Land Use

What Has Happened Down Here Is the Winds Have Changed

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An interesting article in City Journal describes the bottom-up reconstruction of New Orleans. Here's the heart of the argument:

In one crucial way, New Orleans's modern history of weak, ineffectual government helped it recover after Katrina. Though the [Bring New Orleans Back] luminaries drew up their plan swiftly, nobody had the political will, knowledge, or resources to enforce it. Property owners could show what they thought of the plan–and of various other utopian schemes bandied about by the nation's architectural giants–by ignoring them.

This approach–or better, lack of one–differs markedly from the reaction to the nation's other recent large-scale disaster, the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In New York, the state government, which had a long history of centrally planning huge projects, quickly monopolized control over rebuilding. Ground Zero, unfortunately, seemed the perfect opportunity for such a project. After all, the World Trade Center had been built as a government scheme 30 years before the attacks, and the towers' single leaseholder, real-estate investor Larry Silverstein, sweated under immense political pressure to cooperate with the government in its ambitious reconstruction plans. Six and a half years later, Ground Zero is still an early-stage construction site. Worse, what's eventually built there could be a white elephant.

In New Orleans, by contrast, though the city and feds can still screw up the sites that they control, including now-vacant housing projects, they can't define the whole reconstruction process. Enterprising homeowners can experiment with what works, rather than being stuck with some starchitect's vision for the next century.

The article is filled with examples of those experiments. The people of New Orleans, Nicole Gelinas writes, have "been building and rebuilding on their own or with small-scale help, rather than under top-down decree–and, in the process, showing that thousands of individual planners are better than one master."

[Hat tip: John Kluge.]

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  1. [Hat tip: John Kluge.]

    Whaaa..?

    John, tell the truth: you sent this in just to stick in the eye of your archnemesis “joe the Urban Planner”, didn’t you?

  2. The people in New Orleans need personal responsibility.

    If they had any instead of being worthless parasites, they would have gotten out of town instead of having hurricane parties. They should’ve prepared on their own for the big one, but no they want the government tit to feed them.

  3. Neil, what’s the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

  4. A_R,

    John, tell the truth: you sent this in just to stick in the eye of your archnemesis “joe the Urban Planner”, didn’t you?

    Do they teach mind reading in BOLC or something? You totally beat me to that one!

  5. The people I know in St. Bernard Parish that stayed have told me the most frustrating part is being given contradictory information by various state and federal agencies. A certain subset have just said “screw it” and started doing what they thought needed doing. I half-expect some of them to run into huge legal hassles later, but being Louisiana, probably nothing a few highly greased palms won’t fix.

  6. By simply rebuilding roughly what was there before, where it was before, the citizens are recreating the old urban plan – the one that left so many thousands of them underwater during Katrina.

    I’m not sure why a failed, decades-old urban plan is better than a newer one, especially when we’ve seen the disasterous results of that old plan, but mutter mutter government mutter.

  7. For those who don’t want to RTFA, here’s the summary: New Orleans is less screwed up by the government than ground zero in NYC. They set a high bar down there, but not so high as to actually live above sea level, stop frequent violent crime or not expect the rest of the country to pay for the consequences of their poor decisions.

  8. This should be utterly unremarkable; unfortunately, it’s not.

    But don’t despair, we can always send in the Corps of Engineers to demolish anything the Ministry of Dwellings disapproves of.

  9. “If they had any instead of being worthless parasites, they would have gotten out of town instead of having hurricane parties.”

    90% of us did, you fuck.

  10. It wasn’t any “plan” Joe it was their lack of personal responsibility and dependence that left them underwater.

  11. Their lack of personal responsibility in 2006 led to multifamily apartment houses being built several feet below sea level, in the 1900s and 1920s?

    Are you sure about that, Neil?

    Because I’m pretty sure that’s not true.

  12. What do you mean, African or European swallow?

  13. Joe they should’ve known these apartments were prone to flooding before they agreed to live in them. Tough luck if they were too stupid to figure it out.

  14. Why should the taxpayers have to bail out a city that was BUILT BELOW SEA LEVEL? Its a stupid place for a city and mother nature is telling them to leave.

    We don’t need to waste money on it anymore.

  15. Your typically-Republican lack of compassion aside, Neil, that really has nothing to do with the question of whether it’s a good idea to rebuild in the same manner.

    You DO realize that the rugged individualists being lauded for their rebuilding efforts are also putting their efforts into flooded areas, right?

  16. Its a stupid place for a city and mother nature is telling them to leave.

    That’s what the planners said. Thank goodness those pointy-headed elitists didn’t get their way.

  17. Its a horrible idea, and if they’re stupid enough to rebuild in flooded areas and get flooded out again, too damn bad. Should’ve thought of that befre you built them. We don’t need Mama Government saving them from themselves.

  18. Huh? I don’t know that! EEEEEEAAAARRGH!!!

  19. joe,

    Did you read the article? They arent just rebuilding what was there before. Many are building in ways designed to minimize problems, such as floodable first floors. Put essential space, such as kitchens, on the 2nd floor and use the first floor for things like garages and playrooms.

  20. Why should the taxpayers have to bail out a city that was BUILT BELOW SEA LEVEL? Its a stupid place for a city and mother nature is telling them to leave.

    Nothing worse than having a total prick advocating for your point of view.

  21. Yes, robc, I read the article. While a flood-resistance house in a neighborhood several feet below sea level in a hurricaine zone is better than a traditional house in the same location, it’s still a bad idea to build there.

  22. Most interesting fact from article (to me): Habitat went 0 for 101 in structural damage. None of there pre-Katrina houses suffered structural damage.

    I remember after the hurricane that decimated Homestead, that most of the HfH houses stood, while the surrounding houses were knocked down.

