Monday, September 12, 2005

Poor Black People Evacuated, New Orleans Safe for a Bush Visit Today

Initially I wondered why President Bush waited so long to finally visit the city of New Orleans, but it came to me immediately. Of course! There are no people left, and particularly no rowdy, black, poor people. If he had actually visited the city center the last time around (instead of just dropping in at the airport), it would have been a PR disaster.

But I now believe it’s somewhat more complicated, and that his visit is the result of the convergence of three key factors. First, of course, no pesky “public” to deal with, no one to yell “Fuck you, W,” just “natural” devastation to ponder. Second, it’s not exactly true that New Orleans has been totally depopulated. An article by Christopher Cooper in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal informs us that the white “power elite” is in town, in their exclusive neighborhoods, living quite well in their mansions, with generators, ice for their cocktails, and a private heliport to bring in supplies and private security guards. The article is fascinating not just for the rare insight into how local ruling classes live and operate.

But most illuminating are the views of James Reiss, who made his money supplying electronic systems to shipbuilders and is chair of the Regional Transport Authority, and who brought in an Israeli security company to guard his property against looters. Here are Reiss’s views of New Orleans’ future:

The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."

And according to Cooper, the power elite shares this view: they “insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate.”

How convenient! The poor have all been evacuated, their homes and apartments destroyed. Too poor to afford transportation out of the city, and no doubt, too poor to afford to move back, especially if they have carved out new lives for themselves. (And with no poor black people, maybe Republicans can take power in New Orleans again.)

So perhaps Bush plans to meet with these “leading citizens” and discuss their vision of New Orlean’s future: cleansed of the poor and black. According to Cooper, 40 of Nawleans’ power elite met with Mayor Nagin on Friday to begin “mapping out a future for the city.”

The third element is that security in New Orleans is now awesome. It even includes mercenaries from the private security firm Blackwater, who say they are on contract with the Homeland Security Department and the Louisiana state government. Some of them have been back from Iraq only two weeks. Blackwater is one of the leading private security firms operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. After four Blackwater mercenaries were killed in Fallujah and two of the burned bodies hung from a bridge in March 2004, the US military launched an operation in Fallujah that left the city in ruins and displaced tens of thousands of civilians.

1. No poor black people. 2. White power elite to lunch with. 3. Fabulous security. For W, that's almost like being back on vacation.

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