Corporate Lunacy In The Wake Of Katrina

Aquarian Weekly 9/20/06 REALITY CHECK

CHING-CHING, CASH IN ON TRAGEDY! Part II Aggressive Accounting, Money-Grabs, & The Future Of New Orleans

New OrleansIn Part II of our interview with Rita J. King on her investigative report, Big, Easy Money: Disaster Profiteering On The American Gulf Coast for CorpWatch (, we uncover more greed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: Corporate feeding frenzies leading to the fleecing of the unfortunate and the jobbing of the lazy federal government, which, in turn, fleeces us in the tax game, and learn how the these crimes could eventually bury the beauty and tradition that was once New Orleans.

These “business practices”, while being sneaky and rotten, are pretty much expected as shenanigans as usual. The question must be then, is all of this unethical behavior technically illegal?

It’s not necessarily illegal, but it clearly demonstrates the degree to which laws are set up to favor corporations. At a certain point you have to say it’s not a matter of politics, or anything other than the obvious fact that the greater good is not being served. I am not prepared to completely blame corporations for that – they’re playing a game. It’s called capitalism. I understand that. But if the system isn’t working, this is how empires crumble. In the history of the world, I’m not sure there’s ever been a civilization that has recognized its own demise in time to do anything productive to avoid the calamity.

Taxpayers need to know that the Army Corps of Engineers, Bechtel and Halliburton, among others, are using the same contract vehicles in the Gulf Coast as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. They need to know that there are indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity open-ended contingency contracts being used on the Gulf Coast to squeeze out local companies, and cost-plus contracts that allow them to collect a profit on everything they spend, which really gives them an incentive to overspend. The report lays out the astronomical charges in detail. The American people need to read it.

“It’s not just that it’s expensive to get things done, we’re throwing billions of dollars at things that are not getting done – it’s wasteful, it’s disgusting, and how can we really expect the rest of the world to believe we’re interested in preserving their respective cultures, if we’re willing to decimate our own?

After all this research and investigation, what is your final assessment of these repeated money-grabs? Will they eventually bleed taxpayers and/or the federal government dry and consequently stall the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast or New Orleans specifically?

Corporate law requires that corporations put profit above everything else. People need to keep that in mind. The law is subject to the people. If people don’t like their taxes to skyrocket and their money to be squandered they must act. It’s not just that it’s expensive to get things done, we’re throwing billions of dollars at things that are not getting done – it’s wasteful, it’s disgusting, and how can we really expect the rest of the world to believe we’re interested in preserving their respective cultures, if we’re willing to decimate our own?

I wonder, in the absence of the minority voices, whose master plan to rebuild will be followed. The Louisiana Recovery Authority is coming up with a master plan, but in whose image? What are the values being used? It’s very unclear. It is one of the most precious regions in this country for its cultural diversity. You can’t rebuild what was already there, but you can value the history. I think the single most important characteristic of the rebuilding effort needs to be a creative approach to synthesizing the past to build a viable future.

Ironically, I watched a documentary on the rich and mysterious history of New Orleans only a few weeks before the devastation, and it was one of the first things I thought of, how much of it will be washed away inevitably?

When the early French settlers came to New Orleans, they almost perished from the heat, and so they brought in slaves from Ghana, because the climates are so similar, and the slaves wove into the wrought-iron gates of the city a symbol called the Sankofa, which still stands today. It is a heart with spirals on the inside and the outside and it means – which Bob Marley immortalized in his wonderful, “No Woman/No Cry”; “In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” You can’t rebuild unless you take the past into account. I believe the image of the Sankofa should stand as the pervasive symbol of the entire rebuilding effort of New Orleans.

But will it ever be rebuilt – physically, culturally, or symbolically?

The future of the city is uncertain, but I question the wisdom of rebuilding it in an area where the levees haven’t been improved. Climatologists are predicting increased ferocity in weather patterns in the near future. So rebuilding in this climate has to be undertaken with the utmost caution.

You’re talking planning, wisdom and compassion, so my humble guess is it will never be rebuilt.

Well, will it be rebuilt to my utopian vision? No. But it will be rebuilt to someone’s vision, and as such I think people need to keep a sharp focus on this process. We’ve been given an unprecedented opportunity here to look at our values, and the manner in which this rebuilding process is accomplished says something about the lives of every American. So people can hash out their ideas of American values until they’re red, white, blue in the face, but if they do not take a step back and realize this is the defining gesture of our lifetime, how we rebuild the Gulf Coast, then there is the risk it can be inevitably turned into a Mardi Gras theme park.

Really, what it comes down to is there’s something different about that place, and if we lose it, it will be a huge victory for homogenization.

Besides the public, or those who go to the Corpwatch web site, who is going to see this report?

The 20,000-word report is available with photographs online, in PDF format, and it’s also available as a pamphlet, the size of a magazine, which has been disseminated to most major media, and I believe it will be given to all congressional representatives. We are hoping to do a book, because, to my knowledge, CorpWatch is the only not-for-profit organization that has trailed Homeland Security’s spending since its inception. CorpWatch has written reports on spending in Afghanistan, Iraq, an alternative Halliburton report, and now this. All of it can be viewed on their site.

For more on the report and Rita J. King’s continued investigative journalism, please visit:

Part I: Corporate Lunacy in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

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