PopPolitics: Harry Shearer on Why the Katrina Disaster Was Not ‘Natural’ (Listen)

Also: 'Narcos' and the Futility of 'Just Say No'; 'House of Cards' Michael Kelly on Donald Trump; Should Journalists Be Gun Violence Advocates?

Actor and satirist Harry Shearer takes exception to much of the coverage of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, telling Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM that it often misses the federal government’s role in the break of the levees and the continuing danger from a catastrophic flood.

Shearer, star of “The Simpsons” and the podcast “Le Show,” is a part-time resident of New Orleans whose 2010 documentary “The Big Uneasy” focused on the role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in failing to construct adequate protection for such a powerful storm and subsequent flooding. He’s followed that up with a documentary for BBC Radio 4 this week called “The Crescent and the Shadow.”

Shearer also questions the system that has been rebuilt, calling it the “minimum required to qualify for flood insurance.”

“The Army Corps of Engineers likes to say on many occasions that New Orleans has never had better or stronger protection,” Shearer says. “Given what the last protection system did, killing about 2,000 people in its catastrophic failure, that’s a really low bar.”

He also says that residents of the city have grown weary of the word “resilient” to describe their spirit, and notes that the government failed to keep track of what happened to the evacuees bused out of the city in the hurricane’s wake.

“We know more about a suitcase on Spirit Airlines than we know about those people,” he quips.

Listen below:

Netflix’s ‘Narcos’: ‘Just Say No’ Vs. Pablo Escobar

Jose Padilha, director and co-creator of the new Netflix series “Narcos,” says that his show examines the rise of the cocaine trade, focusing on druglord Pablo Escobar and the DEA’s efforts to bring down his Colombian drug cartel. The initial season of the show challenges notions that Escobar was regarded as a Robin Hood-like figure in his home country, and shows the futility of the war on drugs, with its “Just Say No” public service campaigns, from the start.

Listen below:

With the drug wars going on in Mexico, Padilha says that the U.S. strategy needs a shift that includes a “social program to stop demand,” treating it more as a health problem than a criminal one. He also says that legalization is an answer for drugs like marijuana, “but I don’t think all drugs should be legalized. It depends on the effects that they have on the brain.”

Listen below:

Michael Kelly on “House of Cards” S4, Campaign 2016 and Donald Trump

Michael Kelly, nominated for an Emmy for his performance as Francis Underwood’s former chief of staff Doug Stamper on “House of Cards,” says that a common reaction he gets in Washington is from people who tell him they know someone “just like” his character (just without the murderous streak).

Kelly talks about how he kept his character’s return in season 3 a secret, and reflects on how the 2016 campaign is unfolding.

“I think we are so early in the race right now, and Donald Trump is having fun right now,” he says. “I think it says a lot about our country when someone like that is … you are a person in our country and you can really do anything. That’s great. I think that’s wonderful. But in all honesty I don’t think there is a chance in hell that he will be around close to election time. I could be wrong, but I just think that this party he’s having is going to end.”

Listen below:

Gun Violence: Journalists as Advocates

David Cohen of Variety and political consultant Matthew Littman talk about the aftermath of the on-air shootings of two journalists from a Virginia TV station, and whether it marks a turning point in which the news media should take more of an advocacy approach to coverage of gun violence.

Listen below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124.

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