ebogjonson.com's new orleans archive

faces looking up from under the water; the rebuilding

August 29, 2007

happy birthday, katrina!

We got you this timeline:


7:30 AM CDT -- BUSH ADMINISTRATION NOTIFIED OF THE LEVEE BREACH: The administration finds out that a levee in New Orleans was breached. On this day, 28 "government agencies, from local Louisiana parishes to the White House, [reported that] that New Orleans levees" were breached. [AP]

8AM CDT -- MAYOR NAGIN REPORTS THAT WATER IS FLOWING OVER LEVEE: "I've gotten reports this morning that there is already water coming over some of the levee systems. In the lower ninth ward, we've had one of our pumping stations to stop operating, so we will have significant flooding, it is just a matter of how much." [NBC's "Today Show"]

11:13 AM CDT - WHITE HOUSE CIRCULATES INTERNAL MEMO ABOUT LEVEE BREACH: "Flooding is significant throughout the region and a levee in New Orleans has reportedly been breached sending 6-8 feet of water throughout the 9th ward area of the city." [AP]

MORNING -- BROWN WARNS BUSH ABOUT THE POTENTIAL DEVASTATION OF KATRINA: In a briefing, Brown warned Bush, "This is, to put it mildly, the big one, I think." He also voiced concerns that the government may not have the capacity to "respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe" and that the Superdome was ill-equipped to be a refuge of last resort. [AP]

MORNING -- MAYFIELD WARNS BUSH ABOUT THE TOPPING OF THE LEVEES: In the same briefing, Max Mayfield, National Hurricane Center Director, warns, "This is a category 5 hurricane, very similar to Hurricane Andrew in the maximum intensity, but there's a big big difference. This hurricane is much larger than Andrew ever was. I also want to make absolutely clear to everyone that the greatest potential for large loss of lives is still in the coastal areas from the storm surge. ... I don't think anyone can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but there's obviously a very very grave concern." [AP]

MORNING -- BUSH CALLS SECRETARY CHERTOFF TO DISCUSS IMMIGRATION: "I spoke to Mike Chertoff today -- he's the head of the Department of Homeland Security. I knew people would want me to discuss this issue [immigration], so we got us an airplane on -- a telephone on Air Force One, so I called him. I said, are you working with the governor? He said, you bet we are." [White House]


11AM CDT -- MICHAEL BROWN FINALLY REQUESTS THAT DHS DISPATCH 1,000 EMPLOYEES TO REGION, GIVES THEM TWO DAYS TO ARRIVE: "Brown's memo to Chertoff described Katrina as 'this near catastrophic event' but otherwise lacked any urgent language. The memo politely ended, 'Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities.'" [AP]

LATE MORNING -- LEVEE BREACHED: "A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new 'hurricane proof' Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina's fiercest winds were well north." [Times-Picayune]

11AM CDT -- BUSH VISITS ARIZONA RESORT TO PROMOTE MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT: "This new bill I signed says, if you're a senior and you like the way things are today, you're in good shape, don't change. But, by the way, there's a lot of different options for you. And we're here to talk about what that means to our seniors." [White House]

4:30PM CDT -- BUSH TRAVELS TO CALIFORNIA SENIOR CENTER TO DISCUSS MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT: "We've got some folks up here who are concerned about their Social Security or Medicare. Joan Geist is with us. ... I could tell -- she was looking at me when I first walked in the room to meet her, she was wondering whether or not old George W. is going to take away her Social Security check." [White House]

8PM CDT -- RUMSFELD ATTENDS SAN DIEGO PADRES BASEBALL GAME: Rumsfeld "joined Padres President John Moores in the owner's box...at Petco Park." [Editor & Publisher]

8PM CDT -- GOV. BLANCO AGAIN REQUESTS ASSISTANCE FROM BUSH: "Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you've got." [Newsweek]


