Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cop pleads guilty in post-Katrina shootings

Ex-New Orleans Cop Pleads Guilty To Massive Cover Up In Post-Katrina Shootings Talking Points Memo, 2/25/10:

A veteran New Orleans police officer pleaded guilty yesterday to orchestrating an elaborate cover-up of a shooting in the days after Katrina in which police gunned down six unarmed city residents, killing two and seriously wounding four.

The development -- which the Times-Picayune calls a "potentially devastating blow" to other officers linked to the case -- is the first plea in a wide-ranging federal probe of several post-Katrina police shootings. The Feds are reportedly looking at possible crimes in both the shootings themselves as well as the subsequent investigations.

The Danziger Bridge shootings occurred on Sept. 4, 2005, just six days after Katrina hit. The victims were reportedly stranded on a part of Chef Menteur highway that was surrounded by flooding; the police involved were working out of a temporary station at a reception hall nearby.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"Making Light" blog commemorates Katrina + 3

[[ "Making Light" is the blog I first followed the Katrina story on. The blog is published by New Yorkers Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, with additional posts by Jim MacDonald and others.
-- Thomas ]]

Katrina - Third Anniversary ("Making Light")

Making Light followed this story from the beginning, from the day before Katrina hit New Orleans:

Katrina: Not your usual weather disaster story
28AUG05 O the dreadful wind and rain—They’re talking about this being the kind of storm that can reshape coastlines. Hurricane-force winds could be felt up to 150 miles inland. The Mayor of New Orleans has ordered a mandatory evacuation, and the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi have ordered that all the lanes on the interstates be switched to “outbound.” Best-case scenario for New Orleans still has the levees breaking and the city under fifteen feet of filthy water—and it doesn’t look like we’re going to be a best-case scenario. As of mid-afternoon, the storm’s stats are worse than Hurricane Camille’s—and while Camille was intense, it was also physically small. Katrina is huge.
29AUG05 “Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? ‘Times-Picayune’ Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues” by Will Bunch, in Editor & Publisher. A very strong article which lays out Bush & Co.’s consistent policy of stripping funding from levee maintenance and hurricane preparedness in the Gulf Coast area in order to reallocate those funds to the Department of Homeland Security and the war in Iraq.
Apocalypse deferred; likely damage merely “incredible”
29AUG05 Maybe there’ll be a New Orleans to go back to after all. We can hope.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Katrina Commemoration Events

Via Katrina Information Network.


(August 29) Los Angeles, New Orleans and Los Angeles: Fighting for the Right to the City*** Co-sponsored by the East LA Community Corporation, Esperanza Community Housing Corp., Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, South Asian Network and Union de Vecinos. This event will feature a candle-light vigil filled with art, food, theater, speakers, live music and entertainment connecting the struggles for working class people of color in New Orleans and Los Angeles. August 29, 2008 6:30 pm 3245 Wilshire. For more information please contact: Thelmy Perez-213-745-9961 x226

(August 29) Miami, Trouble the Water Film Screening, Fundraiser and Speak Out*** Co-sponsored by the Miami Workers Center, Vecinos Unidos, and Power U center. Friday August 29, 7:30pm at Shantel’s Lounge (5422 NW 7th Ave). This event will connect the struggles around police, prisons, poverty, and education for communities in New Orleans and Miami. Including Power U Band and open mic. $5 Donation. Contact 305.576.7749 for more info.

New Orleans/Gulf Coast Tour Youth from New York’s West End and Middle Collegiate Churches are traveling to the Gulf Coast to help with recovery work in the region and to meet with youth advocates. They will spend two days in Mississippi helping to rebuild homes in the Gulfport area and a few days in New Orleans working on green projects and meeting with youth affiliated with Save Our Schools New Orleans and Frederick Douglass High School to understand how communities are rebuilding through the eyes of young people. For more info contactwww.westendchurch.org or www.middlechurch.org.

