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Old 08-31-2005, 05:07 PM   #1
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The politics of Katrina

I think I opened a bit of a pandora's box in the other thread. Let's leave that thread to check in on people and humanitarian efforts. Melon posted a story that I think would be better suited for a thread like this. Also, I'd like some more info on oil and gas if anyone can provide such as what the government can do to control prices. Gas was already expensive before this and it sounds like there were people who couldn't afford the gas prices to leave and may have died because of that. And yet, these oil companies continue to make record profits.

Oh, and I'm going to find the picture of Bush playing a guitar he was given at some social function yesterday with a presidential seal on it. Does anyone remember the story of Nero playing fiddle as Rome was burning? Looks like the same.
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Old 08-31-2005, 05:33 PM   #2
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Thanks for making this thread sharky. I was going to post an article in humanitarian thread that might offend. Anyway here's the article. It's by Richard Louv.

"In denial about the forces of nature

Denial and deflection are part of human nature – perhaps even a survival tool, at times, usually the wrong times.

Before Hurricane Katrina reached New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., with the full force yesterday, it jabbed at South Florida, leading the state's governor, Jeb Bush, to ask for federal disaster assistance for Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where, as NBC reported, "some residents said they were caught off-guard by the gathering storm?"

Off guard? How could anyone living in a region of the country so historically battered by such storms be surprised?

Consider the headline that appeared in the Florida's Gulf Breeze News last week: "Hurricane devastation provides opportunity for beach-wide architectural design standards." Um. How about last year? Or the year before that?

True, in 1993, after Hurricane Andrew, Florida adopted the first building code in the United States to mandate windborne debris protection for all new construction. But acceptance of the code has been gradual, at best. In 2002, the St. Petersburg Times quoted a Florida Home Builders Association official who pled puzzlement: "We used to have 467 building codes. Now we have one code with 467 interpretations."

Yet, the industry's own Institute for Business and Home Safety had just issued a report saying that if the new codes had been in place in 1992, Andrew would have caused $10 billion less damage, about a third less than the total.

Apres Andrew came the deluge. In 2002, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans published a prescient series called "Washing Away." For the Big Easy, perhaps better named the Big Breezy, it was "only a matter of time before south Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane," the newspaper warned. "Billions have been spent to protect us, but we grow more vulnerable every day."

Indeed, in 2001, Louisiana officials "found a disturbing flaw last year in their plans to open 'refuges of last resort' for people stranded in a major hurricane: Only a few interior areas in a handful of public buildings could be trusted to withstand the 155-to 200-mph winds of a Category 5 storm," the Times-Picayune reported. That finding set the stage for the decision to evacuate millions of residents over the weekend – and gave context to this week's images of the refugee-filled Superdome, its roof shredded.

Also, the Army Corps of Engineers recognized that Category 3 or weaker hurricanes could compromise the hurricane levees built to protect the New Orleans area. A Category 5 hurricane, or even a Category 4, was almost unthinkable. To prepare, officials offered such prevention proposals as: a giant wall, more than 30 feet high in places (two-thirds higher than the current levees); strictly enforced building standards; homes retrofitted with roofs fortified to resist high winds and equipped with steel storm shutters; the raising of many homes and highways, beyond the levees, onto pilings at least 15-feet high; and the creation of elevated community shelters capable of withstanding 175-mph winds.

In addition, a governor's committee and Louisiana legislators pushed for a $14 billion, 30-year Coast 2050 plan to rebuild the coast by diverting water and silt from the Mississippi River across marshes and reconstructing barrier islands. In essence, the plan was to undo damage than human development had done to the natural barriers to hurricanes. Today, that still sounds like a good idea. But where will the money for any of that will come from, given the post-Katrina cleanup costs?

Forget nature; the real problem is human nature.

Most people living on the Gulf Coast simply prefer to take their chances. So do Californians who live on the slippery bluffs of Malibu.

And San Diegans? Even after the devastating 2003 firestorms that marched from Cuyamaca to Scripps Ranch and back again, we seem to prefer denial and deflection.

