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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

God is angry

In a post Hurricane Katrina country, the racial divide continues to prosper (though progress has been made):

"Most Americans believe there has been significant progress in achieving Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of racial equality, though blacks are more skeptical, an AP-Ipsos poll found. Racial integration has swept across much of American life and blacks have gained economic ground since the height of the civil rights movement. Two decades ago, the government established a federal holiday in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

"'For a big portion of the African-Americans, there's not better education,' said David Bositis, an analyst of black issues for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. 'There have been some gains made, but it's uneven. A lot of whites basically say: 'The civil rights movement has been done. I don't want to hear about it anymore.'"
While Katrina may have fallen off the media radar, many residents of New Orleans are claiming racial discrimination:

"The house at 2345 Andry Street had always been a sturdy pillar in Calvin Turnbough’s life. His father built the humble three-bedroom stucco structure in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and for the past half a century, Turnbough has never called any other place home.

"But 2345 Andry recently relocated. Clawed off its foundation by Hurricane Katrina four months ago, the house shifted about one block down the street, where it has remained for months, dilapidated but intact.

"The storm left Turnbough dislocated, as well. The 48-year-old forklift operator is now living with family in Houston, awaiting word from his insurance company, the government, or anyone, about the fate of his home. Having received virtually no information about how the reconstruction process is affecting his property, he said, 'I really feel as though I’m being left out.'"

Recent comments by Mayor Ray Nagin are unlikely to help:

"New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting."


Blogger Pete's Blog said...

The words of an academic and then a politician seem fairly superficial and simplistic. The words of the "48-year-old forklift driver" do not prove the case.

One of the tragedies of Katrina was that black, Democrat, local and state politicians in Louisiana had built their careers on a complaint culture.

The were ill-prepared to speak to white, emergency service and Republican dominated FEMA and the National Guard. This lack of good communication was one factor in delays and mistakes that occured in the days after Katrina.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 2:14:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

A factor did you say? How about the factor that that Brownie was more interested in which restaurant to dine at while telling his 2nd in command, who was waist deep in human excrement at teh astro dome, not to bother him unelss it was important?

How abotu the cut backs in funding to reinforce leviews, or ignoring the reports that the levies were going to fail?

How abotu the fact that FEMA was atacked with other cromies, who's only contrinution to society was helping Bush get "elected" in Floroda.

Yes, many factors played a part Spy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 2:25:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

Roy Nagin makes Clover Moore look like a good mayor!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 2:45:00 pm  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...


Yes I agree with you.

I made the mistake of addressing the race issue - the obvious theme of AL's post.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 2:53:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

Sorry my bad Spy

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 3:40:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 4:35:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Addamo - how about the fact that, on average, Bush spent more on levee reinforcement than Clinton? How about the fact that reports had been systematically ignored over many years by Clinton and probably W's dad?

Bush is a victim of circumstance - he will cop a disproportionate amount of flak because Katrina happened on his watch. But problems like the inadequate levee network develop over years and years of neglect - before Bush was even governor of Texas. Also, you ignore the most important point - the Louisiana state government is far and away the most guilty party in the degredation of the levee network. One of the principal reasons funds were directed away from levee buttressing was due to the fact that state and local officials were creaming off so much for their pet projects.

Bush does deserve to shoulder some responsibility. Nagin and Blanco are, however, considerably more culpable. They're extremely lucky that they can hide behind a hate figure like Bush. If Clinton was in power, both incompetents would be hung out to dry by the court of public opinion.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 4:38:00 pm  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...


I assume you meant. Sorry [me] bad, Spy."

If so I forgive you.

As I said. I agree with your thesis that FEMA was a (non) led crony laden sinecure for Dubya's buddies. That's the style of politics in most countries.

Main problem was that FEMA etc was asked to do something it never expected. As it was an emergency body its leadership were criminally negligent in not responding more quickly and efficiently.

As Brown is a Buddy noone will finger him while Bush is President.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 6:15:00 pm  
Blogger orang said...

