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Notes From Inside New Orleans

by Jordan Flaherty

Friday, September 2, 2005

I just left New Orleans a couple hours ago.  I traveled from the apartment I was staying in by boat to a helicopter to a refugee camp.  If anyone wants to examine the attitude of federal and state officials towards the victims of hurricane Katrina, I advise you to visit one of the refugee camps.

In the refugee camp I just left, on the I-10 freeway near Causeway, thousands of people (at least 90% black and poor) stood and squatted in mud and trash behind metal barricades, under an unforgiving sun, with heavily armed soldiers standing guard over them.  When a bus would come through, it would stop at a random spot, state police would open a gap in one of the barricades, and people would rush for the bus, with no information given about where the bus was going. Once inside (we were told) evacuees would be told where the bus was taking them - Baton Rouge, Houston, Arkansas, Dallas, or other locations.  I was told that if you boarded a bus bound for Arkansas (for example), even people with family and a place to stay in Baton Rouge would not be allowed to get out of the bus as it passed through Baton Rouge.  You had no choice but to go to the shelter in Arkansas.  If you had people willing to come to New Orleans to pick you up, they could not come within 17 miles of the camp.

I traveled throughout the camp and spoke to Red Cross workers, Salvation Army workers, National Guard, and state police, and although they were friendly, no one could give me any details on when buses would arrive, how many, where they would go to, or any other information.  I spoke to the several teams of journalists nearby, and asked if any of them had been able to get any information from any federal or state officials on any of these questions, and all of them, from Australian tv to local Fox affiliates complained of an unorganized, non-communicative, mess. One cameraman told me “as someone who’s been here in this camp for two days, the only information I can give you is this: get out by nightfall.  You don’t want to be here at night.”

There was also no visible attempt by any of those running the camp to set up any sort of transparent and consistent system, for instance a line to get on buses, a way to register contact information or find family members, special needs services for children and infirm, phone services, treatment for possible disease exposure, nor even a single trash can.

To understand the dimensions of this tragedy, its important to look at New Orleans itself.

For those who have not lived in New Orleans, you have missed a incredible, glorious, vital, city.  A place with a culture and energy unlike anywhere else in the world.  A 70% African-American city where resistance to white supremacy has supported a generous, subversive and unique culture of vivid beauty.  From jazz, blues and hiphop, to secondlines, Mardi Gras Indians, Parades, Beads, Jazz Funerals, and red beans and rice on Monday nights, New Orleans is a place of art and music and dance and sexuality and liberation unlike anywhere else in the world.

It is a city of kindness and hospitality, where walking down the block can take two hours because you stop and talk to someone on every porch, and where a community pulls together when someone is in need.  It is a city of extended families and social networks filling the gaps left by city, state and federal governments that have abdicated their responsibility for the public welfare.  It is a city where someone you walk past on the street not only asks how you are, they wait for an answer.

It is also a city of exploitation and segregation and fear.  The city of New Orleans has a population of just over 500,000 and was expecting 300 murders this year, most of them centered on just a few, overwhelmingly black, neighborhoods.  Police have been quoted as saying that they don’t need to search out the perpetrators, because usually a few days after a shooting, the attacker is shot in revenge.

There is an atmosphere of intense hostility and distrust between much of Black New Orleans and the N.O. Police Department.  In recent months, officers have been accused of everything from drug running to corruption to theft.  In separate incidents, two New Orleans police officers were recently charged with rape (while in uniform), and there have been several high profile police killings of unarmed youth, including the murder of Jenard Thomas, which has inspired ongoing weekly protests for several months.

The city has a 40% illiteracy rate, and over 50% of black ninth graders will not graduate in four years. Louisiana spends on average $4,724 per child’s education and ranks 48th in the country for lowest teacher salaries. The equivalent of more than two classrooms of young people drop out of Louisiana schools every day and about 50,000 students are absent from school on any given day.  Far too many young black men from New Orleans end up enslaved in Angola Prison, a former slave plantation where inmates still do manual farm labor, and over 90% of inmates eventually die in the prison.  It is a city where industry has left, and most remaining jobs are are low-paying, transient, insecure jobs in the service economy.

Race has always been the undercurrent of Louisiana politics.  This disaster is one that was constructed out of racism, neglect and incompetence. Hurricane Katrina was the inevitable spark igniting the gasoline of cruelty and corruption.  From the neighborhoods left most at risk, to the treatment of the refugees to the the media portrayal of the victims, this disaster is shaped by race.

