experts have questioned AshBritt's fees. "Let me put it to you this way: If $15 was my best price, I would rebid it," said Mike Carroll, a municipal official in Orlando, Fla., with experience in hurricane cleanup.

According to Senate filings, AshBritt paid about $40,000 in the first half of 2005 to Barbour Griffith & Rogers, the Washington lobbying firm co-founded by Governor Barbour of Mississippi, who is also a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

And who are these companies employees? Why, one might has, has the government removed I-9 requirements (proof of citizenship) for people employing hurricane survivors? Yes, some people may have lost the Social Security cards. Given the reliance of Texas and Florida business on illegal aliens, I suspect that some if not many of the workers will be illegals. They work cheap, don't complain about conditions, and are easily disposable after. It's hard to sue your employer for work-related exposure to the toxic stew that coated New Orleans after you've been deported to another country.

It's not just the carpet baggers who are raking in most of the federal relief money. Or refusing to employee Katrina's survivors. F. Patrick Quinn III, hotelier and one of the leading lights of New Orleans business, in his efforts to get his properties open and ready for the lucrative FEMA contracts the NYT reports he is pursuing, has brought in Mexican immigrants from Texas to clean his properties.

Why, I might ask him if given the chance, would he not hire displaced New Orleanians?

Like most new money people in New Orleans, he is probably very class conscious, and not terribly fond of black people. Many working class New Orleanians still carry the racist attitudes we were all fed with our grandmother's Sunday cooking.

Mr. Quinn, who is trying to buy up more than a dozen additional hotel properties to add to his little empire of existing hotels, is a scalawag. For those not of a Southern extraction, a scalawag is a native who does the same thing as an outside carpetbagger--profit from the misfortune of others.

That he would bring in possibly illegal aliens to work in his hotels while the working people of New Orleans are scattered around the country by their government should surprise no one. For the people in power, it's all about the money. And as a result, the people of New Orleans will be left behind in all the dust and the smoke of the rebuilding.

Here is some more on Mr. Quinn from journalist Jeremy Scahill, recently returned from New Orleans:

I also...had the chance to meet one of the wealthiest of citizens of New Orleans, F. Patrick Quinn III. He is the single greatest owner of private rooms in New Orleans. He is currently -- he told me that his hotels are being looked at by FEMA to house the workers for the long haul of the so-called reconstruction. I was talking to him, as his head of security and he pulled off in his S.U.V., about 30 Mexican workers came out of his hotel, and one of his security guards said that they had been brought in from Texas, and in fact another news report, about Patrick Quinn, said that he had brought in workers from Texas as well. So, we have the reality of these shelters full of people wanting work and then you see Mexican workers being brought in from Texas, and when they're done, doing this dirty work, they will be put on the back of trucks, piled into trucks and they go to wherever it is that they were staying.

This man, Patrick Quinn is bidding for these contracts where FEMA potentially could come in and rent out hundreds and hundreds of rooms in his hotel and other businesses are struggling to simply stay alive or scramble to get federal money to rebuild, he is standing to gain a tremendous amount of money from these lucrative federal contracts. It must be noted that he is a major contributor to the Republican party. In fact, his wife was just elected in the special election to the state Senate. Her name is Julie Quinn..."

But he is not alone in his attitudes. Our Dear President's rush to suspend the prevailing wage regulations for federal contracts reminds us that there are many in power who think that a lot of us, and not just Negro Slaves, are a mere 3/5s of a citizen compared to their illustrious selves.

Further afield, the politically connected Shaw Group is receiving a mere $200 million in contracts, including the development of a FEMAville trailer ghetto in Baker, La.

The structures they will live in aren't the stylish, modernist prefab homes one might see in the architecture magazine, Dwell. They are airless metal trailers, poorly suited for 90-degree heat. In less than two weeks, 600 of these containers will be standing in a field just off Groom Road. Rows of Porta Potties and showering facilities will complete the FEMA-funded trailer-home subdivision, swelling Baker's pre-Katrina population of 13,500 by 2,000 more.

Baker's trailer camp -- and many others like it -- are being developed by the Shaw Group, a politically well-connected Baton Rouge company that has received at least $200 million in FEMA funds for post-Katrina cleanup and reconstruction. The Shaw Group is a client of former FEMA director, now lobbyist and "disaster pimp" Joseph Allbaugh who resigned in 2003 and arranged for the disgraced Michael Brown to become his replacement.

What sort of people prey so openly on the misfortune of others? How much longer must Katrina's survivors sit in shelters or sweltering trailers and watch this on the news?

Should there be any question in their minds that they have been abandoned by their country? Can anyone else who is not personally connected to a politician go to sleep tonight, knowing that if disaster strikes them they will get $2,000 and a months worth of of food stamps, and someone else will get all of the disaster relief?

Our leaders needs to step forward with a program that ensures that every possible job goes first to the people of New Orleans. Contractors should not be allowed to bring employees into the city who cannot prove they are residents of New Orleans. Anyone found in the city who cannot prove otherwise, and who is not a uniformed service member or affiliated with a reputable non-profit (which might exclude the Red Cross, but that is another post) should be ejected.

That includes the mercenaries hired by FEMA and local businessmen to "protect the rebuilding effort". (Protect it from whom, one might ask? The Salvation Army? The National Guard?)

There should be no FEMAville's hours from New Orleans. The simple solution is this: large areas of the metropolitan area will soon fall to the bulldozer. The Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish are almost certainly going to meet this fate. Lakeview is also at high risk.

Let's bring the bulldozers in now. And start putting those trailer homes on foundations in New Orleans. Sure, we can wait until hurricane season ends Nov. 1, but beyond that date, there is no excuse.

It's time to start preparing to bring home everyone who wants to come, and putting them to work at the clean up and recovery. If the city is going to recover, as businesses come back on line, they will need employees. People can transition from clean-up to more routine jobs in the port and tourism industries.

This is so obvious, one has to ask the question: what are FEMA's and the federal, state and local leadership's real plans? Blanco is already cashing in. Nagin is a former Republican and local executive, with close ties to the people making those ugly remarks in the Wall Street Journal about rebuilding a "different" New Orleans. The big FEMA contracts are going to Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown & Root (the ones under investigation for spending tax dollars in Iraq like drunken sailors in a whorehouse).

Who is going to watch out for the folk?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Creoles, Camelback and Shotguns

I have been trying to research models for rebuilding historical cities, especially on the European experience in the post-WW2 period. I have come up with almost nothing.

I have, however, found a wealth of articles written by prominent architects and others about what Katrina means to the incredibly rich historical housing stock of New Orleans.

As a son of both New Orleans and an architect, I find these must read work.

Forty years ago the architects of New Orleans (including a young AIA president, Sidney J. Folse, Jr., my father, and the professors and students of the Tulane University School of Architecture), stood up to the 1960s equivalent of the New Orleans Business Council, and blocked a disasterous plan for a river front expressway.

I hope that their heirs in New Orleans, and all over the country, are ready for the task of standing up for a vibrantly rebuilt New Orleans, filled with the people who made it their home before Katrina.

Here is a sampling of the best I've found on the subjet so far.

First, is New Orleans Between The Storms, by B.J. Novitski, managing editor of Architecture Week.

His survey of what Katrina means to the city's architecture is disheartening.

Forensics architect and registered disaster services worker Dean Vlahos cautions about the long term dangers to buildings caused by standing floodwaters. He warns that mold, foundation erosion, and environmental contamination can not only create serious health risks, but also compromise the structures and systems of those buildings left standing.

While mold, a potentially toxic fungus that thrives on decaying matter, will be a serious health and construction problem, Vlahos says, it is only the tip of the iceberg. He worries there will be many buildings for which remediation is impossible and demolition is the only recourse.

A SAD TIME FOR ARCHITECTURE TOO from the San Francisco Chronicle is a wonderful read about Bywater, and offers a model for how the city should be repopulated.

Gradually crime declined, and housing prices soared, at least by the modest standards of New Orleans real estate. Happily, most of the old inhabitants stayed on. I recall more than a few cases of the newcomers helping their older neighbors paint their houses. As this happened, a wonderfully textured community emerged, embodying the best of new and old. Bywater even developed its own neighborhood celebration, the annual Mirliton Festival, named not for the dance in the second act of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" but for the locally grown squash that Creole cooks like Miss Marie transform into a spicy treat.

Bywater was a model of humane and organic urban revitalization. (It even acquired a motto, emblazoned on signs painted by a local artist: "Be nice or leave.") Until Aug. 29.

Finally, two calls for the preservation of a recognizable New Orleans. The first, Reimagining a ravaged city, was cited Novitski in his article.

But some architects cautioned that the historic quarters should not be the only focus. "New Orleans - along with San Francisco - is the greatest collection of 18th-, 19th- and early-20th-century residential architecture in the United States," said Reed Kroloff, the dean of the School of Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans.

"But saving the historic context does not mean necessarily rebuilding everything in it," he added. "I don't think you build a bad 21st-century copy of a brilliant 19th-century building."