  23. Why should the taxpayers have to bail out a city that was BUILT BELOW SEA LEVEL?

    Because we don’t just let people in need rot in this country.

    A better question is, why should the tax payers pay to set up the same situation to happen again?

    And, apparently, the answer is “because the decision to do otherwise would involve government planning, so we should just stick with the status quo.”

  24. Most interesting fact from article (to me): Habitat went 0 for 101 in structural damage. None of there pre-Katrina houses suffered structural damage.

    I remember after the hurricane that decimated Homestead, that most of the HfH houses stood, while the surrounding houses were knocked down.

    Whatever else you can say about Jimmy Carter, the man sure knows how to hammer a nail.

  25. If you want to help people live in a city below sea level Joe, spend your own money.

    But don’t force me to bail out a bunch of parasites on society.

  26. joe,

    it’s still a bad idea to build there.

    I dont disagree with that. I wouldnt rebuild there either. My point was that your statement “By simply rebuilding roughly what was there before” isnt true. They are rebuilding much better than what was there before. You know my view on, its their property, they can build whatever they want.

    Hypothetically, there is nothing wrong with building in an area that gets flooded or blown away every 20 years or so as long as you dont whine for government aid every time it happens.

  27. That’s what the planners said. Thank goodness those pointy-headed elitists didn’t get their way.

    I assume insurance companies and their actuaries consult with planners, too. As long as the risk is priced profitably, what’s the problem?

  28. joe,


    Because we don’t just let people in need rot in this country.

    A better question is, why should the tax payers pay to set up the same situation to happen again?

    Im all in favor (as a compromise) of a 1 strike and your out policy. If your home is destroyed by natural disaster you get aid once. If you rebuild, then you arent covered.

    That handles both your points. Dont let people rot but let them understand that if they do it again, they are on their own.

    Obviously, I prefer a zero strike policy, but Im showing, for me, an amazing ability to compromise here.

  29. Nothing worse than having a total prick advocating for your point of view.

    You got that right. It truly blows goats.

    After we cut off those “irresponsible poor” in N’Orleans, can we go after the multi-millionaires living in the Florida Keys and Outer Banks of N.C? Whaddya think Kneel? Those are Republican voting welfare queens.

    Pretty please?

  30. Heck, screw planners and no planners – if they had simply listened to the geologists and not routed the Mississippi River permanently through the city and encased it with walls so no sediment could deposit, they would have been a lot better off.
    Oh wait, I forgot.
    “Nobody could have seen this coming!”

  31. There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.

  32. J Sub D I don’t need them getting our taxpayer dollars either.

    But at least they’re smart enough not to pop out 10 kids out of wedlock, go on food stamps and live off of government checks, and then whine when they didn’t leave in time for a natural disaster.

    Most of those successful, productive people you talk about have at least contributed to the tax money they recieve, especially since they are “the rich” big government people love to tax. If anyone is going to get tax money, better people who contribute something to society rather than those who nurse off the government tit their whole lives.

  33. robc,

    My point was that your statement “By simply rebuilding roughly what was there before” isnt true. On the neighborhood-, citywide- and regional-scales (the scales at which planning would take place), that statement is absolutely true.

    as long as you dont whine for government aid every time it happens Good luck with that.

  34. Reinmosse

    Wouldnt they people who rerouted the river technically be “planners”?

  35. Russ 2000,

    The risk can be priced profitably precisely because the insurance companies know that the government will bail them out, such as the billions of dollars in clearing and infrastructure replacement that the article describes.

  36. If they hadn’t spent decades removing all the natural buffers, the storm surge might not have come racing through town. But they planned it that way.

  37. robc,

    Im all in favor (as a compromise) of a 1 strike and your out policy. If your home is destroyed by natural disaster you get aid once. If you rebuild, then you arent covered.

    Good luck with that. I’m sure it would be very popular, right up until people take their second strike.

    We don’t let people rot in this country. We just don’t.

  38. J Sub D, remember those debit cards FEMA gave out with $2,000 or something like that to the “Victims” of New Orleans?

    Most of them spent it on things like going to Hooters, champagne, and new TVs. Your tax money at work!

  39. robc –
    Some kind of planners, sure. But not necessarily urban planners… unless I’m missing something.

    Speaking of which, my city needs the Army Corps of Engineers to come in and disturb the surrounding natural order of things and create a giant harbor for our city. We’re on the other side of Massachusettes, so that state will just have to go. But it would be good for economic development.

  40. I can also not spell Massachusetts

  41. joe,

    “Planning” also takes place on the invidual lot scale. The “planners” in those cases are often also called owners.

    It sounds to me, from the article, that enough of the properties are being rebuilt differently to not qualify as “roughly what was there before”. If we were talking 1 or 2 houses being built different, I would agree. But, we have habitat building over 140 houses in a neighborhood, that isnt going to be even close to the same.

    Is Brian Boitano the patron saint of planners?

  42. Massachusettes

    Like regular Massachus, only smaller and frenchier.

  43. I want it noted I did not send this to screw with Joe. I just thought it was a great story. There is something to be said for preventing people from building in flood prone areas. It would be nice if we could find somewhere between the ditches on this. One the one hand, the urban planners are right that there are some areas of NOLA that should not be rebuilt. On the other hand, we ought to be able to prevent that without shoving a one sized fits all urban planner version of the city down everyone’s throats.

  44. oe,

    We don’t let people rot in this country. We just don’t.

    You are correct. And if the government didnt do anything, we would still not let people rot. If FEMA hadnt shown up at all, the people of NO would have still received aid.

  45. P Brooks | May 20, 2008, 10:43am | #

    If they hadn’t spent decades removing all the natural buffers, the storm surge might not have come racing through town. But they planned it that way.

