Showing posts with label Hurricane Katrina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hurricane Katrina. Show all posts

Friday, March 22, 2019

Calling Jake and Elwood: The Iowa Nazi edition

Truth in politics?
Rep. Steve King, National Socialist-Iowa, is at it again. No doubt, our national appetite for wallowing in political pig poop is fathomless.

The Washington Post is there with a shovel, as usual.

"We go to a place like New Orleans, and everybody’s looking around saying, ‘Who’s going to help me? Who’s going to help me?’” King said, recounting what he said officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, had told him about the relief effort, in which he said he had participated. Yet, he was also one of 11 members of Congress to oppose a bill providing federal aid to Katrina victims in 2005.

In his home state, he said, residents looked after one another without government handouts. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has declared a disaster in more than half of Iowa’s 99 counties because of severe flooding and is seeking a federal declaration that would free up funds from Washington.

“We go to a place like Iowa, and we go see, knock on the door at, say, I make up a name, John’s place, and say, ‘John, you got water in your basement, we can write you a check, we can help you,'" King said. “And John will say, ‘Well, wait a minute, let me get my boots. It’s Joe that needs help. Let’s go down to his place and help him.’”
THE NORMAL human response -- or what one would hope is the normal human response -- to the question "Who's going to help me?" is "I am."

King seems to admit as much by lauding Iowans' willingness to help their neighbors without hesitation. So, I suppose the only thing he finds offensive is that people would ask for help -- particularly from, one supposes, the federal government. Particularly the majority-black population of New Orleans.

Something tells me the right dishonorable white nationalist from Kiron will not be pressing FEMA to withhold aid from those of his constituents affected by flooding on grounds of "We can take care of this shit ourselves." This leaves us with the explanation that's left for what King said Thursday.

Steve King is a racist piece of that in which we've been wallowing since 2016.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Plaquemines Parish's watery passion play

Seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina, Plaquemines Parish, La., is going under the waves again.

As I write, authorities and private citizens in private boats are pulling people off of their roofs and out of their attics. We see what has become of a subdivision in Braithwaite, La., in this photo posted to Facebook by the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

Hurricane Isaac, by the way, came ashore as a Category 1 storm. And this house, by the way, is three stories high.

ONE HAS TO WONDER how much longer whole swaths of coastal Louisiana, for all practical purposes, will remain habitable absent a massive federal effort to extend the hurricane-protection levee system and an even larger effort to restore Louisiana's lost wetlands. Of course, then you have to consider the reality of coastal subsidence, climate change and rising sea levels.

Between nature, neglect and the failure of state and local government to effectively govern -- and let's not even get into Washington's special brand of dysfunction -- my home state, day by day and bit by bit, literally is becoming a no man's land.

Lord have mercy. Mercy now.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

You can't spell 'bum' without 'B' and 'M'

See! I told you Ray Nagin
was full of it! Enough said.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I told you so

A Revolution 21 tip o' the hat goes to Col. Robert J. Ruch, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Omaha district.

It's not just anyone who can make your Mighty Favog look like a clairvoyant and prophetic Mighty Favog. In other words, I called it, and it was the good colonel who made it so.

I said that the Corps would "blame this mess near Hamburg, Iowa, on the levee having been compromised by damage from beavers or badgers (or something), then say Iowans should have inspected it better."

was coming came to pass this morning in the Omaha World-Herald:
Downtown, a nearly 10-foot pile of dirt and plastic tarp surrounded the Blue Moon Bar & Grill.

The pub's wooden floors and pool table have belonged to Vicki Sjulin and her family since 1972. Dad runs the grill most mornings. Mom works behind the counter.

“It's been the local watering hole for a long time,” Sjulin said Monday. “Now it's just going to be a water hole.”

Sjulin said she planned to keep the business open as long as possible, until the local utility company cuts power. Frustrated residents poured in and out of the bar to discuss the rising water and their plans to escape them.

“People here are angry, and they want to know why we're at the point we're at,” she said. “This is a total man-made flood, in spite of the high snowfall and rain. Everyone's question is, who made these choices?”

Built by the corps in the 1940s, the levee sustained three recent minor breaches before Monday's incident broke a section one mile south of the Iowa-Missouri state line. About two hours after that breach, floodwater broke through a levee farther south in Holt County, Mo. Officials there planned to intentionally breach t
he levee downstream to take pressure off a secondary levee built in recent weeks.