Architects and planners worry that developers might try to recreate some fairy-tale version of the city, compromising its 300-year-old character. "My big concern is that it will become a Disneyland," said Raymond Post Jr., a Baton Rouge architect. "If we come up with a plastic New Orleans, then you've got a plastic New Orleans. You lose the charm and the quaintness and the crooked walls and the old shutters."

And, finally, a column from Newsday by Justin Davidson titled Rebuilding New Orleans: We must not get this wrong.

New Orleans is quickly becoming a battleground for competing ideologies about how Americans should live. Advocates of federal housing, enemies of sprawl, champions of preservation, defenders of big business, community activists, environmentalists, oil lobbyists are all chiming in with a vision.

If the poor are not welcomed back to New Orleans - if the diaspora is never reversed - then a plagued but vibrant metropolis will become what author Joel Kotkin calls an "ephemeral city." Kotkin's term describes the hollowed-out relic cities for the rich, whose economies rest on the tottering tripod of glitz, cool and history.

It is not hard to imagine a contained, pristine New Orleans whittled down to its pretty showcase center, a few quiet office blocks and some gleaming new subdivisions on higher ground. The Smaller Easy would have less crime, less misery and less unemployment. But a healthy city cannot be a segmented, segregated place where the rich navigate around the poor but never see them. "The more you mix functions, the more you mix ages, the more you mix income," Lerner said, "the more human the city becomes."

The best and oldest parts of New Orleans already exemplify those values. "This is a diverse city and many of the aspects that allow it to be so are inherent in the strategies of the 18th- and 19th-century planning," said Steve Dumez, a New Orleans architect. "It's a lot of the 20th-century planning that was a recipe for disaster."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

March to the Sea

Under the current plans of the New Orleans Business Council and the Republican leadership in Washington, there is little chance of rebuilding the NOLA of memory. There are no visible provisions being made to provide jobs and housing and schools for the working class population of the city.

It’s not clear that all of the working class, black population of the city will want to return. The neighborhoods many lived in were a Clockwork Orange-like horrowshow of drugs and violence..

I can well imagine how many must have felt. Trapped, fearful of for their lives and the lives of their children, abandoned to a fate they did not understand, they were more a prisoner than any resident of Orleans Parish Prison. For them, the rising water was a change only in the character of the threat to their lives, not to their basic mode of living.

For many of these folk, Katrina was an act of god of a different sort, a Biblical deliverance through the dire Sinai of the storm to the edge of the land of milk and honey. They will not return to the decrepit projects or crumbling backwater neighborhoods of New Orleans, if they can find homes and jobs and decent schools in Houston or Atlanta.

But there are some, who live in all sorts of homes in all sorts of neighborhoods, who can’t imagine living where an oyster po’boy can’t be had in walking distance. They want their children to grow up in a neighborhood when they can learn to play their grandfather’s trombone because they want to, anxious to join the brass bad in the funeral parade.

They want to live in a city where the food and the music and the Mardi Gras are all part of a rich tapestry that makes almost any circumstances in NOLA bearable, even if it means you spend your nights behind the bars of a sun bleached Creole cottage or an gleaming uptown mansion.

There is no question that the residents of the mansions might return. In fact, the city’s leaders beg them to, and the government has promised to help. It’s the rest of the city that worries me.

The New Orleans Business Council want to build a “different sort of city”. All across Louisiana and Mississippi FEMA and the Red Cross simply bypass black communities and setup shop on the white side of town. A crony of disgraced FEMA top man Brown and Governor-in-waiting Kathleen Blanco are already cashing in by building trailer towns far from New Orleans. We have seen the FEMAvilles of Florida. They are housing projects rebuilt far from the city.

The model the NOBC and federal government envision is one of these: the townships of apartheid South Africa, or the Gaza Strip, with a safely-contained and docile populace to provide the low wage jobs which the tourism economy demands.

This is not acceptable.

If the government will not return the people of the city to NOLA, they will have to return themselves. Already community organizations have formed their own relief operations, starting with the cooperative Common Ground Relief in Algiers.

These efforts must expand beyond Algiers to encompass all the working class neighborhoods of New Orleans. If the government won’t provide the people what they need to return, we need to help them provide it for themselves. Those of us far away who can’t assist on the ground need to be ready to start loading the trucks again, this time in support of the return of the people of New Orleans.

And then the people of New Orleans need to begin to their rightful return.

One reader has suggested that an underground railroad be created, using the passes being given wealthier white residents, to return the working class black population to the city. To stay. They will need support. They will need food and water, cleaning and medical supplies. They will need money. First what we can give, and later what we must demand until the federal government delivers.

Beyond ones and twos, they may need to simply march down I-10 and defy the government’s efforts to deny them. How would they stop 10,000 people of New Orleans, who are just trying to go home

It may be time for the 21st Century version of Gandhi’s March to the Sea.

I believe that the local leadership, in particular Mayor Nagin and Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, would not obstruct it. I don’t believe that our National Guard, even as hardened as they are after Iraq, would follow the order prevent their fellow citizens who just want to go home. And, once the reality was created on the ground, I believe those political leaders, and our fellow Americas in uniform, would do what it takes to make the repopulation possible.

Such a movement will only succeed if every native of Louisianan (and there are tens of thousands of us who have left for one reason or other over the years, and dream only of the day we return), and those who choose not to return, are prepared to do whatever it takes to support such a movement. It will only succeed if every person in this country who still believes in justice and fair play are prepared to step up and deliver.

The people will need more truck loads of supplies, because we can be certain that the Bush Administration would let them starve before it would allow the repopulation to succeed. They will need people all across the country to shame or intimidate any who interfere into silence. Many of us will have to return and join the march—white and black, rich and poor-so that people see it as a great movement to restore what our country has lost in the last few decades—a common identify as Americans.

If this movement doesn’t succeed, if the city cannot be repopulated by all of it’s natives who choose to return, if we cannot build a better and brighter place for all the people of New Orleans, then the American experiment fails. We will have become the sort of benighted, class-ridden European oligarchy we sought to replace, a place where ethnic cleansing is possible. It is a future too dark and frightful to contemplate.

I prefer to think of a brighter future, including a brighter future for NOLA, a city repopulated and rebuilt to a glory greater than any it has ever known. A glory shared by every son and daughter of New Orleans.

To secure that, I am ready to march to the sea.

Coming Up: Rebuilding New Europe: The postwar reconstruction of European cities as a model for rebuilding in a culturally and socially acceptable way, cities that look like and feel like and live like the cites they once were.

The unsinkable Michael Brown

Today former FEMA Director Micheal Brown blamed his inabilty to turn on a television, read urgent message on his blackberry and other almost inconceivable acts of ineptitude on: Blanco and Nagin.

You can read this blog, or you can read links in this blog, that catalog his failures

The fact that he was not led into testify in manacles and an orange jump suit it a clearest indication I've seen that the justice system has ceased to operate in this country.

I think Mr. Broussard has the right idea.

I've got a rope. I've got a tree. All we need is Michael B.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Knights of the Invisible Hand

This morning on NPR, there was an indication of the future of New Orleans--a future without the small businesses or neighborhoods that give the city much of it's character.

In one part of the story, the owner of a small Algier's coffee shop wonders how long she can hold on, when her employees haven't returned and there is little prospect that they will. In another, residents on the Gretna side of Opelousas--a working class black neighborhood of older, rental home--a mother and daughter wonder what their future holds, staring with what they will do when the landlord comes.

You can listen here.

The stark fact is that New Orleans cannot be rebuilt with out her neighborhoods, and the small businesses that make them livable, and without the people who called them home. For many in the most afflicted parts of the city, there is no clear path or plan for their return.

Algiers is a mixed neighborhood, but much of it is white and middle class. The other unflooded areas: the French Quarter, Garden District and University areas of uptown, are largely white and upper middle class. The blacks who do live south of St. Charles Avenue nearest the river have no near term prospects for employement, unless they are employed in the recovery effort. Moreover, the city warns: children and the elderly are not welcome.

What these restrictions amount to is an open welcome for white business people and professionals, and a keep out sign for everyone else.

Meanwhile, there are ugly rumblings in the Wall Street Journal from the neighborhood around Audubon Place--a private drive next to Tulane University and across from Audubon Park, currently guarded by Isreali mercenaries--of building a "different" New Orleans.

The new city must be something very different, Jimmy Reiss, head of the New Orleans Business Council Reiss told the Wall St. Journal, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completey different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."

I think that about speaks for itself.

The President speaks of letting the markets dictate the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. But that is merely code, meant to comfort Mr. Reiss and his friends who live in the best uptown neighborhoods, guarded by foreign hired guns with automatic rifles.

The President and his party are good at the code, having used it for decades to build themselves an unassailable base in the South among the unreconstructed sons of Jefferson Davis.

The free market does not build affordable housing. The free market exports decent paying jobs for blue and grey collar workers, and sends the rest to Wal-Mart. The free market gentrifies desirable old neighborhoods, and drives up the poorer, darker residents who once called those places home.