Agree with james on a lot of his points except the FEMA / crony angle which has Bush ineptitude in classic style. See Bush has never "Managed" an organisation effectively. He has no concept of this, so when he nominates/appoints/anoints his sycophants to positions, he doesn't understand that at sometime they may have to perform.
-Because he doesn't understand. He thinks going to war and giving "Churchillian" type speeches are the requirements for being a great president.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 6:38:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...


yeah sure spending has gone up under Bush, but not where you woudl have us believe. FEMA has been completely salshed and has been reduced to becomming a sluch fund to keep viting disrticts happy (as they did in south Florida, where $30 million was distributed to residents who weren;t even affected b yan ealier Hurricane). eh top half dozen excs at FEMA are all linked one way or another to Bush's 2004 election campaign.

All the financing has gine to Homeland Security (under ehich FEMA resides), and their idea of aid and assitance was looknig for scape goats. The big issue as far as he and Brownie were concenred was whether a state of emergency was or was not declared in time.

Everyone knew that the hurricane woudl be devastating, but Bush, true to form decided that the best course of action woudl be to hop over to San Francisco for another fund raising event. How he loves those!!

What's truly revealing is what has happened post mortem. The only subrbs that are undergoing any rebulding are the wealthy ones. The poor neighbourhoods are being neglected in the hope that land owners will forgo their claim to the property, thereby enabling it to be scooped up by land developers at next to nothing.

As for culpability, what was Broiwnie's punishment? He is now offering cinsulting services to FEMA. Nothing like failing upwards in Bush;a admnistration!! When do you think he'll receive his medal of freedom?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 1:45:00 am  
Blogger James Waterton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 4:00:00 am  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Addamo - You completely dodged my major point about state and local government culpability to grandstand about Bush.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 4:01:00 am  
Blogger orang said...

james, i agree for addamo - yes state & local government were culpable too. So?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 7:40:00 am  
Blogger James Waterton said...

The level of criticism is disproportionate to the level of culpability - as I clearly stated in my earlier post.

Thus it's obvious that these critics don't really care about apportioning blame for the shoddy execution of the hurricane preparation and relief and ensuring such a bad show doesn't repeat - they just care about smearing Bush. Any way they can.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 12:59:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...


I take your point, but the fatc remains that money is controlled at the Federal Level, partcularly with this adminstration, unlike any other.

I do not dispute the failures a the local level, but the notion that funding has increased under Bush is masqueraded by the fact that it has largely been redicretd to fund Homeland Security and that FEMA has become a white elephant.

And it is undeniable that what followed is also representative of the failures. There was a ship off the shore of NO with 5000 Natgional Guard troops that could have been utilised, but who endd up being sent into NO to establish security? Private Security firms, like Blackwater (psycho's for hire) who were deputised on the spot. Men who overnight assumedc complete immunity from the law, while having powers to enforce their interpretation of them.

The wealthiest man in NO even hired private Isralei security firms to look after his Holtels and property.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 2:29:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Yes, but these are all *state* issues when it boils down to it.

On average, funding for levee maintenance under Bush was higher in real terms than in the Clinton years. This is a fact. There is no masquerade - redirected funding is not funding for levee reinforcement by definition.

Regardless, if funding was diverted by the feds, I wouldn't be all that surprised. It's common knowledge that a truckload of that money earmarked for levee reinforcement was siphoned off by local and state politicians for porkbarreling purposes. Mismanagement of funding at state and local level made the feds leery of giving more.

Not that this meant the levees must go unmaintained - American states have their own revenue streams. Unlike Australian states, they can levy income tax and sales tax. Louisiana levies both. So the money does not come only from the feds. The levees were a responsibility of the government of Louisiana first and foremost.

Also, your talk of National Guard - you do realise that the National Guard is essentially a state controlled force and can be mobilised by the Governor during a state of emergency? Shouldn't you be asking WHY Blanco didn't mobilise them - not pointing your finger accusingly at Bush, who had no power to send the Louisiana state guard into a state of emergency situation?

Also, did you know that the feds urgently requested to take over hurricane preparations from the State when it became apparent that Blanco and crew were doing - at worst SFA, at best a typically incompetent job - regarding the preparations? The State rejected the request, and the feds could do nothing. States are still a very powerful partner in the Union.

