Driven from New Orleans (2012), Drug Wars (2013), On the Run (2014)

A previous post refers to Driven from New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization (2012).

A passage (p. 98) from the latter study brings to mind the following additional previous posts:

The Drug Wars in America, 1940-1973 (Kathleen J. Frydl, 2013)

Framing Regent Park: The National Film Board and the construction of “outcast spaces” in the inner city – 1953 & 1994

Alice Goffman’s ‘On the Run’ Studies Policing in a Poor Urban Neighborhood – New York Times, April 29, 2014

In the following excerpt (p. 98) from Driven from New Orleans (2012), I’ve omitted the bibliographical notes. I’ve also broken the longer, single paragraph into shorter ones for ease in online reading.


“Complementing the stepped-up and expanded enforcement of one­-strike evictions was a federally financed expansion of local police forces and drug war efforts. The major targets of this initiative were poor and black urban communities. The ‘criminalization of the poor,’ as political scientist Ed Goetz notes, became the de facto U.S. urban policy in the 1990s as spending on domestic social programs faced cutbacks. Indica­tive of these developments, in 1994, as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, President Clinton created the office of Com­munity Oriented Policing (COPS).

“The new initiative provided grants to local police departments and other agencies, including public housing authorities, to hire more police. By 2000, COPS reached its goal of plac­ing 100,000 federally financed police on U.S. streets. Oftentimes, as in New Orleans, these officers were used to beef up police presence at pub­lic housing developments and other poverty areas of cities.

“In addition, the federal government’s weed and seed program, begun under Bush and continued by Clinton, funded more local police and promoted greater collaboration between local and federal law enforcement agencies, com­munity organizations, businesses, and social service agencies in so-called high-crime neighborhoods.

“Like COPS, weed and seed prioritizes and promotes closer civilian-police relations, including developing police in­formants in the community as a prerequisite to accessing the seed aspect of the program – the delivery of social services. Adding to its punitive nature, the program authorized the creation of special law enforcement zones where ‘offenders [could] be prosecuted under more stringent fed­eral laws.’ ”


An April 2, 2015 Atlantic article is entitled: “The Lost Children of Katrina: A decade after the hurricane, New Orleans’ community grapples with the effects of missed schooling and mass displacement.”

An April 11, 2015 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Three paths to more mixed-income neighbourhoods: Revitalized public housing, inclusionary policies and closing rent control loopholes could help Toronto keep and build economically diverse neighbourhoods.”

The article is written in a typical newspaper style. It’s meant for a quick read and covers what can be covered in a short space. That being said, it provides a great overview to some questions that came to mind when I read a history, by a community activist turned academic, about the history of public housing in New Orleans.

The wider context for such an article comes to mind, when I read it. The context includes the wider economic picture as highlighted in an April 13, 2015 CBC article entitled: “Why Stephen Poloz can’t fix a weak economy: Don Pittis: Bank of Canada governor to present his Economic Policy Report later this week.”

A May 10, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “The Real Problem With America’s Inner Cities.”

Click here to access excerpts from the latter article >

A May 15, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “Latin American Allies Resist U.S. Strategy in Drug Fight.”

A May 31, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “Spike Lee Comes to Film ‘Chiraq,’ Unsettling Some Chicagoans.”

A July 30, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “Who Runs the Streets of New Orleans? How a rich entrepreneur persuaded the city to let him create his own high-tech police force.”

A Jan. 15, 2016 New York Times article is entitled: “Why Cartels Are Killing Mexico’s Mayors.”

A July 26, 2017 Columbia Review of Journalism article is entitled: “Photos reveal media’s softer tone on opioid crisis.”

Narrative and metaphor

A project that is of interest focuses upon the turning of neoliberalism into an analytically useful concept.

A related project involves determination of a means whereby “social innovation” can be turned into a concept that serves an analytically useful purpose.

It is helpful as well to define the word “democracy,” or to have an understanding of how the word is used in a particular context, as the term means different things to different people, in differing circumstances.

A related theme concerns the power of narrative and metaphor, for good or for ill, a topic discussed at this post among others:

The Meaning of Human Existence (2014)

The Changing Face of Economics (2004)

The challenge is to find ways and means, to the extent that it may be feasible, to enable people, who have an interest in the topics at hand, to arrive at a shared analytical language. Such a pursuit is of value. Language – as in the use of metaphors to advance arguments, and to build narratives – plays a key role in how we as a species make sense of reality. Our sense-making project in turn determines how we deal with each other, and how we deal with the built and natural environments that we encounter.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, documentary making using an approach adopted by the Maysles brothers has the potential to help, in a small way, in development of a shared analytical language. Just observing what’s out there, with the eye and ear of a poet, which is the Maysles model, stands in some contrast to taking what’s out there, and editing it into a (however valuable) NFB-style documentary, or into a (however valuable) academic research study in order to shape a message about what is observed.

A useful resource regarding these topics is The Changing Face of Economics: Conversations with Cutting Edge Economists (2004).


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