Thursday, December 29, 2005

'The Press Has Moved on Too Fast'

When it comes to journalists covering New Orleans, Editor and Publisher's Mark Fitzgerald suggests we stay with it a little longer:

"New Orleans is a devastated city. I know, that's not exactly breaking news. But I just got back from there, and all I can say to everyone I've talked to since is: New Orleans is a devastated city, almost beyond belief.You've got to see it, I told people again and again this weekend, back home in Chicago. Everyone in America should see it.Because you're not seeing it in your newspaper.

Not really.The press, of course, is famous for rushing to disasters, and then moving on. But it's moved on too fast in New Orleans, with the result that Americans either figure the city has descended into anarchy, or is doing just fine.Instead, block after block, mile after mile, New Orleans is a landscape of houses bumped off their foundations, spray-painted by National Guardsmen with big X's, inscrutable markings except for the bottom number that signifies whether a body, or two or three were found inside.

New Orleans is a pile of TVs on every other street. It is a highway underpass converted into a graveyard of flooded cars. It's a New Yorker magazine poking up from the silt a few hundred yards from the breach in the London Avenue levee, the really bad breach that nobody outside of New Orleans has heard about.

It's a city of refrigerators duct-taped and dumped on the sidewalk, some of them converted into advertisements for itinerant demolition crews: "Gutting," the spray paint legend will say, followed by a phone number.

True enough, New Orleans can still make the front pages in America, more than 100 days since Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore. Everyone headlined President Bush's commitment to rebuild the city's levees with $3.1 billion, and The New York Times reported over the weekend that just about every person who stayed in New Orleans during Katrina did so by choice--news, perhaps, to the rest of America, but a fact long-ago documented by The Times-Picayune.

A few out-of-town papers have made a commitment to ongoing coverage of the struggle to clean up and rebuild New Orleans. But making my first visit since Katrina to New Orleans--a city I've visited nearly a dozen times for the past two decades, thanks mostly to newspaper industry conventions--I was struck at how little prepared I was for what I saw.


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Sunday, December 25, 2005

"the New Orleans story without much passion"

More by Mark Fitzgerald:

The same national media that riveted us by showing the horror of the conditions endured by hurricane survivors at the Superdome and the Convention Center now tells the New Orleans story without much passion. It's all about numbers, like the levee appropriation, or bloodless debates about how--or even whether--to rebuild that great city.

Even when newspapers go down there to write about, say, the struggle to reopen such storied restaurants as Galatoire’s or Commander's Palace, the context of daily New Orleans living gets lost.

For instance, until I went to New Orleans myself, I had no idea that virtually no McDonald's fast-food sites have reopened inside New Orleans. I had no idea that traffic lights are non-existent outside of downtown.

I glimpsed one reason for this lack of context just as I was leaving Friday. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was holding one of his frequent town meetings at the downtown Sheraton hotel, and I figured I had just enough time to catch it before getting the last flight back to Chicago.

Before the meeting, he held a press conference, with the ground rules being that every reporter could ask two questions. As Nagin's harried press spokeswoman went down the line, it became apparent that the reporters were either New Orleans locals, or foreigners. There were two crews from Japanese television, and at least three correspondents from Europe. So far as I could see there were no newspaper or broadcast reporters from outside Louisiana.

So there are few from outside the city to tell the hard story of how New Orleans is an odd mix of civilization carrying on under almost survivalist conditions.

At night, the French Quarter can seem almost normal, its bars packed and the music spilling onto the streets as in days of old. But then you can hear two words I never expected to hear in New Orleans: "Last call." There's a 2 a.m. curfew, and long before that you notice that the streets are filled almost entirely by males, demolition and construction workers who have replaced tourists.

Friday, empty streetcars adorned with swags of Christmas green rode the tracks downtown in dry runs for the scheduled resumption of service this past Sunday.

Outside of downtown, the devastation is numbing and redefines normal. The tenth, or hundredth, time you see "2 cats found" or "house off foundation" spray-painted in orange on the wall of what used to be someone's family home, the fact is remarkable only in its familiarity.

During the day, whole neighborhoods of New Orleans are utterly deserted, and at night they are dark and silent. It would be a cruel fate indeed if this great American city were to similarly fade into darkness while the press remains silent.

Driving in the Lower 9th Ward early Friday afternoon, I saw orange graffiti on a wrecked home that thankfully wasn't an "X" with a body count. "Psalm 55:18" was all it said.

