Abby Martin has taken her groundbreaking work to TelesurEnglish, now called The Empire Files. In this episode titled ‘The Tyrany of Big Oil,’ Abby talks with Greg Palast and Antonia Juhasz. Greg and Antonia delve into Big Oil’s grip on Washington DC and how far they will go to make a buck – leaving a wrath of destruction as they do.
Palast begins about 17 minutes into this episode discussing the story behind his investigation into why New Orleans drowned. To see more on this story, watch his film Big Easy to Big Empty and of course read Vultures’ Picnic.
Don’t worry: the bankers are safe. The sub-prime sharks, derivatives divas, media mavens and their hairdressers, their trophy wives and their trophies’ personal trainers, the movers and shakers and money-makers, are all out of danger. Despite the warning that in a couple of days Hurricane Irene could well hit The Hamptons, the beach of the best of the ruling class will not lose a tan line.
I made sure they’re safe. A couple decades ago, I worked on an emergency evacuation plan for the county of Suffolk, New York, home of the Hamptons. It’s the wealthiest county in the United States.
The Hamptons’ hurricane plan is six volumes thick. The police and the politicians, the fire department and the first responders have their copies, their orders, their equipment and they are ready to roll before a single fake-blonde curl is ruffled by untoward weather.
The last hurricane to hit Long Island, far fiercer than Katrina, took two lives, not 2,000.
But then, the Hamptons isn’t New Orleans, is it?
In 1992, a big storm washed into 190 houses on West Hampton Dunes, getting many grade-B film scripts very wet. The federal government, with your tax dollars, rebuilt every single home on the beach (average value then, $2 million each) — and even rebuilt the beach with an endless samba line of trucks filled with sand, care of the Army Corps of Engineers.
There’s a photo of one, in case you’d like to move in. (Shouldn’t we each get at least a weekend in the surf for our money?)
Now look at Patricia Thomas’ home in the Lafitte Housing Project in New Orleans. I met her a year after the city flooded; she and her cousin and her cousin’s two kids, just off the bus from refugee centers in Texas, were told that if they returned to their homes, they would be arrested. It’s been six years and they still are not allowed back in. Doesn’t matter: three years ago, their houses were torn down to make way for yuppie condos, for the nouvelle carpetbaggers who will enjoy Lafitte’s locale near the French Quarter.
Last year, a judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government were completely responsible for the flooding of Lafitte and half the city. [See the film ‘Big Easy to Big Empty.’ This week, the Palast Investigative Fund is providing the half-hour film without charge. Click here to download it.]
Under the Constitution, the President and Congress must authorize payment to flood victims, as they did for the Westhampton luvvies. But for the Thomas family, Obama requested, and Congress, appropriated … absolutely nothing.
What about the New Orleans evacuation plan? Where were their six volumes? When I watched the chaos in August 2005, I immediately called FEMA to ask for a copy of the plan. Why were there no busses to take out those without cars? The number of deaths should have been ZERO.
The answer: the New Orleans plan couldn’t be found. The company paid to draft it, Innovative Emergency Management, couldn’t find a copy either. Long after 2,000 drowned, I found the “plan”: no provision at all for the 27,000 residents without cars. That’s not surprising: the hurricane evacuation contractor had zero experience in hurricane evacuation. Rather, IEM’s chief did have lots of experience in donating to the Republican Party.
This week marks the sixth anniversary of the biggest ethnic cleansing in America since the Indian wars of the 19th Century: the flooding of New Orleans. We will celebrate this weekend, by worrying that Hurricane Irene will make the President and his donors on Martha’s Vineyard spill their daiquiris.
I met Patricia’s cousin five years ago today when, as dusk fell, she was in tears, wondering where she was going to stay with her kids that night. “That’s what I want to know, Mister, where we going to?”
Well, I know of some usually-empty and quite nice federal housing units on Westhampton Dunes….
