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The "Looting" in New Orleans: Not Insane in the Least

Some comments on recent events in New Orleans from an anarchist perspective.
Despite the comment from the Philadelphia tourist, I can't find this insane.

Let's review now:

  • Major hurricane threatens New Orleans with damage much worse than it actually got.
  • About 20% of the residents of that city are in households without automobiles.
  • Most of them are low-income and live in the shoddiest buildings in the most flood-prone neighborhood, i.e. they are the people most at risk.
  • Evacuation is called.
  • Evacuation plan is to get in your car and drive out of New Orleans.
  • Absolutely nothing is done to provide for the evacuation of those without cars to drive.
  • Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of buses (owned by school districts, transit districts, and private companies) were available throughout the metro area and could have been commandeered as evacuation vehicles.
  • End result: an evacuation that systematically fails to evacuate precisely those in most need of evacuating.
Put yourself in the position of one of those survivors. Nobody's cared about rescuing you; the only people that really counted were those with more money than you have. People like the owners of the shops in your city. Shops closed and not about to reopen precisely because the owners fled town. Shops with blown-out windows that can be walked through. Shops whose merchandise is about to be ruined by the disease-ridden and polluted water streaming through levee breaks and flooding your city. Merchandise that, in many cases, you need because you're running low on necessities and relief can't easily get to you because of flooded highways.

How can it be anything but logical to help yourself to some of that merchandise in such a situation? The still photos I've seen seem very revealing; nobody looks particularly menacing or threatening. The "looters" seem to be of all ages and genders; it's not just young gang-bangers we're talking about. In fact, I've noticed numerous scenes showing mothers with their children.

I've dragged out the TV and turned it on tonight. NBC News had two segments on the "looting" and the most violent scene they showed was of a young man throwing a rock at a store window, trying to break it. One scene showed people walking calmly into and out of a Walgreen's, passing right by the camera, while across the street a trumpeter played "When the Saints Go Marching In." Put aside the fact that money hadn't been exchanged for the merchandise being taken out, and it could have been a normal street scene.

One phrase NBC trotted out was "every man for himself." That seems to be directly contradicted by their own footage, which showed many examples of people helping each other (and not just to carry stuff out of stores). Looks more like the key defining behavior in the aftermath of this disaster is cooperation, not individualistic competition. If you want a real example of "every man for himself," look at that evacuation plan the authorities came up with.

With all that so-called "breakdown" of "law and order," there's been only one person shot (not fatally, thankfully) so far. That one shooting is tragic, but let's have some perspective here. In 2004, there were 265 murders in New Orleans. That's just the dead; it doesn't cover the non-fatal assaults with deadly weapons. Add those in and we're probably well above 1 per day on average. If it really was an outbreak of barbarism, the violence would be much worse.

Instead, there's very little of it, Just lots of peaceful folks who have decided that those stores are, in the words of one man, "everybody's store[s]." A breakdown, in other words, of law but not order.

address: address: Portland, OR

TAKE IT 30.Aug.2005 23:05


it is yours!

Give a Man A Fish 31.Aug.2005 05:18

Old proverb rewired

Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day.
Teach him how to loot and he'll have a new TV and a pair if Nikes

With all due respect... 31.Aug.2005 22:04


Although you make a valid point concerning the apparent apathy of some (or all) of the government officials who did not take all possible steps to evacuate the less-fortunate members of New Orleans society, your point might justify the theft of necessity items (e.g., food and water to preserve life), but it does not justify the looting of non-necessity items (e.g., stealing jewelry, expensive sneakers, electronics and similar items) by these individuals. The fact that the store owners might have more than the indigent of New Orleans (assuming, for the sake of argument, that the store owners are not leveraged to the hilt with their banks in order to operate their stores) should not justify the theft of items except to the extent necessary to preserve life.

Plasma TVs and Diamond Rings Crucial to Survival 31.Aug.2005 22:24


When crisis strikes you simply cannot discount the importance of a new 29 inch plasma TV for ensuring your survival - and after all who wants to loot in old worn out sneakers.

I can imagine that the vast majority of people taking food would have gladly paid for it if it were possible - I'm sure this is the stuff of urban legend but some people were leaving their names and phone numbers behind to pay for what they took later. Looting luxury items and other non-essentials is just about the most pathetic thing these people could be doing. Perhaps all the energy applied to looting could be better put to use by helping out their fellow refuges.

Those floating trashcans could be better utilized being filled up with canned goods and bottled water...don't ya think?

btw - Take It - can you post your address so we can come by and get some of your stuff...after all it's ours...isn't it?

Due respect 31.Aug.2005 22:56

David B.

I wrote that article yesterday after reviewing the news reports at the time. Those depicted people breaking into supermarkets, drug stores, and convenience stores and taking (in an orderly and peaceful manner) necessities.

Reports of stuff like armed confrontations and ripping off jewelry and electronics (or attempting to rip off hospitals and nursing homes) didn't happen until later. As for taking electronics and clothing, I can't get that terribly upset over it. It's not like it would make any difference to anyone's bottom line if rising flood waters ruined the merchandise as opposed to loss caused in a different way. Stupid, yes. An outrage, no. As for the confrontations, there's no conclusions that can be drawn without knowing more specifics than "shots were fired". We need to know who fired them and why. Was it a jeweler trying to keep gangbangers from helping themselves to free jewelry? Or was it a racist shopkeeper trying to keep food from the hungry? To pick two very different possibilities.

Trying to loot hospitals and nursing homes, _that's_ an outrage. But a small-scale one in terms of the numbers put at risk when compared to:
* The evacuation plans that failed to evacuate the most vulnerable.
* The Iraq War, which
+ Means there's fewer servicemen and equipment available here in the US for disaster relief.
+ Was responsible for money being diverted from Army Corps of Engineers levee work in Orleans Parish.
+ Caused more death in Iraq than Katrina caused here in the USA.

