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DISASTER IN NEW ORLEANS -
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New Orleans: nothing to see here.

Posted in the database on Tuesday, September 27th, 2005 @ 11:02:19 MST (2086 views)
by Lenin    Lenin's Tomb  

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"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

Well, we now have final confirmation that the horror stories about stabbings and rapes in the dome were fictitious:

After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice.

As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

Well, anyway, the rumours served their purpose. The aid was withheld and survivors prevented from leaving, while troops built up around the city to 'retake' it and quell the 'insurgency'. And now that they have 'retaken' the city, what is afoot? Well, much as anticipated:

And we started to hear this very early on after Katrina hit, where, not just from evangelical Christian sides, we started to hear, "maybe this is punishment for Mardi Gras and sodomites and we've cleaned the city", but you hear it from the mayor, Ray Nagin, "for the first time New Orleans is free of crime and violence and we're going to keep it that way". There's almost a sense that free of people, the city has become this blank slate. In that context, this fantasy can be built from scratch.

The buzzwords to listen for in terms of the reconstruction of New Orleans are "smaller", "safer". And the idea is that in the city, wealth really buys altitude, and so the effect of the flood was not at all democratic. The people who were able to buy land on high ground, their neighborhoods are relatively unscathed, and many of them never left or have been able to return. The people who were hit hardest were the people who we saw on television, you know, in the Superdome. These are the people who lived in the low-lying areas. So, the idea now is, okay, maybe we won't rebuild those areas at all, and when -- on September 15, when the mayor said that certain areas are able to be re-inhabited, this is before Rita presented itself as the threat that it, it was clear that the people re-populating New Orleans didn't look very much like the people who lived there before. It was overwhelmingly white, whereas the people still in shelters were overwhelmingly black. So, I think that the overall vision is massive land grabs, radical gentrification, and as Jeremy's piece makes clear, the gentrification is happening with privatized military force.

...

So I started researching what the battles were in New Orleans before the hurricane. And, of course, there were very, very fierce, an you know you've covered this on your show, very fierce battles going on around housing projects, and gentrification in the city where conflicts between people who were demanding affordable housing and particularly the tourism sector on the French Quarter, and over the course of the research, I saw the staggering feature, which is that the French Quarter, which as you said is 90% white, is also almost half empty. In the most recent census, and the market hasn't changed since then, the French Quarter had a 37% vacancy rate, which means that 37% of the apartments and homes in the French Quarter are sitting empty. They're sitting empty because the people who own the buildings have decided that they would rather board up the apartments than take reduced rent, because they're making enough off the commercial rents, renting to restaurants and bars and so on.

So when I saw this massive dislocation happening, and all of these people saying, "well, there's nowhere for them to return to", I looked at the census again, and looked at all of these other areas that the mayor has said are dry and inhabitable and found that there were comparably high vacancy rates in other areas, like the Garden District and Central Business District. What we found was that in fact there are 12,000 empty apartments and houses in the dry areas. Which means that those -- those could be affordable houses for people.

So, what's the plan? Well:

The plan is to reopen dried-out neighhorhoods inhabited by 250,000 to 300,000 of the city's half-million residents.

And how do you propose to keep out up to half of the population? By purging the poor:

New Orleans is already displaying signs of a demographic shift so dramatic that some evacuees describe it as "ethnic cleansing." Before Mayor Ray Nagin called for a second evacuation, the people streaming back into dry areas were mostly white, while those with no homes to return to are overwhelmingly black. This, we are assured, is not a conspiracy; it's simple geography--a reflection of the fact that wealth in New Orleans buys altitude. That means that the driest areas are the whitest (the French Quarter is 90 percent white; the Garden District, 89 percent; Audubon, 86 percent; neighboring Jefferson Parish, where people were also allowed to return, 65 percent). Some dry areas, like Algiers, did have large low-income African-American populations before the storm, but in all the billions for reconstruction, there is no budget for transportation back from the far-flung shelters where those residents ended up. So even when resettlement is permitted, many may not be able to return.

Yes, New Orleans is to be rebuilt without its "underclass". God has, at long last, cleaned up public housing in New Orleans, with a little help from his loyal lieutenants in the Bush administration, whose confederates continue to reap rewards in abundance.

Unsurprisingly, some of the most morally serious and angry reactions to this have come from hip hop, so here's a bit of listening and reading: Mos Def: Katrina Klap; K.O. remixes Kanye West: George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People; Immortal Technique: Katrina and the Hand of God.



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