The King James version renders the verse this way: "He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me."

Restless and unpeacable though we often are, we in the press must stay among the many who abide with that anonymous and hopeful soul in New Orleans.
Mark Fitzgerald ( is E&P's editor-at-large


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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Rebuild or not? (continued)

Professor Henderson continues:

Enough has been said about global warming by the he media. Global warming makes New Orleans even more vulnerable to storms like Katrina.

The disaster in New Orleans should be a national wake-up call to the dangers of ignoring global warming. The national response to this disaster should be to implement public policies that reduce our carbon emissions and direct us to re-orient our cities in an ecologically sustainable and socially just manner.

How to Rebuild?

Public policies centered on resource extraction and auto-centric sprawl largely created this disaster, so it is important to learn from this when rebuilding New Orleans. These are some brief thoughts on approaches to rebuilding New Orleans.

What should not be rebuilt is the sprawl surrounding New Orleans. This includes New Orleans East, Metairie and Kenner [this includes razing what sprawl is currently intact]. Repeat same exercise on the West Bank and in St Bernard Parish. Get the sprawl out of the backswamps and recreate a cypress swamp buffer zone. The removal of the sprawl should be done in a methodical and coordinated manner, and with ecological restoration as first priority. Retreat, replenish, regenerate - and reconstruct the "old" New Orleans.

In New Orleans there is a natural levee of past bayous called the Metairie-Esplanade-Chef Ridge. The city should be reconstructed south of this ridge. Greater New Orleans reconstructed would straddle the Mississippi River on the high natural levee, from the St Charles Parish border with Kenner to Chalmette on the East Bank and from Avondale to Algiers on the West Bank, and would contain a population of roughly 500,000. Most of these sections of the city are still intact.

The future New Orleans economy would center on the port, tourism, arts, university, seafood processing, light manufacturing, and shipbuilding. Construction and craftwork will be very important in the decade after this storm. The port would remain critical to the nation. The city would implement a new housing policy that requires inclusionary zoning, so that people of different incomes can return to the city. The "old" New Orleans would have a systematic bike network, bus lanes, and expanded streetcar. Parking would be reduced city-wide, former parking spaces converted to housing and mixed-use developments. Access to the city would be primarily by rail, but smaller-scale highways would also be rebuilt.

The balance of the New Orleans population (approximately 500-600,000) would relocate to Baton Rouge, Hammond, and Lafayette, along existing highway and rail routes. Frequent 24-hour passenger rail would be established between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Hammond, and Lafayette,New Urbanist designs. Baton Rouge would become the regional economic hub, and experience major densification without expanding its physical footprint. The city currently has extreme low density and ample room for infill, and should be reconfigured into a compact city of one million with development focused on arterials that would be transit oriented.

Bus rapid transit, with priority bus lanes, signal priority, proof-of-payment and low-floor platforms would be constructed throughout the city. The city would also build a comprehensive network of bike lanes and sidewalks. The infill strategy for Baton Rouge would be repeated in Lafayette in Hammond, albeit at a smaller scale. A regional government should be established in Southeast Louisiana. Regionalism would counter the parochial competition between New Orleans and its hinterland. The backbone of this regionalism would be a regional passenger and freight rail network that focuses development around stations.


This disaster was largely caused by public policy. These policies included using Louisiana as a major refining center for domestic and imported oil, requiring access for ships and pipelines. These policies centered on a national urban policy of promoting and subsidizing low-density, automobile oriented sprawl such as that built in the backswamps surrounding New Orleans. These policies included refusing to cooperate globally on climate change and refusing to regulate carbon emissions. These national policies allowed much of New Orleans' poor to be left behind while sprawl was subsidized.

For this reason the funding for the rebuilding of New Orleans, including densification of Baton Rouge, Hammond, and Lafayette, should be financed by a nation-wide 50-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline. This 50 cent gas tax would be used for disaster relief, clean-up, remediation, rebuilding, and densification. Price caps on the cost per gallon will be imposed, to reduce the impact of the increase on the middle class. Low income motorists would be exempt. Public policy was the root of this disaster. Public policy must confront and resolve it. A 50 cent gas tax is a good place to start.

Henderson, Jason "Thoughts On Rebuilding (And Not Rebuilding) New Orleans" September 26, 2005


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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Thoughts on Rebuilding (And Not Rebuilding) ...

