New Orleans is destroyed

New Orleans has been destroyed. Even after the water is pumped out - in 3 or 4 months - the next order of business will probably be to condemn and demolish a quarter or more of the city's housing stock. Thankfully some of the people forced to stay behind were rescued.

It is incredible that the focus now in news reports seems to be on looting. Hello... people are dying. People are dying because they could not afford to leave their city. Don't we have better things to worry about?

Let's make the situation perfectly clear. Wealthier residents of New Orleans were able to flee the endangered city, using their own resources, and abandoning whatever property they could not take with them. Let us also stress that they essentially abandoned their fellow, poorer and overwhelmingly black, citizens to their fate. So poor people, left to die a horrible death from drowning or disease, are now getting shit from observers in their safe, happy middle-class homes for taking abandoned property.

Once again, we have to turn to newspapers outside of the US (here, the Guardian) to get the straight story on this betrayal of the lower classes:

Professor Dumas added that not enough provision seemed to have been made for poor people. "There doesn't seem to have been much attention paid to people who didn't have private automobiles," he said. "I didn't hear anything about school buses or city buses being used to aim people out of town." He said that there appeared to be little forward planning to cater to those on low incomes who would be unable to return to their homes for up to two months but who would not have the money to pay for that time in a hotel.

The racists who want to take a "hard line" to looting in New Orleans or curse the "cussedness" of those staying behind actually should be looking elsewhere to see what real looting looks like. Don't know? Let me show you:

Over $5/gallon in Georgia. Who are the real looters? When the poor use the "two hands that god gave them", that's "looting". But when the rich do it, that's just "good business" or, even better, "inviolable market forces".

Any government official giving an order for police or National Guard to prioritize dealing with looters over helping stranded residents (insofar as the looters are not hindering rescue efforts) is a criminal and will have blood on his or her hands.

Hell, people trying to get out of the fucking city by any means possible have to deal with gun-toting Texas rednecks:

Meanwhile, as New Orleans drowns, Bush fiddles:

Bush will, without a doubt, go down in history as one of the most incompetent and foolish leaders of all time, along with Nero, Louis XVI, and Czar Nicholas II. Don't believe me? Take a look at this quote from Bush's luxury fly-over of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast:

Turning to his aides, he said: "It's totally wiped out. ... It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground."

You think? Only "double" the devastation that a pampered fool can imagine from his luxury plane, doing a circle or two and then going back to DC?

Why did this happen? For sure, hurricanes are a fact of life along the Gulf Coast. But that's the entire point: they are a fact of life, and therefore you plan ahead as best you can and make preparations for the worst case. But that explicitly did not happen with New Orleans: resources for levee maintenance were diverted to the war in Iraq, natural barriers to storms were deliberately degraded by the needs of big business and development, and few people gave a shit. Again, from the Guardian article:

"Human activity, directly or indirectly, has caused 1,500 square miles of natural coastal barriers to be eroded in the past 50 years. Human activity has clearly been a significant factor in coastal Louisiana land losses, along with subsidence, saltwater intrusion, storm events, barrier island degradation, and relative sea level changes," the society said in a paper last year.

The war in Iraq was also being seen as playing a part in the federal response to the crisis. Many members of the National Guard who would normally have been swiftly mobilised to help in evacuation are on duty in Iraq. Although US air force, navy and army units were deployed to assist, the locally-based National Guard is depleted by the demands of the war.

The corps has long wanted to strengthen some of the levees which have been sinking, and on its website yesterday said it planned to build a further 74 miles of hurricane defences. But according to local media, it was last year refused extra funding by the White House which wanted to save money to pay for homeland security against terrorism. "In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for south-east Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4m, a sixth of what local officials say they need," reported Newhouse News Service yesterday.

Last year Walter Maestri, emergency chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, one of the worst affected areas, reportedly told the Times-Picayune newspaper: "It appears that the money [for strengthening levees against hurricanes] has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Calling this criminal negligence is dead wrong. This is just fucking criminal. The people responsible should pay.

In the meantime, good luck to all of those still in New Orleans and those out but with no place in the world to go. I hope y'all make it ok.

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