Big Easy to Big Empty

Big Easy to Big Empty - The Untold Story of the Drowning of New OrleansFEMA knew at eleven o’clock on Monday that the levees had breached, at 2 o’clock they flew over the 17th St. Canal and took video of the breaches, by midnight on Monday the White House knew, but none of us knew.

In this half-hour film, Greg Palast and his team travel to New Orleans to investigate what has happened since Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast last year.

On his visit, he discovers that the population of New Orleans is minuscule, the reconstruction sparse, suicide rates are climbing, and many have not, nor know how to, return to the city that care forgot.

He examines why residents had to leave, what really caused the flood and why they aren’t returning.

Watch the full documentary now (playlist - 28 minutes)

Ratings: 8.64/10 from 11 users.

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28 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Syly1212

    I lived in NOLA from 1979-84. I always worried about a hurricane coming and how I'd get out.

    The city was poor and black then like it was in 2005. When I lived there I didn't figure the Gov would care if the city got hit. Katrina proved I was right.

    If it had happened in Miami Beach it would have been a totally different story.

    New Orleans, the city no one cared about. Not then. Not now. Not ever.

  2. dyenamo

    Years before Katrina I remember reading a newspaper article about the danger that hurricanes posed to New Orleans and I distinctly remember thinking why the hell would so many people choose to live in a city that is surrounded by water and 8 feet below it. I feel bad for the victims, but it isn't like nobody knew a disaster like that was imminent. It wasn't a big secret or a conspiracy.

  3. guardian

    When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.
    When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
    When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
    When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I was not a Jew.
    When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out...
    I hope that when you need help the most, that there is some one left to help you!...

  4. raiuvlight

    @dyenamo were u not listening in part one when he says "127,000 people did NOT have cars in which to escape"? I'm sure those people that "chose" to live in a city surrounded by water and 8 feet below it, did not have much of a CHOICE at all. It's called poverty. For people that have always depended upon public transportation in their city, it should not have come to surprise people that many of them did NOT have the means to escape a storm, let alone MOVE AWAY.

  5. beaver

    A good doco that crams a lot into 30mins. The Bush administration has a lot to answer for and must surely be the most negligent in modern US history. These people have always done it hard and dont ask for much.
    You needed to be christian,white and rich to count in the Bush/Cheney times.New Orleans never stood a chance.
    All those knocking Obama perhaps underestimate the mess left behind by Bush.

  6. ccf.

    Greg Palast is one of my favorite people,a pity we don't have credible journalist like him in this country.I have never seen any media shown anything like this,it infuriates me to know that this country could be so cold and cruel to it's citizens.

    I refer to the USA as "the land of make believe".There is nothing honest about this place.People need to stop sleeping and become vigilant and demand answers from their officials,I don't think Americans think for themselves,they also have a tendency to forget and they need to stop watching the reality c@#$ they show on tv and become the keepers of this country.

    Yesterday's election proved this once again,how quickly they forget,the republicans should not have been given any control of government,because they got us into this mess we're in right now.Good luck my fellow Americans.

  7. Him

    Im caucasion and was raised in a rascist neighborhood in central florida. It wasnt untill I was 17 and joined the ARMY ,had the pleasure to stand side by side with some of the best people I have ever met that I realised how much B.S. ive been fed my whole life. In hard times ,when faced with immenent danger ,all colors stand together united. Id give my life in a heart beat if I could save the man next to me ,black ,red,white,brown or otherwise! It makes no difference when you scratch away all the crap were brought up with. That black man is my brother ,that red woman is my sister. We need to learn to live together and respect one anothers beliefs. We force anyone that isnt white to see it our way, and never try to understand there views. Get off the high horse ,we are all people dammit. I dont understand why this is so hard for everyone to grasp?

