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Washington Gets a Clue on New Orleans Levees

The subtle persuasion is working and Washington is slowly starting to realize they are about to be on the hook to the tunes of billions of dollars if the lawsuits start flowing.

Today the WH announced 1.6 billion dollars to repair the existing levees and bring them to the levels we were told they were before Katina. MAKE NO MISTAKE No matter how many people on CNN tell you otherwise... THIS IS NOT AN UPGRADE OF THE LEVEES.

This is simply fixing the design flaws caused by the negligence of the Corps of Engineers. (1)

To Donald Powell's credit, he publicly admitted the money was being spent to "correct the design and construction flaws within the system." (So those of you telling me there are none, please forward your comment to him :-)

AGAIN- The Feds had not promised a single penny to improve the levees only to repair the fatal flaws in the system and bring them up the levels they should have been before the storm. Never confuse the two.

I'll probably have more later including links. Busy.

(1) Update/Edit: Well, and to fix the effects of age would should be been addressed before the storm too.


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Comments (25)

This is the epitome of the ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

This is the epitome of the point that, regardless, the federal government can always be held accountable for however many billions of dollars locales determine they need, just because.

Whatever happened to personal responsibility? When did the nation's tax dollars become the savings accounts for public access?

I agree that the stranded, ill, unabled and disabled and elderly deserve our public support to.a.degree.that.is.humane, but Louisiana seems to be holding the country hostage.

In all due respect, Paul, does not the state of Louisiana have a responsibility for it's infrastructure? They want levies, then build them.

I heard Blanco's reprimand ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

I heard Blanco's reprimand from her speech before Congress, declaring the state's woes as due to "because the levies broke," and are they not the state of Louisiana's levies? Did not individual citizens (and otherwise) make individual decisions to live in marginal, questionable circumstances? Remain in harm's way, so to speak?

People complained about the levies "leaking" before Hurricane Katrina, and I wondered when I read about that, why didn't they move?

Everyone has individual choice...is my point. Taken to extremes, yes, the "government" has a responsibility -- to a degree -- to salvage and save the stranded from emergent conditions but Louisiana has mastered a card-playing hand here.

It's not the country's "fault" but Louisiana's, if fault is going to be assessed here. I'd prefer that fault wasn't assessed but Louisiana continues to point fingers at the rest of the country and taunt as to the mismanagement of the place, so I think suggesting that the responsibilities be placed back locally is only fitting under these circumstances. But the entire state does seem to continually threaten the rest of the country and a lot of the country is pretty tired of the money-grab-game by the place.

I know I recoil in revulsion whenever I now hear Landrieux (spelled?, I somehow don't care how it's spelled today), Blanco and Nagin -- these three seem entirely amoral.

I assume that today's awards will be just the beginning of many more billions for years to come that Louisiana concludes is owed to them by the country...and let's all consider what'll occur with the next flooding, the next hurricane (which does not cause the flooding, so they say, but the levies do -- while, no, it's all that water that surrounds the place that causes the flooding). We are just not going to ever hear the end of this, now that they've found access to the federal support. It's not going to ever stop.

>Whatever happened to perso... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

Susie what THE FUCK are you talking about?!?!!?!?!

Personal responsibility on a federal flood control project? PUT DOWN THE BONG!

>In all due respect, Paul, does not the state of Louisiana have a responsibility for it's infrastructure? They want levies, then build them.

Do you have federal flood control in your state? HUH? What about Interstate highway system? With all due respect if your state wanted interstate highways, why didn't they build them themselves?

---

> I heard Blanco's reprimand from her speech before Congress, declaring the state's woes as due to "because the levies broke," and are they not the state of Louisiana's levies?

NO THEY ARE NOT YOU DRUG ABUSING NINCOMPOOP! They are federal levees. What fucking planet do you live on?

Susie, do me a favor, I've humored you for months. Please -until you get thru detox- please quit replying to my posts.

I think the personal respon... (Below threshold)
Steve:

I think the personal responsibility comes in the form of explaining where all of the money that went to LA in the past for the levee upkeep went. It is no secret that the FEDERAL money sent in the past was misused at the local level. I think some of this current money should be spent on exposing the misuse of previous money.

Any resolution of the probl... (Below threshold)

Any resolution of the problems in New Orleans is going to be part of short, medium and long term solutions.

At this point, is it really reasonable to expect that Cat 5 levvies be put in place before next hurricane season? Fixing them to Cat 3 seems reasonable at this point, especially given the myriad of other issues down there.

Personally, I think the last thing the feds should do is provide LA a black check. The record of corruption and criminality down there is staggering. Things are going to need to be done slowly and with accountability if New Orleans is to be rebuilt.

