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September 8, 2005

Welcome to the Insurgency (Here’s Your Accordion)
Posted by Patrick at 01:47 PM * 65 comments

Lizzy Lynn asks:

One wonders: one of the reasons the Powers That Be were able to get away with this shit is that the media bought all the stories about “looting” and “insurrection.” They were used. Is there any part of the media—print, TV, whatever—that is capable of self-examination and can see this? Are they able to get mad about it? Or is all this insurrection-talk going to become part of the popular myth about what “really” happened in NO when Katrina hit, and end up being used as the justification for the government’s wretched behavior?

Just in case anyone missed this stuff: Matt Welch questions the accepted narrative here. Lenin’s Tomb asks very similar questions here. Digby reminds us of America’s long history of this kind of thing here.

The famously left-wing Chicago Tribune(1) provides background:

BATON ROUGE, La.—They locked down the entrance doors Thursday at the Baton Rouge hotel where I’m staying alongside hundreds of New Orleans residents driven from their homes by Hurricane Katrina.

“Because of the riots,” the hotel managers explained. Armed Gunmen from New Orleans were headed this way, they had heard.

“It’s the blacks,” whispered one white woman in the elevator. “We always worried this would happen.” […]

All it took to set the rumor mills in motion were the first TV pictures broadcast Tuesday showing some looters—many of them black—smashing store windows in downtown New Orleans. Reports later in the week of sporadic violence and shootings among the desperate throngs outside the Superdome clamoring to be rescued only added to the panic.

By Thursday, local TV and radio stations in Baton Rouge—the only ones in the metro area still able to broadcast—were breezily passing along reports of cars being hijacked at gunpoint by New Orleans refugees, riots breaking out in the shelters set up in Baton Rouge to house the displaced, and guns and knives being seized.

Scarcely any of it was true. […]

Of course there was violence in post-flood New Orleans. Pre-flood New Orleans wasn’t exactly an oasis of municipal peace. But it couldn’t be clearer that it was exaggerated by several orders of magnitude, and that these exaggerations have now been used to justify treating law-abiding Americans, many of them sick, injured, or exhausted; many of them people who faithfully followed the rules…as an “insurgency” to be corralled, detained, and abused.

This will continue. As the happy new century winds on, it will happen to other Americans. It will happen to some of you.
—-
(1) Joke.

Comments on Welcome to the Insurgency (Here's Your Accordion):
#1 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:06 PM:

This neatly ties in w/ the post on the thread below where evidence is coming out that 2 days of the delay was due to Bushites wanting the Gov. of Louisianz to declare that an armed insurgency or rebellion against the govt was going on in New Orleans so the feds could completely strip the state of any power whatsoever under the Insurrection Act, declare martial law and essentially domestic war on the remaining inhabitants.

Guess they took the longer route of just letting them die of dehydration. Same result.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:09 PM:

Sorry, I'm at work, hadn't caught that one yet. Why in god's name did they want to declare war on the Louisiana delta?

#4 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:15 PM:

But it couldn’t be clearer that it was exaggerated by several orders of magnitude, and that these exaggerations have now been used to justify treating law-abiding Americans, many of them sick, injured, or exhausted; many of them people who faithfully followed the rules…as an “insurgency” to be corralled, detained, and abused.

Further proof that when you assume everyone is True Evil, you screw over the Lawful Neutral.

Most people *want* to follow the law and help their fellow man. It's only a small percentage of the population who give the rest of us a bad name, and here they are, being exploited as a means to screw over the masses. Anyone else starting to feel the boot on their faces?

#5 ::: Anna ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:16 PM:

I can't take this anymore.

I am a Canadian resident, I am currently living in the UK. From here... what can I do? I want to do something about the insanity that is running the US government right now, and I am absolutely stumped. I have no idea. I can't vote, I can't do anything. Is there something we who are not in the US can do to stop this insanity from running straight into the fall of the Roman Empire?

#6 ::: JoshD ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:37 PM:

Teresa, re WTF:

A summary.

The WaPo article

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state’s emergency operations center said Saturday.

If someone could tell me that this is, in fact, not true, I would be profoundly grateful.

#7 ::: Eric Jarvis ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:41 PM:

Is there any part of the media—print, TV, whatever—that is capable of self- examination and can see this?