“There is risk behind any levee,'' Ruch said. “That is assumed.''

Monday's rupture, however, was not an indicator of what landowners and residents along the Missouri can expect in coming weeks when higher flows arrive, Ruch said.

Ruch said the levee break came as a surprise because the levee had handled higher water during flooding last year.

He said a hole created by a badger or gopher could have eroded the integrity of the earthen structure.
THUS, the first part of my prognostication has been fulfilled. The second part -- blaming the locals -- will come to pass after the locals start taking sufficient shots at the Corps' "your guess is as good as mine" levees.

And isn't it the case that the badgers and gophers always take the fall whenever something bad happens? If I were a
Wisconsin or Minnesota fan, I would be pissed.

Of course, I am no expert on the levee-eating capabilities of Wisconsin or Minnesota student athletes, or their furry inspirations. But I am pretty sure that gophers, badgers, beavers or muskrats -- not to mention Big 10 linebackers and tackles -- encounter virtually insurmountable difficulties in burrowing through asphalt, concrete or rock armoring on levees.

That, however, would leave the Corps (and the politicians who'd rather spend money on Wall Street and the military-industrial complex than on vital infrastructure) with no one or nothing else to blame when yet another "heck of a job" turns into yet another heck of a mess.

Meantime, I'm still trying to process the irony of George W. Bush coming to town Saturday for the opening of the College World Series.
You think Michael Brown might be available, too?

Monday, June 13, 2011

When the levee breaks

Heck of a job, Corps of Engineers.

Watch the feds blame this mess near Hamburg, Iowa, on the levee having been compromised by damage from beavers or badgers (or something), then say Iowans should have inspected it better. Then watch me say that if the levee had been armored with concrete, asphalt or rock, the varmints would have had their work cut out for them . . . and the Corps would have nobody to blame but itself.


Just like in New Orleans.

Here, courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald, is the federally constructed pile of mud in the middle of the Missouri River formerly known as a "levee" this morning after the initial breach. Now, according to late reports, the break in the levee south of Hamburg is now at least 300 feet wide.

Going under on the Missouri

Here is the Missouri River at downtown Omaha on Saturday evening (above).

At right, here's the Missouri River at the same spot downtown as it was May 29.

But it's during the coming week, forecasters say, that the
real water will start to hit the Omaha area. By the time the Mighty Mo stops rising sometime in the next month or two -- barring any big rains -- we're supposed to have 4 to 6 feet more water than this.

And it's supposed to stay that high all summer.

Can the levees withstand that much water for that long -- and levels above flood stage maybe until winter? No one knows; the Missouri River flood-control system never has had to withstand such a test.

WILL SOME TOWNS around here, particularly on the Iowa shore, go under? It's a distinct possibility.

Are we already having levee problems in spots?
Unfortunately, yes we are.

Do I have confidence in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built the flood-control system?
Not since 2005 . . . I'm originally from Louisiana.

And in these parts, the feeling quickly is becoming widespread.

Do I think -- the New Orleans group that's emerged as one of the chief watchdogs over the Corps -- should send somebody up here to take a look and have a listen?
I think that would be useful both for us and for it, yes.

DO FOLKS who live on the bottomlands along the entire length of the Missouri need your thoughts, prayers and assistance now and for the foreseeable future.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

There'$ pow'r, pow'r . . . wonder-working pow'r!

There aren't many things that will drag me out of my flu-fouled sickbed to putter around on the blog.

One, however, is the alleged evildoing of a supposedly slimy Bible-believin' preacher. Another is the latest freak show from the Gret Stet.

So when you put those two things together . . .
cough, cough . . . sniffle . . . moan . . . here I am.

And there be Bishop Ricky Sinclair of Miracle Place Church, headquartered in Baker, La. According to the Louisiana inspector general's office, one of Sinclair's biggest miracles was in getting money out of the federal government on nefarious grounds.

OK, so that's not so big a miracle. It's common, as a matter of fact.

Here we go. . . . According to the Louisiana inspector general's office, one of Sinclair's biggest miracles was in almost getting away with not disclosing his criminal record on documents when he applied to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to run a halfway house.

Hang on. That's not a miracle, either. We're talking about bureaucracy, and we're talking about Louisiana. The miracle is that somebody noticed.

This guy and his church are running short enough on miracles that they might be in Dutch with the Federal Trade Commission, too.