Louisiana politics is famously corrupt, but with the tragedies of this week our political leaders have defined a new level of incompetence.  As hurricane Katrina approached, our Governor urged us to Pray the hurricane down” to a level two.  Trapped in a building two days after the hurricane, we tuned our battery-operated radio into local radio and tv stations, hoping for vital news, and were told that our governor had called for a day of prayer.  As rumors and panic began to rule, they was no source of solid dependable information.  Tuesday night, politicians and reporters said the water level would rise another 12 feet - instead it stabilized. Rumors spread like wildfire, and the politicians and media only made it worse.

While the rich escaped New Orleans, those with nowhere to go and no way to get there were left behind.  Adding salt to the wound, the local and national media have spent the last week demonizing those left behind.  As someone that loves New Orleans and the people in it, this is the part of this tragedy that hurts me the most, and it hurts me deeply.

No sane person should classify someone who takes food from indefinitely closed stores in a desperate, starving city as a “looter,” but that's just what the media did over and over again.  Sheriffs and politicians talked of having troops protect stores instead of perform rescue operations.

Images of New Orleans’ hurricane-ravaged population were transformed into black, out-of-control, criminals.  As if taking a stereo from a store that will clearly be insured against loss is a greater crime than the governmental neglect and incompetence that did billions of dollars of damage and destroyed a city.  This media focus is a tactic, just as the eighties focus on “welfare queens” and super-predators” obscured the simultaneous and much larger crimes of the Savings and Loan scams and mass layoffs, the hyper-exploited people of New Orleans are being used as a scapegoat to cover up much larger crimes.

City, state and national politicians are the real criminals here. Since at least the mid-1800s, its been widely known the danger faced by flooding to New Orleans.  The flood of 1927, which, like this week’s events, was more about politics and racism than any kind of natural disaster, illustrated exactly the danger faced.  Yet government officials have consistently refused to spend the money to protect this poor, overwhelmingly black, city.  While FEMA and others warned of the urgent impending danger to New Orleans and put forward proposals for funding to reinforce and protect the city, the Bush administration, in every year since 2001, has cut or refused to fund New Orleans flood control, and ignored scientists warnings of increased hurricanes as a result of global warming.  And, as the dangers rose with the floodlines, the lack of coordinated response dramatized vividly the callous disregard of our elected leaders.

The aftermath from the 1927 flood helped shape the elections of both a US President and a Governor, and ushered in the southern populist politics of Huey Long.

In the coming months, billions of dollars will likely flood into New Orleans.  This money can either be spent to usher in a “New Deal” for the city, with public investment, creation of stable union jobs, new schools, cultural programs and housing restoration, or the city can be “rebuilt and revitalized” to a shell of its former self, with newer hotels, more casinos, and with chain stores and theme parks replacing the former neighborhoods, cultural centers and corner jazz clubs.

Long before Katrina, New Orleans was hit by a hurricane of poverty, racism, disinvestment, deindustrialization and corruption.  Simply the damage from this pre-Katrina hurricane will take billions to repair.

Now that the money is flowing in, and the world’s eyes are focused on Katrina, its vital that progressive-minded people take this opportunity to fight for a rebuilding with justice.  New Orleans is a special place, and we need to fight for its rebirth.

Jordan Flaherty is a union organizer and an editor of Left Turn Magazine.  He is not planning on moving out of New Orleans.

Originally posted to Deep Dark on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 05:58 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Free Mental Health Resources (4.00)
    There is a list of licensed mental health professionals from all over the US offering free counseling to Katrina victims and their families. Some offer online therapy also.

    The list is growing and will continue to grow. While few may be able to take advantage of it now, if anyone needs the services, go to http://www.find-a-therapist.com

    This race is about restoring trust...that the things we talk about in a campaign are not promises to be broken, they are promises to be kept. - John Kerry 2004

    by etherapy on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 06:02:48 PM PDT

    •  Good tip. Thanks. Yet, the people (none)
      who need it aren't sitting in front of computer monitors reading dKos.

      This needs to be incorporated on a list with the other aid agencies.

      Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshall

      by bronte17 on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:32:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  therapists are going to the people (4.00)
        The Red Cross has sent out an urgent call for mental health professionals through our professional associations. It is waiving the usual disaster relief training because the need is so immediate.

        I just faxed them my application. And I understand the response has been enormous.

        Americans care and are cared for. We need to stop waiting for leaders to tell us what to do, and get out there and do what we are already prepared for.

  •  Well said. (none)
    Great diary.

    "same old fears, same old crimes-we haven't changed since ancient times.." "Iron Hand" Dire Straits

    by boilerman10 on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 06:03:09 PM PDT

    •  However, as an aside..... (none)
      I would add that the greatest failure was FEMA's lack of a forward base, which could have been either in Memphis or at England Air Force Base.

      Blaming the governor sounds a bit too easy, especially now that the political wrangling has started in earnest.