    Yes, they did. And it is the preservation of that plan, rather than its replacement with something more attuned to the reality of the situation, that is being lauded here.

    Yay, people in New Orleans are rebuilding according the city plan that turned Katrina into a multi-billion dollar, multi-thousand killed, tens-of-thousands displaced disaster!

    And thus we see how much “anti-government” sentiment is mere deference to dead hands.

  46. We don’t let people rot in this country. We just don’t.

    Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let people rot — at least at the federal level.

  47. The risk can be priced profitably precisely because the insurance companies know that the government will bail them out, such as the billions of dollars in clearing and infrastructure replacement that the article describes.

    Bingo. And yet, somehow, we still bail them out. Shouldn’t we just be letting the insurance companies suffer as much as possible?

    I can agree with a bailout of the people who lived there under condition that we officially phase out the entire concept of government bailouts. Real estate values will shift dramatically, and so it will be a little painful for some, but like I said… phase.

  48. Reinmoose

    Niether you nor I used the word urban in our posts. River rerouting planners are some sort of brethren of the urban planners though. Distant cousins anyway.

  49. joe,

    I dont see how letting people do what they see fit with their property is deference to a plan. Yes, New Orleans was originally built stupidly. Yes, they probably shouldnt rebuild there. However, choosing to do so again doesnt imply any acceptance of some old plan, its just what they want to do.

  50. They’re ideological cousins, I believe, robc – on the mother’s side.

  51. city journal is a weird publication. every so often they have an interesting and usually very long piece, and yet most of their content seems…dumb?

  52. robc,

    “Planning” also takes place on the invidual lot scale. The “planners” in those cases are often also called owners.

    Yes, and that’s not what this article is about. This is about planning for how the city will be laid out, or not. Individuals owners can plan what to do on their individual lots if the city is laid out differently, too.

    But, we have habitat building over 140 houses in a neighborhood, that isnt going to be even close to the same. Are they several feet below sea level? Are they going to have to be cleared the next time the city floods? Will they rely on a multi-billion dollar system of levees and pumps to remain fit for human habitation? Will the roads, utilities, street lights, and everything else require massive public investment in their replacement? Sounds close enough to me.

    But it’s nice that some of them will have flow-through foundations.

  53. [sarcasm]

    Hold it! Stop the intertubes!

    Are some of you trying to say that people can survive on private assistance that is not overseen by the government?

    When has this ever happened in the history of the world?

    Look at Somolia!

    It is a good thing that The Wal*Mart was not allowed to roll in and colonize New Orleans! The government was there to watch them.

    [/sarcasm]

  54. Off-topic, but speaking of weird relationships/ideological cousings and such but the dam of the last two Belmont winners has another colt in this years race (and it isnt Big Brown).

  55. Is it too late to take some old pictures of Louisiana, put them on Ebay, and sell it back to the French – site unseen?

  56. Wal Mart would’ve run the city better than the liberal Democrat Ray Naigin and his corrupt, far-left ethnic urban political machine.

    But of course it was ALL the fault of the evil, malevolent, neocon Bush and his Halliburton minions. (end sarcasm).

  57. robc,

    However, choosing to do so again doesnt imply any acceptance of some old plan, its just what they want to do.

    It isn’t conscious deference to the old plan, but deference to that old plan it is. If I buy Lot 14 in one of joshua corning’s subdivisions, I’m building according to his plan, even if I’ve heard of or thought about his plan. I’m building one little corner of the neighborhood as he planned it.

    This is true whether I buy the lot one week, one year, or one century after he laid it out. It’s still his plan.

    See, the difference here is that I’m thinking about what happens on the ground, and you’re thinking about process. You’ve decided that it’s better to follow the plan developed a century or so ago, than to make up a new one, regardless of the glaring flaws in the old one.

  58. R,

    Is it too late to take some old pictures of Louisiana, put them on Ebay, and sell it back to the [f]rench – site unseen?

    Now, that is one of the best ideas here! If we can just decide on fiat or specie for payment . . .

  59. I got it!

    Let’s just build the entire city on stilts. We can hire some architect to design it so it looks like a tree, which symbolizes life, and bring the city into the 21st century. We can design it with no roads, and build a massive public transit system as a shining example of “green” engineering. We should spare no taxpayer expense, as it will “create” jobs for all sorts of trades, even broken-window repairmen.

    And when the scores of different government agencies take 20+ years to build a huge, ugly, empty city, and the fucking thing gets wiped out in the next hurricane, we’ll still fail to learn our lesson and build it again!

    Right joe?

  60. Are some of you trying to say that people can survive on private assistance that is not overseen by the government?

    Guy didn’t RTFA, but dreamed up an alternate reality more to his liking, and responded to that.

    In other news, the sky is blue.

  61. As much as I despise the phrase, New Orleans epitomizes the “perfect storm” of stupidity.

    Mistakes, fuck-ups, corruption, incompetence, every human failing played its part, over two hundred years, or more. The government should pay off the land owners, at Louisiana Purchase, rates, and send them on their merry way. And turn the place into a shipping center and industrial park. And hire Dubai to manage it.

  62. Taktix didn’t RTFA, either.

  63. Reinmoose,

    If we change the name to the Rainbow Puppy Wetland Development Zone we can sell it to Ted Turner.

  64. joe,

    You’ve decided that it’s better to follow the plan developed a century or so ago, than to make up a new one, regardless of the glaring flaws in the old one.

    Thats not true. If someone bought the entire 9th ward, brought in a bunch of rock, built it up above sea level and then built on that, I would support that too (that may or may not be a good idea). See, I favor new plans also. The lot owners dont HAVE to stick to the old plan.

