Blogs > HNN > Why Katrina Is Likely to Be a Disaster for President Bush, too

Sep 2, 2005 5:43 pm


Why Katrina Is Likely to Be a Disaster for President Bush, too



Mr. Widmer directs the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College.

From Gloucester, Massachusetts, there seems no better phrase than a perfect storm to describe the political weather brewing for President Bush. This morning’s New York Times has a damning editorial and a sobering front-page story by David Sanger about the difficulties facing the White House. That is only the beginning of what will now be an extended period of national soul-searching about how we tragically let down the people of New Orleans in August 2005.

Disasters are nearly always bad for presidents, whether considered their fault or not. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 added to the sense that George H.W. Bush was distracted by foreign policy. The near-meltdown at Three Mile Island contributed in some intangible way to the malaise the United States felt under Jimmy Carter. And even before the full extent of Watergate corruption became known to the world, the fuel crisis of the early 70s added to the feeling that Richard Nixon’s America was running out of gas. All of these crises will pale before the disaster at hand, which combines elements of all three: complete destruction plus existential terror plus a sense that the energy we depend on will no longer be there in the future.

 Illustration by Joshua Brown. Click to see his series, Life During Wartime

But on top of that, there is mounting evidence, both circumstantial and real, that this disaster can be laid at the doorstep of the Bush White House. A feeling hangs heavy in the air – like the quiet before a hurricane – that the catastrophe symbolizes a presidency profoundly out of touch with reality. It’s not just the basic fact, visible on all TV screens, that the victims of this tragedy are poor and black – the precise demographic that has fared the worst under George W. Bush, ever since its votes were undercounted in Florida. Or that President Bush was on one of his long vacations when the storm hit. Or that he did nothing the first full day of the tragedy.

It is more than that. The information is still coming in haphazardly, but it is becoming clear that New Orleans was the victim of extraordinary mismanagement by an administration more concerned about war in Iraq than desolation in Louisiana. A powerful Salon piece by Sidney Blumenthal, filed yesterday at 5 pm, lays out the case in black and white. The city’s flood control funding had been reduced by 44% since 2001. Weakening wetlands protections to favor developers also made the city far more vulnerable. Congress left town before dealing with any of New Orleans’s problems, even though a hurricane in Louisiana had been declared one of the three most significant possible disasters in 2001. The now submerged New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that “serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation.”

The Salon piece doesn’t even go into a question that also seems to be on people’s minds – why has the federal government been so slow and ineffectual in its response? An obvious thought is that the National Guard and Army – exactly whom you would expect to save people and maintain order – are too busy in Iraq. The president’s close friend, Joseph M. Allbaugh (former head of FEMA) frantically denied that in this morning’s Times, and insisted that everything was fine – before his cell phone seemed to stop working. It was unclear whether it cut out or was wrested away by a machete-wielding looter. In fact, more than 60% of the Louisiana Guard are available, as Allbaugh argued. But that means that roughly 40% are unavailable.

The feeling of a perfect storm deepened when pondering the symmetry of the two major stories in today’s news, the hurricane and the riot in Baghdad that killed nearly a thousand people. Worlds apart, and yet the haunting image of huge crowds wandering across bridges in both cities left a feeling that there are refugees all over the world, simply trying to get back home to where we were a few months – a few years – a century ago, back in the 20th, when we were innocently trying to build a bridge to the 21st. Now that we’re here, I’m wondering what the big hurry was.

It is unfair to blame any president for all of the problems on his watch, especially those that come out of the sky with very little warning. But the dark new landscapes coming into focus – long gas lines, soaring heating bills, and plenty of hurricanes to come – do not bode well for President Bush.

There are so many articles to read about New Orleans that it is disorienting, but one stayed with me, posted on the Times’ website at 6:51 yesterday. It described President Bush’s eerie journey on Air Force One from Crawford to Washington, while swooping over the devastation at very low altitude, like a gigantic sea gull. The article began with a nervous non sequitur – as if anyone had even asked the question – stating that Bush’s long stay in Crawford had been a “working vacation.” An obvious quote followed from his press secretary, Scott McLellan: “It’s devastating. It’s got to be doubly devastating on the ground.” Twice as devastating as what? The cabin of Air Force One? Then it continued with McClellan’s grandiloquent announcement that the federal government, after a day and a half of dithering, had determined this to be an “incident of national significance.” One wonders what the thousands of people stranded without homes and loved ones thought as they saw the enormous presidential aircraft flying in circles, just over their heads, before accelerating away from the unpleasant view. Their voices, as usual, were silent.

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    More Comments:


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Mssrs T and S, especially T:

    A possible experiment not relying on cherry picked evidence:

    1. Ask an insurance company what the premium would be for insurance against the earth being warmer 30 years from now.

    2. Ask the same insurer for a quote on insurance against the earth being cooler 30 years from now.

    3. Compare the quotes

    4.Try to find ANY major insurance company that thinks (a) the earth is round not flat, (b) the earth orbits the sun not vice versa, and (c) the earth is getting warmer due to "increased solar activity".


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Apologies noted, but Frum is an unAmerican hypocrite who, additionally in this case, does not know what he is talking about. Of course there is absurd finger-pointing going in on in inconsistent mulitple directions, but that hardly excuses lame, multiple and inconsistent evasions of accountability. Frum, Rove, Bush and the rest of the slick, spinning, crooked and inept bunglers need to learn what every tenderfoot Boy Scout is taught: Be Prepared. That motto does not read "cover your ass by accusing the other guy of being less prepared than you", no matter what the Orwellian minders in the White House may pretend.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Thanks for the comments, Robert. "Petty views and bad habits of partisanship" are what these comments boards are mainly about, which is why I think they were recently airbrushed into offsite pop-ups. Refreshing, however, to see you back here to support the contrarians.

    Your "modest suspicion" above is intriguing, and I am loath to reject it out of hand, but am also doubtful that it could stand the light of objective analysis. Who precisely are these ruling "powerful" keeping Junior as a "sacrificial lamb", and what have "they", whoever they are, done to "enrage" countrymen, that said countrymen have not also manifoldly done to themselves ? Surely you don't think that the campaign contributors to the GOP or their smaller counterparts at the Dem Party strong-armed hundreds of thousands of people into living blissfully with their wheel-chairs and dogs in a below sea level swamp that was bound to flood some day and brainwashed them into not bothering about having any evacuation plans ? Or that said rich and powerful forced the masses to buy gas-guzzling SUVs and watch mind-rotting trash TV for hours on end, or that these hidden rulers covered up and censored any news about Osama not being leader of Iraq ?


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Robert, Your well-thought-out theory is nontheless lacking in substantive historical factual backing. But even in theory, you acknowledge my main observation. In reply to my query about how the strings precisely are being pulled, you talk at length instead about how the puppets willingly and stupidly let it happen. If we therefore agree that the masses largely have themselves to blame -in some general sense, obviously not in every particular- should not THAT be the focus of the analysis, rather than vague and unspecific hypothesizing about opportunitic exploiters of the ignorant and apatehtic flock of, to use your parlance, the "faithful", "saps" "fools" who are letting themselves be "bamboozeled" into "confusion" ?

    I don't recall the inner workings of your political theory of republics, but as a practical matter when I compare America to other countries of reasonably comparable wealth, access to information, education, etc., I do not notice that the political elites in the USA have in the aggregate vastly more power, control, or even more influence over the masses. Nor that Americans are less individualistic than other peoples, or more inclined to meekly and unquestionably accept whatever someone in authority tells them.

    What I do observe in the U.S., having travelled fairly widely overseas to compare such observations against, is an unusually widespread and ingrained degree of apathy towards and even outright disrepect for, quality, competence, and intelligence, and a remarkable degree of pride in ignorance.