When Mr. Bush says "the free markets" he speaks in a language the peoplw who's homes line St. Charles Avenue understand: there will be no room for "those people". The children and grandchildren of those who once led the White Citizen's Councils are the new Knights of the Invisible Hand.

How dare you suggest they are racists, some will say. They are merely good American economic freebooters, doing what made this country great. The sad and simple fact is, we all know what the WCC were: they were the Klan in cloth of a different and better cut. We all know what their descendents mean by a "different" or a "better" New Orleans.

But if their vision is fulfilled, it will be a New Orleans without black musicians, except those bussed in daily by Disney or Harrah's to work in a "different" and "better" French Quarter. There will be no Mardi Gras Indians or other marching krewes.

There will be a Camelia Grill, which could easily be created and franchised, but can you imagine the city without Mandina's or Liuzza's or Franky and Johnnie's? Sure, there will be a Tipitina's, and of course a Preservation Hall. But what about The Maple Leaf, or Benny's or the even smaller places where young musicians get their start?

The Knights of the Invisible Hand don't care. They long for an antebellum never land that never was. What is frightening is that they have the means and the influence to have their way, and good friends from Mayor Nagin (a former Republican) through the leaders of Congres and the President.

No one wants a return to the failed schools and death-trap housing projects of the past. That is unacceptable.

So, however, is the vision of the Knights of the Invisible Hand.

Coming Up: Two visions for rebuilding NOLA and defeating the Knights of the Invisible Hand.

Widely reported attacks false or unsubstantiated

So reads the subhead on this story from NOLA.Com:

Rumors of deaths greatly exaggerated

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA...came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, just four bodies were recovered, despites reports of corpses piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been slain, said health and law enforcement officials.

The rumors of violence, like the rumors of people firing on rescue helicopters (didn't happen; see reference to the FAA debunking this in a prior post), were just that: rumors. They were spread by the main stream media and by the Two Hour Hate guys on AM radio and cable television.

Looting, discounting food, water, diapers, clothes and medicine, was also wildly exaggerate, with television showing the same two clips--the young man with the TV who slipped out of his shirt to escape the police, and the two walking down Canal Street with a camera and a pair of shoes--endlessly repeated.

The real tragedy of this was how this affected release efforts. Governor-in-waiting Kathleen Blanco refused Bush's demand to federalize the guard because she didn't want them disarmed. Blanco also had state and national guard officials block relief efforts in the city because "it was too dangerous."

Too bad she didn't ask her own employees from the state's Wildlife & Fisheries department (who rescued by some estimates ten times as many people as the Coast Guard and other federal agencies, from some of the most afflicted, and most times dangerous, neighborhoods of the city, if they thought it was "too dangerous".

It is my firm belief that those who spread these rumors on the media, especially those on AM Radio and Cable talk shows, should be held responsible under the FCC Hoax regulation. I went as far as to warn my own local Two Hour Hate host and his boss that I would file a complaint under this regulation if they continued to broadcast things I had sent them evidence were false.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Grinding salt into their wounds

Today, NBC's Tim Russert attempted to disarm Aaron Broussard's criticism of federal failure's in Katrina relief by attempted to debunk Broussard's emotional appearance on Meet tthe Press Sept. 4.

Citing "a number of [unidentified] bloggers " he questioned the tearful story of how a Jefferson Parish emergency employee had been unable to save his mother at St. Rita's nursing home. In his best gleeful 60 Minutes gotcha style, Rupert asserted that Broussard had made the story up.

The political class in this country has degenerated into Democrats who hid cowering behind the drapes for fear of giving anyone offense, and the sort of sub-human scum represented by the internet bloggers attempting to discredit Broussard, and their willing shills like Tim Russert.

The people of New Orleans and all of us in the greater diaspora who'd left previously know the criminal negligence of our government at the highest levels. Karl Rove, the president's ruthless political strategist who's been placed in charge of hurricane relief, may think discrediting the local leadership will turn away their stinging criticism.

We see through your lies. We will call you and every fool and liar who peddles them, in every street and town in America. Every time you rub salt in the wound by this tadry political posturing, our anger merely grows.

The better part of a million Americans know their government turned its back and left many to die. You can't silence us all, and we will have our day.

The MSNBC transcript of MTP is here.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

If it's not Texas, it must be OK

What you're not seeing or hearing on CNN or MSNBC or FOX News, as their talent stands around in coastal Texas:

ABBEVILLE (AP): Hurricane Rita swept ashore today with a powerful surge of seawater that swamped coastal communities and vast stretches of farmland from the Texas line to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Rescuers scrambled into boats and helicopters to reach hundreds of stranded residents who chose to ride out the storm. The hurricane, which struck near the Texas-Louisiana line and weakened as it churned to the north, also inundated small towns, sugarcane fields and marshes with heavy rain.

Floodwaters stood nine feet deep near the southern Louisiana town of Abbeville, about 25 miles inland, while Cameron Parish deputies farther west watched appliances and what appeared to be parts of homes swirling in the waters of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Nine feet of water at Abbeville means that Rita has swamped the Cheniers, ranks of higherland where most residents of south-west Louisiana make their homes. There is no levee system protecting most of Louisiana west of the Atchafalaya River.

A report on WWLTV.Com states: "In southern Louisiana, authorities had trouble reaching stranded residents because of blocked roads and savage winds. Rescuers in boats were pulling hundreds of residents from flooded homes along a remote stretch of swampland stretching between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico as seawater poured over levees and into homes. Floodwaters stood 9 feet deep near Abbeville.

Rita, like Katrina, has left those with the least influence in Louisiana to suffer it's wrath. Like the poor hotel workers of New Orleans, those who keep America's oil machine running are left out in the storm while their masters in Houston "dodge the bullet."

It's rich and poor

So says St. Bernard Parish President Junior Rodriguez of what he called the "shoddy" repair job on the Industrial Canal floodwalls, which failed under storm tides raised by Hurricane Rita and reflooded areas of the New Orleans' lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.

From NOLA.Com:

Rodriguez said the repair job on the Industrial Canal levee was shoddy and accused the corps of exerting more of an effort to repair a breach on the 17th Street Canal at the Orleans-Jefferson parish line because it protects more wealthy neighborhoods than those in the 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish.

"It's rich and poor,'' Rodriguez told a WWL-TV reporter, adding that St. Bernard Parish and 9th Ward residents are treated like "second-class citizens.''

Many have decried the racial aspects of the federal government's malign neglect, but the people of St. Bernard Parish are largely working class and white. Many fled the same Ninth Ward neighborhoods flooded by Katrina after desegregation. They shared the same fate when the eastern floodwall failed during and after Hurricane Katrina.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mardi Gras Indians vowing to come back

If the Indians don't come back, will it still be New Orleans?

I reported earlier that Aaron Neville isn't coming back. What if the neighborhood musicians, the people who haven't made it nationall, don't come back?

I also reported that a large number of neighborhood restaurants are gone. For many people in New Orleans, it's not about Galatoire's or Commanders. It's about Mthe neighborhood restaurants where they eat every week.

The New Orleans I grew up in was already vanishing like the land around it when I left in 1987. On my last visit home, for last year's Mardi Gras, I saw that the Famous Door is no a karaoke bar. Walking the length of Bourdon, I could not find a single club that offered New Orleans music: jazz or R&B or another else local.

The humanities groups (meagerly funded by the federal government) need to help these people. All of us in the diaspora need to find a way to help the Indians and the muscians and the artists return to New Orleans, or the rest will not be worth saving.

Some are working this. From the post below, read down for stories on artists and musicians dedicated to NOLA. In particular, please read the story about the Titipina's Foundation.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Big chief Al Morris has lost his tribe.

Hurricane Katrina dispersed his people — the spy boys, the wild men, the medicine men and priestesses that make up the Northside Skull and Bones Gang.

"Everybody's gone," the 66-year-old Morris said. But, he added with a twinkle in his eye, "by the time Mardi Gras comes around, everybody will pop up."

Despite the diaspora caused by Katrina, members from at least one tribe said they are sticking together and getting ready for Mardi Gras, which falls on Feb. 28 next year.

"We're in Houston — sewing," said Dr. Rashon, a high priestess with the FiYiYi tribe. "We won't bow out."

"That's a very important face of Mardi Gras," said Barry Kern, a prominent businessman whose family makes many of the Mardi Gras floats. "They will be here, maybe not living in their homes, but they will be here for Mardi Gras in some form or fashion."

But Morris fears that the devastation to neighborhoods will sap the life out of the tribes and the city.

"A lot of people won't be able to come back," he said. "Before long you won't even see a second-line (parade) on these streets."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Triumph of the Shills

My wife received an email purporting to be forwarded from a doctor, who reported that the evacuees in the Houston area were just the sort of sub-human, lumpenproletariat scum you mother warned you about back in the early desegregation days when my grandfather wouldn't let me drink from public water fountains.

Here is the letter, and Snopes analysis of it.

