Ken MacLeod's comments.
The title comes from two quotes:
“Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.”—Alasdair Gray.
“If these are the early days of a better nation, there must be hope, and a hope of peace is as good as any, and far better than a hollow hoarding greed or the dry lies of an aweless god.”—Graydon Saunders
I'm belatedly posting some comments on my previous post. I apologise for the belatedness, because these correspondents were ahead of the curve.
Erudite American Marxist Jim Farmelant wrote, back on Wednesday 31 August:
I think we are seeing in the Gulf states, especially Louisiana, the results of some massive incompetence, starting from the Federal level (read Bush Administration) down to the state and local levels. The Bush Administration had taken away Federal funds that had been slated to pay for New Orleans disaster funds and used them pay for the Iraq war and for tax cuts. As a result, New Orleans was not able to get its levees in shape to withstand a major storm of the sort just experienced. Louisiana has found itself shorthanded in terms of manpower in its National Guard, since so much of the Louisiana National Guard is, you guessed it, over in Iraq. Indeed, even much of the equipment that the National Guard uses in flood relief is over in Iraq, just in case that country should suffer a flood.
And things are not too much better at the state and local levels. While almost all major American cities suffer greatly from corruption, New Orleans is especially notorious on that score. No doubt when the billions of Federal dollars being to flow in to rebuild the city, a lot of well connected people are going to become fabulously wealthy. Whether any of that will trickle down to the rest of the people in New Orleans is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, watching television one got to see the consequences of lax building codes, as one got to see buildings that probably would have had trouble standing up to a 75 mph wind, get whacked with 175 mph winds. Naturally, a lot of these buildings simply collapsed. Since, New Orleans is a city that normally gets hit with a hurricane or major tropical storm every few years, one might have thought that the city's building codes would have taken that into account. Yes, one might have thought that.
Yes, this is going to be a major national disaster.
British SF fan Alison wrote, the same day:
Lots of things about the US become easier to understand if you consider it as a very rich third world country... Not just now, but generally. Like enormously high and rising inequity (including reducing real-terms median income over the last 30 years!), lack of adequate healthcare, housing, education for the poor, and a belief that richer states have no responsibility to improve the living conditions of poorer ones, diversion of national wealth into warfare rather than welfare. That sort of thing.
Lots of examples at the moment; eg general notion that Texas helping out refugees from Louisiana is a 'stunningly generous offer' rather than you know, standard operating practice, or the proportion of US military strength being used to sort out Katrina cleanup (and you know, they could have been shipping in troops to safe nearby areas over the weekend), or just a general 'oh well, of course it's individuals' responsibility to look after themselves and their property', or the Red Cross explaining that it's their largest aid effort ever (because, you know, American Red Cross is the world).
Not to mention police and other rescue personnel actively looting (apparently this happened after 9/11 as well), something which I think we can safely say Would Not Happen Here.
Today, David Moles wrote:
This part of America didn't just fall off and drop into the Third World; it was left there, a long time ago. (One of our great national shames, though there's plenty of competition.) There's a good summary here[.]
Of course, this sort of thing doesn't happen in at least one actual Third World country.
Star blogging coverage (practical as well as argumentative) can be found at Making Light. China Mieville has done some sterling online investigative journalism at Lenin's Tomb (as has the tomb's titular inhabitant).