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Dysfunction - Dec 22

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Katrina's Hidden Race War

A.C. Thompson, The Nation
... The attack occurred in Algiers Point. The Point, as locals call it, is a neighborhood within a neighborhood, a small cluster of ornate, immaculately maintained 150-year-old houses within the larger Algiers district. A nationally recognized historic area, Algiers Point is largely white, while the rest of Algiers is predominantly black. It's a "white enclave" whose residents have "a kind of siege mentality," says Tulane University historian Lance Hill, noting that some white New Orleanians "think of themselves as an oppressed minority."

A wide street lined with towering trees, Opelousas Avenue marks the dividing line between Algiers Point and greater Algiers, and the difference in wealth between the two areas is immediately noticeable. "On one side of Opelousas it's 'hood, on the other side it's suburbs," says one local. "The two sides are totally opposite, like muddy and clean."

Algiers Point has always been somewhat isolated: it's perched on the west bank of the Mississippi River, linked to the core of the city only by a ferry line and twin gray steel bridges. When the hurricane descended on Louisiana, Algiers Point got off relatively easy. While wide swaths of New Orleans were deluged, the levees ringing Algiers Point withstood the Mississippi's surging currents, preventing flooding; most homes and businesses in the area survived intact. As word spread that the area was dry, desperate people began heading toward the west bank, some walking over bridges, others traveling by boat. The National Guard soon designated the Algiers Point ferry landing an official evacuation site. Rescuers from the Coast Guard and other agencies brought flood victims to the ferry terminal, where soldiers loaded them onto buses headed for Texas.

Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water and medical supplies for the flood victims. Instead, a group of white residents, convinced that crime would arrive with the human exodus, sought to seal off the area, blocking the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs. The newly formed militia, a loose band of about fifteen to thirty residents, most of them men, all of them white, was looking for thieves, outlaws or, as one member put it, anyone who simply "didn't belong."

The existence of this little army isn't a secret--in 2005 a few newspaper reporters wrote up the group's activities in glowing terms in articles that showed up on an array of pro-gun blogs; one Cox News story called it "the ultimate neighborhood watch." Herrington, for his part, recounted his ordeal in Spike Lee's documentary When the Levees Broke. But until now no one has ever seriously scrutinized what happened in Algiers Point during those days, and nobody has asked the obvious questions. Were the gunmen, as they claim, just trying to fend off looters? Or does Herrington's experience point to a different, far uglier truth?

Over the course of an eighteen-month investigation, I tracked down figures on all sides of the gunfire, speaking with the shooters of Algiers Point, gunshot survivors and those who witnessed the bloodshed. I interviewed police officers, forensic pathologists, firefighters, historians, medical doctors and private citizens, and studied more than 800 autopsies and piles of state death records. What emerged was a disturbing picture of New Orleans in the days after the storm, when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed.

Herrington, Collins and Alexander's experience fits into a broader pattern of violence in which, evidence indicates, at least eleven people were shot. In each case the targets were African-American men, while the shooters, it appears, were all white.

The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs--Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that "hundreds of gang members" were marauding through the Superdome. Now it's clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males.
(17 December 2008)
Related interview "Journalist A.C. Thompson discusses his groundbreaking piece on the white men who roamed post-Katrina New Orleans shooting African Americans."

EB contributor writes:
In this minor societal break-down people justified unacceptable actions and have not been asked to explain themselves. Frankly, I'm not sure if I'm too concerned about people stealing baseball caps. This article is about the 'Haves' with guns protecting themselves from the 'Have Nots' It is not much of a leap to question what happens when the men with guns have nothing to eat. If there is too many people and not enough food it seems unlikely any survivor will spend a great deal of time on enforcing justice and equality.

I hope that wherever I live when TSHTF the community will live together in peace and understanding, and sing Kumbayah around the campfire. Unfortunately I have more faith in the past 4000 years of human history - when you run out, go raid the neighbours.

Other than build castles (a serious consideration) what do we do about it?

BA:
Human beings have all sorts of responses in emergency situations. The reason this Katrina piece is news, is because it is unusual. As the piece makes clear, before the hurricane, the two communities were separated by race, class and geography. This is a recipe for disaster. As many others have suggested, the key is to strengthen community ties BEFOREHAND.

UPDATE (Dec 22). Related comments from
Rebecca Solnit (TomDispatch)
Chris Hedges (truthdig)



Computing Power About To Peak?

Bill Paul, Energy Tech Stocks
Is Global Economy’s Computing Power About To Peak? New Survey Warns on Power Shortages

In just two years time, businesses may not be able to add to their computing power primarily because data center operators won’t have enough electricity to expand their operations.

That’s the unsettling conclusion of a new survey of data center professionals by Emerson Network Power, a unit of Emerson Electric Co. The survey’s results were first reported by the web site InfoWorld.

Equally unsettling, while nearly two thirds said they would have serious capacity issues by 2011, only one in four reportedly has plans to reduce electricity usage.

The problem appears unlikely to be solved by 2011. The report found that data center operators maintain they don’t have the budget or the time to measure and improve their centers’ energy efficiency.
(22 December 2008)



The Needle and the Damage Done

Todd Paglia, Gristmill
Pop quiz: After Saudi Arabia, which country has the most proven oil reserves? Wrong. Not only wrong, but wrong part of the world. Unless you are among the .00001 percent who guessed Canada -- in which case, congratulations!

Canada has 179 billion barrels of proven "oil" reserves. I use quotes because it is not normal oil -- i.e., it is not as "good" as regular oil (an extremely low bar, if you ask me). Almost all of it lives in Alberta's tar sands, a sticky, greasy combination of 10 percent bitumen and 90 percent sand, clay, and water that underlay an area the size of Florida.

This vast store was first discovered by the Cree, and used benignly enough to patch canoes. It was first utilized by industry in 1967 with a mine operated by Suncor. The primary method of extraction is to remove the "overburden" -- Orwellian newspeak for what the rest of us might call living Earth: lakes, streams, old-growth Boreal forests, and wildlife. Once all living matter is removed, some of the largest open pit mines in the world are used to extract the bitumen.
(18 December 2008)




The Versace beach will be refrigerated

Joseph Romm, Gristmill

Is this a sign of the times to come or a sign of the crimes to come? The UK Times reports:

Versace, the renowned fashion house, is to create the world's first refrigerated beach so that hotel guests can walk comfortably across the sand on scorching days. The beach will be next to the the new Palazzo Versace hotel which is being built in Dubai where summer temperatures average 40C and can reach 50C.

The beach will have a network of pipes beneath the sand containing a coolant that will absorb heat from the surface. The swimming pool will be refrigerated and there are also proposals to install giant blowers to waft a gentle breeze over the beach.

And in the understatement of the year, the Times adds:

The scheme is likely to infuriate environmentalists.

(22 December 2008)
UPDATE (Dec 22). Just added this item.

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