Katrina: "Shock and Awe"

By Paul Caruso

09/01/05 "ICH"
-- -- Even the saddest "blues" on Basin Street had yet to see the likes of the "Shock and Awe" of a Category 5 hurricane - at least not until this past week when New Orleans was turned into a large bowl of toxic gumbo.

This unexpected history altering catastrophe was certainly on the carnage level of the ruthless siege of Fallujah by US marines and firepower, less the exploding body parts.  To be sure however, this particular disaster was planned and funded by almighty God, rather than a gaggle of neo-conservatives usurping the US tax payers. 

In retrospect, The Louisiana Advocate recently reprinted quite a portentous article in their Science section written by Mike Dunne back in April of 2002, that discussed the eventuality of a hurricane of the magnitude that could cause the levies in New Orleans to fail, and the catastrophic consequences that would surely ensue.
There remains no question that FEMA, the Army Corp of Engineers, local officials, businesspeople and developers alike were all forewarned, not only about the levies, but of the growing intensity of the weather patterns; shrinkage of coastal wetlands; and of course the infamous global warming.   It is rather curious how the federal government could neglect the real threat of the natural elements; reject the Kyoto Accords, while summarily throwing hundreds of billions of dollars into bogus wars - claiming to protect Americans from a series of  interchangeable, ubiquitous, and ever-illusive bogeymen such as Hussain, Asawi and Bin Laden.

In his article, Dunne discusses the possibility of hundreds of thousands of people staying in New Orleans after such a disaster - almost certain to be faced with diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid, dengue fever and encephalitis.  True to this prediction, the country who, without compunction, scattered depleted uranium all over Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia, as well as blanketed agent orange over much of South Vietnam, is now faced with massive contamination in its very own backyard, to include deadly chemicals; bacterial, and parasitic epidemics.  

Aside from the billions in devastation of property from winds and flooding, damage to the already mercury-laden oil rigs and platforms; islands of contamination as they are referred, numbering more than 4,000 in the gulf, has yet to be assessed. Although 95 percent of all oil production in the gulf is reportedly shut down, my inclinations, thus far, is that the damage will be ultimately understated as are most other pending economic disasters facing America.  But if the recent footage of the few shredded and twisted oil rigs that NBC recently released gives any indication, there is certain to be considerable damage to many other oil platforms, as well as to the refining facilities, that laid in the path of the unbridled Katrina at her peak intensity. 

Most noticeable from our living rooms has been the rapid deterioration of the water that New Orleans survivors continue to wade and navigate.  New Orleans has evidently returned to its historical swamp marsh, which now appears progressively murky,  a dark root-beer color - evidently reflecting a melange of rain water, brine, mud, sewerage, gasoline, oil, PCPs, and of course. Lake Pontchartrain.  The sheen of a sickening oil slick is now omnipresent in every newscast.
But it will take just a couple more days of almost 100 degree weather to really bring this New Orleans stew to an incomprehensible completion with the bloated corpses of pets, animals and yes, people. As morbid as it is, it soon will be all too easy to find the unfortunate missing.

And the rooster crows ever louder since it is now harvest time in America's Breadbasket, with its promising bounty of corn, wheat, soybean, cotton and sugarcane, almost ready to be shipped.   Unfortunately, New Orleans, one of the largest and most critical ports in the nation for imports and exports, is completely out of commission.  Regardless of the lack of infrastructure and utilities, the mighty Mississippi River may need some considerable dredging after such incredibly powerful water-surges from both the Gulf and the river currents.  It could not be worse timing for a country with a 600 billion dollar trade deficit; still borrowing billions daily from even its perceived enemies. 

But speaking of trade deficits and the national debt -  one must certainly ask: "where will all the money come from to repair this mess?"  Some estimates of the Katrina damage exceed 25 billions dollars - in contrast however to the dubious war on terror, which has cost the taxpayers as much as 340 billion dollars.  Iraq alone has required 200 billion tax-dollars, while the national debt approaches 8.5 trillion - a hike in debt ceiling recently approved by congress.