I haven't seen anything that would confirm an account like this. Like the Snopes researcher, I've only seen the exact opposite. Unless, of course, you ask Governor-in-Exile Katy Blanco, who's heard stories about those kind of people, and did everything she could to make sure too many of them weren't saved so that they wouldn't overrun Breaux Bridge.

If there were a god and she were just, the person who wrote this and all those who forwarded this email would be the bobbing, bloated bodies floating in the streets.

Armed thugs terrorize NOLA

No, not the gangbangers. They're all off in Houston or Atlanta by now getting ready to try and steal some turf.

The newest threat from armed thugs comes courtesy of Homeland Security, as well as some of the folks on Audubon Place.

It appears that Blackwater, the notorious mercenary company which provided security to the transitional authority in Iraq, were hired by Homeland Security and deputized by Governor-in-Exile Kathy Blanco. This is the same woman who was so terrorized to discover that ther were criminals--with guns!--in the city, that she ordered relief efforts be held back because it was "too dangerous." is a left web publication, but I have seen numerous reports of Blackwater's presence from the earliest days post-Katrina.

Fresh From Iraq, Private Security Forces
Roam the Streets of an American City With Impunity

CBS News carried this same piece on their website.

Yeah, I know what you guys think of CBS News. You won't mind when guys from Blackwood show up to tell you they're there to confiscate your guns, for your own safety, now, will you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Cities of the Dead

"They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called
Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields..."
-- Tennessee William's Blanche DuBois from a "A Streetcar Named Desire"

New Orleans has always been a city of the dead.

One can't travel far in the city without passing the crumbling walls or rusting iron enclosing entire subdivisions of the dead. Mardi Gras is followed by Ash Wednesday, and our most famous citizens long ago departed our crazing of cracked streets for the ordered rows of Greenwood.

Many neighbhorhood restaurants make at least a part of their daily bread for those from the funeral home across the street. (The Folses are buried out of Schoens, and the grieving men stand at the bar in Mandina's, sipping cans of Budweiser and discussing the meals we once ate there with our dearly departed.)

If New Orleans is famous for jazz (although you'd have a hard time finding any in the pre-Katrina French Quarter), our jazz is perhaps most famous for being played in the parade back from the burial. Every parade and party has it's second line, but the second line must scrape the clinging soil of the mound off it's feet before it can be found elsewhere.

I cannot escape the dead. Every day I try to find the stories of incredible survival, of unexpected heroism, of sudden and unexpected reunion. Instead, the dead bob up like so many coffins set afloat by the flood waters.

I want this blog to be the beginning of a story that ends in joy, a Dickensian despair relieved by the triumph of a city that survived the yellow fever, the fires, the other hurricanes, where humble people find joy in the humblest circumstances amid squalor and despair.

But we are a haunted city, haunted by the ghosts of slavery and Haiti and Jim Crow, and by the living testemants to that past that permate the city's daily life. We are haunted by our own inclination to mild debauchery, and the secret indiscretions every New Orleanian carries quietly with them like a scapula.

We are haunted by famous ghosts who quietly suggest to us, in the rustling of fallen crepe mertle leaves along the careening sidewalks in the wakeful hours of the night, that we have only our past to cling to, and a dharmic whorl of parades and parties to live over and over and over again in diminishing splendor.

We are haunted by a fear that the New Orleans we remembered is slowing eroding under a relentless barage of pre-fab mainstream "culture" that has converted the Famous Door into a karaoke bar; that we have become characters in an Anne Rice novel, living testemants to history but living outside of it.

We are haunted by the past that surrounds us in orderly white rows. We are haunted today by the mounting toll that will fill another section of our city, and haunt us for untold time to come.

I cannot escape those ghosts. They followed me when I fled a collapsing economy in 1987 and became an emigree in a country to the north called the United States. I feel them crowd around to read over my shoulder as I write--the faces from small paintings in peeling gilt frames of men named Honore' and Omer; the former owner of Stella Plantation and his wife, an ancient woman we ignorantly called "Aunt Tante"; two great aunts who lived in a first floor apartment on Royal Street where I spent Hurricane Betsy; my father who never got the chance to live his dream to hang his paintings on the fence at Jackson Square.

As far away as I am from in years and miles from New Orleans, these ghosts crowd around me and compel me to tell you the story of the dead.


Today the death toll from Katrina has passed 1,000, almost 800 from NOLA.

The New York Times reports that 6,800 people are logged as "missing" by FEMA.

The survivors are not allowed into the top secret morgue facility in St. Gabriel, operated by a firm previously most famous for dumping hundreds of bodies in the swamp behind a cemetary because the creamatory wasn't working.

No one has yet explained Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee's early comment that only 10% of bodies initially found in Jefferson Parish would be counted as "Katrina dead". The others presumably died of natural causes, in no way exacerbated by the stress of imminent drowning or by days of dehydration.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Searchers smashed through doors in New Orleans on Wednesday, bringing their hunt for the dead to homes that had been locked and to blocks hardest hit by Katrina's flooding. Behind those doors, officials said they expected a sharply escalating body count even as the overall death toll passed 1,000.

"There still could be quite a few, especially in the deepest flooded areas," said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jeffrey Pettitt, who is overseeing the retrieval of bodies. "Some of the houses, they haven't been in yet." Officials said searchers are beginning to find more children.

Many homes are unsafe to enter, while others lay under piles of muck and debris. Some homes are so structurally unsound they are marked, "Do not enter," and seemingly every house has mold growing from every surface.

The difficulty of gauging the number of dead in those neighborhoods will delay a final count for weeks, said Dr. Louis Cataldi, medical incident commander for Louisiana.

"There's some folks out there we can't retrieve," he said.

Three weeks later, finding survivors among the dead

From an Asociated Press report posted early this morning on the WWLTV Katrina Blog, a tale of "half a happy ending."

I still don't understand the reluctance of rescuters to break in and search homes, as ordered by FEMA. It seems the haunting legacy of their timid fear of looters over common sense and saving lies.

This man's wife might have been saved if they had simply broken in and searched.

Searchers acting on a tip from a man worried about his sister found a couple in their 70's inside their New Orleans house yesterday, more than three weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

John Lyons was still alive but his wife Leola was not. Officials say she'd been dead for about five days.

Searchers had earlier knocked on their door but hadn't entered. And Lyons says he didn't hear the rescuers.

What Katrina can never take away

From, and inventory of what Katrina didn't destroy, of a different sort.

Beating back the bulldozers

With the announcement that much of flooded St. Bernard Parish would be bulldozed, one of my fears has been that large swaths of New Orleans would meet the same fate. However, the city is bringing in teams of preservation experts who will inspect every home prior to ay consideration of demolition.

This could lead to the preservation of the character of innundated naighborhoods such as Bywater.

Converting large areas of the core city into hastily-built suburban tract homes or modern townhouses would radically alter the character of one of the nation's oldest cities. It is less clear what this will mean for areas such as Lakeview or New Orleans East, built out in the second half of the 20th Century.

"The public is concerned about coming home and not finding their houses; that's not going to happen," Vieux Carre Commission Deputy Director Dan Brown told more than 50 preservationists who met in Baton Rouge to discuss ways to minimize loss of New Orleans' historically significant buildings and cultural sites.

Brown said every flood-damaged house or building in New Orleans, whether or not it is located in a historic district, will be visited by one of 100 assessment teams the city will field, and photographs of each building will be posted on the Internet.

More on

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

That Brown guy sure did a heck of a job

in Florida, a state of some importance to the people he works for.

Again, I started to try to keep politicis out of this. It's like trying to keep back the waters out of Lakeview. The levee has broken.

This is not from some left-wing political blog. It is from a newsletter for high-level Federal employees.

How FEMA delivered Florida for Bush

Now that President Bush has won Florida in his 2004 re-election bid, he may want to draft a letter of appreciation to Michael Brown, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Seldom has any federal agency had the opportunity to so directly and uniquely alter the course of a presidential election, and seldom has any agency delivered for a president as FEMA did in Florida this fall.

Charley hit on a Friday. With emergency supply trucks pre-positioned at depots for rapid, post-storm deployment, the agency was able to deliver seven truckloads of ice, water, cots, blankets, baby food and building supplies by Sunday. On Monday, hundreds of federal housing inspectors were on the ground, and FEMA already had opened its first one-stop disaster relief center.

By the end of September, three hurricanes later, the agency had processed 646,984 registrations for assistance with the help of phone lines operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fifty-five shelters, 31 disaster recovery centers and six medical teams were in operation across the state. Federal and state assistance to households reached more than $361 million, nearly 300,000 housing inspections were completed, and roughly 150,000 waterproof tarps were provided for homeowners, according to FEMA figures.

Aaron Neville: I'll keep my memories

The exodus has begun.

"I don’t think Katrina was the big one," said Eastover [an exclusive New Orleans East development] resident and New Orleans native Aaron Neville, living in Nashville with no plan to return to New Orleans soon. Maybe never.

"I’ll keep my memories," Neville said by cell phone about his flooded house. "It’s all moldy and mildew and I have asthma."