    What happened with Katrina has and is happening all over .Take the time to talk to people and feel THERE pain. Stop going "aghh well. that doesnt effect me" ! Wake up people. To love thy neighbor is to love thyself. We need to re-realize this. I try to help anyone that asks ,to understand the TRUE power of the word "WE"! When I see things like this doc, it goes beyond saddening me to out right disgust. The more pain and fear were faced with, the harder it is to see the REAL world! And an even bigger problem. When faced with fear .distress, anxiety or depression, people shut themsleves down. They retire to a little spot in there mind sheltered from the real world and ask god to help them and give them the answers.

    And yet not one person can seem to grasp what there actually doing. Your retreating into your own thoughts to ask god for the answer. What your doing is asking yourself. When the world wakes up and sees what im trying to explain here ,this kinda crap wont happen anymore!

  8. madasahatter

    I've lived in Louisiana all of my life and, as with any documentary, there are true points and there are dramatized points. Louisiana government has been corrupt since day one, so I suspect that it's true that they haven't bent over backwards for the less fortunate people. However, at some point, each individual has to take responsibility for their own survival. You know why? Because you can't allow the government, or anyone else, care more for your survival than you do--you'll get what you got with Katrina: the realization that the government isn't that concerned about your welfare.

    I live in one of the refuge areas during Katrina (Shreveport). During Katrina, I worked for a bank...hundreds of FEMA checks came through our branch alone. We had several counterfeit FEMA checks, too. After Katrina, NO ONE hardly wanted to help/volunteer for disaster victims, because they were so rude and conniving. A friend of mine stopped by one of the shelters to offer a ride if someone needed to go to somewhere important, like the bus station, the hospital, wherever, and a young man totally expected him to take him to the gas station to get some candy and some "pop". He did take him and another man (who needed to go to the bus station) and the only one who thanked him was the man who needed to catch a bus. People signed up for the FEMA housing, then bitched because the manufactured homes contained formaldahyde--1. All manufactured homes contain formaldahyde, 2. All manufactured homes have warning labels on the front and back doors stating there is formaldahyde in the home, and 3. When you're facing living under a bridge or living in a manufactured home, you take the lesser of the two evils. This is a disaster people, not a picnic.

    I like the attitude that Malik has with "Common Ground"...he has the right mind: you fight for what's yours, because you can't wait for the government to do it for you. What America fails to realize is that Louisiana is a HUGE welfare state. It's about time they realize that, at some point, they have to get off their duffs and do something for themselves. Case and point: I grew up impoverished, in a rural area without public transportation, mentally ill for half of my life and drug/alcohol addicted, as well. I, personally, had to put for the effort to get sober, get counseling, get educated (I have a bachelor's degree in Business/Marketing.), and quit being a victim. Oddly, when I helped myself, there were others, including the government, who came out of the woodwork to help me. So, for those who cry for the impoverished in America, you're wasting your tears. 90%+ have no intentions of helping themselves. Believe that. You see someone try to help themselves, genuinely try, that's when you lend a hand if they ask/want it.

    What appalls me most about this entire incident is the fact that sick, elderly and imprisoned people were left to die. These people, who truly could not help themselves, could have used the helping hands of the citizens/society around them. It disgusts me to know that staff/employees just left them there, by themselves, to drown. For those who were so poverty stricken (but healthy) they couldn't leave, I have no sympathy. I know if I felt that my life was in danger, I would walk (Yes walk! Mankind has done it for millions of years!) my ass out of there. To hell with your home and few possessions, your life is most important--protect it!

    So, lots of mixed feelings for me: 1. You can't live in a bowl and wonder why it floods, 2. mankind does not control nature, 3. You can not depend on someone else for your survival, 4. Don't behave as a victim and wonder why you remain a victim., and 5. Why can't our people be more like the Tsunami Survivors in Sri Lanka, etc.? Those people didn't wait for the government to come; they picked up the little bits they could salvage and went to look for a new home THAT DAY!

    God, the majority of Americans are such total pansies.

  9. Pyrrhus

    Prior to WWII, during the Great Depression, Roosevelt established a Public Works Program. Republicans labeled this legislation as an attempt to turn America into a socialist state and scoffed at it claiming it paid people to dig ditches only to fill them in. Republicans turned to the Supreme Court, and won. But then FDR stacked the Court with more like-minded justices (a practice not yet prohibited by a constitutional amendment which followed). With FDR's stacked Court, the Public Works Program was reintroduced to Congress, passed, signed into law, and upheld by the Supreme Court.