No, at least not often. For a case in point take a look at coverage of the furore in the UK over Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, "comparing a journalist to a nazi war criminal". Early on a couple of newspapers printed a fairly full transcript of the exchange. In fact what Livingstone did was point out that the excuse "I was only doing my job" was used by concentration camp guards and war criminals at Nuremburg. However yo wouldn't know that from any of the later coverage. Every single journalist in the UK seems to think that they only issue is Livingstone's comments. They do this because the alternative would be to accept that journalists should be held to the normal standards of manners that the rest of us are.

One of the problems is that having TV news 24/7 means a never ending search for excitement and controversy. So we get to see the exciting and emotive footage, we get to hear the controversial comments, but we rarely get a journalist following the details of a story all the way through. It takes too long and there's almost always some new exciting footage to show instead.

Newspapers should be dealing with this. I don't know how it's working in the USA, but over here they mostly seem to be ducking the challenge or dealing with only one partisan side of the story.

#8 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:48 PM:

Patrick writes: This will continue. As the happy new century winds on, it will happen to other Americans. It will happen to some of you.

And, once again, the invaluable Billmon explains why it will happen.

"Of course, a humid, polluted metropolis that combines the innovative urban planning of Sugarland, Texas with the vibrant, multiethnic culture of Greenwich, Conn. might not be quite as big of a tourist draw. I know I won't go back, anyway. But we should probably try to look on the bright side: In the new New Orleans, city residents might actually be able to cross the river to Gretna without getting shot at."

I want a bigger accordion.

#9 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 02:58 PM:

TNH: Why in god's name did they want to declare war on the Louisiana delta?

My understanding is that if martial law is declared, the federal government gets to hand out a bunch of emergency no-bid contracts.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:04 PM:

So they're holding the city's population hostage to force Governor Blanco to declare martial law so they can pick up a whole bunch of new opportunities to loot the public?

That does it. Enough is enough. Does anyone here know how you go about appealing to the United Nations for help?

#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:04 PM:

TNH: Why in god's name did they want to declare war on the Louisiana delta?

My understanding is that if martial law is declared, the federal government gets to hand out a bunch of emergency no-bid contracts.

And it ties with the theory I heard floated about the recent recall election in California: force the state government into complete gridlock, declare it unable to function (complete breakdown of government), and the feds move in and take over.

I'm somehow less than surprised by seeing it come up again.


#12 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:04 PM:

Sorry, I'm at work, hadn't caught that one yet. Why in god's name did they want to declare war on the Louisiana delta?

Oil.

[liveblogging the counter-revolution/second war of northern aggression/second american revolution from work]

#13 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:22 PM:

T: I suspect it's simpler than oil and contracts and all of that, all of those things are spinoffs. They want more power. They have some power which they gained in a way that may or may not be legitimate (I still don't know if that was an election in November or the accidents of an election, the Roman Republic continued to have the accidents of consular elections until the 9th century AD) but that looks legitimate, and this looked to them like an opportunity to get more power in a way that looks legitimate. Power gives you things like oil and the opportunity to reward your friends with contracts, and power, once taken up in a way that looks legitimate, doesn't always have a simple way to be taken away again.

I don't know how you would appeal to the UN or what they could do if you did.

I don't know if you could impeach Bush. I don't see any way it's likely to happen.

Half of the US believes Bush is doing a good job, according to a poll Jordin posted here, and that, if true in the face of all this, is the worst thing of all.

#14 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:26 PM:

And the latest political non-sequitur from people who have rose-colored glasses:

Cheney: Disaster relief effort 'very impressive'

#15 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:27 PM:

My head is going to explode.

I knew the Administration was evil. I knew they were up to a bunch of conspiracy-laden evil things in their smoke-filled, Rove & Cheney dominated back rooms. I knew that they were objectively wrong in every way I could think of, on nearly every issue I could think of.

But never, ever in my wildest dreams could I have come up with a scenario like this and call it plausible. And every day I think, "this will be the catalyst; this will be the thing that wakes people up and gets them to smell the Republicans."