Should New Orleans be rebuilt? Whose fault was the flooding? Jason Henderson, Assistant Professor of Geography at San Francisco State University, and a New Orleans native, warns the citizens of his home city that rebuilding all is a bad idea, and that the flooding was an act of public policy failure, not nature.

Henderson (2005) suggests that "The storm surges, overtopped and breached levees, and complete submergence of large swaths of greater New Orleans were predicted, modeled, and prophesied for decades. The usual political response was that we need to raise the levees higher and higher, build bigger, better pumps, and spend billions to accommodate the sprawl belt surrounding the city. Now we are hearing the mantra of "rebuild all" with bigger levees and improved pumps."

What this storm hit was largely American auto-centric sprawl that was largely below sea-level, wrapped by extensive levees, exposed to huge volumes of water, and sinking in the peat of the backswamps. This development pattern, and the resource extraction industries that supported it, created the conditions for this disaster to occur. This was not an act of God, nor a natural disaster -- this was a public policy disaster.

For decades pipeline canals, shipping channels, and oil platform access canals were built willy-nilly across the coastal marsh of Louisiana, giving the oil industry carte blanche to decimate the coastal wetlands that protect New Orleans from storm surges. Public policy kept the Mississippi River bounded in a swift and fast channel that precludes the necessary deposition of mud and silt that built Southeast Louisiana in the first place. This was done for shipping, refining capacity, and real estate development. Siphoning some of the flow of the river to replenish wetlands was considered anathema to free enterprise. Public policy -- not nature, not God.

In the last 60 years, the floodplain around New Orleans sunk by an average of 2-3 feet. The subsidence was especially problematic in difficult-to-drain backswamps.

These backswamps are geographically distinctive from the natural levees --like the slither of higher ground along both banks of the Mississippi, where, for example, the French Quarter is located. Incremental filling of the backswamp began in the early 1900's, took off in the 1920's during the first auto-oriented housing boom, and then accelerated rapidly after World War Two, driven by white flight, anti-urbanism, subsidized highways, mortgages, and flood insurance. Metairie, Chalmette, the West Bank, and eventually New Orleans East emerged -- all mostly in backswamp.

The massive levees built to protect this sprawl held the water in, allowing it to fester and stagnate, full of the toxic residue of sprawl -- motor oil, gasoline, lawn fertilizer, and so on. From a design perspective, the sprawl that is submerged looked similar to sprawl in Houston or Atlanta, no different from the sprawl in Dulles or Contra Costa, or Hoffman Estates, or Tempe. Auto dependent, hostile to pedestrians, low density, single detached homes, segregated land uses, segregated incomes and races, full of intrusive billboards, massive expanses of pavement -- the bland generic sprawlscape that engulfs almost every American city. Sprawl has been a national urban policy for at least six decades. This is the face of sprawl in New Orleans today -- a toxic cesspool.

Henderson, Jason "Thoughts On Rebuilding (And Not Rebuilding) New Orleans" September 26, 2005


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Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Swamp of Corruption ...

John Fund (2005) reminds us that "No state turns out better demagogues than Louisiana" and that the Bush administration and Congress "better figure out that they and the taxpayers are about to be fleeced like sheep as they ship south $62 billion in emergency aid with few controls or safeguards."

Fund adds that "Louisiana's two senators didn't even blink when they asked the feds for an ultimate total of $250 billion in assistance just for their state." "We recognize that it's a very high number," Sen. Mary Landrieu admitted. "But this is an unprecedented national tragedy and needs an unprecedented national response."

"Put bluntly, the local political cultures don't engender confidence that aid won't be diverted from the people who truly need and deserve it. While the feds can try to ride herd on the money, here's hoping folks in the region take the opportunity to finally demand their own political housecleaning" says Fund. Change is past due. Last year, Lou Riegel, the agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans office, described Louisiana's public corruption as "epidemic, endemic, and entrenched. No branch of government is exempt."

Louisiana ranks third in the nation in the number of elected officials per capita convicted of crimes (Mississippi takes top prize). In just the past generation, Louisiana has had a governor, an attorney general, three successive insurance commissioners, a congressman, a federal judge, a state Senate president and a swarm of local officials convicted. Fund says that much of the region "has long had a relaxed attitude towards corruption."