FROM THE (Baton Rouge) Advocate this morning:
The report by the office of state Inspector General Stephen B. Street Jr. said Bishop Ricky Sinclair of Miracle Place Church also used people — ordered by the courts to attend a church-affiliated halfway house — to perform work clearing land and building a new home for Sinclair, his wife and family.

In a prepared statement sent via e-mail, Sinclair denied any wrongdoing.

“I have read the Inspector General’s report, and the accusations against me are simply not true,” he said. “Miracle Place and Ricky Sinclair have been serving the people of this area for over 20 years, and we will continue to serve them to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ.”

Street said Sinclair’s fraudulent activities date to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and continued after Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

“You’re not talking about questionable claims here,” Street said.

“You’re talking about blatant, fabricated and deliberate fraud — from scratch in many cases, where they just made things up.”

He said it was “particularly reprehensible” that the fraud was committed against the backdrop of two natural disasters.

Street said the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisiana State Police and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of the Inspector General assisted with the investigation.

The findings have been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible criminal prosecution, he said.

The report alleges that Sinclair collected $121,281 from FEMA for labor costs for operating his church as a shelter during Hurricane Katrina but spent only $39,950 paying workers. He kept the remaining $81,331, the report says.

I HAVEN'T lived in the Gret Stet since Ricky Sinclair still was a two-bit drug dealer, yet I knew the guy is an ex-con. And, according to the story, all his tracts tout that the guy's an ex-con.

HECK, even Pat Robertson told the entire backslidden world, via his 700 Club TV show, that Bishop Sinclair did time for dealing dope. Yet the Gret Stet of Loosiana couldn't figure out a thing until the inspector general noted that Sinclair and some associates "failed to disclose past criminal convictions, as required, when they applied to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to operate the halfway house program."

Some would call Sinclair a moron for that one. I'd merely say that he was just
(so far, allegedly) implementing the first half of "be ye therefore wise as serpents." In other words, you have to know what you can get away with.

In the Gret Stet, that would be a considerable amount. The "and as harmless as doves" population ain't what it should be.

It's where self-government goes to eat well, clog its arteries and die of a heart attack.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

3 Chords & the Truth: Heck of a job

It's five years down a flooded road from Aug. 29, 2005.

Katrina is gone. Her effects live on.

New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are recovering. But the Crescent City is 100,000 people lighter than she used to be. About 1,300 of those folks are still dead. Dead because we can't competently build levees in America.

Dead because Brownie didn't do such a "heck of a job" after all.

Dead because some Americans are more important than other Americans.

Stone-cold dead. Killed by social Darwinism cloaked in "freedom."

THIS WEEK, 3 Chords & the Truth remembers the fateful events of half a decade ago. This week, the Big Show pays musical tribute to the victims of our national incompetence.

This week, on this episode of the Internet's best music show, we put it all together in song. And we ponder. And we remember. And we honor those who were lost along the way.

Yeah, I have something to say about the last five years on this week's 3 Chords & the Truth. You might find it to be worth a listen.

Of course, the music's worth a listen -- maybe more than one listen -- every week on the Big Show. It's right at the top right of the blog -- you can't miss it. It's also here . . . in case you've been slow to take the hints.

THEY SAY music is a healing thing. Well, we'll see.

Join us this week as we remember . . . and heal, all in song.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth y'all. Be there. Aloha.

* * *

OH . . .
one more thing. Of course, you remember "Brownie" -- Michael Brown of FEMA bungling infamy.

He lasted in his job running the federal disaster agency about a week after New Orleans went under. And "Heck of a job, Brownie" has entered the national vocabulary as a phrase meaning, "God, what a f*** up."

Well, all you need to know about America today is that "Brownie" isn't living his life out in repentance and selfless service. He's not out there making reparation for the damage his bungling did to untold thousands, if not millions, of people.

No, "Brownie" -- illustrating the "new moral normal" in these United States today -- is out there profiting off of the notoriety that comes from being a spectacularly flagrant f*** up.

He's a talk-show host on Clear Channel's KOA radio n Denver. Getting paid the big bucks to tell us all what to think.

And this week, he's in New Orleans. For the anniversary.

It's a heck of a job . . . if you can swing it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

As feds move in, snitches get . . . sued?

If not for the tireless efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice, Louisiana would. . . .

Sorry, finishing that lede would take my imagination to places no man's imagination should have to go. The U.S. State Department would have to issue urgent "travel advisories."