And yet, just before my folks left from here the other day (they were visiting us here in Michigan; they live in SC), my mom got an email from one of her acquaintances from home and actually started to swear. This is a big deal, because I do not get my dirty little mouth from her. She rarely swears. She'd gotten some commentary on the Katrina aftermath and it upset her a little.

The email said: "Those damned democrats!"

#16 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:38 PM:

One of the problems is that having TV news 24/7 means a never ending search for excitement and controversy. So we get to see the exciting and emotive footage, we get to hear the controversial comments, but we rarely get a journalist following the details of a story all the way through. It takes too long and there's almost always some new exciting footage to show instead.

I have had the CNN on practically non-stop since this mess began. What I have heard, again and again and again, is this:

"Random Reporter, you have been working for us for ten/fifteen/seventeen years, you have covered for us the worst wars and disasters, Bosnia, Rwanda... Did you ever thought you'd see this in an American city?"

Random Reporter, nonplussed by the non-sequitur, usually changes the subject, for example saying: "Joe Anchor, the situation is not improving here on the ground... these people have gone five days without food or water..."

And the other variation is: "Everybody is telling us that the looting and the unrest is very bad there, what can you tell us about it?"

Now, apart from the famous case of the sniper who shot the helicopters, every other reporter or doctor or random witness said: "Well, to be honest, I haven't seen much of that, what I've mostly seen is people trying to find food and waters, and yes, they have been breaking into stores but mostly to find something to eat and drink..."

Everybody on the ground said this.

But the spin was already on the news before. It got reinforced by people in Mississippi saying "well, I don't know about New Orleans, but we haven't had much looting or violence here..."

#17 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:40 PM:

In the latest case of surreality caused by pre-recorded television, one of "today's" Price is Right Showcases was for an all expenses-paid trip to New Orleans...and a speedboat!

Yes, it's Fark, no, it's not a joke (beware: annoying click-through ad).

#18 ::: arto ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:43 PM:

And the latest political non-sequitur from people who have rose-colored glasses:

Cheney: Disaster relief effort 'very impressive'

Well, it certainly is making an impression. Probably not the one Cheney thinks it is, but an impression nonetheless.

#19 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:51 PM:

Joy . . . CNN footage of a heckler interrupting a Cheney photo-op with a could-be-angrier "Fuck you, Mr. Cheney."

#20 ::: patita ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 03:58 PM:

Adding to the frightening long list of what's disturbing, there's no sign of what happened to the heckler afterward.

#21 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:02 PM:

Stefan - they let a regular person in? I'm SHOCKED!

There was a rumor that random folks were locked out of the Superdome today, in advance of a presidential visit. I haven't seen anything on the news about this (we're talking a couple of hundred people who'd gone outside for a while, some of whom left family members inside). Can anyone confirm/deny?

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:11 PM:

While Cheney spoke, a passer-by hurled an expletive at the vice president. "First time I've heard it," Cheney said, when asked if he was hearing a lot of such sentiments.

This was in Gulfport. Or what's left of it.

Most of the people Cheney met with were friendly. Lynne Lofton, whose house further down the street was completely destroyed, was an exception.

"I think this media opportunity today is a terrible waste of time and taxpayer money," she said. "They've picked a nice neighborhood where people have insurance and most are Republicans."

I guess she wanted them to visit a neighborhood which is (choose one or more) not nice, uninsured, or mostly Democrats. Not that Cheney would go near a neighborhood like that: he might hear expletives, or unvarnished opinions of the aid that was sent.

#23 ::: Barry Ragin ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:11 PM:

Laurie - Crooks and Liars has the video of the Cheney photo op in Gulfport.

#24 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:14 PM:

I was gonna say pretty much what Jo said. Though of course she said it better. They're just fascists at heart you know?

MKK

#25 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:39 PM:

I'm no expert on American constitutional law: can you help me here?

Hypothesis: Shrub wanted La. to declare martial law not because he was thinking small (contracts for cronies on a no-bid basis) but because he was thinking big (roll up the federal system and stick it in the waste bin).

What are the advantages for a group who adhere to a vanguard party doctrine (primarily acquired by the neocons during their university salad days as trots), and who hold the federal institutions (presidency, congress, senate, supreme court) in permitting the states to remain semi-independent? After all, a number of them don't vote for the party of government: so why not cut 'em down to size?

