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September 9, 2005

The real “looting” is yet to come
Posted by Patrick at 03:53 PM * 22 comments

Kathryn Cramer says, correctly, that FEMA needs to tell people what it intends for their homes.

Since, with the powers-that-be clearly planning a future NO that doesn’t include those tiresome poor people, while heavily armed “private security” firms make it scary to stay in town, one might almost think something was up. Of course, American landowners have never used big, distracting calamities as cover for the wholesale expropriation of the tiny holdings of poor people, as the Delta blacks of 1927 or the California Nisei of 1942 would be the first to tell you.

Comments on The real "looting" is yet to come:
#1 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:27 PM:

I'm not sure what to do here. Rebuild the levees? keep the city below the sea? wait for a terrorist with a pack of dynamite to flood it again? Buy the underwater land from people at pre-Katrina market value and give it back to teh sea? Design a segmented levee system so that one breach only floods a limited area? Someone will need to explain the dollars and cents as well as the human cost to a simple farm boy like me.

#2 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:34 PM:

Greg: NPR "Science Friday" interviewed a guy today who said a system has been devised to essentially rebuild barrier islands to protect NO. It would cost about what we are spending in Iraq for 1 month, or about what The Big Dig cost in Boston, and would take about 1 year to put into place (unless, of course, we give the contract to Halliburton, then it will cost 5 times as much and take 5 times as long....). I am not an engineer and have not heard this before, but he sounded plausible. Anybody out there know anything about this?

#3 ::: Patrick Weekes ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 04:35 PM:

Yep. No matter what decision is ultimately made, somebody's going to be unhappy about it. As Patrick noted awhile back, that's not a standard for whether that makes it a good decision. That's just a given.

Hopefully enough people keep their attention on this for long enough to make it harder for the government to sneak, bully, or preach their way into stealing the land.

#4 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 05:13 PM:

This is information that has been obtained from a number of sources, but I think it all fits together under the same general subject matter: who will rebuild New Orleans and profit thereby.

First, I heard from an attorney friend who does federal contracts for a living that most of the cleaning up contracts have gone to big companies: Halliburton/KBR and the Shaw Group. Next, she tells me that the appropriations bill that passed yesterday contains a provision excluding small businesses from participating in the cleanup rebuild process in contradiction to a long held FEMA policy to involve local business in these activities (because it gets the local economy going again).

Now couple that w/ Bush suspending prevailing wage rules for New Orleans and the land grab you've described and what do you get?????

The rich getting richer. And do you think they believe that we wouldn't notice? No, they just figure we can't do anything about it anyway. I hate these people so much.

#5 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 05:14 PM:

Oh and wrt to rebuilding the levees? If these were sane, decent people involved, I would suggest turning to the people of the Netherlands. Their system is unequalled in the world from what I understand. But I can bet you my last guilder that will not happen.

#6 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 07:11 PM:

They can rebuild New Orleans as a theme-park enclave of white privilege, but the city won't live. Cities are not creatures of one social class. The poor will always be with us, and besides, someone has to clean the rich people's houses.

#7 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 07:22 PM:

The poor will always be with us, and besides, someone has to clean the rich people's houses.

Don't worry. There's plenty of Jamaican and Mexican and Indonesian begging to fill those places, they're not so uppity, they don't get to vote, and they can be booted back home when they're no longer useful. My understanding is that the floating casinos of Biloxi employed a lot of them.

#8 ::: Lisa Hertel ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 10:38 PM:

Flood insurance in a disaster area pays you for your home (taxed value). The Feds hope you go elsewhere.

The news is constantly harping on the large volumes of trash (which won't be cleaned up in a few months). They wonder where to put it. Duh: build new levees (or raise existing ones).

#9 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 11:05 PM:

I would suspect that this is one of the reasons behind mandatory evacuation and a press blackout. Not that there aren't perfectly good reasons for both, too: wading in toxic soup is bad for everyone, there are undoubtedly still violent armed looters about, and emergency workers have enough to do without fishing idiot TV reporters out of whatever trouble they get themselves into.

But.

Once you get all the people out, and pick up the bodies, and make sure all the nosy press people are where they all belong, what's to stop you from driving a Caterpillar D9 through whatever neighborhood you decided is "unsalvageable"? A single large bulldozer could level a square mile of city in a day--the neighborhoods the mayor has already expressed an interest in getting rid of are all very lightweight construction. Drive right through them, scrape the wreckage into big piles, burn 'em, and hand out whatever size check you think the colored folks deserve.

And if they don't like it...well, do you remember the Kelo decision?

#10 ::: Jasper Janssen ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2005, 11:50 PM:

If the feds plan on using eminent domain to buy out NO neighbourhoods wholesale, what compensation should the homeowners get? The value of the property *before* the hurricane it? Or is it legally only necessary to pay them for the value of a plot of land under 6 feet of water with something on it that was once a house, but is now mainly highly contaminated soil under the swimming pool? (ie, a value of approximately jack and shit)?

#11 ::: Skyring ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 05:22 AM:

Remember the tsunami? Well, it seems that the former residents of fishing villages in Sri Lanka are currently recuperating in refugee camps in the interior, where armed guards patrol the fences while the land they lived on until last year is being redeveloped into tourist resorts.

What's the betting that when it comes to the crunch, and someone has to pay for damage to lives and property in New Orleans, the lower end of town gets the short end of the stick again?