And even now, many of the reports of "looters" show unarmed groups (often with women and children among them) taking things like food and beverages. I rather suspect that still covers most such instances, and the sensationalist (and racist) media goes cherry-picking for the images that push Middle America's hot buttons: young Black men stealing luxury items.

If you think these are the words of a crazed anarchist whose ideology prevents him from seeing reality, consider that my observations come very close to those of none other than New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin:

"It's really difficult because my opinion of the looting is it
started with people running out of food, and you can't really argue
with that too much," Nagin said. "Then it escalated to this kind
of mass chaos."

Quote from the article at:  link to sfgate.com

On the radio today, I also heard the Attorney General of Louisiana express similar sentiments when Sean Hannity tried to criticize her for not enforcing the law with an iron fist.

Misplaced Priorities 31.Aug.2005 23:47

Scotty B.

I've been watching the hurricane coverage on CNN (I figure they can't put too much of a spin on natural disaster coverage, altough some of them seem a bit too gleeful), and an annoucement just scrolled by the screen that kind of shocked me.

It said something like "New Orleans Rescue Efforts Halted Temporarily in Order to Tackle Looting".

Now...which is more important - rescuing people stranded on rooftops or protecting businesses that are, to put it bluntly, probably screwed over anyway? I remember yesterday the governor of Mississippi said that he had instructed the National Guard to "deal harshly with looters".

I agree that people looting non-esstenial items *is* immoral and frankly idiotic, but it shouldn't be a priority for law enforcement/rescue officials. I do feel extremely bad for homeowners and small businesses that are going to lose their valuables because of the looting, but...I don't think that Wal-Mart is going to go out of business if their New Orleans market is destroyed.

There are thousands of people dying, and it should always be more important to protect people than property.

Looters? 01.Sep.2005 13:27

Tom Allen

Most large businesses such as Wal-Mart in New Orleans will essentially write off all their merchandise as flood damage. The merchandise is already salvage - sort of like a shipwreck. If they are going to write the merchandise off as lost, it would hardly be right to shoot people for taking it.

I not only don't blame desperate people for taking food, water and clothing from the flooded areas, I consider it rather immoral for hypocritical folks to blame these people at all - they are desperate, due to lack of help. I would do the same thing in their position.

It's budget cutbacks that prevented the completion of projects which led to the 17th Street Canal flood wall collapse. All this talk about how it would take billions of dollars to insure against a Category 5 hurricane misses the point here - the flood would probably not have happened if the annual project budget had not been recently cut, just to line a few rich pockets. Who is to blame? The Republicans in Congress who cut the Corps of Engineer budget did not help, did they?

who should care? 01.Sep.2005 16:59


who gives ahit what they take? it's not like anyone is there to sell the goods or profit from them. anything not taken will just be destroyed. Regardless, the people of New Orleans have lost everything, even members of their family. Who cares if they grab some Nikes (I mean should they only be taking shoes from Goodwill instead to wear on their feet? Would that be more acceptable to you guys?)? Rich people have been looting from black people and the poor since the US came into existance. If it makes people feel better about their impending doom to have some jewlery before they die from the diseases that are eminant, I say let them have it. People need to be worring about how they can help instead of worring about the poor coorperate rapists that might lose their annual bonus because some poor people swiped a couple of their products that were made by 8 year olds. As far as I'm concerned,nothing belongs to anyone in a situation like this, and all belongs to everyone.

activists will never understand 02.Sep.2005 15:48


I've tried over and over again to talk to (many middle/upper class) activists about why people whose lives are ground in shit by capitalism would steal 'non-survival' items, and i can't get thru to them. but people i ride on the bus with know exactly why, they look at me like i'm crazy if i try to explain it, they need NO EXPLAINATION.
quit thinking in economic terms, or you will never get it.

watch it from the poor's perspective 02.Sep.2005 18:02


Criticizing even taking non-basic goods is -sorry for the harshness- just a typical limited point of view from middle/upper class moralistic brats.

Sum these things:

- You have nothing
- Katrina comes, you have even less, you hardly get any food/drink and your government does nothing.
- So, you think, maybe the only way I'll be able to SURVIVE for a while after the first phase of Katrina is over, could be having something I can sell, like, a TV or a DVD set. Maybe with that money I will be able to buy some food, as when they re-open the supermarkets the food is going to cost money again and I will be hardly able to afford it.

That is to say, that ANY "looting" -of course, with the exception of places like hospitals- is completely justified. The real looters are those in power which have left them there abandoned after sucking their blood into poverty. Fuck the Louisiana genocidal governor and her "shoot to kill" policy.

whats the problem? 02.Sep.2005 18:30


I must say that i also fail to see whats so morally wrong with them stealing some commodities - whatever it might be.
Cuz fact is that these people who are looting are challenging the very basis of capitalism; private property, exchange value, etc etc.

non-essential items 02.Sep.2005 18:36


If my home and all my belongings were destroyed, I would be wondering how to secure a deposit and first month's rent on an apartment. If I didn't steal rings to sell at pawn shops three towns away, where would my kids be sleeping in a month? And I think many liberals see guns in the hands of civilians and flip out unneccesarily. I was raised by a Vietnam vet and went mushroom hunting with a holster on my hip. It isn't crazy to arm yourself when the Imperialist military storms into town, folks, it's common sense.

fuck... 02.Sep.2005 19:25

buck rogers....

if my memory serves me right didn't they tear down some projects to build that walmart? on tv it said lower garden district and when i left it was a big open field with filed with crackheads, thugs, and hot merchandise?

