George Bush's Perfect Storm - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 09-05-2005, 12:20 PM
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George Bush's Perfect Storm

Good God. I've now read enough unmitigated garbage about the disaster in New Orleans to last a lifetime. If this is how folks who are safe in their homes respond to crisis, it's no wonder there's such a mess down there. Perhaps we do belong on exhibit with the rest of the primates after all - it seems it's not just the looters who lack the capacity for higher-order thought.

While over at BlameBush yesterday looking for an oasis of sanity amidst the madness, I ran across this comment from always-insightful Che Guevarito. Suddenly, everything about this whole horrid, tragic, ludicrous business came into perfect focus

Where is the Katrina Kommission? Where are the hurricane widows-turned-meteorological-experts? New Orleans is a quagmire, and because the Shrub is busy stealing oil in the Iraq quagmire, he can't be bothered to go to a place filled with people with brown skin. If the Gulf of Mexico had oil, you know he'd send all the troops from Fort Polk to invade Louisiana to steal it.

Suddenly I realized: That's it! -- that was his plan all along! A plan so diabolically stupid, yet at the same time fiendishly clever that even that genius Michael Moore couldn't warn us in time!

Think about it: 24,000 National Guard troops ... headed for the Gulf...a strategic port where 20% of America's oil passes through... is any of this starting to sound the LEAST BIT FAMILIAR?


It always comes back to the same thing, doesn't it? More filthy lucre for the blood-thirsty Chimperor and his fat-cat oil buddies. Sure, you say - we already HAD the oil... Well, that's what they WANT you to think.

Mein Gott! Robert Kennedy was right! THIS is why the Twig wouldn't play along with Kyoto! He and that crowd of snake-handling, science-hating, come-to-Jesus freaks in his cabinet KNEW that, if left unchecked, the atmospheric pressure from all their endless preaching about the need to replace Science with Creationism and Intelligent Design would build up over the first four years of his administration, culminating in a hurricane of historic proportions: a PERFECT STORM to end all storms. And when it came, it would, inevitably, head RIGHT for New Orleans WHERE ALL THE OIL WAS, raising gas prices to over $3 a gallon and lining the pockets of his Texas oil buddies so they can rape the environment and use this disaster as an excuse to wipe the caribou from the face of the earth as punishment for helping John Kerry escape from Cambodia.

Not buying it? Look, it's not any more irrational than Paul Krugman's latest offering in the NY Times. In it, he poses a lot of questions. This man has answers.

The Death of Rats squeaks that the "military" should have been called into action earlier. I love the way everyone always calls on the military to save their butts. The military exists to fight wars outside the country and to defend our shores. Not to put out forest fires, collect illegal immigrants, look for drugs, or any of the other various and sundry make-work tasks people are trying to get them to do. Trust me: we do not WANT an armed military roaming this nation performing these types of tasks. This is what goes on in little tin-pan dicatatorships in SudAmerica. When you start deputizing men with M-16s, say goodbye to your civil rights. And my husband, who is one of those men, would be the first person to agree with me. At any rate, back to the Krugster's complaint:

Maybe administration officials believed that the local National Guard could keep order and deliver relief. But many members of the National Guard and much of its equipment - including high-water vehicles - are in Iraq. "The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission," a Louisiana Guard officer told reporters several weeks ago.
Well there's one problem with his argument:

Then there’s the inevitable Iraq connection, which broadly suggests that you can’t have a military occupation and deal with a natural disaster at the same time (which, if true, is a bit of a problem for the UN). The sophisticated version of this proposition is that the National Guard, who would have rescued everyone, quelled the looting and stopped up the dykes are all in Iraq. The New York Times, in the above-mentioned editorial, entitled “A man-made disaster�, took this view.
Fine, except that in the very same edition it was carefully explained to a reporter that there were, in fact, thousands of National Guard folk around. A National Guard senior officer even told The NYT: “It is not a function of more people, but how many people can you move on the road system that exists now in Louisiana and in Mississippi,� and asked rhetorically: “How many people can you put through that funnel where a storm has taken four-lane highways and turned them into goat trails?� The goat trail question was not addressed in the editorial.

