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Hamptons Hurricane: A Bankers’ Katrina

Greg Palast 

NationofChange

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….

***

Greg Palast’s investigative report, Big Easy to Big Empty: the Untold Story of How the White House Drowned New Orleans is available as a free download at www.GregPalast.com, provided by the Palast Investigative Fund, a 501(c)3 charitable trust, on the Sixth Anniversary of the New Orleans’ flood.

Palast’s continuing investigation of the flood and its connection to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, filmed for Channel 4 Dispatches UK, will be published in November by Penguin USA.

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Bush’d again?
New Orleans, Mr. O and Mr. Go

Greg Palast 

For The Huffington Post

Five years ago this week, a beast drowned New Orleans. Don’t blame Katrina: the lady never, in fact, touched the city. The hurricane swept east of it.

You want to know the name of the S.O.B. who attacked New Orleans? Locals call him “Mr. Go”the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO).

MR-GO was undoubtedly the most bone-headed, deadly insane project ever built by the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s a 76-mile long canal, straight as a gun barrel, running right up from the Gulf of Mexico to the heart of New Orleans.

In effect, MR-GO was a welcome mat to the city for Katrina. Experts call it “the Hurricane Highway.”

Until the Army Corps made this crazy gash in the Mississippi Delta fifty years ago, Mother Nature protected the Crescent City with a green wreath of cypress and mangrove. The environmental slash-job caused the government’s own hydrologist to raise alarms from Day One of construction.

Unless MR-GO was fixed or plugged, the Corps was inviting, “the possibility of catastrophic damage to urban areas by a hurricane surge coming up this waterway.” (I’m quoting from a report issued 17 years before The Flood.)

A forensic analysis by Dr. John W. Day calculated that if the Corps had left just 6 miles of wetlands in place of the open canal, the surge caused by Katrina’s wind would have been reduced by 4.5 feet and a lot of New Orleaneans would be alive today.
…more

No “Home Sweet Home”
Five years after Katrina

Greg Palast 

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

Five Years and Still Drowning
The New Orleans CNN Would Never Show You

Greg Palast 

It’s been five years already. In New Orleans, more than half the original residents have not, cannot, return.

“They don’t want no poor niggers back in – that’s the bottom line.”

And that’s Malik Rahim, Director of Common Ground, who led the survivors who rebuilt their homes in the teeth of official resistance in “The City That Care Forgot.”

You’ll meet Malik and the people that everyone forgot in Big Easy to Big Empty: the Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans, chosen this week as Moviefone’s top pick of Katrina documentaries.

Donate and get the signed DVD with added material, including Palast with Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman.

Meet Patricia Thomas who was locked out of her home in the Lafitte housing project near the French Quarter. We go with her as she breaks into her blockaded apartment.

“Katrina didn’t do this. Man did this.”

…more

The Right Testicle of Hell:
History of a Haitian Holocaust

Greg Palast 

Blackwater before drinking water

For The Huffington Post


Just in!
Our plea to send medicine to a friend’s father in Haiti was answered by Democracy Now! producer Sharif Abdel-Kouddous who will make the delivery in Port-au-Prince. Apparently DN, unlike the US government, doesn’t require armed “Security” to save lives.

1.
Bless the President for having rescue teams in the air almost immediately. That was President Olafur Grimsson of Iceland. On Wednesday, the AP reported that the President of the United States promised, “The initial contingent of 2,000 Marines could be deployed to the quake-ravaged country within the next few days.” “In a few days,” Mr. Obama?

2.
There’s no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster. 200,000 Haitians have been slaughtered by slum housing and IMF “austerity” plans.

3.
A friend of mine called. Do I know a journalist who could get medicine to her father? And she added, trying to hold her voice together, “My sister, she’s under the rubble. Is anyone going who can help, anyone?” Should I tell her, “Obama will have Marines there in ‘a few days'”? …more

Damn that Lincoln: Abe’s to blame for Jindal

Greg Palast 

Exclusive to Buzzflash.com

Damn that Abe Lincoln. When Louisiana and Mississippi seceded from the Union, a sensible president would have sent them a box of chocolates with a note, “Goodbye and good riddance.”

Tonight, following Barack Obama’s budget presentation to Congress, effectively the president’s first State of the Union Address, the Republicans chose to give their party’s response, the governor of the state that wanted to leave the Union, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal.

Jindal told us that Barack Obama is a terrible President who passed a stimulus bill “larded with wasteful spending.”   Where’s the lard?  All week, Jindal has been screeching that Obama wants to require states like Louisiana to extend unemployment insurance to – get this – the unemployed!  (Technically, the federal government would pay 100% of the cost of reforming Louisiana’s and Mississippi’s Scrooge-sized benefit requirements.)A Year After the Flood

Jindal, and some other Republican governors, notably Haley Barbour of Mississippi, are actually turning down millions in federal funds for their own state’s unemployed out of fear that, four years from now, they may have to maintain full unemployment insurance like the rest of America.