Matt Pascarella and I encountered Patricia Thomas while she was breaking into a home at the Lafitte Housing Project in New Orleans. It was her own home. Nevertheless, if caught, she’d end up in the slammer. So would we. Matt was my producer for the film, Big Easy to Big Empty, and he encouraged my worst habits. I’d worked for the New Orleans Housing Authority years back and knew they wanted the poor black folk out of these pretty townhouses near the French Quarter. Katrina was an excuse for ethnic cleansing, American style. Matt and I skipped cuffs on this shoot, but were charged later by Homeland Security (see below). While I recorded the story of hidden evils on film, Matt gathered a story which no camera can capture. Here it is. ”” Greg Palast
by Matt Pascarella
Four years ago, on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I sat with Patricia Thomas. Greg Palast and I had just helped her break into her home in the Lafitte Projects. She had been locked out for a year. She showed us her former home, her belongings scattered everywhere, and wrestled out endless stories of post-Katrina life: how she struggled to find shelter over the last year, how they came and put bars on her doors and windows and locked her out, how it was “man made.” …more
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From the film commercially released this week based on the investigation for Democracy Now! – the story you won’t get on CNN:
“They don’t want no poor niggers back in – that’s the bottom line.”
“By midnight the White House knew – but the state police didn’t know.”
“Stop that camera, we’ve called security.”
“This is criminal negligence for which people go to jail.”
“It is a prison set-up. I’ve never been to the bottom of the barrel until I came here.”
From the film, Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans, an investigation by Greg Palast for Democracy Now! Re-released this week in DVD including exclusive interviews by Palast and Amy Goodman of heroes and villains – the deep horror, the dark humor and the no-bullshit truth you won’t get on CNN.
It’s been two years already. If they had lived in Bangladesh during the tsunami, they’d be back home. But in New Orleans USA, more than half the original residents have not, CAN NOT, return to “The City That Care Forgot.” Now, in Big Easy to Big Empty, our investigative documentary re-released this week, meet the people that EVERYONE forgot. – Stephen Smith who had no car, and no way to evacuate New Orleans. He tells us his devastating story of being left behind, closing the eyes of an old man who died while waiting to be rescued on a bridge, watching helicopters soar pass overhead, and no one coming to rescue him or the dozens stranded with him, on that bridge, for days. After the storm it took him 3 months to find his children. He is currently working in a grocery store in Houston and wants to come back to New Orleans but has no place to live.
– Ivor Van Heerden, Deputy Director of Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Center reveals who knew what and when — before, during, and after the storm — and warns that his job is in danger for telling us his story.
“FEMA knew at eleven o’clock on Monday that the levees had breached, at 2 o’clock they flew over the 17th St. Canal and took video of the breaches, by midnight on Monday the White House knew, but none of us knew.”
– Brod Bagert, Former New Orleans’ City Councilman and lawyer takes us to a neighbor’s house where 5 bodies were found after the storm — in the back yard we find the levees that were supposed to protect the city from flooding; the levees that were supposed to protect the people who died here.
“Old ladies watched as water came up to their nose, over their eyes, and they drowned in houses just like this, in this neighborhood because of reckless negligence that is unanswered for.”
– Pamela Lewis, who had guns shoved in her face when she tried to evacuate with her 86 year old mother, has now been relocated over 100 miles from the city to one of FEMA’s giant trailer parks fenced in with barbed-wire and has lived there for 9 months. The trailer park is in a field literally in the middle of nowhere behind an Exxon Oil Refinery — the only bus available for residents goes only to Wal-Mart.
“It is a prison set-up. I’ve never been to the bottom of the barrel until I came here.”
– Patricia Thomas who broke her teeth while trying to evacuate is now homeless and is locked out of her public housing unit in the Lafitte housing project near the French Quarter. We go with her as she enters her blockaded apartment (which she now plans to illegally occupy) and find that it was not damaged by the flooding and could be re-opened within a week’s time.
“Katrina didn’t do this. Man did this. This was man made.”
– Malik Rahim, Director of Common Ground who is building communities aimed at bringing people back to New Orleans with affordable housing, collectives, and job-placement assistance.
