Looting on camera

An NBC report filmed in recent days in a Walmart store in New Orleans is on the Web at http://wimp.com/orleans/ (you may need to unblock pop-ups).  It’s hard to imagine this going on in front of a television camera and crew.  Guess who’s joining in?

But none of us should feel too holier-than-thou about this.  Comments on recent posts both here and in other blogs have reminded (or informed) us that there is clear evidence of looting having taken place, sometimes widely, during the London Blitzes (air raids) in the second world war when houses and shops had been damaged by bombing;  after earlier natural disasters in the US;  after Cyclone Tracy had virtually destroyed the Australian city of Darwin in 1974; and of course during the mayhem that accompanied the liberation of occupied Europe at the end of WW2.  There must be many more examples.  It seems to go with the territory.  

One should also resist the urge to write comments containing the words "thin veneer".

Trivial postscript:  When is someone going to tell the BBC (and Gordon Brown, among about 59 million Brits) that New Orleans is pronounced roughly ‘New ORLins‘ (or, as the President of the United States calls it, ‘NAWlins‘), not ‘neworLEENS‘ — or, with an uneasy feeling that its French origins ought to be recognised, ‘neworLEEuns‘?


6 Responses

  1. Ronnie says:

    This may say something general about the Louisiana or the New Orleans police but basically I think it means that nobody had prepared them for anything like the event or, when it happened, put them on parade mode. And then I think, “So what? They are not northern European Protestants
    in any sense.”

  2. Ronnie says:

    May i make another, flippant, comment. Shouldn’t you start by convincing us that that it is Paree and not Pariss? I know what they say over there but I find it diffficult not to go on saying New Orleens.

    Brian comments: Equally flippantly, I submit that we’re entitled to use our traditional names and pronunciations for place-names which are different in a different language. But in this case the place-name is anyway in English, and is spelled the same whether you are in the US or the UK — the only question is how you pronounce it. NeworlEENS is simply wrong. On place-names in foreign languages, I cordially agree with you, which is why I obstinately persist in referring to Peking (not Beijing), Milan (not Milano), Venice (not Venetia), Cologne (not Köln), and many more like those. The French name for Paris is spelled the same as the English name: but they just happen to be pronounced differently in the two languages. I have no objection to the French calling the city where I live ‘Londres’ (and it wouldn’t make any difference if I did). Germans (and a great many Americans, including the immortal Danny Kaye, supposing themselves to be using the local pronunciation) refer to a place called CopenHARgen: but the English, and (I believe also the Danes) call it CopenHAYgen. Perhaps the test should be: does the pronunciation make a significant number of sensible people wince? ‘NeworlEENS’ is certainly caught by that test. It’s not just me!

  3. Peter Harvey says:

    Isn’t New York correctly pronounced Noo Yoik?

    The Danish form of Copenhagen is København. The ø is pronounced like the German ö or as in French beurre. The a is pronounced in a way that would sound to an English ear like your HAR. Danny Kaye’s pronunciation may result from the requirements of sung English, where vowels often differ from the spoken form.

  4. Carl Lundquist says:

    The only thing shocking about that were the New Orleans cops engaged in looting themselves and that was not too shocking. New Orleans has for years, surely over a century the most incompetent and corrupt city government, as its state Louisiana retires the trophy on the state level.

    This is a city that lost about 1/3 of its population between 1960 (approx 650,000) and 2000 (approx 450,000). The sight of those cop looters is a sign of a police force with a massive morale, if not moral, problem. Absolutely no pride in itself. I fear rest of the city government is as bad.

    The state is as bad. The board in charge of the levee system at New Orleans, whose members are appointed by the mayor of NO and the governor of Louisiana spent millions on a freeway bridge to a casino, and damn little on levees.

    As an old local government person, I cringe at the goings on in NO.

  5. Brian says:


    Welcome aboard!

    What you say tends to confirm my mounting suspicion that the city and state authorities were at least as much to blame as anyone at the federal level for the shambolic failures in the response to Katrina, and probably even more so. If you look at the New York Times Katrina timelines, the day-by-day timeline for Michael Brown (FEMA — remember him?) suggests that his record in the period immediately before and after Katrina struck is noticeably better in practical terms than that of the Mayor of New Orleans or of the Governor of Louisiana. Clinton (Bill, not Hill) said in a BBC radio interview this morning that he was sure that there was no actual racial discrimination involved in the failures of the response to Katrina, but that what it showed was that the people making the decisions had no idea about how poor (mainly black) people in New Orleans actually lived, or why it should be that thousands of people simply couldn’t obey the order to evacuate unless provided with extensive local help such as transport out of the flood-affected area. Sounded pretty convincing to me. Clinton refrained from pointing the finger of blame at anyone in particular, but he did mention, justifiably, that under his administration there had been a significant reduction in the numbers of people in the US living in poverty, but that the number had increased since he had left office. The interview is available online until the next edition of the Today Programme is broadcast early on Monday morning UK time.

    17 Sept 05

  6. Carl Lundquist says:

    In American disaster operations the local authorities, including neighboring cities/counties and the local National Guard are the first responders of necessity. If they are ill prepared first response will be miserable. FEMA is basically a training and follow up agency — they simply do not have the manpower or access to matériel that the locals and states have.

    However, to give the devil his due here, the scope of this disaster was huge. The numbers given repeatedly here are 90,000 square miles involved in the destruction of Katrina. For a comparison, the UK covers 96,000 sq. miles. About 4 million people were involved, over a million of whom evacuated, most self evacuated. Finally, 80% of New Orleans was flooded, including police and fire stations and, tragically, hospitals. Nothing destroys like a flood, particularly a flood that will not drain. Just ask any middle aged Hollander.

    In so far as the Bush administration, they must stand guilty it appears of making poor ‘Plum Book’ appointments to an agency that demands an expertise. Hopefully, we may derive a benefit here: it should be a long time before an administration staffs FEMA with anything but genuine disaster operations veterans.

    In so far as the political fall out, it should be noted that both the Mayor of NO, and the Governor of Louisiana are Democrats. When the response goes sour, it is no surprise that Bush is jumped on for not showing up on day 1 — as if that would have made the least damn difference except to interfere with disaster operations.

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