What I'm thinking is, once martial law is declared, it can be retrained throughout the period during which a threat persists. And as we've seen, threats can be manufactured wholesale (if necessary, by turning a large minority of the population into "insurgents").

From this angle, the mismanagement of New Orleans in a manner calculated to amplify the chaos in the short term could be a prototype run at converting all the states -- or at least the blue ones with the inconveniently non-compliant population centers -- into federal emergency zones. I hate to imagine the pretext they'd have to come out with to extend the experiment to another twenty or so states (a nuclear war with Iran? Bird flu? I'm sure they'd have a number of options to hand) but if they can do it to one state, they can do it to the others.

What would such a takeover buy them? And am I being way too paranoid here?

#26 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:50 PM:

What would such a takeover buy them? And am I being way too paranoid here?

Bush and his cronies are rent-seekers. They are manipulating the system so that money and power will flow to them perpetually, regardless of whether they've earned it. However, whether that explains their behavior towards Louisiana is speculative. There are some other things that we do know for sure: Bush and his cronies are control-freaks, they thrive on chaos and misfortune, and they never miss a chance to stick it to their political enemies in the most malicious way possible.

#27 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 04:53 PM:

Also, their absolute mastery of smear tactics, play-acting, and spin-control is matched only by their utter incompetence at doing anything worthwhile.

#28 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 05:05 PM:

I'm just today beginning to suspect that what we've seen was not a failure. It was the plan. Sealing off the city until a sufficient military force is in place to take it is the plan. Using all available civil and military forces to deliver relief is not the plan, though that is what people imagined was the plan, and that it had failed. This is the future of Homeland Security. This is what to expect in the event of another natural disaster or mass-casualty attack.

As for the reconstruction, well that can be handled by Haliburton and other favoured companies.

#29 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 05:14 PM:

Okay, folks, I'm sufficiently frightened. Now what do we do? How do we fight this? How do we end it and prevent it from spreading? I'd rather start fighting it now than when the guys with guns show up in my neighborhood and lock it down. Let's talk about how to do that.

#30 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 05:19 PM:

Ken, I'm trying to remember where I read it ... but I seem to recall some rather overtly salivating discussions of the prospects for reconstruction moolah in Serbia and Bosnia. What the west bombeth, the west can rebuildeth, one Halliburton contract at a time. If we pan back a little to take in the big picture, one may consider the prospects for a non-consumer-oriented capitalist growth economy that no longer relies on fulfilling our desires (after all, we're pesky and fussy and tend to buy all the wrong stuff, like fair trade bananas and third world handicrafts) but instead relies on rebuilding after one disaster or another, whether natural or man-made. Of which there are going to be many more, if we persist in driving the engine of climate change.

It's lunacy, but I can see it appealing to a certain sociopathic mind-set.

#31 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 05:22 PM:

If nobody's already pinned a name on this postmodern nightmare, can I offer the monicker "disaster capitalism"?

First they came for the Bosnian taxpayers,

Then they came for the Iraqis,

Then for the Louisianans ...

#32 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 05:23 PM:

Re: the Strossian

What I'm thinking is, once martial law is declared, it can be retrained throughout the period during which a threat persists. And as we've seen, threats can be manufactured wholesale (if necessary, by turning a large minority of the population into "insurgents").

... is anyone else reminded of the Emergents from Vinge's "Deepness in the Sky"?

As to what this would buy them, the answers are pretty much the obvious ones. The United States has the legally weird notion of "dual sovereignty", in which the state monopoly on force is shared. What that means in practical terms is that so long as the state government remains functional, there is an alternate power structure in place which has the potential to act as a check on, well, whatever the Feds are up to...

#33 ::: Eric Jarvis ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 05:59 PM:

I don't think the governmental response is best analysed in terms of conscious conspiracy. The problem is the inherent contradictionn in their approach to governing. They are elitists by nature, and mostly control freaks, yet they believe in small government and individual freedom of choice. The former being gut reaction and the latter being an intellectual position.

So whilst there is no crisis they do what they can to starve the system of resources so that people will step in and replace government activities with private enterprise and charity. Then the moment there is a crisis they attempt to deal with it by controlling as much as possible.

