On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina touched down on the Gulf Coast and became a byword for political, economic, and environmental catastrophe. The anniversary continues to conjure up impassioned debate, as well as a $400,000 investigative report from the New York Times Magazine. For an overall sense of how New Orleans has progressed and languished in the last four years, see this visual op-ed from the Brooking Institution's Amy Liu.
- We're Counting On You, Mr. President, said yesterday's editorial in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The editorial says New Orleans is grateful for the attention it has received from the Obama administration, and "for the federal aid that has flowed our way." But it says there's more work to be done, and calls for a visit from Obama himself. "We ask you to bring your considerable intellect, your problem-solving ability, your influence to bear. When a president pays attention, so does the nation."
- Doctors in Disasters Have Much to Study, suggests Sheri Fink, MD in a lengthy report for the New York Times Magazine. "The debate among medical professionals about how to handle disasters is intensifying" because of the choices made to hasten the deaths of patients at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. "If people outside the medical community...don't understand why some people receive essential care and some don't, their confidence in the people who care for them risks being eroded."
- We've Learned Our Lesson, writes Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security, who defends the steps the government has taken since Katrina. "The test posed by Gustav was every bit as real as that posed by Katrina--only with a better result. The good news is that we did learn from Katrina and that we are better able to manage such extreme emergencies." But the editorial board of USA Today says it's a mixed bag. "Four years later, an "unwillingness to reassess risks and to pay the requisite premiums threatens to undermine the work of public officials trying to make coastal communities safer. Good intentions are important, but they are no replacement for steely eyed realism."
- Americans Still Can't Confront The Racism of Their Government, writes Rebecca Solnit of The Guardian. "Ordinary people mostly behaved well - there were six bodies in the Superdome, including four natural deaths and a suicide, not the hundreds that the federal government expected when it sent massive refrigerator trucks to collect the corpses. On the other hand, people in power behaved appallingly, panicking, spreading rumours, and themselves showing an eagerness to kill and a pathological lack of empathy."
- What Was Blackwater Doing in New Orleans? asks James Ridgeway of Mother Jones. He says Blackwater was under federal contract to secure private property. "Immediately after the storm and flood hit, when civilian aid was scarce--but private security forces already had boots on the ground." The storm was bad enough, Ridgeway argues, but "the truth of what happened in New Orleans--vigilantism and racially tinged violence, a military response that supplanted a humanitarian one--is equally sinister."
- An Incomplete City, writes Teresa Wiltz at The Root. "I worry that New Orleans will turn into some pretty little boutique city confined to the French Quarter and Uptown, shutting the door on the Otherness of Ward Nine."