    Many people in developing countries, for example, are woefully uninformed about the western world, but when they come to realize their ignorance they are more often shamed into trying to doing something about it rather than proudly adhering to it. Many Europeans are tenaciously indifferent to politics, religion, or the long term challenges facing their continent, but most of them read a daily newspaper or at least think they ought to, and know how to find their own country on a map, and are embarrased if they haven't managed to learn at least one foreign language.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Thanks for the interesting analysis.

    I am afraid I have to agree with your pessimistic outlook. We probably have to go way back, well before 1776, to find the most appropriate prior episodes of hubris and squandered opportunities to garner lessons from. I rather doubt that "class" or "class conflict" is a part of that past with any great relevance to today's challenges, but it is hard to say for sure. If fixation on class and on "left" versus "right" continues to obscure the underlying moral and intellectual rot of a huge swath of the culture, however, as it certainly appears to have lately, then it is not likely to be a productive theme to focus on even if there are growing glimmers of insight to be found there.

    It is a cardinal bit of American dogma, uttered as often on this site from the lefthanded as from the righthanded, that every generation thinks the ones after it are more decadent than it. What few bother to consider, however, is that the almost inevitable truth of the observation does not mean that civilizations never decay. The world had better learn soon how to get along without relying so much upon America, because America does not look like it is waking up to its own decline and fall.

    Bob Dylan more or less lost his mind probably 15 years or more ago. But his "Blowin' in the Wind" is still worth quoting:

    "...how many deaths will it take ?"

    This does not mean that I withdraw in the slightest from the position I have taken in many other recent Katrina-related posts: that the incompetent need to be called to account. We do need to make competency a standard for all, however, not just another phrase to spin.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    It is difficult to imagine a disaster more inevitable and predictable than flooding of the ridiculously unsustainable man-made infrastructure atop the naturally shifting Mississippi delta. Bush was asleep at the switch yet again, and will no doubt be roundly chastised...in history books produced 30 years from now. But, it is far less likely to be a political "disaster" for him DURING his presidency.

    People so ignorant and gullible as to believe for years after that the Iraqi Baathists were behind 9-11, will have no problem believing that the New Orleans catastrophe was an "Act of God", whose reasons we cannot fathom. Or that he was "punishing" us for not supporting more blindly our great brave leader in the "war" against Saddam bin Laden.

    Until its farcical fraudulence became increasingly obvious, Iraq was an excellent distraction from W's bungled domestic messes -corporate crime, a spendthrift fiscal policy, environmental give-aways, a non-energy policy, etc.. (At least it was for the fake-Christian fools which were successfully targeted in swing states during the 2004 election.) Now, the chance for the White House to do actually do something useful for Americans in need could well prove a great distraction from the disaster in Iraq.

    Spineless Congressional Democrats will probably again fail to press for meaningful investigations, genuine accountability, or workable reform, while instead opening the "floodgates" of taxpayer largess even wider, so that billions can be poured down a rat hole of unsustainable redevelopment. And the couch potatoes at home (pardon the mixed metaphor) will in all likelihood again fall -hook, line, and, sinker- for an evasive squandering of an opportunity for real change and improvement.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    I fear you are very confused, Mr. Thomas. And have a serious reading disorder or sight problem to boot. Where did I talk about a "political windfall" from the New Orleans debacle ? Or say that Karl Rove (or G.W. Bush) was/were not smart ?

    I am opposed to hypocritical, egocentric and devious politicians. Which means I oppose a great many politicians. Whether they are Democrats, Republicans, Monarchists, Anarchists, Presbytarians, Puritans, Progressives, Right-winged or Lefthanded is immaterial. The subject of this page happens to be one particular politician and my comment was appropriately directed at that subject. Try to absorb that my message is not the formulaicly partisan one you very errroneously and sloppily assumed it to be.

    Nor have I got anything at all against real Christians. Those who believe in the words of Jesus in the Bible. About honoring the meek, the poor, the downtrodden, not the wealthy, powerful, and warlike. Those who don't try to pass off gas guzzling cars, mindless flag waving, and Gay-bashing as "Christian" or moral.

    Please read what I have written this time, and kindly take the rote, pre-programmed irrevelancies somewhere else where they might apply, if you are incapable of coming up with your own ideas.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Don't be ridiculous. Why was there no credible federal plan for helping with a prompt evacuation from a disaster that was utterly predictable and widely predicted over many decades ? Just because Democrats are roughly equally to blame for this monumental screw-up does not mean Bush had nothing to do with it. He will now play the great hero, pouring in billions of heavily wasted taxpayer money that all American grandchildren will have to one day pay for, and will get some justifiable credit for helping people out, but he undeniably screwed up big time by being so absurdly unprepared. Go ahead and pull the wool over your eyes, but this is an international disgrace for the United States that should not have happened, and would not have, had we had competent political leaders in Louisiana, on Capitol Hill, and yes (even though it is currently occupied by a Republican which phony so-called "Christians" must never criticize) in the White House too.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Robert,

    I don't see how America can pick up the pieces, and return to a trajectory we can have pride and confidence in, unless incompetent leaders are called to account and dealt with effectively.

    No matter what happens in the future, Colin Powell is destined to be remembered as the military commander with a famous (learned the lessons of 'Nam) "doctine" and also as the spineless foreign secretrary who mouthed BS to the UN rather than take a stand against the cynical and corrupt demolition of every point of his own doctrine in his chief act of public policy. It is difficult to imagine my ever voting for him after that supreme act of public cowardice and/or foolish loyalty, no matter what apologies he makes long after it is too late to save the pottery in the barn, or even the structural integrity of the barn itself.

    I did vote with reluctance for John Kerry in Nov 2004, despite his spinelessness in voting for the Iraq War blank check two years prior, but only because the need to punish hypocrisy and incompetency was so much higher on the other side. I doubt the choice will be as stark in 2008 although Colin and/or Hillary could change that.

    Looking back, perhaps the most grevious result of the asinine Impeachment of Clinton's Private Parts in 1998-99 was resulting bi-partisan consensus that only winning mattered. What Clinton did in the Oval Office was okay because his only punishment was being slung with unfair mud. The only thing wrong with what Henry Hyde and his Youthfully Indiscrete Hypocrites did was to pick a fight they should have know they would lose. Can you imagine a prosecutor like Walsh with a budget like Starr's and an open-ended fishing license being able to subpeona Rummy, Cheney, Rove, and the frat boy WITHOUT his minders, and then handing the dossier to the New York Times and the Congress ? Instead we have had to rely on the good judgement of the general public and that seems to be all but moribund.

    Accountability and a much lower tolerance of incompetence. I don't see things getting better without them.

    PCK


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    The link does not work, but even if the quote is real, it says nothing about this "personal appeal" coming 48 hours before the storm "hit". And so what if Junior Bush did "plead" 48 hours ahead. What kind of cockamamie excuse is that ? The most powerful man in the world BEGGING a local mayor of the 30th largest city in the country to take action in response to the greatest natural disaster to strike the country in a century !!

    He should have been prepared ahead of time with a plan for action. He was not even close to being prepared. There is no excuse for this ineptitude. It does not matter a tinkers damm whether John Kerry, Al Sparpeton, or Donald Duck would have done worse in his place. Just as the asinine and pitiful Republican (mostly) excuse that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were no big deal because after all our boys weren't chopping peoples heads off in front of movie cameras was no excuse.