That gives a situation where woefully inadequate resources are in place and in the charge of people instructed to control as much as possible.

The system might work if they were prepared to loosen the reigns in the way they profess to favour. It would also work if they gave it the necessary resources. As it stands it has to be a mess.

However they are elitists and see themselves as the elite. They are also largely "people of faith". What they have an awful lot of faith in is the idea that no matter what the evidence they are always right simply because they are the elite. So the mess can't be their fault. It must be down to other people behaving badly. So they attempt to impose control more forcefully.

Of course when it's al; over they will look at the evidence and decide that it proves that government is always inefficient and they'll do more to slim it down so that they can make an even bigger mess of the next crisis.

They are doing the best they can. It's not their fault that they are self important, prejudiced, arrogant, greedy, irresponsible fools. Is it?

Fortunately over here our equivalents have managed to produce their own internal crises and are busy self destructing. Sadly what has replaced them isn't as much better as we'd hoped.

#34 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 06:10 PM:

"Charles," I've actually had the Emergents on my mind for quite a while now, just as a metaphor for the way Bush & cronies have treated the U.S.A. Vernor Vinge is one of my favorite current sf writers, and I've read A Fire Upon the Deep several times, but I'm not sure I could bear to re-read A Deepness in the Sky for a long time.

#35 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 07:42 PM:

I'm sorry, I can't deal with the actual content of this post.

Patrick, I smiled for about half a second at "famously left-wing". That was good.

#36 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 08:16 PM:

Eric Jarvis -- excellent analysis. Thank you.

So the mess can't be their fault. It must be down to other people behaving badly. So they attempt to impose control more forcefully.

It also makes it very easy for them to believe anything that makes it look like other people are behaving badly. They already know that it's the other people who deserve the blame. All they have to do is find the evidence.

#37 ::: Fred A Levy Haskell ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 08:44 PM:

And of course you've read W's mummie's comments? "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this [chuckle]—this is working very well for them."

Welcome to BushWorld. It's not just the boy who's in the bubble …

#38 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 09:19 PM:

You know, this is not utterly unlike how the - mild, peaceful, it only seemed shocking at the time - "Battle of Seattle" felt from the edge I saw: that they reduced or restrained normal policing until there was enough property damage that they had an excuse to clear the streets entirely.

I still think policing could have kept the protests down to extremely unruly but never life- and rarely property-threatening behavior, because I know lots of the crowd was against property damage. But Seattle is still arguing over this, not that many people change their minds any more.

#39 ::: Richard ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 10:15 PM:

Ken - "I'm just today beginning to suspect that what we've seen was not a failure. It was the plan"

Looks like Spring in Baghdad, 2003, to me. Chaos, outrage, and if you look back it seems they took exactly what they'd decided to take, and all the rest can go to hell and look after itself however it wants, they just don't see that they have to bother about it.

#40 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 10:32 AM:

I'm as anti-the-Faux-Ranger as anyone here, I suspect...

...but I think some of the things creeping in at the end of this are a -bit- farfetched.

More likely, to me, is that in this case the Pres actually -does- want to do good, and sees a unified command-and-control structure as the way to do that. The fact that that would enrich Halliburton et. al., is probably just a (very) welcome bonus...

C'mon. Who can't look at the pictures there and -not- want to help? I loathe the Vacationing Chimp as much as the next guy... but what the hell would he -do- with a ruined city if he did get control of it? Hell, Iraq has oil. He's got his eye on that to ensure the future of the country (bad plan though it is, I can see exactly why they'd do it). New Orleans has... what, exactly? A port that was enriching him and his through export handling anyway?

FEMA blew chunks on this one, and it's because they were starved to death. The National Guard were in the wrong place because they were incompetently sent there. People were let die because they were poor. Bush & co are trying to find an angle to exploit...

...but I just can't see ascribing some strange "take over the states" to an even nominal republican, who wants -less- to worry about and -less- to stand in the way of his making money and exploiting the world, not the counterproductive headaches of centrallizing states under military command.

#41 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 10:45 AM:

I arrived at work this morning with a particularly vile package waiting in my inbox, gift-wrapped by a relative who really ought to know better, with Bill O'Reilly's name next to mine in the list of recipient addresses and a label that read "The Story You Won't Get from the Mainstream Media."

