Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Disaster Capitalism

There is some very interesting info about New Orleans hurricane preparation in Lenin's Tomb. Apparently. New Orleans' catastrophic hurricane disaster plan' was privatized last year. It was farmed out to IEM, Inc., a Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). After Katrina struck, it has been a bit harder to research IEM's role in the plans for dealing with the hurricane and what the fuck they got paid for.
(via Joe)

And as a former Houstonian myself, I am hardly surprised that the reaction to the catastrophe has ranged from patrician horror about the influx of refugees (Barbara Bush) to salivating over opportunities to turn it to a profit.

    Perhaps no city in the United States is in a better spot than Houston to turn Katrina's tragedy into opportunity. And businesses here are already scrambling to profit in the hurricane's aftermath..."It feels like the only things left in south Louisiana are snakes and alligators," said John E. Olson, co-manager of Houston Energy Partners, a hedge fund that operates out of a skyscraper downtown. "Houston is positioned for a boom."...Stephen D. DuPlantis, senior managing director at CB Richard Ellis [remarks] "When I talk to owners of office buildings, they say people are not even negotiating. As tragic as it is for New Orleans, it is a boon for Houston."

What a perfectly loathsome city Houston is.

View of Houston from a bus

The Onion gets it right:
    Refugees Moved From Sewage-Contaminated Superdome To Hellhole Of Houston

    HOUSTON —Evacuees from the overheated, filth-encrusted wreckage of the New Orleans Superdome were bussed to the humid, 110-degree August heat and polluted air of Houston last week, in a move that many are resisting. "Please, God, not Houston. Anyplace but Houston," said one woman, taking shelter under an overpass. "The food there is awful, and the weather is miserable. And the traffick't's like some engineer was making a sick joke." Authorities apologized for transporting survivors to a city "barely better in any respect," but said the blistering-hot, oil-soaked Texas city was in fact slightly better, and that casualties due to gunfire would be no worse.


More info about how Pat Robertson is managing to siphon off relief dollars. Robertson's Operation Blessing, in addition to being run by radical right wing Christians, has a very poor track record in delivering aid. It had previously been exposed diverting planes that were supposed to be transporting refugees away from the civil war in Rwanda to transporting diamond-mining equipment for the African Development Corporation, a Robertson-owned venture initiated with the cooperation of Zaire's then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Robertson's organization only escaped criminal prosecution with the aid of high placed and in some cases bribed political allies.

But now
    With the Bush Administration's approval, Robertson's $66 million relief organization, Operation Blessing, has been prominently featured on FEMA's list of charitable groups accepting donations for hurricane relief. Dozens of media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN and the Associated Press, duly reprinted FEMA's list, unwittingly acting as agents soliciting cash for Robertson. "How in the heck did that happen?" Richard Walden, president of the disaster-relief group Operation USA, asked of Operation Blessing's inclusion on FEMA's list. "That gives Pat Robertson millions of extra dollars."

Greg Palast gives a more detailed background on the many nefarious dealings of Mr. Robertson.


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