So, without scaring ourselves by speculating on a Gret Stet without ongoing, massive intervention by the feds, let's just say the dance card of Justice lawyers and FBI agents just picked up one more two-step. And it all has to do with the "proactive policing" Baton Rouge cops engaged in after Hurricane Katrina.

NATURALLY, the locals have taken offense at the offense taken by New Mexico and Michigan troopers over Baton Rouge cops' "law enforcement" practices after the storm, accounts of which -- more than four years later -- have led to the federal civil-rights investigation. Today's story in The Advocate has this choice passage:
Asked why law enforcement officers from other states would lie about what they saw Baton Rouge police doing, LeDuff has said he suspects the troopers wanted to be where the action was.

“Everybody who came here wanted to be in New Orleans, where all of this was going on, to rescue, to stop the looting, to stop the people from shooting at helicopters,” he has said. “I don’t think people wanted to come to Baton Rouge. We weren’t the story.

Cpl. Cleveland Thomas, one of the officers disciplined because of the troopers’ complaints, told Police Department investigators the allegations lodged against him were false and the New Mexico officer made them because he was “scared and wanted to go home.”

Olson, the New Mexico spokesman, said Thursday he found the comments in the newspaper’s story “very disturbing” and “that clearly is not the case.”

He said his officers volunteered to leave their families and jobs to come help the people of Louisiana and that “it’s difficult when baseless accusations like that are made.”

Olson said he hopes the U.S. Justice Department has a “thorough and successful” investigation.

He added he’s heard from various Baton Rouge media outlets that the Baton Rouge Union of Police Local 237 is considering filing a lawsuit against his agency because of the complaints it filed against the Police Department.

Chris Stewart, president of the police union, said during the March 24 “Jim Engster Show” on WRKF radio that the union is “researching every possible avenue that we can pursue in order to clear the names of our officers.”

“If it involves a lawsuit, then we are going to do that,” Stewart said on the radio show. “We are waiting now for our attorneys to come back with some decisions or opinions.”

Stewart told WAFB-TV on March 23 that “to be called racist and just rogue cops and all the allegations that were made, it’s offensive to us to be called this. We needed to clear the air with the public as best we can.”
BASICALLY, what we have here is the bizarre confluence of a total breakdown in "Southern hospitality" and Baton Rouge cops internalizing the ghetto code of "snitches get stitches." Being that a) the Yankee cops went home long ago and b) the feds are watching, the locals are considering trying to, alternatively, just shake down the "snitches" in a court of law.

Or what passes for one in the Gret Stet.

After reading the Advocate piece, my wife and I were discussing our shared incredulity at Baton Rouge's official incredulity that outsiders might say awful things about how its Bubbas in blue roll down there on the bayou.

That's when it occurred to me that my wife's incredulity stems from being a native Midwesterner, and that mine stems from, after 20-plus years up here, having turned into one myself. "My God," I told her, "they think they're normal!"

OF COURSE they do. They think it's not only normal to harass and "beat down" whom they please when they please -- and, to be fair, this isn't a Louisiana-only cop pathology -- but that it's absolutely incredible that anyone would take exception, which pretty much is a Bayou State pathology.

And, hell, that might be absolutely normal--
in a Caribbean, banana republic-y kind of way -- except for that little Louisiana Purchase thing a couple of centuries back. But this ain't Haiti, and it ain't In the Heat of the Night, either.

It's the United States.
It's 2010. And, God willing, the Justice Department will be pointing out to the special-ed students of constitutional democracy -- yet again -- that's just not how we Americans roll nowadays.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

America's next great bad reputation

Click on pictures for documents

What is it that people say about never having a second chance to make a good first impression?

Yeah, Baton Rouge never heard that one. Or much about the Constitution of the United States.

from a pure public-relations perspective -- forget basic issues of police practice, justice, race relations or jurisprudence -- what I'm sure has happened in the case of Baton Rouge officials' "Wyatt Earp meets David Duke" fetish is that New Mexico and Michigan state troopers who witnessed this stuff told some people.

Who told some people.

Who told some people.

Who told some people.

Who told some people about what redneck mongoloids the people were in Baton Rouge, La. And what abject racists. And how you don't want to go there.

Especially if you're of the Not White persuasion. Or the Not From Around Here persuasion.

And then the newspaper in Baton Rouge finally got a hold of the Michigan and New Mexico troopers official reports . . . which Baton Rouge police officials found myriad reasons not to do much about.

