Monday, September 12, 2005

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Katrina is all Alan Greenspan's fault

No, I'm just kidding. But as much of the blogosphere is focused on the New York Times autopsy of what went wrong with Katrina. However, for sheer weirdness, Tina Susman's account in Newsday has better anecdotes. Consider this snippet, for example:

When troops arrived in numbers large enough to fan out across the city, their roles at times seemed questionable. Some adopted a warlike demeanor, adding to tensions among the rattled population.

On Friday, a group of heavily armed Federal Reserve police officers, rifles on their shoulders, made their way down St. Charles Avenue, the one in the rear spinning around and stalking backward as if on a commando mission. They took up combat positions as they moved toward the Federal Reserve building to install the flag, even though their nearest companions were stray dogs, journalists and pigeons. (emphasis added)

Bizarre as it sounds, this job description does in fact mention that, "Federal Reserve Police Officers may also serve on our emergency response or emergency medical teams."

Anyway, read both accounts and then see if anyone deserves to be removed from -- or added to -- Belle Waring's list of shame.

posted by Dan on 09.12.05 at 12:08 AM


A New Orleans downtown post-hurricane blogger ( mentioned federal marshalls who showed up wearing ski masks and carrying M-16s. Our obscure federal services are just waiting for a chance to put on the jackboots and play paramilitary, it seems.

posted by: Dylan on 09.12.05 at 12:08 AM [permalink]

Are federal marshalls really part of an "obscure federal service?" Even after J-Lo played one (sans ski mask, natch)? Are bloggers upset about the ski mask or the M-16? Maybe the dude was having a bad hair day--or maybe he thought it would help with the smell. Does it really matter? Should rescuers be screened for jackbooting tendencies? Maybe you'd like to wade through chest-high muck yourself, Dylan, show them how it's done in a culturally sensitive, yet safety conscious way?

I'm already beyond sick of the coverage of this thing. I daresay most fellow Americans are as well. The Chicago Tribune has run a growing trickle of stories on the displaced persons coming to town--like all northern ports, we are filling just a tiny fraction of the spaces available--which I predict will dampen public anger about initial bungling of the govt's reponse. The tone of survivors interviewed is very human, understandably emotional, and also faintly irritating.

They say, in essence: We miss our homes, our family, our routines, our normality. We are grateful for the help offered by the rest of the country (and world). However (I paraphrase, but only slightly) we have no interest in spending more than a few weeks in your cold-ass cities. We're going back to our coastal paradise, to rebuild at your expense. We'll send you a postcard and a gynormous bill. Come down and visit next winter. We should be back in our underinsured federally subsidized hurricane-plagued houses by then.

Now, I understand Chicago is cold in the winter. So is most of the country. Many people would rather live within spitting distance of the ocean, where warm breezes keep the ice from freezing in January and your car doesn't need to be deiced after a stop at the 7-11 for milk. But those of us who live where natural disasters occur only rarely are not going to fork over all our tax money indefinitely to support the lifestyle of those who don't like snow.

I think as we move from the initial horror of the hurricane into the cleanup and rebuilding period we're likely to hear less about who didn't do what for the first 24-48-72 hours and more about where we all go from here. I look forward to that debate. Should be interesting.

posted by: Kelli on 09.12.05 at 12:08 AM [permalink]


How is the guy who rebuilds in New Orleans different than the guy who rebuilds in Miami? I have a feeling we don't get to get out of the rebuilding business unless that is permanent. And I don't think the ex-New Yorkers who are thawing out their retired rear ends in Ft. lauderdale are going to much like it if they don't get some Federal help to replace a dream home that gets blown out to sea.

I live in Atlanta. I refuse to live or own property on the coast because of hurricanes. Who needs the grief? But, come on. Even if there is some dictatorial Federal decree that New Orleans shall be no more (except as a National Historic Park), they will be compensated for their lost property in the same way anybody else who has loat property.