    I just oppose government plans. The “new plan” may actually be better, it would be hard for it to be worse. But the city doesnt own the land, so it is none of their business. (yeah, yeah, roads, utilities, schools, etc. The fact that we dont live on rainbow puppy island doesnt mean we shouldnt)

  65. The risk can be priced profitably precisely because the insurance companies know that the government will bail them out, such as the billions of dollars in clearing and infrastructure replacement that the article describes.

    No shit. But if the government’s going to give money away, don’t get mad at the people showing up to collect it.

  66. Maybe in the New New Orleans food stamps can take the place of currency in all transactions.

  67. Yea joe! Your old funny is back!

    You joking about other people not reading is some serious funny!

    How about some of those partisan politics knee-slappers? I know you don’t overtly take requests, but just this once?

  68. You know what would avoid another Katrina?

    In order to recieve government welfare/food stamps, unwed mothers must agree to be sterilized first.

  69. Maybe neil is on to something. I’m going to start buying stock in boxcar and chemical makers.

  70. You, Taktix, are the one advocating for building a city according to a plan that ensures another disaster, complete with absurd levels of spending on engineering solutions to the problems created by the plan.

    I am the one advocating for exactly the opposite.

    But, for some reason, because the plan you wish to follow is really, really old, you’ve convinced yourself that this is Bizarro World, and recreation of New Orleans according to its pre-Katrina plan is a good idea.

    So, no, not “right, joe.” Neither the “right” part, nor even the “joe” part, is remotely correct.

  71. But at least they’re smart enough not to pop out 10 kids out of wedlock, go on food stamps and live off of government checks, and then whine when they didn’t leave in time for a natural disaster.

    You’ve obviously never heard a resident of coastal Florida whine.

    They get millions spent on roads and bridges to barrier islands plus beach sand replacement every couple of years and they still expect you and me to subsidize their insurance.

    I lived in the Keys back when someone in the Reagan Administration made some proposals for some modest changes in the Flood Insurance program. Hearing a few self-reliant Republican voting property developers cry about it taught me more about politics than all the Poli Sci classes I ever took did.

  72. robc,

    Thats not true. If someone bought the entire 9th ward, brought in a bunch of rock, built it up above sea level and then built on that, I would support that too

    Fine, you support following the old plan, in addition to new ones, as long as nothing stops people from following the old plan..

    Oh, and nobody is actually building according to any new plan, they’re all just following the old one.

    I just oppose government plans. No, you don’t. You have said not a single word in opposition to rebuilding New Orleans according to the existing government plan, and you are lauding the people who do so. Despite the fact that you know it will require massive infusions of public dollars to be viable.

    You’re just pretending not to realize that they are following the old plan, because it serves your ideological purposes not to know that.

  73. This is the fake Neil.

    The above comments were not written by me.

  74. Russ2000,

    But if the government’s going to give money away, don’t get mad at the people showing up to collect it.

    I’m not mad at them. I’m mad at the people giving money away for allowing it to be squandered so foolishly, and for setting people up for another Katrina.

  75. Hearing a few self-reliant Republican voting property developers cry about it taught me more about politics than all the Poli Sci classes I ever took did.

    It sounds like you never read Tocqueville. He would have expected that to happen.

  76. I’m wondering what percentage of homes in the US are built on the 100-year floodplain of some river, lake, or ocean. I strongly suspect that most homes in major US cities are. I tried googling up statistics, but couldn’t find anything within a few minutes of trying.

    Major cities don’t get built in stupid places without reason. The reason so much construction is located on flood plains is because the transportation advantages of being near a river/lake/ocean outweigh the drawbacks of being flooded from time to time.

    I’m not sure that building in New Orleans is any less sensible than building in, say, San Francisco, which is overdue for a major earthquake.

  77. All the Neils are fake Neils. That’s the problem.

  78. joe,

    I am supporting owner of lot 145’s plan. If that happens to be the old plan, then okay. If its the new plan, that is okay too. If it is something completely different, that is okay. You see how this works? I support the owner of the lot.

    If you are asking me if I also support tearing all the levees down and letting the river flow free, then yes, I support that too, although that might be a government plan, but I consider that the default option. If “lot 145” is then under water, it sucks to be the owner of it.

  79. This is the fake Neil.

    All the Neils are fake Neils.

  80. Bramblyspam,

    The reason so much construction is located on flood plains is because the transportation advantages of being near a river/lake/ocean outweigh the drawbacks of being flooded from time to time. Or, at least, there used to be transportation advantages. 19th century rail lines were laid in the flood plain because it was so much less expensive to build on its flat land. And, of course, being near a river gives you access to that river.

    But the areas of New Orleans that flooded aren’t just in the 100-year floodplain. They’re in the every-second-of-every-year floodplain, absent massive investment in protecting and restoring them. Not all of New Orleans is in such areas, or course – but then, more of the city is located in such areas under the status quo urban plan than would be if it was rebuilt according to a better plan.

  81. I really the “fake Neil” crap would stop. It’s rude and disrespectful, not just towards Neil, but towards all of us who would like to know who is writing what.

    Whoever is doing it, knock it off. Please.

  82. …I see Joe beat me to it.

  83. Is it too late to take some old pictures of Louisiana, put them on Ebay, and sell it back to the [f]rench – site unseen?

    Right after we sell Iraq back to the Ottoman Turks.

  84. robc,

    It’s the old plan. It’s not the new plan. There is not plan.

    This is not about your feelings. It is about the reality of how the city will be built. It is being rebuilt according to the old urban plan.

    You see how this works? Yes, I see exactly how it works; you are completely ignoring every issue, question, and fact except the politically-correct one. You can stop asking if I understand now. I do. All set. Gotcha. No futher explanation needed. I got it the first time. Thanks.