And then -- especially in the wake of the FBI getting to the bottom of the post-Katrina Danziger Bridge massacre perpetrated by New Orleans cops -- some national news outlet (or outlets) are going to pick up on the Baton Rouge incidents as a nice sidebar to the main atrocity in the Big Easy.

And they're going to tell their readers and viewers.

Who are going to tell some people.

Who are going to tell some people.

Let me know how that's going to be working out for America's Next Great City (TM).

America's next great banana republic

Was it embarrassment over their ugly cop cars?

Were Baton Rouge's finest just having a bad hurricane-hair day?

Or are basic tenets of U.S. constitutional law just foreign concepts in America's next great banana republic?

Whatever it was that caused Baton Rouge cops to get so out of line in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that more than a few out-of-state counterparts recoiled in horror as they rode shotgun with the locals, apparently none of it was so horrible that official Baton Rouge couldn't offer up embarrassingly lame excuses. As only officials in banana republics can.

TAKE THESE incidents uncovered by The Advocate newspaper after a four-year legal battle to obtain reports filed with the Baton Rouge Police Department by officers from New Mexico and Michigan. Here's what police from New Mexico alleged:
New Mexico state police Agent Nathan Lucero said he saw “subjects being stopped for no reason, searches being performed with no probable cause and people’s civil rights being violated.”

Lucero said he also “witnessed officers referring to African Americans as animals and that they needed to be beaten down.”

Lucero said one officer told him that after the hurricane, police had gone into black neighborhoods and “beaten them down.”

That officer, Lucero said, would point a spotlight in black people’s faces during the patrols and say: “What are you doing standing in the road? Are you stupid? Get out of the road.”

“The black civilians were on the sidewalks and were not bothering anyone,” Lucero added.

Lucero said police working in Tigerland near LSU, an area he described as “white and wealthy,” were much more congenial. The officers would say things like “Hello and how are you” or “Have a good night and be careful,” he said.

Lucero did not name any of the officers.

New Mexico state police Agent Patrick Oakley said Baton Rouge Police Officer Tim Browning used the term “heathens” to describe a group of black men they encountered.

“Officer Browning made contact with these subjects with no reasonable suspicion or probable cause, performed pat downs and extracted items from the pockets of these individuals,” Oakley said.

New Mexico state police Officer Gregory Hall said he rode with Baton Rouge Police Officer Chad King on two occasions.

“King is a good officer but seems to handle black people differently than he would a pretty Caucasian woman,” Hall wrote. “Each time Officer King would make contact with a Caucasian person he would be friendly and pleasant. But when he spoke to a black person he was very loud, rude and demeaning.”

Hall said that while he believes most of the Baton Rouge officers are good, he perceived a racial bias among many.

“I do feel that most of the night officers that I had contact with had some type of comment or attitude towards black people in general,” he said.

OR PERHAPS you could take a look at these eyewitness reports by police from Michigan on Katrina duty in Louisiana's capital city:
Michigan State Trooper Jeffrey Werda said officers offered to let him beat a prisoner as a thank you for helping out with relief efforts.

“I was told that I could go ahead and beat someone down or bitch slap them and they would do the report,” Werda said. “I was told this was my gift from them for helping with the hurricane relief efforts.”

Werda reported seeing several incidents of excessive force.

One man walking down a street ran into his house after seeing a patrol unit, Werda said. The Baton Rouge officer chased the man into the house and arrested him, then forced him onto the hood of the patrol unit, the trooper said.

“The officer then began telling him that the next time he runs from the police, he will get beat down,” Werda said.

The man complained his wrist was hurting, Werda said. Another Baton Rouge officer bent the man’s wrist and threatened to break it if he didn’t shut his mouth, Werda wrote.

Werda said he asked the man why he ran if he was not doing anything wrong, and the reply was that “he did not want to get his ass kicked by the police, as this has occurred to him before.”

In another incident, Werda said, police were called to a bar near LSU because of a fight. He said the fight was over and everything was calm when an officer approached a man and “suddenly hit the subject in the side of the head with his forearm and took him to the ground in a head lock. “

“I observed this subject the entire time and at no time did he pose as a threat or mouth off at the officers,” Werda said. “In fact, he was so intoxicated he could barely stand up on his own.”

Werda did not name the officers involved in any of the incidents he reported.
AND YOU THOUGHT stuff like this only happened in the movies. Or in Juarez.