Posted by ebogjonson at 5:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 29, 2006

one year later

new orleans one year ago

A year ago I had just moved into my apartment in Downtown LA. It was a happy, auspicious move for me, but in many ways (most?) I was completely freaked-the-fuck out. I had just left a high-stress (but lucrative) gig under generally annoying circumstances, and I had also just moved to a new city where I knew few people and certainly didn't have the socio-professional network I was leaving back on the East Coast. The oft-touted attractions of LA - the beaches, the mountains, the industry - are of limited interest to me, and my new neighborhood was tripping me out as well, our spacious loft situated in a zone that is not so much post-apocalyptic as it is post-virtual, the streets seemingly stocked by some invisible programmer with quasi-autonomous non-player-characters from a game I barely understood and less wanted to play. There was piss everywhere and our building was full of very nice folks who claimed I'd soon be feeding on a uniquely downtown nutrient that they shorthanded as "the energy," but that I quickly came to believe was an essence distilled from the suffering of downtown's largely black and male homeless population. It seemed completely crazy to live here, but I do/did, so I very understandably came (by various associative and commutative properties) to think of myself as completely crazy as well.

Being primed by the peculiar mental state I was this time last year, it didn't take much for me to see Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath as a world ending sign. It seemed at first the stuff of myth, and then when nothing happened except suffering piled on suffering it made myth seem beside the point, if for no other reason than there is no book in any testament where the exile or death of large numbers of black people portends anything in particular. That kind of thing is just business as usual, a heckuva job.

I had somehow contrived to get to the west coast before the truck with all my furniture and comfort infrastructure, so my girlfriend and I spent the first few weeks of our new existence living like mildly discomfited squatters, sleeping on a too-small futon, not enough underwear, eating the same take-out over and over. (The grub choices downtown after dark are fairly constrained.) We in no way imagined that our situation bore any relationship to what the displaced survivors of the hurricane were going through, but we did wonder if some new regime had somehow been instituted, some line in history crossed where diminishment and deprivation would increasingly be the norm. What if there is an earthquake we wondered? A dirty bomb in a truck? What if it happens before my books and my telescope and my tools get here? Before I can imagine taping the windows up and putting towels under the door and making a brave face forthe Lady and saying, well. At least we can catch up on our reading. We had the feeling that something like the loss of an entire city must by definition permanently re-order the basic facts of life for everyone, and the feeling felt incontrovertible for a few weeks, inevitable, world historical. And then the truck arrived. The first thing I did was break out my drill so I could build a flight of vaguely cubist stairs to get us up to our loft bed as easily as possible. I moved the good TV so that I could watch it while I was working. When I was done all I could think was that the stairs look nice and that it really is true that there is no meaningful outrage to be had among the comfortable.

Before the arrival of the truck we obsessively followed the coverage of the disaster on a busted TV that had been left in the loft by the previous occupant. It served up pictures and sound, but they were fucked-up pictures and sound, the images and audio distorted as if fighting the grip of some powerful electromagnet, perhaps a tractor beam. I didn't think to take a picture of the images of Katrina as processed by that TV, but I did record an image of James Blake playing Andre Agassi in last year's US Open. We aren't even tennis fans and the tv's funny flicker gave me a headache, but we rooted for Blake all the way anyway, structuring our evenings around the matches. Watching the Open offered us a kind of useful normal, an easy counterbalance to the other images that were still streaming from the screen all day long. We weren't even disappointed when Blake finally lost, made no half jokes about him letting the race down. Instead, we mentally thanked him for all those well-layed matches. There's always next year, we said.

james blake playing andre agassi at the 2005 us open

Next year is here now. Looking back my introduction to LA I am amazed that I stayed here, think: you were kind of out of your head. But what else was there to do in September of 2005 besides go a little off? The moment seemed to call for it, and the subsequent return to a livable middle suggests the simultaneous advent of both real relief and of complete retreat. Slavoj Zizek has a line about utopia where he says (and I'm paraphrasing) that utopias can't be pre-imagined, that the impulse towards utopia is something that strikes you like lightening when you find yourself at a life-or-death juncture, which is to say, precisely when the choice before you is a new world or death. I imagine that thousands of people likely had that lightening strike moment in New Orleans last year, that for the vast majority it came too late to do them any good. You couldn't count the possibilities that drowned after the levees broke, but how many are being pieced together day by day in isolation, away from the television, fragile and portentous? Sitting in my loft the way I still do, watching the various feeds, would I know a utopia if I met one? I want to say "probably not" because I'm negative that way, but really: it's impossible to say. It's only been a year, and you can't tell anything in a year.

