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Tuesday, January 24, 2006
The Bush Administration and Katrina
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:29 am

Via WaPo White House Got Early Warning on Katrina

The documents shed new light on the extent on the administration’s foreknowledge about Katrina’s potential for unleashing epic destruction on New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities and towns. President Bush, in a televised interview three days after Katrina hit, suggested that the scale of the flooding in New Orleans was unexpected. “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm,” Bush said in a Sept. 1 interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The documents in question were prepared by two elements of the Department of Homeland Security: National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC) and FEMA.

The NISAC document, among other things:

warned that a storm of Katrina’s size would “likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching” and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

The FEMA doc:

compared Katrina’s likely impact to that of “Hurricane Pam,” a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.

The FEMA report was issued two days before landfall, and the NISAC document was sent to the White House at 1:47 am the day Katrina hit land.

As such, it really is difficult for the administration to behave as if what happened was an utter surprise. This really was a massive failure of disaster management. While it would have been impossible to have prevented the actual damage, the federal response was woeful, especially if one takes this information into account.

It certainly does not bespeak well of the capacity of DHS, and the federal government in general, to respond to a massive terrorist attack, even if some intelligence existed as to what the event would be-let alone if the attack was a total surprise. Given that the whole notion of the formation of DHS was to better the government’s ability to respond to terrorism, the response to Katrina underscores that we are not better off after that rearranging of the deck chairs.

Via the NYT version of the story, we get some political parsing: White House Was Told Hurricane Posed Danger - New York Times

A White House spokesman, asked about the seeming contradiction between Mr. Bush’s statement on Sept. 1 and the warning as the storm approached, said the president meant to say that once the storm passed and it initially looked as if New Orleans had gotten through the hurricane without catastrophic damage, no one anticipated at that point that the levees would be breached.

As well as the suggestion the lack of preparedness was widespread, and not just federal:

The Senate investigators have also found evidence that at least some federal and state officials were aware last summer that the hurricane evacuation planning in the New Orleans area was incomplete.

The whole thing was an utter debacle.

And yes: the scope of the disaster is primarily the culprit. This is obvious. My point is that the the governmental response, at all levels, to that disaster was pathetic as compared to what it reasonably could have been. Clearly the local evacuation plans were radically inadequate, but above all else the sluggish and inept response by FEMA was unforgivable.

Filed under: US Politics, War on Terror, Hurricanes | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Nagin Explains “Chocolate” Comment (Sorta)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:10 pm

Via CNN: Nagin calls for rebuilding ‘chocolate’ New Orleans

“How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about,” he said.

“New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina. It is going to be a chocolate city after. How is that divisive? It is white and black working together, coming together and making something special.”

So, New Orleans: really he wants a chocolate milk city. This has to be one of the weirdest political food metaphors ever.

Filed under: US Politics, Hurricanes | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Mardi Gras Shuffle
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:22 pm

Via Bloomberg: Alabama, Texas May Gain as Katrina Dims New Orleans Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras celebrations in Galveston, Texas, and Mobile, Alabama, may attract thousands more visitors than usual next month as damage from Hurricane Katrina keeps some revelers away from Louisiana.

New Orleans, home of the largest U.S. Mardi Gras, will party on a smaller scale this year after Katrina flooded the city in August and scattered most of its residents. Galveston claims to have the second-largest event in the country, and Mobile has the oldest.

[…]

As many as 500,000 people may visit Galveston during this year’s festivities, according to the bureau. Last year, 300,000 people visited. The city is 287 miles (462 kilometers) west of New Orleans.

Planners in Mobile, 170 miles east of New Orleans, expect as many as 150,000 visitors, said Tony Dughaish, president of the Mobile Area Hotel and Motel Association. The estimate is triple last year’s total.

No surprise, I suppose.

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
And the “Pat Robertson Award” Goes to…
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:46 am

…Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans.

Via the AP: New Orleans Mayor Says God Mad at U.S.

Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that “God is mad at America” and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.