      However, the proof is in the seeing.  And from what I see from here, the event exposed the administration to justifiable ridicule, and FEMA to utter and well deserved disrepute, and Louisiana to more hardship than it ever deserved.

      Your sentiments about rebuilding are good, but little will come from Bushco, especially in light of Republicans from Louisiana like Mr. Vitter who have been caught in bald-faced lies already.

      "same old fears, same old crimes-we haven't changed since ancient times.." "Iron Hand" Dire Straits

      by boilerman10 on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 06:11:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah (4.00)
        I agree, this diary is not my own work but, as I said, passed on from a list.

        More telling I think is the subtext that shows that if ever the USG thinks it needs Gulags in CONUS, they will have them without flinching.

        •  Wow! Read this too! (none)
          At the website linked at the bottom of your diary, I found this other link to Jordan's diary of his experiences in New Orleans while riding out the hurricane and living through the aftermath. This is a must read!!!
        •  Don't fall for a lot of the stories. (none)
          There is tremendous confusion as I see it in news coverage from New Orleans.

          Digby has a fine posting about how racism and fear are being exploited by the far right.  and there is plenty of documentation offered.

          Ray Nagin is right.  There was too much Bull-"crap."

          I see Blanco's position and I see Ray's position.

          What was missing was an advance start by FEMA.  Next, there was a military amped up into some kind of armed gang that wanted to turn the place into Somalia, and I think Somalia is a direct quote.  Who amped these troops up?  Conditions were bad, but were they as bad as needing gunships and free fire orders?

          There were too many unhelpful things going on and there is still too much confusion and what looks like fear and paranoia gripping the federal crowd.

          I partly agree with Olberman that the politicians have not grasped the situation, beyond the I an Me level as of yet.  Then again, what do we expect from individual politicians beyond red-tape cutting and getting some supplies and relief?  Well, explain to me how this would work if the politicians can't get any supplies to deliver due to FEMA screwing up!  Supply trucks were stopped, even boats were stopped, New Orleans was left in limbo because of bungling.

          Add to this Barb Bush's enormous verbal BM of late and how this will impact on Chimpy and I think it is fair to call the whole situation a complete clusterfuck!

          "same old fears, same old crimes-we haven't changed since ancient times.." "Iron Hand" Dire Straits

          by boilerman10 on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:22:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Seems like (none)
            ... an intentional clusterfuck.  It takes "hard work" for FEMA to actively obstruct and delay rescue efforts from Red Cross, NM and OR National Guard, Northern Command, DMAT teams, Amtrak,  Coast Guard fuel deliveries, Walmart water deliveries, volunteer boaters, firefighters, and doctors, mobile medical labs, and for pity's sake to cut the local emergency communications lines.  This was not just incompetence.  This takes active involvement and orders.  Each of these actions was deliberately taken, on orders from someone higher up.  We've all speculated, and I suspect the reasons are all of those things, and more that we don't yet know.

            "Force always attracts those of low morality." -- Albert Einstein

            by eyeswideopen on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 08:47:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting that you (none)
        mention Memphis.

        I remember hearing on the local news in Memphis on Monday afternoon or possibly Tuesday that something like 4000 National Guard Troops were gathered here waiting to go to New Orleans. I wonder what happened to them.

        Just hope somebody is documenting all of this help that was waiting to go in or got there and was refused entry.

  •  "Pray the hurricane down to level 2"? (none)
    I cannot believe this.  It is simply mind-boggling.  The GOVERNOR announced that people should "pray the hurricane down"?  What the FUCK?

    And then a day of prayer.... instead of getting people aid?

    I feel so moved and confused too by this.  Did this really happen-- the Governor calling for people to pray in response, to pray to fight the hurricane, relying on prayer instead of on actual emergency preparedness procedures?  Can anyone else talk more about this?  It seems absolutely negligent, if it's true, for the Governor to have done this.

    •  I've never heard (none)
      of this before either!! If it's true though, WTF?!

      Take five, smoke em' if ya got em'!!!

      by GARDOGG21 on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 06:37:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  She was probably both praying and (none)
      concentrating on emergency preparedness.

      It bothered me when I first heard about the Day of Prayer when they hadn't rescued people yet.  Maybe with the crony-filled FEMA that's all they had left to offer was their prayers.

    •  PS I never heard about (none)
      the praying for it to become a 2, just the Day of Prayer on Tuesday last week.
    •  I've never heard this before (none)
      and I find it hard to believe.

      The governor asked for assistance from the federal government in a more than timely fashion.


      Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?...Carley Sheehan

      by nupstateny on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 06:46:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If she said it, it makes sense (4.00)
        depending on who she's speaking to.  They've given the warnings this is a killer storm, they put mandatory evacuation, all those who are left have to hang onto is faith.

