Sunday, September 11, 2005



America in a nutshell II

I skipped over the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina last week because I was in Auckland and Not BloggingTM - but they just get more and more horrifying, and demonstrate even further that the United States is a sick society that does not give a rat's arse about its poorest, weakest, and most vulnerable members. There's the story I read on the plane up, about how when buses finally began arriving to evacuate the New Orleans superdome, (rich, white) guests from the Hyatt hotel over the road were bumped to the head of the queue. There's the piece I saw on TV, about the residents of an old people's home who were simply left to die by their caregivers, their bodies found a week later floating next to their wheelchairs. And then there's the report (via Kevin Drum) that police from neighbouring jurisdictions stopped people from leaving New Orleans at gunpoint because they simply did not want to have overwhelmingly poor, overwhelmingly black refugees even passing through their neighbourhoods on the way to safety:

"We shut down the bridge," Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, confirmed to United Press International, adding that his jurisdiction had been "a closed and secure location" since before the storm hit.

[...]

The bridge in question -- the Crescent City Connection -- is the major artery heading west out of New Orleans across the Mississippi River.

Lawson said that once the storm itself had passed Monday, police from Gretna City, Jefferson Parrish and the Louisiana State Crescent City Connection Police Department closed to foot traffic the three access points to the bridge closest to the West Bank of the river.

[...]

"If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

And so people who could have simply walked to safety were instead trapped for five days in a Hobbesean hell-hole. The official bungling which has marred the relief effort is one thing, but this is simply utter callousness - or as Drum puts it, "calculated savagery". What the hell sort of society does this...?

16 comments:

Hard to argue with any of the above assesment, but don't be too hasty on castigating this monolith called 'America'. Most Americans (at least up this way) are absolutely beside themselves with outrage. It's their country too, but unfortunately they're battling quasi-fascism with its roots in the bible belt and the small towns. What this atrocity does show is the absolute moral decrepitude of the Republican/right vision of America. Ghettoed segregation and wealth or death. Whether this tragedy will have any impact on the religious nuts and the 'conservatives' remains, sadly to be seen. But go easy on the 48-50% of American moderates. Just think if people started blaming you (as a NZer) for Don Brash's policies, in the unhappy event that he becomes PM...

Posted by Adrienne : 9/11/2005 12:31:00 PM

Some Pommie blogs are spewing at the fact UK tourists were also routinely ignored in any evac. efforts.
They're rather reasonably asking what kind of friend/ally treats their closest ally in that way.

Posted by Huskynut : 9/11/2005 02:13:00 PM

The question is what exactly is the problem that caused this.
It would seem there is an issue with the independance of various areas and a sort of "resource management act" effect that allows locals to control the usage of resources against the public good.

Posted by GeniusNZ : 9/11/2005 02:13:00 PM

The TV report I say said the owner/manager of the rest home also died because she stayed behind to look after her residents.

Also, according to the TV report, she TURNED DOWN the offer of buses to evacuate the residents before the hurricane hit, only changing her mind after it was too late.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/11/2005 02:37:00 PM

Also worrying is this report about mercenaries being in New Orleans
http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/2861

Posted by balach : 9/11/2005 04:12:00 PM

> but unfortunately they're battling quasi-fascism

actually its a lack of fascism that is the problem in this case. A facist state would have delt with the problem immediatly and would have had "trains running on time" taking everyone everywhere they needed to go.

Curiously there are all sorts of people complaining about big government (maybe not you of course) who then turn to blaming the government when it isn't big enough.

And individuals who could have driven a car in and saved people who instead blame "the government", but not themselves, for not doing it.

Posted by Genius : 9/11/2005 05:29:00 PM

here's a link to a story from people on the other side of the bridge facing those same cops trying to leave

They'd been to a conference in NO - just passing thru - scary for me because it's something I've done myself 3 times in the past 3 years

Posted by Anonymous : 9/11/2005 07:30:00 PM

Thought I would corroborate Anon's comment. The owner of the rest home died as well as those in care, I'm sure I saw that on CNN.

Posted by T : 9/11/2005 10:47:00 PM

The whole thing has been a cluster fuck from start to finish. Brilliant planning leaving people in a dangerous situtation while 100s of school buses ended up underwater because no one thought to use them in the evacuation effort.

Now the hush up has started with the army blocking access to CNN.

Posted by stef : 9/12/2005 12:16:00 AM

Adrienne: yes - and that's the hopeful sign. People are angry, and if they direct that anger, we may see some change. It happened in the Gilded Age and in the Depression, and it can happen again if people scream loud enough.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/12/2005 01:02:00 AM

And yet Mississippi, hit harder than Tennessee, was an exemplar of orderly conduct. No one shooting the black man. And all those people donating millions of dollars. Hmmm. Could this be America too? Nah, it'd ruin your halfarsed diatribe.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/12/2005 07:11:00 AM

Who's talking about Tennessee? New Orleans isn't in Tenessee...

Posted by Adrienne : 9/12/2005 11:58:00 AM

Whoops, Louisiana sorry. Anyway, Mississippi shows how it should work even in the evil empire. Or maybe it's just that GOP governors care more about their people?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/12/2005 05:16:00 PM

Before Katrina, Shoei and I had discussed emergency preparation plans, now we've actually done it. We have around a hundred litres of water in the garage, propane cookers, food, first aid stuff, bin liners, candles, torches, radio, batteries, bleach, sunlight soap, the whole works.

And after looking at NZ civil defence, it used to be three days, then we rescue you. Now it's three days, and they will "support" you.

Shoei's also looking at renewing his amature radio stuff because communications seems to be one of those major points of confusion and failure.

If most of us do the same, we can cope by ourselves, because I just don't have faith in the cavalry coming to whisk us off to safety.

Although to be fair I also don't see the gang violence and shooting as being such an issue as it was in NO.

Posted by muerk : 9/13/2005 01:29:00 AM

Funny, Muerk, I've always kept that list of emergency gear you've listed; its not so much emergency gear as standard stuff that I keep on hand at all times.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 9/13/2005 11:26:00 AM

Yes, but you're a Bruce. You probably had waterproof matches given to you on your 10th birthday :)

Besides, we did have most things, it was the water and cooker we didn't have. And we've put them all together too, for quick access.

Posted by muerk : 9/13/2005 02:18:00 PM