And, for heavens sakes, how would you like it if Nature wrecked your house and denied you your favorite Polish restaurant, your favorite coffee shop, and all the things that define your life. Multiply that by two for a southerner -- understand that one can't even get decent ice tea once you get north of Kentucky (let alone a tasty oyster po boy). Multiply that another two for anyone fromn Louisiana, which has a culture that is really quite distinct from the rest of the South, let alone the US. They wanna go home where folks understand them and don't talk funny and serve up food that they figure is fit to eat. They want the lives they lived back, right now. That's human.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 09.12.05 at 12:08 AM [permalink]


I came off pretty cold, to be sure. We'll blame the climate (it's 92-plus today, so that's a tough sell). Still, I'm trying to ask tough questions and I won't apologize for that. You ask what the difference between rebuilding in Miami and New Orleans might be. Are you serious? Miami may be in a precarious spot, weatherwise, but it's not sinking faster than Jude Law's career. It's a troubled but dynamic city that continues to draw businesses, residents and tourists, while setting itself up as the unofficial capital of Latin America. Miami is about more than beignets.

By comparison, New Orleans is a long-term unmitigated disaster: declining population, decrepit infrastructure, precarious geography, high crime. It's own DEFENDERS accede Katrina has wiped clean (in a hideous, brutal way) a malodorous slate.

Seriously, AM, give me one good reason why the govt shouldn't give every resident of the city who has lost her/his home $100 to 200K if they agree to move elsewhere and rebuild their lives? Sure, rebuild in the high ground, restore some wetlands and rebuild levees, but bank on a city one-fourth the size of what it was. What's wrong with that?

And as for how I would feel if suddenly deprived of my favorite Polish restaurant--favorite?? how would I choose?--let me say that I have lived in both the North and the South (though never so far south as yourself) and found good things in both regions. Were I in the position of a New Orleanian today, I can confidently say that I would choose a destination for the next year or so that offered a good mix of schools for my kids, jobs for me and the hubbie, and stability until I could go back (if I were so inclined) weather and sandwich availability would be way down the list!

posted by: Kelli on 09.12.05 at 12:08 AM [permalink]


While you may have come off cold, I may have come off a bit flip. Sorry. And by the way, I think the misery of New Orleans summer (which starts in May and goes to october) is as bad (and as expensive to deal with) as a Cleveland winter. (I can't speak for Chicago, having only been there in October and November.) Hot and sweaty is only sexy in the movies...

My guess is that a lot of people will not return to NO. they will take their insurance payments and live in Houston, or open a creole restaurant in Atlanta (we need one!). NO is a lovely place, as long as you aren't black and living in the wrong part of town, and it's November. But a lot of people will return. They have that right. They will do so in full knowledge that this could happen again, and maybe they should pay some extra taxes or insurance for that right.

But there will be some who can't imagine their life anywhere else, and make a decision to go back. They shouldn't be mocked or scorned, particularly if they choose to pay for extra levee protection that ought to be part of the package. New Orleans, for both good and ill, has a culture that is so different than, say, Houston, Chicago, San Antonio or Atlanta, that those born and bred in NO are going to have a hard time in other cities.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 09.12.05 at 12:08 AM [permalink]

Kelli, it was the ski masks that he (and I) found excessive and absurd. What possible reason do these guys have to hide their identity? This was daylight, where there wasn't even a camoflaging pale skin excuse to be made.

By "obscure" I meant "minor," which really includes everyone but the FBI. DEA and BATF officers shouldn't be playing like they're Rambo, either. Professionalism, people.

posted by: Dylan on 09.12.05 at 12:08 AM [permalink]

I'm already beyond sick of the coverage of this thing.

The people I know who are from New Orleans are sick of this thing, too. They'd like to go back home. They'd like to get back to work. They'd like to see their friends and neighbors. In their neighborhood. They'd like to be running their businesses again. They'd like to be on their porches. They'd like to be arguing about the Saints, Tulane and LSU.

They'd like half of their city not to still be underwater. They'd like not to have had their livelihoods swept away. They'd like not to have to register their children for school in strange cities. They'd like their family heirlooms not to have sunk in muck or gone up in smoke.

They'd also like you to remember. For more than a week.

posted by: Doug on 09.12.05 at 12:08 AM [permalink]

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