“If we could do it – we could take a thousand people and house them in a humane way, why can’t the federal government do it?”
– Henry Irving Sr., home-owner in the Lower 9th Ward. His entire neighborhood has been completely destroyed, hardly anyone has returned, and those that have returned have been told not to — and yet Mr. Irving plans to stay.
“That’s what they want us to do. They want us to get discouraged and to leave. I’m going to stay here long enough to see it come back.”
Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans.
“One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.” – Christiane Brown, Air America Radio.
SPECIAL THANKS! This report was possible only through the extraordinary support we receive from our donors. If you would like to support our work you can do so today and recieve a gift — just click here.
A very, very, special thanks to our Associate Producers on this particular story — without their generosity and support this report would not have been possible:
Greg Palast, Writer & Reporter Matt Pascarella, Executive Producer Jacquie Soohen, Co-Producer, Filmographer & Editor Coordinating Producers: Leni von Eckardt, Zach Roberts & Christy Speicher
Ann & Mike Chickey David Kahn Kenneth Green Keith Fuchslocher Paul Mann CF Beck, Custom Designs Charles and Candia Varni Bill Perk Janis Weisbrot Doris Selz & Erwin Springbrunn Steven G Owens Victoria Ward Frank Reid Gale Georgalas William Schneider Suzanne Irwin-Wells Dan Beach Fritz Schenk Kenneth Fingeret David Pelleg Dick Shorter John Wetherhold Charles Turk Edward Farmilant Donald Duryee/Pat Thurston Gilbert Williams Sam Cowan Andy Tobias Donna Litowitz Norman Lear Steve Bing Bill Perkins Tina Rhoades Jack Chester David Thomas David Griggs Barbara Sher John Pearce
It’s been two years. And America’s media is about to have another tear-gasm over New Orleans. Maybe Anderson Cooper will weep again. The big networks will float into the moldering corpse of the city and give you uplifting stories about rebuilding and hope.
Now, let’s cut through the cry-baby crap. Here’s what happened two years ago – and what’s happening now.
This is what an inside source told me. And it makes me sick:
“By midnight on Monday, the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breeched. Nobody.”
The charge is devastating: That, on August 29, 2005,
So it’s that time of year again. The time when the Weather Channel is abuzz with warnings of new disasters in the Gulf Coast, the experts once again start talking about Global Warming’s effect on hurricanes, and finally Anderson Cooper and the rest of the tearful network elite make their trip to the Big Easy. Clad in their linen suits they will talk to the people, sympathize with them, and show all the progress the has occurred in the past two years. Happy stories sell.
It’s stories like that that get reporters in trouble, you lose access, you lose your precious seat in the press conference. Well we find press conferences boring, and we never get called on anyway. The last time we were in Louisiana, Homeland Security was called on us… so we figure we must be doing something right.
You can read a full review of Palast’s writings on New Orleans and Katrina here. Also you can see a clip from the film Big Easy to Big Empty, listen to podcasts and read excerpts from Armed Madhouse.
The White House knew [the levees broke] because the Army Corps of Engineers sent them photographs. Again, I want to emphasize that the White House had the photographs of the levees breaking, and didn’t tell state and local officials who had stopped the evacuation because the hurricane missed New Orleans. Everyone thought they dodged a bullet, but the White House didn’t tell anybody the levees broke and were drowning the city. — Greg Palast
Greg Palast is just unstoppable, and after you watch his remarkable new DVD, “Big Easy to Big Empty: The Drowning of New Orleans,” you’ll understand why. …more
Just released today: Big Easy to Big Empty DVD– the real story of how the White House drowned New Orleans and holds it underwater today. Donate at least $30 (tax-deductible) to our investigative reporting foundation and I’ll send you, signed, the one-hour-plus broadcast. The DVD includes Amy Goodman and me on New Orleans as the front line of the class war.
On August 22, my producer and I were charged by the Department of Homeland Security with violating anti-terror laws — we upset them for filming the bad guys. While the charges were dropped (whew!) we still have the film — originally made for Democracy Now! and LinkTV. …more