Instead of investing in the creation of new firefighting technologies – including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles that could spot and even fight fires – we look to old technology, but even avoid simple fees that would upgrade our old-fashioned, out-dated firefighting tools. When it comes to enforcing tougher fire-resistance building standards, we wiggle and dissemble like teenagers facing homework on a sunny weekend. We prefer our risks manageable, and our thinking small.

Instead of preparing for true dangers posed by natural forces, people prefer to obsess about the relatively smaller threats of terrorism (but refuse to pay adequately for prevention in that arena, as well).

Or, more often, we fixate on the smallest of societal risks. Less than a month before Katrina's bad breath battered Florida, Broward County schools, in an effort to cut down on injuries and lawsuits, erected "Rules of the Playground" at 137 elementary schools. No more swings, teeter-totters or hand-pulled merry-go-rounds. And "no running," the new signs said, even as Katrina approached.

Kids running. Now there's a manageable threat."
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Old 08-31-2005, 08:58 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by jkid
Consider the headline that appeared in the Florida's Gulf Breeze News last week: "Hurricane devastation provides opportunity for beach-wide architectural design standards." Um. How about last year? Or the year before that?

Gulf Breeze is a suburb of Pensacola. Prior to Hurricane Ivan (September 2004) and Hurricane Dennis (July 2005), the Pensacola area had not recently experienced a hurricane with significant damage. Most of the repairs underway today in the area are still from Hurricane Ivan damage. What other storm from "last year" or "the year before that" is this author referring to? Richard Loux should have done a bit more than skim the headlines of a small town weekly newspaper before making such uninformed commentary. There was nothing to rebuild with new standards until Ivan rearranged everything.

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Old 08-31-2005, 09:09 PM   #4
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I'm waiting for Bush to announce his "War On Weather!"
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Old 08-31-2005, 09:21 PM   #5
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One thing I'm interested is in how places like Taiwan and Japan and surrounding islands handle things like building codes. I mean, they get enough typhoons each year that it isn't a matter of "if" or hoping that they dodge a bullet. They get at least one or more each year, and I wonder how they handle it? Is there something we can perhaps learn from Asian Pacific islands?

But Jesus...we have people living in trailer parks in hurricane territory. They might as well put a bulls eye on themselves.

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Old 08-31-2005, 09:42 PM   #6
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I can't believe the lack of a concrete plan to deal with this situation. I understand it is widespread, I understand it is catastrophic, but hurricanes are an annual threat to this area. Each state and the federal government seem to be totally at a loss as to where to start. I am frankly amazed and disappointed at the efforts of the US in addressing this problem. America is the Bill Gates of the world with some of the greatest minds, technology, financial and military resources at its disposal. But everyone seems to be standing still. I would have thought that the Asian tsunami would have been a good practice run in dealing with disasters at this level. Apparently not. Where are the helicopters, warships, hovercraft, zodiak boats,? As people said regarding the tsunami, this is a unprecented scenario and requires unprecented solutions otherwise the deathtoll will continue to rise as trapped people die before rescue, unclean water and lack of medical support for everyday problems like heart attacks or injury.

I am frustrated at hearing about the logistics and lack of communication as a roadblock to a solution. When coming up with contingency plans for a direct hit from a Cat 4-5 hurricane, the planners should automatically assume the worst and work from there. Assume no phones, no cells, no water, no power, widespread destruction, flooding, deaths, and stranded people. Determine who gets called, who provides what assistance, and what they need to minimize the number of people who die. Screw the buildings, lives are the priority, aren't they? Any plan which involved a tightly communicated organized endeavour should have been tossed in the trash because no disaster relief at this level works like that in the early stages. I have heard that cities have contingency plans for terrorist attacks and other natural disasters, if the plans are anything like the one for the Gulf coast, God help us.