    Far from digging ditches and filling them in again, EMPLOYED Americans worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority on projects for the Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado rivers; EMPLOYED Americans worked on multibasin projects, such as that of California’s Central Valley. Hoover Dam was built. The Public Works Program surveyed, comprehensively, and for the first time, the Appalachians, yielding a complete and accurate map of that part of our country.

    If we still had a Public Works Program, when veterans returning from war find themselves unemployed, or when there are lay-offs, Americans would always have access to gainful employment through public works jobs: building and maintaining bridges and highways; repairing and maintaining sewage systems; working as paramedics in underserved areas; and, in the process, expanding their work skills. When a recession then passes, Americans would return to the more lucrative, private sector jobs, with a solid work record and more skills to offer.

    Unemployment checks would be a rarity. Every able-bodied America could always count on a meaningful, productive job with a decent wage and good benefits, a job which the private sector is uninterested in providing because there's no profit to be had. A strong work ethic would thrive. Americans would feel, and BE, more secure and less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol. As a result, family life might become more stable. Instead, corporations and banking cartels have moved the industrial-base of OUR AMERICA off-shore.

    @madasahatter, the situation you describe is REAL, heart-breaking, and unnecessary. The currency of this country has become NOT the almighty dollar, or even gold. The currency of this country is now blood and oil. Corporations will kill for government contracts to keep America's war machine well oiled (no pun intended). We Americans have given to the banking corporations the largest welfare check in human history, $700,000,000,000, to pay them for having gambled away old people's pensions. With this hand-out, corporations have bought BOTH political parties, lock stock and barrel. 'One dollar, one vote' is NOT democracy. At election time, you and I will be presented the same kind of choice the former Soviet Union presented to its people: they could vote for this communist, or for that; you and I will be presented by bankers and corporations with the same kind of choice: we will be able to vote for this corporate stooge, or for that corporate stooge. Some Choice!

    I could go on and on. But what's the point? I wish you the best, from the bottom of my heart.


  10. Pyrrhus

    The above comment is meant for you.

  11. dadc

    I would walk (Yes walk! Mankind has done it for millions of years!) my ass out of there. To hell with your home and few possessions, your life is most important--protect it!

    Its a little hard to walk out of town when the bridge out of there was manned with police tactical units, armed to the teeth. Watch when the Levees Broke, I's Spike Lee, and you may not like him, but he isnt in it, just all sorts of people from Plaquemines to Chantilly. It shows the news reports about the bridge being blockaded. Another thing...the big bowl thing is pure Glen Beck. Go look at a USGS topographical map of New Orleans, and you find that the majority of it is above Sea Level. It is the destruction of the barrier islands and marshes by any number of industries that have left our most vital deep water port less protected....well that an ACOE incompetency in levee construction.

    Mankind Controls Nature efficiently in the Netherlands. A great deal of the Netherlands' port cities are partially at or below sea level. They were very impressed with the amazing pumping system in NOLA and duplicated it, but they have built Dikes and Levees that are not going to allow flooding like this to happen to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or the Hague. One big plus, the levees are highly engineered, mechanically operated diversion systems that aren't limited as a wall of dirt is. They can adjust the angles and output from their levees. Now, if for nothing but selfish interests alone, it would make sense to protect arguably our most important deep water port

  12. dadc

    You are aware the force that met New Orleans was only Category 2, right? It was 53 levee failures that caused the flooding, New Orleans survived the 'cane, but couldn't survive incompetently built levees.

  13. dadc

    Preach on Brother/Sister!