#12 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 06:31 AM:

Alex, as far as bulldozing sections and claiming they were unsalvagable--CNN last night was showing video of poorer neighborhoods (as well as wealthier ones) that hadn't been flooded and had taken minimal or no hurricane damage, and asking why, exactly, these neighborhoods that only needed power and water restored were being forcibly evacuated. And CNN has already gone to court and gotten a restraining order against the order banning them from covering the recovery of the dead, so they may not be as easy to exclude as the administration hoped and we feared. If the Bush gang decides to condemn whole neighborhoods that are in relatively good shape, there's going to be evidence to contest that.

What they'll want to pay in compensation to people whose homes really have been destroyed is another question, of course. Trent Lott is likely to get the full value of his home, but the poor of NOLA? Not so much, maybe.

#13 ::: marrije ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 09:53 AM:

hrc, thank you for your vote of confidence in the Dutch - I'm Dutch and happy to hear that our reputation in this field is this good.

I think the people over here who know most about this would be delighted to help out of they are asked. We'd even send over our Crown Prince to help out - his specialty is Water Management, and he actually seems to know rather a lot about it, certainly knows all the right people to contact.

From what I've seen, the damage really doesn't look that insurmountable - and I mean the breaches, obviously not the flooding damage afterwards. The 17th street breach even looked pathetically small to my (admittedly untrained) eyes. The levees may be shot now because of all the water on both sides undermining them, but I really don't think the problem is such that the government shouldn't come up with a plan to be implemented quickly.

If the will is there, of course. And I see no evidence of that yet.

#14 ::: Nell ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 11:09 AM:

"What FEMA plans for their homes" assumes that it will or should be FEMA in charge of reconstruction. This is completely wrong, not part of FEMA's mission, and an absolute guarantee of corruption and waste.

Reed Hundt at TPMCafe made the right suggestion: a non-permanent, independent, transparent organization for reconstruction, headed by someone of proven capacity. It's a measure of the corruption we're surrounded by that it seems almost impossible to imagine the Cheney/Bush administration opting for that plan and hiring someone capable of doing an excellent job.

#15 ::: LeeAnn ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 12:43 PM:

I keep seeing it mentioned that the poor of New Orleans will be bought out for an unfair amount, etc. The poor of New Orleans, like those of all US cities, typically are not homeowners. It is also doubtful that they have any renter's insurance. They don't even need to be bought out to get rid of them. The crooked slumlords who allowed their neediest tenants to live in such deplorable conditions will get the payoff - and be tickled pink with it.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 12:44 PM:

Found at Locus Online:

Housing for Katrina Victims: Ideas from Science Fiction

Can't say they'd all be good ideas, but they're at least starting places.

#17 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 02:34 PM:

I'm waiting for the serious proposals to relocate the displaced population to the depopulated Bande Ache.

#18 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 02:36 PM:

By the way, as Nell point out in the comments over at my blog, now that FEMA has screwed NOLA, they've had their mandate expanded to include reconstruction.

#20 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 04:17 PM:

Alex, as far as bulldozing sections and claiming they were unsalvagable--CNN last night was showing video of poorer neighborhoods (as well as wealthier ones) that hadn't been flooded and had taken minimal or no hurricane damage, and asking why, exactly, these neighborhoods that only needed power and water restored were being forcibly evacuated.

Wow, I'm amazed. The last week or so, it's almost like CNN has remembered they are a news organization instead of a mouthpiece for plutocrats.

I guessed when there was that odd back and forth about forcible removals a few days ago that someone was whispering in Nagin's ear, and what they were whispering wasn't about concern for people. I saw a lot of posters on liberal blogs naively say "well, it's true it's necessary for their health, it's a toxic sump", and I just snickered. Sure there's a few people who are mentally out of it and living in genuinely dangerous situations -- houses too weakened, in standing water, etc. But when you see agents with submachine guns breaking into houses that not only are not flooded, but never have been, given the lack of mud, you know what's really up. Ashton O'Dwyer isn't being rousted out of his comfortable aerie; it's the poor who are. And that's because if there's someone still living there, there's someone to object when they bring in the bulldozers and do their "emergency condemnations". And believe me, those will start soon.

Note that they are *still rescuing* people from flooded houses. That means people are *dying* while they are using those men to force people out of safe, dry houses.

#21 ::: Jasper Janssen ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2005, 10:18 PM:

hrc, thank you for your vote of confidence in the Dutch - I'm Dutch and happy to hear that our reputation in this field is this good.

The Dutch news was showing today that the big-mouth CNN reporter (both literally and figuratively) was making a report on us in pretty much that vein, with various of the delta works (particularly the Nieuwe Waterweg kering, which is mighty impressive -- I've said before that I think it's the most imposing piece of engineering I've seen in person, and I stand by that) as background.

The 17th street breach even looked pathetically small to my (admittedly untrained) eyes.

Well, they appear to be the same sort of size as the 1953 breaches, and a bit larger in scale than the breech/subsidence or two that we've had in the last decade around various rivers and canals. The real problem is that it's *really* hard to stop a full-on breech before the water levels are approximately equal, and once the situation's there, it becomes fairly trivial to plug the gap but there's an absolute *shitload* of water that has to be pumped out, and your pumps are designed for a lot of rain plus a little seepage, not to pump out billions of litres of water in any timeframe approaching 'fast'.

#22 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2005, 01:01 AM:

Bechtel--it will leak.

Bechtel is a curse word in this region.

Halliburton of course is held in contempt for various reasons, but they're not bubbling away in Boston underground ones.

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