September 12th, 2005


The curious case of Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw

Larry and Lorrie were the authors of a story about the aftermath of Katrina that was widely forwarded around the Internet last week. My brother Ian reposted it to his blog Here.

Well it turns out there's some controversy about these people -- they're both said to be EMS techs, but apparently they're somehow affiliated with the Socialist Workers Party. The SWP are famous cranks I guess. You can read the same story my brother posted here, and a followup letter from Larry Bradshaw here.

But then, things seemed to go strange. Jaron Lanier -- the silicon-valley hypester who used to pimp for Virtual Reality (back in those innocent days when people thought it was a good idea) apparently did what my brother did, repost the Slonsky/Bradshaw letter. Then a few days later, he posted an apology saying he had been duped by the SWP, and that the veracity of the Slonsky/Bradshaw letter was in doubt.

But the story isn't over -- This American Life devoted a show to the Slonsky/Bradshaw story, interviewing them, and also other people who were involved in the story. No mention on the radio show of the SWP though.

I don't know myself -- I know the SWP are a bunch of nutjobs that I cross the street to avoid. On the other hand, if there was anything ideological in the letter, it was pretty subtle, and in general it had the ring of truth -- nothing described therein is inconsistent with other accounts of official behavior on the Gulf Coast. But any association with the SWP will completely devalue this report in the eyes of conservatives -- if it has anything to do with the SWP it must be without credibility.

In the end, it's hard to see what this story has done for anyone -- the only points it really makes are that A) the hurricane was bad and B) Cops can be assholes. Anyone with any experience with hurricanes and cops already knows that. But as a media spectator it was interesting to watch the twists and turns involved.

What the long term stories of NOLA/Katrina are/should be

1. Environmental damage. Most of NOLA is hideously contaminated, and a couple of highly toxic superfund sites are still underwater. The flood waters pumped into Lake Pontchartrain will likely trash the lake for a long time to come.

2. Cronyism in the recovery effort. Just as in Iraq there will be a feeding frenzy for government contracts for the recovery. A lot of these will likely be brokered by the former FEMA head who now works as a fixer to get people contracts.

3. Treatment of refugees from the coast. There has been a real outpouring of goodwill towards these people, but a lot of them are poor people of color, and I can foresee some culture clashes if they're relocated to mostly white areas. It's pretty obvious that a lot of the law enforcement in the South just thinks of them as crack heads and looters.

I think Bush has officially lost it on this one. How anyone who could still have confidence in him is beyond me. He didn't cause the hurricane, but his reaction to Katrina was pathetic, and the way he wrecked FEMA is a national disgrace.