Levees Not War
Infrastructure. Environment. Peace.

Posts Tagged ‘charity hospital’

Disaster Capitalism Will Solve U.S. Budget Deficit?
Ask New Orleans and Wisconsin

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

David in our Berkeley bureau, whose last dispatch was about global warming and extreme weather (May 24), observes that the G.O.P. hard-liners insisting on reducing the deficit only by cutting Medicare and privatizing other “common good” safety net programs are simply employing the same old deadly “disaster capitalism” techniques that were revealed by Naomi Klein in her powerful 2007 book The Shock Doctrine:

Truly, an insane situation, but not without precedent. I’ve been rereading Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine, and this is pure simple disaster capitalism following the template: use the bludgeon of national debt to create a crisis, erase progressive history and shred the social safety net, then firebomb the populace with austerity to remake the world for elites and the investor class. It’s quite extraordinary how out in the open this is, but how little it’s talked about. That’s what Obama and the Democrats should be trumpeting about the right wing extremists, who must be taking huge amounts of hidden money from people like the Kochs and FreedomWorks, Rove’s machines, Rupert Murdoch of Fox News, and other sources (and who knows what other hidden promises have been made to them to make even previously reasonable people turn 180 on their own positions). But of course, the Dems wouldn’t utter these words because of their timidity about being called “liberal” or inciting “class war.”

The shock doctrine can be summarized as the deliberate exploitation of the public’s disorientation after a crisis (natural disaster, political upheaval, or economic turmoil) to push through free-market economic shock therapy disguised as “reforms.” The traumatized public is too concerned with basic survival to notice what “the authorities” are doing.

Naomi Klein traced the shock doctrine’s use by U.S. conservative economic advisers and policymakers—always closely linked to profit-ready corporate interests—from the U.S.-supported coup that overthrew Argentina’s Salvador Allende in 1973 to the (Iraq) Coalition Provisional Authority’s efforts to “corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises” after the U.S. invasion in 2003 to the privatization of formerly public institutions of housing and health care in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (among a dozen or more other grim “success stories”).

The shock doctrine is alive and well in the U.S.A. Paul Krugman pointed out in February that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker was using shock doctrine methods in stripping away labor unions’ collective bargaining rights in the name of fiscal discipline. Now, when Walker took office on Jan. 3, Wisconsin had no budget crisis. But there was a big deficit after his first legislative priority as governor: giving Wisconsin corporations some $140 million in tax breaks.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is . . . a power grab—an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.

Shock Therapy by Flood, Eviction and Taser

Most odious to us is the shock doctrine’s use after Hurricane Katrina with the demolition of undamaged, structurally sound housing projects in New Orleans and the shifting of the city’s over-stressed, under-funded public school system to a charter schools model, though as usual without adequate funding. The demolition of the New Orleans housing projects, at a time when displaced, returning residents could least afford the rising rents and housing prices, was an acceleration of a scheme long planned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (See “Homeless for the Holidays: Who Would Jesus Evict?”) It has been alleged, quite credibly, that the destruction of the housing projects was part of a deliberate policy to shift the city’s population back toward a whiter complexion. As Naomi Klein wrote in “Shock and Tasers in New Orleans” at the time of the evictions and demolitions:

Readers of my book The Shock Doctrine know that one of the most shameless examples of disaster capitalism has been the attempt to exploit the disastrous flooding of New Orleans to close down that city’s public housing projects, some of the only affordable units in the city. Most of the buildings sustained minimal flood damage, but they happen to occupy valuable land that make for perfect condo developments and hotels.

The final showdown over New Orleans public housing is playing out in dramatic fashion right now. The conflict is a classic example of the ‘triple shock’ formula at the core of the doctrine.

First came the shock of the original disaster: the flood and the traumatic evacuation. Next came the ‘economic shock therapy’: using the window of opportunity opened up by the first shock to push through a rapid-fire attack on the city’s public services and spaces, most notably its homes, schools and hospitals.

Now we see that as residents of New Orleans try to resist these attacks, they are being met with a third shock: the shock of the police baton and the Taser gun, used on the bodies of protestors outside New Orleans City Hall yesterday [12/21/07].

 

 

Perhaps the most notorious and lethal application of disaster capitalism in New Orleans has been the closure of Charity Hospital, which was only superficially damaged by the storm (the basement flooded), so that LSU could build a new Medical Center complex several blocks from the still sturdy mid-1930s building on Tulane Avenue. Charity was long the central trauma unit in the city and the surrounding area. For watchers of HBO’s excellent series Treme, set in post-Katrina New Orleans, disaster capitalism is embodied by the opportunistic characters Nelson Hidalgo, a carpetbagger from Dallas, and C. J. Ligouri, a native New Orleanian who helps guide Hidalgo through the city’s byzantine business and political relationships. See the sharp and spicy comments at the Back of Town blog to which (we’re happy to disclose) quite a few of our friends contribute.