This is what they're getting fed over on the "neo-reality" side of the aisle:

If this is just a natural disaster, the response for public officials is obvious: you bring in food, water, and doctors; you send transportation to evacuate refugees to temporary shelters; you send engineers to stop the flooding and rebuild the city's infrastructure. For journalists, natural disasters also have a familiar pattern: the heroism of ordinary people pulling together to survive; the hard work and dedication of doctors, nurses, and rescue workers; the steps being taken to clean up and rebuild.

Public officials did not expect that the first thing they would have to do is to send thousands of armed troops in armored vehicles, as if they are suppressing an enemy insurgency. And journalists—myself included--did not expect that the story would not be about rain, wind, and flooding, but about rape, murder, and looting. But this is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster.

The man-made disaster is not an inadequate or incompetent response by federal relief agencies, and it was not directly caused by Hurricane Katrina. This is where just about every newspaper and television channel has gotten the story wrong.

The man-made disaster we are now witnessing in New Orleans did not happen over the past four days. It happened over the past four decades. Hurricane Katrina merely exposed it to public view. The man-made disaster is the welfare state.

[Read the full article]

#42 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 11:04 AM:

Skwid, wow. I suppose now we start hearing about the genetically unfit.

#43 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 11:12 AM:

"A federal appeals court ruled today that the president can indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen captured on U.S. soil in the absence of criminal charges, holding that such authority is vital to protect the nation from terrorist attacks." Washington Post story.

#44 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 12:05 PM:

Jon, I can think of one reason why our administration might want to be able to take control of things: to gift its corporate cronies with choice picks in the coming LA real-estate boom. The Baton Rouge explosion is nothing when you consider the potential returns of a Newer Orleans as one vast planned community...

#45 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 12:25 PM:

Regarding 'disaster capitalism', Naomi Klein got there first:

But if the reconstruction industry is stunningly inept at rebuilding, that may be because rebuilding is not its primary purpose. According to Guttal, "It's not reconstruction at all--it's about reshaping everything." If anything, the stories of corruption and incompetence serve to mask this deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering. And on this front, the reconstruction industry works so quickly and efficiently that the privatizations and land grabs are usually locked in before the local population knows what hit them.
#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 12:55 PM:

And on this front, the reconstruction industry works so quickly and efficiently that the privatizations and land grabs are usually locked in before the local population knows what hit them.

Lives and History Adrift on a Soggy Paper Trail: New Orleans archives and personal records are among millions of pages lost or damaged.

The property records are damaged, if not destroyed. They hope to freeze-dry and recover them. Guess what - there will be people who won't be able to prove they owned the land they were living on. So the redevelopers will win another round.

#47 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 12:58 PM:

So it's not just your Revolution with its wonderful series of amendments, and not just our Glorious Revolution; Bush wants to go all the way and repeal Magna Carta.

#48 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 01:21 PM:

Someone on another site referred to New Orleans as our own little bit of 'ethnic cleansing' in response to the statement made by Republican Congressman Baker of New Orleans who was overheard saying, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Rep. Baker, it should be noted owns a real estate company, not that there's a problem there. /sardonic grin


Jon, I wish I could be as kind to the Bushites as you are. But what I think happened is their leader's well noted failure to act immediately in the face of a pressing disaster (remember the 7 minute silence reading "My Pet Goat"?) created the chaos and at that point in time, the administration figured that they could let it slide even further and then step in and be greeted as the white hats and incidentally take over running everything too. And it does have to do with oil. Remember there are oil drilling platforms off the coast. And I recall reading somewhere that New Orleans has 11% of the domestic production of oil.

So yes, opportunity knocked for the Bush administration, once again. Only problem is a lot of people had to die and suffer in the meantime.

#49 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 01:25 PM:

A possible tie-in between the "no one allowed to leave for five months" policy at the FEMA-run camp mentioned elsewhere, and the "Eminent Domain" being discussed here?

Keeping homeowners away from NO for five months sounds like plenty of time for Eminent Domain to be declared, for the water to be drained and the mud dried out, and the bulldozers brought in to scrape large areas of the city to the ground. "Going back" becomes a moot point, if there's literally nothing to go back to.