Posted by ebogjonson at 3:53 PM | Permalink

September 5, 2005

where this is headed

According to my stats counter (and as of the day and time of this posting) 15% of my search engine referrals were for the term "nigger nagin."

Mind you, I didn't get a bajillion search referrals, but still.

Posted by ebogjonson at 12:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 4, 2005

monsters and liars

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" - George Bush

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center" - Condoleezza Rice

Impeach these bastards, run them out of town.

Posted by ebogjonson at 10:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 2, 2005

friends blogging about katrina

Adrienne and Greg - NO residents, friends of friends and members-in-good-standing of Siddhartha Mitter's illhindu listserv - are blogging about Katrina as they make their way to the safe haven of Atlanta.


Posted by ebogjonson at 9:04 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

it's always like this

The Imposter President finally took his stage-managed tour of the Gulf disaster area today, his arrival timed to coincide with the appearance of the first National Guard troops in NO. Bush flew a swooping arc that took him first over the devastated Coast, then into Biloxi and (via wifely proxy) Lafayette before the presidential farce came to a semi-screeching halt the outskirts of the devastated Big Easy. His reactions throughout were a study in irrelevance and disconnect. "There is a spirit" in Biloxi, according to the president. He evinces near sexual excitement at the prospect of sitting on Trent Lott's reconstructed porch in Mississippi.

"Hang in there," he tells a sobbing woman.

The Imposter President laughs and he smiles and he frowns and he sputters. His smirking face, his idiot, perfunctory nodding all suggest a man desperately striving to not so much follow a predetermined script, but to embody a vaguely defined set of characteristics and traits, qualities that while technically associated with his office nonetheless seem to consistently hover beyond his reach and the outer boundary of his talent / functional competence.

I mean, it's completely pointless to offer the following at this late juncture, but the man is clearly a fucking moron. This fact about Bush - consistent, unchanging - is why the obsessive tracking of his (now) dive-bombing approval rating always strikes me as absurd. We elected/allowed the installation of this idiot twice at our clearly discernible peril (well, actually, I didn't but you know what I mean), so our approval and disapproval has as much real meaning as the variation in the weekly box office tallies, indicating at best minor variation in our collective appetite / tolerance for the consumption of shit.

Motivation is reputed to follow action (and, moreover, the cameras are watching) so the Imposter President clearly has to keep on trucking despite any innate limitations. (This persistence despite himself has long been chief among Bush's most discernible traits, that and his useful inability to ever cohere into anything more than a shell into which anyone can conceivably pour anything.) Strange as it is to still need to emphasize against what feels like a disputing tug of stunned incredulity, he is the POTUS, with all the stature that implies even in these worst of times, but no amount of play-acting and beseeching today, no amount of human sacrifice in the streets of New Orleans could call down the Oval-O loa that mysteriously chose to favor Bush during his first visit to Ground Zero. Much is being made of the difference in Bush's reaction to Katrina and 9/11, but the man on the little screen this morning is the same nitwit who lost his place reading a children's book that morning four years previous. At Ground Zero Bush stood enveloped and enmeshed in a more fortunate (for him) aesthetic regime, which is to say, on the shoulders of a preternaturally focused Rudy Giuliani and against the backdrop of the instant, universally agreed-upon primal scene of the day, i.e., NYPD and NYFD and EMS rushing up stairs to their doom. The scope of the disaster in NY was smaller, its arrow of outrage pointing outward, across national borders, its implication all upside for the men in power in DC. Who is there to blame today besides the black people dying because they lacked wheels, living as they do outside of Bush's SUV ownership society?

Surprisingly, though, despite all his fumbling, Bush committed no obvious gaffe today beyond the underlying/overarching failure of being Bush. That left it to Wifey to hit the most unintentionally astounding note of the day. Shanked by a reporter in Lafayette who had the bland temerity to ask her what the overwhelming blackness of the victims in NO may or may not suggest, Laura Bush was reduced to chorus of disturbed mewling, whining "noooo. No. Nooooooo." Her subsequent sentence-structure response (paraphrased) was that it was "always like this" during natural disasters. The poor tend to live on low ground, explained the FLOTUS, in houses that tend to be more vulnerable to destruction by hurricane and flood.