But there is room for optimism. "The hurricane was so big and traumatic it could jolt the relaxed political culture," says Ron Faucheux, a Democratic former state legislator from New Orleans. He also notes that 2007 will inject new blood into Louisiana's Legislature when term limits kick in for the first time and force almost half its old-boy members to step down.

As for New Orleans, no city in America would better serve its most vulnerable residents with a clean sweep of its institutions. Just this summer, associates of former mayor Marc Morial were indicted for alleged kickbacks involving public contracts. Last month the FBI raided the home and car of Rep. William Jefferson as part of a probe into allegations he had misused his office.

It is the city's dysfunctional police force that needs immediate attention. Lt. Gen. Steven Baum, chief of the Pentagon's National Guard bureau, lamented the post-storm "disintegration" of the force. City residents have long endured men in blue who not only fail to fight crime but sometimes engage in it, with more than 50 officers going to prison in the past dozen years, two of them to death row. When one police district was caught altering its data, Chief Eddie Compass said, "I don't need an outside agency coming in. I think we have proven that we are capable of taking care of our own house."

But some questions must be asked before city residents decide whether to return. "We can't go back to the way we've done things," says former congressman Bob Livingston, a Republican. He notes that the Orleans Parish Levee Board allowed money to be diverted from levees into many other projects. Those included a local casino, a convention center and a Mardi Gras fountain. "We were trying to be good neighbors," former board member Jim Livingston (no relation to Bob) explained to me.

Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who grew up in New Orleans, says the area must leave behind an economy and political culture that belongs to the last century. He notes that Houston has become the South's energy capital, Atlanta its commercial capital and Charlotte its financial center. "Katrina provides a chance to give up populism and embrace reform," he says. The area has given the country so much--in music, in cuisine, in style. But it has also bred a fatalistic attitude which has left too many people with little belief that things can be better. As William Faulkner put it, people too often endure rather than hope.

The massive federal aid now flowing to the region should give victims of Katrina and Rita some hope--along with the knowledge the country has embraced them. It is up to them to seize the opportunity and make a fresh start. If that means abandoning some of the comfortable practices of the past and electing fewer demagogues, the next generation will appreciate that Katrina's survivors chose not just to rebuild their homes but to begin "some new thinking."

Fund, John "A Swamp of Corruption" September 26, 2005


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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Subsidizing Disasters ...

Estimates of the cost of rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina are in the neighborhood of $200 billion. Government is cited by many as an "enabling" contributor to the increasing cost of natural disasters.

Kristy Black (2005) suggests that "Federal flood insurance and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control and beach replenishment projects subsidize construction in flood-prone areas, encourage high-risk development and harm environmentally sensitive areas. These programs should be reconsidered."

Black adds that "The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), encourages people to build homes where they otherwise would not. It also encourages lenders to finance mortgages they otherwise would not."

Then, when NFIP pays claims for homes damaged or destroyed by floods, mudslides and other natural disasters, it does not require homeowners to relocate. They can use the money to rebuild in the same location, and their new home can also be covered by NFIP! FEMA admits that repetitive claims are the most significant factor in increasing flood insurance costs.

NFIP covers more than 4.5 million homes in more than 20,000 communities. It pays claims averaging $200 million per year for about 40,000 repetitively flooded properties.

Since 1984, NFIP has paid out nearly $1 billion for at least 10,000 properties that have experienced two or more losses, with cumulative claims often exceeding the value of the property.

Black also points out that "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves and regulates the construction of levees and other flood control structures. From 1928 through 2001, the Corps spent $123 billion (adjusted for inflation) on flood control projects nationwide. By picking up 65 percent of the costs of these projects, the Corps encourages continued development in flood-prone areas.

Flood control structures do not guarantee protection. For example, the 1993 Great Midwest Flood caused $20 billion in damages when more than 1,000 levees failed and 100,000 homes were damaged. But instead of responding with better policies and nonstructural solutions, the Corps continues to subsidize 100 percent of repair costs for all damaged levees it constructs and 80 percent of repair costs for nonfederal projects."

The Government Accountability Office reports that 90 percent of all natural disasters involve flooding. Although they are called "natural," many would not be nearly as destructive had people and property not been placed in harm’s way.

In 2004 alone, FEMA received 1.3 million applications for federal disaster assistance due to hurricanes and tropical storms — far exceeding the number for any comparable period.