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Welcoming Committee Second-Lines for Louisiana’s State Hospital & Public Education System

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

While the GOP convenes in New Orleans with nary a mention of Katrina (who? that Nation editor?), here’s an event we’re sorry we missed, but we’re “retro-promoting” it a day late, for the message remains true:

From the Southern Republican Leadership Conference Welcoming Committee

There’s going to be a big, crazy second line in the CBD on Friday: the Stooges Brass Band, the Free Agents Brass Band, and a level of ass-shaking the business district hasn’t seen since the Second Line to Reopen Charity. We’re going to party and rage down Poydras, and we’re going to show the boy prince Bobby Jindal that the people of Louisiana have had it with his policies of privatization.

“A level of ass-shaking the business district hasn’t seen since the Second Line to Reopen Charity”

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC) takes place April 8–11 in New Orleans, and is the largest gathering of Republican leadership short of the presidential convention. As Bobby Jindal is groomed for higher office, the Second Line for Healthcare & Education is our opportunity to present a unified response to Jindal’s assault on Louisiana’s state hospital system & public education.

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Department of Corrections:
About That John Edwards Endorsement

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Mardi Gras has come and gone, and Ash Wednesday too, and now it is Lent: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Speaking of dust and repentance . . .

Two years ago we endorsed John Edwards for president. That was before we realized how far superior Barack Obama was (is), and before we read Heilemann and Halperin’s Game Change from beginning to end. (Click here for an excerpt.) Now, our endorsement got a bit of attention through Huffington Post (because we said “Democrats need a tough candidate who won’t hesitate to kick the Republicans in the balls”), but apparently the endorsement caused no irreversible damage. Still, we would like to issue a correction, an admission of error of character judgment.

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“The Brown Pelican Is Back”

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

An Environmental Protection Success Story
Detail from the Bank of New Orleans, Magazine Street.

Detail from the Bank of New Orleans, Magazine Street.

The brown pelican, a species that was driven nearly to extinction by use of the pesticide D.D.T., has grown back in strong enough numbers that the admirable bird has been removed from the endangered species list. The decision was announced Wednesday by officials of the U.S. Interior Department in a ceremony with Senator Mary Landrieu at Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Lacombe, Louisiana. The brown pelican was declared endangered in 1970. Pelicans would eat fish that contained traces of D.D.T., and the pesticide’s weakening of calcium in the eggshell would cause the birds’ eggs to be so thin that they would break during incubation. Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and other birds were similarly affected. D.D.T. was banned in 1972 (but we’re not safe yet).

Christine Harvey of the Times-Picayune explains the announcement in illuminating detail. She reports that Senator Landrieu used the occasion of the visit by Interior assistant secretary Tom Strickland and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services director Sam Hamilton

to convene a closed meeting between the Interior officials and about 75 coastal restoration “stakeholders” representing state agencies, universities, local governments and environmental groups in an effort to press the Obama administration on its commitment to speeding the state’s coastal restoration process.

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Scenes from a Health Reform Phone Bank

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

happyphone2The setting: The living room of a volunteer’s apartment in Manhattan.

The action: A night of phoning voters, mostly Obama supporters, in Florida, Indiana, and Virginia. Many wrong or disconnected numbers, or no one home (so we leave messages).

“Hello, my name is —. I’m a grassroots volunteer with Organizing for America and we’re helping President Obama pass health care reform this year. We’re not asking for money, but would just like to ask your opinion, please . . .”

The question we ask is, Do you support health care reform with a strong public option? We don’t assume people know exactly what the public option is, but help them along (“as you probably know . . .”) and briefly compare it to expanding Medicare for people under 65. It’s just an additional option at a lower cost than private plans. If you’re happy with what you’ve got, there’s no need to change . . .

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Fugate Confirmed for FEMA: Help Is on the Way.

Friday, May 15th, 2009

LNW_Fugate.kayakIt is very good news that the Senate voted last week to confirm W. Craig Fugate as administrator of FEMA. Fugate knows what he is doing. He will be the “anti-Brownie”—every bit as in command as Michael Brown and other Bushies were not. Having directed Florida’s Division of Emergency Management since 2001 (Florida is the most hurricane-prone state), Fugate is by far the best-prepared administrator FEMA will ever have had—even better than the highly respected James Lee Witt who under President Clinton did so much to restore pride and confidence in that long-neglected agency. (See “Fugate for FEMA” [3/17] below, and read Cooper and Block’s Disaster for the sad procession of political appointees who have headed FEMA since its inception in the late 1970s.) When candidate Obama said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” he may have been referring to Mr. Fugate. A thousand welcomes, sir. Can we get you a cup of coffee?

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ReNEW | ReOPEN Charity Hospital

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

LNW_CharityRenew

Our friend Schroeder at People Get Ready rightly points out that in a city beset by so many problems at once, New Orleans residents have to choose their battles. Levees Not War focuses on infrastructure and coastal restoration, but we also urge our readers—in the Sunken City and beyond—to help save Charity Hospital, a towering embodiment of the social contract built with obsessive attention to detail by Huey Long in the 1930s, from an expensive, unnecessary, and largely destructive plan by the LSU Medical School and the Veterans Administration that would raze it and about 250 structures in the surrounding neighborhood (all on the National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s Most Endangered Places). (See Action Contact List below, and coverage by Squandered Heritage, NOLA-dishu, and Library Chronicles. And here you can see a short video by the Historical Louisiana Foundation showing how Charity can be modernized economically.)

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