        When you've done everything you can, in the circumstances, and the clock is ticking down and not time to do anything more....if you are religious (or often even if you aren't), you pray.

        What should she have said?  "Put a fork in it, folks....you're dead?"   As for "pray it down to a level 2", if she said it, it's logical.  If they knew the levees should withstand a level two storm, and they knew the storm wasn't going to miss them, they could at least pray for it to lessen enough not to flood the city.

        "I came to see that news is what people want to keep hidden, and everything else is publicity". ...Bill Moyers, 5/15/05

        by revsue on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 09:10:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Blanco's day of prayer (4.00)
      Epoch Times
      Amidst the great suffering of hurricane victims, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared August 31, 2005 a statewide Day of Prayer.

      "I am asking that all of Louisiana take some time Wednesday to pray," Blanco announced in a press release. "Please pray that God give us all the physical and spiritual strength to work through this crisis and rebuild."

      Florida Today:

      As countless people lay dying after Hurricane Katrina last week, the governor of Louisiana asked people to join her in a Day of Prayer.

      "Please pray for the victims and the rescuers," Democratic Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said in a statement. "Please pray that God gives us all the physical and spiritual strength to work through this crisis and rebuild."

    •  another source? (none)
      I have heard this allegation before, but I haven't been able to find another source for it, much less a transcript, an in-context quote, a date, anything. Here's an article about the Day of Prayer, though.
    •  He's probably referring to this (none)
      But she doesn't sound as "out there" as he makes it seem.

      "I am gravely concerned about reports coming in regarding those who are choosing not to evacuate," Blanco said at about 6 p.m. "I strongly urge you to get to safety while there is still time to do so."

      "We need to pray strongly that the hurricane will drift," Blanco said earlier in the day, "but there appears to be no relief in sight. There's no reason to believe it will alter its course."

      http://www.shreveporttimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050829/NEWS01/508290311/1002

    •  Baton Rouge is Jimmy Swaggart's home base (none)
      You need to look at the local culture before judging. Blanco is the leader of all the people in Louisiana whether they voted for her or not.

      WE need to be careful here. It's a bad idea to put down prayer. Blanco might have had a couple of prayer events, but she also hired Clinton's FEMA Director James Lee Witt to take over LA's emergency response. Prayer combined with good ideas and hard work is a good prescription for solving a lot of problems for a whole lot of people. Where you get problems when prayer is offered as a substitute for good ideas and hard work.

  •  Must read- recommended (none)
    People need to read and to know....to understand.

    This piece is essential reading.

  •  Very well written.... thanks!! (nt) (none)

    "We will no longer suffer in silence this continued assault that has now passed beyond intolerable"----A True US Patriot

    by khloemi on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 06:14:27 PM PDT

  •  I saw a looter on TV (4.00)
    They showed a guy with cases and cases of water and boxes of fruit.  He had them on some sort of trolley.

    He wheeled the trolley up to several people - probably about ten - who sat in lawn chairs on a side walk.

    The "looter" handed out bottles of water and the fruit to each person sitting on that street.  The people took the water and fruit with nods of thanks.  Some people only took one piece of fruit and the "looter" gave them two or three more.

    No one rushed the man to take the water or the fruit.  There was not a rush on his kitty.

    The "looter" then proceeded down the street with his water and fruit where you could see in the distance there were others waiting patiently on the sidewalk for the rescue they had been promised.

    The "looter" was the only rescue they would see for a while, but I think he was a hero.

    •  I'm so glad you brought that up. (4.00)
      I saw that in the coverage last week, as things were getting really, really bad.  I wondered at the time how many stories of heroism and humanity would come out of New Orleans.  I hoped, on the heels of that thought, that someone was documenting those types of things as they occurred.  

      The human spirit is bottomless and fathomless.  I believe there were numerous heroes in the Superdome and convention center (and in New Orleans, for that matter).

      The revolution is coming... and we ARE the revolution. Katrina Relief Diary-$14K+ and counting

      by RenaRF on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:26:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was actually sort of stunned at that moment (none)
        The persenters were blabbering on and I saw this guy who clearly "had all the stuff" and I thought based on the reporting that I was about to see him attacked to get the stuff.  

        It turned out to be this incredibly sweet and touching play of humanity from all involved.  The people he gave to were gracious and calm.  It was evidently people surviving peacefully together.  I know that there were very, very bad things that took place, but I think - I hope - there was more of what I saw that man do that day.

        I hope he is safe today.  I hope he is ok.  We need more people like him in the world. We need to encourage people like him. It is our hope really.

