Saturday, September 16, 2006

Does anyone miss New Orleans?


As billions in housing aid begins to flow here in the next few weeks, most of it will go to homeowners, who have been appointed by city officials as the true architects of this city’s recovery, despite the fact that roughly half the city’s residents rented housing before Hurricane Katrina.
Three guesses as to the race and socio-economic status of the majority of those renters, and the first two don't count.

“I want to come back, but who’s going to help me build my life?” asked Lionel Smith, 46, a longtime resident of the Lower Ninth Ward and a driving school instructor whose apartment building was destroyed by the floodwaters. “There’s this plan in place to take care of homeowners, but I’ve heard nothing about helping renters. Where are we supposed to live? Will they help rebuild apartment buildings?”

From a renter’s point of view, New Orleans has become off-limits to all but prosperous tenants, as rents have increased significantly in the pockets of the city that did not flood. Before the storm, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom unit in the city was $676; it is now $940, according to the Brookings Institution.

Before the hurricane, it would not have been unusual to find a two-story, three-bedroom house in Gentilly, a solidly middle-class neighborhood, renting for less than $1,000 a month. Today, that area, north of downtown toward Lake Pontchartrain, does not exist as a functioning neighborhood.
Obviously the same people helping Baghdad have been helping New Orleans.

Interestingly, Garrison Keillor's Homegrown Democrat is out in a revised edition. I suspect this is some of the new stuff:

"Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. Secret prisons in the Middle East that our torture victims were outsourced to. One prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahatani, held naked in isolation under bright lights for months, threatened by dogs, subjected to unbearable noise, held underwater, and otherwise abused, so that he begged to be allowed to kill himself. When the Senate approved the Torture Convention of 1994, it defined torture as an act "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." The administration defied Congress to enforce the law and Congress harrumphed and turned away. And so young American men and women, under pain of court-martial, are ordered to do disgusting things to helpless prisoners that might, should circumstances change in a few years, get them hauled up for war crimes, and if they are, they will not be joined in the dock by Secretary Rumsfeld or President Bush.

"The only word that describes this is evil.

"A career based on creating low expectations keeps sinking lower and lower. The national disgrace that was Katrina. The famous headline that said, BUSH: ONE OF THE WORST DISASTERS TO HIT THE U.S. Hungry black people huddled together in the Superdome, stretched out asleep between the goal lines, and a 911 operator broke into sobs telling what it was like to talk to little kids in flooded houses and tell them help was on the way when she knew very well that it wasn't--that until they realized it would be shown on national television, the administration didn't give a rip what happened to New Orleans." (Garrison Keillor, Homegrown Democrat (New York: Penguin 2006), pp. 26-27. Emphasis in original.)

Clearly, they still don't.

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