Or put another way, Mrs. Bush believes that black and brown people just "tend" to be drownin' and dying and starving and shit, like, all the time. Has been and ever shall be in her estimation - "it's always like this" - and extracting any particular implication from this outbreak of suffering in NO is to ask an already settled question about the American Negro's ordained lot - settled at least in Mrs. Bush's mind.

Someone needs to lose it on either Bush the way Anderson Cooper lost it on LA Senator Mary Landrieu yesterday on CNN. Did Bush meet with NO Mayor Ray Nagin today? If he did I'm sure that meeting took place off screen and off mic. Nagin seems a little likely to go maroon about now.

Posted by ebogjonson at 3:52 PM | Permalink

new new NO

forwarded from the good folks at the afrofututism group:


you are hereby invited to participate in a grassrootsdigital,
dirtyfast, hip-hop gutbucket distributed project in afrofuturist JES'

new orleans has been abandoned.

the coastline is destroyed.

hundreds of thousands are now refugees, and if we measure Reality in
terms of the images presented to us on the news, most of them are
Black. even if we don't, most of them are Black.

what will they return to?

let us imagine the possibilities.

"... elevated for sure... but would it be naked pre-cast concrete? or
would it be decorated? what would the interiors be like? would the
structures be solar powered? would they have some of those new
condensers that can produce drinkable water from the surrounding air?
would there be individual units? village formations? would they have
hydroponics facilities?" -- David Goldberg (08/31/05)

"...a Baptism of the City? A Yemeyah/Oshun reclamation ritual?
Egyptian celestial boats? Shoplifting barges? A pattern/shape made up
of floating hurricane
lamps?" -- Charles H. Nelson (08/31/05)

"...being constructed of a much more angry/violent cityscape that
will be an amalgam of some well intended 'artful' ideas and straight
nigger-rigging of existing stuff that people are unwilling to rid
themselves of for emotional reasons..." -- Amanda Williams (08/31/05)

this is just the beginning.

take some time to imagine an alternate future for the gulf coast's
cities. make use of but do not let your self be limited by
propaganda, materials science, architecture, sociology or history.

please digitize and send your thoughts, fleeting, fragmented or
fully-developed, be they words (rants, shards of fiction, poems,
rhymes, manifestoes, dreams, prayers,) back-of-the-envelope
architectural sketches, inspired CAD renderings, photoshop hacks,
paintings, images of maquettes, etc. to david@smashtv.com.

the goal is for them to be collected on a website and hopefully
printed in a portable booklet that will find its way into the flow of
materials on its way into the hands of gulf coast refugees.

Work fast, as every CLOSURE is an OPENING for only so long.

thank you for your attention.

Posted by ebogjonson at 2:26 PM | Permalink

September 1, 2005

GOP just comes out with it

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert doesn't think NO should be rebuilt.

Posted by ebogjonson at 4:40 PM | Permalink

two proofs of evil

1 - All of Congress flew back to DC from vacation on a Sunday in a matter of hours in order to vote on the re-insertion of a feeding tube into a dead woman. They may or may not reconvene tomorrow or the day after to deal with the New Orleans disaster.

2 - Peggy Noonan calls for looters to be shot. I really have not the words to describe the risible stupidity of Noonan's column. Me, what I think is that Peggy Noonan should get parachuted into the middle of the chaos in NO so that her flabby ass can get distributed and fed to the hungry.

Posted by ebogjonson at 4:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

poor, black and at the bottom of the river

or REMEMBER NEW ORLEANS!; or, bush killed the big easy; or....

Most of New Orleans is under water. 8067% black and 80% under water. NO has always been the moist, miscegenate city at the bottom of the well (Pierce Lewis' previously obscure formulation pairing "inevitable city" and "impossible site" has now been made ubiquitous by Katrina) and now the well has went and got filled, Lake Pontchartrain pouring in over the sides of two, one (maybe three) broke levees and doing a fairly straightforward, biblical-type number on the city. The impossible, 8067% black place at the bottom of the well is now being evacuated - all of it - being abandoned to water and to the putrefaction of corpses and to the chaotic ministrations of first the nation's pity ("OUR TUSUNAMI!") and then its judgment ("LOOTERS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NEW ORLEANS MESS"). Overmatched NOPD are either depicted keystoning it out of looted big-box stores or quoted ominously/authoritatively about "meeting resistance" outside of WalMart. What few National Guardsmen that are still Stateside await call-up for unexpected local duty, no doubt experiencing a kind of ambivalent gratitude at having been diverted to the Big Easy while on the way to Fallujah or Mosul.