The National Climactic Data Center says that increased population and development of coastal areas is responsible for the higher losses from hurricanes. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, more than half of Americans live within 50 miles of a coast and by 2025, 75 percent will.

More than 70 percent of the coastline in the lower 48 states is privately owned, while state and local governments own most of the rest. Homes with beach access or an ocean view are highly valued. Thus flood insurance, beach-erosion control and disaster loans often subsidize higher income homeowners.

Nationwide, erosion causes property losses of approximately $500 million per year.

Over the next 60 years, coastal erosion may claim 25 percent of buildings within 500 feet of the U.S. shoreline, including 87,000 homes.

Floodplain and coastal development harm the environment by displacing environmentally important wetland areas. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, up to 43 percent of threatened and endangered species rely on wetlands for survival. Wetlands also improve water quality through filtration and often provide the same level of flood control as expensive dredge operations and levees.

Black concludes that "Government programs should neither subsidize those who choose to live in harm’s way, nor encourage environmental destruction — but those are the results of NFIP, FEMA rebuilding loans and Corps beach restoration projects. Any development in high-risk areas should reflect its actual cost to the public and the environment and should be borne solely by the states, localities and individuals benefiting from them. Ending the subsidies would reduce the economic, human and environmental toll of natural disasters."

Black, Christy G. “Subsidizing Disaster” National Center For Policy Analysis. September 7, 2005


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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sociology of Disaster ...

The study of the sociology of disasters is a recognized specialty. David Glenn (2005) compares them to "surfers who wait for storm swells." For them, the real issue surrounding Hurricane Katrina lies in understanding, and developing ways to avoid, what Glenn calls "the abysmal organizational failures that apparently cost so many lives in New Orleans."

"One of the central tenets of disaster sociology is that most communities can, to a large degree, spontaneously heal themselves. People affected by disaster obviously often need resources from the outside world -- food, water, shelter. But that does not mean that disaster victims also need outside direction and coordination, most scholars in the field say."

Glenn draws the inevitable comparison of Katrina to the 9/11 attacks. "Spontaneous cooperation" is said to have led to the extraordinarily successful evacuation of Lower Manhattan during the attacks on the World Trade Center. "James M. Kendra, an assistant professor of emergency administration and planning at the University of North Texas, estimates that nearly half a million people fled Manhattan on boats -- and he emphasizes that the waterborne evacuation was a self-organized volunteer process that could probably never have been planned on a government official's clipboard.

"Various kinds of private companies, dinner-cruise boats, people with their own personal watercraft, the Coast Guard, the harbor pilots -- in very short order, they managed to organize this evacuation," Mr. Kendra said."

The evacuation in New Orleans, of course, was not so smooth. Disaster sociologists say that they are eager to determine how much chaos and looting actually occurred there, and how much was conjured through rumor and news-media exaggeration.

Russell R. Dynes, a professor emeritus of sociology at Delaware, suggests that "One of the problems here is TV. If you take a film clip and you run it for five hours, you create a notion that something's happening." Michael K. Lindell, a psychologist who directs the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center at Texas A&M University at College Station adds that those affected by a disaster, when reporters stick a microphone in their face, often say "I panicked," reinforcing the "idea that there's a thin veneer of civilization, which vanishes after a disaster, and that you need outside authorities and the military to restore order. But really, people usually do very well for themselves, thank you."

Although scholars disagree about whether social breakdown occurred during Katrina, they are unanimous about the question of organizational breakdown. It will take months to determine, however, exactly how and why Louisiana's local and federal preparedness plans collapsed.

Some assert that the federal shortcomings stem from having folded the Federal Emergency Management Agency into the Department of Homeland Security. "The structure of the Department of Homeland Security is not conducive to good emergency management," said William L. Waugh Jr., a professor of public policy at Georgia State University. "It isn't even conducive to homeland security."

Waugh says that FEMA and other small agencies have not successfully competed for money and attention because they do not mix well with what he calls the "gun-toting" culture of the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies that dominate the department.

Glenn adds that the department is also "hamstrung by a ‘command and control’ mentality that is ill suited to the realities of disasters."

"One of the things that's very consistently found," said Delaware's Mr. Dynes, "is that in a disaster, decisions are made at lower levels than they are made normally because you're confronted with a situation, and … You've got to make a decision. So any decision in any organization is going to be made at lower levels than in normal times."