    No matter what you think of his personality, his religion, his hobbies, or his political positions, there is no escaping the reality that G. W. Bush was and remains a lousy leader, and therefore a lousy president. Even if Clinton was a 1000 times worse, and JFK an adulterous fiend and axe-murderer, and Reagan a genius and son of God, that has ZERO relevance upon W's demonstrable incompetence.


    Robert F. Koehler - 9/11/2005


    I have gone full circle with either party and reject phony Liberals (demo's) and lying Conservatives (repub's). As far as I'm concerned the so-called poles of left and right in US politics have for decades lead America down a path that leads nowhere. I fiercely believe in a reckoning and champion "that the incompetent need to be called to account." If the truly guilty should be sacrificed on altars of their infamy or made to bear the crosses they dearly deserve to hang from, you will find me standing before them and fervently singing Dillions refrain: "How does it feeeel"....mother******.

    America's only hope now is to orchestrate her "fall" into as soft a landing as can be managed from her precarious & unsustainable perch, but this will take a kind of leadership totally absent within the current administration. Last Friday retired General Colin Powell was interviewed by Barbara Walters on 20/20 who took responsibility for being wrong concerning his role in validating the justifications for war with Iraq (though he still thinks toppling Saddam needed being done). I'll also say he artfully laid a few barbs (harpoon sized as per what he believed or didn't believe about Saddam & Osama) into this administration, notwithstanding all his professions of loyalty. He also declaimed any interest in running for President. I can believe the former but have trouble buying into the latter. Are we seeing an early attempt to rehabilitate Powell's reputation? If Powell can be rehabilitated and forgiven by the public is he electable? Is Powell or a person like him the kind of leader the nation needs to steer the ship of state thru todays and tomorrows uncertain & deadly waters?

    I don't know, but what I do know and said long ago on this mess-board concerning George Bush as President, Commander in Chief and a leader of men, one may as well scream with all his/her might: "Its All Over Except for the Shout," swallow the muzzle end of a revolver and pull the trigger. From the start of this fools presidency I am more than just non-partisan, or the worst status of all, a whore commonly known as an independent. I have renounced all former loyalties and declared my free agency. Where that leads, what or who I wind up supporting I have no way of knowing, but the traditional landscapes from where America has drawn her leaders are vast wastelands of aridity and rot. There is nothing there but ferrymen to ruin, suffering and death.


    Robert F. Koehler - 9/10/2005


    I'll not defend against the charge of "lacking in substantive historical factual backing," because it is solidly true. I am not a historian. I do not possess the kinds of knowledge that a rigorous and extensive education in the liberal arts provides. So I know that the requirements of proof a scholar would naturally require I am way short in the skills of supplying. This is not an excuse, its just a fact. As a matter of fact, characterizing my views as "theory" is a pleasant & humbling surprise.

    What I do have are my personal experiences, which of course has its problems being that these are anecdotal and therefor suspect by its subjective nature. In some regards one should also be very careful in oralizing real events & happenings, lest the story-teller land him/herself in big trouble. As for instance there currently is a 2 year old court battle going on within an issue advocacy organization, which has current & former politicians on one side, aggrieved members on the other, with all viciously locked in battle at each others throats. The smearing and heated public airing of this spectacle has lead to charges of slander and libelous suits of which I am no innocent and have played my part in these affairs (though I was wiser than most in controlling my tongue). Paraphrasing a philosopher I would say "with the profoundest of all inner certainties" politics is an extraordinarily dirty business. With very rare exceptions (just to be safe because I have never known or met any) there is nothing more vile or unholy in all creation than politicians and their hordes of boot-lickers, lackeys, minions, quislings & stooges.

    Consequently, when I speak of elites (in all their forms, not just political) I see these interesting animals as but one part of the natural development of classes, order, society and the peculiar politics and governing systems that develop within various cultures & peoples. In technical or analytical jargon I would classify the varieties of the above as systems where each class (not just the wealthy & powerful) exercises and pursues their interests to their maximum advantage by all and every available means possible (politics being but merely one vile path among many {nor are all paths vile}). The concentration or diffusion of powers within these systems obviously are manifestations of the unique qualities, morals, culture, history, etc inherent within these systems. Early on Thucydides described power and its pursuit as the interaction between "interests, advantage and honor," and when in the throes of "stasis" or, internecine crisis or, class struggle the first to go is "honor." Of all the political pamphlets, treatises and books read Thucydides admonitions and observations I have found to be the most relevant, insightful & useful as the core of a general doctrine of first principles. Miachavelli has his uses but is nowhere at the top of my list.

    I don't believe I have ever mentioned or said anything about republics on this forum. Its also helpful to understand what I mean by left and right since I utterly reject how various ideologies and parties use these terms in describing themselves or others. To me the nature of a political system depends squarely on the issue of power, how its used and where its concentrated, if at all. I see the two extremes of left and right as fierce tyrannies, where on the 'right' all power is in the hands of one or a few leaders or, as in the case of the 'left' all power is literally & virtually in the hands of the citizens of the state. On the right kingships, dictatorships, one party rule through cults of the personality, whether religious or secular have been the general norm of historic man. Pure people power on the left has happened successfully only one time in the course of history (Athens) that I know of, though there have been many other attempts that always ended up badly (French Revolution) on the right. Republics can mean many different things to many different peoples because it's a blend or synthesis between the extremes. Obviously republics can range anywhere from authoritarian to equalitarian in nature & practice. The most benevolent regimes are those that are republics (US) or parliamentarian (Europe), where long held, historically derived and honored traditions of liberal principles, institutions and the rule of law are solid foundations in such systems. I want to rigorously emphasize here that I am speaking from a western civilizational point of view only. There are as many visions of justice, rights & morality and the means to secure these as there are peoples of the world, let alone the fact that the west itself does not speak with a unified voice either. And it should also be spate out that though the US lives by one standard internally, but behaves by an entirely different standard externally.

    As for the commonality; the mad brained herds that dare call themselves the American People, I am in full agreement in every aspect, particular and description you have defined and tagged them with. When I was a kid the local library was a favored & welcomed spot where I spent many a quiet and productive day. Not then or for a long time before has there been any excuse for bigotry & ignorance in the US of A, especially in todays cyber world the unwarranted excuse is even less excusable. But having said that I believe all the denizens of the US are deserving of the harsh judgments of the world, not for what we have done, but principally for what we have not done and failed to do. Arrogantly & loudly we have bullied and trumpeted throughout the world our noble principles & values as the highest of universal standards, but have remorselessly fallen far short of the very lofty bars we have set, especially in our relationships and treatment of others. The only people who fail to see this are so-called Americans, whereas the rest of the world cannot help but wretch from time to time at the spectacles we often present to the world. I would say lately we've outdone ourselves handsomely this time around, making one Jim-Dandy of a circus act out of ourselves, our country and of every avowed belief self-acclaimed Americans supposedly hold dear. As a people we have long lost the common good sense to be embarrassed. This thought informs that we have not yet sunk deep enough to hit bottom.


    Robert F. Koehler - 9/10/2005

    Your welcome Mr. Clarke.

    You can be sure the rich & powerful have no need to "strong arm" or use "force" in prompting people to do anything that serves their interests to the disadvantage of the peoples own. If those who rule had any desire to destroy anyone the last thing they would need to do is use violence or sanction with extreme prejudice. If the mighty know one way to ruin a person they know a million. By and large such are mostly too shrewd to use crude methods of primitive coercion and is one solid good reason why they are the rich & powerful. Just consider all the party faithful on both the right and the left who will violate every dearly held belief to support their parties candidate, ignore every grievous lie, bald deceit or even heinous treason by their gods, just so that the other saps gods never gets the chance to discredit or bump his own. Does the party regular or supporter ever realize that he is nothing more than a contributor or a money farmer? That the part he plays is nothing less than that of the stooge when he trumpets the party line and talking points without question? That he never looks more the fool & liar when he trys passing off such as his own views and opinions?