Who's fault? 02.Sep.2005 19:39


First, this hurricane, or rather the flood which endued, was far beyond anything anyone predicted. Of course, there's always the "Big One" - the earthquake in California or Memphis or St Louis or the hurricane in Miami or a nuclear disaster at Savannah River; the list goes on and on. Not to mention the large-scale terrorist attack. How much can a government, local or national, stay ready to handle every contingency? Should we have pre-positioned relief supplies in every corner of the country in case something like this happens? Who will pay for that and replenish it and guard it?

Rather, each local community should have in place a well-thought out plan for dealing with the disasters which may befall it. In New Orleans, this should have included evacuation of people who could not leave (hospitals, poor, sick). But what city in America is ready to do that? Pre-positioned supplies were in place in N.O. but they were destroyed by the most powerful hurricance to hit a major city in more than a hundred years.

Maybe, just maybe, there should be less anger at the lack of preparation which existed at every level, because all humans expect thing slike this not to happen in their lifetime (else why would anybody live below sea level?). What needs to come of this is a real understanding that when forecasters say "get out", you need to get out. Secondly, we should use these events to learn lessons about what needs to be done the next time. Fortunately, these disasters only happen rarely, but this leads people to become apathetic about preparation and to ignore warnings.

This is less about poor versus rich than about a horrible NATURAL DISASTER which always affects poor people more than rich. The question is, what is the mayor of N.O. or the governor of california or the mayor of Memphis going to do to change that fact when their city gets hit?

"Looters" ? 02.Sep.2005 20:13


If I were in their worn out soggy shoes I would take anything I could get my hands on. You think a poor destitue man who just lost the little he had would pass up a pair of new shoes? I would hope not. The National Guard should be helping people find clothing, food, etc.
Jewelry? Yes! I might be able to "buy" some food, shelter, transportation, medicine, clothes in the near future with some valuables.
Obviously the government has yet to come forward with substantial help. Instead they send troops with orders to "shoot to kill" looters. Material things more important than people? This is America!

Saving Lives not Property 03.Sep.2005 00:17


It is about saving lives not saving property. Fuck the property. If people are taking TVs then let that be their deal. If you are healthy enough to steal a TV, you are healthy enough to take a case of water to the sick and dying. Condoleeza Rice was shopping for shoes while thousands are dying, now she wants to sift through the foreign offers for aid as if there is any question! Take the money, feed the hungry, heal the sick, drain the water, fix it. fix it. do your fucking job!

Just my view 03.Sep.2005 10:20


If somebody steals food and water to survive it's perfectly acceptable.

If somebody steals a television in a city which has no electricity and has to be abandoned, then he is an idiot.

If politicians think that private property is more important than human lives they are plain evil.

After all the businesses of that city will crash anyhow. Who cares if somebody eats all of that food before it gets spoiled? They couldn't sell it anyhow.

That there was irrational behavior (raping, snipers etc.) in such a scale makes me want to offer you some advice: stop advocating anarchy. You may be ready for that type of a social organization with a couple of your friends, but 99% of people wouldn't survive in it and don't want it.

How would you organize hospitals, relief efforts etc. in anarchy? Me thinks that the whole anarchy thing is a phase in the life of a suburban middle-class white kid, who loves for a while to go to extremes, but abandons the idea after it stops being fun. Anyhow Bush has already toppled a couple of middle-eastern dictatorships, which makes me think of him as a rather more accomplished anarchist than the ones who wear the anarchy logo.

Anyhow, maybe the Americans will start thinking about things such as the hardcore capitalist values of their government and the greenhouse effect, so perhaps the world will be a bit wiser after this disaster.

What would you do if you were in New Orleans? 03.Sep.2005 10:23


In any group of people you will find some that have no scruples--especially in a city with drug problems and people running around desperate for a fix. These people probably account for the looting of the hospitals. Or perhaps know they or their children will die without insulin or some other drug they are dependent on.

Just imagine living in abject poverty, perhaps struggling to do better but for one circumstance or another unable to climb the ladder to success. Instead of having compassion and understanding for you, the whole society points a finger and says it's your fault that you haven't pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. And seemingly, everywhere you look all kinds of interesting things are advertised that are outside your reach. Then one day it all opens up to you. How many of you will resist going into one of those stores and taking that which you've always desired and know you will never have? It's easy to pass judgement on other people when you aren't walking in their shoes.

I don't really know how many people were looting to survive and how many were looting to get material possessions. Media tends to focus in on the most dramatic instances. Imagine being in a city where all the stores are closed down. Even if you did evacuate with your credit card or money in your pocket , there is no one in those stores to sell you anything. The government is not coming through with any assistance. Your baby is dehydrating and children need water. What would you do? Would you decide it was important to maintain your integretity and let your children die? I imagine you would join in and loot the stores to get food for your friends and family.

President Bush was asked how he would treat these people who were looting. President Bush, who waited 3 days before taking any action, said: Zero tolerance. That answer demonstrates a profound lack of compassion or imagination.

I say we give zero tolerance to Bush and impeach him. He and his administration are the ones who are doing the real looting. Why do we always turn around and blame the helpless and the poor?

In my state, the lowest income group pays 18% of their income in taxes, the middle class pays 10% and the rich pay 4%. They have been telling us for the last 30 years it will trickle down and yet the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class are mostly getting poorer with only a lucky few getting rich.

We are being conned. It's about time we all rise up and do something about it, while we still have the rights to do it.

Join in the march on Washington, D.C. on March 24th.


feed the people and forget about the merchandise 03.Sep.2005 15:34

oriah ecomamah@hotmail.com

if my memory serves me correctly, during the first day following the huricane, the national gaurd was deployed to prevent looting. this is the time when they should've been establishing onsite infrastructure and a command center. telling traumatized, scared, people not to enter that store that is closed for business (and will be closed for business for the forseeable future) to obtain food, water and other neccessities was a HUGE mistake! i think that did a lot to ignite the situation. it criminalized the basic physical needs of the people in crisis. i personally don't care that people are stealing luxury items. it makes sense to me that some of the most marginalized people would attempt to economically benefit from disaster. we let the rich steal from us everyday. that's why we have:

poor public transporation systems in many cities
no universal health coverage for our citizens
environmental degredation

perhaps some of our politicians will get the balls to take on some of our corporate looters and "lock and load" to defend people over merchandise. i hope america (sic) will grow up soon.

