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August 11, 2007

Katrina Survivors Still Drowning...

...in poverty and despair in the Great River of Abandonment that rushes by as the second anniversary of the hurricane approaches, less than three weeks from today. They are lost and forgotten by George Bush and his useful tool, Joe Lieberman, who chairs the committee charged with overseeing the reconstruction of that unmitigated national disaster. Lieberman has been too busy of late selling out his former colleagues in the Democratic Party and betraying the American people with pledges of fealty to Bush's presidency and all its attendant debacles: unprecedented but premeditated assaults on the U.S. Constitution, the calamitous illegal war and occupation in Iraq, and an overall Middle East foreign policy so botched that no one really knows who's minding the store, but we can assume it's Dick Cheney, the man who deftly straddles both the executive and legislative branches of government -- a feat which, fantastically, formulates a newer, fourth branch operating out of his secure but undisclosed location down in the bowels of Washington D.C... Maybe.

Meanwhile, back in the flood zone...

NOLA resident and blogger b.rox (Bart) relates a neighbor's experience of the national "Night Out" last week. It was very different from the Seattle experience, where a group of activists went downtown to perform a block watch around 3rd and Pine, and where police and firefighters routinely join in on the Neighbors Night Out parties. In New Orleans these days, the cops are quite a bit more hesistant to protect and serve:

At a Night out against crime gathering tonight an NOPD officer was asked by a neighbor… Why didn’t the police come out when I called after being woken up by a house alarm at 3am? The officer’s reply… “Call and say there is a naked woman on your porch.” He proceeded to go into greater detail about this scenario. He seemed pretty amused with himself. He agreed at some point that the neighbor should get a gun which underscores the fact that we are on our own.

So as far as I can tell from our night out against crime… we are willing to come together as a neighborhood, however the NOPD would rather respond to a report of a peep show than do their damn job and make an appearance at our outing because they have to. He promised 250 officers would show up if someone calling the police claimed there was a naked woman on the porch. He even boasted what he claimed to be a true scenario where this happened, and hell he told my neighbors that police even showed up on horseback for a call like that!

Not only was this an inappropriate scenario which amused the officer for quite a few minutes, there were children and elderly neighbors at this gathering along with the worried neighbor who could not get the NOPD to respond to their calls just a few nights ago — it clearly explains why crime is so high in this city. I had hoped that this was an isolated incident, but after a night out against crime, I feel less convinced that we are safe in our neighborhoods.

At least Bart still has a home and a neighborhood (even though his insurance company threatened to drop his and his wife's coverage). There are still thousands and thousands of Americans living in FEMA camps, trailer parks that have begun to feel more like prisons, where crime and emotional despair are the order of the day. Suicides and suicide attempts have become commonplace. And FEMA -- after two years! -- still can't figure out what the words "emergency" and "management" mean and get people out of the trailer parks and into real homes and apartments. Residences that were destroyed were either not rebuilt, or they were replaced by much more upscale buildings now renting and selling for jacked-up prices. Rents that were $417 a month pre-Katrina are now nearly $1,000 a month. Some of these folks cannot find jobs, but many have jobs and qualify as "working poor", walking one, two, or even five miles to work and back each day. Yes, Virginia, really.

NPR's piece last Wednesday told of one such scenario in Hancock County, Mississippi, where 51,000 Katrina survivors are still living in trailers, and mental illness and despair holds many of them in its grip. Listen to the audio, titled "Part II: What Can Be Done?" and you'll notice the contrast between the man looking down on and practically spitting on the victims, the FEMA worker whose job description includes "total denial", and the residents who are trapped in a cycle of degradation and poverty -- one of whom begs us to not forget, to at least "peek in every once in a while" as she dissolves into tears. Anyone who can walk away unaffected by that piece must have a cold, steel heart inside their chest. Or maybe they have some kind of blood relationship to Barbara Bush, the Queen Mother, who famously characterized Katrina Survivors at the Houston Astrodome in 2005 this way:

"Almost everyone I've talked to said we're going to move to Houston. What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas" (said with concern.) "Everybody is so overwhelmed by all the hospitality. And so many of the peoples in the arena here, you know, they're underprivileged anyway, so this -- this" (she chuckles slightly) "is working very well for them."

And when it comes to the thousands still stuck in poverty and despair all over the flood zone, I can bet that her son, the accidental dictator, thinks that it's working very well for them too. When he bothers to think of them at all.

Let's not forget. Over the next few weeks the airwaves will be filled with Katrina anniversary stories, but those will give way to the *General Petraeus Magical Month of September Iraq Report* and then we'll get all the 9-11 anniversary coverage and so on and so on... there will always be some other news story coming down the pike to take our attention away from those who still suffer every single day and night from our nation's neglect. Katrina was the loudest wake-up call we've had, and I'm not sure we've heard it, even yet.

So, don't forget them. At least peek in every once in a while.

Posted by shoephone on August 11, 2007 at 12:48 AM in National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink


When NOLA is remembered at all, the neglect is viewed as typical Bushco incompetence. But it's not incompetence at all - it's exactly what they mean to achieve: removing the federal government as the guarantor of the social safety net. Witness the Grover Norquistian drowning of the government in a bathtub, literally.

Posted by: op99 | Aug 12, 2007 6:29:42 PM

This is just so sad, and what's worse is that this kind of misery does not move Republicans in any direction but toward less and less government. We've become a nation where too many people have begun to believe that if you can't survive on your own, no matter what life throws at you, no matter that it is not your fault, you just don't deserve to survive. Try the local church, beg your friends and relatives, but don't expect the government to help you, even if it was government neglect that put you in this position to begin with.

Those who have a modicum of humanity would be unable to sleep at night, knowing that their cavalier and dismissive attitude has meant suffering for so many - but I guess that's the point: I think they sleep just fine, because they just don't care.

Maybe the problem isn't the structure that is government, but the people who staff it, and the hierarchy that sends the message that caring is not part of the package.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for people doing what they can for themselves, but what has been visited upon the people of the Gulf Coast is shameful.

Compassionate conservatism, my ass.

Posted by: Anne | Aug 17, 2007 2:06:08 PM

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