  14. Melissa K. Cherry

    I remember seeing something on TV about this also. It had something to do with a conference of engineers that were foretelling the potential disaster of New Orleans totally flooding because of levee failure (not necessarily storm surge) and I've tried in vain to locate the video online. Do you recall where you read this? The Times-Picyune? NYT? Would love a lead/help. Thanks

  15. Melissa K. Cherry

    I write now because I am reading stories on Kyodo News about TEPCO being forewarned of potential Tsunami disaster at Daiichi plant two years earlier. It burdens me that lives/land/culture are inconsequential to the bottom line/stock share value even in a civilization such as Japan's.

  16. Kumamori

    You know what, you're right, to the core. And there's one thing that we ought to avoid, it's vain fighting as you say. But fight is what we get if we continue to keep up a world where so much blatant injustice is done on the justification of money. The money has that power because most people need it to survive and no one can blame em on that. Money needed for survival enables people to believe in lies so they can continue getting the money and keep living. It's a vile reality you can break free of, and it's not that hard nor harsh as one might think. I bet those policemen on the blockade just did their job because they get paid for that, not for asking questions and acting on their own when the answers have already been given. You'd think that by now our chain of command should had evolved to a point where you can state matters clearly enough that most of the police would still do it because it'd fit their view of what's good for the public and what's not. That's what makes this world very dangerous, not being able to trust the machine above you that is supposed to supervise us for our own good.

    It all boils down to priorisation. Where your true priorities lie. No one else can change them for you no matter how hard they try to convert you, only you have that power no matter who you are and where you coming from. Thus we single people can grasp that power and work, peacefully, towards a world where you don't have to stand of this kind of a tragedy. I urge people to act, peacefully. Because violence and hatebreed is bad for no matter what good cause you believe you do it for. To act, because when people do nothing to change the course, these kind of things keep happening. Facing the issues is the only way to deal with them, and one person cannot deal with everybody's issue alone when things are at this state. So act, and if you're unsure of how to act, re-educate yourselves. Plenty of good material on this site, just have a healthy suspicion on everything and don't stray from the path. We have a mind of our own, use it.

    Deep inside me I know this is all a hopeless thing to write anything here, even if someone red it and no I don't care if people reply. I just put my wish in that people would start acting, because judging from the comments and the nature of people, enough people must be aware of things like these by now. It is imperative that the root cause is addressed, lest we are doomed to repeat our history.

  17. Kumamori

    I can relate to the most of the stuff you write, at some level, but the stuff that people should survive by themselves... you should really look out of the window. I mean, you're right, but more than you say so. We live in a world where food comes from a bit animal factory to our plates because we give the food store money. You call that surviving on your own? Gimme a break. Yeah we do survive on our own, but at the same time most of us are depending on the same food and housing companies.

    This is all just my view and you nor anyone else doesn't have to be qualified to survive on your own in my eyes, but in my eyes you don't survive on your own unless you can actually do it on your own. Without that money supporting you. After all, it's such a thin line of support to rely on. I write this because you on the one hand say to them it's their fault not surviving on their own, but on the other hand you don't really survive on your own in my eyes either. You won't if you can't do it the traditional way in the environment given, even if it's a city environment with a lot of people around you.

  18. Yusiley S

    Very well said. Thank you for posting that. I'm so sick and tired of these imbeciles who come onto the internet posting things like "each individual has to take responsibility for their own survival" etc etc... yet these people depend on banks, salons, gas-stations, hospitals, schools (this includes colleges and universities), government officials (lets be realistic here they're needed to some extent), clothing stores, grocery stores, etc... for their basic modern needs. The hypocrisy of these people sickens me. Again, thanks for pointing that out. There are a lot of people who comment on the internet that need a good slap ... right on their faces... of what you've posted there. Please have a safe and wonderful day. :)

  19. Yusiley S

    With New Orleans (Louisiana) when Katrina passed by in 2005 (most damages were done by floods; very typical hurricane aftermath), it's like what happened in Homestead (Florida) after Andrew in 1992 (most damages was due to winds; very rare in hurricane standards)... poor city foundation and structure. With New Orleans it was having poor pluming system, with Homestead and Broward it was poor housing. Both of which are the city contractors, engineers and any state officials job to improve the systems so the destruction and death toll of the aftermath of a natural disaster are either not present or minimized. With the lesson of these storms aftermath, I truly hope the foundations are dramatically improved to minimize destruction and death toll. We can talk all we want about individual responsibilities but if you don't have a strong foundation or structure for your home and city, there is very little any individual can do about preventing catastrophes.