WHO CARES WHAT THEY TAKE? 03.Sep.2005 17:26

Attasa Beame drewr@mville.edu

i am outraged as to why this debate is raging on a page that is supposedly "progressive" or "radical." The fact that you all are even debating the morality of looting is something to be ashamed of. Just the fact that we probably all have computers means that we do not live in the kind of poverty these people do. And that was before this horrific storm. Now they are waiting without food or water, with no news of their friends, families or homes, and with no guarantee that they will survive.

Yet all of you are debating the morality of taking a TV? That is disgusting!! These people have once again been screwed over by the government, they were esssentially left to die. Yet you all ask, "why would they be mad?" How could these people not be furious!? i say they have every justification to rob every store there! If the rich want to leave them to die, then they certainly have no moral or ethical responsibility to respect the laws of the rich.

The bottom line is the real issues here are race, class, and position. While some of us may share the first two, NONE of us commenting on this forum share their desperate situation right now. Lets look at what the real focus should be right now: SAVING LIVES, and stop wasting time debating a topic which is so insignificant.

Looting should be adressed, but it's priority level was inapropriate. 03.Sep.2005 23:25


It just requires someone in charge that cares and has a brain. This
president doesn't give a shit. It seemed obvious. Oh well. I wonder if Alabama,
Mississippi, and Louisiana will be red states after this.

My plea to the red states. If you want a conservative president, at least get one
that isn't such a goddamn pansy. I'll take Ronald Reagan back over this guy, any day.

Anyway, back to the thread. Looting in and of itself should be a low priority.
There are some MAJOR exceptions though. Guns, drug stores, and anything else that
might cause some security problems.

Is looting right? Well it cannot be that simple or dare I say, black and white.
As the mayor emphasized, large numbers of buses and manpower were needed and just
weren't on time when there WAS enough time to provide these things. If the people were
evacuated quicker they could have stepped up the security level for those that
were not wanting out.

It gets to be semantics, press conferences, spinning, blah blah blah.
If the president really cared, he would be known as a results kind of guy,
but it took eight %$!$!! years to figure it out for most.

Have you ever been in that position yourself? 04.Sep.2005 00:23

stuff is not sacred

I did some research on the genocide of Cambodia under Pol Pot. There are several good biographies from people who lived through it and survived. Virtually every single family that made it out alive did so by carefully bribing their way in and out of situations as they needed to finally reach safety. Unfortunately, that is the way things work in this world. If someone was bold enough to take some stuff that will probably end up in a landfill anyway, and it will help them and their family, then I don't wish them ill. I hope that it can help their family get to safety. If there was a similar disaster in my community, I wouldn't be upset if people took my stuff that they could use, especially if it was going to be destroyed anyway.

Remember....."Love People, Use Things."

"Naked I came into this world and naked I will leave it."

distinguish between looting levels 04.Sep.2005 05:25


I have no problem with the kind of looting you are talking about (consumer goods from Walmart etc.) I agree that the emphasis on property rights over need was wrong.

But the word on the ground and in the media is that gangs are breaking into houses, killing and robbing on the streets. Blogs from inside New Orleans (see livejournal) report looters ransacking houses and then LEAVING THE DOG IN THE OVEN TO COOK. One guy blogs about smacking looters over the head with a metal rod (he didn't feel bad about it). Snipers are shooting at evacuees. They were trying to get out to the west bank where there are even more houses to ransack.

This isn't anarchy, this is apocalypse mentality. These monsters are the minority, but consider that the National Guard are helpless and now the Marines are being sent in. First time in US history that elite forces have had to quell violence in the US.

There is so much evil going on. Don't pick a side here, don't get caught up in your ideology.

Good point 04.Sep.2005 05:33


Thanks for your thoughts. I think you made a good point and your words give new dignity to the people of New Orleans who are trying to survive despite the absence of basic help by the Government. It would happen anywhere in the world and I think few people would blame other people trying to survive, no matter what. Of course violence is always to refuse, but, as you said, this is not a case of violence, but more an "helping each other" case. Hopefully it will keep being like that. And if violence will show up, that should make us think what the need of water and food can provoke on human being, think about the wars we are spreading all over the world and how human beings can easily become like animals if deprived of basic goods.
Thank you!

In response to DavidV 04.Sep.2005 11:09


<<How much can a government, local or national, stay ready to handle every contingency? Should we have pre-positioned relief supplies in every corner of the country in case something like this happens? Who will pay for that and replenish it and guard it?>>

Isn't that what taxes are for?

<<Rather, each local community should have in place a well-thought out plan for dealing with the disasters which may befall it.>>

And who is to pay for implementing those plans? Plans are no good without personnel, supplies, infrastructure, etc.

<<What needs to come of this is a real understanding that when forecasters say "get out", you need to get out.>>

How can you implement their advice if you have no car, no cash, nowhere to go? This is why disasters always affect the poor disporportionately.

<<This is less about poor versus rich than about a horrible NATURAL DISASTER which always affects poor people more than rich.>>

If it affects poor more than rich, we need to address WHY that is the case. Human beings are human beings, no matter what your bank account says.

<<The question is, what is the mayor of N.O. or the governor of california or the mayor of Memphis going to do to change that fact when their city gets hit? >>

It's not just about "getting hit" -- this storm highlights the daily reality of life for people below the poverty line. The question is, are we going to address the root causes or just maintain the status quo?

