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Katrina: Predictable, preventable, ignored

Katrina: Predictable, preventable, ignored

Posted by Matthew Wheeland at 1:24 PM on September 2, 2005.

Right now, looking back is easier than looking forward.

Joel K. Bourne Jr. writes in National Geographic:

The storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however -- the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level -- more than eight feet below in places -- so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

The catch here (there's always a catch) is that Bourne wrote this in October 2004, based on worst-case scenarios by FEMA and other agencies. Obviously it's too soon to tell how closely to this prediction Katrina's wake will play out, but the fact that the storm was this predictable is disheartening to say the least.

Bourne continues with his predictions of the fallout from a disaster just like the one that struck this week:

"The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three storm at 72 hours before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours and a Category Five at 24 hours -- coming from the worst direction," says Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University who has spent 30 years studying the coast. "I don't think people realize how precarious we are," Suhayda says, watching sailboats glide by. "Our technology is great when it works. But when it fails, it's going to make things much worse."

[It's worth reiterating here that Katrina was a Category Five hurricane just one day before it hit New Orleans, weakening slightly to Category Four with winds at about 145 mph when it made landfall.]

While such loss hits every bayou-loving Louisianan right in the heart, it also hits nearly every U.S. citizen right in the wallet. Louisiana has the hardest working wetlands in America, a watery world of bayous, marshes, and barrier islands that either produces or transports more than a third of the nation's oil and a quarter of its natural gas, and ranks second only to Alaska in commercial fish landings. As wildlife habitat, it makes Florida's Everglades look like a petting zoo by comparison.

The deep offshore wells now account for nearly a third of all domestic oil production, while Louisiana's Offshore Oil Port, a series of platforms anchored 18 miles (29 kilometers) offshore, unloads a nonstop line of supertankers that deliver up to 15 percent of the nation's foreign oil. Most of that black gold comes ashore via a maze of pipelines buried in the Louisiana muck. Numerous refineries, the nation's largest natural gas pipeline hub, even the Strategic Petroleum Reserve are all protected from hurricanes and storm surge by Louisiana's vanishing marsh.

You can smell the petrodollars burning at Port Fourchon, the offshore oil industry's sprawling home port on the central Louisiana coast. Brawny helicopters shuttle 6,000 workers to the rigs from here each week, while hundreds of supply boats deliver everything from toilet paper to drinking water to drilling lube. A thousand trucks a day keep the port humming around the clock, yet Louisiana 1, the two-lane highway that connects it to the world, seems to flood every other high tide. During storms the port becomes an island, which is why port officials like Davie Breaux are clamoring for the state to build a 17-mile-long (27-kilometer-long) elevated highway to the port. It's also why Breaux thinks spending 14 billion dollars to save the coast would be a bargain.

"We'll go to war and spend billions of dollars to protect oil and gas interests overseas," Breaux says as he drives his truck past platform anchors the size of two-story houses. "But here at home?" He shrugs. "Where else you gonna drill? Not California. Not Florida. Not in ANWR. In Louisiana. I'm third generation in the oil field. We're not afraid of the industry. We just want the infrastructure to handle it."

As the situation in New Orleans continues to degrade, even more stories bubble up to the surface that this disaster was eminently predictable and preventable. The infrastructure that Louisiana needed to weather this storm was not only unavailable, but it was explicity unfunded in favor of the White House's preferred agenda of war and tax cuts for the rich. Knowing this does little good for the people in the city now, but there's always hope that we can prevent future catastrophes, both the human kind that lives in the White House, and the natural-disaster kind.

Matthew Wheeland is an Associate Editor at AlterNet.



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A man just bawled his eyes out telling Tim how the "calvary" FEMA never came and his colleague in this mess had promised his Mama that they would come to his Mama, in a nursing home. He said his colleague told his Mama they were coming Tuesday, and then Wednesday, and then Thursday, and then Friday and then his colleague's Mama drowned Friday because the "calvary" never came. Here this grown man was bawling his eyeballs out on national TV for his colleague and friend's Mama. This man said that the calvary promised , but never came, and he is just barely now hearing the first horse hoof of the first "calvary" and here it is SUNDAY, two day's after his colleague's Mama drowned. That crying man said he is sick of the press conferences, he does not want to hear one more press conference , he just wants the people at top to send the emergency people NOW (last week would've been better) He said the people at the top need to be accountable and fired, and I know he meant Bush

But how do I tell this man that his friend's Mama does not matter to Bush? How do I tell Kanye West that it isn't about black or white or brown, Bush doesn't give a shit about "the masses" AT ALL, Bush just cares about the evil elite? How do I tell that weeping man that Bush is merely a puppet of the PNAC and he takes orders from Cheney? How do I tell him that Cheney plotted to get in office years ago just to take over the world using the masses as military pawns like some sort of Orwellian madman? How do I tell this man that FEMA is a tool of Cheney, not a service to the PEOPLE? How do I tell this man whose Mama died that there is a vast evil conspiracy called PNAC and his Mama was useless to them, therefore neglected? How do I tell anybody any of this? Why won't the MSM tell anybody any of this? Will the man who is burying his Mama believe me? Will the friend of his who was bawling his eyes out on national TV believe me? God believes me, God knows what is true.

This begs the question, usually unasked and unanswered: PREFERRED BY WHOM?

It would seem obvious that the answers MUST go deeper than any single person, no matter how powerful his position. By whom are foreign wars preferred over life-saving preventative measures at home? Cui bono?

Trilateral Commission?
Skull and Bones?
Bohemian Grove?

Cub Scouts?

Am I warmer?

... I tend to look on organizations like PNAC as fronts for interests that lurk even deeper under the surface. You mentioned Ike the other day. His warnings to America were prescient in my view, although, by now, they don't quite encompass the full picture.

