There are four basic focal points for conspiracy theories about Katrina:
1. The Hurricane Itself
A lot of people claim that Hurricane Katrina was deliberately manufactured, by one shadowy entity or another. One "Idaho weatherman" claimed that it was the work of Russian mobsters. Many people - perhaps primed by the Bush-related 9/11 conspiracies - blamed George W. Bush.
The technology itself is usually hand-waved away with terms like "electromagnetism" or "temperature seeding." Or people blame HAARP, of course.
2. The Levee Breaches
The main evidence for this is that people claim to have heard explosions right before the levees breached. Frankly, I don't know how anyone could hear anything during a hurricane. Much less isolate that noise to specific levees which might be blocks away. I can think of at least a dozen things that could have caused a loud bang right before the levees breached, but whatever.
One theory is that the Army Corps of Engineers deliberately breached the levees to flood poor black neighborhoods, in order to spare the richer white neighborhoods. It is true that the flooding seems to have unduly impacted poor black neighborhoods. But I am not convinced that breaching the levees early would have saved the richer white neighborhoods, which had the good fortune to be located on higher ground.
Another theory is that Halliburton breached the levees, in order to profit off the disaster clean-up. Halliburton's "no-bid contracts" are a continuing scandal and shame upon the government. And Halliburton did make a fortune off New Orleans' misery. But it's quite a jump to get from there, to someone giving the order to blow up the levees and kill thousands of people.
3. Lack of Response
A lot of poor black people died, because they were the ones left in the city. All the affluent people had the resources to flee ahead of the storm. Couple that with the government's appallingly slow response time (and the violence of its response) and you've got yourself a recipe for race riots.
I try to live by the mantra, "never blame evil for something that could be due to stupidity." And in this case, the massively slow response time can easily be blamed on stupidity. Stupidity, and your basic bureaucratic incompetence.
Which is to say, I empathize with Kanye West's assertion that "George Bush hates black people." But I have trouble envisioning George W. sitting in the White House, cackling and rubbing his hands together and chortling over the suffering and death of thousands of black people. (Frankly, I think that gives him too much credit.)
4. Martial Law/State's Rights
Many people saw this as a chance for the federal government to march in and take control of everything, those jack-booted thugs. A "beta test for the police state," to quote SwearBear, a mameber of the Above Top Secret forums.
I understand where people are coming from with this but again, if that's the case, they did a damned poor job of it.
Photo credit: Flickr/leobaby