Failed: Protecting New Orleans from Flooding
First off, those levees did not have to have been breached. The Army Corps of Engineers has been working on shoring them up for some time, but they've been hampered by budget cuts through the years. The Southern Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project was started in 1995 under the Clinton administration. Over the years about $500 million of an estimated needed $750 million was spent shoring up levees. Under Bush, the money to complete the project was diverted in 2003, by pressures resulting from the Iraq war and the need for tax cuts for the rich.
Again, from Editor and Publisher:
"On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."Failed: Redirecting the National Guard Away from the Scene
Speaking of the war in Iraq, are you wondering why the government emergency response so far has been so tepid? While not denigrating the heroic efforts of those that ARE on the scene, I'm sure they would be a lot happier if so much of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard was there helping, instead of helplessly watching from Iraq.
Failed: Abandoning the Gulf Coast Poor
Lots of questions abound concerning why so many people didn't leave New Orleans beforehand. Well maybe that's because that the population of New Orleans is desperately poor and unable to hop into their handy Hummers or Esplanades to truck their way out to their summer homes. That might also explain the looting. When the infrastructure of civilization collapses all around you, you still have to eat, change the baby, take your medicine and survive.
New Orleans had a poverty rate in excess of 34% before the Bush administration came to town. Since then, the national poverty rate has climbed each and every year . Had there been a continuation of the Clinton administration's economic policies towards poverty, which reduced poverty by the largest degree in 30 years, it is likely that fewer people in New Orleans would have been in such vulnerable straits when Katrina hit. I tried to check New Orleans specific figures, but for some strange reason the New Orleans municipal web server isn't responding.
Failed: Where's the Proactive Government Response?
Speaking of all of that, there's a lot of talk about how ill-prepared the government response was, from the New York Times, "Waiting for a Leader" down to one citizen talking to the Chicago Sun Times comparing Fidel Castro's response to hurricane preparations versus the U.S. response.
"I detest Fidel Castro, but I will tell you this. When a hurricane is approaching Cuba, Castro has set up a system to bus everybody out of harm's way before disaster hits.The New Orleans Times-Picayune said on Tuesday:
"We knew the hurricane was going to hit New Orleans and Mississippi hard. Why didn't we send buses in to get the poor people out before disaster hit? We spend millions on recovery and rescue AFTERWARDS . . . when we could have alleviated so much death BEFORE?"
"No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."But of course, there's more. Turns out that on July 24 of this year, the Times-Picayune reported that government plans for evacuation of the poor began and ended with a DVD distributed throughout the city with the message that the poor were on their own if they needed to evacuate: From that Times-Picayune story (courtesy of Attytood at the Philadelphia Daily News)
"City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own."Keep this callous laissez faire attitude in mind when you peruse this excellent Katrina timeline.
Failed: Combating Global Warming and the Increasing Ferocity of Hurricanes
And finally, the big 800 pound elephant in the room. Fact is that just last month scientists at MIT nailed the connection between the increasing ferocity of hurricanes with global warming, specifically oceanic water temperatures. Years of global warming denial by Bush administration partisans and oil industry paid hacks have meant billions of tons of carbon dioxide warming the Earth that could have been ameliorated by now. Had we gotten to work on ratifying and implementing the Kyoto Treaty when we should have, that category 5 hurricane might have been a category 4 or 3 hurricane. That, as the people in the Gulf States are now painfully aware, makes a huge difference.
A concerned citizenry needs to respond. Over at the new NewOrleansJustice blog, there's a handy reference reminding us what the Constitutional duties of government officials are, naming names of those in charge of this unfolding catastrophe.