(Argument against this: A lot of the evacuees are being placed in private homes that have spare space for people, or into vacant apartments that are being offered rent-free [or subsidized by churches or other organizations] on a short-term basis. No restrictions on -their- movements. So unless evacuees are being sorted into "normal" people being placed into normal society, and "troublemakers" placed in tightly controlled camps, it may simply be another instance of advanced incompetence being indistinguishable from malice.)

What gets built in its place? Good question. I speculated in my own blog about the possibility of a two-mile tall arcology being built in Lake Pontchartain, but my tongue was slightly in cheek.

I suspect the very first thing would be camps -- big trailer parks, most likely -- for construction workers.

What would they be constructing? Off the top of my head: 1) A limited area, close to the French Quarter, would be rebuilt as upscale housing and business. The trailer camps would be taken over by new low-income workers providing the workforce for that upscale area, as the construction workers finish their work and move on.

(With the removal of minimum wage limits for the contruction workers, how likely is it that many of the construction workers will be from Mexico, either illegally or via a special "guest worker" program for NO?) (And if that happens, at least some of those workers will stay on in the new city. New New Orleans may end up more Spanish than French.)

Other areas of the city may end up being used for government purposes. Two that pop into mind are military installations, and prisons.

There's a thin line between "utterly cynical" and "bizarre" in one's mindset. I think I may be straddling that line. (Perhaps I should hope so.)

#50 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 01:42 PM:

This is all starting to read like bad SF, setting the background for the collapse of the USA and the Glorious Rebirth from the wet dreams in the author's political wank-mag.

But it's happening...

#51 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 01:45 PM:

PJ, I wondered when I saw that just how up-to-date the Mormons' films of the records are. In other States, the capital often maintains microfilm archives of county deed books and tax maps, too. Also, the records can often be reconstructed from other sources such as census records and newspaper archives.

Most promising is that LSU appears to have a set of GIS data for the area. I can't tell from the screenshot exactly what data layers they have, but tax map information is typically the first data layer created by a GIS project.

New Orleans and/or Louisiana may have to restructure its land laws a bit to allow such as evidence, but it can be done.

#52 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 01:49 PM:

OG: I have heard that GIS people are being recruited for temporary/contract jobs remapping the area that Katrina went through. It's outside the area I live in, and I don't have enough experience/skill in that area to be useful: maps and aerial photos I can handle; the GIS software is another matter.

#53 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:19 PM:

My (ahem) politically unsophistocated brother sent me that Tracinski article as well.

Gosh, it must be so nice to be able to blame it all on welfare queens and Section 8 housing. Makes things so clear and simple-like. Yeah, I bet if you checked, those thirty old ladies who drowned in that nursing home were all loafers waiting for their dole checks to clear so they could nip on down to the casino.

#54 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 02:40 PM:

PJ: I'm not surprised that they'll need to redo the GIS dataset. The coastline and topography have probably changed dramatically. And many datasets have building outlines as well.

If there are any plans afoot to help the evacuees reestablish their claims to their properties, requesting a copy of the GIS data would be a good place to start.

#55 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 03:08 PM:

The predictable opinion piece on the violence etc in NOLA:


The thin veneer of civilization
By Timothy Garton Ash, TIMOTHY GARTON ASH is a professor of European studies at Oxford University and a Hoover Institution senior fellow.

#56 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 05:37 PM:

hey uh, anyone remember all those dumb conspiracy theories about the system of concentration camps the federal government was building under FEMA auspices in case of national emergency? Weird how they're starting to seem plausible?
Also, isn't it weird how it was the theory of far right kooks yet now it's far rightists using them. Almost like they came into power and said: We need a system of concentration camps!

#57 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 01:35 PM:

This is where just about every newspaper and television channel has gotten the story wrong.

Good bloody grief! I have no words. I recently did some investigation into the Flat Earth Society, as part of a search on "the Apollo flights to the Moon never took place" belief system. They sounded an awful lot like the line at the top of this post.

Will there come a day when Hurricane Katrina "never happened"?

#58 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 03:28 PM:

There is this bit of good news, which I got from BoingBoing.