One down, two to go. Mr. Krugman's second question:

Second question: Why wasn't more preventive action taken? After 2003 the Army Corps of Engineers sharply slowed its flood-control work, including work on sinking levees. "The corps," an Editor and Publisher article says, citing a series of articles in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, "never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security - coming at the same time as federal tax cuts - was the reason for the strain."
Of course, it's never as simple as that. This article (ironically from the NY Times) addresses that question in detail, none of which seem to mention Bush or the Gulf War:

By the late 1990's, scientists at Louisiana State University and the University of New Orleans had perfected computer models showing exactly how a sea surge would overwhelm the levee system, and had recommended a set of solutions. The Army Corps of Engineers, which built the levees, had proposed different projects.
Yet some scientists reflexively disregarded practical considerations pointed out by the Army engineers; more often, the engineers scoffed at scientific studies indicating that the basic facts of geology and hydrology meant that significant design changes were needed. Meanwhile, local politicians lobbied Congress for financing for myriad special interest groups, from oil companies to oyster farmers. Congress did not hear a unified voice, making it easier to turn a deaf ear.

Fed up with the splintered efforts, Len Bahr, then the head of the Louisiana Governor's Office of Coastal Activities, somehow dragged all the parties to one table in 1998 and got them to agree on a coordinated solution: Coast 2050. Completing every recommended project over a decade or more would have cost an estimated $14 billion, so Louisiana turned to the federal government. While this may seem an astronomical sum, it isn't in terms of large public works; in 2000 Congress began a $7 billion engineering program to refresh the dying Florida Everglades. But Congress had other priorities, Louisiana politicians had other priorities, and the magic moment of consensus was lost.

Interesting how the facts place everything in a different light, isn't it? David Aaronovitch has another theory, but in the end it comes down to the same thing - procrastination and unjustified optimism - in other words, we were defeated by human nature:

Twice in recent years there have been full-scale disaster drills in New Orleans, because the risk to the city — should anything happen — was so great. But in 2000 and in 2004 the assumption made by experts and officials was that the levees would not be breached. In other words the disaster they got was far worse than the disaster they’d planned for.
You can’t help wondering whether this omission wasn’t essential — that had they hypothesised a levee failure, it would have called the whole existence of the city into question. After the great Galveston, Texas, hurricane of 1900 the seawalls were built 17ft high and the whole town was raised by something like 8ft. It would have been impossible to do that in New Orleans. So maybe they just didn’t let themselves think just how bad things could be.

Krugman's third question is harder to answer:

Third question: Did the Bush administration destroy FEMA's effectiveness? The administration has, by all accounts, treated the emergency management agency like an unwanted stepchild, leading to a mass exodus of experienced professionals.
He cites the departure of Clinton-era appointees, as though such turnover were unusual. It's hard to say from the outside. Without trying to sound like an apologist for what is not being done, I have been on the inside of crisis situations and watched the careful planning that is done in the military. And then, as the senior wife responsible for liasing with the battalion wives, I have sat on the other end of the phone and listened to young, worried, emotional women carp and complain and nitpick that this, that, or the other thing wasn't being handled to their satisfaction.

Very often, there was a very good reason why a certain policy had been mandated: it had been carefully thought out. Often there were difficulties or circumstances they were totally unaware of.

In the case of trying to move troops and supplies into, and literally hundreds of thousands of refugees out of, New Orleans, the authorities are hampered by two things: the difficulty of coordinating communications and the state of the roads in and out of the area. There is only so much throughput, only so many vehicles, and only so much gas available right now, and that is a thing people are forgetting.

And you cannot simply load people in vans and buses. They have to have somewhere to go. And all of this takes time to coordinate - it must be arranged in advance, before you leave. You can't just take off and hope a Motel 6 will leave the light on for you, because I guarantee a few thousand other people had the same idea.

And you must have toilet facilities, which is why they can't use school buses. You must have funds to buy food. And drinking water. Once you load people into a government vehicle, you have taken responsibility for them, and all these things have to be thought out. Of course it takes time, and the logistics of doing something on this massive a scale, with limited access into and out of the area, are overwhelming.

I have watched Marines get ready to go to the field, both on active duty and in a drill capacity. Sometimes my husband used to make them practice loading up and just moving from one place to another when we were in California. They hated it, but he argued that if the BN was activated, that's exactly what they would have to do, on short notice. And it's a good thing they did practice, because the first time they did it, it was a mess. This was a controlled exercise under ideal conditions on new highways, and he fully expected things to go hideously wrong the first time. Ironically, that drill was later judged a rousing success even though so many things went wrong, because the battalion found out exactly where their vulnerabilites were. Even the harshest critics, who had all maintained it was a 'waste of time' were convinced it had been a good idea.

So maybe someone can explain to me why all these critics are surprised that an emergency situation in the civilian sector, where no one has practiced regularly, (and indeed where it would not be practical to practice) that far exceeded anyone's expectations, exacerbated by floodwaters, dead bodies, wrecked highways, and panicked and often shooting refugees, should go MORE smoothly?

Maybe in Paul Krugman's world.

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