Today's Blogs

New Orleans, Looted

Bloggers continue to be preoccupied by Hurricane Katrina; they vigorously disagree about the ethics of looting, ponder President Bush’s decision to tap emergency oil reserves, and almost unanimously condemn Robert Kennedy Jr.’s assertion that God, and the governor of Mississippi, may be responsible for the disaster.

New Orleans, looted: Bloggers ponder the moral dilemma of looting in New Orleans. Some of the most corrosive disapproval comes from the city’s residents. “I’m all for grace. But it’s very difficult not to hope they get shot on sight,” writesOtter’s Burrow, a medieval literature Ph.D. displaced by the hurricane. It’s Just the Perspective’s Frank, another evacuee, is even more abrasive: “I mean, there’s actual video of these animals running around with handfuls & basketfuls of stuff they’ve stolen from stores…many of them laughing about it. I don’t want to come across as racist, but it’s the poor black people creating a warzone out of the natural disaster that’s plagued the entire city.”

Much of the talk of race, looting, and the media’s coverage of it all has been sparked by Flickr user Dustin3000, who posted this screenschot of a Yahoo! page containing two similar photos with very different captions. Tech blog Boing-Boing’s Xeni Jardin explains: “The images were shot by different photographers, and captioned by different photo wire services. The Associated Press caption accompanying the image with a black person says he’s just finished ‘looting’ a grocery store. The AFP/Getty Images caption describes lighter skinned people ‘finding’ bread and soda from a grocery store.” Many are taking the captions as an unambiguous marker of racial bias in the media. Ramblings of a Tainted Mind’s jadedmyrrhmaid believes, “Now maybe they did ask these people where they got the stuff, and it doesn’t much matter at this point, everything may as well be eaten before it goes bad….but it does make the press look like assholes.” Bol at hip-hop blog Mindset of a Champion, asserts: “The message here is clear: A white man’s property rights > a jig’s life.” Stone-Bridge’s Huitzil, a Texan, shares similar concerns about media coverage. He says that most people seem to be taking necessities, and that the looting is justified “since the Corps of Engineers does not seem to have had an actual plan in place to deal with levee failure.” A Serendipitious Intention’s Emily Hambidge wonders if this photo of an African-American cop who seems to have joined the looting is indicative of subtle racism.

Law professor Ann Althouse has iniated a more nuanced discussion of the ethics of looting. “It’s almost an invasion of privacy to photograph people doing bad things when they are in such a state. But we’ve got to also feel sympathy for the rest of the people who are stranded there and frightened by a breakdown in order,” she claims  

Read more about looting and racism.

Emergency oil: President Bush has decided to tap the country’s reserves of emergency oil until vast disruption of fuel service blows over. Frogman1975’s Jeremy, a liberal, supports the move, but snipes, “[W]hat is funny to me is that the administration was NOT willing to open these reserves to help bring down gas prices for the average working man and woman. However when gulf coast oil producers are fearful that they might experience some profit losses, the administration opens the reserves without delay.” The Conjecturer’s Joshua Foust, a political science and international affairs student, has a more spirited defense: “But I mean, short of a large-scale attack on oil fields in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, I can’t think of something that would qualify more for tapping the reserves.” And cycling enthusiast Cameron Mallory at Berserk confesses, “The cyclist in me would like to see it go above $5 so that there would (hopefully) be less cars on the road. At a minimum, less aggressive drivers, given that punching the accelerator will suck up more fuel.”

Read more about the emergency oil reserves; Slate explained the Strageic Petroleum Reserve in this 2002 article.

Wrath of God?: At the Huffington Post, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. insists upon a connection between global warming and Hurricane Katrina and suggests that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s opposition to the Kyoto Protocol may be linked to his state’s devastation: “In 1998, Republican icon Pat Robertson warned that hurricanes were likely to hit communities that offended God. Perhaps it was Barbour’s memo that caused Katrina, at the last moment, to spare New Orleans and save its worst flailings for the Mississippi coast.”

Conservative bloggers are rushing to deride RFK Jr. Dummocrats’ conservative John Tant points out that MIT professor Kerry Emanuel, whose work Kennedy cites, has dismissed any link between Katrina and global warming. Tant then challenges Kennedy to account for “the class 4 that hit Texas in 1900 and killed around ten thousand people? Did we need CO2 caps back then, Mr. Kennedy? What were our CO2 emissions in 1900 versus today?”

Spatula City’s Lord Spatula I is also bemused: “Doesn’t look or sound like New Orleans was ‘spared’ to me.  Am I missing something here?  Hello?  Anyone?” And Intelligent Discontent’s Pogie argues that Kennedy should have known better: “It’s always interesting to me when someone I admire so clearly gets something wrong… Kennedy has to be savvy enough to know that the Right has succeeded in painting environmentalism as radical by distorting and exploiting comments by environmentalists; the damage will only be more significant when the comments have come from such a respected mainstream environmental figure.”

Read more debate about the connection between global warming and Katrina; visitThe Blazer Blog’s roundup of news stories debunking the connection.

More links: In Slate’s Josh Levin mourns his hometown, and Daniel Engber explains what happens to flooded houses. InstaPundit has a link-rich post explaining how to help. The Truth Laid Bear has a list of, at press time, more than 400 bloggers who are participating in a coordinated Katrina relief effort tomorrow. For local information, there’s,, and the Times-Picayune.

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