It is hard to imagine that these insurance companies can come up with this kind of cash, or should I say "more debt." But like the rest of the Federal Reserve, therein lies the mystery of the creation of wealth from literally nothing.   The spokesperson from Harrahs casinos has reported a total loss of facilities and jobs on the Mississippi coast, but confidently assured the stock holders that they are fully insured for business interruption and property damage.   And while the common man looses everything, other people make money hand over fist from disasters such as these.   Bernie Pincus at Home Depot and the people at Leows Home Supplies are certainly ecstatic, but even as the oil sector suffers, the value of their stocks increases.  And the party continues with more borrowing, and the hedging, and options, and the futures, and the intricate mechanisms of a fiat currency that is backed by still nothing more than the illusion of military strength, and the ostensible control of world oil supplies. Like a game of musical chairs, the game must end at some point.

The five year 3.7 million dollar study to reinforce the levies, of which Dunne refers, was approved by the state of Louisiana back in 2002, and was still in progress when Katrina hit.  I would imagine the cost would have amounted to a fraction of the disastrous and counterproductive blunder of the Iraq War; while providing a productive public works project for the people of Louisiana.

But therein lies the logic of what was once a highly respected nation, admired by most of the Arab world it now vilifies - a once great country whose foreign policies has come to dumbfound and disillusion most of its own citizenry.  

Those who support the blatant imperial thievery of other country's resources,  now thumb their noses at the desperate minorities of New Orleans. And as a demoralized people discard their dignity, proceed to pillage and loot with brazen impunity, we receive news that over a million people in the US have joined the ranks of the poverty stricken this past year. This statistic in fact has increased for the fourth years in a row, while cardboard politicians boast that the nation has created hundreds of thousands of part-time fast food and shelf stocking jobs, with no benefits, were added to the economy. 

As for Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation, the influx of disaster funds and insurance money may ultimately trickle down to the less-than-affluent.  But the wealthy will see their stocks rise further and get the big reconstruction contracts as they obstinately continue to rebuild their seaside mansions and summer-homes on precarious but exclusive real estate. They will therefore continue to inevitably absorb FEMA funds into the future, while increasing the insurance rates for everyone else.

It will take a little more time for people to fully understand the implication of this Katrina disaster.  It certainly will present an huge economic drain, but most immediately is accelerating the gas crisis.  It may indeed prove to be quite a heavy straw for the camel's back, particularly if the Chinese take the opportunity to leverage their holdings in US securities. With their almost one trillion dollars in US securities, they could even find this misfortune a very good time to make another bid for a large American oil company, or perhaps they will boldly take this opportunity to buy, let's say. Walmart. As much as 70% of the "martigras-like" free-for-all, we see leaving gratis from partially submerged K-Marts are indeed made in communist China. 

Whatever the situation, I for one am certain that Bush's advisors are in much more of a desperate situation than ever before.  Katrina is a disaster not of their predetermined making, nor does it appear to be a lemon they can so readily turn into lemonade - not even with the help of their media cohorts.  I fear that rather than expose a weak economy that has long needed immediate attention, the Bush cabal may opt for another desperate diversion.  But could the country stand another?

Based on my own observations, I find more people outside the United States, to have a far better understanding of American foreign policy and national politics than Americans themselves. It is clear that the adversaries are even a few steps ahead of the game.   Just last week, Pat Robertson called for Hugo Chavez to be assassinated, with the ridiculous logic that Venezuela, which is almost entirely Catholic, will become a communist and Muslim terrorist base of operations.  Subsequently in brilliant diplomatic trump, and coincidently just days before Katrina struck, President Chavez took the high-ground and announced to the world that Venezuela would provide cut-rate oil for the poor and elderly of the United States.

Well, how's that for a third world country treating the US like a third world country?  And one certainly does get the third world impression these days from all of that news footage of Louisiana flood victims shown on MSNBC and CNN International.

It remains to be seen how long America can hold on to the illusion of perpetual prosperity and security, and for that matter the authenticity of democracy, truth, justice, and the American way. 

The country has always accepted New Orleans as an acceptable den of inequities of sort.  It has indeed always been a place of lesser morals, with its gambling, prostitution, drugs, deviant behavior, and other intrigues.  It played an important logistical role in the Kennedy assassination. Therefore,  this city being the focal point of  a calamity of such a grand scale and significance may indeed offer the spiritual some sort of prophetic message, that could counteract the errant evangelic fanaticism now exploited by neocon warmongers.   Otherwise, the late jazz great, Louis Prima, sang it best:  "down in New Orleans, in the land of dreams, you never know how nice it seems. if that what its supposed to really mean."


Mike Dunne, The Louisiana Advocate

The Mobile Register, Damage to the Oil Rigs

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