August 31, 2005

What Happens When a City Dies?

It's hard to write a powerful personal essay about the localized apocalypse in New Orleans without having personally experienced it, but Karrie Higgins pulled it off.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 31, 2005 06:52 PM
Comments

Great essay and site.

Posted by: Patricia at August 31, 2005 08:29 PM

Only subscribers can read the whole article. Nonetheless, I’m sure that Wall Street Journal (OpinionJournal's Political Diary) will cut me some slack for providing the follow excerpt:

“Expect the recriminations now to get ugly, proportional to the size of the catastrophe. In reality, however, everyone knew New Orleans was a disaster in the making. Federal and state officials long ago decided to protect the city from a Category 3 hurricane, choosing to let nature takes its course in the event of Category 4 or 5 storm. The term for this is "moral hazard." Implicitly, they knew they couldn't justify spending billions of U.S. taxpayer money to subsidize Louisianans to build in ill-advised places. They also knew, in the wake of the inevitable disaster, unlimited federal money would likely be available to rebuild in all the same spots. This is the reason you can't buy commercial flood insurance. "Private insurers will not offer private flood coverage because typically these stories replay themselves over and over again," says Robert Hartwig, chief economist for the insurance industry's Washington trade group.”

This tragedy occurred because the government funded the delusions of the people living in the New Orleans area. God bless them. I’m sure that they are very nice people. Nonetheless, we should realized that something was wrong when private insurance companies refused to insure the madness. Do you really wish the best for those previously residing in the lower areas of New Orleans? In that case, you should encourage them to move to another part of the United States.

Posted by: David Thomson at August 31, 2005 08:51 PM

Dont worry folks.
The military has everything under control.

Judge; "I cant substitute my opinion for general myers opinion".

Military trumps judicary.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-08-30-judge-abughraib-phots_x.htm

Posted by: kevser at August 31, 2005 10:44 PM

Government does much to distort human activity and subsidize insanity. Keep a wary eye on the bureaucrats who want to "save" New Orleans. Most of what makes New Orleans unique is precisely the sort of stuff that results from what libertarians like to call "spontaneous order". Ask a group of libertarians to name their favority city, and I bet New Orleans would be in the top five, if not number one. That town is so wonderful in large part because its culture was not manufactured or planned by some group of "experts".

New Orleans will survive. But even if it was abandoned, it would probably be recreated somewhere else. If the government wants to work on the levees, that's one thing. But keep the feds OUT of the city. New Orleans will recreate itself if the freaking planners will keep their nasty paws off of it.

Am I the only person who thinks the Department of Homeland Security is turning into a monster ?

Posted by: freeguy at September 1, 2005 12:19 AM

“Government does much to distort human activity and subsidize insanity.”

A private insurance company might charge $1,500 a month to cover a young teenager with an atrocious driving record. The parents look at the extremely high premium and prudently decide that perhaps it’s best Junior doesn’t get behind the wheel of an automobile. However, well meaning politicians and bureaucrats decide to cut the kid some slack. They offer a government program which allows the reckless youth to purchase the same insurance for a mere $50 a month. “Gosh,” the parents say, “we can afford that relatively small amount. Let’s get Junior back onto the road. The kid deserves another chance.”

Posted by: David Thomson at September 1, 2005 03:39 AM

Dont worry folks.
The military has everything under control.
--Kevser

Sorry Folks, I just(like Carlos) can't resist. I just DESPISE creatures such as this.

Kevser, FOAD, you revolting toad .

This off-topic post is disgusting in both tone and content considering what we are talking and worrying about today. Get a LIFE.

Get thee hence, Satan !!!

Posted by: dougf at September 1, 2005 06:09 AM

Dougf,

So you consider an american judge saying that the opinion of a military general tops his own opinion unproblematic?

And the fact that noone in the US thinks this newsworthy?

You dont think that that is disgusting and revolting?

Posted by: kevser at September 1, 2005 06:29 AM

KEVSER,

I read the article, the General is more qualified on the subject than the judge. Releasing the pictures WILL lead directly to deaths overseas and make it harder on American forces overseas, and probably lead to American deaths abroad.

On the other hand those pictures and video have no value in their release. What will the public gain in seeing them? People are already being prosecuted for these acts (and these pictures are used as part of the prosecution).

Only people who want to score cheap political points, cause the deaths of others, including American citizens, and help our enemies in their efforts. Sounds like we know which side your on...

Posted by: buffpilot at September 1, 2005 06:48 AM

dougf, buff,

stop politicizing the thread. It's unseemly.

Posted by: Carlos at September 1, 2005 07:14 AM

Disturbing thoughts. I hope someone proves me wrong, if not ignorant.