Questions for DavidV 04.Sep.2005 16:00


Who builds a city 2 feet below sea level near water and doesn't consider the possibility of a Flood? Is there a slight chance excessive capitalism has anything to do with poverty? Is it lunacy to Loot? David, evidently you've no fucking clue what it's like for the PEOPLE down there. You've no idea what it's like to be human and feel passion. You didn't give a fuck until THIS happened, and it's quite clear you still don't. WHO THE FUCK BUILDS A CITY 2 FEET BELOW SEA LEVEL AND DOESN'T TAKE CAUTION? This is why you're stupid Dave. But you can change that.

Looting, symptom of what? 04.Sep.2005 17:13

Iīm not american and im not a writer, but i have to say:

In the view we are having here on the disaster, ofcourse there is no use examening the cruel nature of mother earth, but how it effects people.
I think what it has done is to highlight so many of the problems in USA that kill many many more people over time than Katrina did.
*Rich/Poor: The richest lived and the poorest died.
I point to this: "In my state, the lowest income group pays 18% of their income in taxes, the middle class pays 10% and the rich pay 4%."
Itīs so stupid, it makes me cry often.
*Black/White: Blacks are poorer and whites are richer.
I think there are many reasons to this, but of course, white people are afraid of black people. Blame the media or the individuals? Both I say
*Health: Would many of the people dying have greater chance if they werenīt living in the most obeese, and otherwise unhealthy country in the world? No wonder drug stores are being looted. Have you ever tried kicking heroine, crack?
*Kyoto: Duh!
*Gun laws: Less guns, less killing. More guns, more killing.
*Power of authority: Shoot to kill desperate people? This isnīt the only day in Americas history that has happend.
*Many other symptoms of capitalism boiling to the surface
So many people in America are killed and put in prison for surviving.
Iīm not american, so its hard for me to understand how so many people that seems to be good in heart can care so little. You need a revolution on stupidity, not evil. Let Bush be a symbol of that. Not evil

New Orleans Looting 05.Sep.2005 05:19

Made in America

Never mind the looting in New Orleans! Mr. Bush is taking care of everything.
Mr. Bush announced he is sending in Halliburton to put things in order down there in New Orleans.

Yes indeed America is beautiful when one is in on the Plutocracy making money on death worldwide.

Wake up!, brain washed Americans and get off the sofa turn off the game and realize democracy is a fraud.

Bureaucratic and citizen incompetence 05.Sep.2005 10:04

T. Rios

From what I saw on TV the behavior of most of the 'looters' was expemplary considering the circumstances. I saw people distributing and sharing the food that they had removed from the stores, not hoarding it or price gouging like the energy companies or pharmaceuticals do.

Among this nations elite there is no trust of the common people and yet it was the common people who were original supposed to make up the backbone of any democracy. From what is visible however many of the catastrophic results of this disaster are attributable to the ultimate incompetence of the elite. The politicians and bureaucrats failed to take the necessary precautions to prepare the region for a natural disaster that they were entrusted to be prepared for and had been warned for years was a possibility. Engineers and others had been warning the state and federal governments that the regions infrastructure was insufficient to handle a catastrophic flood or hurricane and yet the higher-ups in government did basically nothing tangible to address the situation.

This should be a wake up call to people that they can't necessarily depend upon the government and that they need to begin to take the management of their lives out of the hands of the bureaucrats, who often live thousands of miles away, and began to place it in the hands of the actual citizens who make up a municipality. To not take a greater responsibility for oneself and ones neighbors and just lazily entrust that responsibility to others is reminiscent of totally and unconditionally entrusting the management of ones personal wealth to a hired manger, it is simply another form of incompetence. Old habits die hard though and unfortunately most of us, myself included, were raised to simply be a nice person, get a good job, pay your taxes, vote in elections and basically entrust governance and personal wellbeing to the technocrats.

Perhaps even if every major foreseeable precaution would have been taken the devastation would have been the same? But every major precaution was not taken and thus it possible that untold numbers of lives and homes were lost that might have otherwise been spared if all foreseeable major precautions had been taken.


T. Rios

"A fat man eating quails while children are
begging for bread is a disgusting sight, but you are less likely to see it when you are within sound of the guns."

George Orwell - "Homage To Catalonia"

"Anarchy?" 05.Sep.2005 16:20

Kotahi whaea ki te Aotearoa

dear 'Somebody' of 'Just my view'.
sitting here in little ole Aotearoa (New Zealand) it is all quite interesting watching the way your people deal with the natural hazards of life on planet earth - yeah you can't always bomb your 'enemies' into submission. Papatuanuku is fighting back. And all aroha to those left behind that have the courage to stand up and loot the rich that have been grinding them into the dirt for so long. Hah!
As for this being anarchy or not and whether we anarchists should be standing up and talking about our ideas for a new and decent life - well yeah, just try and stop us. Anarchy is not some wet dream of the white american middle class. It is a new way of 'order' that is coming from the ground up, from all over the world, from all sorts of people that have had enough. We know how to run our own lives better than any other person can think 'they know for us'. And the methods and processes we are developing are spreading like a disease. (For lots of poor people, it is their instinctual way of life. Your government and media put the guns and violent images in their minds.)
So if you don't like anarchy then go and make your own life or try to demonstrate to us that you have a better idea. We're open to ideas and if they're good we'll take them on.
But don't diss what you don't understand (...yet)

top of the world 05.Sep.2005 16:43

hugo info@worldlaboratories.org

i am portuguese (country neighbour to Spain). In here, the media coverage of the "Katrina" has been a journey into hell. If the subtitles did not stated it was in the US i could not have believed. Mostly, because i have not seen white people, so it looks like some South Afican-like catastrophe. The "law of the jungle" has been raved around all the time. Considering that all portuguese Media is basically owned by 3 corporations, it is not surprising that the coverage is highly "filtered".