Drudge shifts effortlessly, blithely from one urban pacification to another. "BATTLE FOR NEW ORLEANS" screams his headline over a picture of an APC filled with SWAT.

Everyone of every race who is left in the city is now a black Ninth Warder. Stranded conventioneers in the Ritz Carlton call into CNN to describe the awfulness of their confinement. They report to Wolf Blitzer that the government is nowhere to be seen, leading inevitably to the question of where the government has been. Everyone is asking: Where is the National Guard? Answer: protecting Bush and Cheney's oil in Iraq.

Has a major American city ever been so abandoned before? Atlanta, "fairly won" and then razed by Sherman? Chicago and San Francisco, ravaged by fire and earthy? By "cities" and "abandoned" I mean not the red-tagged mansions stupidly clinging to mudslide and wildfire prone hillsides in Cali, nor do I mean northwest communes hunched paranoid in spitting distance of active volcanoes. I mean whole fucking cities with major league sports teams, dateline type-places that occupy unstable sections of the national imagination so vast that they can never be rebuilt once lost, only poured over with liquid elegy.

What we are witnessing is unprecedented, science-fictional. Potentially 10000 dead, the redistribution of hundreds of thousands of refugees across some of the poorest states in the Union, an enormous gaping hole in the culture, an eruption of Third World misery in our most Third World region. (Cholera? Diphtheria? Tent cities?) Will this national trauma, already tipping over into an awful but starkly illuminating chaos, re-order the world as radically as 9/11 did? Will we declare a global war on government mismanagement and under-preparedness? Will we seek out the spider-holes of the kleptocrats whose catastrophic priorities led to the diversion of millions of dollars from New Orleans' capital investment plans (i.e., shoring up levee's) to the war in Iraq and "homeland security?" Will "Remember New Orleans" become a rallying cry encapsulating the criminal culpability of the Bush Administration in leading this country down the road of fiscal collapse?

The right wing corporate media is already at work diverting our attention and outrage from the obvious. Watch and listen carefully as the right use racism to inoculate themselves against the implications of this disaster. Watch and listen as the focus shifts from human death tolls to crimes against property. Watch and listen as pundits and politicians who have ritually evoked 9/11 to justify every possibly outrage against civility and convention announce it's unfair and cynical to analyze how a government allocates funds, how it prepares for and then responds to threats to the safety of its citizenry. Watch and listen as the talking heads on Fox dismissively refuse to asses this Administration's stewardship of the common good, suggesting smugly that the poor black folks who couldn't get out of harm's way last week either got what they deserved on the front end by not owning cars, or on the back end by being living in the same city as the inevitable handful of looters. Watch and listen as some explain in the most banal tones possible that New Orleans deserved to die, that it was built in the wrong place and that everyone knew it and that acts of cowardlice like leaving the poorest of the poor to fend for themselves are actually a sign of strong leadership.

I get a headache every time I think about this, I shake a little bit with frustration and rage. The destruction of New Orleans and the divisive racial shadow play that is sure to follow is an object lesson on a par with 9/11, the chaos of Iraq and New Orleans illustrating the enormity of the stakes in our disagreement with the current Administration and its supporters. In the last five years we have accepted electoral fraud, the falsification of evidence in support of an illegal war, the catastrophically incompetent management of post-Saddam Iraq, the steady ratcheting-up of global insecurity, the historic transfer of American wealth to the petrochemical combines, the elevation of religiously derived quack-science to national debate, the erosion of civil liberties, and the vast, near imperial expansion of the powers of the executive branch. Now we can add to the list the preventable deaths of potentially tens of thousands of vulnerable citizens and the loss of an entire American city. How much more are we going to take?

Posted by ebogjonson at 2:45 PM | Permalink