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Aftermath Archives Katrina's
Why are They Making New Orleans a Ghost Town?
(Bill Quigley, BuzzFlash, October 31, 2005)
On Halloween night, New Orleans will be very, very dark. Well over half the homes on the east bank of New Orleans sit vacant because they still do not have electricity. More do not have natural gas or running water. Most stoplights still do not work. Most street lights remain out.
Fully armed National Guard troops refuse to allow over ten thousand people to even physically visit their property in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. Despite the fact that people cannot come back, tens of thousands of people face eviction from their homes. A local judge told me that their court expects to process a thousand evictions a day for weeks.
Renters still in shelters or temporary homes across the country will never see the court notice taped to the door of their home. Because they will not show up for the eviction hearing that they do not know about, their possessions will be tossed out in the street. In the street their possessions will sit alongside an estimated 3 million truck loads of downed trees, piles of mud, fiberglass insulation, crushed sheetrock, abandoned cars, spoiled mattresses, wet rugs, and horrifyingly smelly refrigerators full of food from August.
There are also New Orleans renters facing evictions from landlords who want to renovate and charge higher rents to the out of town workers who populate the city. Some renters have offered to pay their rent and are still being evicted. Others question why they should have to pay rent for September when they were not allowed to return to New Orleans.
New Orleans, known for its culture and food and music, is now pushing away the very people who created the culture and food and music. Mardi Gras Indians live and paraded in neighborhoods that sit without electricity or water. The back room cooks for many of the most famous restaurants cannot yet return to New Orleans. Musicians remain in exile. Housing is scarce and rents are soaring. Over 245,000 people lost jobs in September. Public education in New Orleans has not restarted. The levees are not even up to their flawed level in August.
Dr. Arjun Sengupta, the United Nations Human Rights Commission Special Reporter on Extreme Poverty, visited New Orleans and Baton Rouge last week. He toured the devastated areas and listened to the evacuees still in shelters and those living out of town with family.
Dr. Sengupta described current conditions as “"shocking" and "gross violations of human rights." The devastation itself is shocking, he explained, but even more shocking is that two months have passed and there is little to nothing being done to reconstruct vast areas of New Orleans. "The US is the richest nation in the history of the world. Why cannot it restore electricity and water and help people rebuild their homes and neighborhoods? If the US can rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq, why not New Orleans?"
The longer the poor and working class of New Orleans stay away, the more likely it will be that they never return. That, some say, is exactly what those in power in New Orleans and Louisiana and the US must want. Otherwise, why are they making New Orleans a ghost town?
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Bill teaches at Loyola University New Orleans School of Law.
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posted by Lorenzo 4:10 PM
Bush Is in No Hurry on Katrina Recovery
(Peter G. Gosselin, Los Angeles Times, 17 October 2005)
The president's go-slow approach is called a recipe for chaos, even by fellow Republicans. . . . Almost two months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and a month after promising in a nationally televised speech to help rebuild the region "quickly," President Bush has settled on a cautious, piecemeal approach that even many members of his own party fear will stall reconstruction and sow economic disarray. . . . Bush has made highly publicized trips to Louisiana and Mississippi on average of once a week since the storm, but the administration has yet to introduce legislation for two of the three proposals the president highlighted during his September speech from New Orleans. . . . In the case of the third proposal, $5,000 accounts to help workers left unemployed by the hurricane, an administration-drafted House bill would provide aid for fewer than a quarter of the jobless. . . . Despite mounting evidence that Washington is having trouble putting to use most of the $62 billion in emergency funds approved by Congress so far, the president has resisted appointing a recovery coordinator or further detailing his vision of how to tackle rebuilding. . . . [COMMENT by Lorenzo: What everyone seems to have forgotten is that Bush actually appointed Karl Rove to coordinate the recovery efforts. In mid-September, The New York Times reported the story, as did other major news sources. But by the 10th of October, Scott McClellan denied that Rove was ever in charge. . . . Sometime in late September little Georgie seems to have begun to distance himself from Rove.] . . . Bush's cautiousness appears to be partly a response to some conservatives' clamor for federal budget cuts to offset aid to the Gulf Coast. . . . However, a variety of prominent Republicans warn that the president's approach is a recipe for trouble. . . . "So far, all we've done is shovel money out the door to meet the humanitarian needs," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). "But henceforth, we've got to be very careful how we spend the money, and that means we're going to need a plan and somebody in charge." . . . A former Cabinet member had similar concerns. . . . "With all due respect to the president, things are not going to bubble up from the bottom," said Jack Kemp, who was Housing and Urban Development secretary under President George H.W. Bush. "There has to be some federal leadership here." . . . Without clear signals from Washington, some reconstruction decisions are essentially being made on autopilot, raising the risk that the region and the nation will repeat past mistakes. . . . In New Orleans, for example, the Army Corps of Engineers last week put an estimated $400 million of work out to bid to bring the area's levee and canal system back to its pre-Katrina condition. Corps officials said the work was necessary to secure the city while more extensive protections were designed. . . . The corps' plans include reviving a large, and largely unused, canal known as "Mr. Go" - the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet - that environmentalists and many local officials say funneled storm surge from Katrina into neighborhoods, increasing rather than reducing the devastation. . . . "The White House has studiously avoided making any choices about what should be rebuilt, and the corps has taken that to mean rebuild everything," said David R. Conrad, a senior water resources specialist with the National Wildlife Federation and a veteran corps watcher. . . . On Wednesday, retired schoolteacher Carolyn Pierce, 63, briefly returned to her white clapboard house at the corner of Gordon and Royal streets beside the huge levees around New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward. It was the first time she had seen it since Katrina struck Aug. 29. About all that escaped the floodwaters were a pair of pennants pinned high on the living room wall that read "Pray for Work!" and "God Loves You." . . . Asked if she would move back to her old neighborhood and house, Pierce said: "I have no idea. I have no idea what we're supposed to do. . . . "I want a plan, but nobody seems to have a plan," she said. She stuffed a few books and a water-soaked dress in a green trash bag and left with her brother and a sister. . . . Among the complaints: that after an initial rush of spending, the administration has been unable to make use of most of the billions of dollars it requested immediately after Katrina, and that it has offered only the sketchiest of accounts for what it has done with the money it has spent. . . . FEMA, which received almost $60 billion of the $62 billion in emergency funds, had "obligated" or assigned only $15.6 billion as of last Wednesday - less than a third of the money available - according to a weekly report the agency sends Congress. . . . "The president put out some very large ideas, but the administration isn't leading on them in any very public way," said Stuart M. Butler, vice president of domestic and economic policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank. "There's been a general hands-off approach, which is disturbing." . . . Kemp, the former HUD secretary, agreed. . . . "Laissez-faire, Darwinian capitalism is not going to work here," Kemp said. "Markets do work, but they need the direction of government in situations like this."