I think this article missed it's most important points. Katrina did strike the high and the low in the same way. But thw low can't just pick up and move to Nashville and continue their lives otherwise interrupted.

And the cultural core of NOLA is desperately in danger.

Misery doled out evenly in Eastern New Orleans

On a related note, also reports that: Kitchens may be closed, forever

An estimated one-quarter of the 3,400 restaurants in the New Orleans area will probably not reopen because of insurance cost, cash-flow or staffing issues, the chief executive officer of the Louisiana Restaurant Association said Monday.


An estimated one-quarter of the 3,400 restaurants in the New Orleans area will probably not reopen because of insurance cost, cash-flow or staffing issues, the chief executive officer of the Louisiana Restaurant Association said Monday.

Jim Funk said that the 25 percent projection is a minimum number and could increase.

Most of the causalities, he said, will probably not be the established restaurants like Commander’s Palace or Galatoire’s, but the mom-and-pop neighborhood places.

The cultural core of the city is in grave danger. If action is not taken to ensure a renaisance in the city, the response will be remembered with the dynamiting of the ancient Buddha status in Afghanistan by the Taliban as among the great cultural attrocities of the 21st Century.

Bricks in the sticks

In Punta Gorda, Fla. ravaged by Hurricane Charlie last year, we can see the future of the Katrina survivors not wealthy enough to afford their rebuilt homes who want to try and stay.

It is the desperation of the housing projects transferred to trailer parks. Perhaps they can give the new ones in Louisiana colorful local names. Like Calliope, St. Bernard, Fafitte, St. Thomas, Desire.

FEMA's City of Anxiety in Florida

"FEMA City is now a socioeconomic time bomb just waiting to blow up," said Bob Hebert, director of recovery for Charlotte County, where most FEMA City residents used to live. "You throw together all these very different people under already tremendous stress, and bad things will happen. And this is the really difficult part: In our county, there's no other place for many of them to go."


Most troubling, they said, is that while the badly damaged town of Punta Gorda is beginning to rebuild and even substantially upgrade one year after the storm, many of the area's most vulnerable people are being left badly behind.

The hurricane began that slide, destroying hundreds of modest homes and apartments along both sides of the Peace River as it enters Charlotte Harbor, and almost all of Punta Gorda's public housing. Then as the apartments were slowly restored -- a process made more costly and time-consuming because of a shortage of contractors and workers -- landlords found that they could substantially increase their rents in the very tight market.

As a result, the low-income working people most likely to have been displaced by the hurricane are now most likely to be displaced by the recovery, too.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Power crews diverted to restore oil pipeline before hospitals

Power crews diverted

From the Hattiesburg American:

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina roared through South Mississippi knocking out electricity and communication systems, the White House ordered power restored to a pipeline that sends fuel to the Northeast.


"I considered it a presidential directive to get those pipelines operating," said Jim Compton, general manager of the South Mississippi Electric Power Association - which distributes power that rural electric cooperatives sell to consumers and businesses.

Dan Jordan, manager of Southern Pines Electric Power Association, said Vice President Dick Cheney's office called and left voice mails twice shortly after the storm struck, saying the Collins substations needed power restored immediately.

Thank You Dick Chenney for your contribution to your relief efforts.

A plea for Plus Size clothes

At the request of a friend, I am posting this. Hell, yes, people down in NOLA sometimes run big. You try living around all that damn fine food:

Sunday, September 18, 2005

NOLA must rebuild its cultural, as well as its economic, strength

This is what New Orlenas-born jazz trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis told a roomful of government and business leaders gathered in Houston to discuss the city's future.

Marsalis and others participating in the Dallas meeting predicted that if the diverse peoples of New Orleans do not return, its distinctive neighborhoods, musical inspirations and culinary traditions probably won't, either.

The meeting was conducted under the shadow of the suggestion by the Mayor Nagin-appointed head of the Regional Transit Authority who suggested to the Wall Street Journal earlier "some people who want to rebuild the city foresee a town with a new demographic of fewer poor people."

Whitney National Bank President King Milling, who participated in the Dallas meeting, said that despite all the obstacles, he is hopeful consensus can be formed on a recovery plan.

"We can create a better community in the long run with the same sensibilities and culture," said Milling, who is white.

What is not clear is what role state and federal officials will play in supporting, or hindering, this vision of the city.

The story is here.

Feds try to slow return of people to city reports Maj. John Thomas, a spokesman for the federal government’s Hurricane Katrina recovery effort, said federal officials are concerned with the timeline proposed by Mayor Ray Nagin to repopulate the city...

“What’s important to understand is that conditions are, in many cases, inhospitable,” he said. “It’s not like it used to be. People need to be aware of the safety and health hazards.”

Apparently the federal government believes the people in New Orleans are unaqainted with what occured in recent weeks, that local officials in the city are not as well informed about conditions as FEMA and other officials comfortably ensconced in Baton Rouge.

There is no better place to house the survivors than in their own homes. There is no better employment for them than rebuilding their lives. If FEMA finds it inconvenient to help people to do these things, they should stop pretending to care or to help.

Souls in the great machine

As I read the endless litany of FEMA’s obstruction and interference with the business of saving lives in New Orleans, I find myself struggling to understand how anyone could stand over the dying and tell a medical doctor to stop helping, because he wasn’t authorized

It’s one thing for a Chertoff or a Brown to dismiss the suffering and death of people who are of no consequence to them. It is another entirely to stand on the tarmac at Louis Armstrong International Airport and direct a doctor to stop saving people, and to have those people die .

Like most southerners, I tend to think in analogy and story. I have struggled to find a storyline that places such acts into a human and historical context. The analogy that most quickly comes to mind will most likely anger people, as it comes from NAZI Germany.

Before you stop reading, know this: I am not referring to the monumental evil of those who led that nation into the darkest corners of human history. It is not the naked, glaring evil of those who planned the death camps or herded the innocent into the gas chambers that comes to mind.

It is the banal routine, a conditioned indifference, of those who scheduled and loaded the trains for Auschwitz I am thinking of.

A great many people, in the immediate aftermath of the storm, reacted to the survivors on the ground in the city this way: we would never behave as they did. They would cheerfully sit and dehydrate or starve until help arrived.

If challenged, I suspect that many of these same comfortable Americans would challenge the idea that they would have behave as FEMA did. If that is true—“people like us would not behave in that way”--then where did the FEMA ground troops come from?

What disturbs me most is not the criminal indifference of a Chertoff or a Brown. It is that those on the ground so willingly do what is obviously wrong because they are told so by their leaders. They believe that their wiser betters know what to do. They are merely following orders and procedures. That the consequence of those orders and procedures is suffering and death does not occur to them. If it does, perhaps they tell themselves that,--though some may die at their feet--it is done so that more may be saved elsewhere.

Left to FEMA’s hands, no rescue workers would have started up the stairs of the Twin Towers. It would have been too dangerous. No fire fighters would have hastened to Chernobyl and valiantly worked to their certain death. The wounded and the traumatized would have been left on the sidewalks to fend for themselves until they could be dispersed out-of-sight and out-of-mind. And FEMA would not have lacked for ready hands to do this work.

To those who say “we would never behave that way”, let me ask: if you think you would not take water and food for your children, would you leave other people to die at your feet if it violated procedures? If the orders came, would you (perhaps grudgingly) load those survivors onto cattle cars to a destination unknown?

The greatest and most frightening lesson of Katrina is not that people would steal water and food to survive, or that our current leadership is monumentally indifferent to the fate of our population.

The lesson is this: those who think “such things could never happen here” are wrong. Many would willingly schedule the trains and load the cars with their fellow Americans just as they loaded cast off clothes and can goods for Baton Rouge and Houston. That the “good” Americans are capable of the indifference and occasional malevolence that followed should frighten us all.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Rosy re-estimates of death toll meet the grim reality

The rosy rollback of a high death count is giving way to a grim reality as recovery workers get into the NOLA'S hardest hit neighborhoods, NOLA.Com/T-P reports.

Tentative optimism that New Orleans’ death toll from Katrina might be far lower than first projected has given way to somber reality over the past 36 hours as search and rescue squad turn up bodies by the dozen in the hardest hit areas of the city.

By mid-afternoon Friday, the black triangles used to designate human remains were multiplying on an emergency command center map. Federal Emergency Management Agency rescue squad liaison Charles Hood said a spike in discoveries Friday has started to take an emotional toll on rescue workers.

“Parts of the city have become a target-rich environment for human remains,” Hood said. “We’re just now getting into the areas that experienced the most rapid inundation.”

Large chunks of the city, including parts of Gentilly, the Desire-Florida area and Upper 9th Ward, have revealed tell-tale signs that the two breaches of the London Avenue Canal led to a rapid rush of floodwater that caught scores of residents off-guard. The surprise factor was only worsened in that the fast-rising water, more than 12 feet in spots, came well after the storm had passed.

What is not clear is whether the death toll is being accurately reported. Early reports from Jefferson Parish indicated the official death toll was only 10% of the number of bodies found (see "What holocaust" below).