“Surely he doesn’t approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also. We’re not taking care of ourselves.”

“Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it’s destroyed and put stress on this country,” Nagin, who is black, said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.

Or, maybe the weather conditions were such this year that there simply were more hurricanes and maybe cities on the Gulf Coast took the brunt of said storms because, well, they’re on the coast and hurricanes occur over the water.

Just a theory.

And, oh my:

Nagin also promised that New Orleans will be a “chocolate” city again. Many of the city’s black neighborhoods were heavily damaged by Katrina.

Filed under: US Politics, Hurricanes | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

A Knight's Blog linked with Nagin & Buchannan: Two Of A Kind
Nagin: God Mad at America, Wants Chocolate New Orleans » Outside The Beltway linked with [...] quite impressive. Ian Schwartz has the speech on video, available for download. Update:� Hillary Clinton gets in on the stupid race tricks. Permalink | Comments (7) | Send TrackBack | [...]
Monday, December 12, 2005
Mississippi Libraries
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:32 pm

Harry Boswell of The Kudzu Files highlights an effort to rebuild libraries in Mississippi in the wake of Katrina.

Filed under: Books, Hurricanes | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Blanco Postpones New Orleans Elections
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:59 pm

Via the AP: La. Governor Postpones New Orleans Vote

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has postponed the New Orleans mayoral election indefinitely, setting up a legal battle with voters who filed a lawsuit seeking to ensure the election is held as scheduled.

[…]

The order was released Monday but Blanco signed it Friday. It did not set a new date for the elections, saying only that they should be held “as soon as practicable.”

The postponement affects primaries for mayor, sheriff and city council seats, as well as runoffs in those races that had been set for March 4. Qualifying for candidates to get on the ballot had been set to begin Wednesday.

Given the situation, a postponement may make some sense-no US city has ever suffered a cataclysm to equal what happened to New Orleans. However, doing so indefinitely is highly problematic. At some point it has to be recognized that the city isn’t going to be what it was, and that a large number of people are never coming back.

As such, as long as it is physically possible to hold elections, then elections should be held. Otherwise, we will have a governor suspending democratic governance, with no end in sight, and that strikes me as a lousy precedent to set.

Filed under: US Politics, Hurricanes, 2006 Elections | Comments (7) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Saturday, December 3, 2005
In Case You Missed it…
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:08 am

…we made it to Epsilon.

Via the AP: Hurricane Epsilon No Threat to Land

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Friday, December 2, 2005
Speaking of New Orleans…
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:16 am

17th Street Canal levee was doomed

The floodwall on the 17th Street Canal levee was destined to fail long before it reached its maximum design load of 14 feet of water because the Army Corps of Engineers underestimated the weak soil layers 10 to 25 feet below the levee, the state’s forensic levee investigation team concluded in a report to be released this week.

That miscalculation was so obvious and fundamental, investigators said, they “could not fathom” how the design team of engineers from the corps, local firm Eustis Engineering and the national firm Modjeski and Masters could have missed what is being termed the costliest engineering mistake in American history.

As such, the idea that had their simply been more funding in recent years that the levees woud not have failed is simply wrong. Also, it does provide some data to back up some of the pronouncements by the Bush administration about their surprise over the break of the walls.

At any rate, the scope of the mistakes is staggering:

“This is the largest civil engineering disaster in the history of the United States. Nothing has come close to the $300 billion in damages and half-million people out of their homes and the lives lost,” he said. “Nothing this big has ever happened before in civil engineering.”

It also raises the question, it seems to me, as to whether New Orleans should be rebuilt precisely as it was. The risks (and costs) don’t seem worth it.

Filed under: US Politics, Hurricanes | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Saturday, November 19, 2005
When Will the Madness End?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:12 pm

Via the AP: Tropical Storm Gamma Could Threaten Fla.

Note to the Tropics: it’s November; Thanksgiving is next week-you can stop now.

