Monday, May 07, 2007

Indolence and Ruin

Lawrence Downes of The New York Times pronounces New Orleans “a city of indolence and ruin.”

I came here to talk to day laborers, because I had been told that this was the worst place in America to be one….They work without gloves or masks or the promise of medical care. Crooked contractors withhold pay and threaten violence if the men complain. Wage rules and safety standards are not enforced.

A city that cannot restore order or rebuild itself has somehow summoned the energy to harass the people who are doing much of the building and repairing.
Some of the most celebrated levee repairs by the Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina are already showing signs of serious flaws, a leading critic of the corps says….Dr. Bea, an author of a blistering 2006 report on the levee failures paid for by the National Science Foundation, said erosion furrows, or rills, suggest that “the risks are still high.” Heavy storms, he said, may cause “tear-on-the-dotted-line levees”….

Corps officials argue that Dr. Bea is overstating the risk..
I’m not sure how one goes about “overstating the risk” of disastrous flooding in New Orleans, especially given that the city’s pumping system recently failed during a heavy rain:
Knee-deep water could be found near the Superdome Friday. 40% of the city's pump system lost power.

The head of the New Orleans Sewage and Water Board says aside from the pump problems, Friday's downpours were simply too heavy to manage.
Not unlike the burden of debt being accrued by families in Louisiana and Mississippi:
Displaced families have faced moving costs and often two housing payments: rent on their new dwellings, plus mortgage payments on their damaged homes.

"People have been trying to finance this crisis on credit cards," says Allen Flowers, a bankruptcy lawyer in Mississippi. "You have someone after Katrina being promised money and using credit cards because they think Uncle Sam is coming."
Like Dick Cheney, however, Uncle Sam has other priorities:
The rebuilding effort in tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kansas, likely will be hampered because some much-needed equipment is in Iraq, said that state’s governor….The Kansas National Guard has about 40 percent of the equipment it is allotted because much of it has been sent to Iraq.
And rightly so, given the existential threat posed to this country by terrorism. If you doubt this, just imagine the economic and social disruption that could result from a terrorist attack on a major American city.

Speaking of which, you can put Trent Lott down for another Friedman or two:
Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott said Monday that President Bush's new strategy in Iraq has until about fall before GOP members will need to see results….

Lott declined to say what he thinks should happen if Congress does not see improvement in the security situation by then. But he said lawmakers have time before they must decide.
Of course they do.

Why wouldn’t they?

(Photo by Robert Polidori.)

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