Saturday, April 29, 2006

Regarding New Orleans

As some of you know, and others don't, Jon and I are from around New Orleans. My old man and his family were from there; I spent quite a bit of time there as a kid. Jon's from Natchez, so New Orleans is the nearest big town for him.

And that place is fucked. How fucked? Well, the story is pretty rude. So who could tell it better than the Rude Pundit?

I hope he'll forgive me for quoting at length.
Fucked New Orleans:
New Orleans is fucked, yes, it is true, and it needs to be said again and again. New Orleans is fucked because rabid right wing Republicans run the federal government, and all the rabid right wing knows is destruction and denial. Social Security, massive housing programs, Medicare, man on the goddamn moon, all done or initiated under Democrats. Interstate highway system, under Ike, no miserable attack dog conservative. And look at the one attempt at something constructive by the Bush administration, the fucked Medicare prescription drug program. Yeah, New Orleans is fucked for the White House and its lackeys in Congress simply have no idea how to accomplish anything that doesn't involve blowing shit up, tearing shit down, or telling people to sit down and shut up.

New Orleans is fucked, yeah, you know it, because its sewers are fucked. Big damn Katrina ripped up those old sewage collection pipes, 5000 miles of 'em, and took down treatment plants. And since Americans generally enjoy the privilege of shitting in toilets that flush, you can't rebuild a community if there's no place for its shit to go. It's gonna cost another billion or so to make sure that New Orleanians aren't just dumpin' raw or semi-raw sewage into the mighty Mississippi River. And any money from, say, utilities is flowing in the same direction because, well, no toilets means no people means no one paying the water bill.

New Orleans is fucked, in ways large and small, because the judicial system is in shambles. There's seven public defenders where there used to be 42. There's no money 'cause the money came from parking tickets and there's no money comin' from that 'cause, well, no people means no cars means less tickets, and the city's legal office that used to represent the poor or 85% of New Orleans defendants "is barely standing. It hasn't received a nickel from traffic court since before Katrina."

New Orleans is fucked, so very fucked, because it "has lost 77 percent of its primary-care doctors, 70 percent of its dentists, and 89 percent of its psychiatrists." So in a city filled with crazy sick people with rotting teeth before Katrina, now there's hardly anyone available should you wish to be sane, safe and shiny-toothed. And if you get shot? Damn, man, you better hope you know basic surgery. (Let's not even get into the nightmare of New Orleans in the summer, with the late spring mosquito explosion and the insane heat.)

No matter where you look, the signs are there about how fucked New Orleans really, truly is. For the levees will not be ready for this hurricane season. And even if they are supposedly back to strength, fuck the Army Corps of Engineers: the earth itself might just make sure the levees fail, with a geologic fault, assisted by oil drilling and wetlands loss, upping the chances of more catastrophe. Oh, and three of the drainage pumps, the ones that get rid of flood waters, caught fire after a little rainstorm. They may be up and running by June.

In New Orleans yesterday, his arm around a prop black woman, President Bush declared, "I told the Governor and the Mayor earlier on that we would work to have these levees pre-Katrina -- better than pre-Katrina by June 1st," barely even blinking because lies come to him as naturally as drool on the chins of babies. Over in Slidell, a FEMA trailer blew up because of a leaky propane line, killing one person and destroying the rest of their belongings. It's the second trailer explosion in the area.

New Orleans is fucked because, a few days ago, Secretary of Housing Alphonso Jackson declared, "Only the best residents should return" to the public housing projects of the city, like "[t]hose who paid rent on time, those who held a job and those who worked." So if you were, say, unemployed or were late with the rent, that means for Alphonso Jackson that you are not one of the "best" and you shouldn't get to live in government housing, which was established for, among others, people who didn't have jobs or were unable to pay the rent. And the fine, fine New Orleans projects, crime-ridden, underbuilt, underpoliced shitholes, have residents begging to get back to their decimated homes because some home is better than none.

In New Orleans the President said, "We've got a strategy to help the good folks down here rebuild. Part of it has to do with funding; part of it has to do with housing; and a lot of it has to do with encouraging volunteers from around the United States," which is code for saying, "You're on your own, motherfuckers." Jazz Fest is gonna be a blast this year.

(The most pathetic thing is that this is only scratching the surface. Georgia10 at DailyKos has more.)
That's a pretty good start for explaining the situation. And you do want to click through that last link.

I would say one thing, though. I know the levees are probably not going to be done by the start of hurricane season. And, even if they are done, they'll only be to pre-Katrina levels.

But the chance of a catastrophic hurricane happening in June or early July is pretty fucking small. The Gulf of Mexico isn't warm enough by then (usually) to provide enough fuel to the monster storms. So, just because levee construction will still be going on on June 2 isn't enough reason to hit the panic button.

However, the problem is that we haven't even begun the process of building levees big and strong enough to keep a Katrina-sized (or larger) hurricane from destroying New Orleans again. It'll be years and fucking years before we get those in place.

And, in case you were wondering, yes. New Orleans is very necessary. You don't think that a port city is a necessity at the mouth of the biggest river in the continent? You don't think that all the farmers in the Midwest and the Ohio valley need some place to ship their grain and soybeans and corn? You don't think that the petroleum industry absolutely needs the city of New Orleans? New Orleans is, after all, the impossible but inevitable city (in the unforgettable phrasing of Peirce Lewis). We, as a country, need New Orleans. And not just for the commerical and strategic reasons. We need it because we need the French Creole city with its obvious French heritage, but also with its Spanish, Igbo, Kongo, Irish, Slavic, and Vietnamese influences, among many others. We need Commander's Palace and Jacques-Imo's. We need the Preservation Hall, we need Dejean's Olympia Brass Band. We need St. Louis and St. Augustine. This city is part of America. We should no more abandon it than we should D.C. or New York. America would be a much poorer place without New Orleans.

Of course, we seem to be completely writing off the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but hey--that's to be expected, right?

And that's a story for another day.

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