  20. knowledgeizpower

    Alot of interesting points made in this short documentary....Some of the residents locked and pushed out of their homes where there was not even flooding and the question is why? Why were they displaced? Because they were poor? Its sad that these things are taking place in this country and it just gets brushed underthe carpet and folks turn their heads like nothing happened.....well good doc to view....Peace

  21. iesika

    The statement above this video (which I haven't watched yet - I'm about to) Isn't quite true. Reporters in New Orleans were in communication with local news in Baton Rouge, and posting online minute by minute from cell phones. The national news didn't pick up the coverage, but it was happening. The local stations were broadcasting to people to get out because the levees were compromised, do not pass go, just drop everything and run, before the 17th street canal overtopped. The Times Picayune website was just text after text from reporters who had stayed behind and were now trying to flee the city.

    That it took so long for the national news companies and Washington D.C. to realize what was happening indicates none of them thought to monitor local news broadcasts during a natural disaster that was striking a major city. When I got access to a computer, 2 weeks after the storm, I was stunned to see what the national coverage had looked like. I wish more people could have seen our news crews working in muddy, days old clothes, running without sleep, cooperating with anchors and reporters from rival networks, literally camping in the studios and working off generators, trying to get information out to the people who needed it most. It was really inspiring for me. I couldn't believe none of the parent news companies had picked up their local station feeds!

  22. Winston Smith

    you should always credit a quote when you use one. *AT least use quotes!,, The one above about the Nazis was written by ex-submariner come protestant preacher and concentration camp victim Martin Niemöller

  23. Xercès Des Stèles

    not everyone had a car to get away, incidently not everyone had a tv and a cell phone. the minute the government makes an emergency call, the news can travel EVEN MMORE quickly.

  24. Freaked Out Now Thx

    I think you should understand that the major news companies are working for the man and the man was doing damage control or more accurately allowing the damage to happen knowingly and I'd say purposely wanting it to happen just as it did, not only to allow the poor to die and suffer but mostly IMO to swoop in and purchase land at a steal after the damage knowing they held the purse strings to rebuild as they saw fit and thereby insuring their "investment" in tragedy. This same mentality continues to allow the banks to rob Americans of their houses and money through scandal and deregulation, all while knowing NOBODY will serve ONE DAY of jail time for these premeditated crimes! The stock market is now being propped up falsely by the Fed and it's printing of money only to suck in more suckers and drive the cost of Gold etc down for the rich to gobble up as the unknowing continue to believe in this corrupt to the bone system that has sucked the life out of the once greatest country in the modern world.

  25. Freaked Out Now Thx

    It wasn't a secret that the levee's needed fixing and it also wasn't a secret that the money would never be allocated to fixing them properly until tragedy struck and the banks rolled in sucking up the land and profits. It's also widely known that most of the millions that live in CA face the very likely possibility of a massive earthquake that will cause massive loss of life and financial ruin etc but do you see Hollywood or the rest of the big companies leaving because of it - nope, but they will film out of state to pay less fee's and companies do move due to the poor tax structures that hurt businesses! IT'S ABOUT AND ALWAYS WILL BE ABOUT $$$$$

  26. S de Vere

    New Orleans should stop their whining...and try blaming themselves and the corrupt black Democrat administration there for the chaos and deaths.

  27. Emilie

    Yeah. It's the city government's fault that FEMA and the US government utterly failed at responding to the worst natural disaster to hit US soil in the last 20 years in a timely and even vaguely sufficient matter. Spend a week in your own filth stuck in a broken sports arena surrounded by death and misery and see if you don't start "whining."

  28. S de Vere

    It was only a disaster because the LOCAL authorities failed to maintain the defences against events like Katrina.

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