    Convincing individuals to purchase vehicles they don't need or, living in environments that are dangerous to their health & welfare or, turning sentient human life into brain dead zombies plastered in front of video screens or, crafting Osama into any role they can imagine and having the masses slop it up is small potatoes compared to bamboozling a quarter of the voting electorate into willing party suckers and saps. So long as there are no gross slip ups the boys and girls on top have got one hell of a racket going. But the left and the right only have 1/4 of the electorate to keep another 1/4 divided & confused, and the balance of the other 1/2 so apathetic or disgusted to the point of none participation. Here is where the game can sometimes get a little cheeky as Clinton himself learned during his first mid-term election. American governance is republican governance, not democracy or representative democracy or any other kind of demos-ocracy. Its a republic with all its faults and warts. The medium of power through which the masses can actually affect governance in any meaningful way is only through the medium of populism, which by no stretch of the imagination is people power. Nor is populism party power or party ideology or any other kind or form of partyism. Populist movements don't happen all the time, but it does manifest itself often enough when our overlords & gods get a little too big for their britches & boots like the current goof in the White House


    Robert F. Koehler - 9/9/2005

    Mr. Clark

    Your artful witticisms redeem any differences I have with you.

    It appears Mr. Widmer's article and the points he makes has gotten lost in the petty views and bad habits of partisanship often displayed on mess-boards. Widmer believes and makes the case that George the Younger is in some big & brewing trouble. That Katrina could be the "perfect storm" that translates into the 'straw that broke the camels back' and the undoing of this administration.

    Republics are peculiar institutions. They can be good or bad, easily preempted by selfish interests or, fiercely defended by a worthy citizenry where elections can be legitimate expressions of the peoples will. Elections can also be stolen by vote buying, manipulation of institutions or outright voter fraud (Diebolding the latest manifestation). But no matter how corrupt & perverted the leadership a republic become, the smart ones among them rightly dread and fear the rise of movement populism whenever it grips the gangs & mobs among the lowly herds. Though die-bolding has its uses, in the face of a widely angered and aroused citizenry only fools would rely upon and use it. Both parties are grieving over the upcoming mid-term elections with repubs experiencing acid-reflex due to all the troubles they have caused themselves, and the demo's are suffering in quiet desperation that their rank and file may force them to inherit the mess.

    We may all shortly come to experience the real purpose for George's re-election to the Presidency of the United States. Its my modest suspicion that the powerful who rule America had decided to keep George, just in case they had need for a sacrificial lamb to placate the very real future possibility of enraged countrymen from "sea to shining sea." As I had alluded to before, you may have all the time in the world to write that historical classic concerning the richly deserved & ignoble fate of Americas First Goof in Chief.


    Robert F. Koehler - 9/9/2005

    Mr. Clark

    Your artful witticisms redeem any differences I have with you.

    It appears Mr. Widmer's article and the points he makes has gotten lost in the petty views and bad habits of partisanship often displayed on mess-boards. Widmer believes and makes the case that George the Younger is in some big & brewing trouble. That Katrina could be the "perfect storm" that translates into the 'straw that broke the camels back' and the undoing of this administration.

    Republics are peculiar institutions. They can be good or bad, easily preempted by selfish interests or, fiercely defended by a worthy citizenry where elections can be legitimate expressions of the peoples will. Elections can also be stolen by vote buying, manipulation of institutions or outright voter fraud (Diebolding the latest manifestation). But no matter how corrupt & perverted the leadership a republic become, the smart ones among them rightly dread and fear the rise of movement populism whenever it grips the gangs & mobs among the lowly herds. Though die-bolding has its uses, in the face of a widely angered and aroused citizenry only fools would rely upon and use it. Both parties are grieving over the upcoming mid-term elections with repubs experiencing acid-reflex due to all the troubles they have caused themselves, and the demo's are suffering in quiet desperation that their rank and file may force them to inherit the mess.

    We may all shortly come to experience the real purpose for George's re-election to the Presidency of the United States. Its my modest suspicion that the powerful who rule America had decided to keep George, just in case they had need for a sacrificial lamb to placate the very real future possibility of enraged countrymen from "sea to shining sea." As I had alluded to before, you may have all the time in the world to write that historical classic concerning the richly deserved & ignoble fate of Americas First Goof in Chief.


    Robert F. Koehler - 9/9/2005

    Mr. Clark

    Your artful witticisms redeem any differences I have with you.

    It appears Mr. Widmer's article and the points he makes has gotten lost in the petty views and bad habits of partisanship often displayed on mess-boards. Widmer believes and makes the case that George the Younger is in some big & brewing trouble. That Katrina could be the "perfect storm" that translates into the 'straw that broke the camels back' and the undoing of this administration.

    Republics are peculiar institutions. They can be good or bad, easily preempted by selfish interests or, fiercely defended by a worthy citizenry where elections can be legitimate expressions of the peoples will. Elections can also be stolen by vote buying, manipulation of institutions or outright voter fraud (Diebolding the latest manifestation). But no matter how corrupt & perverted the leadership a republic become, the smart ones among them rightly dread and fear the rise of movement populism whenever it grips the gangs & mobs among the lowly herds. Though die-bolding has its uses, in the face of a widely angered and aroused citizenry only fools would rely upon and use it. Both parties are grieving over the upcoming mid-term elections with repubs experiencing acid-reflex due to all the troubles they have caused themselves, and the demo's are suffering in quiet desperation that their rank and file may force them to inherit the mess.

    We may all shortly come to experience the real purpose for George's re-election to the Presidency of the United States. Its my modest suspicion that the powerful who rule America had decided to keep George, just in case they had need for a sacrificial lamb to placate the very real future possibility of enraged countrymen from "sea to shining sea." As I had alluded to before, you may have all the time in the world to write that historical classic concerning the richly deserved & ignoble fate of Americas First Goof in Chief.


    Thomas W Hagedorn - 9/9/2005

    Lefties seem gleeful at the "damage" that Katrina is doing to the Bush presidency. First, I don't think he will take a hit from this. Who do Americans blame? 38% blame no one, 25% state and local officials, 18% FEMA and 13% Bush. The mayor and the governor were incompetant. You would never conclude that if you are reading the NYTimes or listening to NPR or watching CNN. You would if you get your info from WSJournal, talk radio or Fox News. Lefties may not like those sources of news, but they are beating the crap out of their competitors for eyes and ears. Libertarians are the ones that should be encouraged by this. Government, at all levels, clearly performed poorly. Second, if Bush does take a hit in the polls, so what? He will not be on the ballot in 2008. He has majorities in both the House and Senate.

    Rudy Giuliani's prospects just moved up several notches.


    James Spence - 9/8/2005

    "The earth is a great self regulating mechanism, thanks to the biochemical interdependency of green plants and animals." Yes it is, as long as humans don’t keep mucking it up and they can and they are and they will continue to.

    That essentially none of global warming comes from C0(2) is still not completely certain. I’m too busy to continue here providing links on the CO(2) issue, I have biological olive gardens to manage in Italy. You are obviously not a scientist yourself and all the information you have gathered has been cherry-picked to convince me what you believe to be true. I admit to one great mistake here and that is letting you draw me into a discussion that’s not winnable for either side at this point. If you are right then congratulations, you will be famous. We’re all cherry-pickers to some degree but you should never claim with absolute certainty what others claim. Your reliance on Lomberg approaches the believer’s reliance on the Messiah as the final word. Nevertheless, good luck.


