New Orleans Musings

I propose that we count the first of September in the Year of the Lord 2005 as the beginning of the Long Emergency.

Things to watch for in the “saving of New Orleans”, in no particular order.

1) The bulldozing of poor neighborhoods to “fill in” low-lying areas.
2) The reconstruction of some, but not all, levees.
3) American citizens being shot in the streets.
4) The abnegation of property rights for poor landowners, especially poor black landowners.
5) Shoddy construction, shoddy accounting, shoddy workmanship, shoddy politicking.
6) Congressional reluctance to provide more money.
7) Demands for reimbursement by major corporations for things appropriated during the emergency.
8) Large payouts to oil companies to reconstruct rigs, platforms, drilling platforms and repair facilities.
9) Bands of refugees across the South, looking for places to live.
10) Hotels and golf courses — or toxic Superfund wetlands — where poor neighborhoods used to be.
11) Higher prices at gas stations.
12) The collapse or bankruptcy of an airline because it cannot meet new fuel prices.
13) Insurance companies bailing out some, but not all, of their clients.
14) Gas shortages all across the country.
15) Higher prices in supermarkets and other shops.
16) Higher heating oil prices in the Northeast for the winter season.
17) No one ever asking if New Orleans can or should be saved.
18) Limits on long-distance travel by air or ground transport.
19) Cholera, typhus and malaria outbreaks. Toxics reactions. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders.
20) Sky-high natural gas prices (massive damage to the capacity and distribution systems, and no way to import more).
21) Really toxic blame games in affected Gulf states, Congress, Washington, newspapers and TV.
22) Large numbers of people without ID cards, papers, passports or other forms of identification.
23) Terrorists in 20+ years whose papers show them born in hospitals in and around New Orleans prior to the disaster.
24) Insurance companies refusing to sell hurricane insurance in affected areas.
25) Supply chain chaos for months or years.
26) One-of-a-kind items no longer available.
27) The beginnings of the death of Mississippi jazz
28) Huge debt-lease and derivatives problems for banks holding New Orleans mortgages.
29) Explosion of the credit-card bubble
30) Illegal immigration by boat into Louisiana.
31) Long-term difficulties with reconstruction of water purification, sewage treatment, water distribution, and electrical systems.
32) Suspension of Post Office service to affected communities (Happened as of yesterday, “for the duration” according to my local postmaster).
33) Collapse of Louisiana’s budget under the strain of fixing New Orleans.
34) Permanent disruption of schools and religious institutions.
35) The poor getting screwed.
36) Again.

14 comments

  1. Response to disasters

    It will be interesting to see the long term effects on policy in the United States. The response to 9/11 was a questionable war on terrorism that is costing billions with little regard for the long term effect on the economy. Will we now have a war on the effects of hurricanes; a war that will cost billions with little regard for the economy–but one that we are sure of what to do? The similarities of these two wars and the reasons they might be fought are obvious, but the differences are startling. No on can claim they didn’t know this was going to happen. There were plans to rebuilt the levies (though 40% was taken out of that fund). Scientists traveled the US in the early 80s warning decades of stronger hurricanes were in our future.

  2. Response to disasters

    It will be interesting to see the long term effects on policy in the United States. The response to 9/11 was a questionable war on terrorism that is costing billions with little regard for the long term effect on the economy. Will we now have a war on the effects of hurricanes; a war that will cost billions with little regard for the economy–but one that we are sure of what to do? The similarities of these two wars and the reasons they might be fought are obvious, but the differences are startling. No on can claim they didn’t know this was going to happen. There were plans to rebuilt the levies (though 40% was taken out of that fund). Scientists traveled the US in the early 80s warning decades of stronger hurricanes were in our future.

  3. Keep in mind hte insurance in question is not just for porvate structures. Continuity of operations assurance, freight insurance, petrochem extraction gear insurance — all of these are going to be profoundly increased in cost or maybe made unavailable by the events.

  4. Why? Government insurance always made far more sense than private insurance to me.

    However, it is worth noting that in the past 15 years, the government has had a policy of not paying to rebuild on a flood plain, instead, they will offer a one-time payment and tell people that if they use that money to rebuild on the 10 year flood plain, they can expect no further payments. This policy makes excellent sense in regions where only a small portion of the land is on the 10 year flood plain, and I completely support it, funding foolish choices is generally a poor idea. OTOH, when an entire city is below sea level, the situation becomes rather different. What we need is a massive engineering project on the order of what the Dutch have done with their coastline. NOLA is the nation’s largest port and it is very much in the economic interests of the US to make absolutely certain that this sort of disaster does not happen again.

  5. Also, NOLA will eventually rebuild in one form or another for the same reasons that it came up in the first place — it’s the mouth of the missisippi and the river trade of the nation flows in and out of it.

    later
    Tom

  6. Also, NOLA will eventually rebuild in one form or another for the same reasons that it came up in the first place — it’s the mouth of the missisippi and the river trade of the nation flows in and out of it.

    later
    Tom

    • Why? Government insurance always made far more sense than private insurance to me.

      However, it is worth noting that in the past 15 years, the government has had a policy of not paying to rebuild on a flood plain, instead, they will offer a one-time payment and tell people that if they use that money to rebuild on the 10 year flood plain, they can expect no further payments. This policy makes excellent sense in regions where only a small portion of the land is on the 10 year flood plain, and I completely support it, funding foolish choices is generally a poor idea. OTOH, when an entire city is below sea level, the situation becomes rather different. What we need is a massive engineering project on the order of what the Dutch have done with their coastline. NOLA is the nation’s largest port and it is very much in the economic interests of the US to make absolutely certain that this sort of disaster does not happen again.

    • Keep in mind hte insurance in question is not just for porvate structures. Continuity of operations assurance, freight insurance, petrochem extraction gear insurance — all of these are going to be profoundly increased in cost or maybe made unavailable by the events.

    • A no-expenses-paid Marathon Man race from the French Quarter to someplace unaffected by the disaster.

      Which I expect is a very, very long way, indeed.

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