  85. Anyway, my point in all this is, if the government stopped bailing people out, people would stop building in really stupid places. Although I would support them in doing it, if they were willing to take the risk.

    This seems to be the fundamental difference between me and joe (on this issue). He wants to mandate them not build in a stupid way because he wants to help them out if they then get destroyed again.

    libertarianism vs liberalism in one easy thing. Applies to many other issues: smoking bans, health care, fatty foods. Its a bit of a simplification, obviously, but its clearly there.

    My solution reaches a near-efficient solution:
    You can build wherever you want but if you build stupidly you wont be bailed out. If everyone builds wisely (ie, in a place they can be insured privately without government backing), it would be efficient. But not everyone will do that.

    joe’s solution has a chance at the efficient solution, but only if the planners are always correct. As we have learned, they arent. They mandate following a plan to minimize government payouts.

    Which is nearer the efficient solution? Its hard to say, but I will take the one where everyone can decide for themselves how much risk to take. In fact, that some people have their homes destroyed isnt necessarily inefficient. I certain percent of people building stupidly and getting screwed by mother nature may be the most efficent solution. I dont think planners can determine that number however.

  86. I even understand, robc, that you support rebuilding according to the old plan for reasons other than a devotion to that old plan. I even understand what those reasons are.

    I just don’t care. I’m more worried about whether New Orleans is going to be doing this every few years, than whether the process of rebuilding meets some ideological criteria.

  87. Joe:
    But the areas of New Orleans that flooded aren’t just in the 100-year floodplain. They’re in the every-second-of-every-year floodplain, absent massive investment in protecting and restoring them. Not all of New Orleans is in such areas, or course – but then, more of the city is located in such areas under the status quo urban plan than would be if it was rebuilt according to a better plan.

    The difference between being in a regular floodplain and a below-sea-level floodplain is pretty academic. If you’re flooded, you’re flooded. If you aren’t, then you aren’t.

    The Dutch seem to have managed living below sea level for quite some time, and I don’t think they’re a nation of idiots.

    … On a totally different topic, I really wish H&R allowed me to go back and edit my old posts to fix typos and what-not.

  88. I forget who commented on this, but since we *will* be bailing these people out again, no matter who much we like that they are building things on their own from the bottom up, I would not be completely against declaring certain areas uninhabitable.

  89. joe,

    I’m more worried about whether New Orleans is going to be doing this every few years, than whether the process of rebuilding meets some ideological criteria.

    Good to hear that, it means I represented you correctly in my 11:25 post.

  90. I’ve never heard of hurricanes in the North Sea, Brambly.

  91. It’s rude and disrespectful, not just towards Neil, but towards all of us who would like to know who is writing what.

    There is no Neil to be disrespectful towards. “Neil” was invented by the same commenter who created “MCW,” a character who argued for leftist positions with the same obnoxiousness that Neil brings to his conservative arguments.

  92. Not only did I just have deja vu, but I just had deja vu about having deja vu. Did we talk about this topic before in exactly these words?
    How strange.

  93. Bramblyspam,

    That is so true. When I was on vacation in California, I saw a lot of beautiful homes built in what appeared to be dried up river beds. When I pointed this out to my friend David, he said that dried up river bed floods every five years or so.

  94. if the government stopped bailing people out, people would stop building in really stupid places

    And if my Aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle.

    Given that we don’t live on Rainbow Puppy Island, any policy that relies up living on Rainbow Puppy Island to succeed is going to be a failure.

  95. joe,

    Just to make it very, very clear:

    I dont care at all about the people of NO, heck, I dont know any of them. I only want the process of rebuilding to meet some ideiological criteria. If fact, I will point and laugh if they get flooded again, just like I did the last time. (Okay, I didnt laugh, but I was humming Led Zeppelin the 72 hours or so before the levee broke, I did feel kinda bad about it, then I realized my humming didnt cause the problem) I had been predicting this every time a hurricane came near New Orleans. On Katrina, I was right. It sucks for the people of NO, and it will suck for them again WHEN it happens again, but they are in charge of their own lives.

  96. Got to run, off to vote for Ron Paul.

  97. Bramblyspam,

    The difference between being in a regular floodplain and a below-sea-level floodplain is pretty academic. If you’re flooded, you’re flooded. If you aren’t, then you aren’t. Actually, the difference is pretty inarguably real. You get flooded a lot more often, and you get flooded a lot worse.

    The Dutch have, indeed, found some good solutions, all of which involve government planning and lots of public investement. Which makes sense – you’d darn well better plan if you’re going to spend lots of the public’s money.

    Not to mention, New Orleans is in a hurricaine zone. And the continuation of the existing urban plan will actually worsen the flooding problem.

  98. Joe is right. We are going to some day be bailing these people out after the place floods again. I wish they would have rezoned and bought out the most flood prone areas and turned them back into swamp. Then on the rest of the land, do exactly what they have done and told the urban planners to take all of their vanity projects and stuff it and just let the people rebuild their own homes.

  99. Jesse,

    Are “Neil” and “MCW” the only ones from that IP?

  100. Some people are emotionally/ irrationally tied to a piece of dirt they call “home” and wish to remain there forever. Other people are tied to the chunk of dirt which abuts it for the simple reason that they have not yet found anybody stupid romantic enough to want to buy their dirt from them.

    What rational person will come in and buy the dirt?

  101. Joe,

    What the fuck is a “Hurrican Zone”? The problem is that roughly 50 square miles of the Mississippi delta is being eroded every year. Mainly because of the number of leeves on the Mississippi. The barrier islands used to be great storm blockers but due to the eroding of the Delta the islands are barely half their former size.

  102. J Sub D, remember those debit cards FEMA gave out with $2,000 or something like that to the “Victims” of New Orleans?

    Most of them spent it on things like going to Hooters, champagne, and new TVs. Your tax money at work!