(August 29) New York, Commemoration Rally and March*** New York City – Right To The City Alliance, the New York Solidarity Coalition with Katrina/Rita Survivors, Artist Relief, Brenda Stokley, Joetta Rogers and Northeast Survivors Group. The event will start with a rally and press conference at Sarah Roosevelt Park followed by a march starting at 4:15pm. The march will wind through the Lower East Side and Chinatown with short stops in each community and will end with a vigil in front of One Police Plaza. The commemoration will end with a fundraiser at Judson Memorial Church at 7:30 pm put on by the Artist Relief Collective and the Nola Preservation Society. For more information contact Rob Robinson at Picture the Homeless (646) 314-6423 or Brenda Stokley at the New York Solidarity Coalition with Katrina and Rita Survivors (212) 969-0449

(August 29) Philadelphia-Hurricane Season. Alixa and Naima of Climbing PoeTree are premiering their two-woman show on 8/29/08 kicking off a 50-city national tour. A multimedia piece, Hurricane Season connects issues that surfaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the "unnatural disasters" unfolding nationwide and world wide on a daily basis. Hurricane Season tackles global warming, environmental injustice, criminalization, militarism, corporate domination and displacement as they manifest from one gulf to another, with a powerful tale of resistance, resilience, creativity and survival . For more info visit www.hurricaneseasontour.com. Doors open at 7pm, Show starts at 7:30. Location: The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. Tickets are $10-$20

(August 29) Providence, RI Commemorative March*** Sponsored by Boston/Providence Right to the City Alliance members including DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality) and ONA (Olneyville Neighborhood Association). Second line style action starts at 3:30pm at DARE offices (340 Lockwood St. Providence, RI 02903) Participants will follow the Hurricane Evacuation Route and will make stops along the way which highlight issues of criminalization, foreclosures, gentrification, education, and immigration and will connect the struggles of Providence to New Orleans. For information contact 401-351-3560 or 401-228-8996.

(August 29) San Francisco Bay Area-No Business as Usual Katrina Anniversary*** Action is Co-sponsored by Bay Area Right to the City. August 29th 10am-5pm. Start at 7th St and Market in San Francisco for rally and march. 1pm cultural performance at Oakland City Hall at 14th and Broadway. Followed by march to rally at Oakland Police Department. Highlighting connections between Bay Area and New Orleans including: criminalization, incarceration and deportation of communities of color; public housing, privatized development/gentrification, and displacement of working class people of color. Contact Robbie at robbie@justcauseoakland.org or 510-763-5877.

(August 29) San Francisco Bay Area-Katrina Commemoration and Community Forum (Part of Black August) In Solidarity with the Peoples' of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast: Right of Return, Reconstruction, and Self-Determination. Friday, August 29th from 6 – 9 pm at the Eastside Cultural Center, 1227 International Blvd. In collaboration with Huaxtec, Katrina Solidarity Network, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Right to the City. Contact 510-533-6609, email mxgmoakland@gmail.com or visit www.mxgm.org.

(August 29)Washington DC- Rally at FEMA*** Friday, August 29th 11:30 am-1:30pm, FEMA Headquarters, 500 C Street, SE. Mid-Atlantic Right to the City Alliance is rallying at FEMA headquarters to highlight the federal government's failure to protect residents' human rights. Community groups are calling on the government to stop promoting incarceration and demolition of supportive housing, and to invest in a permanent solution to the housing crisis, public education, mental health and other crisis services. Contact awillis@onedconline.org for more info.

*** Denotes activities that are a co-sponsored by the national Right to the City Alliance

Monday, July 07, 2008

Blog Reactions on Technorati: "Supplies for Katrina victims went to Mississippi agencies"

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/07/07/mississippi.katrina/index.html: Blog Reactions on Technorati: "34 blog reactions to http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/07/07/mississippi.katrina/index.html

Supplies for Katrina victims went to Mississippi agencies

July 7, 2008 - Prisons in Mississippi got coffee makers, pillowcases and dinnerware -- all intended for victims of Hurricane Katrina."