    •  I saw that happen too (none)
      I think it was on Thursday and the guy had a big box of candy and he was walking down a row of people and sharing it with everyone.

      I have noticed before that black people tend to be very generous. I used to work at a mental health agency that was about 70% black. Everybody got a wedding shower or baby shower. I got married while I worked there and I got presents from people I barely knew. Also, when someone had a death in the family, particularly when there was out-of-town travel involved, they would take up a collection for the person. I've also noticed they give money to panhandlers more often that whites. I've seen people do that that I KNEW couldn't really afford it but they did it anyway.

      They were also taking care of those very elderly white ladies at the convention center. There was a lot of kindess and good works that went on but some people just want to see the negative.

       

    •  Good Looters and Bad Looters (none)
      Natural disaters have a way of revealing the truly vicious logic of capitalism. It is when we see most clearly what it means to elevate private property over peoples needs. Many people have tried to make the distinction between good looters who took only food, water, diapers and other neccesities and those who took TVs, stereos, etc... without acknowledging the simple truth that people can sell such things to buy food. I don't know to what degree any sort of market relations continued to operate in New Orleans but it is hardly unreasonable for a person in a desperate situation to grab something valuable in the hope that they might exchange it for neccessities down the road -- indeed it it is the ethos that has been drilled into our heads by this society from the moment we were born. Of course not all the looters were such "rational actors." No doubt there were some in such deep denial about what was happening around them that they really thought it was a good time to get a free TV. That however is more tragic than it is terrifying.

      The truth is that capitalism is a daily hurricane that kills just as many people everyday as we have watched die along the gulf coast. The processes of predation, the treatment of people as disposable, all of this happens every day in the ghettos and barrios of this country and all across the Third World -- it just doesn't happen in front of TV cameras.

      Thanks to Jordan for writing this.

      "Tell no lies. Claim no easy victories." -- Amilcar Cabral

      by Christopher Day on Tue Sep 06, 2005 at 05:43:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  liberator (none)
      in the nazi concentration camps when an 'inmate' got food and distributed it, that act was referred to as'liberating' the food.
      so this so-called looter, was imho a liberator.
  •  Recommended (none)
    with thanks, from the bottom of my own heavy heart.
  •  I dont want to be word police (none)
    but can we stop using refugee since that word means that these people aren't US citizens, and in fact, they are.
    •  Go Ahead (4.00)
      This is not my stuff, its verbatin from someone who is noit a Kossite, I wouldn't edit his stuff for PC.
    •  not correct (4.00)
      Refugee simply means "one who flees (from one place to another)" or "one who seeks refuge." It tends to be used mostly in the sense of someone fleeing a country or power, thus the dictionaries all say "especially..." and then that more specific concept. But "especially" does not mean "only."
      •  okay that's true (none)
        I meant it in terms of the connotative meaning versus the denonative meaning you might find in a dictionary. Most Americans are used to thinking of refugees as people seeking political assylum from abroad- ie, non US citizens. It's really no big deal for me. I was just pointing out how the language can eventually be used by the nutcases on the right. The truth is they will think bad shit no matter what we call them.
    •  However... (4.00)
      Those forced out of New Orleans are using the word to describe themselves.  That is pretty telling of something and likely has to do with the third world like conditions they are fleeing.

      How long before the movie, "Escape from New York" is remade into "Escape from New Orleans"?

      There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.--John Adams

      by tvb on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:26:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  From the vault (NOLA-related) (4.00)
    New Orleans Times-Picayune, 11/10/1995

    Eager to assure a crowd of senior citizens that he is the gubernatorial candidate who will be toughest on crime, Sen. Mike Foster created a furor Thursday when he referred to New Orleans as "the jungle," a place where criminals are in control of the streets.

    The comment drew an immediate rebuke from gubernatorial candidate Cleo Fields and later from some New Orleans leaders. Foster's campaign later apologized.

    (..)

    Foster, a Republican state senator from Franklin, made the jungle reference midway through a forum sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons as he attempted to compare Jefferson Parish's crime rate with that of adjacent New Orleans.

    "It is right next to the jungle in New Orleans and it has a very low crime rate," Foster said.

    Fields, who was sitting about six feet away, turned to Foster and said firmly, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

    "I think it's an insult to the people of the great city of New Orleans to have a candidate for governor say they live in a jungle," said Fields, who called on Foster to retract the statement.

    In New Orleans, Mayor Marc Morial also castigated Foster for what he said was a racial message behind the comment. He said Foster owes the city an apology.

    "It's the kind of thing I would expect David Duke to say to symbolically inject race into a comment," Morial said. "I'm surprised at Mike Foster. He's got to realize he is not running for state Senate from Franklin. He is running for governor of the state of Louisiana."

    (..)

