Posts Tagged ‘Louisiana’

Five years after Katrina, the event still captures the imagination, particularly its fears.  I was living in Houston at the time Katrina hit.  I was able to talk to many refugees at the time, including young people living on friends’ couches and with relatives, working as waitresses and cab drivers and the like.  I also followed the news very closely.  It was truly an epic disaster.

This Did Not Happen and Your Eyes are Lying to You!

It is perhaps not surprising that on the five year anniversary of Katrina, a major revisionist history effort is underway.  Just as the LA Riots became a story of “12 Years of Neglect” and, last week, a single unrepresentative white crime against a cabdriver makes the national news, there have been hints of this revisionism regarding Katrina before.  The real story, we’re told in the Nation and elsewhere, is of racist whites going on a rampage and not the “conventional wisdom” of mass black local government incompetence, collective poor planning by government and individuals, and an aftermath of largely black criminality.

Isn’t this interesting?  Were the stories, then, of shooters harassing rescuers and aid workers at the time all made up?  Was the looting, arson, and mass chaos of the Superdome just an out of control myth?  Was New Orleans, which had the highest murder rate in the nation, suddenly a peaceful idyll upon the mass desertion of the corrupt, but absolutely necessary, police force?  The revisionists’ claims defy all common sense.

I should note one thing missing from most of these stories are raw numbers. How many people were arrested following the storm?  How many crimes were reported?  How many bodies were found and what was the cause of death? And how reliable are each of these numbers; what interest would any of the authors have in redeeming a certain group of people, restoring New Orleans’ reputation, etc.? How do New Orleans’ numbers compare to Slidell, Lafayette, or neighboring Gulf Coast Mississippi?

These Statistics Do Not Matter and Are Totally Irrelevant to Understanding What Happened Before, During, and After Katrina

It’s rather obvious that the usual liberal efforts at distraction, changing the subject, and Orwellian revisionism are underway.  And the reasons are familiar too:   the goal here is to transform this event, which showcased a serious natural disaster exacerbated by corrupt black-run city and an explosion of black crime, into a tale of federal incompetence and white racism in the form of trigger-happy property owners and cops.  While I have no doubt some stories were exaggerated and there was undoubtedly some overreaction by cops and property owners, I also know that some truths are being looked for very aggressively and others are actively avoided.

The group doing the “rewriting” of Katrina–the liberal media–cares not so much about truth in matters of race as it does in events that “fit the script.”  And that script is of evil white racists and innocent (or at worst misunderstood) black victims.  Consider the showcase story in the Nation; a man claims he was shot for no reason by a racist white man with a shotgun.  Is this possible?  It certainly is, especially in the fear-ridden climate after Katrina.  But what if he was a looter?  What if his goal was criminal?  Or what if it appeared to be so?  Would he admit to that?  Certainly not.  Would the Nation reporter ask him? Probably not, or if he did, it would be a pro forma deference to professional standards.

From everything I could see and hear and learn of from survivors while the event was happening, Katrina was terrible and its aftermath was the equivalent of the LA Riots with flooded streets, that crime of all kinds had exploded, that neighborhoods in Houston where Katrina refugees arrived en masse had become more crime ridden, that the 25+ more murders in Houston upon the arrival of the Katrina crowd was not an insignificant uptick in crime, and that any other outcome would truly defy all common sense based on New Orleans’ high crime rate pre-storm. Was there some trigger-happy overreaction by middle class New Orleanians?  Almost certainly.  But what was the cause of this?  Could it be the reasonable fear of massive crime after the storm along with years of negative experience with New Orleans’ underclass?  There’s no reason to think the universe went upside down during Katrina, and that people for many years who were violent criminals suddenly became angels.

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I think Obama seriously underestimated the magnitude of this event (and the risks it created) in the early days of the spill.  I also think it’s rather indicative of how much bullshit is involved in the modern American presidency, as if he were the chief entertainer or motivator of children.  Along these lines, it’s telling that President Bush was reading to fifth graders the morning of September 11, 2001.  That’s apparently half the job these days.  These side events should be secondary to a real job, with real decision-making and information gathering as the primary focus, but in the age of TV the opposite has happened.  It’s in large part PR mythmaking and appearing to “connect” with ordinary people through manipulation of images.

I also am struck by how much golf Obama plays.  He apparently has played a lot more than Bush ever did, and it appears, like Bush, he is a bit lazy and also majorly in need of down time.  The latter is certainly forgivable considering the nature of the job, but unlike Bush, Obama has a reputation as a transformational leader and also a genius, but appears like neither, and he is quite oversold.

I always thought events would define Obama’s term more than his own agenda, and so far BP and the economy remain the agenda items above all others.  Let’s hope that another successful terrorist attack or war in North Korea do not become additions to the list, but the existing stories are bad enough.

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Make It So

There is a strange, immature, and counterproductive tendency of some on the right to criticize the President for his response to the Gulf Spill by focusing on the result alone, without regard to the impossible challenges involved.  It seems, so far, that BP has engaged in tremendous efforts to stop this leak, that the leak presents a complicated engineering puzzle one mile in the deep ocean, that the National Guard and other resources are being deployed to clean up beaches, and that a President–any President–has no particular expertise to offer in a situation like this.  It’s as if James Carville and others want him to descend, God-like, on the scene and wave a magic wand, using his super powers to do what life-long petroleum engineers at BP cannot.

Obama perhaps is more vulnerable to these types of unrealistic expectations than the average President; after all, his campaign was all about “hope,” “change,” and he was supposed to stop the oceans rising and get the whole world to forget how much they hate our country’s guts.  But conservatives should know better.  A few–Yuval Levin and Gene Healy–have rightly pointed out that we do our position no long term favors by indulging in this childish, unmanly fantasy that demands the President have a magic touch.  Life has problems, sometimes they’re not easily solved but only mitigated, and a President and the government often can’t do a whole lot to help.

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One lesson is clear from Jena: Ignore the media at your peril. The military, prosecutors, Ken Starr, and many others have learned this lesson repeatedly. Talk to the media and they may distort what you say, but say nothing and you’ll get run over by opponents. CNN’s melodramatic focus on the “schoolyard fight” and the “wrong side of the tracks” in its special report on Jena, Louisiana added to the smokescreen set up by the defendants to distract us from what this case is really about: a brutal beatdown of a young man for “dissing” that had nothing to do with the infamous “noose incident” months earlier.

Prosecutor Reed Walters finally had something to say in today’s New York Times. Clearly, if he had been more forthright and persuasive earlier, his town might not have been inundated with pissed off protesters:

Conjure the image of schoolboys fighting: they exchange words, clench fists, throw punches, wrestle in the dirt until classmates or teachers pull them apart. Of course that would not be aggravated second-degree battery, which is what the attackers are now charged with. (Five of the defendants were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder.) But that’s not what happened at Jena High School.

The victim in this crime, who has been all but forgotten amid the focus on the defendants, was a young man named Justin Barker, who was not involved in the nooses incident three months earlier. According to all the credible evidence I am aware of, after lunch, he walked to his next class. As he passed through the gymnasium door to the outside, he was blindsided and knocked unconscious by a vicious blow to the head thrown by Mychal Bell. While lying on the ground unaware of what was happening to him, he was brutally kicked by at least six people.

Imagine you were walking down a city street, and someone leapt from behind a tree and hit you so hard that you fell to the sidewalk unconscious. Would you later describe that as a fight?

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