Hurricane Katrina feels like it was more than a decade ago. The scope of the disaster has always been difficult to process for me — it didn't have a direct effect on me, so my understanding of it has always been abstract. The scale of destruction and level of human suffering is so significant, it is difficult to believe it happened in the United States.
The images of people in the Superdome, of those stranded by the storm in their homes, and the suffering that existed even after the floodwaters ebbed really beg the question: "How could our government fail its people so badly?" I don't buy the narrative that New Orleans suffered because its population is largely black — the lack of response for Sandy in New York City was similar, the city just got luckier because the storm was not as bad.
We're all suffering from a level of cognitive dissonance. We're changing our environment, and extreme weather is going to continue to be a result of that. The lack of real improvement in response since Katrina reflects our preference to be ignorant of that fact, and its going to contribute to future disasters in American cities that we're not preparing for, I fear.
Katrina washed away New Orleans' black middle class
One thing that defined New Orleans compared to other American cities was its vibrant middle-class community of color. New Orleans thrived in many ways because of its abundance of black lawyers, doctors and professionals. FiveThirtyEight analyzes some data to report that of all the storm's lingering effects, one of the most profound is the complete evisceration of that community.
Brownie speaks out 10 years later
"Heck of a job, Brownie." I'm still a fan (overall) of W., but Katrina was not one of his finest moments. Michael Brown, the director of FEMA, speaks out 10 years later about how he's been made a scapegoat for Katrina, and where he thinks the blame really falls. He sounds defensive and aloof in this piece — while he's probably right that local government deserves a lot of blame, it sounds ridiculous to throw his hands up and say none of it is his fault, and that issues of Federalism prevented action. When disaster strikes, leaders take action.
The history of Wingdings
Why does Wingdings exist? I recall sitting on the computer in 1995 (oh, the excitement of upgrading from Windows 3.1 to Windows '95!) and discovering Wingdings. As strange as the font was, in the days of pre-clip art or Google images, it was truly the best way to use simple imagery and communicate a point. It's been at least a decade since I've actually used Wingdings, and in many ways, it's a relic of the brief window post-PC and pre-Internet (that only a single generation will remember).
NYC's taxi medallion king
Gene Friedman owns more NYC taxi medallions than anyone. He's built a taxi empire by levering the inflated value of medallions and controlling them, and that's now crumbling as medallion values plummet thanks to Uber. I took this story as a cautionary tale for investing in closed systems, and how once the barrier to disrupting them is crossed, the impact is more significant than anyone can anticipate.
When order supplants justice
I have long believed that the most lingering, and damaging, impact of 9/11 has been the culture of fear that exists now in America. Part of having a free society is the inherent risk that some bad actors might abuse that freedom to harm others. Since 9/11, there's been an uncomfortable willingness to accept miscarriages of justice under the guide of making us safe.
Chaumtoli Huq is a human rights attorney who shares an anecdote in Al Jazeera about her detention at the hands of the NYPD for no discernible reason. These instances are common among all "dangerous" looking people — and represent an abortion of the freedoms our country was founded upon. I agree with Ms. Huq that Americans need to make a decision about what is more important: submission to order under the guise of protection, or commitment to justice with the knowledge that it may allow for some dangers in society. I'll take the latter every time.