I find it rather pathetic that many New Orleans residents expect the government to rebuild their homes and move them back to NO. Why should the federal government do this? If people can sue and affix blame on the corps of engineers, then they will be entitled to money but not as a government handout.

You seem pretty wild on this issue - likely because you live down there. If this were happening in Providence you might feel differently.

I agree that the strande... (Below threshold)
mantis:

I agree that the stranded, ill, unabled and disabled and elderly deserve our public support to.a.degree.that.is.humane, but Louisiana seems to be holding the country hostage.

And.we.do.not.negotiate.with.hostage.takers.

Paul,I understand ... (Below threshold)
Henry:

Paul,

I understand your frustration with armchair quarterbacks criticizing every aspect of New Orleans life. Even though your arguments are typically well reasoned, your anger/frustration permeates the post and ultimately hurts the reception of your point.

I would compare your situation to that of the military in Iraq: trying to find a balance between destroying wrongful arguments, misconceptions, and outright lies and maintaining composure as to not discredit yourself in the process.

Please receive this in a constructive manner, as many (including myself) can benefit from your insights into all that is New Orleans.

Thanks

That's just the problem, Du... (Below threshold)
Phillip II:

That's just the problem, Dundare - things like this (only not so massive, lucky for everyone else) have happened in other places, and we've never heard the enormous complaints about rebuilding that we're getting down here now. Florida is continually nailed by these storms, and is rebuilt. No one said "Do we really need that little ol' city in South Carolina" when Hugo came ashore. No one suggested that San Francisco was a worthless place we should just bulldoze over. I remember supporting those states.

After 9-11, the feds bailed out Con Ed in New York, and it still had an awful lot of paying customers. Our utility is unable to restore power, is filing bankruptcy, and there's no cavalry coming down here.

The West continually gets burned up in forest fires and rebuilt. We rebuilt Los Angeles when their own citizens burned it down.

Why is Louisiana treated so differently? This has been a real eye-opener for me, because the answers I come up with all show an ugly side of America that I didn't really believe in before. I have gradually become convinced that all of these objections have less to do with political corruption (which we are not alone in having - we're just also not particularly good at covering it up) and a lot more to do with the images we all saw of the population of New Orleans on CNN.

You have no idea how painful it is to hear, after losing so much and having everyone's families scattered across the country, most never to come home, this attitude what you had and valued was not worth preserving anyway. That's what America is telling us. All of those other disasters were worth an investment - but not you.

My house (not in New Orleans, but close enough)did not flood. No one will be reimbursing me for the thousands upon thousands I'll lose because if New Orleans is not rebuilt, I will have no job and no one to buy my now worthless (although in perfect condition) home. New Orleans is the economic driver of this entire region and has repeatedly had its resources raped by the state and the feds, in addition to those few locals profitting at the expense of all of us. We don't even need to get into the destruction of our wetlands, partially caused by federal projects. Remember, we hicks down here in the ol' south pay taxes, too. Heaps. Bunches. We don't even get a percentage of the oil money flowing through our state into all of yours. And it's time we were treated like the equal citizens we actually are.

>I find it rather pathetic ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>I find it rather pathetic that many New Orleans residents expect the government to rebuild their homes and move them back to NO.

And I find it rather pathetic that the Federal government flooded a major metropolitan city and many people just reply with a "F- them."

>Why should the federal government do this? If people can sue and affix blame on the corps of engineers, then they will be entitled to money but not as a government handout.

Hey- The choice is up to the Feds... They can fix this situation -that they caused- "out of court" and get by on the cheap.

OR they can wait for it to go to court and then the citizens of the area sue for "pain and suffering."

Payments for negligence are not a handout.


Here's a little rule of thu... (Below threshold)
JimB:

Here's a little rule of thumb I like to use when deciding whether the federal government should be responsible for paying for something. Always substitute "I" (or "me", as appropriate) for the words "federal government" or "government". Or, if it's something that directly benefits you, substitute "my neighbor" or "Minnesota". Hence, Paul, what you really want is me and my neighbor and Idaho to pay for the damages due to the failed levee. Is it really fair to demand the good citizens of Idaho (or Hawaii or California or New Hampshire, etc.) pay the damages? Because, ultimately, that's where the money comes from. As for me, I'm opposed to probably 75% of what the government spends my money on. As for the levees and flood walls--what were they supposed to protect? If it was the property of those living there, then those people living there should have borne the cost of constructing/shoring them. If it was the port of New Orleans, then those private shipping companies utilizing the port should have borne the costs. Then they would have properly/correctly passed that cost onto their customers in a much more efficient manner than the federal government, for sure. Taxes and government spending like this tend to hide the true cost of things and lead to inefficiencies and corruption. Why make sure something is built right the first time when it's not "your" money that's at risk? It's just that nebulous entity called the "government" that will take care of it. In case of possible damages, without government assistance, private entities tend to acquire something called "insurance" to share the risk with others. Capitalism--it's a great system!

