It's facile as well as grossly premature to settle on almost any short summary about Katrina and what it means, but (!) a comment on US National Public Radio this morning captures some of the essentials. The speaker observed: 1) that the wave over the levees was probably twenty feet or six metres (so shoring up the weaks spots wouldn't have helped); and 2) the only relief workers in a parish down river from New Orleans for a day or two after the hurricane were some fifty Canadian Mounties.
Other punctum(s) so far:
"It is currently pro forma for politicians to announce that [New Orleans] will be rebuilt, and doubtless it will be. Once. But if hurricanes like Katrina go from once-in-a-century storms to once-in-a-decade-or-two storms, how many times are you going to rebuild it?". (Bill McKibben Sucker's Bets for the New Century, 6 Sep).
"The administration's foreign policy is entirely constructed around American self-love - the idea that the U.S. is superior, that we are the model everyone looks up to, that everyone in the world wants what we have.But when people around the world look at Iraq, they don't see freedom. They see chaos and sectarian hatred. And when they look at New Orleans, they see glaring incompetence and racial injustice, where the rich white people were saved and the poor black people were left to die hideous deaths. They see some conservatives blaming the poor for not saving themselves. So much for W.'s 'culture of life'." (Maureen Dowd, Haunted by Hesitation, 7 Sep)
"I saw an entire platoon of soldiers in combat gear surrounding an already looted Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street – a Wal-Mart, incidentally, that many residents fought long and hard to keep out of the city. New Orleans prides itself for its lack of corporate uniformity, so we must be forgiven for not being particularly sanguine about uniforms, whatever their stated intentions". (Andrei Codescu New Orleans or Baghdad?, 7 Sep)
"When it was still unclear which way [a Hurricane] would go, school system employees in New Orleans on school system time driving school system vehicles using school system materials were sent to board up the superintendent's house." (Times Picayune editorial quoted by Bob Herbert in No Stranger to the Blues, 8 Sept)
"On Clouet Street, where a days-old fire continues to burn where a warehouse once stood, a man on a bicycle wheels up through the smoke to introduce himself as Strangebone. The nights without power or water have been tough, especially since the police took away the gun he was carrying - 'They beat me and threatened to kill me,' he says - but there are benefits to this new world. 'You're able to see the stars,' he says. 'It's wonderful'." (Dan Barry The Corpse on Union St, 8 Sep)
"...the second rule of rebuilding should be: Culturally Integrate. Culturally Integrate. Culturally Integrate. The only chance we have to break the cycle of poverty is to integrate people who lack middle-class skills into neighborhoods with people who possess these skills and who insist on certain standards of behavior". (David Brooks Katrina's Silver Lining, 8 Sep)
"Hurricane Katrina may have cost very wealthy people a lot of money. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it may have cost their heirs a lot of money. The cost came not from the direct effects of the disaster. It came because the hurricane's impact on the poor people who remained in New Orleans made it politically unattractive for the Senate to vote on repealing the estate tax this week." (Floyd Norris How to Assure the Very Rich Stay That Way, 9 Sep)