Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina + 6

the dean has said we can stay in our offices over night if to take advantage of the airconditioning here. We are under a curfew. I don't know why--all we have are a few streetlights out. It is like a sympathy curfew with New Orleans. They need a curfew but can't enforce, we don't but can. Maybe by having a curfew here the residents of New Orleans will enjoy some vicarious order. Anyway, I am staying in my office tonight. No place to sleep, but I have made one of those discoveries that only adversity can force you to find the inner resources to discover: with enough beer anything can become a bed.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

order and forces on hand

I think that it is not the case that there are not enough police on hand to do the job of protecting relief workers, it is the way we have defined their job that makes it impossible. A couple of generations ago when the forces of order had the benefit of the doubt the firepower on hand would have been more than adequate. What is different now is that you have to have so many oks before using deadly force, that you have to fire only when you can prove in court that your life was threatened, and that is was not just a matter of keeping order or establishing dominance. You have a bunch of thugs on the dock waving guns around. You tell them to get lost or you will shoot them and then count to three. There is more than enough fire power to do that. But no, that would violate someone’s rights. Their mother (no father but probably a mother) would show up on TV saying how he was a good boy. The scum of the earth must be given every benefit of a doubt while patients can’t move from the hospital and relief workers must dodge bullets. But no, don’t shoot the gangs of monsters. That would violate their rights.

You know you are in Mississippi

One good thing might grow out of this is a bit less tolerance for looting and disorder. The insurance commisioner’s comments that seemed so ridiculous yesterday are starting to sound very sensible today.

The NPR guy (and I must say, the NPR coverage has been quite reasonable in my opinion. Maybe it is that they don’t have pictures but they don’t seem to focus on whining nearly as much as the TV networks.) was interviewing some Louisiana official about the insurance situation. The guy was so articulate but had such a poetic way of speaking in a thick deep-south drawl. The NPR guy was really warming up to him and kept the segment going. The guy was making a really interesting argument about how charging high re-insurance rates had made it possible now to handle the crisis financially and that all the people who had been complaining should now see what a mistake they were making.

Then the NPR guy asks him about looting. The commissioner answers, “well, you know, people like that, I just think that people who would do that ought to be shot. I wish they would just shoot them.”

The NPR guy thinks he is talking about police, but no. “I just think that when they see something like that, I just wish they would get their gun and shoot them.” He adds, just to show his isn’t a complete Neanderthal, “Now, you don’t have to kill them, but I just think they ought to shoot them.

Instead of getting all self-righteous the NPR guy tries to give the guy an out by assuming that he is just speaking figuratively about law enforcement taking strong measures and suggest that the local sheriff has said he will expand the jail system to keep looters incarcerated. The guy says, “no, the jails, they will get full up and, uh, no, just go on and shoot them.”

You know you are in Mississippi.

An interesting thing about the above dialogue is the way the commissioner assumes that “people” a) refers to his listeners and b) refers to law abiding citizens that should have the authority to shoot the bad people, who apparently aren’t listeners to NPR. That is, the Commissioner implicitly thinks that there is a thing called society that is competent to use deadly force and that these are the people in his audience. No appeal to people not to loot. That kind of person isn’t listening to the broadcast or is beyond the appeal to reason.

Of course he may be thinking that such people are listening and aiming his comments toward potential looters. He communicates to potential looters not only the cost of looting but also the degree of contempt they are held in by “people” that is the part of humanity that can be considered worthy of the name humanity. Who knows? Maybe if instead of chin scratching about what makes people loot we just talked about what we ought to do to them we would have a better effect then asking what is troubling them?


It is astonishing that they are directing anger toward the government and not toward the people committing crimes. The most salient fact about someone firing at doctors is their depravity as individuals, not the question of whether there was a police officer on the scene. It is unbelievable that we are interested in finding a way to blame stuff on Bush. Elites are not interested in the rot and vileness of people that would take advantage of a such a situation and look instead at something different Bush could have done.

Note that no one is making a case that there was something that should have been done that wasn’t. The mere fact that something bad is happening and the government is not able to prevent it is enough to use it against Bush.

But there is something even more creepy. The way they ask questions of minor officials who are not especially Republican or Democrat.

You can never direct anger against other people, you always have to direct it toward the government, because even if people are doing something wrong it is only because of something the government hasn’t done for them.

People can’t take pride in how well they cope with something horrible because that would weaken their claim against the government.


What will be made use of in this situation? The conservatives will point out that it is the result of an infantilized society where the family is destroyed. Where the men have abandoned their families. Black people in the 1930s didn’t have this problem they had no choice.

Liberals will say it is because we have all our army and resources in Iraq.


“They have no shade” what did people do before the government invented shade? These people don’t know how to do anything. Can people do anything for themselves? People can build shade. I don’t care. And you can’t criticize people because that is cruel.

There are people out dying because they can’t get their medicine. The news media plays up their complaints as if they are legitimate, as if they are victims of the government. No shame.


It was amazing how they couldn’t find anyone to interview on TV that was coping. You saw a few people in the background that were not standing there panicking, but everyone that got an on-camera interview was a balling mound of helplessness. That seemed to be some sort of rule. No getting on camera unless you were a basket case. .