It is blatantly obvious that the lion's share of the blame falls on Blanco's - and during the floods - Nagin's shoulders. Bush and the feds played quite a peripheral role. However, Blanco and Nagin only have their jobs because they can hide behind Bush - a convenient lightning rod for all the criticism. This is a particularly brazen example of a manifestation of the unhealthy, blind hatred of Bush, and how this hatred distorts outcomes for the worse. Nagin and Blanco (at best) don't deserve to keep their jobs, but they still have them because everyone's too busy pointing the finger at the CinC. Lucky NO and Louisiana - a couple of proven incompetents (on a massive scale) escape their comeuppance and are left to continue to mismanage the state and its largest city. Great work paying out on Bush, guys! Blanco and Nagin thank you. I doubt many of their constituents are grateful, however.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 9:04:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Addamo and co - in good faith, I'm waiting for a response.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 3:56:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...


"Also, your talk of National Guard - you do realize that the National Guard is essentially a state controlled force and can be mobilized by the Governor during a state of emergency?"

No I did not know that. New Orleans was federalized three years ago, so the mayor was hampered as far as I;m aware. I know that the Louisiana guard was not federalized, but I was under the impression that the 5000 National Guard required the nod from the Febs, who in turn had to wait for a State of Emergency to be declared. This in itself appears to be a point of contention, because conflicting reports state that a State Of Emergency was declared prior to the Hurricane hitting the Louisiana, while the Bush's team insists they knew nothing of it.

There were 1000 firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by FEMA, waiting to be deployed as emergency workers. Instead, they found out they were there to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

Meanwhile, Nagin was pleading on national television for firefighters - his own were exhausted after working around the clock for a week Some firefighters peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

Then there were the otehr firefighters, who were flown to NO for a phot op with Bush. You might recall the picture of Dubya with his sleeves rolled up, leading a group of fireman as he looked out onto the horizon looking very Commander In Chief like.

It is pretty difficult to determine the culpability of Blanco and Nagin, when you have Brown on live TV, claiming that the crisis at the Astrodome was unconfirmed, while film crews are relating the pictures in real time.

It took the Federal Government a week to respond to Katrina. Since when has that ever happened? This was the first time ever that the Feds did not mobilize help in advance. The response to the Florida Hurricanes in 2004 for example, was instant.

What the hell were FEMA doing cutting the NO Sheriffs phone lines because he was trying to get aid to people? It was FEMA, not Nagin or Blanco, that turned back massive supplies of Fuel from the Coast Guard, and trucks delivering fresh water and other aid, saying that they have everything under control, even when these very items were desperately needed. Irrespective of Blaco and Nagin's incompetence, FEMA make a dogs breakfast of this disaster all their own.

What the hell was the military doign referring to the looters as terrorists and insurgents? Sounds a lot like Bushspeak doesn’t it?

The New Orleans district of the US Army Corps of Engineers bore the brunt of a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding for fiscal year 2006. The Army Corps of Engineers sought $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans, while the White House slashed the request to about $40 million. Congress finally approved $42.2 million, less than half of the agency's request.

The Bush administration had been cutting funding for federal disaster relief funds since 2001 while doubling funding in other areas to pump up the biggest growth in government for decades, easily outstripping that of Bill Clinton.

The Bush administration's move to merge FEMA with Homeland Security meant that the two had to compete for funding. Straightforward projects that would have massively reduced the devastation, such as raising houses, were cast aside in favor of anti-terrorism measures.

In early 2001, FEMA issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City!. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all." But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war.

Not only is the Bush Administration directly responsible for the ferocity of this disaster, the blame also lies with Clinton. 10 years ago, the Clinton administration cut 98 flood control projects, including one in New Orleans, saying such efforts should be local projects, not national.

A $120 million hurricane project, approved and financed annually from 1965 was killed by the Clinton administration after being approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. It was designed to protect more than 140,000 West Bank residents east of the Harvey Canal.

Despite all this, Bush went on TV and said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

No doubt partisan politics shoulders a great deal of the blame also. It's difficult to ignore the Democratic constituency in NO and the role that played.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 9:00:00 am  

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