Re: Where are the expressions of sympathy?
- From: " George" <george@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2005 15:35:51 GMT
"Henri" <hank@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
> Hans Müller wrote:
>> " George" <george@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
>>>This page is largely blank, and represents the names of Foreign
>>>and governments that have made expressions of sympathy and offers of
>>>to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Americans know where we stand. We
>>>will not forget.
>> What a catastrophe, all my best wishes to the families concerned.
> while we're on the subject, there's an interesting column in todays iht
Umm, there are some problems with these views which I feel I must address
here. First of all, yes there were predictions that this could happen.
Many people both in and out of government were well aware of just how
vulnerable New Orleans was to such a disaster. It is not certain to what
extent the general public were made aware of it. Having said that,
disaster planing has to originate at the local level, with State and
Federal assistance, if necessary. No serious plan was ever spelled out or
implemented, despite the fact that New Orleans participated in a disaster
preparedness drill just last year. That drill highlighted with a big red
flag just how vulnerable New Orleans was to such a disaster. Knowing full
well the inertia of bureacracies, it is no surprise that little had been
done by the time the hurricane struck this week.
But make no mistake, much of the blame for this disaster lay with local
officials (many of which, including the Mayor, are African Americans), who
knew as far back as 2003 what the consequences would be of not providing
some means of transportation to get the poor, elderly, and infirmed out. I
should mention here that when Europeans see large crowds of African
Americans at places like the convention center and the Superdome, and
relatively few whites, they must realize that there are several dynamics at
work here. First of all, there is still quite a bit of social segregation
amongst the races in the United States, particular, but not exclusively, in
the South. Whites still mostly "hang out" with whites, and blacks still
mostly "hang out with blacks, etc. (same for Chicanos, Asians, and many
other groups); this despite decades of attempts at integrated public
education and housing.
Secondly, the population of New Orleans is 2/3 African American, many of
them very poor. The largely African American city administration made no
provisions for evacuating the poor, the infirmed, the elderly, or even
those criminal elements who caused so much tension and strife the week.
Instead, those who could do so were encouraged to seek shelter at the
Superdome. Those who couldn't or wouldn't were essentially left to fend for
themselves. Admittedly, some looting has been deemed necessary in
hindsight because there was such a lack of basic services and the people
where so desparately in need of food, water, and clean clothing. But you
can't eat or wear a television, nor even watch one when there is no
electricity to power it. So there was a lot of criminal activity going on
So, yes, Europeans are right in making light of the social and economic
inequalities that exist in the United States, and which were particularly
in evidence in New orleans. However, they must also be very careful in
assigning causes for those inequities. The BBC reporter who commented that
there were no scenes of armed gangs of looters in gun battles with police
in Sri Lanka after the tsunami should also realize that there was no
warning when that disaster struck, and so it affected more people across
the social and political spectrum there. Such was not the case in New
Orleans. Many people were able to evacuate in New Orleans (primarily those
above the poverty level - white and black - who had the means to leave and
the means to find shelter elsewhere). What was left was the "dreggs" of
our society (not to use that term in a demeaning fashion), the poor, the
infirmed, and the criminal elements.
In addition, it was revealed that the Red cross Failed to set up adequate
shelters both inside and outside the affected area, so that even had the
city found the means, or made available the means to evacuate these people,
there were few places available to take them.
As to the federal government's role in all of this, it is may be true that
the Bush administration was slow in responding to the disaster. But
considering the logistics of imlementing such a massive response after the
fact, especially in light of the massive destruction of the transportation
infrastructure in the region, the delay is understandable. That said, the
Federal government was well aware of the dangers that existed for New
Orleans, and failed to make adequate plans in advance of the storm.
It may also be true that the Bush Administration axed much-needed money for
levee work several years before the storm hit. But the Corps of Engineers
has known for many years the problems that existed with the levee system in
new Orleans. They built that system in response to Hurricane Betzy in
1964. Projects such as a levee system for a major metropolitan area are
not short-term projects. They take many years to plan and complete. The
levee system in place today took over ten years to mostly complete (it was
actually only 80-90% complete at the time Katrina struck), and the Corps
knew before they even built it that it would not withstand the worst
hurricanes that nature could throw at it.
Some within and outside the Corps have blamed that lack of funding on
change-over of administrations over the course of the project, and change
in priorities between administrations. There is no doubt some truth to
this, as long-term projects tend to be more affected in this way than
short-term projects. But the Corps itself must also bear a large portion
of the blame. As a bureacracy, they have perhaps the most inertia of
nearly any within the Federal government. This inertia, by its very
nature, makes these projects exorbitantly expensive to complete. Add to
this, poor management practices and lack for foresight in planning and you
end up with projects, that by some estimates, end up costing as much as ten
times original estimates with many times little tangible or justifiable
returns for the effort made. It is no wonder that the Congress and the
White House are reluctant to release funds for such projects.
The Corps have a long history of overseing large, overly expensive, and in
some cases, completely unnecessary projects. The Corps, in an attempt to
control flooding and improve navigation, deepened and straightened the
Mississippi River, adding levees and flood walls to its banks to prevent
overbank flooding, and to open up land to agriculture and development. It
built locks and damns, and flood control structures from Pittsburg on the
Ohio River and Minneapolis on the Missouri, all the way to the mouth of the
Mississippi. It has been very successful in making navigation much less
hazardous, and has allowed much larger barges to operate on these rivers,
increasing commerce, and enriching the heartland of America. It has also
1) Massive erosion along many river banks due to deeper water levels which
caused the river in many places to flow at higher elevations than the
surrounding countryside, and because of increased wave action due to the
heavy barge traffic. This erosion has destroyed hundreds of thousands of
acres of prime farmland.
2) In building so much of the levees and flood walls, the Corps made
natural flood control on the river impossible, and in fact, has destroyed
most of it. That natural control consists of the hundreds of thousands of
acres of former wetlands that provided natural flood control all along the
river by providing a beneficial place in which the overbank floods could
flow. These wetlands were drained and blocked from receiving the vital
waters these rivers provide. Many of these levees and flood walls were
completely unnecessary, but were constructed for political and economic
reasons only. I find it ironic that the agency that is in charge of
wetlands protection in this country is also the agency that is largely
responsible for so much of its destruction.
3) In straightening and damming the river, the Corps has caused massive
destruction to the Mississippi River delta (the eastern portion of which is
where New Orleans reside) which has caused loss of vital wetlands so
critical to flood protection, and has resulted in the lowering of the land
elevation in New Orleans due to the loss of critical silts which help build
and revitalize the river delta.
Finally, this complicated mix of political, socio/economic, and engineering
failures has resulted in one of the most massive disasters our country has
ever had to endure. And it has been a long time in the making. To blame
the Bush administration for all of it is to not understand at all the
dynamics and the history of the problem.
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