New Orleans Slides Back Under the Microscope.

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by Sam Winston

The stories to dominate the headlines this past week were clearly the freeing of Jena 6 member Mychal Bell, the guilty plea of Jacques Morial, and the further downward spiral of the Saints as witnessed by the entire nation.

But looking through the clutter it’s clear that after a collective pause by the media following the slew of 2nd Anniversary coverage, New Orleans and the impact of Hurricane Katrina resumed it’s role as a nationally engaged subject. There was this profile by the Associated Press on why Lawless High School in the 9th Ward has been sapped by bureaucracy, the larger Orleans Parish public school system was profiled in the New York Times, and the Washington Post took another look at the mental health crisis in the city through the eyes of the suffering. Most interesting was the latest

kindling thrown into the fire by a book called “The Shock Doctrine,” by Naomi Klein, recently reviewed in the New York Times.

“There are no accidents in the world as seen by Naomi Klein. The destruction of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina expelled many poor black residents and allowed most of the city’s public schools to be replaced by privately run charter schools.” – NY Times

That’s a statement that locals most certainly have more than an opinion on but rather their entire life experience informing that opinion. While the first wave of Katrina books has come and gone (which ones, if any, do you remember most?), books like "Shock Nation" clearly represent another sure to come as statistics, results, summaries, and conclusions come in from the collective national microscope that the city has been under.

“The Shock Doctrine” is Klein’s ambitious look at the economic history of the last 50 years and the rise of free market fundamentalism around the world…

One of the world’s most famous anti-globalization activists and the author of the best seller ‘No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies,’ Klein provides a rich description of the political machinations required to force unsavory economic policies on resisting countries, and of the human toll. ”

While it is unclear from the NY Times review how much Klein directly addresses Katrina, we can rightfully guess from her take on Pinochet in Chile and the war in Iraq that she tells the story of the little guy getting steamrolled in the face of traumatic events, and that she thinks New Orleans public school system adopting charter schools is one of the situations.

She also uses the phrase “Disaster capitalism”, which sounded on the first read a lot like Michael Lewis’ recent article and how the insurance industry changed after Katrina, though the two come to much different conclusions. Lewis’ article concluded that the big guy could figure it all out, if only a bit too late for the folks in Louisiana. Last time he was in town to speak at Tulane, Lewis mentioned that he was considering writing a book about post-K New Orleans. Would be interesting to see if he uses the insurance article as a jumping off point for the book and where it lands next to the "Shock Doctrine" along with the rest of the next wave of Katrina literature.

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