A few days ago, on our way to watch Canada Day fireworks, we drove on Mississauga Road, where the true McMansions of our area are found. The homes are huge - and most, in my opinion, are monstrously ugly. In typical McMansion fashion, the owners have built on the entire lot, so the houses are crammed in, one next to the other, each one bigger and uglier than the next.

Of course the homes of Mississauga Road are shacks compared to many wealthier areas. On the front page of the New York Times online, I happened to notice an item from the Real Estate section, about the burst of mansion-building in Beverly Hills, where 11,000 square feet is considered cozy. In New York City, excessive wealth is a little more hidden, in penthouse apartments overlooking Central Park, although not, I would imagine, in the owners' second and third homes.

Contrast this with a recent report from what's left of the city of New Orleans.
Katrina shocks New Orleans visitors 10 months on

Bill Friend thought he was ready to go home again. He had read the newspapers, watched TV and talked with friends about the devastation wreaked on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

Still, he was shocked.

"You go down street after street after street and see nothing -- wreckage," said Friend, 80, who grew up in New Orleans and now lives in the Washington area. "The overall impression of it is how much of it there is."

Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, flooding 80 percent of the city and killing more than 1,500 from Louisiana in one of the worst natural disasters the country has seen. So far, only about half the population has returned and vast stretches of the city are nearly deserted and still full of debris.
Here are snips from the discussion that followed when the above story was posted at Democratic Underground:
[from post] My son was in NO in Feb. He said the devastation was worse than anything you could imagine, FAR, FAR WORSE THAN WHAT YOU SEE ON TV. He brought home pictures...pictures that he took while driving through...miles and miles of nothing but wreckage...total wreckage, like a bomb had destroyed the entire city.

[from post] I was in New Orleans last month. I agree, nothing on tv prepares you for the destruction. I was shocked that so much was still in shambles. I guess having a pile of debris in front of a house is a good sign - at least the house has been cleared out. The houses still piled with stuff, wet moldy, decaying stuff, are where the problem is. Families are away or can't bring themselves to gut the houses. Even on Canal St there were burned our businesses, unopened businesses, boarded up hotels and shopping areas. A City of New Orleans building was boarded up and still damaged. Words cannot describe the devastation that still exists.
I mentioned recently that I'm reading Collapse, by Jared Diamond. In failing societies, it seems the elite continued to spend lavishly, often competitively, while the common people struggled and scraped for resources that were increasingly scarce. In ancient societies, as today, lavish spending often was expressed by building. In ancient Mexico, the Mayan elite built more and more elaborate temples, while farms were failing and warfare for ever-dwindling resources was raging. On Easter Island the elite were still competing to build larger and larger statues, while the people were starving to death.

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