    Sadly, there’s some truth to this. Most people who are destitute in the United States are that way for a reason — they don’t know how to handle money when they get it. If you handed $100,000 tax-free to the average poor American, they’ll be back to being poor within two years. </cruel></callous>

  103. Who was MCW? Is that before my time here or am I just forgetting?

  104. I wish they would have rezoned and bought out the most flood prone areas and turned them back into swamp.

    A publicly-accessible swamp, of course.


    Then on the rest of the land, do exactly what they have done and told the urban planners to take all of their vanity projects and stuff it and just let the people rebuild their own homes.

    I agree, the snob zoning in places like Baton Rouge and the higher-lying suburbs around New Orleans has got to go, to allow the people bought out of the areas restored for wetlands to have a chance of being able to relocate.

    That’s what you meant, right, John?

  105. The North Sea doesn’t have hurricanes, but it is well known for being stormy. The sustained winds can approach hurricane strength, you just don’t get those neat circular patterns on the satellite pictures.

    Here’s an article I dug up about Dutch engineering, Katrina and what-not.

  106. If you handed $100,000 tax-free to the average poor American, they’ll be back to being poor within two years.

    CP –
    How do you know my brother-in-law?

  107. The Dutch seem to have managed living below sea level for quite some time, and I don’t think they’re a nation of idiots.

    Actually, the Dutch are starting to rethink the whole idea of land reclamation. While they are not abandoning it completely the government is in the process of buying up some farms and returning the land to the sea or to marsh conditions.

    Keeping everything dry (as joe points out) is an exceedingly costly business. The Dutch are quite sensibly rethinking the whole cost/benefit thing here. There’s a whole ecology issue too.

    And Fake Neil (if that really is your name) I know that Tocqueville predicted just such a thing, but seeing it in the flesh, as it were, was still a revelation.

  108. Naga Shadow,

    A hurricaine zone is an area frequently hit by hurricaines. Duh.

    If you wish to play dumb, expect me to play along with your act.

    And yes, I know about the erosion and the sinking of the land, which is why I wrote about the existing plan actually making the flooding worse.

  109. PB,

    What rational person will come in and buy the dirt?

    Ted Turner is buying a whole State of it. Um, sorry, you said rational 😉

    CP,

    If you handed $100,000 tax-free to the average poor American, they’ll be back to being poor within two years.

    Yea, but I would have a 1970 HEMI ‘Cuda to live in!

  110. “I agree, the snob zoning in places like Baton Rouge and the higher-lying suburbs around New Orleans has got to go, to allow the people bought out of the areas restored for wetlands to have a chance of being able to relocate.

    That’s what you meant, right, John?”

    I would agree with that. They shouldn’t use the rezoning as a way to force out anyone who is not rich.

  111. Dang, I mentioned wanting to edit posts? This would have been a much better link for the stormy North Sea. There’s no shortage of hurricane strength winds up there.

  112. John,

    How about ending zoning completly? That is a use of federal overlordship I can support.

  113. “John,

    How about ending zoning completly? That is a use of federal overlordship I can support.”

    I agree. One problem is what do you do with the people that you buy out to turn the land back into swamps? If you take large sections of the city that before supported housing and turn them into swamps, that is going to greatly reduce the supply of housing and greatly increase the price. If the original plan of not rebuilding neighborhoods had been followed, it would have turned New Orleans into Key West on the Mississippi; this small, historic highly priced town where only the Mannings and Ann Rice can afford to live. Maybe, considering the risks of living below sea level on the Gulf, that is what New Orleans can be. But I can definitely see where the people who live there and were not named Manning or Rice weren’t too happy about the idea and said screw it I will take my chances.

  114. They can always move to Galveston. Or Detroit.

  115. As much as I hate typing this, joe is right. The current redevelopment does nothing to address the root cause of the problem, which is immediately obvious to anybody who has been to New Orleans. Go to Jackson Square. Stand on the levee. Look at the river, right below your feet. Turn around and look at the Square, which is 30 feet below the river level. All the planning in the world won’t change that simple fact.

    Short of telling everybody “Fuck you, get out” there is no long term solution. You can mitigate the inevitable next round of damage by undoing some of the more retarded decisions made over the past 200 years, but that’s about it.

    For all of us that think we shouldn’t be bailing these people out, it sucks, but that’s how it’s going to be until this is Rainbow Puppy Island and we’re all happy and free of the government.

    I love New Orleans, but it really is a disaster waiting to happen again.

  116. If you handed $100,000 tax-free to the average poor American, they’ll be back to being poor within two years.

    You are being generous.

    Don’t a surprisingly high percentage of Lottery winners wind up being poor within a few years?

    I remember reading about this a while back in my local paper and was shocked at how many “millionaires” wind up losing all that money and being in serious debt because of their inability to manage money.

  117. One problem is what do you do with the people that you buy out to turn the land back into swamps?

    Sorry, I am not on board with this one, so I say they just move or rebuild on stilts. Maybe they could fill in the area and make dry land out of it to delay swamping. I really am not the one to tell them what do do with their property.

  118. There is no Neil to be disrespectful towards. “Neil” was invented by the same commenter who created “MCW,” a character who argued for leftist positions with the same obnoxiousness that Neil brings to his conservative arguments.

    HA HA, I have been proven correct.

    So Jesse, care to give us some more information? IP address? Other handles used by this person? Come on, don’t hold out on us.

  119. I remember reading about this a while back in my local paper and was shocked at how many “millionaires” wind up losing all that money and being in serious debt because of their inability to manage money.

    If we had truly free markets in hookers and booze their money would last a lot longer.