The current toll of the "official dead" is 579 for Orleans Parish from a story posted by today. By the time I finish typing this sentence, even the artificially reduced death toll will have surpased Camille. If FEMA is under reporting the official death toll by as much as 90% as indicated, it it well on it's way to surpassing the Galveston storm of 1900.

"The people at the Convention Center were left high and f---ing dry"

So says an eight year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department, one of six officers detailed to the New Orleans Convention Center in the days immediately after Katrina.

"Lots of people on the street were asking me where to go. I'm telling them the truth, which is I don't know, they haven't told us anything. They're telling us that somebody told them that they were told by another person who was somebody in charge of something that the Convention Center was being set up as a secondary evacuation point with food and water. Those people went to the Convention Center, and there was no food or water there for them. So now there's no water, there's no police. And now there's 20,000 people with no extra security down there.

"We just told people that the National Guard was handling the evacuation effort, and they're not talking to us. So we've got all these people at the Convention Center, and now the captain is saying, okay, you all got to get out of the hotel. They're going to riot and they're going to burn the fucking hotel down. They're going to start this big massive thing, they're going to start killing people on Convention Center Boulevard, it's going to be a big massacre."

More here:

FEMA orders doctor to leave survivors to die

Apparently, his paperwork was not in order.

Doctor says FEMA ordered him to stop treating hurricane victims

In the midst of administering chest compressions to a dying woman several days after Hurricane Katrina struck, Dr. Mark N. Perlmutter was ordered to stop by a federal official because he wasn't registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"I begged him to let me continue," said Perlmutter, who left his home and practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Pennsylvania to come to Louisiana and volunteer to care for hurricane victims. "People were dying, and I was the only doctor on the tarmac (at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport) where scores of nonresponsive patients lay on stretchers. Two patients died in front of me.

In other news from Ground Sub-Zero, a New York Times article reports how FEMA commandered supplies a private hospital company was trying to bring in to Methodist hospital. "Those supplies were in fact taken from us by FEMA, and we were unable to get them to the hospital. We then determined that it would be better to send our supplies, food and water to Lafayette <130 miles from New Orleans> and have our helicopters fly them from Lafayette to the hospital," said Universal Health Service's general counsel Bruce Gilbert.

FEMA also commandered supplies from Oschner Clinic, and prevent helicopters from reaching the internally famous suburban New Orleans hospital.

How much more do we have to hear before the bloody bastards of FEMA are brought to justice?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Building The New Reservations

Tonight the president who would not return the governor of Louisiana's telephone calls stood in from of a well-lit cathedral in a clean and freshly mowed Jackson Square, and offered us his best.

We heard talk of entrepreneurship and charity, of the strength and generosity of the American people, a message of hope. We heard a condemnation of racism and our other lesser national traits.

What we heard, in short, was platitudes. Mostly we heard the same message for the poor we have heard since the urbanization of the 19th century. We will give you a pair of boots, and you may lift yourselves up by your bootstraps. Good luck.

We did not hear of any direct assistance to anyone other than businesses. Yes, businesses were destroyed, and the jobs with them. We need them back, more and better paying jobs in prospering business. I am certain that out government will spare no expense to make sure that the owners of the ownership society do not suffer needlessly.

We have seen the result of "enterprise" and "opportunity" zones. It is the very poverty and desperation so public paraded on our television sets just over a week ago. We have seen it in our inner cities, and on our reservations, and in the poorest urban counties in this country. It is not a pretty site.

For the rest, there was the promise of $5,000 in educational assistance so that the people of the Gulf Coast could get those "good jobs" the entrepreneurship of those who leech off tax breaks would bring.

Mr. President, the American people have noticed that corporations in America aren't handing out good jobs any more. Good jobs cost money. They ship those over seas, where people will work for less, so as to keep those at the top in the manner to which you have helped them become accustomed.

The survivors are people who have lost their homes--sometime the only asset they have--and their belongings and jobs and lives. And you offered them retraining assistance, as if they were someone sent out the plant gate to the corner bar one Friday night with a pink slip, by some accidental collision of tax policy and world trade.

You might as well have offered them 40 acres and a mule.

It was not enough.

A centerpiece of George Bush's generally empty address was the promise of an "Urban Homesteading Act," to allow the survivors to build homes--with mortgages or charity help--on federal land.

St. Bernard Parish is to be bulldozed, razed to the ground. This is likely the fate of New Orleans East and the neighborhoods between the London Avenue and 17th Street Canals, surrounding City Park.

Many of those homes had flood insurance, but not all. As tearful homeowners are finding, the best federal flood insurance they can buy will not rebuild the homes they had, or replace their possessions.

In the poorest section of the city, the Ninth Ward and the flooded neighborhoods of the central city, I believe we will find they had none. I should say, we will find their landlords had none.

There was a clear mention of changes to zoning and building codes to prevent this happening again. Those of us in New Orleans know what that means. It will mean much of the city may never be rebuilt, if Mr. Bush has his way.

The urban homesteading proposal is truly disturbing. There is no federal land holding of consequence in the city of New Orleans. It is an empty promise for those people, and a boon for those who would like to build a city without the bother of many of it's recent citizens: the poor, the black, the unemployed or marginally employed.

Bush has generously offered to the urban people of New Orleans to build reservations. I live in North Dakota, where large swaths of the least desirable land hold some of the poorest people in the first world, people who's homes were taken not by nature but by the good Americans of good European stock who now look down on the people of New Orleans.

It is not a good model. It is not an acceptable offer.

It is a program for the ethnic cleansing of a majority black city by removing most of its residents to a federal reservation elsewhere. It is cover for not rebuilding large swaths of the city. It is another abandonment, another clear message: Go Away. Stop embarrassing us with your suffering, your poverty, your strange ways.

There was no offer of a real urban homesteading. What that would entail would be granting the people of New Orleans the right to buy their former rental homes for a nominal cost, through condemnation and government purchase for a reasonable cost to the owner if the owner failed to rebuild a decent and affordable home.

It would entail promising to make whole those who are finding federal flood insurance is a false promise, and committing to build levees that will not fail them

It would require a real admission of failure, and a willingness to spend the money to make real restitution.

Bush has failed us again.

Why did FEMA cut the emergency phone lines in Jefferson?

Aaraon Broussard said on Meet the Press on Sunday, Sept. 4 that FEMA had cut the emergency phone lines in Jefferson Parish, and that the sheriff, Harry Lee, had to post armed guards to protect them.

I had heard this earlier as a rumor, but only today found Mr. Broussard's comment here:

Could it be that FEMA and the federal government found Mr. Broussard's remarks a bit too piquant for their taste, especially his vocal criticism of the massive failure of the federal government to respond to the disaster?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


This song was written by Eliza Gilkyson for the tsunami.


The fish rots from the head down

Knight-Ridder newspapers report today that it was Homeland Security Jefe' Chertoff who initially delayed response to Hurricane Katria. He waited until Aug. 30 to declare an "Incident of National Significance", four days after forcasters placed a storm of significant size striking the Gulf Coast.

Chertoff's hesitation and Bush's creation of a task force both appear to contradict the National Response Plan and previous presidential directives that specify what the secretary of homeland security is assigned to do without further presidential orders. The goal of the National Response Plan is to provide a streamlined framework for swiftly delivering federal assistance when a disaster - caused by terrorists or Mother Nature - is too big for local officials to handle.

You can find the story here, and probably in your own favorite Knight-Ridder paper. The T-P is a Newhouse property, so you probably won't see this on NOLA.Com.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The barge on Belle Air

Why did the floodwalls fail on the 17th St. and London Avenue canals?

The local media report there isn't enough data on what the actual storm surges are to determine if the floodwalls were over topped, causing a failure, or if there was another cause.

CNN's Miles O'Brien reported on a rumor that floating around Lakeview residents that a barge in the canal may have caused that failure, responsible for the flooding of much of the core city from Lakeview to Loyola Avenue.

During the lead in to the story, he said this: " I know there is a barge inside this neighborhood not far from where we stand. The question is, did it cause the breach here, or did it just flow through after the breach occurred. We don't know that, do we?"

A resident of Belle Air Drive who's house backs into the levee confirms that a construction barge was moored inside the canal, part of the construction of a new "hurricane proof bridge" linking West Lakeview and Bucktown.

While negligence in leaving or not properly securing the barge could have been a cause, it would not explain the failure of the similar London Avenue Canal levee/floodwall combination.

But having a bridge sitting among the homes in West Lakeview means that this story will join the dynamiting of the levees in Betsy (and the same rumor spreading about the Industrial Canal after Katrina) in New Orleans storm lore.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

FEMA: There was no holocaust

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Lee reports on deaths in Jefferson

Friday, 10:05 p.m.

