Requisite Entry on Katrina

I really don’t feel much like writing today, but I’m watching c-span, news reports, etc. and feel like I have to mark my thoughts.

All energy, after an event like this, should go to saving lives and finding solutions.

But It is obvious that there was warning both of the geographic problems of New Orleans, and of the severity of the storm.

It is obvious that the response mechanism waited for the aftermath to begin, rather than being anticipated from the point the storm was identified as both large, and headed for the LA coast. That was a terrible mistake. We had enough warning to have water, food, and rescue vehicles at ready. We had enough time to have law enforcement ready. This is a clear case of mismanagement.

But now, give blood, give money. Give it to the Red Cross. They know what to do, how to do it, and they do it all the time. Thank you, people of the Red Cross.

70% of the citizens of New Orleans and the surrounding area are black. The people who stayed behind were disproportionately black. Don’t draw conclusions about the problems of the looting, shooting, rape — or for that matter, the slow response — being race-related. If there is a problem, it is more the long-term problem of poor states getting poor service from a political system that is of, by, and for the wealthy.

I believe the best efforts are now being directed to the area, and the private sector will make up for the weak Federal and State response going forward. It’s a big mess, and people have just started to suffer from it. It will cause economic and social ripples for a decade.

The weak response is based on several things: the lack of fact-based decision-making that is the hallmark of Republican leadership, the simple cost-benefit problems of raising a city above sea level, the nature of poor people under extreme pressure, the obsession with “homeland security” at the cost of actual homeland security, the informational isolation of the Bushies, the primary interest of the Feds of being on camera, looking “in-charge” vs. their willingness to actually do the work of being in charge.

Don’t take my word for it, here are the details. Quick quote from the end of the article: “But with the change of administration in 2001, many of Witt’s prevention programs were reduced or cut entirely. After Sept. 11, former FEMA officials and outside authorities said, Washington’s attention turned to terrorism to the exclusion of almost anything else.”

On another note, in my area of Northern California, regular flooding of the valley towns of Marysville, Yuba City, and Sacramento led to these towns being periodically buried in mud. This led to the end of Hydraulic Mining, but regardless of the debris from Hydraulic Mining, this problem would have occurred anyway. The Sacramento Valley floor with its rich soil for farming formed this way, before we were here to see it.

To resolve the annual destruction the flooding brought, the cities were raised. It was done with true horsepower and people power.

Retaining walls were built in front of the buildings with walkways remaining on then-ground-floor levels, and dirt was brought in and dumped between the retaining walls, raising the level of the streets.

Once this was completed, the downstairs merchants moved upstairs and new entryways were completed. The downstairs became basements. Walkways at street (second floor) levels were built that became roofs over the old walkways. Glass bricks were embedded in the new sidewalks to light the still-used passageways beneath.

And levees were built. They’re in rough shape now, and have failed a number of times, creating problems in small towns.

But Sacramento so far has been spared.

Our good congressmen (recently deceased) Bob Matsui fought for improved levees for years. Our bad congressman John Doolittle fought against them… preferring instead the Auburn Dam. I won’t go into the foolishness of THAT. Finally, an agreement was reached, and levees will be improved. Planning ahead is a good thing. Of course, we were lucky. The perfect storm hasn’t hit.

Will they be improved on time, and will the improvements be adequate, when the perfect storm finally does hit? Can we use the old adage “Time will tell” or should we jump to it?

On thing we can do is kick Doolittle out on his ass… And put in someone with some foresight. Matsui was an awesome Senator… hard to find any way to criticize him (imagine that!). His wife, Doris Matsui has taken his position. Let’s hope she’s as effective.

I bet the people stranded on the Gulf Coast didn’t think politics effected them personally. Now, I hope they know better. Now, maybe we all know better, and won’t trust Republicans with our lives, any more. I can wish, can’t I?

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