    As Foster was mobbed by reporters after the debate, he attempted to clarify his remarks.

    "I'm talking about the criminal control of that city. For the time being, crime is not under control," Foster said. "I love New Orleans. I'll do everything I can to help Marc (Morial). I'm not Buddy Roemer. I won't send the National Guard in."

    During the primary, former Gov. Buddy Roemer incensed city leaders by saying he would give the mayor 90 days to reduce crime in New Orleans or he would send in the National Guard.

    Later in the afternoon, as the criticism intensified, Foster's camp issued an apology. Press Secretary John Zmirak said Foster's statement was not meant as a racial characterization of the city.

    "He didn't mean it to be a racial code word. He probably just shot his mouth off," Zmirak said. "We're sorry if anyone imparted a racial meaning to it. We don't apologize for implying New Orleans is a crime-ridden and dangerous place."

    I know I probably went over a limit for copying (this is out of Lexis-Nexis). But, it should give all of you another taste of the Republican Party view of the city of New Orleans.

    "Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right" - Carl Schurz

    by RBH on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:09:49 PM PDT

  •  More looters soon (4.00)
    Haliburton has rebuilding contracts already. Others connected to Bush and the House of Saud will be there soon.

    Bend over and take it, America.

    "You know there's no crooked politicians. There's never a lie because there is never any truth..." -Lenny Bruce

    by Skubwa on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:10:16 PM PDT

    •  Check out FEMA's website... (none)
      So there are no connections between Pat Robertson and the Federal Gov...  

      On FEMA's website, if you check out there donations link, lo and behold, right beneath the Red Cross, is Pat Robertson's private charity.

      No connections at all.

  •  excellent diary (none)
    The best first-person account from New Orleans I've read (so far).

    "[I]n all due respect to your profession [journalism], you do a very good job of protecting the leakers." -- Bush on Oct 7, 2003

    by QuickSilver on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:12:47 PM PDT

  •  I hope their long march leads back to N.O.. (none)
    Dammit, How are we treating these Americans?  Like Bangladeshi refugees? Native Americans? Prisoners of War?  Enymy combatants?
  •  Just excellent, Deep Dark. (none)
    A suggestion, though - you may want to blockquote the text that is Jordan Flaherty's, just for clarity.

    Wonderful account.  Had a very human side to it, coloring experiences with factoids about and history of New Orleans.

    The revolution is coming... and we ARE the revolution. Katrina Relief Diary-$14K+ and counting

    by RenaRF on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:31:41 PM PDT

  •  Good lord. (none)
    What is this, Guantanamo?

    Haven't these people (innocent American citizens) suffered enough?

  •  Treated like Fucking cattle. (none)
    I've never done so much swearing over this shit than I have over anything in my whole fucking life.

    Most people are idiots... But don't tell them. It'll spoil all the fun for those of us who aren't.

    by d3n4l1 on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:46:40 PM PDT

  •  thank you for diarying this (none)
    So we all got to read it. This is by far the most insightful, articulate and informative piece I've written on New Orleans since the tragedy & subsequent travesty.

    Thanks for taking the time to pass it along.

    "This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

    by myriad on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:53:51 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for a very moving portrait (none)
    of New Orleans and the disaster.  Not only were the people who couldn't leave made to live in squaler, they were described as looters, and then treated like animals when rescue finally came.  Out-fuckin'-ragious!

    Thank you also for confirming my suspicions that the local and state governments also share some of the blame.  As much as I'd like to dump it all on Bush and FEMA, I suspect government, from bottom to top are going to look bad when the full truth comes out.

    On the other hand, people all over the south opened their hearts and homes to these trampled souls.  This is the true spirit of America, and the priveledged like George Bush can never understand or experience that.

  •  Second-hand notes from Uptown, circa Friday (4.00)
    As of 6:30 am Friday, and despite several scouting forays over the course of the week, my eyewitnesses in NOLA had seen no Red Cross in the city. No troops. No army.  No National Guard.  Speaking on a landline suddenly working again for incoming calls on Thursday night, they told me police had gathered, in makeshift "stations," here and there . . . and had turned back my friends when they tried to investigate what was happening downtown. (These folks - relatively low-income, but self-sufficient, knowledgable, and resourceful, had access to more than one car, and even two fishing canoes that might have been put to use for rescue.) Apart from these checkpoints preventing access to the city in need, they saw no on-the-ground official presence at all.  