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Saturday, October 29, 2005
It’s A Record
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:59 am

Via the AP: Beta Becomes 13th Hurricane of Season

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Beta
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:53 am

Via the AP: Season’s 23rd Tropical Storm Forms

I still think it is awfully lazy of them to have to resort to letters.

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Back to Brown
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:05 am

Via WaPo: Brown Had Resignation Plans Before Katrina Hit

Brown resigned on Sept. 12, but the Department of Homeland Security then contracted with him at his full $148,000-a-year salary to serve as a consultant on a review of the response to Hurricane Katrina. The consulting arrangement, initially set to end Oct. 10, has been extended by four weeks, department spokesman Russ Knocke said.

Interesting. As the story suggests, one has to wonder as to Brown’s focus when Katrina hit, given that he was already moving to resign.

And this kind of thing burns me:

Brown resigned on Sept. 12, but the Department of Homeland Security then contracted with him at his full $148,000-a-year salary to serve as a consultant on a review of the response to Hurricane Katrina. The consulting arrangement, initially set to end Oct. 10, has been extended by four weeks, department spokesman Russ Knocke said.

If Brown was considered necessary, then he shouldn’t have been allowed to resign, only to be brought-back as a “consultant”-and certainly given the problems of FEMA under Brown during the Katrina response, one has to wonder what in the world the agency was thinking in giving him such a position.

Of course, I will state that in general I find the process of someone resigning or retiring and then being immediately given a consultants position to be an improper practice that smacks of overt favoritism, cronyism and jobbing the system. Either keep your job, or quit-don’t quit, reduce your overall responsibilities, and then get-hired at the same salary (or higher in many cases) for doing less work.

Filed under: US Politics, Hurricanes | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
On Voting and Evacuations
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:22 am

Via the Birmingham News: Democrats support bill to allow absentee voting by evacuees

Rep. Artur Davis’ proposal to give displaced hurricane evacuees a chance to vote absentee in their home state elections has gained support on Capitol Hill but so far only from Democrats.

The legislation, if approved, would treat evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi like military personnel and let them vote back home in the 2006 and 2008 federal elections.

Since its introduction Sept. 13, Davis’ bill has attracted 33 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats, and a Senate version of the bill has three Democratic supporters.

[…]

Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and John Kerry, D-Mass., are co-sponsors. Louisiana’s other senator, Republican David Vitter, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Congress should be working on helping displaced residents return to Louisiana, first and foremost, and that the voting legislation should wait.

On the one hand, there does seem to be a certain amount of fairness inherent in allowing persons displaced by Katrina for extended periods to right to vote in their home districts. However, this strikes me as logistically a nightmare, and more importantly it raises the question of when one becomes a resident of where one is living.

Normally, residency is instantaneous to the establishment of a new domicile. As such, intent to one day relocate, for whatever reason, does not vitiate one’s current residency status. In other words: when does an evacuee become not an evacuee but a new resident of a new location? And how would intent to return to a specific electoral district (indeed, districts since we all live in multiple federal, state and local districts) be legally established?

If one is deployed to Iraq, intent to return to one’s home in the US is clear-however, if one has been displaced to Montgomery, Alabama, one may never never to New Orleans.

Of course, this entire issue is steeped in partisan politics, as Democrats know that the displacement in Louisiana caused by Katrina have disproportionately effected the Democratic Party. Republicans are aware of this as well. It is no shocker, therefore, that Landrieu is in favor (New Orleans forms much of her political base) and Vitter prefers a wait-and-see approach.

If anything, it does strike me that extending such a period to 2008 seems a bit of a stretch, as by then people are going to have re-settled or returned. One can only be an “evacuee” for so long.

Filed under: US Politics, Hurricanes, 2008 Campaign, 2006 Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, October 24, 2005
Wilma
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:19 am

Via the AP: Wilma’s Strongest Winds Hit Southwest Fla.

Meanwhile, DarkSyde at DKos has more hurricane blogging and other news links.

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Wilma Blogging
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:15 pm

The The Florida Masochist has it.

Filed under: Hurricanes | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
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