On the Levees of New Orleans

Posted by: Solomon2 at September 1, 2005 08:05 AM

Of course, a large part of the charm of New Orleans was (will be?) how it could let the good times roll, with death and destruction slowly rolling right behind the levees.

I frankly can't imagine the attempt to rebuild her not being made. The open question is whether New New Orleans will get that old spirit back.

I visited there three times. The first time (1990) the thing that struck me was how many pierced teenage beggars there were on the street, and how every one of them seemed to have a dog. The second time (1995) the kid beggers seemed to have left for other pastures, replaced by German tourists. Last year I went and did some walking around behind and to the west of the French Quarter, and I realized how much of New Orleans was flat-out broke and pissed off about it.

The darkness in New Orleans wasn't just a fiction made up for the tittilation of the tourists. We're seeing it's effects in the potshots at rescue helicoptors, the burning sporting goods stores, the hospitals looted for drugs, etc.

But the joy of New Orleans always accepted the darkness, and the darkest parts could always turn on a dime and become sources of wonder themselves. (That's one of the ways that great Jazz happens, I think.)

Next time I'm there (and I will go back) I'll be listening for the tenor of the Jazz, watching the dance of the light and the dark, and hoping the soul of a city can't be destroyed.

And kev, I concur with others about your need to get a life. Hoping to see the heavy hand of MJT soon. How far off-topic do you have to be to get a comment deleted?

Posted by: Mark Poling at September 1, 2005 09:14 AM

Yes Carlos, its unseemly to talk about what america is really doing in Iraq.
Its unseemly to show the american citizens what Operation Iraqi Frredom entails.

This wasn't some private citizens abusing some private citizens. These were US service people, supervised by higher ranking service people, under orders from politicans, spending lots of american money, abusing, torturing, raping and probably killing defenseless detainees, most of which were probably innocent.

And you think the exposure of this abuse of power
in its totality has no value?

Buff, If you think that exposing the reality of the abuse of power is anti-american, i question your definition of american.

Posted by: kevser at September 1, 2005 09:46 AM

kevser,

Just to be clear, I didn't say it was unseemly for YOU to politicize Katrina threads. I told Buff and dougf it was unseemly for THEM to respond to your politicizing of Katrina threads.

Posted by: Carlos at September 1, 2005 10:25 AM

Carlos,

You're right. I have friends/collegues in Iraq and family (who escaped - now in Houston) and friends (one living in a two story house in Slidell with 6ft of water in it) in NO, so I'm a little touchy.

MJT,

If your purge the troll, please take my post in response away also. Sorry.

Posted by: buffpilot at September 1, 2005 10:49 AM

Kevser,

You're pissing me and everyone else off. Knock it off or get out. We can argue about this shit later.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 1, 2005 10:52 AM

Looking forwrd to it.
Till then.

Posted by: kevser at September 1, 2005 11:01 AM

The whole thing is very surreal. Removing myself from the emotions of it all for a moment, and from the fact that these are real people who are suffering and who have lost their property, I think this will go down in history as the demise of a once-great city, comparable in significance if not in magnitude to Pompeii. We are basically watching an ancient city of tremendous historical and cultural significance be flooded and sacked. A millenium from now, it could be the new Atlantis, complete with a highly exaggerated mythology surrounding it.

Posted by: Dave at September 1, 2005 11:07 AM

Cities die over a period of decades and centuries. I was listening to an urban planning expert on the radio and he was talking about how N.O. has been in decline for over a 100 years. For instance, there were more people living in that city 150 years ago than there are today. Houston, its historical rival is now 4 times larger than N.O. He was also lamenting the fact that in terms of industry, and the skills of its population (being a city heavily based on tourism), the prognosis is not good for the future reconstruction of that city. He didn't say this, but I predict Katrina will only accelerate the demise of N.O. as a major population center. Many of those people who fled probably won't even return.

Posted by: Carlos at September 1, 2005 11:59 AM

Carlos,

There's an even stronger connection. The reason for Houston's ascension was the hurricane in 1900 that killed upwards of 8,000 and obliterated Galveston, which rivalled New York in size and sophistication. There's still a Galveston, of course, but it's a shell of its former self. And over the last century, with people and infrastructure having moved an hour north, Houston is the nation's fourth-largest city.

More on the 1900 hurricane here:
http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2000/galveston/

Posted by: beloml at September 1, 2005 12:27 PM

New Orleans has been in decline since the day it was founded, but it proved more vibrant in decline than most cities that pride themselves as being progressive. I think the essay by Karrie Higgins nailed it.

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