FEMA and a Worthless President
1 hour ago in Robert Stinnett's Paper and Pencil by rstinnett · Authority: 4
instead of to the people who have suffered for years now after the Katrina disaster (which was a disaster in part because of Bush’s ineptness to do anything but sit on his ass while his rich friends were awarded lucrative contracts for rebuilding). The story just boggles the mind

FEMA Doesn’t Like People
1 hour ago in bark, bugs, leaves, and lizards · Authority: 27
Can't take FEMA personally. They screw everyone

JOKERs News - Always the latest News from around the Globe
1 hour ago · Authority: 1
...Katrina aid anger: 'I just want to slap them' Mississippi agencies had a field day with free goods meant for Katrina victims. Prisons, fire departments, colleges and park agencies snatched up coffee makers, cleaning goods and other supplies, a CNN investigation has found. What about the victims?

FEMA-- Brownie's gone but someone is still doing a Heckuva Job. (a screw job, that is.)
1 hour ago in Night Bird's Fountain by nightbirdlizzy · Authority: 30
Then if you have a state government run by good ol' boys (somebody must have tipped them off) they can jump in and claim the loot to plug budget holes in their own agencies. That's what the Bush administration did with millions of dollars in supplies that never made it to Katrina victims

ipku to make upki always
2 hours ago · No authority yet
Katrina aid anger: 'I just want to slap them'

Katrina aid anger: 'I just want to slap them'
2 hours ago in The media and it's attack on the United States · Authority: 1
and park agencies snatched up coffee makers, cleaning goods and other supplies, a CNN investigation has found. What about the victims? They've been left high and dry. "I just want to slap them upside the head," says one aid group official. Source: CNN.com

Monday, June 02, 2008

RealNews: Glover in New Orleans for the "Algebra Project"

From Danny Glover's speech announcing a Vanguard Foundation grant to Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Fund:
When the hurricane struck the Gulf and the floodwaters rose and tore through New Orleans, plunging its remaining population into a carnival of misery, it did not turn the region into a Third World country - as it has been disparagingly implied in the media - it revealed one. It revealed the disaster within the disaster: grueling poverty rose to the surface like a bruise to our skin.
More on the Algebra Project in New Orleans and elsewhere here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Orleans Journal: The New Yorker

Found this after it ended: New Orleans Journal: The New Yorker, by Dan Baum. From the last post, "What It Means" (June 1, 2007):
The final New Orleans experience I will record in this journal is, fittingly, one of exile. I’m on the outskirts of Houston, stuck in a sterile motel room and pining for the rich, convoluted streets of the Crescent City. The soaring expanses of freeway disorient me; my eyes haven’t focussed on anything farther away than a few blocks in a long time. And, instead of looking at peeling multicolored shotgun houses with oddly dressed people sitting on their porches and others walking dogs in the street, my eye falls on the featureless beige wall of a Best Buy and the acres of parking around Sam’s Club.

But, most of all, I’m lonely. I was in Beaumont, Texas, having vegetarian fajitas at an outpost of the Acapulco Mexican Grill chain, when I noticed a woman at the next table looking at my food. “That looks good,” I heard her whisper to her mother. I kept expecting one of them to lean over and shout, “Hey, babe, what’s that you’re eatin’?,” and for all of us to end up at the same table. But they kept to themselves.

“Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?” an old song asks; another reminds us, “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” Since Katrina, I’ve often been asked (though never by someone in New Orleans) why the country should bother rebuilding it. Is it really worth the billions it would take to protect this small, poor, economically inessential city, which is sinking into the delta muck as global warming raises the sea around it? But the question of “whether” has been settled—New Orleans is rebuilding itself, albeit slowly, fitfully, and imperfectly. Now it’s only a matter of how and how long. That is better news than perhaps the rest of America fully understands.
Baum's ongoing web site, which he shares with his spouse and fellow freelance writer Margaret Knox, is at http://www.knoxandbaum.com/

Katrina video on Real News Network

Friday, February 01, 2008

Impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Substance Use and Mental Health

Impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Substance Use and Mental Health:
Gulf State Disaster Area residents aged 18 or older who were displaced from their homes for 2 weeks or longer had significantly higher rates of SPD [severe psychological distress], MDE [major depressive episode], and unmet need for mental health treatment or counseling in the past year compared with residents who were not displaced or who were displaced for less than 2 weeks (Figure 3). Approximately one in four residents who were displaced for 2 weeks or longer reported SPD; rates of MDE were more than 3 times higher among those who had been displaced for 2 weeks or longer compared with those who were not displaced.*

The study found similarly strong effects of displacement on substance abuse including binge alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs.

* Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (January 31, 2008). The NSDUH Report: Impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Substance Use and Mental Health. Rockville, MD.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bill Quigley's 10 lessons

At "Facing South," guest contributor Bill Quigley has posted 10 IMPORTANT LESSONS: Katrina, Two Years Later. Excerpt:
One. Build and rebuild community.

When disaster hits and life is wrecked, you immediately seem to be on your own. Isolation after a disaster is a recipe for powerlessness and depression. Family, community, church, work associations are all important --get them up and working as fast as possible. People will stand up and fight, but we need communities to do it. Prize women --they are the first line of community builders. Guys will talk and fight and often grab the spotlight, but women will help everyone and do whatever it takes to protect families and communities. Powerful forces mobilize immediately after a disaster. People and politicians and organizations have their own agendas and it helps them if our communities are fragmented. Setting one group against another, saying one group is more important than another is not helpful. Stress and distress is high for everyone, but community support will multiply the resources of individuals. Build bridges. People together are much stronger than people alone.

Two. Self-reliance.

Your community must be ready to re-settle your property as soon as possible and care for those most in need. Prioritize help for the elderly, the sick, children and women, especially the poor. The prime cure for helplessness is taking control over your own life and joining others to fight for justice. Groups and people will want to treat you like a victim --say you are traumatized and incapable of making basic decisions about yourself. They will tell you they know best and act like they know best. Tell them to get lost.

Three. Tell your own story.

Sharing our stories, successes and failures, is a way to connect and educate ourselves. Connecting with others nationally and internationally who have been through disasters is the very best thing that you can do. Disasters and the corporations that cause them and profit from them do not respect national boundaries. Look for global justice connections. Learn from those who have been through this before. They will tell you - do not let anyone say who you are or what is best for your community --say it yourself.

Those in power will blame circumstances outside their control for what happened and inevitably they will blame the victims of the disaster. Those in power will tell the people's story in ways that makes the powerful look good. If others do not tell the truth --you do it and get your stories out. Real allies help lift up the voices of the people.
...read on.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bill Moyers Journal: Katrina Revisited

From the August 17 "Bill Moyers Journal," featuring Mike Tidwell (Bayou Farewell, The Ravaging Tide), and Princeton University professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell ("2005 Racial Attitudes and the Katrina Disaster Study"):
BILL MOYERS: ... Why do we ignore the warnings? We ignored the warnings before 9/11. We ignored the warnings before Katrina. I mean, you wrote in your book that Katrina's arrival was as certain as tomorrow's sunrise.

MIKE TIDWELL: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: How could you be so sure?

MIKE TIDWELL: Because all you had to do was look at the coastal maps going back from the French explorers all the way to the satellite maps from the mid 1970's forward and you saw a land mass, a coastal land mass imploding, disappearing. An area the size of Delaware was subtracted from south Louisiana between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico just since the great Depression. It was clear that there was no longer any land mass buffering the city.


