Thursday, September 01, 2005

Oops. . .

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"

Festus said that today. It has a familiar ring to it because Condi Rice said something similar about planes hitting buildings during her confirmation hearings. ("I don't think anyone could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." - May 17, 2002) She was incorrect then, because Clinton's transition team warned Bush of exactly that possibility, yet Bush decided he didn't want to "swat at flies" and directed a shift of focus on "Axis of Evil" nations instead of flies like Osama bin Laden.

Similarly I read that, the Festus administration made conscious decisions to downgrade the Federal Emergency Management Administration as well as cut funding that would have strengthened the levies in New Orleans. So to save a few million here and there and send the message to the states that the Federal government wasn't the answer to all their funding needs, thousands die unneccessiarly and billions in property damage are sustained because Festus didn't think it was worth the money.

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "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."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain

We at Heavy Sigh like to be fair and balanced, so here's Festus's elaboration on how he managed to say something so amazingly stupid.

No, what I was referring to is this. When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, whew. There was a sense of relaxation, and that's what I was referring to. And I, myself, thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people, probably over the airways, say, the bullet has been dodged. And that was what I was referring to.

Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation in the moment, a critical moment. And thank you for giving me a chance to clarify that.

"Relaxation", "the bullet has been dodged", I'm surprised he left out "What's the difference?"