  120. Jesse, are there any current regulars whose names we’d recognize that post from the “Neil” IP address?

  121. Even if “Neil” is an alter ego, I would like it to be the *same* guy each time. 🙂

  122. I hadnt added Neil to my filter out of laziness, but verification that he is a fake got me to change that.

    Buh Bye.

  123. One problem is what do you do with the people that you buy out to turn the land back into swamps?

    More directly to what you actually asked, if they were “bought out” then I/we would not have to “do” anything with them. They are free to vote with their feet and dollars to live wherever else they wish.

    I happen to be against forced relocation.

  124. Jesse, are there any current regulars whose names we’d recognize that post from the “Neil” IP address?

    A former regular: Cesar. He hasn’t posted much since inventing Neil. Maybe there’s been a full-fledged personality transplant.

  125. Cesar? Wow! Whodathunkit!

  126. Now this can be the official outing thread.

    All you gals and guys, fess up to all of your handles you have ever used here!

  127. Cesar? For realz? Holy shit, I didn’t expect that.

    Cesar, come forward and receive your accolades for your excellent project.

  128. I wish Reason would implement a damn registration system already. I’m tired of wasting time on trolls, and the occasional humor afforded by posting under random names is something I can live without.

  129. Whoops, that was me. Don’t out me Jesse!!!

  130. ZEUS DOES NOT CONDONE REVELATION OF MY IDENTITY NOR THE IDENTITY OF THE COUSIN URKOBOLD. HOWEVER, ZEUS DOES DEMAND THAT GUY MONTAG’S LIVER BE PECKED OUT AND THEN POSED ABOUT ON HIS BLOG! THE WIFE AND KIDS ARE GETTING MIGHTY TIRED OF MY ZOOMING OFF TO PECK OUT LIVERS WHILST THEY SIT AT HOME AND EAT WORMS, BUT I MUST OBEY THE KING OF OLYMPUS! IF THEY ONLY UNDERSTOOD WHAT I GO THROUGH FOR THEM, SO THAT THE LITTLE ONES CAN AFFORD TO GO TO GYMNASIUM, THEN THEY WOULD MAYBE BE A LITTLE MORE APPRECIATIVE. THEY ALSO FORGET THAT I HAVE NOT PARTICULARLY LIKED LIVER FOR EONS!

  131. THAT IS POSTED ABOUT ON GUY’S BLOG! DAMN THESE TALONS, THEY ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO TYPE WITH.

  132. Rhywun,

    I wish Reason would implement a damn registration system already. I’m tired of wasting time on trolls, and the occasional humor afforded by posting under random names is something I can live without.

    So we can have registered trolls, like on Slashdot?

  133. Cesar? Dude.

  134. I have posted as “Larry Niven” within this thread, because I was quoting him.

    I have done the same in the past when quoting the Simpson’s.

    I have probably done it a few other times for comedic effect.

    I have never impersonated another poster or made a name in order to have multiple personalities.

  135. So we can have registered trolls, like on Slashdot?

    Touch?… Well it’s just my thought that posting under a fixed identity might result in people taking a little more responsibility for their words. A pipedream, perhaps.

  136. No registration. The systems never remember who you are and I always forget my password. Also, it is an affront to freedom. If Ceasar wants to post as Neil or Susy the cross dressing German Shepherd, that is his business not mine. Registration seems to be inconsistent with a libertarian magazine.

  137. So what if Cesar created a character? He managed to get lots of people to argue with him endlessly as someone they considered “real” enough to argue with. That alone deserves praise, and on top of it the whole thing was entertaining.

    I have a feeling that people who don’t like what Cesar has done didn’t like Andy Kaufman’s antics either. Tony Clifton, dudes. Tony Fucking Clifton is much like Neil.

  138. Well, I never really argued with Neil and I think I called him out for being fake more than once (a few people around here called him out). The joe vs. Neil arguments were kind of amusing, because it was obvious joe-baiting, but…no, the Neil thing wasn’t ever really that funny. What it was was an obviously fake troll.

  139. If I ever humorously post under a different name I leave my email link the same.

    I don’t care about registration one way or the other, but comment rating would be a fun addition. And a weekly top ten comments as chosen by the staff.

  140. That alone deserves praise, and on top of it the whole thing was entertaining.

    The object is to “fool” people into responding to you. Lame, and not particularly funny.

  141. Cesar? What a disappointment. It’s like discovering Jack the Ripper was really a Teletubby or something.

  142. “I don’t care about registration one way or the other, but comment rating would be a fun addition. And a weekly top ten comments as chosen by the staff.”

    I like that idea. But I would also want the staff to chose a worst comment list as well. That way if you are really annoyed at Reason it gives you something to shoot for.

  143. Registration seems to be inconsistent with a libertarian magazine.

    Nah. If Reason wants people to take responsibility for their words or shut up, that’s their business. Clearly, they don’t care – thus, the endless stream of trolls, “humorists”, and other instances of people being “clever” rather than participating in interesting discussions which I thought was the point here.

  144. I usually only post alternatively as “Reinmoose as ________” when trolling, or on the rare occasion that I don’t, I always include my proper email address so you can tell when you scroll over the name that it’s me.

  145. The object is to “fool” people into responding to you. Lame, and not particularly funny.

    Jesus, Rhywun, lighten up. It is funny, especially since Neil was pretty obviously fake. It tells you something about people who reflexively respond to something like that.

  146. I’m really surprised at how few trolls there are here. And also at how consistent the few that there are tend to be.

  147. Nein to registration!

  148. No “worst comment” please. I can live with trolls and the occasional idiot, but I really don’t want to encourage them.

    For me, the biggest annoyance with the current format is that a lot of threads die too early. There’s probably no way to fix that without moving all the discussions to an honest-to-goodness forum, and I suspect the Reason staffers don’t want to do that at this point.