    Frederick Thomas - 9/8/2005


    By the way, when you point out a typo and then criticize me for not being detail oriented, I suggest that you NOT do so in a sentence which contains grammar errors ("your / you're" etc).

    I note that you repeatedly use logical fallacies to disparage Prof. Lomborg.

    (1. mischaracterization:)

    "Bjørn Lomborg is denouncing the scare stories put about by ideologues and promulgated by the media that the world is falling apart."

    If you include democratic party leadership as ideologues I may agree, but I suspect you do not. For the record, Mr. Lomborg's main target is the UN envirmental bureaucrats looking for a big pay increase because of Kyoto programs.

    (2. slander)

    "this kid with dubious professional training is committed to rubbishing the views of hand-picked environmentalists"

    "Dubious professional training?" Are you kidding? The Professor is a statistician with the best of qualifications, and a political scientist. For a purely political discussion, these qualifications are perfect. More important, he has not been refuted on any of his assertions, which is the only academic qualification which counts. I assure you that none of the assorted gaggle of UN bureaucrats, greenie politicians and pseudo scientists whom he skewers are better qualified academically.

    "hand-picked environmentalists?" While I am not sure what this is exactly (pears? apples? cotton?) you should be aware that an "environmentalist" is a politician, not a scientist. I believe you think otherwise. I also wonder who exactly did the picking?

    Thanks again for your comment.



    Frederick Thomas - 9/8/2005

    Mr, Spence, you missed some really key points:

    I did not say the earth is not warming. In fact I stated clearly that it has warmed a fraction of a degree C over the past 20 years. But I identified the correct cause, which you missed utterly

    I clearly stated as the centerpoint of my comment that essentially all warming over the past 20 years came from increased solar activity, and essentially NONE from CO(2).

    This means that you can Kyoto yourself into a reduction in CO(2) emmisions and it will make no difference. The whole thing is a political boondoggle, which you embrace.

    I guess you forgot to read my comment before responding. You are forgiven.

    By the way, Lomborg ("the kid") is a many degreed statistician and political scientist. His statistical methodology is as technically correct as the UN climate politicians' is contrived. Of course, their object is to make big new jobs for themselves, as climate cops, while Lomborg's is to tell the truth.

    Contrary to your slight, he has exactly the right qualifications to enter a political discussion of a statistical subject, which "global warming" surely is.

    I note that he covered himself perfectly by using only UN climate data, for his analysis, which only works for global warming if you deliberately skew the figures. I also note that the Cassandra lobby has been able to refute a single conclusion. Would you say that Al Gore is better qualified?

    By the way, the only reason why I mentioned the Hollywood air heads is that so many of them chimed in with predictable comments attacking Bush on Kyoto, because of Katrina. Perhaps you were not aware of this as well.

    Thank you for your comments.


    James Spence - 9/7/2005

    By the way I forgot to add , its Lomborg, not Limborg. Can see your not detail oriented, so your probably not be a scientist. Bjørn Lomborg is denouncing the scare stories put about by ideologues and promulgated by the media that the world is falling apart. I agree with Bjørn on this point but this kid with dubious professional training is committed to rubbishing the views of hand-picked environmentalists, frequently the very silly ones such as Ehrlich, whom professionals have been ignoring for decades." But one has to be a cynic when a fellow like Bjørn when someone with a passion for global obscures a lot of important details.


    James Spence - 9/7/2005

    Great spin… but many of the articles I found at your link say the earth is in fact warming. In science there are always uncertainties but it doesn’t mean everything is uncertain. There are dozens of examples which say there is global warming so I only have time for a few. Maybe the misunderstanding here is that you think I meant massive global warming.

    Is the climate warming?
    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration answers yes to this complex question.
    http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/globalwarming.html

    "Scientists reckon some parts of the Arctic are warning ten times faster than the rest of the planet. "
    http://www.channel4.com/news/special-reports/special-reports-storypage.jsp?id=138

    Is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency part of the Hollywood propaganda machine? This is what they have to say:
    "Warming has occurred in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and over the oceans. Confirmation of 20th-century global warming is further substantiated by melting glaciers, decreased snow cover in the northern hemisphere and even warming below ground."
    http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/climateuncertainties.html

    "Fish living in freezing Antarctic waters can adapt to rising temperatures and may be unfazed by climate change, new research shows."
    http://abc.net.au/science/news/enviro/EnviroRepublish_1353382.htm

    The Sierra Club also has their say but I have a feeling as a source they also are not valid in your eyes so I haven’t bothered to add a link.

    According to the range of possible forcing scenarios, and taking into account uncertainty in climate model performance, the (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) IPCC projects a global temperature increase of anywhere from 1.4 - 5.8°C from 1990-2100.
    http://www.ipcc.ch/index.htm

    Of course, you can retrieve sources that equally refute this evidence.
    If you hadn’t dumbed down the issue of global warming with the Hollywood comment I wouldn’t have bothered. It seems a waste of time to argue over this.


    Frederick Thomas - 9/7/2005


    Thank you for your comments.

    I assume you are not a scientist with specific knowledge, but support global warming because it is politically easier, and will respond accordingly.

    No I am not kidding. If I want a scientific opinion which is reliable, the very last person on earth I would consult is Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand, or for that matter Al Gore or the green party. You would be wise to follow my example in that.

    Since you are clearly not aware, please refer to "Science" magazine re: the three recent studies which make CO(2) "global warming" unlikely. The proponents of "global warming" are trying to spin these studies away, but they have no real answer.

    For a non-technical summary, see:

    "Does Increased Solar..." at

    http://www.globalwarming.org/

    These studies are not really new information, but they follow their information to its logical conclusion regarding climate change, and that is new.

    The studies all measure and evaluate cyclical solar flare activity, which have been at a higher than normal level for the past 20 years.

    More importantly, they precisely measure the actual surface air warming from the increase in solar flare activity in watts/M(2), and compare it to the warming increase potential of increased CO(2) concentrations.

    The result is that essentially all of the observed warming of the last 20 years has come from the solar activity, and almost none from CO(2). Since that period of 20 years of warming (<1 C)is the only reliable element of the "proof" for "global warming," CO(2) cannot be the cause. QED.

    Please also refer to Limborg, "The Sceptical Environmentalist," for the only reliable non-politicized statistical analysis of the UNs own data on climate change.

    Please also consult your common sense. If global warming is caused by man, why was the earth possibly at its warmest about 125 million years ago? You will recall that man did not evolve until less than 2 million years ago, and the industrial revolution started less than 200 years ago.

    This earlier warming occurred when lush forests in the swamps of Northern Alaska were so dense that we get substantial oil from that area today, and dinosaurs thrived there.

    Ditto Antarctica, which has oil as well and was attached at the time to the lower part of Pangaea, while the Americas were glued to the left part of today's Europe and Africa.

    The likely cause of so much warming is the same as what we see today: a change in the sun's activity. Let us also agree that CO(2) is the oxygen of green plants, without which they would all die.

    Increased CO(2) is the best tonic for rejuvenating forests, grasslands, etc. and as they rejuvenate, they also absorb the excess CO(2), and produce as a byproduct O(2), which we breathe.

    This process, culminating in the Cambrian event about 600 million years ago, made life for multicelled animals (like us) possible.

    The earth is a great self regulating mechanism, thanks to the biochemical interdependency of green plants and animals.

    There may be other reasons to oppose CO(2), but if so let's state it honestly. The CO(2) global warming proposition is not proven, and may indeed be disproven as of today.

    And yes, I am serious.

    Thank you for your comments!


    James Spence - 9/7/2005

    "there was nobody from Hollywood to foolishly complain about global warming."