Like didn't anyone ever consider what to do to fix a broken levee, instead of saying let's try this and see if it works. I can only imagine the horrors if there wasn't advance warning of Katrina. I heard some emails on CNN earlier today bitchin about foreign aid to help the hurricane victims with remarks about "the South Korea army being in New Orleans to help" "Saudi Arabia helping". Many countries have offered assistance but keep in mind, the US has more money, resources, people, military than many other countries combined so assistance will be coming but unlike the tsunami where the Western world contributed a great deal to the situation, any help coming from other countries will pale in comparison to the resources of the US or they should unless for some reason your government doesn't do everything possible to save its own citizens.

Sorry about the rant but it is frustrating to see so many people suffering.
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Old 08-31-2005, 09:55 PM   #7
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http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0410/feature5/

There was a large National Geographic article on this subject back in 2004. There's an excerpt online.

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Old 08-31-2005, 09:58 PM   #8
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Thanks melon, I was looking for this.
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Old 08-31-2005, 11:24 PM   #9
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"President Bush plays a guitar presented to him by Country Singer Mark Wills, right, backstage following his visit to Naval Base Coronado, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Bush visited the base to deliver remarks on V-J Commemoration Day."

This is especially what pissed me off. I understand our veterans deserve recognition for V-J Day, but what the hell is he doing smiling and playing guitar while NOLA goes under? There was a hospital worker on TV today saying rescue crews did not get out early enough to help evacuate patients. Imagine what would have happened if Bush cut his vacation short on Sunday night to get a task force together knowing what was ahead. He had 29 DAYS of vacation!!!!! Was losing two really going to hurt that bad?

Just remember -- don't trust any of his promises. He told us he was going to get bin Laden soon as he stood on a mound of rubble three days after 9/11. If soon means four years and counting, NOLA has a long time to wait before they get everything they need.
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Old 08-31-2005, 11:59 PM   #10
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What ticks me off is that the Feds, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Louisiana state government, will probably insist on rebuilding the city back to it's previous state without making any serious improvements to the situation.

Like maybe possibly considering relocating it to some nearby piece of land that's not below sea level...

It wouldn't be that much more effort. They're going to pretty much have to rebuild it from the ground up anyway.

And I hope that local, state, or federal agencies prevent at least some homes from being rebuilt on the beachfront. Would prevent people from getting wiped out it exactly the same way again. And it will happen again; Mother Nature doesn't give a second's consideration to the indomitable human spirit when she decides to rearrange the landscape.
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Old 09-01-2005, 12:02 AM   #11
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Where is the president when his oil buddies are doing this? This photo is NOT Photoshopped.

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Old 09-01-2005, 02:21 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by sharky
what the hell is he doing smiling and playing guitar while NOLA goes under?
I think playing the guitar might be a charitable desription of what he's doing with that instrument.

Seriously, I do think it's appalling that the President takes almost a full month of vacation time even with all the chaos and devastation taking place first in Iraq and then in New Orleans.
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Old 09-01-2005, 03:01 AM   #13
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So now we are going to politicize natural disasters....

Disappointing to say the least.
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Old 09-01-2005, 03:49 AM   #14
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Quote:
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So now we are going to politicize natural disasters....

Disappointing to say the least.
I doubt anyone is saying that the fact of the hurricane is anyone's fault. But we have the right to ask questions about why funding to repair the levees was cut. If that is "political" then so be it. I would have thought it is a natural part of living in a democracy...the right to ask one's government to live up to higher standards of civilian protection.

Quote:
Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?
'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues
By Will Bunch

PHILADELPHIA - Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of the city, the waters may still keep rising in New Orleans late on Tuesday. That's because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through a two-block-long break in the main levee, near the city's 17th Street Canal. With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide may not stop until it's level with the massive lake.

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps 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. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:

"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."

The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work with higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004 that the feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.

The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.

There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:

"That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late.

One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday.

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."
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Old 09-01-2005, 06:37 AM   #15
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Projects like the ones mentioned in the previous post would certainly not have been done by now if funded in 2004. Everyone knows how efficiently and smoothly the federal bureaucracy is run If these had been funded a couple of decades ago then maybe disaster could have been averted. If we want to blame presidents and politicians then the blame should go back years and years.
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