Purely as an aside, I'm not sure that one can draw any very sharp distinctions between the Mafia and a lot of "legitimate" business organizations as they now exist and operate, especially since organized crime has become somewhat more subtle in recent times. Enron and others come to mind. The main distinction seems to be getting caught.

huge fronts, including Zionism, oil industry, military-industrial complex, the elite who don't want to work for a living or develop non-pollutant energy, but would rather use the masses as unwitting pirates for land and oil. Enron was killing people slowly with white collar crime by stealing all their life savings. But PNAC is doing it with murder and neglect, much faster methods of killing off the masses abroad and , now we see clearly, here on our own soil.

Arvy, I know you and many of the bloggers know what Cheney was doing with FEMA under the now revealed phony "Homeland Security", and Cheney was going to use FEMA as his tool for PNAC. Arvy, please don't think I'm crazy, but if there is anything "good" to come out of these 4 hurricanes last year and Katrina this year , it is that mother nature has revealed that Cheney's Homeland Security is a "front" and his War on Terror is totally phony & bogus. Cheney and PNAC had quite a different "personal PNAC agenda" for Homeland Security and by putting FEMA under it, which of course, has nothing to do with protecting Americans from terrorism or helping people from natural disasters. These hurricanes busted up a vast evil plot by PNAC and revealed it for the whole world and God in the universe to see. Cheney cannot hide anymore about his secret agenda or how he acquires power and "tools" for his PNAC agenda. The whole world knows his secrets and it ain't "Homeland Security" , it is something huger, and more sinister, and it is revealed like a beacon through the floods now. Ain't nobody gonna put up with Cheney's secret shitty PNAC agenda now.

Amongst the self-styled "masters of the universe", the only loyalty is to themselves.

Nothing else -- and I do mean NOTHING -- matters. They will do whatever it takes and whatever they can get away with to protect and advance their own interests. Such idealistic and moral limitations as affect the rest of us -- religious, nationalistic, empathy for others, or whatever -- are for them nothing but convenient tools to be used as a part of their manipulative schemes.

The U.S. itself is no different in that context. It's not a nation of people, no mattere what the people themselves think. It's simply a vast resource of industrial strength (waining) and military power to be employed as required. If the peasants become an obstacle and can't be usefully engaged, they're as expendable as any other nuisance.

It is the dramatization of the Nuremberg Trials. In it, the American psychologist for the Nazi prisoners said that he discovered "...evil is the absence of empathy..." That is what is freaking me out about Bushco and the PNAC during the past 5 years of behavior and especially with Katrina this past week>>> Bushco has such an overt and arrogant lack of empathy and lack of compassion and no urgency to help "the masses" whatsoever. Bush and PNAC remind me of Ted Bundy, charismatic but cruel . I see a lot of public officials on the Sunday news programs this morning that are not going to take crap from this Administration anymore. Even though they may not know it is the PNAC, they know it is evil and they what it out of here.

It's startling to realize how far we've "progressed" from the morality that guided our judgements then. But, of course, that was when we were judging others.

Now the U.S. leadership seeks to exempt itself from any such "politicized" court review of its crimes against humanity. John Bolton will almost certainly be the next "Medal of Freedom" recipient.

level , but is there any such thing as a criminal neglect crimes trials for public officials as well on international, not just domestic level? All the victims of Katrina, and the survivors who are alive but in terrible shape as well like the babies and elderly and the diabetics etc, this kind of unconscionable neglect should be a crime against humanity as well, even though its domestic. This is one of the worst attitude's towards one's own people during a natural disaster I've ever heard of in a very, very long time.
There are public officials that are totally livid at Bush.

What I find interesting about this need for over oil. PNAC, IS ALL ABOUT TAKING OVER THE WORLDS OIL RESERVES. We have to know that this is not a secret. What do other countries think about the PNAC

They caught on to the whole PNAC thing instantly>French can smell a Nazi from more than a 100 yards , or even more than 3000 miles away. They did not hesitate to tell us we were stupid, remember back before the beginning of the invasion of Iraq. I have to admit, France is right, we are stupid. Ok, I'll give us a "break", we are naive, we never had a Hitler before now. LBJ and Nixon were evil about the draft, so we are stupid, but Bush is worse towards his own civilian people, so we are naive. I spoke to a man who just came back from France a couple of weeks ago with his wife>>> I asked him what they think, and he said they will not even discuss it with an American.

The Brits know all about it, and they are pissed in their more British way. On the blogs, they just think Blair is just totally impressed and suckered in by "Cowboy" Bush and in their Media, they tell all the facts about PNAC. Every Brit knows about the PNAC , because their media is like a miniature encyclopedia about it:,12956,1036687,00.html

Of course our MSM gives us zilch, nada, zero, nothing > which is why you are on the net instead .

Does Arvy know the writers and chilling contents of the Project for the new American century?If you do not, read it !

Anonymous asks "By Whom are foreign wars preferred over life-saving preventative measures at home?" The answer is found on your TV screen and in the print media every day since the wrath of Hurricane Katrina made its presence known in the United States. George W. Bush is being judged on his actions or more precisely his lack of action.
The old cliche of actions speak louder than words has particularly come true for even the most casual observer of the Bush regime in 2005.

There is no evidence that the Bush regime took any real life saving measures until the political pressure forced some action that is too little and too late for too many.

Sorry. I rarely forget to change the "Your name: Anonymous" entry, but I slipped up on this one. My full name BTW is Richard Virtue. I just use Arvy (RV) as a short nickname 'cuz I'm lazy -- not hiding. :)

I didn't mean to ignore reality. Was just inviting some independent thinking and input on the subject. Thanks for yours.

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