From “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center” to “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees” the Bush administration is showing remarkable ability to miss everything between easy clues and outright revelations.
Are they really this unimaginative? This stupid? Unlikely!
In both cases they were given sufficient warnings like:
The federal government should consider aviation security as a national security issue, and provide substantial funding for capital improvements. The Commission believes that terrorist attacks on civilian aviation are directed towards the United States, and that there should be an ongoing federal commitment to reducing the threats that they pose.”
Gore Commission final report, February 12, 1997
The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project—$10.4 million, down from $36.5 million—was not enough to start any new jobs.
There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:
“That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.”
The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it’s too late.
One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday.
The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, “The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana’s coast, only to be opposed by the White House. … In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana’s chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need.”
Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, “the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be.”
Earlier I made a comment to the effect that looters were basically saying, “What can I steal for myself during this tragedy” and I wanted to clarify the presumption that they were acting like criminals. Stealing medicine, food and clothing in order to survive is understandable. Yet from the beginning I noticed videos of looters taking other things.
Law enforcement efforts to contain the emergency left by Katrina slipped into chaos in parts of New Orleans Tuesday with some police officers and firefighters joining looters in picking stores clean.
At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, an initial effort to hand out provisions to stranded citizens quickly disintegrated into mass looting. Authorities at the scene said bedlam erupted after the giveaway was announced over the radio.
While many people carried out food and essential supplies, others cleared out jewelry racks and carted out computers, TVs and appliances on handtrucks.
Some officers joined in taking whatever they could, including one New Orleans cop who loaded a shopping cart with a compact computer and a 27-inch flat-screen television.
Officers claimed there was nothing they could do to contain the anarchy, saying their radio communications have broken down and they had no direction from commanders. . . .
Inside the store, one woman was stocking up on make-up. She said she took comfort in watching police load up their own carts.
“It must be legal,” she said. “The police are here taking stuff, too.”
While these rubes were having the shopping experiences of their lives, others were drowning. How many could have been saved if the looters were concentrating on saving lives instead of portraying contestants in an un-filmed episode of “Supermarket Sweep“?
If these are examples of what society will resort to when laws cannot be enforced, it is shameful. I cannot imagine being in a situation where jewelry or a clothes dryer would be so easy to steal but I hope that I would pass the opportunities by. Someone’s insurance may cover it but the principle is what counts. You don’t act like that during a situation like this one. Not if you’re a decent human being.