Monday, October 29, 2012

New Orleans, Gulf Coast, Watches Frankenstorm

I moved to New Orleans about two years after Hurricane Katrina paid her visit there.

You learn a lot about human nature when money and lives are at stake. Here then were some of my observations in New Orleans in 2007.

The streets and highways were still torn up. Construction had closed a number of lanes. There was a military presence still guarding certain parts of town although I saw a lot more of that in the summer of '07.

The French Quarter was on higher ground than other places. It fared pretty well. In fact I noted no vacant buildings or construction there. Other areas of town, mid city and a couple of wards, received the worst of it. Streets were missing man hole covers. Every once in awhile somebody would ride a bike into one of these open holes and lose a few teeth. They were also pretty hard on cars.

Buildings and entire neighborhoods were left to rot. Chain link circled vacant lots and abandoned buildings. I passed several everyday on Canal, N of the  bridge. Debris was piled everywhere. Homes were crooked and listing. High water marks on the siding. There had been a shortage of licensed contractors and most of them were fraudulent. Many had greased city officials to get licenses. Fraudsters, posing as contractors, were paid exorbitant amounts from some homeowners who simply got screwed.

Two class action lawsuits were filed trying to recover damages from insurance companies. Flood damage wasn't covered so homeowners without a spare 100k or so had no recourse but to sue- hoping that a judge or jury somewhere might agree the storm surge was caused by wind which was covered- rather than water. I thought it was a reasonable argument.

Of course the homeowners lost. Like all good crony capitalist ventures- insurance companies vigorously fight paying claims and even when they lose...they manage to socialize losses through a pool of people whose premiums go up- or through taxpayer subsidies. George Soros has close ties with Progressive, Warren Buffet owns Geico. In the elite world- elites win and you lose. Always. Who wouldn't want to own a company wherein the government forces you to buy their products?

I was amazed at New Orleans. The government didn't really give two shits about that town. Hundreds of thousands of people left and never came back. Their houses, uninsured and destroyed with no flood insurance, were uninhabitable. Often I think, Katrina was the first domino of our great recession. Odd that we always have money for war. We invest in killing.

There will always be those that say people in New Orleans were too stupid to evacuate. Or that they were too poor. Or that they should not live on a coastline. I could say the same things for the east coast and indeed, those things are partially true. But even if it were all true, it still doesn't absolve the government's incredibly shitty response. If New Orleans is or was the baseline- you can bet residents there will be watching everything unfold in NYC. I can already hear the comparisons.

I send my money in. But I don't get to elect where it goes. I bet nearly 100% of us would elect our own U.S. disaster relief. We'd invest in  American lives rather than some eternal war in Afghanistan.

A cop in New Orleans told me once that the police department shot 180 looters and drug dealers after the storm. I have never been able to substantiate that number. It is probably grossly exaggerated, but I'm not entirely sure.

So what is different about Frankenstorm, Jersey, and the NY coastline? All the money and influence in the free world is there. You can bet your ass that no matter how bad Frankenstorm is- NYC and the surrounding area will not be waiting two years for contractors and manhole covers. Nobody is going to string chain link around the financial district. Looters will not be shot, bodies will not be left floating in stagnant floodwaters.

If you are stuck on the upper east coast- I wish you the very best. I hope your losses are minimal. It will be interesting to see the response there v. the Gulf Coast response in 2005. You can bet the folks in Louisiana and Mississippi will be watching.


Anonymous said...

Uh, I hate to point this out, but could the shitty response to New Orleans have had anything to do with the fact that the city was majority black? Of course no one in government would admit to such a thing, but I can well imagine that there was a tendency to write the city off because it was poor, corrupt, crime ridden and predominantly black. The fact that it also leans Democrat and that the disaster occurred with a Republican in the White House couldn't have helped matters either. Any thoughts on this line of reasoning, Brian?

Anonymous said...

I thought about that then and as I was writing the blog. I actually think it was more petty than that. New Orleans officials really did quite a bit to piss off the Feds by criticizing the poor preparation and response. Politicians hate looking stupid so I think their response was fuck you then. So maybe the white v black thing led to the pissing match to begin with...but I actually think Bush...said screw em and made it even worse because N.O. officials incl. the governor, didn't kiss ass. Brian

conservativesonfire said...

"op in New Orleans told me once that the police department shot 180 looters and drug dealers after the storm."

The silver lining?