BILL MOYERS: I've kept in my files since written one week after the disaster. Listen to this. "What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological-- what Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequence of the welfare state. 75 percent of the residents of New Orleans had already evacuated before the hurricane. And of those who remained, a large number were from the city's public housing projects." What does that say to you?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, it's bizarre and inaccurate empirically. Because in fact, the public housing projects were on high ground. They experienced very little water damage. And most of the residents there who have been shut out by their government, by their city and by our national housing office, is not because of any destruction that occurred because of Katrina but because of the required evacuation that occurred.They were mostly safe.

The people whose homes were destroyed were mostly home owners. But they were poor people. And this is what we can't deal with in America. They worked jobs every day. Most of them stayed because they needed to go to work in the morning. Most of them had to go to work in the morning in the hotels, in the tourist industries, in the restaurants that served to make New Orleans the fun place that the rest of us liked to visit. So they were homeowners who were poor. They were working people who were poor. Because we live in a country where we allow people to work every day and still be poor. To still have the inadequate capacity to leave.

And the third reason why many people didn't leave are very thick social networks. So part of the question you asked is, why didn't people think, oh, this disaster is coming? Well, Betsy, Hurricane Betsy was in living memory in New Orleans. And Hurricane Betsy was a terrible storm that many people had survived. If you had an aunt or an uncle or a grandmother who had survived Hurricane Betsy, she or he refused often to leave.


MIKE TIDWELL: I think the true tragedy, as we-- as we look at the ninth ward, we look at Lakeview and these neighborhoods that are not being rebuilt, the city of New Orleans is effectively being abandoned. It really is. And we're not doing what we know we can do to save it. The city can be saved. I completely believe that. People should and we can save this city. And we have to do a number of things. We have to restore the wetlands and barrier islands. We've got to make levees that work.

BILL MOYERS: Would you take your family to live there?

MIKE TIDWELL: No, I would not. I would not go--

BILL MOYERS: To move to New Orleans.

MIKE TIDWELL: It's the most dangerous city in the world to live in.


MIKE TIDWELL: The levees are ineffective. The army corps of engineers says it's going to be 2010 before they even have the levees up to pre-Katrina levels. And then climate change. Hurricanes are getting bigger. We know this. There have been MIT studies, Georgia Tech studies that show that it's already happening. It is a dangerous place to live.

Now, if we resolve the issue of climate change, which we can-- the tragedy is, we can fix New Orleans. There-- it's not a matter of money and technology. We can do it. You know, in the war in Iraq, six weeks earlier, you have the 30 billion dollars to build the levees in the wetlands. And climate change. If we became a nation of hybrid car drivers, ten years from now, we'd cut our gasoline in half. We wouldn't be in Iraq. If Iraq's number one export was broccoli, would we be there? So, the tragedy is we can in fact save New Orleans, but we're not doing it. We can solve global warming, but we're not doing it.

And I think the main thing for people who live in Miami, who live in lower Manhattan, who live in Charleston, all these vulnerable coastal cities, if we allow New Orleans to disappear, if we don't come to the permanent rescue of our fellow countrymen in New Orleans, how are you safe in Miami? How are you safe in lower Manhattan? Who's going to come to save you?

Friday, May 11, 2007

From late March: Katrina Death Toll Passes 4,000

Robert Lindsay, who's been tracking the Katrina death toll figures for quite a while, wrote on March 30 about testimony by Dr. Kevin Stephens, director of the New Orleans Health Department, at a March 13 hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations ("Post Katrina Health Care: Continuing Concerns and Immediate Needs in the New Orleans Region"). Lindsay:
...Residents reported observing a larger than usual number of death notices in the newspaper, even long after Katrina and into 2006. At the same time, even months after the storm, residents reported going to more funerals than they ever had.

These anecdotal reports caused Stephens and a team to undertake a study to count the number of death notices in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and compare it to a reference year which would serve as a baseline. 2003 was chosen as a reference year. The data can be seen on page nine of the testimony linked above.

In the first six months of 2003, 5,544 deaths were counted. In the first six months of 2006, 7,902 were counted, an increase of 2,358 deaths over baseline in the post-Katrina period. Based on this, we will assign 2,358 deaths as caused by the accelerated death rates that occurred in New Orleans even long after the storm.