What in the world could the police chief say about his department in the wake of such allegations from sworn officers from two other states?
Well, this:
Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff defends his department’s performance after Katrina, noting that the city was full of evacuees and rife with stories of looting and shooting in New Orleans.

“We had a charge to hold the line and balance this city and keep it from being overrun and looted and fired upon,” he said.

He denied giving orders to run evacuees out of town, noting he had family members staying in his own home.

Asked why law enforcement officers from other states would lie about what they saw Baton Rouge police doing, LeDuff said he suspects the troopers wanted to be where the action was.

“Everybody who came here wanted to be in New Orleans where all of this was going on, to rescue, to stop the looting, to stop the people from shooting at helicopters,” he said. “I don’t think people wanted to come to Baton Rouge. We weren’t the story.”

NO, I WOULDN'T believe this s*** either if I weren't from there. But really . . . believe it.

Officialdom in Baton Rouge not only believes you, the rest of America, will buy the load they're trying to sell, but --
on some warped level --they actually believe it themselves. And except for the unfortunates who got their faces slammed into the hood of one of Baton Rouge's ugly-ass cop cars for no good reason, Louisianians will believe it, too.

After all, a state doesn't work its way to the top of all the bad lists and the bottom of all the good ones without being able to believe "as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Take Mayor-President Kip Holden, for example. Every morning, he gets up and tells himself that his stagnant, middling Southern capital is "America's next great city." This amid a crumbling school system, an astronomical murder rate, endemic poverty, crumbling infrastructure and an ongoing brain drain.

Then, after he tells himself that, he tells The Advocate this:
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden denied ordering police to run people out of town, though he acknowledged wanting them to be aggressive.

“I was not going to let Baton Rouge be overrun by some people from New Orleans who were hell-bent on committing crimes,” he said in an interview last week.

He said his message to those “thugs who are robbing, raping and looting in New Orleans” was that he would provide them shelter, but “it will not be at the Red Cross — it’s going to be in jail.”

“If there’s a blame to be placed on aggressive enforcement, blame it on me,” he added.
YEAH, YOU RIGHT, CAP. It's the s***s when da slums a Noo Orluns escape, well . . . da slums a Noo Orluns.

If Holden had been any more proactive, he would have directed all the New Orleans-to-Baton Rouge vehicle traffic to facilities where the evacuees could take "showers."

But the bottom line you, the rest of America, need to remember is this: Both the mayor-president and the police chief are African-Americans. And when a city's black folk can be just as big a bunch of rednecks as your average Bubba. . . .

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One of these things . . . much like the other

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Haiti is in ruins -- in utter chaos -- with untold thousands either dead, missing or suffering after Tuesday's earthquake near Port au Prince.

There has been precious little help. Precious little food. Precious little medical care.

The world is mobilizing to help, but the world does not reside in Haiti -- the cavalry, so to speak, is days away.

THIS WAS New Orleans in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. You'd be forgiven for thinking it a wet Haiti.

Much of the city was in ruins -- in utter chaos -- with untold thousands dead, missing or suffering in the aftermath of the storm and the collapse of the levees. There had been precious little help. Precious little food. Precious little medical care.

Haiti has its excuses, a particularly good one being that it happens to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. New Orleans, on the other hand, is found in the world's richest country.

Yet New Orleans looked -- in many respects, long has looked and still looks -- not dissimilar to Port au Prince. In NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams' special on Katrina from 2005, he said "I think this is going to change our society for a good, long while."

Perhaps he was speaking in terms of "dog years."

Somebody has some explaining to do.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

If not for the FBI. . . .

Among the great tragedies of Louisiana is the sad fact that its moral compass is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That is why this story -- which first came to light one year ago today in The Nation, more than three years after the fact -- is getting another of its sporadic moments of traction in New Orleans. And why is that? Because it's the focus of an FBI investigation.

What happened on Algiers Point in the days following Hurricane Katrina -- bands of white vigilantes shooting black "looters" at will and cops allegedly carrying out executions -- got some small local attention when The Nation and Pro Publica broke the story. More likely, though, you'd find far more attention paid in places like this.

TO BE FAIR, the story of Algiers Point and other instances of alleged police misconduct pops up in the Times-Picayune (most notably in a recent series) or on one TV station or another when there are fresh developments in the federal investigation.

The latest is a report on WWL-TV:
“King was yelling out the window, my brother got shot, my brother got shot,” Tanner said.