And another thing...it may very well be incompetence that led to the failure of the walls, but these decisions were probably made, mistakenly for sure, on a perception of what the design would cost. Hence, the posts only went down X number of feet because someone thought that was good enough and going down X+Y number of feet was more expensive. Heck, if you really want to be sure they stand up to a Category 6 (I know it--only goes to 5), why not bury the posts 250 feet down? Somebody has to decide what's acceptable. Unfortunately in this case, that somebody was a government agency (the Army Corps of Engineers) with little personal/selfish interest in ensuring the design and construction was adequate. There's an old saying that you reap what you sow, and this is a clear example of that. There are countless examples where "government" control and involvement in something leads to similar results.

Henry - If you notice caref... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Henry - If you notice carefully, my POSTS have no "anger/frustration" at all.

It's not till the dumbasses show up that I get my dander up. Sorry if that offends you- but I yam who I yam.

But go back and read my posts... I've been uncannily accurate thru all of this. Thru it all, dumbasses from 1000 miles away who can't spell Lake Pontchartrain much less tell me why it landed in many New Orleanians living rooms have told me I was wrong.

Go back and read the posts about the Dome -before it happened. Go back and read about the Corps blame game. Go back and read about Blanco not letting the Feds take control.

Thru it all, the dumbasses have told me I was wrong. --At the risk of letting my ego run amuck, I've been more reliable than near any media form, professional or other.

I work hard to understand this and I work hard to share what I've learned.

So yes, the dumbasses wear me out.

-Other than that your point is well taken. ;-)

P

BTW- I'm strongly considering closing the comments on all my posts.

JimB read Phillip's respons... (Below threshold)
Paul:

JimB read Phillip's response.

Yeah, we Southeners pay tax... (Below threshold)
JimB:

Yeah, we Southeners pay taxes too, etc. But, where does it stop? I guess the attitude for most people is, "As soon as I get mine". Not for me. If my house burns down, I have insurance. If I lose my job and there's no work where I live, I move. If I'm stuck and I need money, I go to my family. If they can't provide, I'll ask my church for help. If I'm a non-believer, I can humble myself and _ask_ for help from numerous other agencies. (My church helps non-believers as well) But, I'll never __demand__ that you help me. I promise, it'll always be a request, not a demand. I'm sick and tired of politicians who measure their compassion by their willingness to spend other people's money. My compassion is measured by how much I help other people personally, not how much I'm willing to force you and others to help. Our compassion is a nation should be measured by our performance as individuals, not via collective extortion. I believe I will be held accountable one day for my personal compassion and how good a neighbor I am. "For I was naked and ye clothed me." Not, "For I was naked and you figured your tax money would pay for my clothes through welfare."
The American people are amazingly compassionate if you give us a chance. I'd argue that we are the most compassionate in the world. But most (all?) of us, don't like being forced. In most of those other disasters (which I was opposed to providing as much assistance as well), the amounts of money supplied by "the government" were smaller by orders of magnitude than the amounts that have been tossed out here. (Did the federal government really rebuild LA???, San Francisco??? Florida???--I know my insurance company paid out lots of money in Florida and rightly so, but the federal government?--this calls for some real research) It's enough now that some people really are starting to notice and start asking, "what are we doing here, really?".
You know, in the end, like so many other times, we'll all probably pick up the check on this one. But, I still won't like it. One day, maybe, it'll finally end, hopefully before the nation collapses under the weight of a massive, impossible to fund socialist system. But who knows, maybe we'll all love it in that system, but it won't be the United States of America that I came to know and love--the one I thought was founded by our constitution. It might be better, but I doubt it.

"Hey- The choice is up t... (Below threshold)
Tim in PA:

"Hey- The choice is up to the Feds... They can fix this situation -that they caused- "out of court" and get by on the cheap.

OR they can wait for it to go to court and then the citizens of the area sue for "pain and suffering."

Well crap, I find myself agreeing with Paul on this one.

Congratulations, you win a cookie. Your point is concise and I don't think anyone will come up with an effective rebuttal.

.. Even though I still think that whatever levees they end up with will be half assed, and it will happen again, blah blah etc.