  149. If I ever humorously post under a different name I leave my email link the same.

    Ditto.

    Arguing with Neil was fun, because he provided a very effective foil for my points. So much so, that some people started thinking I was posting as Neil, for the purpose of having a convenient foil.

  150. Jesus, Rhywun, lighten up.

    You’re right… Well, another thread is riling me up today and I’m feeling a little pissy.

  151. Rhywun,

    Don’t let the Christians get you down. Their argument has boiled down to nothing but pure bigotry at this point. They’re done for.

  152. Spoofing disrupts the equalization process. This is impermissible.

  153. Since I called for the confessions, I will fess up.

    I have posted as:

    Britny Spears Guy (included my regular URL the first time, I think) and Psychic Guy Montag. It is possible that I have made a occasional one-off posts under something fitting, but I don’t remember and it was not recent.

    BTW, when I post without a link in my handle it is usually from work.

  154. Oh, I also second the idea of having comment rating and top whatever lists from the staff (if they are so inclined).

  155. If I ever humorously post under a different name I leave my email link the same.

    Same here. Or I add “wearing a [TROLL] mask.”

    Cesar,

    I have added the troll filter, so in other words, I’m rubber, you’re glue…

  156. I’ve posted as “Jhywun” before, in imitation of “Juanita” who was playing the same game as Neil, uh… a long time ago.

  157. I’ve posted as “Jhywun” before

    Anti-Semite!

  158. but…no, the Neil thing wasn’t ever really that funny. What it was was an obviously fake troll.

    I noted this in another thread, but I’ll repeat it here: For a while, I was convinced that Neil is a Neil that I work with. They sounded exactly like one another.

    So yes, truth is stranger than fiction.

  159. JW,

    Maybe you work with Cesar?

  160. Nah, “my” Neil isn’t quite that clever to pull off 2 personas. What you see…

  161. Neil | April 4, 2008, 4:32pm | #

    Because of our invasion, Libya gave up its nuclear weapons, Iran is checkmated, and there was a democratic revolution in Lebanon.

    That was my first inkling. Every one of those three statements is just barely not true – not wildly untrue, not varying levels of accuracy – suggesting that the sentence was very carefully crafted for that purpose.

  162. Maybe you work with Cesar?

    “The comments are coming from INSIDE THE OFFICE! GET OUT OF THE OFFICE!”

  163. I come to bury Cesar, not to praise him.

  164. I thought the protocol was “Kneel before Cesar.”

  165. You all did see that on the thread, I thrice presented him a sockpuppet crown, which he did thrice refuse: was this devious? Yet Rhywun says he was devious; and, sure, he is an honorable gay man.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

  166. I noted this in another thread, but I’ll repeat it here: For a while, I was convinced that Neil is a Neil that I work with. They sounded exactly like one another.

    Once upon a time, on another forum, I used to cross swords with someone very much like Neil, only that guy was even more so. Heck, his handle was “Crusader”, which should tell you something.

    I don’t mind arguing with a fake Neil. I like the practice, and the point isn’t to convince someone like that anyway. The point is to convince everyone else. 🙂

  167. This article is wrong.

    I am a New Orleanian, and lost everything in the storm. My wife and I have rebuilt – on our own. Our neighborhood has largely recovered (95% occupancy) and we are near enough to the city center so we have adequate services (garbage collection, police protection, restoration of electricity after storms, etc.)

    But there are MANY MANY areas of the city in more outlying areas that have a very low rebuilding rate. These people are SCREWED. They have sunk their life savings and insurance payouts into rebuilding areas that are not coming back. It still looks like a neutron bomb hit out there. You go there and just see them sitting on their porches surrounded by miles of devastation. How do we – as their fellow citizens – guarantee them city services? Many of the murders in New Orleans are occuring in these areas. The thugs know that there aren’t cops around, and these people are sitting ducks.

    The absence of a smart rebuilding plan and the political will to implement it by city and state leaders has lead to the dreaded jack-o-lantern effect. The worst possible outcome.

  168. Neil,

    Why don’t you prove what you say instead of repeating the “most of” crap that people who perpetuate stupid urban legends trot out every time they are in an argument that they shouldn’t have gotten in to begin with, because they don’t know what they are talking about. If you can start producing facts, instead of crap your Faux News channel is spoonfeeding you, then someone might care about what you have to say.

  169. New Orleans was not “built below sea level”. In 1718, when it was founded, it was built on high ground near the Mississippi river. That first neighborhood, the French Quarter, remains on high ground and did not flood, nor did Uptown, the Garden District, the Marigny or Bywater, and many communities in Metairie, Kenner, and the North Shore (part of the New Orleans metro area that somehow never gets mentioned in news articles.) The neighborhoods that suffered the most were 20th century tracts that had previously been swamp land, considered undesirable for building. The Ninth Ward was desperately poor, but Lakeview was a middle-class neighborhood the came up in the 50s (because of integration and resulting white flight.) Just educating you all a bit, since so few of you seem to actually know what you’re talking about.

  170. “We don’t let people rot in this country. We just don’t.”

    We should. If an insurance company goes belly up because they are too stupid to project what I, a 25 year old accountant, can project… Good riddance.

    If some idiot builds their mansion on a hillside in earthquake country and choppes down the trees that hold the topsoil, they deserve having their house swept away in a mudslide.

    If some moron chooses to live below sea level and gets flooded? Sucks to be him.

  171. “I’m not sure that building in New Orleans is any less sensible than building in, say, San Francisco, which is overdue for a major earthquake.”

    Except that NO could be moved 50 miles and never see the same problem. The big one will effect most of the state of Califoria, and might just be horse shit. Its a theory. Being in a bowl below sea level in an area that gets hit with no less than 2 hurricaines a year? That gets a darwin award.

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