Barbour’s excuse, parroted by Jindal, is that the Obama payments to the unemployed of their states would mean, when the economy returns to expansion, that their state would have to increase unemployment insurance taxes and payments to the US average, scaring away new employers. “I mean, we want more jobs,” says Barbour.  Um, this is the Governor of MISSISSIPPI talking.  Exactly what new “jobs” is he talking about? Is Microsoft is based in Gulfport?  Is Genentech opening its new headquarters in Moss Point?

As an economist, I can tell you that the only industry Mississippi leads in is deep-fried chicken-dog manufacturing.  I will admit that Louisiana and Mississippi can boast of growing employment at several …more

BURN BABY BURN
The California Celebrity Fires

Greg Palast 

The ‘Boo ain’t no N.O.
Plus: George Bush, Flame Retard

What color is your disaster? It makes a difference. A life and death difference.

Dig:

Population of San Diego fire evacuation zone: 500,000
Population of the New Orleans flood evacuation zone: 500,000

White folk as a % of evacuees, San Diego: 66%
Black folk as % of evacuees, New Orleans: 67%Malibu Dancers

Size counts, too. Size of your wallet, that is:

Evacuees in San Diego, in poverty: 9%
Evacuees in New Orleans, in poverty: 27%

The numbers would be even uglier, though more revealing, if I included evacuees of the celebrity fire in Malibu.

The President didn’t do a photo-strafing of the scene from 1700 feet this time. Instead, we have the photo op of George, feet on the ground, hanging with Arnold the Action Man. (However, I’m informed that the President was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get to wear one of those neat fireman hats likePatricial Thomas, fmr NOLA Resident Rudi G got at Ground Zero.)

In 2005, while the bodies were still being fished out of flooded homes in New Orleans, Republican Congressman Richard Baker praised The Lord for his mercy. “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did,” he said about the removal of the poor from the project near the French Quarter much coveted by speculators.

But as this week’s flames spread, no Republican Congressman cried, “Burn baby burn!” to praise the Lord for cleaning up them ‘Boo, the sin-and-surf playground of Hollywood luvvies.

In New Orleans, God’s covenant with real estate developers has been very profitable. Over 70,000 families
…more

Big Easy to Big Empty
The Untold Story of the

Drowning of New Orleans

Greg Palast 

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.
stephensmith cap– 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.”

brodbagert cap– 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.”

pamelalewis cap 1– 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.”

patriciathomas

– 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 caption

– 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?”

henryirvingsr

– 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

Associate Producers

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Hurricane George
How the White House Drowned New Orleans

Greg Palast 

It’s been two years. And America’s media is about to have another tear-gasm over New Orleans. Maybelower9th.jpg 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,

…more

18 Missing Inches in New Orleans

Greg Palast 

The Department of Homeland Security, after a five-year hunt for Osama, finally brought charges against... Greg Palast.

As America crawled toward the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attack, Homeland Security charged me and my US producer Matt Pascarella with violating the anti-terror laws. Don't you feel safer?
And I confess: we're guilty. ...more

New Orleans — Still Under Water

Greg Palast 

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

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 PalastDVD cover

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

Exxon-erated! Palast Escapes Clutches of Homeland Security

Greg Palast 

HUFFINGTON POST- EAT THE PRESS | Scott Thill

Good news from the edge of reality: Exxon has changed its mind. It was only days ago that they were employing the help of their subsidiary known as the Department of Homeland Security to put a Gitmo scare into Greg Palast and Matt Pascarella for filming the oil powerhouse’s Baton Rouge refinery — and about a thousand Katrina refugees being held behind barbed wire near it …more

Reporter Palast Slips Clutches of Homeland Security

Greg Palast 

September 14th, 2006
Forget the orange suit. Exxon Mobil Corporation, which admits it was behind the criminal complaint brought by Homeland Security against me and television producer Matt Pascarella, has informed me that the oil company will no longer push charges that Pascarella and I threatened “critical infrastructure.”

The allegedly criminal act, which put us on the wrong side of post-9/11 anti-terror law, was our filming of Exxon’s Baton Rouge refinery where, nearby, 1,600 survivors of Hurricane Katrina remain interned behind barbed wire. …more

Hurrincane Expert Threatened
For Pre-Katrina Warnings

Greg Palast 

special investigation for Democracy Now!
Monday, August 28. From New Orleans.

DON’T blame the Lady. Katrina killed no one in this town. In fact, Katrina missed the city completely, going wide to the east. It wasn’t the hurricane that drowned, suffocated, de-hydrated and starved 1,500 people that week. …more

A Taste of Palast’s Armed MadHouse: 1927. Again.

Greg Palast 

t r u t h o u t | Book Preview

Excerpted from Armed Madhouse, a new book by Greg Palast.

1927. Again.

The National Public Radio news anchor was so excited I thought she’d pee herself: The President of the United States had flown his plane down to 1,700 feet to get a better look at the flood damage! Later, I saw the photo of him looking out of the window of Air Force One. The President looked very serious and concerned. That was on Wednesday, August 31, 2005, two days after the levees broke and Lake Ponchartrain swallowed New Orleans. …more