    Ah,so it’s Hollywood today that’s spreading all those silly rumors about global warming?

    Your are joking aren’t you?


    Frederick Thomas - 9/6/2005

    The worst hurricaine to ever strike the US mainland makes Katrina look inconsequential by comparison. It was named Camille, and the President was Richard M. Nixon.

    Camille came ashore 50 miles east of New Orleans, with a bar of 26.85, the lowest recorded by a hurricaine at landfall. It had the highest storm surge, over 30 feet, which inundated communities hundreds of miles inland.

    New Orleans was smitten, but Bay St Louis endured the eye of the storm, and was completly obliterated. No building was left standing, the pieces of structures were found in treetops many miles inland, pushed by winds like those of a tornado. The same fate met all the coastal cities.

    At the Alabama Test Facility, which had a blockhouse for rocket tests, the anerometer recorded winds in excess of 230 mph before it was destroyed. This was not a puny force 3, it was instead the strongest force 5 at landfall, of all.

    Cars were blown through the air like toys, and it continued for hours and hours, until the land was scoured clear of most structures and drowned.

    But the people were mainly not there.

    The difference was at the state and local level. Louisiana Governor Thompson had the entire state police force on the job well beforehand, likewise his neighboring governors, and the city of New Orleans was prepared. The New Orleans police were actually on duty, in 1969, unlike recently when they fled instead of doing their jobs.

    Evacuation of coastal areas was effective, as it was enforced toughly by the police. Schoolbuses, which were left in their lots to be destroyed by Katrina, were an important part of the evac plan, which started 3 days ahead. The country was not offended by a mayor who should have used his schoolbuses to evacuate, crying in front of the heavy loss of life which he had neglected to prevent.

    The buses drove through the backwater areas with police, who forced -or helped- people to get on and drive west. Looters were not well treated.

    Nixon contributed only two US battalions, which was the least important component, as it should be. The local and state response was like that of New York to 9/11. It was as effective as the recent local response was ineffective.

    To find something which sheds light on what happened in 2005, you need to go back to August 17, 1969. Tricky Dick had a much more interesting experience than the current president, and a much more effective result, because the localities did their part. They surely did not in the recent case.

    Oh, and because it was 1969, there was nobody from Hollywood to foolishly complain about global warming.



    Richard Fell - 9/6/2005

    I should make this clear. There is no hatred in me for Bush or his companions nor of this country’s previous Administrations. Wouldn’t even be put off having a beer with the President and discussing a ball game. On the other hand, what politicians do at all levels of government is purely realpolitik, and political cutthroat instinct. Unfortunately, the worst consequences of national and local government policies fall on the poor, the marginal people of society, and the middle class. The national interest comes first. Protection of largely poor and black populated areas have never been high on the list of priorities.

    The Bush administration, the administrations before him, and the entire collective of local, state, and federal government had something to do with the funding in the Gulf states at one time or other. This doesn’t necessarily mean, as you stated, there would have been less lives lost if all the projects had been properly funded and completed. The fault lies collectively, even with the apathetic voters of this country.

    The outrage and the point here is that, at all the local, state, and federal levels, political maneuvering and dawdling has continually hindered progress since at least 1882 at the expense of the people in developing an effective system for storms and flooding. The Dutch figured it out in the fifties. Our nit-picking about new construction, upgraded construction, whatever type construction, is irrelevant. What’s important is the intent and to staying the course. When Administrations cut budgets for storm and flood control systems and degrade wetlands for corporate interest systematically the truth of what is being done comes home to roost eventually and Katrina did just that.


    John H. Lederer - 9/5/2005

    Mr. Fell,



    It is at this point, clear that nothing that the Bush Administration (or the Clinton Administration, or Bush 1) did or did not do in regard to funding or not funding levees or flood control, had any causal effect with the levee failure of this particular disaster.

    A failure to recognize this point, and an insistence to ignore fact in a dogged determination that somehow, in some way, it must be pinned on the Bush administration, if shared by a large number of people, eliminates any possibility of a rational political process that results in reasonable policy judgments. Political hatred is neither a sound basis for engineering, nor for cost-benefit analysis.

    If you want to cast your eye on fault answer this. The levees that breached had been recently rebuilt to resist a Category 3 hurricane. At 8:00 am on the 29th Katrina was a category 4 hurricane 40 miles southeast of New Orleans. At the next report, 10:00 am , Katrina was a category 3 35 miles east-northeast of New Orleans. The maximum winds in New Orleans itself were about 100 mph (Category 2).
    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2005/pub/al122005.public.027.shtml?

    Now the locations are for the eye of the hurricane, and the storm surge is largely dependent on the wind and pressure effects on the gulf and Lake Pontchartrain not New Orleans. However, it is also true that any engineering structure is built with a safety factor. Moreover, all three breaches were apparently of the same type of new construction, a concrete flood wall.

    Why did the newly construction fail at what appears to be a borderline category 3-4 stress? Why did they fail and the old levees not fail?

    (No increased funding, unless done in the Carter or Ford Administration would have made the levee system adequate for a Category 4-5. That is a project estimated to take 30 years.)


    Richard Fell - 9/5/2005

    Also let's forget not the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project in 1995. Army Corps of Engineers put $430 million into upgrading weakened levees and building pumping stations but the Bush administration stopped that unfinished project in 2003.


    Richard Fell - 9/5/2005

    I understand. I also understand the summation. Let's worry about the victims and rebuild because that should not be about politics but... sometimes it's never to early to drive a point home. Cannot help not remembering that 2001 FEMA warning about the risk of a devastating hurricane hitting the people of New Orleans and about civil and army engineers who warned for years about the consequences of failure to strengthen the flood control system but which the administration nevertheless cut millions from these projects.


    John H. Lederer - 9/4/2005

    My apolgies...I meant for this to be seen as a general statement. I did not intend for it be positioned so it appeared as a direct response to the preceding comment.


    John H. Lederer - 9/4/2005

    "To review the wild, contradictory, and utterly opportunistic charges from the administration's critics is to enter a realm of madness. . . .Is there not something bizarre about their willingness to fire off accusation after accusation, each contradicting the last? The disaster was caused by the Bush administration's failure to protect the environment from global warming .... no, no, it was caused by the administration's refusal to manipulate the environment by funding more levees to control the Mississippi River .... it's Iraq, no it's budget cuts, no it's wetlands, and on and on and on.

    Good God, what is wrong with these people? Will they ever learn to see somebody else's misfortune as something more than their political opportunity?"

    http://frum.nationalreview.com/


    Richard Fell - 9/4/2005

    The NYT article states that the levee was recently shored up "upgraded". From what I read at other sources this still didn’t meet the standards that studies over the years tried to point out. Although the article mentions the upgrade it also gives the reason why it wasn’t done properly. Budget cuts. " In an interview last night, Mr. Naomi said the cuts had made it impossible to complete contracts for vital upgrades that were part of the long-term plan to renovate the system." Vital upgrades. For the protection of the people. These budget cuts can be attributable to politics and the priority of big development corporations over the wetlands and the true needs of the people, as usual. Yes, there does seem to be a confusion about the category the levee was built for. I’ve looked over several sources with slight contradictions. At the end of the day it would be silly to specifically "blame" this administration but the ball was dropped, when we knew all along that sooner or later a disaster like this would happen, when plans for this possibility were put off.

    Design for a cat 5 would have been expensive but not as expensive as the toll to be paid now. Still, I predict lessons will not be fully learned. For one excuse or other, a cat 5 system may never be implemented.