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posted by Lorenzo 12:44 PM
Paranoid conspiracy theories about Katrina
(Earl Ofari Hutchinson, AlterNet, October 10, 2005)
The instant Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters raged down Canal Street, New Orleans' main drag, the tongues of the assorted doomsayers, fringe bloggers, fire-and-brimstone fundamentalists, unreconstructed Nazis and Klan members, leftists, black activists, loonies and even some in the mainstream media wagged furiously. . . . All claimed that Katrina was the work of sinister forces. In one of the first e-mails I received after Katrina hit, an unnamed informant (they usually are), swore that, take your pick -- FEMA operatives, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Klan or the CIA -- dynamited the levees to, again, take your pick -- kill blacks, steal their land, save the French Quarter and the tourist traps from destruction. . . . That, or this was a Karl Rove-engineered plot to turn Louisiana into a solid GOP red state. . . . The problem, though, is that President George W. Bush trounced his Democratic presidential opponents Al Gore and John Kerry in 2000 and 2004 in Louisiana. The state was already pretty red. And the loud noises that accompanied the levees' breaking probably had to do with the impact of water pressure, high winds and power outages, not Navy Seal dynamiters. . . . Still, that fantasy quickly soared to the top of the Katrina Urban Legends. In the days immediately after the destruction, it would be spouted incessantly. . . . While the race baiters were the first ones out of the conspiracy box, others soon followed. A big group quickly settled on the notion that Katrina was part of the weather wars supposedly unleashed by greedy oil companies, Bush administration operatives, and the always-favored liberal whipping boy, Halliburton. Their sinister aim was either to hike oil prices, deflect attention from Iraq or ladle out millions in construction contracts to Bush's corporate pals. . . . Lest anyone think the weather-war theory was confined to musty corners on fringe Web sites, Time Magazine led the charge with the headline, "Is Global Warming Fueling Katrina?" . . . By the second week, the divine-retribution crowd jumped into the act with both feet. A Jihadist group claimed that Katrina was God's punishment for America's backing of Israel. Closer to home, a slew of Christian fundamentalist voices said it was God's revenge for America's Satanic tout of homosexuality, abortion, sexual depravity, Ellen DeGeneres, gambling and other vices. One religious leader gleefully declared New Orleans abortion-free, Mardi Gras-free, free of Southern decadence, the sodomites, witchcraft workers and false religion. Alleluia! . . . But taking the cake was a conspiracy theory from an Idaho weatherman who may have read one too many James Bond thrillers. He claimed that Katrina was a put-up job by Japanese crime groups to wreak havoc on the U.S. for the World War II A-bombing of Hiroshima. The crime groups allegedly fired up an old Soviet-made electromagnetic generator to trigger the disaster. . . . Before you chuckle too hard, note that this story didn't come from a screwball Web site; it was a feature Associated Press article, picked up by USA Today. The writer even sought out respected scientists to refute the theory. All, of course, properly denounced it as ludicrous. Still, it got an obscure weatherman his 15 minutes, and along the way managed to stir some debate. This one came three weeks after Katrina hit, and supposedly all the other conspiracy theories had long since been laughed into the crackpot bin. . . . It's really no surprise that Aryan Nation racists, Millennium Christian fundamentalists, anti-Semitic crackpots, and fringe-left radicals along with thousands of seemingly normal, otherwise well-adjusted Americans would indulge in paranoid -- or if you want to be charitable, imaginative -- flights of fancy about disasters. All have long believed that government, corporate, or international Zionist groups busily hatch secret plots and concoct hidden plans to wreak havoc on our lives.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: Ultimately, it doesn't matter all that much how we came to this state of world affaris. Personally, I don't care if 9-11 and the weather disasters were the result of a conspiracy, fumbling in the dark, or a pissed-off deity. That is all history now. What matters, it seems to me, is that we are in a real big mess right now. The world appears to be coming apart at the seams . . . and that, ultimately, might be a good thing. If we are to give more than just lip service to the concepts of chaos theory, the Mayan calendar, McKenna's Time Wave Theory, or any of the other esoteric ideas out there, then maybe we should just relax and ride this wave of new consciousness that is beginning to build. We can ride with it or let it crash over us, but the choice, I believe, is ours. . . . Press On!]
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posted by Lorenzo 10:27 AM