From my point of view, and lacking a lot of real information, and spite the horrible suffering caused to helpless people, i think it is time for U.S. to wake up of the terrible world of "capitalism". In fact the "wake" is eminent, with the rise of the Chinese Capitalism (a much refined and evolved form of capitalism). The impact of U.S. capitalism on our planet is now starting to be aprehended, mostly for their negative impact. In Portugal Coca-cola is taxed 5% as a "basic good" like milk and bread, but books are taxed 16%. Only a "product" oriented society could spell such a stupid perception. These ideas come from the book of Dark Capitalism that has flourished in "Corporate U.S.".

I do not intend to blame Americans. That would be to stupid, but here from this litle European country (at a distance) things are looking pretty ugly. And to name but a few, here it goes in non-orderly manner:

- President Kennedy was killed and until now, spite the "Oswald ScapeGoat Project", nobody really nows what happened;

- The Vietnam War was nothing but wasted resources and a bright but immature moment of "sanity" (flowerpower);

- The aggressive economical "liberalization" and Worldspread has only increased the gap between the rich and the poor; and this "wild capitalism" only reflects the very nature of capitalism by bringing to the surface the "true" motivations of progress... the competition for power. I noted that it was in the U.S. that a "corporation" was equaled to a "normal" citizen, in terms of legal rights.

- Corruption is now a political technique (although as old as humanity "corruption" is supposed not to happen in a "Free Democratic Society" or at least it is that that is being said by your president);

- This whole Iraq war is obviously a some sort of political operation, but there has been opened a gap in the unity of United Nations. By ignoring the United Nations with such vague and shortly proved wrong arguments, the U.S. has revealed the true (un)functionality of such Institutions;

- By Ignoring the proposed International Court and stating that "americans shall only be judge by americans", the U.S. is revealing the demoniacal face of DEMOcracy. Americans can go around do their stuff, with the help of others but only obeys to their interests?

- What about Kyoto? is the U.S. so desperate to STOP progress in order to profit the most with a 100 years old technology?

- And which interests? Oil? it is now common sense that U.S. is OilThirsty. From within itīs Techno-Futuristic-NatureOverComed Homo Digitalus dream, the americans seem to think they inhabit the plastic scenarios of "Jetsons". Living inside "hyperprotected" gadgets, the do not seem to realize that they do not really inhabit those places and their "fake-dream" is waisting to bits the resources of this planet;

- The image of a "Troubled America" and a no-so-good Capitalist Society as a model to pursuit is now common sense in any western-democratic society (wds). Everybody knows this. Somewhy, people in wds have started to look for different views of life; Conservadorism is now on the downside and AlterNativism is on the Upside;

- Everybody knows that the mission of a Corporation is to profit the most with the least. This is the "common sense" of Sunday-afternoon movies (family movies). The CEO is always a money-oriented idiot... that is unable to understand the beauty of human ralationships... this is being said in family movies and children come to understand it very easily when growing up;

- Some of these are "americanizations" that ocurred in my country... and are already producing effects;

- Free Countries? can somebody explain to me why my country (Portugal) which was living under a fascist regime during the 2nd World War had (supposedly) arrengements with both Britain and Germany, REMAINED in a fascist regime UNTIL 1974 IN SOUTHERN EUROPE?

Well, Katrina has caused much pain and suffering, but it also proved in-your-face the fragility of "American Supremacy", the limitations of such a narrow views and the stupidity of going around with a few wars to keep the business running.

With so many gaps to fill in, i wonder if the U.S. have been capable of "simulating" the whole moon thing.

From the other side of the world i wish the best of luck to all of those in need, and i hope that those that can actually do something, that really do.

i support the looters! 06.Sep.2005 11:19


I don't care if it's food, water, or a plasma TV, everyone in New Orleans and everyone in the WORLD has a RIGHT to take and loot! These corporations are destorying the earth and denying necessities and priveleges to people based on artficial values they've attached to items that in reality (for all you realists) have different value for each person. Loot and pillage! Take back what's yours children of the earth and assert your authority over your own life and reject all authority that attempts to control it!

reply to myshele 06.Sep.2005 12:24


I read your "Hurricane Rant" on your web site. I suppose we are on different sides on the fence on many issues. I accept that there are poor people and believe there always will be. As long as there have been men, there have always been haves and have-nots. Poor people have always suffered inordinately. In the Second World War, Russian peasants suffered starvation (remember Stalingrad?), disease, rape, etc on a scale not seen in any natural disaster. The rich leave and the poor stay. --- My apologies to the doctors and nurses who stayed behind to man their posts during and after the storm. I accept this fact of life, you spend your time ranting about inequality.

The point I tried to make is that everyone knew this was a risk. We know that government - any government - is flawed and is run by those who are powerful, not by the little people. So, with this in mind, to what degree should people take responsibility for their own lives? I live in an area where tornadoes are prevelant. I have 3 days of food and water available because I know that rescue may not come immediately.

The mayor, knowing that his city was about to be hit, could have mobilized the police to the rally point, the Superdome, and stocked it with food and water. All roads to N.O. could have been diverted to outbound traffic.

To Jerrad: I am a physician who takes care of poor people on a daily basis. I have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with blacks in a very poor section of Mississippi under the leadership of a black man who really was doing something about his existence and I still support him financially. I also support a minister who ministers to poor cajuns on the bayou south of N.O. Besides sending emails, what are you doing to make life better for the poor?

I can tell most of you are white and/or privliged 06.Sep.2005 14:47

aleada/daddi butchfilm@yahoo.com

that's right i said it. you know it fucking amazes me that you debate over what folx took for survival. you know in a country that does not give a fuck about black/brown and poor you have to survive sometimes by unconventional ways.

howw do you know they aren't taking those items to sell or barter for FOOD or supplies.

you don't know shit about POVERTY and being HATED

and i am not saying it all nice and wrapped with a pink bow - i am being straight up.