    "The loss of protective wetlands is largely a result of controlling flooding by the levee system and for navigation, not development in the sense of houses." Don’t have enough information to dispute that.

    and .. "It is a paradox -- the more flood control one does, the more one will keep the wetlands from being replenished by flood deposited silt." I agree. In addition, only wildlife should live in that region. Not humans.


    John H. Lederer - 9/4/2005

    Regarding your first question:

    "...No one expected that weak spot to be on a canal that, if anything, had received more attention and shoring up than many other spots in the region. It did not have broad berms, but it did have strong concrete walls.

    Shea Penland, director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, said that was particularly surprising because the break was "along a section that was just upgraded."

    "It did not have an earthen levee," Dr. Penland said. "It had a vertical concrete wall several feel thick."..."
    http://nytimes.com/2005/09/01/national/nationalspecial/01levee.html

    "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that a lack of funding for hurricane-protection projects around New Orleans did not contribute to the disastrous flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina.

    In a telephone interview with reporters, corps officials said that although portions of the flood-protection levees remain incomplete, the levees near Lake Pontchartrain that gave way--inundating much of the city--were completed and in good condition before the hurricane." Chicago Tribune 09/01/05

    =============

    Something taht bothers me considerably is that all the people in charge of the levee keep saying that it was designed for a category 3, not a 4 or 5, followed with the statement that Katrina was a 4 at landfall or "was a 5".

    At New Orleans Katrina was a category 3.

    Designing for a 4 or 5 becomes progressively more expensive. Not a little more expensive, but hugely expensive.

    The loss of protective wetlands is largely a result of controlling flooding by the levee system and for navigation, not development in the sense of houses.

    It is a paradox -- the more flood control one does, the more one will keep the wetlands from being replenished by flood deposited silt.




    Richard Fell - 9/4/2005

    Levees were recently constructed? How recently? Please direct me to that source. Point is, engineers up and down the Mississippi River talked about this for years what would happen if hit by something like Katrina. Flood walls were also too low. A civil engineering spokesman said it was unclear why the walls failed. In other words they underestimated the strength of a strong hurricane. Also, the natural marshlands that protect New Orleans from surrounding waters could also have been protected from degradation, the 2050 Plan back in 1998. But you know when it comes time to fund the money… computer models predicted everything that happened this last week so why the unpreparedness? The finger points not only to Bush but also to previous administrations, Democrat and Republicans alike. You’ve probably heard this but the $14 billion 2050 plan just might have saved this country the $75 billion it’s now going to cost. People at all levels, especially of the political class, should have their heads crudely placed on platters.


    John H. Lederer - 9/4/2005

    4 days late:
    http://www.gov.state.la.us/2005%20Executive%20orders/31execEmergencyEvacuationbyBuses.pdf


    John H. Lederer - 9/3/2005

    I'll try the link again:

    http://www.nola.com/newsflash/louisiana/index.ssf?/base/news-18/1125239940201382.xml&;storylist=louisiana


    here is another copy:

    http://www.wwltv.com/local/stories/WWL082805catastrophe.f4dd3f.html

    And you are right about the time frame -- I misread my calendar. The evacuation was ordered Sunday morning. The storm hit Sunday night.


    John H. Lederer - 9/3/2005

    The source was a news conference. There should be a transcript somewhere, but here is an AP story, dated Friday the 28th of August:

    "Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding."

    http://www.nola.com/newsflash/louisiana/index.ssf?/base/news-18/1125239940201382.xml&;storylist=louisiana



    John H. Lederer - 9/3/2005

    But...

    One can agree with the general thrust of "we ought spend more on flood control", but spending, or lack of it simply was not the problem in New Orleans in this instance.

    The levees, or maor accurately, flood walls that replaced the levees, that broke were new -- they had recently been constructed and were part of the plan that had been completed.

    More money would have resulted in updated levees in other locations to replace levees that did not break.

    I know that there is a powerful political need to blame this disaster on Bush, but at least in regard to the breached levees, it just is not so.



    C A - 9/3/2005

    Do you have a source for this? I would greatly appreciate it.


    John H. Lederer - 9/3/2005

    Heroic? Hardly. But one act of Bush's was in retrospect probably the single best step he took.

    More than 48 hours before Katrina hit, Bush called Blanco and pled with her to get New Orleans evacyatred before teh storm. Blanco acknowledged that Bush had called and pled with her to evacuate, and she in turn had called Mayor Nagin.

    That single act probably did more than anything else to save life, because it seems likely to me, that absent that phone call there would have been no pre storm evacuation. Nagin, for whatever reason, was strangely reluctant, and when he ordered the evacuation seemed to do so almost grudgingly.


    dennisw w smith - 9/3/2005

    How does "a disaster that was utterly predictable and widely predicted over many decades" suddenly become the fault of an administration that has only been in power a few years?


    John H. Lederer - 9/2/2005

    This news article is from before the hurricane hit:
    ======================
    The mayor called the [evacuation] order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the city should. He exempted hotels from the evacuation order because airlines had already cancelled all flights.

    Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding."


    http://www.nola.com/newsflash/louisiana/index.ssf?/base/news-18/1125239940201382.xml&;storylist=louisiana

    And this photograph ticks me off. The evacuation for the poor before the storm failed reportedly because many people had no transportation out. It apparently never occurred to local officials that they had a vast fleet of busses fully available on a weekend, able to at least ten thousand per trip:
    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&;u=/050901/480/flpc21109012015


    Frederick Thomas - 9/2/2005

    Mr. Clark:

    I would like to express my appreciation for your comments on devious politicians. I have a smile on my face and think we may perhaps agree that such are responsible for much death and damage throughout history.

    Rudyard Kipling, "A Dead Statesman" (1924)

    "I could not dig; I dared not rob;
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine ghostly and defrauded young."

    "If any question why we died.
    Tell them, because our fathers lied."


    Mr. Clark, I despise all purveyors of large government, and Bush is not much better in that respect than the alternative. I admit that sometimes I get a little sensitive about the nasty verbiage which flies around in one direction or other, but mean nothing personal by it. I do enjoy your posts, even the "emotional" ones.




    Vernon Clayson - 9/2/2005

    It is silly to fault a president for a natural disaster and sillier to think that he can decree steps to recover from such an event, he is not a king, all functions involved must be handled according to prescribed procedures, the red tape cannot be cut entirely, it can only be hastened. Something of this dimension requires rules to follow and time to implement. The president, unlike God, cannot attend to every swallow that falls. Does anyone think that John Kerry or Al Gore could do any more?


    Richard Fell - 9/2/2005

    Mr. Thomas,

    Although they fail in brilliancy and profoundness, and what you kindly have meant as pearly words of wisdom, I too, nevertheless profusely thank you for your comments but it seems you fail to read the between the lines and see the irony of Mr. Clarke’s comments and you let those comments goad you (a "righty" like yourself? ) into garrulous retorts which have little to do with Mr. Widmer’s article. Mr. Widmer isn’t blaming Bush for the hurricane itself but for what Bush didn’t do to prevent more lives from being lost. As Mr. Widmer writes "The city’s flood control funding had been reduced by 44% since 2001. Weakening wetlands protections to favor developers also made the city far more vulnerable." There was a $71 million budget cut that, surprise, surprise, affected mostly the poorer class. This is an irresponsible lack of preparation, a lack of vision and compassion on the part of an administration whom you believe is so smart. Our politicians, who are elected by the people, are supposed to protect those people who elected them, even those poor people on the levee. But yes, on second thought, you are correct, this administration is the smartest in US history. Smart meaning clever enough to have put one way over your pre-programmed head.