    In a calm and dry neighborhood, this absence of authority was surreally, but falsely reassuring, however understandable from a triage point of view. Remaining residents were (and perhaps still are) checking on each other and sharing what supplies they had.  (And in hurricane season, most with dry homes had some supplies.)  But even in unflooded, perfectly accessible, and violence-free neighborhoods, there was no official effort to identify or evacuate elderly or at-risk people, coordinate assistance or pooled transportation, or even to disseminate basic information on supplies or safe routes out.  Radio broadcasts - as the diary suggests - were virtually useless for practical info.  Just scary looter stories and political pronouncements of cavalry to come.

    In fact, their immediate neighborhood saw no looting to speak of (apart from some smashed windows on Magazine Street, a shopping district in the vicinity), although they had seen some signs of car theft. The area had running (though not potable) water until Wednesday.  These folks drove to Carrolton mid-week to check on friends, and found them standing guard outside their tavern with rifles. In that area, there had been some violence and looting, and my friends didn't stick around long.  They said people couldn't believe that there were no troops on the scene and, with some apology for the dark humor, joked that Bush was trying to "finish us off."  I could only agree that this was a logical enough conclusion, and I gave them what regional info I had gathered on the web the night before, confirming the workability of their evacuation plan, offered an update on the National Guard convoy's imminent arrival as reported on TV that morning, as well as breaking info on the  explosions and fires in the warehouse district, and hoped like hell they'd get out OK.  

    They did, and they're now in New Iberia, LA, and are trying to help relief efforts there.  

    Ironically, they've now got cell phone service for outgoing calls only, so I can't reach them, but their last message said they are trying to figure out how to get back into the city to help.

  •  A tidbit from one of the doctors who stayed behind (4.00)
    I got a note from a friend of mine at one of the hospitals in New Orleans - signs of both hope and anger:

    [name witheld] had to stay at the hospital until Friday.  She went a little nuts, saw horrible things, sounded more and more desperate and finally they let them go and she drove to meet [husband] in Lafayette with 3/4 of a tank of gas and the convertible top open all the way. 

    Before she left, she and her staff thought people needed a message of hope and got on the roof of the hospital and wrote in 10 foot letters "OPEN"  Didn't make the news, but maybe someone saw it. 

    She talked to me on her phone while driving about how unforgivalby FEMA had screwed the city...citing when Ochsner had arranged privately for ice for patients after days of heat and all the miseries of being sick and dying in a hospital...and confiscated it for their workers.  I get it, but....really...

    Tug

    George W Bush - Plame Duck President

    by Tug on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 10:33:15 PM PDT

  •  Have you seen this yet? (none)
    "It's a no-brainer," [X] says. "Our labor costs can't be significantly higher than what they have in other areas. If the state and the city got together with the right incentive packages, we should be able to do something.

    "Developers and business people are coming in and saying, you know we always liked New Orleans but we never were comfortable doing business there," [X] adds. "Now that we've set a different tone for city government, the message has been sent around the country that it's a new day in New Orleans."

    Another topic high on [X]'s agenda is the airport. "We call it Louis Armstrong International Airport, but guess what?" [X] says. "It's not a true international airport. We may have one or two flights flying international and that just makes no sense to me. So I'm trying to push forward to create an environment where we can expand the airport, where we can get more regional cooperation so that we don't have to fight about whether or not to build a north or a south runway. We just get it done. If we do that, I think it could be an economic engine for the region."

    In the minds of some, [X]'s emphasis on business and economic development conflicts with the image of New Orleans as a quaint, distinctive town too busy partying to worry about such things. [X] dismisses the notion that aggressive economic development, particularly with regards to converting blighted properties, runs the risk of turning New Orleans into another Atlanta or Houston, who many see as sprawling metropolitan areas with little character.

    "It will never happen," he says. "I know that's the big fear, but it'll never happen. My fear is that we'll become--the Times-Picayune had a great word--an acropolis, in essence, a well-manicured cemetery. We have to preserve the things that are great. Less than 15 percent of all the buildings in the city are historic. Less than 15 percent! So you tell me we can't work with the other 85 percent--or 50 percent--and upgrade them? Sure we can. And that's what we need to do."

    Guess who said this, and when. Just guess.

    (Hint: it's someone who gave $1000 to the Bush campaign in 2000, and was a Republican up to shortly before this interview was given.

    "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

    by bellatrys on Tue Sep 06, 2005 at 12:57:20 AM PDT

  •  asdf (none)
    I'm glad you diaried this-I linked to it in a comment couple days back, but it deserves wider view.

    "See the pig dressed in his finest fine...believers stand behind him and smile as the day lights up with fire" Everybody Wake Up-Dave Matthews

    by Rigjob on Tue Sep 06, 2005 at 12:58:55 AM PDT

  •  Inspiring diary. (none)
    Beutifully poignant, thank you.