Sheriff Harry Lee said Saturday night that the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s office had processed 152 bodies, but only 20 of those were deaths related to Hurricane Katrina. He said the coroner’s office was picking up bodies that are reported lying in the street and handling them to FEMA’s specifications. He also said that body count does not include bodies that may have been taken to the morgue in St. Gabriel.
The T-P/ reports these dead will be counted:
Although body-recovery operations were still under way, the death toll represents the number of bodies that have been counted where the deaths were a result of Katrina’s winds, rains or floodwaters, or those who died as a result of medical equipment that became inoperable during the hurricane.
These victims will be Officialy Dead, but I would offer this: if your body is lying in a flooded or demolished home, or out on the public street, in what sense would you not have died as a result of the storm?

If you perished in the Chalmette Slip or the New Orleans Convention Center, or shortly after your evacuation days late from these locations, in what sense would you not have died as a result of the storm?

If you were shot by an armed person rioting in the street because of lawlessness, in what sense would you note have died as a result of the storm? If you were shot by the police or National Guard while trying to find food or water or medice for yourself or your family, in what sense would you not have died as a result of the storm?

If you were among those who died in St. Rita's or Bethany nursing homes (the latter when my father spent all but his very last days), and you were were abandoned by the staff to your fate as the waters rose? In what sense would you not have died as a result of the storm?

If you were elderly and trapped in your home (and we will find so many were the elderly and the week) and your suffered a heart attack or a fatal stroke or other medical malady because of the stres you were under, in what sense would you not have died as a result of the storm?

This is not much different than arguing that the death camp victims died of poisoning by Zyklon gas and not of hate. Or trying to pretend they did not die at all.

Are we reduced to a government of delusional holocaust deniers? Is that what we've come to?

Perhaps we should divide in dead into two groups:

  • Killed by Katrina.
  • Killed by FEMA and Homeland Security

  • We had to kill our patients

    The UK Daily Mail reported in their Sunday edition on physicians in NOLA in Katrina's aftermath who euthanized critically ill patients rather than leaving them to die in agony in the unevacuated hospitals.

    Doctors working in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans killed critically ill patients rather than leaving them to die in agony as they evacuated hospitals, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

    With gangs of rapists and looters rampaging through wards in the flooded city, senior doctors took the harrowing decision to give massive overdoses of morphine to those they believed could not make it out alive.

    Her heart-rending account has been corroborated by a hospital orderly and by local government officials. One emergency official, William 'Forest' McQueen, said: "Those who had no chance of making it were given a lot of morphine and lain down in a dark place to die."

    More here:

    The survival of the Oaks

    I cannot imagine a New Orleans without Live Oak trees. They are the most powerful single symbol of the physical city, more so than the River or any other feature.

    I was terribly distressed to hear early after the storm that St. Charles was littered with broken trees, with few survivors.

    Now arborsts report that the 720 live oaks that drape St. Charles Avenue are expected to survive, as are the large stands at the southern end of City Park and in Audubon Park.

    Live oaks evolved here on the coastal zone," said arborist John Benton
    in a Times-Picayne story. "They're designed for this geography and this
    weather. They're tough."

    State Department of Forestry and Agriculture personnel haven't yet begun to
    examine tree damage or urban reforestation, focusing instead on its continuing
    role in the search for Katrina's human victims. And the department won't send
    urban foresters in into the New Orleans area until environmental testing
    indicates it is safe to return, said Paul Orr, a department spokesman.But Orr
    said he has seen enough from satellite imagery to agree with Benton's assessment
    that the oldest live oaks on high, dry ground along City Park Avenue should be
    safe, while those growing in more northerly sections of the park, flooded Old
    Metairie and the New Orleans lakefront are in peril.

    Benton reported "unbelievable" tree loss throughout what he calls "new Metairie" north of West Metairie Avenue. "The live oaks and palms, which also evolved along the beach and are adapted to the area, did very well," he said. "But those other tall trees, especially the water oaks, which did most of the damage south of the lake, were down everywhere."

    Drained but not defeated

    The Times-Picayune/ report that the city is draining faster than expected and could be largley dry in weeks, not months.
    The Army Corps of Engineers offered more specific predictions Saturday. Current projections are that the "primary flooded areas" of Orleans Parish will be dry by Oct. 2, said Dan Hitchings, a director in the corps' Mississippi Valley division. More heavily flooded eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish are expected to be dry by Oct. 8, and Plaquemines Parish by Oct. 18, or about 40 days sooner than initial projections.
    Among the signs of progress: Near City Hall, Poydras Street -- which had been under about 3 feet of water -- is dry. Uptown, the water along Carrollton Avenue has receded almost to the Interstate 10 overpass, a drop of at least 3 feet. Parts of the Lower 9th Ward near the river, including blocks of Tricou Street, are drained almost completely, with as much as 5 feet of water receded in some places, leaving behind a crusted, brown sludge.
    "Pumps are constantly coming on line," said Marcia St. Martin, the water board's executive director.
    By early Saturday, more than 16 of the city's 75 major pumps were working. She was unable to say how much of the city was still under water. Eighty percent of the city was under water at the height of the flooding.

    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    Bush played for turf while Louisiana payed in lives

    NPR has reported that Bush withheld federal groups after Governor Kathleen Blanco rebuffed his demand the all control be taken by federal officials.

    This confirms a BBC World Service report carried on US PBS stations quoting the spokesman for the military's Northern Command in Colorad, stating they were ready before the storm strucks for a massive response, but the order from the White House never came

    It is unclear why Blanco refused to surrender all state governmental authority, but if the National Guard troops had been federalized, they would have had to lay down their weapons and restrict themselves to relief efforts only. Blanco made numerous statements about the perceived danger on the ground in New Orleans, and may have resisted disarming the Guard.

    What is not clear is why Bush insisted that all local officials surrender their authority to federal officials, which is the gist of the report. If Bush deliberately withheld Federal assistance over who would have authority or get credit, then a fully independent commission of investigation can't be convened too soon. Any investigation conducted by persons reporting to Bush would almost certainly not address the negligent homicide this represents.

    Correction: Gretna police blocked Orleans parish refugees at parish line

    I had earlier attributed this to the Sheriff's Department, as Nagin identfied them as Jefferson Parish officers.

    Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson says it was his offices who turned back the evacuees with no offer of assistance.

    Whoever is to blame, it was a despicable act. Most of the law enforcement officers in the metro NOLA area are heroes. These are cowards and worsse.

    Friday, September 09, 2005

    Descending into Disney

    The United States is a nation where we value the new over the old. It is an integral part of the national psyche of a collection of people who’s one unifying event was this: our ancestors left behind the old in the place of their birth, and built anew from the ground up.

    Our greatest monuments are those we built ourselves: whether it’s the Golden Gate Bridge or the president carved into the face of Mount Rushmore. And every day, we erect new monuments to what Americans are, and litter the landscape with yesterday’s styles.

    In a place set apart, on the edge of the continent, people in one of the oldest settlements have taken a different view. People in New Orleans have treasured the past, and the ways brought to that city from Europe and from Africa. Perhaps it was the ready communication with Europe and the world via the port. Or maybe the city’s founding long before 1776 and it’s separation from the United States until the Louisiana Purchase, when a well established Creole population quickly learned to resent the new American arrivals.

    Whatever the cause, it has made us a place and a people apart. That has been the City’s greatest attraction to all who come to visit. It is what has made the City the birthplace of music and food and unique folk culture that make it one of the most valuable cultural artifacts in the world.

    Perhaps it is that same insularity that places us in our current predicament. The people of American think they know NOLA, but they don't. They know a postcard travelogue place, a thin veneer of what the city is.

    Perhaps this is whyover half of people surveyed by the Associated Press say the City should be rebuilt on “higher ground.” I’m not as angry at those people as I would have been even a day or two ago. These are people who think “city” and see the vast tracts of suburban sprawl around them. That sort of community can be built anywhere, they reason. Why would anyone want to recreate it in the bottom of a bowl, waiting for the next hurricane to strike?

    Even those who have visited us have not really seen the city, and that is why they don’t understand. Take a mental cab trip from the old Moissant Field to your downtown hotel. The first impression is the vast sprawl of Kenner and Metairie. This, they reason, could be built anywhere. By the time they reach the city proper, they mostly see the crumbling industrial frontage of the Pontchartrain Expressway. This, they know say to themselves, certainly could not be missed by anyone.

    They hear on the news that the French Quarter is still there, and occupied by hundreds of the colorful people they have seen or read about, who refused to leave, people hanging out in bars that never close. They hear the Uptown they know, along St. Charles Avenue, has survived the storm. Surely, they reason, this should be preserved. But the rest of it is no more historic than, and interchangeable with any place else in the United States.

    What they have missed is the real city. They have not been into areas filled with small and unique homes: the ubiquitous 19th century shotguns with the frilly gingerbread; the older Creole cottages settling comfortably on their piers; the odd shaped corner stores built in the oblique angles of a city were half the streets run perpendicular to a sinuous river.

    They have not seen a city of neighborhoods where people have lived for hundreds of years in much the same houses, in much the same way, only recently disturbed by the homogenizing influence of cable television and satellite robot radio, or the rattle of automatic weapons. What they don’t know is that it is these very neighborhoods that make the City of New Orleans. They are the roux, both dark and light, without which the rich gumbo cannot be.

