Hurricane Katrina

If the United States appeared invulnerable following the dissolution of its biggest geo-strategic rival, the Soviet Union, in 1990 and America’s military victory against Soviet-equipped tanks in Iraq in 1991, the 2000s began to chip away at this image starting with the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001. By 2005, Iraq had gone from military conquest to imperial quagmire, and the country’s city on the Mississippi River delta, New Orleans, became a literal quagmire as Class 5 Hurricane Katrina collapsed the levees and flooded the town. After thousands died during mismanagement of the crisis response, Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in US history, in both financial and well as social capital terms, revealing the limits in capability of a people who fancied themselves a superpower.

Myth of the 20th Century – Episode 204 – Hurricane Katrina

— References —


4 Comments Add yours

  1. IkeHugh says:

    As someone from the region, here are a few things I would add about the storm that changed my home forever.

    Another damning fact about the pre-storm infrastructure is that New Orleans received what was essentially a “light” blow. The true direct strike (storm surge and duration) was coastal Mississippi. My father’s hometown was so thoroughly destroyed it literally doesn’t exist anymore.

    I’d also like to stress why New Orleans is important to the empire despite being America’s little Haiti. New Orleans doesn’t continue to exist because of tourism and/or wanton debauchery. It exists because of the Ports of New Orleans and South Louisiana, the gulf ports of the largest waterway on the continent. They are seventh and first in the country by tonnage and could only have been built where they are. Any more upstream and ships could not reach them, any more downstream and they would be in the gulf.

    60-66% of the corn, soybean, wheat, and cotton crops of the American midwest and gulf south are shipped on barges to this point. The 85 miles upstream to Baton Rouge is referred to as “cancer alley” and is lined with petrochemical plants. Not a nice area, but for the time a necessary one.

    Nick is right to surmise that the city was “hollowed out”. The culinary scene and most of the small boutique industries have recovered, but there was a small demographic shift from 67 to 59% black. (yeah, not much better I know). Houston and Atlanta received a large amount of the migrating wildlife, and it’s become a trend for hipsters priced out of Brooklyn and Portland to move here for the lower cost of living, music scene, and binge-drinking/drugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Earl Shetland says:

    you oughta know what they’re gonna blame any uptick in hurricanes on

    climate change

    and they’re already laying the ground work on how it’s all the white man’s fault


  3. Thomas Defelstrock says:

    Great discussion as always, but you guys missed a very important part of the Hurricane Katrina story. It blew out the reinsurance markets.

    Property-casualty insurance companies buy insurance, called reinsurance, in the event they can’t cover a loss. When Katrina happened the property-casualty insurance market had already been hit by Florida hurricane damage, and the industry was also still in recovery mode from 9/11. Katrina exploded the reinsurance industry as pretty much any insurance company that had written wind policies on the Gulf Coast had so many claims to pay that they ran out of money went to collect on their reinsurance agreements. The reinsurance business model until then had been pretty simple, based on the understanding there wouldn’t be multiple multi-billion-dollar claim events in the same year. It turned out they were wrong.

    Following Katrina the prop-cat industry heavily invested in building advanced risk computation models. They also wholeheartedly got on the global warming bandwagon. (If a loss can be due to global warming it likely isn’t covered under a standard contract so the insurer doesn’t have to pay.) At the same time, the huge increase in demand for reinsurance caused reinsurance prices to go up and that prompted a lot of new investment funds to get into the reinsurance market seeking higher yields now that the industry had built these (apparently) better, more robust storm track and risk models. With all the new money entering the market seeking yield, the reinsurance market started getting more commoditized and securitized and investment firms started pooling and securitizing different types of reinsurance risk and creating Insurance-Linked-Securities which could be held and traded by firms that weren’t insurance “specialists” but that wanted a piece of the action.

    A lot of the investment funds buying Insurance-Linked-Securities for yield looked around and saw a similar securitized, commoditized risk product with a decent yield compared with the (supposed) risk called a Mortage-Backed-Security, so between 2005 and 2008 or so these funds started heavily investing in those as well. The idea that the Mortgage-Backed-Security market might experience a total meltdown like the reinsurance market had was considered preposterous, like seeing a black swan…and anyhow it surely wouldn’t happen just a few years after Katrina. If anything was a safe bet in 2006-7, it was securitized mortgages!


  4. guest says:

    Speaking of Katrina, here’s James LaFonds excellent a new system of policing post katrina video:
    “The importance of Hurricane Katrina as a testing ground for the implementation of a new system of policing”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s