"If my house burns down, I ... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

"If my house burns down, I have insurance. If I lose my job and there's no work where I live, I move. If I'm stuck and I need money, I go to my family. If they can't provide, I'll ask my church for help. If I'm a non-believer, I can humble myself and _ask_ for help from numerous other agencies. (My church helps non-believers as well)"

JimB,
This just shows me how little you understand about the situation. Family, Church, insurance companies, EVERYTHING WAS DESTROYED. They all had NOTHING to give. And believe me, you would be screaming like a stuck pig if you saw the complete incompetance that has occurred. I just hope you get to experience something similar in your life so you can see how it feels to get the big F*U from the country you love when you are on your knees. ( Phillip II- I couldn't say it any better than what you posted.) I cried when I heard at noon today the government was going to fix the levees. They should have announced that the first week after the flood. It has just been cruel. It has changed my viewpoint of my fellow Americans for the rest of my life.

>It has changed my viewpoin... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>It has changed my viewpoint of my fellow Americans for the rest of my life.

I think in a way, my experience was worse in that it confirmed what I knew to be true in the dark corners of my heart but denied.

I might, if I'd had the chance, prefer to have been surprised.

But I know what you mean. It is really sad many Americans had more compassion for victims of the Tsunami than their fellow Americans.

Like so many other things in the last 3 months, I know I'll never forget it.

I live in New Orleans (in t... (Below threshold)
max:

I live in New Orleans (in the mercifully unflooded 'sliver along the river') and have a few thoughts about the debate in this thread.

1. The levees' failure is tragic; however the breaches in the levees either wouldn't have occurred or wouldn't have mattered if floodgates had been built. However the floodgate proposed by the Corps of Engineers at the mouth of Lake Ponchartain was stymied by the environmentalists and the floodgates later proposed by the Corps at the mouths of the canals whose levees broke were successfully opposed by the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board (whose dredging of the 17th St canal may have contributed to the levee failure there).

2. Regardless of the merits of floodgates, the building of the levees is the responsibility of the US Corps of Engineers, and has been since at least 1928. There is no reason or excuse for the US government or the US people to turn their backs on New Orleans because the levees which the people of New Orleans were entitled to rely on failed.

3. IMO New Orleans needs floodgates far more than it needs levees and they can be built much more quickly, at least at the mouths of the canals. Floodgates work (see the Netherlands) while levees can fail, sometimes for unexplainable reasons. (At this point it is not clear why the levees on the London and 17th St Canals failed.)

4. Some of the opposition to rebuilding New Orleans stems from a reasonable concern for the safety of the people who will live there if it is rebuilt. I have a cousin in New York (from New Orleans) who has been working on a volunteer basis with several groups in New York who are trying to help New Orleans rebuild (at least in theory). He tells me feel that one of the recurring themes in these groups is that it would be 'inhumane' to rebuild New Orleans because it is going to be so hard to make the entire city safe.

In other words, at least some of the 'opposition' to rebuilding the levees is based not on a desire to punish New Orleans or to turn their backs on New Orleans, but because there is a concern that it is not the 'right' thing to do because of the risks people living there will take every year with hurricanes.

My cousin's response has been (i) to point out that no place is 100% safe - if a Category 3 hurricane hit New York (as one did Long Island in 1938) the damage would be enormous and (ii) to try to explain the difference between the areas east of the Industrial Canal which can be hit by storm surge and the areas west of the Industrial Canal which can be protected from flooding from Lake Ponchartain by a combination of levees and floodgates.

5. It is also clear that New Orleans is going to be a much smaller city going forward - before Katrina the population was about 480,000, now an optimistic estimate 5 years from now would be 250,000. Large numbers of people are simply not going to come back (regardless of what category levees/floodgates are put in place) - they've found better opportunities elsewhere, they're too old, they've lost everything and want to make a new start, they like where they've landed more than New Orleans etc etc and accordingly New Orlean's 'footprint' is going to have to shrink. The logical first place are the areas east of the Industrial Canal which will be much harder to protect in the short-to-medium term because of the possibility of storm surge caused in part by wetlans erosion.

The people formerly living in these areas should be bought or, or be given the opportunity to be bought out, at pre-Katrina prices so that they can get on with their lives.

Two PPSs:

A. "People complained about the levies "leaking" before Hurricane Katrina, and I wondered when I read about that, why didn't they move?"

Such a silly yet ugly comment - (i) the leaks went on for several months without anything happening and (ii) were the people there just supposed to walk away from their homes (and mortgages), or were they supposed to sell them to someone else - like maybe the person who wrote this comment.

