Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More on New Orleans, recovery...

Articles for this week's 'toon:
  • Bush was back in New Orleans last week, in an obligatory stop to mark the second anniversary of Katrina. And he brought good news to the townsfolk: he says things are "getting better" there! Just like they are in Iraq! (Speaking of which, if Blackwater gets booted out of Iraq, does this mean they'll have to go back to harassing the people of New Orleans for work?)

    Of course, the reality on the ground in New Orleans (as in Iraq) is a bit different than it is inside Bush's tiny, tiny brain. Workplace injustice is on the rise. FEMA is suppressing reports of dangerous levels of formaldehyde in their trailers. Federal aid is hopelessly stuck in a morass of bureaucracy, and Mississippi (with their redneck Republican governor) is getting a disproportionate share of the funds. Infrastructure in poor neighborhoods is gone, causing a dramatic rise in the crime rate and overflowing prisons. The overall death rate was up 47% last year. Shit, they've even got killer bees there.

    See my previous posts on some other Katrina/New Orleans issues.

  • Pulitzer Prize-winner and former N.O. resident John McQuaid has an excellent series of columns in Mother Jones about the Katrina recovery. In particular, he addresses the moral imperative of a "genuine national commitment" to protecting the entire U.S. coastline, not just New Orleans. He also takes a possibly sarcastic shot at those who suggest that we shouldn't be rebuilding New Orleans at all:
    Instead of addressing those questions, though, the national debate has stressed the idiosyncrasies of New Orleans. Some have written that French explorer Bienville made a mistake when, in 1718, he founded New Orleans on the fringe of a low-lying swamp dangerously close to Hurricane Alley. Others take it a step further and say that three centuries has been a good run, but it's time to give up. There's some truth to these statements—New Orleans' location on a low-lying, sinking river delta has indeed put it in a terrible predicament. But the underlying message is that Katrina was a fluke: that New Orleans' problems are unique and its existential concerns mostly irrelevant to the rest of the country. That may be comforting to people outside Louisiana. But it's not realistic.

  • One New Orleans author recently lamented how they're all "Oprah fodder," and how the superficial mainstream media had become a permanent fixture there. Personally, I don't want to be part of the deluge of generic, post-Katrina pop culture... but I also think it's important to keep talking about it. For example, I caught the last 40 minutes of K-Ville the other night... it's obviously a pretty silly show for the most part, but it I guess it was an honest attempt to deal with some of the issues.

    Fall is the time of year when I really miss living in New Orleans. While much of the rest of the country is kissing their summers goodbye, it's still beautiful in N.O.: mid-80's, and the humidity is even starting to die down. I haven't been back since the storm... but then, I don't have a taxpayer-funded jet to take me wherever I want to go. I suppose the best I can do is to stick to the issues, and to just try to convey why it's so important to me to begin with.

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