Suddenly nine or 10 officers pointed guns at them, Tanner said. He said the police immediately handcuffed all three of them, leaving Glover still bleeding in the back seat.

“We handcuffed, his brother yelling, ‘help, my brother,’ – this and that and that. He still acting hysterical,” Tanner said. “A black cop came through the ranks and slapped him so hard I felt the slap, and knocked him out.”

Tanner said the police might have assumed they were looters, but swears he had done nothing wrong and there was no evidence he had done anything wrong.
But he said they accused them of all kinds of things.

"You niggers come out there and beat up, you know, tourists and everything like that, mugging them and everything like that," Tanner said.

He said they then began beating them.

“The cop kicked me two times in the stomach around my ribs and hit me with an m-16 rifle with a laser sight, right on my cheek right here,” Tanner said. “So I was hurting.”

He said the officers threw the three of them into the back of a squad car and kept them there for hours. He said they took his toolbox, jumper cables and a gas can out of his car. Then the officer who had beat him drove off in his car, he said.

Tanner said he was afraid for his life. Then a policewoman he had met previously appeared to intervene for them, and the police released them.

“If she hadn’t did what she did, they probably would a shot us or killed us,” Tanner said.

Just days later, private investigator Michael Orsini and his partner found Tanner's charred car with human remains inside.

BUT THE POINT IS, and the fact remains, that Louisiana is perfectly happy to keep all the ugliness under wraps -- far away from both disinfecting sunlight and the judicial process -- until the national press and the FBI force its hand.

This says nothing good about the state's press corps or about the prospects for any semblance of a civic society taking root there after three centuries of entropy.

One only can hope the FBI also is investigating this as well. It's important.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Ugly American

Like a stopped clock, the Ugly American is correct twice a day.

Or, in former New Orleans "recovery czar" Ed Blakely's case, twice in a couple of years and change.

The story of Mr. Disaster Recovery in the Big Easy -- cette Americain Vilain -- is a typical story of les Americains descending upon a foreign country, figuring out (more or less) what the deal is pretty quickly, then embarking upon quixotic quests to pound large square pegs into teeny round holes.

THIS ALWAYS goes rather disastrously. The natives grow to hate the Ugly Americans, bombs are thrown, casualties mount, and the Ugly Americans pronounce the backward locals incorrigible.

Then comes the choice between overwhelming force and getting the hell out of Dodge -- and a quick look at the poll numbers (and the ledger) usually tips the balance in favor of hauling ass. Oftentimes, the Ugly American departs with a pithy benediction for the unkempt, uncouth masses left to deal with the mess les Americains made of, well, everything (as if the everyday, ordinary messes of the locals' own making weren't daunting enough):

I KNOW . . . I know. "Hey, you f***** up. You trusted us" is not what Ed Blakely said. I know Otter, and the erstwhile "recovery czar" is no Otter.

Neidermeyer, maybe.

On the other hand, you have to admit that Neidermeyer was kinda right when he told Flounder he was "worthless and weak."

Nevertheless, that's where we stand -- Ed Blakely is your typical Ugly American in a Third World dystopia. He basically knows the problem; he basically knows how things ought to be, but he has absolutely no idea how to get from here to there.

And he damn well isn't going to stick around long enough to figure it out. Or win any "hearts and minds."

AYE, BUT HERE be the rub: Somebody's got to. We have met the enemy, he talks and acts funny, and we think we saw his kind when some junta took over some Central American country or another . . . and he, inexplicably, is us.

Louisiana -- New Orleans -- is not American, not culturally or temperamentally. The city and state face terrible problems that, in many respects, are not "American" in size or scope, and they prove resistant to public-policy medications formulated for different strains of dysfunction.

They can be fixed, but only with the application of overwhelming force and decades of "nation building." And who can afford that? Who has patience for that?

Thus the Vietnam bugout. And the ongoing Iraq bugout. And the coming Afghanistan bugout -- one way or another.

And bugging out is an entirely reasonable thing to do under the dictum, "When you find yourself in a deep hole, quit digging." Obviously, it was a reasonable move for an Ugly American who'd dug himself as deep a hole as Ed Blakely.

THANKS TO WHAT Thomas Jefferson did in 1803, however, not every American (most especially the federal government) has the luxury of Blakely's "wham bam, thank you, ma'am" act.

Something's got to give -- and soon enough, it will.