I can tell most of you are white and/or privliged 06.Sep.2005 14:53

aleada/daddi butchfilm@yahoo.com

that's right i said it. you know it fucking amazes me that you debate over what folx took for survival. you know in a country that does not give a fuck about black/brown and poor you have to survive sometimes by unconventional ways.

howw do you know they aren't taking those items to sell or barter for FOOD or supplies.

you don't know shit about POVERTY and being HATED

and i am not saying it all nice and wrapped with a pink bow - i am being straight up.


inre davidv, myshele, and jared 07.Sep.2005 13:03


davidv: people are not always able to assume responsibility for themselves. as a doctor, you must recognize this. your job is to care for people who are unable to care for themselves. in the same sense that it would bother you if you saw a doctor sitting around playing video games while a patient is dying on the table, it bothers me that politicians didn't respond sooner to what they knew would be a devastating crisis.

myshele: i share your concern with inequality. but, at this time, i think it is misguided. the pressing issue at hand, in my mind, the fact that makes all of this so harrowing is that people died because the government refused to act. this is not like some casualties of war kind of thing, where people get hurt by accident as the result of some action. people got hurt because our leaders refused to act. they refused to lead. that's a big deal to me. what makes it all the more hard to accept is that we (as a nation) are willing to spend billions of dollars fighting some terrorist threat that we can't see, and barely respond to a threat as blatant as this storm. the inequality issue is important, and should be considered. but, for right now, i think it's more important to consider this: Why didn't our leaders lead?

jared: look man, i don't know what to tell you. if you feel like davidv is an insensitive bigot, that's your prerogative to do so. i will say, though, that i think you misunderstood his point about preparations. from what i can tell, he was saying that nobody plans for a disaster of this magnitude. did N.O. prepare for flooding? sure. did they prepare for 10 feet of water spilling over the levees and filling half the city like a cereal bowl? probably not. all the same, they (being the leaders) should have known what was coming. warnings were issued, of course. but nobody said anything about levees breaking, no one opened up the inbound lanes for people to evacuate, nobody made sure the poor and elderly could get out of the city. this whole nightmare has been marked by bad, bad leadership. and people died because of it.

DAVIDV 07.Sep.2005 14:28


you say you have a 3 day supply of food and water because you know rescue might not come right away.... well after 6 days w/o help you'd still be 3 days w/o either....
it IS our govt. responsibility to take care of the underdog... USA is the superpower.... its the reason we "think" we can rule the world and demand obedience from all, because we "think" we can handle anything...remember the "Adults" are in the house now! duh! of course the rich can take care of themselves.... but the helpless, soon become hopeless, and the poor at the end of the month, wont even have a 3 day supply of food on a good day... If people blame the poor it shows me their ignorance.... if they say the poor should have left or stocked out supplies because of where they live.... it shows me their ignorance.... the fact that our govt doesnt help the underdog as it claims.... shows me we are all ignorant of the facts... why would i expect my govt to care???? because it says it does! it says it represents me and i care! and when commander in thief says something he means it right???? we are suppose to be liberating a whole country in Iraq but cant liberate a city from a disaster predicted days ahead of time.... thats just pathethic!!!!! if you have the resourses to prepare then i highly recommend you do just that. i plan at least 10 days + (thats all i can afford right now) and if you can spare some room or resourses to have supplies available for the underpriviledged in your area God will reward you....
"as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me" (Jesus) Is this how commander in thief would take care of Jesus?!? does he REALLY believe God would be pleased with the way he's treated the poor? as a Christian man is this what Jesus would do???!!!
but for all who condemn, criticise, and shoot people trying to survive is as heartless as i believe you could possibly be, which of course is your right, but dont claim to represent Jesus/Christianity.... or me as an american!
if we dont hold our govt responsible who will???? zero tolerance for incompetence!!!! One nation under God??? yes if by god you mean GREED!
zero tolerance for the real looters....this administration, corporate amerikkka, and the oil co.
Kanye West said "GEO BUSH DOESNT CARE ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE" (i would include all of the have-nots as they are of no benefit to him... ie: worthless[to Geo])
I SAY "dont blame the messenger!!!" remember Geo this is not the time to place blame!

The Capitalist American Economy 08.Sep.2005 07:07


With all the focus on the Aftermath of Katrina, and a large portion of the US forces providing "aid" to the residents in the area. On top of all the damaged oil rigs driving the price of gas higher. Don't you agree that if any terrorist organisation wants to bring America to it's knees, they would strike now? Likely strategically targeting important oil producing areas, thus driving the gas prices higher still, resulting in a vast movement to purchase less gas (like there was after the increase in gas after Katrina). And, since the American Economy is largely based upon oil/gas companies, This would be a major blow the the American economy.

That's just my opinion.

Danger and Lawlessness in New Orleans is Real! 09.Sep.2005 07:40

Diana Trimble linguacrobat@yahoo.com

I have been in daily contact with Madalin Bernard of Orleans Parish, since a few days after the storm. She is in one of the areas that was not submerged, although a lot of it is now abandoned. She is from Louisiana originally and lives in a predominantly black neighborhood, although she is white. She has not evacuated because she is trying to rescue animals who have been left behind, because nobody else is doing anything, so she is feeding and watering lost and abandoned pets.
Anyway, she has been threatened with rape twice, has had to get a shotgun for protection (despite being a life-long anti-gun believer) and has told me stories of truckloads of heavily armed men cruising the area after dark in trucks, shining flashlights into houses and robbing them if there is no-one there to protect the site. It is only because of the dogs that Madalin is able to remain in relative safety. My friend is not a racist, quite the opposite in fact, and has no reason to make up stories like this. I agree that the media coverage and focus on people looting stores in the immediate aftermath was overblown. But leaders like Jesse Jackson need to spend just as much talking to his people about how to behave in an emergency, as much as telling the media to lay off negative perceptions. New Orleans is extremely dangerous and lawless right now, there have been rapes, shootings (what on earth makes the author think there was only one? there were two confirmed police SUICIDES alone - and that's already two shootings.) and robberies, not just a few people helping themselves to some eggs!!