Glenn discusses "warning-response theory," the study of how people react to public announcements about potential threats. One model uses six stages of warning:

First, vulnerable people must hear the warning;

second, they must understand its contents;

third, they must believe that it is credible and accurate;

fourth, they must personalize the warning as applying to themselves;

fifth, they will observe whether their friends and neighbors are taking protective action; and, finally, they will take protective action themselves.

As Katrina made its way across the Gulf of Mexico, government agencies and the news media did not put those scholarly insights into practice adequately, Mr. Sorensen said. "My guess is that they really did not do a good job of conveying to people what a flood in New Orleans would mean," he said. "Like: 'You will be in your attic for five days.' Or: 'The only safe place may be on the roof of your house.' And I really didn't hear that coming out of the national coverage."

Glenn, David. “Disaster Sociologists Study What Went Wrong in the Response to the Hurricanes, but Will Policy Makers Listen?” Chronicle of Higher Education. September 29, 2005.


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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Recovery should preserve history ...

The Advocate (2005), of Baton Rouge, LA, suggests that: “As the New Orleans area seeks to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it will have to strike a bargain between two principles of the recovery effort.” The principles are:

The rebuilding should proceed with all due speed.

The recovery should unfold with care and proper planning.

Richard Moe, who heads the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation, said of New Orleans that “There's no other area for the country that has such a concentration of historic districts.” He adds that “This is the biggest threat to historical resources in my history at the trust, and perhaps in American history.”

Moe said he's been assured by New Orleans officials that “No mass demolition is going to occur without a deliberate process.” Moe said he wants historical preservation experts “embedded” with recovery teams as assessments are done.

The trust wants Congress to approve $60 million in preservation grants to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

The Advocate points out that “The trust also is advocating a tax refund equal to 30 percent of a homeowner's uncovered restoration costs. Under the plan, residents too poor to pay taxes would get restoration grants. Additionally, the trust wants the federal government to relax rules governing commercial credits for preservation.”

Will there be resentment among homeowners whose flood-damaged property is not eligible for such generous assistance because it's not considered historic? That could be the case. But Moe said historic structures need special attention because of their contribution to a community's identity.

Moe also pointed out that tourism, a linchpin of the New Orleans economy, is connected to the city's unique period architecture. That's a resource that New Orleans, already impoverished by Katrina, cannot afford to lose.

Advocate. “Recovery should preserve history”, October 4, 2005; see /stories/100405/opi_views1001.shtml


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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Racial Reality And The New Orleans Nightmare ...

Sailer (2005) calls it "the Perfect Storm."

"No, not Hurricane Katrina. ... the perfect storm was actually the combination of social and governmental incompetence at local, state, and federal levels—and unmentionable racial reality."

Sailer is not surprised by the "ineptitude displayed by the Louisiana state government. ... The state is unique in having a Latin political tradition (it uses the Code Napoleon rather than the English common law, even though Napoleon didn't release his code until the year after he sold Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson), a culture in which the Argentinean demagogue Juan Peron would have felt at home.

New Orleans itself is two-thirds black. It has had nothing but black mayors since 1978. All four of them are from the light-skinned "creole of color" elite, including the notorious Marc H. Morial, now head of the National Urban League. The city government is corrupt and lackadaisical. While the police department has perhaps rebounded from the depths it reached a decade ago when an officer was condemned to death for having a mother of three rubbed out by drug gangstas in his employ, nobody should be surprised that last week numerous officers ran away, and some even freelanced as looters.

In a racially diverse democracy like New Orleans, voting for good government takes a backseat to voting for your tribe's representatives in the eternal ethnic tussle over slices of the pie. ... For instance, after blacks took control of New Orleans, they required new police recruits to live in the city itself as a way to exclude white cops.

The state's Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation and Sheltering Plan made all the right noises about evacuating residents without cars by school bus. But state and local authorities apparently failed to execute, as the famous picture of about 200 New Orleans school buses neatly lined up in a flooded parking lot shows.

Governmental bodies naturally decay rapidly in competence, especially when free discussion of unpleasant realities is suppressed.

New Orleans should remind us that we still live in a harsh world. The make-believe that passes for public discourse, even at the elite level, simply isn't adequate for protecting American citizens.

Sailer, Steve "Racial Reality And The New Orleans Nightmare", September 03, 2005


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