    Richard Fell - 9/2/2005

    Although they fail in brilliancy and profoundness, and what you kindly have meant as pearly words of wisdom, I too, nevertheless profusely thank you for your comments but it seems you fail to read the between the lines and see the thrust of Mr. Clarke’s comments and you let those comments goad you (a "righty" like yourself? ) into garrulous retorts which have little to do with Mr. Widmer’s article. Mr. Widmer isn’t blaming Bush for the hurricane itself but for what Bush didn’t do to prevent more lives from being lost. As Mr. Widmer writes "The city’s flood control funding had been reduced by 44% since 2001. Weakening wetlands protections to favor developers also made the city far more vulnerable." There was a $71 million budget cut that, surprise, surprise, affected mostly the poorer class. This is an irresponsible lack of preparation, a lack of vision and compassion on the part of an administration whom you believe is so smart. Our politicians, who are elected by the people, are supposed to protect those people who elected them, even those poor people on the levee. But yes, on second thought, you are correct, this administration is the smartest in US history. Smart meaning clever enough to have put one way over your pre-programmed head.


    Oscar Chamberlain - 9/2/2005

    Actually, if the public perceives that Bush responded poorly it can hurt him, just as it hurt his father after Hurricane Andrew. [And Clinton really did make strengthening FEMA a priority; he deserves some credit for that.}


    John H. Lederer - 9/2/2005

    A little more information:

    The new concrete wall at the 17th St. Canal apparently failed when the buttresses gave way because of softened or eroded ground around them.

    The wall was either topped or seepage/boils under the wall destroyed the support.

    At least some of the other failures appear to have been of the same sort of concrete wall.

    The oft repeated statement of the local officials in charge of the levee (the Corps of engineers builds them, then turns them over to a fragmented system of local levee districts) is "They were designed for a Category 3, not for a Category 5".

    Katrina was category 3 during the time it hit New Orleans.

    Something peculiar appears to have happened if the wall was topped. Unless it was a low spot in levee elevation, one would have thought that the levees to be topped would have been those facing Lake Pontchartrain which would have been fully exposed to waves and the surge. The failures however, were in quite well protected places.

    It appears that the failures also occurred well after the peak of the storm, though this might just be that reporting was slow. If the failure was well after the storm forces were declining, that might be an indication of water traveling under the curtain walls -- failures of other levees due to undergound movement of water often occur well after the flood peak because the process is a slow one.

    If topped, one possibility might be that some sort of unanticpated localized wave/surge action could have caused very high water at particular points. A canal is a restricted channel, and, for instance, a reflected wave or surge meeting an incoming wave or surge can result in a very high peak of water at the point of interaction.

    I am sure we will eventually find out more, but I do find it very troubling, if, as early reports indicate, all the failures were of similar types of relatively new design and construction.

    We should be cautious in one regard. The levee/drainage system of New Orleans is a very large complex system. Under increasing stress it is going to fail at one or more weak points. Analysis of those weak points will find "something wrong" there, but the analysis may overlook the fact that had those points been stronger, other points would have failed under just a touch more stress. Emphasizing the particular points of failure as a guide for future design may thus be an error.

    In New Orleans case, the levee system is not maintainable over the long term. New Orleans has been subsiding for over a century because the source of new silt has been walled off by the levees. The overall danger also increases because the marshland bariers have declined because of a lack of accretion caused by the chanelization of the river.



    A more fundamental change in the equation is needed than higher and higher levees and bigger and bigger pumps.


    Contrast this with the delta of the Atchafalaya -- the course that left to nature the Mississippi would now follow to the Gulf. Despite some problems caused by various human engineering projects, the Atchafalya, limited by dams on the Mississippi's outlet to a maximum of 30% of the flow of the Mississppi, has a delta sytem that is accreting land.






    Frederick Thomas - 9/2/2005

    Thank you for your comments, but it seems that that some of them may be counter-productive to your desires.

    "It is difficult to imagine a disaster more inevitable..etc."

    Presumably you would favor the elimination of Amsterdam, Bangkok, Venice and other "below sea level" cities, all of which have suffered calamities over the years. New Orleans has been dealing with water problems since 1718. It did not start with Bush. Note that the last repairs to the levees were designed and the project authorized under a democratic administration. Whoops.

    "People so ignorant and gullible..."

    Sadly, the present administration is one of the smartest in US history, far smarter than the adversaries which it so easily defeated during the last elections. Note that Bush had a better GPA than Kerry despite admittedly killing off numerous brain cells. The assumption that lefties are the smart ones is the greatest advantage which the righties posess. The voters mostly hate smarty-pants elitists.

    "the fake-Christian fools."

    Please keep this sort of thing up. The voters mostly disagree with you (~80%), and do not like being called "fakes" or having their most sincere beliefs questioned.

    "W's bungled domestic messes -corporate crime, a spendthrift fiscal policy, environmental give-aways, a non-energy policy, etc.."

    Perhaps George's energy policies would be more acceptable to you if they were passed, instead of being obstructed by the lefties at every turn. And given that the Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom etc scandals mainly took place, and got started during the Clinton administration, how is Bush responsible?

    You may wish to consider toning it down, taking a chill pill, and reading some of the thoughtful comments on this thread. There is a problem with New Orleans, but it is not the political windfall you hope for.


    Frederick Thomas - 9/2/2005


    Gratifying to read some very sharp observations.

    I predict that the desperate housewives of the left wing of the democratic party will have as little luck with this blame game as they have had with all the others.

    The two engineering problems not yet mentioned are (1) the cutting of perfectly straight channels through the delta for shipping, which is killing the mangrove forests and causing general erosion of the delta, leaving the city more vulnerable, and (2) the failure to manage ground water under New Orleans. It is too dry, leading to a general subsidence, particularly in clay soil areas. In Amsterdam this problem is controlled by use of canals criss-crossing to city. In any case, this issue goes back to New Orleans' 18-century foundations.

    Thanks for some fine comments.


    John H. Lederer - 9/2/2005

    Here is a good article on a plan to rebuild the delta:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/02/opinion/02fischetti.html?pagewanted=print


    Oscar Chamberlain - 9/1/2005

    Good points. I think care should be taken in blaming Bush for things he had little or no control over. The reduction of funding for levy upkeep may be his--or more precisely, the republican controlled Congress's fault. But it is always possible they used some ecological arguments about the city's sustainablility as part of the rationale.

    You also alluded to another important factor in the situation, which is the management of the entire Mississippi. The Corps of Engineers is, at best, only beginning to wean itself from the "river as useful or dangerous ditch" approach to the Mississippi. To be fair to them, management decisions that are both politically feasible and
    ecologically logical are hard to achieve.


    John H. Lederer - 9/1/2005

    new orleans does have less and less protection from hurricanes because of loss of wetlands and it is the fault of development, but...

    The principal problem is protecting New Orleans from Mississippi flooding by building levees on it. The whole delta, including New Oreleans is silt brought down when the Mississippi floods. Channelizing the Mississippi keeps the silt from being deposited in New Orleans and the delta. The result is that New Orleans and much of the land south of it is not renewed and is sinking, making flooding more and more likely and a barrier to storm surges less and less effective. Simultaneously the channel is creating a vast mudbank in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Exacerbating the problem is a continuously expanding project to keep the Mississippi from altering its route -- a normal event in a delta --which would have the result of making New Orleans no longer a river port.


    John H. Lederer - 9/1/2005

    In regard to flood control:

    The section of the levee on the 17th Street Canal that failed was new in the last 18 months -- a new concrete wall replaced the previous faced earth one. You can see the concrete sections wrenched out of placein the photos.

    The problem at that place, if man made, is more likely to be a corrupt contractor or bad design than a lack of funding.

    Most of the SELA project is not devoted to strengthening against flood waters from outside but rather on improving the drainage (partially by pumping) from inside.