95 Arnold Road, London UK N15 4JQ

Since when did a big screen tv become necessity? 09.Sep.2005 07:56


With all of this talk, through people's otherwise diverse dialogue, alot of you are agreeing to the same thing and just commenting on the author's remarks but, what is important is that in a time of need, such as this disaster, people have been discarded by our government like old newspaper. It is essential for these people to have food, water and toilette paper for gods sake! Looting is never ok. Survival is. Im sure some of these people lost a piece of their dignity when everything they owned was destroyed. These people who are looting for basic needs(food,water,clothes,deoderant) are surviving when no help had come to them. Those people are not looters they are what darwin calls survival of the fittest. However, that does not mean that I agree with the people who are looting for other things. This author commented that the news is always showing the young black males looting. Well I was watching the news and I did see a youn g black male stealig a big screen tv and oputting it into his car. I also saw a young white woman running off with her hands full of stolen items. One thing that really doesnt fit this idea though is the media footage, on nbc, of a 6oish black woman walking out of a store with a bed in a ba..not a blanket from walmart..but a luxury bed in a bag set. Now what is she going to do with those pillow shams and dust ruffles. I guess its as easy to say as what others are going to do with the fendi purses they stole from canal street shops.

Incorrect Assumptions 11.Sep.2005 12:14


Author made incorrect assumptions about failure of local officials to assist poor people in evacuating.

The PLAN (which was approved by FEMA) was to use public transportation to move people to the Superdome, after which, if needed, the FEDS would come in and evacuate them. The local officials followed the PLAN. The PLAN to pick up and SHELTER people with no other options worked, pretty damn good. Thousands of people were transported by public busses to the Superdome and their lives were spared.

The PLAN to SUPPORT and EVACUATE people failed because of the FEDS. The FEDS didn't follow the PLAN.

The feds failed--not the locals.

Much has been made about the supposed availability of unussed busses to evacuate people prior to landfall. This is a red herring being thrown about by wingnuts and their attack dogs. Don't buy into blaming the local officials.

Think about it!!!

Look at the facts and logistics. 48 hours prior to landfall, Katrina was predicted to land anyway from Florida to Texas. The closest major city that would be considered out of "harms way" was Houston. Houston didn't even OFFER the Astrodome as a shelter until a few days AFTER landfall.

All major roads (actually there is only one major highway to get out of NOLA--and it's surrounded by a huge swamp for miles and miles) were made ONE WAY OUT OF THE CITY. The airlines and private bus lines had stopped all incoming and outgoing service. There were 10 HOUR traffic jams just to get out of NOLA in the 48 hours before landfall. There were no major roads tagged for INCOMING traffic.

Evacuating several hundred thousand people using ALL available public transporation would mean multiple round trips in less than 48 hours. These citizens needing evacuating incuded thousands of citizens who were elderly, mentally incompetent, disabled, and with specialized medical needs.

It's virtually impossible to evacuate ANY major metropolitan city in less than 48 hours, absent FEDERAL assistance.

That's why the PLAN was to use the Superdome as a "shelter of last resort" after which, the FEDS would step in and ASSIST and EVACUATE, if needed.

I do have one criticism of the local officials, actually. Anybody who has ever lived in NOLA (self included) knows that the toilets back up when it floods, so the locals should have encouraged citizens to bring empty buckets and their own toilet paper, or had a hell of a lot more porta-potties available for those citizens to use.

Back to my main point--Exactly how many round trips of busses could have been made under these circumstances? Hardly any. The bus drivers were evacuating themselves and their families and the police were gearing up for the storm. Public school busses AREN'T designed for disabled people to use (no wheelchair ramps, narrow aisle and seats). And, there simply wouldn't have been enough police to assign an officer to each bus to ensure order on the bus, or to screen people for weapons, or mental instability and whatnot BEFORE they boarded the busses. Remember--you'd be dealing with an extremely anxious, if not increasingly panicky, group of people.

Absent from discussion is the lack of pre-landfall response of the local CHURCHES in NOLA in assisting trapped locals and tourists to evacuate. The private school system in NOLA is HUGE, and is tons better funded than the public system, and has tons of private school busses available.

Where were the churches?

I want to know why these "compassionate Christians" didn't think to load up a few po folk in their SUVs or their church school busses, or stick around to help out?

Nuff said!

No excuse for destruction 15.Sep.2005 07:08


While there are arguments for and against the justification of looting, there is no reason for personal property to be destroyed. My husband runs the local branch of a truck driving school. He went to the New Orleans location yesterday to find all of the computer screens smashed, every file cabinet dumped over, files strewn about the floor, the vending machines were demolished but no food or drinks were missing. The building survived the wind and avoided the floods, but it suffered a pointless destruction. I know those people are angry, our own government left them stranded. I'm housing 4 people in my own home. Some have managed to get back into the city to try to see their houses, their cars. The cars were in the upper level of a parking garage. The windows were busted and the seats cut up. One gentleman had saved his most important papers in a box in his trunk because he knew his house would likely flood. Someone ripped up his insurance documents and the other papers he'd stashed. WHY? How can destroying someone else's property make you feel better?

I am one of the looters 26.Nov.2005 09:12


Right on man- yeah you get it- we were all stuck- you are always stuck in NOLA. So I ripped off every chain drugstore I could. The National Guard ruined everything. I was told to take- then I was assaulted for taking. Then- I ran into a guy who was giving cars away. So- f- it. Guess I will go. Got flown to RI- got real sick from the H20. So I left the car- wonder if it is still there- well nine days in the water will make you crazy.