Although the population of New Orleans is only 1/2 what it was prior to the storm, the obituaries covered not only New Orleans but also included many of the refugees tossed about to various parts of the country.

Based on this new information, we can add the previous toll of 1,723 to the new post-Katrina figure of 2,358 to posit a new unofficial death toll of 4,081.
(Link to Lindsay's tally of 1,723 added). Dr. Stephens' testimony can be read here (Acrobat .PDF document), the hearing can be viewed here (.wvx file).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Serious weaknesses found in repaired New Orleans levees

Facing South:
With hurricane season less than a month away, experts from the United States and the Netherlands say flaws in New Orleans' repaired levee system could leave the region vulnerable to another disastrous breach like the one that occurred after Hurricane Katrina, which was the largest civil engineering disaster in U.S. history.

So warns a special report from National Geographic, which had Robert Bea, a University of California at Berkeley engineering professor and former chief engineer for Shell Oil Co., inspect the protective barriers. Bea found multiple weak spots in critical areas, according to the magazine:
The most serious flaws turned up in the rebuilt levees along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ship channel, which broke in more than 20 places when Katrina's storm surge pounded it, leading to devastating flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish. Bea found several areas where rainstorms have already eroded the newly rebuilt levees, particularly where they consist of a core of sandy and muddy soils topped with a cap of Mississippi clay. 'It's like icing on the top of angel food cake,' Bea says. 'These levees will not be here if you put a Katrina surge against them.' ...
More here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The one-two punch

...is how New Orleans resident Tim ("Tim's ~ Nameless ~ Blog") describes what happened to a neighbor:
John lost his mother and brother in the past few months. You might say he lost them to Hurricane Katrina. In New Orleans, his story is not typical, but it is not all that uncommon either.

Sunday morning I wandered out of our FEMA Travel Trailer to look at the day. Across our vacant lot, across the lot next door made recently vacant as well, I saw John standing with his hands on his hips. I walked over to say hello. The house that used to stand next to our vacant lot was knocked down last week. The backhoe arrived late one afternoon and parked in the front yard. When I got home from work the next day, nothing but brown dirt remained. The only evidence of the house was a few glass shards and chips of brick.

It's one of those odd circumstances of urban living. We moved here about 6 years before Katrina, before the flood washed the neighbors away. John lived just two doors away. But I don't recall ever meeting him before this day. So as suddenly as the levees breached, as swiftly as the neighborhood had been doused, as quickly as that house between us had been ripped up and carted away, we stood there and talked as if we had been talking like this all along.

John told me that he had lived here since he was 10 years old. His mother and father had built one of the first homes in Vista Park. He said it was the second house on the whole street. He pointed to a white-brick house a few hundred feet away, telling me that was the only other one here back in the early days.

And now, John observed matter-of-factly, it's looking a lot like it did back then. Vacant land all around. A few houses and not much traffic.

John was soft-spoken and alert when I talked to him. But there was a slight slur as one side of his mouth lagged in movement. It was easy to guess that he was in his 60's; I wondered too if he had suffered a stroke recently.

The clear sky radiated a blueness that only occurs on the hottest days. The bright light of morning was tempered by the low humidity and light breeze of what was starting out to be a beautiful day. In stark contrast, John told me about the unhappy journey his life has become since that not-so-perfect-day in August 2005.

The Saturday before Katrina attacked, John and his elderly mother were planning to stay. They had stayed for Betsy. They had stayed for Camille. The street had never flooded and damage was mostly from a few fallen trees.

But Sunday morning John heard panic in the voices of the reporters and meteorologists on the TV. The hurricane had not turned. It was headed here. He heard desperation in the pleas of the Mayor and Governor. He decided to leave his childhood home, still expecting to come back in a few days. John took his mother to the north shore, to a house his brother owned on the relative high ground of St. Tammany Parish.

We all know what happened that Monday.