New Orleans Public Library is delighted to be able to announce that the New Orleans City Archives, which we hold, is relatively safe. Although the majority of our records (as well as the 19th and early 20th century records of the Orleans Parish civil and criminal courts) are housed in the basement of the Main Library, some 18 feet below sea level, the basement remained essentially dry.

Wayne Everard , our archvivist, and I were able to get access to the building yesterday, along with another NOPL staff member and a representative of Munters. We discovered that the basement sustained NO FLOODING, although there is a very small amount of water in one area, possibly caused by sewer backup. This water caused no direct damage to records themselves.

The Main Library itself (across the plaza from city hall, about 4 blocks from the Dome) came through almost unscathed. Several windows blew out in the area of our Technology Center causing quite a bit of damage there, but the damage is confined to that closed in room. There is also evidence of very minimal roof leakage on the first floor -- most of it missing the books.

On the whole, however, the Main Library is in excellent shape. Earlier reports that vandals had entered the building are incorrect. Our branch run van was looted and we believe another van was stolen from the parking lot, but it is clear that no one got into the building, either to vandalize or to shelter there.

The NOPL system itself has been hit hard -- probably about half of our 11 branch libraries are under water. But these we can (and will) rebuild. The fact that the archives have survived leaves us almost delerious with relief.

We are working now to arrange for Munters to stabilize the Main Library building until we can all return and begin the rebuilding process.

We posted this news earlier to the ssacares site, where we will post additional information as it becomes available as well as photographs we took of the Library and the surrounding area.

Thank you all for your expressions of concern and offers of assistance. We are unbelievably lucky, and I think I now believe in miracles....

Irene Wainwright

Assistant Archivist, Louisiana Division / City Archives, New Orleans Public Library

#59 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 03:37 PM:

OG: PJ, I wondered when I saw that just how up-to-date the Mormons' films of the records are.

A quick check shows the land/property records for Orleans parish were microfilmed for the period ending roughly 1900. After that, I don't know if there is anything. But I would hope there are copies somewhere other than NOLA (offsite backup).

#60 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 04:03 PM:

I was prompted to check the odd name "Munters" -- they seem to be one of the main experts in document rescue, the obvious people to be brought in.

But a Google on Munters and New Orleans also brought up references to AP reports that they had been stopped from getting into the city, and been unable to access the New Orleans Notorial Archive.

Specific reference was made to the Civil District Courthouse on Poydras Street.

The story goes on to imply that the records haven't been digitised.

I don't know how significant the named places are for the records of current ownership, but the news Terry has found may be less relevant for current owners.

#61 ::: Eric Jarvis ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 05:29 PM:

This is all starting to read like bad SF

I'm not so sure, I find it all very reminiscent of Dhalgren. So perhaps it's excellent SF.

#62 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 05:32 PM:

This is all starting to read like bad SF

I'm not so sure, I find it all very reminiscent of Dhalgren. So perhaps it's excellent SF.

Or hard to understand SF (I like some of Delany's work very much, but it can be difficult).

#63 ::: Darius Bacon ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 05:30 PM:

In A Deepness in the Sky the Emergents even had a name for something like disaster capitalism -- they called it 'disaster management'. I've been pointing out that likeness to the Bush administration for years now, and, you know, it makes all the progress in neuroscience these days kind of worrying.

#64 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 11:16 AM:

Many, if not most, states have had laws on the books requiring microfilmed back-up of local records for some time; digitization has been replacing microfilm for some time, but may not have set in everywhere. Given the flammability of county courthouses*, the reasons for this have been apparent and made the laws an easy sell. Title insurance companies have also made a practice of copying and storing land records. So loss of local records in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast not mean "irretrievable loss"; it depends of the laws of the states in question, and how frequently the back-ups have been made. A smaller ocunty might make their copies only once a year; a larger one could well do so more frequently.

*When doing genealogical research, my sister ran across a county where the courthouse had burned three times in 50 years. Tornados and earthquakes, as well as floods are also risks; but fires have historically been the big problem--all that old paper in an old building (often without sprinkler systems in smaller counties) is a set-up even a state legislator can figure out.

#65 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 11:23 AM:

*When doing genealogical research, my sister ran across a county where the courthouse had burned three times in 50 years.

Usually just after the period you're interested in. (I refer to it as the 'courthouse arsonist'.)

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