    Bush has got to go. Keep surfin, keep rockin, Baja Margie alias Pargie

    by Pargie on Tue Sep 06, 2005 at 01:05:27 AM PDT

  •  also via interdictor: (4.00)
    http://www.livejournal.com/users/interdictor/?skip=40 on Thursday, September 1, 2005:

    "Bigfoot" is a bar manager and DJ on Bourbon Street, and is a local personality and icon in the city. He is a lifelong resident of the city, born and raised. He rode out the storm itself in the Iberville Projects because he knew he would be above any flood waters. His story:

    Three days ago, police and national guard troops told citizens to head toward the Crescent City Connection Bridge to await transportation out of the area. The citizens trekked over to the Convention Center and waited for the buses which they were told would take them to Houston or Alabama or somewhere else, out of this area.

    It's been 3 days, and the buses have yet to appear.

    Although obviously he has no exact count, he estimates more than 10,000 people are packed into and around and outside the convention center still waiting for the buses. They had no food, no water, and no medicine for the last three days, until today, when the National Guard drove over the bridge above them, and tossed out supplies over the side crashing down to the ground below. Much of the supplies were destroyed from the drop. Many people tried to catch the supplies to protect them before they hit the ground. Some offered to walk all the way around up the bridge and bring the supplies down, but any attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them.

    There are many infants and elderly people among them, as well as many people who were injured jumping out of windows to escape flood water and the like -- all of them in dire straights.

    Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint. Hour after hour they watch buses pass by filled with people from other areas. Tensions are very high, and there has been at least one murder and several fights. 8 or 9 dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and 2 of these dead people are kids.

    The people are so desperate that they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the elderly in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.

    The buses never stop.

    Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area -- Saulet Condos -- once they tried to get cars from there... well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.

    He reports that the conditions are horrendous. Heat, mosquitoes and utter misery. The smell, he says, is "horrific."

    He reports that many of them with cell phones have contacts willing to come rescue them, but people are not being allowed through to pick them up.

    "See the pig dressed in his finest fine...believers stand behind him and smile as the day lights up with fire" Everybody Wake Up-Dave Matthews

    by Rigjob on Tue Sep 06, 2005 at 01:07:01 AM PDT

  •  This is unforgiveable (none)
    The people (in the dome)are so desperate that they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the elderly in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.

    UNFORGIVEABLE

    Who have we become? When do we pass the point of no return?

    "See the pig dressed in his finest fine...believers stand behind him and smile as the day lights up with fire" Everybody Wake Up-Dave Matthews

    by Rigjob on Tue Sep 06, 2005 at 01:17:04 AM PDT

  •  My questions (one set of many to come) (none)
    1. Why didn't the state and city make provisions to evacuate people who didn't have transportation?  This is one of the poorest cities in the nation.  Was it just assumed that everyone would leave on their own?

    2. Why was Greyhound allowed to close on SATURDAY, nearly 48 hours before the storm?

    3. Why weren't there more stockpiles of food and water and temporary toilets at official shelters?

    4. Why weren't trucks/planes entering the city on Tuesday morning after the storm? (Before the flooding?)

    5. Why were relief officials told to turn back for days.

    6. Why did the Governor of Louisiana refuse the aid of the New Mexico national guard?

    7. Where were the Navy hospital ships?

    8. Why wasn't a coordinating office put together before the storm?

    9. Why were Lousisana's emergency communication lines cut by FEMA?

    10. What police authority do FEMA officials have to carry guns?
  •  Treated like cattle (none)
    It's probably not appropriate to bring up Iraq at this time but I can't help but think about it.  The stories about the living conditions of the people there and their treatment makes me think of the civilians in Iraq.  The civilians in NO at least speak the same language as the people with guns.  They are probably confident that running out in to the street when they hear a military vehicle coming won't get them shot.  

    Will we begin to hear how the media is just showing the bad side of this situation and they never tell the good things that happen?  <insert hear-say anecdote about a national guardsman who gave his MRE to a starving American>

    Will we eventually be told how well things are going because only three months after the event a lot of people have running water and electricity part of the time?

    If this does happen, if people hear things that fly directly in the face of their personal experience and see pundits sitting in plush chairs nodding sagely and agreeing that most people don't understand how lucky people really were, that they are being ungrateful for all the help they are getting, will it at least make people think twice about their opinions of things half a world away as well.

  •  Barb's beautiful mind (none)
    light of what's been said about the racism and classism at work in this situation, I couldn't believe what I read this morning. According to Barbara Bush, mother of All Evil:

    "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050906/ap_on_go_pr_wh/katrina_former_presidents

    Unbelievable. The poor are lucky to have Barb on their side.

    "Nature favors the apt, not the strong or the weak." Louis Sullivan

    by Lilibeth on Tue Sep 06, 2005 at 06:41:51 AM PDT

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