The weeks and months that followed have continued to be hard on John. Harder still on his family. His elderly mother was not able to return home, and his brother took up the job of filing the paperwork for insurance and government assistance. John was not specific--and I did not press for details--but at some point his brother was not able to go on. He killed himself less than a year after Katrina.

John's mother, now dealing with further grief, had to move to an assisted living facility. "She lasted six months," John says, so plainly that it startled me. As if her death from the one-two punch of a hurricane and a suicide was a given.

"And how about you?" I asked. "How are you getting along?"

He tells the same lie we all tell when asked. "Fine."
There's more at the link.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Where's New Orleans?

asks Tom Watson:
Two long debates, 18 candidates, four hours of naked ambition. No discussion of the great domestic failure of our times - the ongoing tragedy of the official national abandonment of New Orleans.

You would expect this from the Republicans; they posed as if angling for the mantle of Reagan at his tacky and Disneyesque "library" - all that's missing is the gruesome Leninesque attraction at the center - but they're really jockeying for the legacy of George W. Bush... [...]

Malign neglect is to be expected from the modern Republican Party, but where were the Democrats?

Why wasn't New Orleans front and center for the Democrats; why isn't a central issue on the campaign trail? Why don't all the candidate websites contain a plan, a proposal, the account of some working being done on behalf a great American city that is being allowed to die.

Here's a sad truth: American Idol did a better job in its recent fundraising campaign of highlighting the ongoing horror of southern Louisiana than did Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and that talkative guy from Alaska in their nationally-televised first debate.
Personally, I'd give John Edwards at least a little more credit than that. From a Bob Herbert column in today's New York Times, reporting on an Edwards campaign visit to New Orleans:
[Edwards] said he would appoint a high-level official to take charge of the rebuilding, and he would have that person “report to me” every day. He said he would create 50,000 “steppingstone jobs,” in parks, recreation facilities and a variety of community projects, for New Orleans residents who have been unable to find any other work. And he said, “We’re also going to have to rebuild these levees.
But point taken. And not just about candidates, but about me.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

18 Missing Inches in New Orleans

18 Missing Inches in New Orleans (from "Armed Madhouse", Greg Palast):
On August 22, 2006, we were videotaping Katrina evacuees still held behind barbed wire in a trailer park encampment a hundred miles from New Orleans. It had been a year since the hurricane and 73,000 POW’s (Prisoners of Dubya) were still in mobile home Gulags. I arranged a surreptitious visit with Pamela Lewis, one of the unwilling guests of George Bush’s Guantanamo on wheels. She told me, “It’s a prison set-up” - except there are no home furloughs for these inmates because they no longer have homes. [...]

That Monday night, August 29, 2005, the sleepless crew at the state Emergency Operations Center, directing the response to Hurricane Katrina, were high-fiving it, relieved that Katrina had swung east of New Orleans, sparing the city from drowning.

They were wrong. The Army Corps, FEMA and White House knew for critical hours that the levees had begun to crack, but withheld the information for a day and night. The delay was deadly.

Van Heerden explained that levees don’t collapse in a single bang. First, there’s a small crack or two, a few feet wide, which take hours to burst open into visible floodways.

Had the state known New Orleans’ bulwark was failing, they would have shifted resources to get out those left in the danger zone. [...]

But why did the levees fail at all if the hurricane missed the city? The professor showed me a computer model indicating the levees were a foot and a half too short - the result of a technical error in the Army Corp of Engineer’s calculation of sea level when the levees were built beginning in the 1930s.

And the Bush crew knew it. Long before Katrina struck, the White House staff had sought van Heerden’s advice on coastal safety. So when the professor learned of the 18-inch error, he informed the White House directly. But this was advice they didn’t want to hear. The President had already sent the levee repair crew, the Army Corp of Engineers, to Afghanistan and Iraq.

UPDATE, 5/11: Van Heerden is also mentioned here in this blog, in connection with a NOVA program about the Katrina levee disasters.