    Imagine if you will a New Orleans without Mardi Gras Indians; without neighborhoods where young boys actually want to learn to play the trombone, so they can march proudly at the head of the parade; without the little neighborhood restaurants where Creole cooking was perfected before we gave it to the world; without the little bars where every generation of musicians have played for a circle of friends and neighbors before they took our music into the world.

    Yes, the City was crushingly poor. In recent years, it has been plagued by rampant and violent crime. The media gleefully reports on poor people from all over town who are relieved to have been taken out of their neighborhood, as if rescued by the hand of God. Those backwater neighborhoods that made the City possible were threatened by a tide greater than any that the Gulf can throw at us.

    But if these people are not encouraged to return, if it is not made possible for them to return, then in no sense can the city be rebuilt. Certainly the Disney Company or perhaps the Las Vegas casino companies, can make a place where tourists will enjoy themselves. Look at Disney. It celebrates our past by building an ersatz main street, a fake frontier, and even a fantastic future. Consider the pyramids and Big Bens and Venetian piazza of Las Vegas. While not Jazzville, right there on the river with steamboats and daily Mardi Gras parades, featuring the media’s most popular characters of the day?

    Would that be New Orleans? Will young men live in boarding schools in the Florida Parishes and be bussed in to tap dance on Bourbon Street? Will the colorful characters of the downtown neighborhoods be college kids from Nebraska in costume? Perhaps it would be an improvement, if traditional jazz and NO R&B replaced the karaoke bars along Bourbon Street, if artists from Cleveland took up stations along Jackson Square and displaced the fortune tellers. The shops in the quarter closest to Bourbon Street certainly couldn’t get any worse under the right sort of management.

    There are men of wealth sitting in their generator powered, air conditioned houses, sipping cold beer delivered by oil company helicopters to the greens of Audubon Park golf course, who are plotting a newer, cleaner, better city, populated by a better class of people, or so reports the Wall St. Journal (subscription required, so I’ve only seen the teaser).

    Think of the property values along Canal Street since the street cars were returned. Imagine a central city full of McMansion recreations of the better sort of Uptown homes, with the odd plantation thrown in for good measure. Imagine a downtown full of new skyscrapers filled with the workers occupying those new homes! New Orleans could again be the Queen of the South.

    But it would not be New Orleans.

    I am terribly frightened that the evacuation of the city is a pretext to bring in the bull dozers and much of the city to rubble and weeds. I am even more frightened by the visions of what might replace those neighborhoods.

    Will Gen. Honore’s be our General von Cholitz, who ignored Hitler’s order to burn Paris rather than surrender it intact to the Allies? Imagine the loss if he had not. Imagine the loss if New Orleans is razed.

    It would be an act of cultural genocide , a word I choose carefully and mindful of its terrible implications. It would be the ethnic cleansing of an alien other perched on the edge of America. It would be a crime not much different from that of the Taliban when they chose to demolish the ancient cliff Buddhas.

    CNN Reports survivors must waive all future claims for $2,000

    Host Miles Obrien stated on CNN's American Morning that Katrina survivors are being asked to sign a waiver reliving the government of any future claims or assistance in order to receive their $2,000 debit cards in Houston.

    It is not clear if this is being done to all recipients, as FEMA is not operating an assistance center open to the public in Baton Rouge, which has several hundred thousand survivors camped out in town.

    A transcript had been posted by 3:00 CDT.

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    FEMA reneges on debit cards

    It was widely reported today that FEMA would provide a $2,000 debit card to provide relief to Katrina survivors, but later backed down and said the cards would only be provided to those sheltered at the Astrodome.

    Elsewhere, people will have to wait for the $2,000 in "expedited assistance" from FEMA to arrive in paper checks or direct deposits into bank accounts, according to David Passey, spokesman for FEMA.

    From survivors I am in communication with, FEMA is asking for the "home address" of survivors, indicating that all correspondence about disater aid will be directed there.

    This could significantly delay any assistance for survivors, hundreds of thousands of whom will be without a reliable new mailing address for weeks or months.

    The legacy of the Uncivil War haunts the Katrina catastrophe

    At some point in the 1980s, when I was moving from newspapering to politics, a bright young man named Lee Atwater was remaking the Republican Party and the South. His main idea was to aggressively use wedge politics, especially race politics, to peel away white southern Democrats from their party.

    Atwater is dead but the movement he started lives on. The demonization of political opponents, using the techniques typically associated with psychological warfare. The political opposition became instead the enemy.

    This view if the world was brought into the public eye when Rep. Newt Gingrich, the leader of the conservative revolution in Congress in the early 1990s, declared a “bloodless civil war” was underway against Democrats and other opposition parties, such as liberal interest groups.

    This approach was terribly successful. The effort to divide and conquer has brought the heirs of its architects into complete control of the federal government, and much of the media (at least the radio and cable television talk shows that lead public opinion).

    It has also left the nation in the deepest division since the years leading up to the first Civil War.

    It didn’t take long for the division to emerge in the post-Katrina south. The governor of Mississippi is the former chair of the Republican National Committee, and would brook no criticism of the Bush Administration, even as officials across Louisiana wept and swore in their distress on natinal television.

    Much of the affected population, especially in NOLA, is made of up the “Them” of the uncivil war: working class black people, and the economic dead-enders (to borrow the current term of art in Iraq) who also populated their community.

    A basic premise of the Uncivil War is that this Other aren't neighbors with whom we disagree; they are a vicious and unAmerican mob, threatening "Our" very way of life.

    How did we wind up in Poli Sci 101 on a blog about Hurricane Katrina? Because much of what happend, outside of the forces of nature, happened and continues on it current course because of the ugly political realities of the Uncivil War.

    It is my view, based on every fact I can find, that FEMA and Homeland Security failed their first major test catastrophically, leaving thousands more dead than need have died. The facts clearly support this. Every significant local elected official not formerly on the payroll of the RNC agrees, as does the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and all of the national media who have been on the ground.

    But our ruling political elites and their allies cannot allow this. Like North Korean aparatchiks, nothing must be allowed to pierce the veil and disturb the vision of the United States as a shinning white Chritian city on a hill, or sully the image of its Leader.

    I don't believe that the President and his inner circle rejoiced in the suffering of New Orleans. I believe that they were indifferent to it.

    If they felt any joy it was only that the victims and survivors were part of that great, dirty Other. And they were behaving so badly. Every effort was made to make the most out of this circumtance. Although all local reports indicate looting (excluding people taking water and food, medicine and clothes) was minor. Never mind that there is not a single report of an aircraft being fire at. Ignore that the worst of the rumours of rape and mayhem can't be confirmed by the NOPD or the reporters on the ground.

    The leaders of the Uncivil War could not have ordered a more perfect spectacle, a better demonstration of the unfitness of the darker and poorer populations to govern themselves, their unfitness as Americans. The media sitting in their comfortable studios in New York and Washington and Atlanta obliged. They circulated every rumour, and ran the same video of a handful of looters over and over again.

    Given the task of saving a population so marginal to their view of the world they might as well have lived in a third world country, out federal leaders turned their heads. It was not so much race as pure politics. These people didn’t matter to them, dead or alive.

    These people are some of the first mass casualties of the Uncivil War. They were victims of a spoils system that put the former head of show horse farms in charge of our domestic national security. They were allowed to die because their lives and deaths could not be directly detected in the valuation of the New York Stock Exchange.

    The federal government only began to respond when the scale of the disaster became apparent, and the spectacle of watching thousands of dead bodies pulled from the sodden rubble threatened to disrupt their other agendas.

    In the view of some, all blame falls on local shoulders. This is in no way supported by the facts (although the acolytes of AM radio will dispute it to their deathbeds). Their were errors at every level, as there must be in any chaotic situation.

    But in their cult-like insistence on a controlled reality, they could not allow their own failures to become an issue. How could our Dear Leader be seen as anything other than a shoulder to cry on in times of crisis?

    So instead of a discussion or examination of how the federal government massively failed it's people, we have heard an endless discussion of the details of how NOLA might have been evacuated or not, a discussion largely innocent of any facts, but accompanied by a picture of flooded school buses.

    What is almost as distubing as the callous disregard for the deaths of thousands of their fellow citizens is the effort to make sure their responsiblity never comes to light.

    Another Katrina-scale disaster will come: from deep beneath the earth’s crust in California, from the tropical convergence zone in the south Atlantic, or on a shipping container from the MidEast. And the federal government will be as unprepared at that time as they were on Aug. 29.

    Our government will be no more prepared because they have no reason to be. The blame will have been heaped upon the dark Other, and there will be no need for any changes in Washington.

    Newt Gingrich promised this would be a "bloodless" civil war.

    Tell that to the people of New Orleans.

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    When the levee breaks

    It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.

    -- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

    New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

    Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

    Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars. (Much of the research here is from Nexis, which is why some articles aren't linked.)

    In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to this Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness:

    The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.

    The rest, and associated political bickering at the bottom, here:

    "And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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