B. Paul, Your post hasn't been filed under a category. Has Wizbang created a Katrina file?

The NOLA City Council also ... (Below threshold)

The NOLA City Council also appears to have a moment of clarity - they've lifted the residency requirements for the NOPD for three years.

Goddamn Paul you don't need... (Below threshold)

Goddamn Paul you don't need it but I got your back. What an enormous pile of festering pus filled bullshit it is to declare that those of us who want New Orleans levee's rebuilt, properly this time, are asking for favors. The Government made a commitment to build the levees, they built faulty ones, not only should they rebuild what was broke but if it were me down there instead of 60 miles away in Baton Rouge I would be suing the shit out of the Federal Government and all of those self righteous twits who declare I am on my own.

Last I checked this was the UNITED States of America, not an independent consortium of loosely affiliated geographic areas that merely need us for our "worlds largest port". If we are really on our own down here we need to immediately start charging absolutely ridiculous fee's for shipping all of the Country's grain overseas. And all that off shore oil that comes in through our state needs a hefty tax put on it. That way we can pay our own way. Lets see how funny those funny guys are after we raise prices on virtually every single product in the US because they were too cheap to help us in our most dire time of need.

No one who is not down here has any fucking idea of the absolute devastation that has been visited upon us. 100's of thousands of lives have been completely ruined, people who worked hard and had homes have lost everything. Goddamn what a pitiful sight it is to see people making excuses not to help their fellow Americans. Selfishness is such an ugly thing.

And to the person who had that little Ayn Rand exercise in who pays for it. Yup I expect YOU to pay, I expect to pay, I expect all of us to pay, thats what is demanded of us when we live in a country as great as the US. We help each other in our times of dire need. Goddamn some of you act like we are all down here have a fucking bloody mary and partying.

Pissed off in Baton Rouge

Pierre

Next time, Pierre buddy, do... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Next time, Pierre buddy, don't hold back... Tell us what you really think.

Max, I was headed out the door so I forgot to tag it under Katrina but yes we have one and it is now.

Paul,My comments a... (Below threshold)
Henry:

Paul,

My comments are not because I am offended. They are just meant as friendly advice. If you truly believe that you have the high ground in the debate, you'll never need to resort to personal attack. Just let your well reasoned arguments destroy the drivel.

P.S.
When I used the word "post" I was referring to your comments in comment section not the blog entry. Bad choice of words on my part.

Thanks

I mean... I know what you a... (Below threshold)
Paul:

I mean... I know what you are saying... But suffering fools just never sits well with me.

I'd rather call someone a dumbass to their face than give a PC bullshit answer.

YMMV

Paul: "the bong"?!<p... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Paul: "the bong"?!

You've gotten decidedly lower in tone, Paul, since the hurricane and flooding.

I have sympathized and sympathized but at this point, you're no longer making any sense but continue to insult most of us who try to sympathize and even discuss Louisiana.

YOU live there. YOU chose to live there. YOU continue to defend living there and ask people to read your rationalizations about it.

I donated to your needs. I don't begrudge your needs and your struggles there but you seem intolerant of my comments and it's insulting.

The "bong" thing is beyond the pale (pail?). I'd say you've gone entirely wonky from far too much Lousiana mania and I wish you the best, despite that, under your circumstances.

You aren't making many friends, however, by maligning people who try to remind you that country does not owe Louisiana anything. That the country (and world) has been exceedingly generous due to the hardship and suffering there (and elsewhere) is credit to the world and our nation.

Yes, it's called "personal responsibility."

I don't use "bongs" and never will. Try another pejorative while your fingers are hot.

From today's WORD OF THE DA... (Below threshold)
-S-:

From today's WORD OF THE DAY (December 16, 2005):

PRESUMPTUOUS

DEFINITION: (adjective) going beyond the limits of courtesy or appropriateness.

EXAMPLE: The senator winced when the presumptuous young staffer addressed him as "Chuck.","/reference/dictionary/entry/presumptuous

SYNONYMS: arrogant, audacious, conceited

Nowhere is the violation of... (Below threshold)
Walker Freeman:

Nowhere is the violation of public trust relative to the Louisiana levee system seen violated as with New Orleans Mobster, Carlos Marcello.

“Churchhill Farms was one of Marcello’s great pride and joys. It’s where he went to do a lot of his scheming. He had grandiose plans for it too. First, he had gotten the state of Louisiana to put dikes around the swampland, and then he had had the state install huge pumps to drain it. The next thing he wanted was a superhighway going through it.”
THE MAFIA, CIA AND GEORGE BUSH by Peter Brewton, 1992, p 314.)




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