Sunday, September 30, 2007

Time Magazine: The Threatening Storm

If you have not been to the Time special about the Katrina Anniversary, you should do so. It is a difficult read but an important one.

One of the biggest issues I have had with living in Florida since Katrina are the people who say things like, "Why would people live below sea level?" Or, "When you live in a bowl, you deserve what you get." Yes, I have had people who know where I am from actually say that. I can forgive those comments but the ones that are worse are the ones where the people of New Orleans are to blame for the problems. "Well, the government gave billions of dollars for the levees but the locals mis-spent it!" I have had to tell several people that is not true. The Army Corps of Engineers control the funds and choose what to work on.

This article from Time sheds light on the issue to people from around the world. To those who say New Orleanians are just having a "pity party" (yes, I was told that at a party when I said New Orleans still needed help), there is nothing that anyone can say that will open their eyes. They are, and will remain, ignorant. I move on without argument when I encounter someone like that.

However, for those who just don't know the facts, I think this article from Time will open some eyes. I wish I knew where they got their raw research. I would love to read some of these documents. Of course, the fact that Time has those documents are the reason they're Time Magazine. If everyone could write something like this it wouldn't be special.

The article starts off with:

The most important thing to remember about the drowning of New Orleans is that it wasn't a natural disaster. It was a man-made disaster, created by lousy engineering, misplaced priorities and pork-barrel politics. Katrina was not the Category 5 killer the Big Easy had always feared; it was a Category 3 storm that missed New Orleans, where it was at worst a weak 2. The city's defenses should have withstood its surges, and if they had we never would have seen the squalor in the Superdome, the desperation on the rooftops, the shocking tableau of the Mardi Gras city underwater for weeks. We never would have heard the comment "Heckuva job, Brownie." The Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema) was the scapegoat, but the real culprit was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which bungled the levees that formed the city's man-made defenses and ravaged the wetlands that once formed its natural defenses. Americans were outraged by the government's response, but they still haven't come to grips with the government's responsibility for the catastrophe.

It gets better from there. Eight pages of intense, factual statistics and stories.

According to the article, the Corps is building a levee to protect New Orleans from a 100 year storm. Amsterdam has built to protect them from a 10,000 year storm. Yes, ten thousand years. New Orleans was almost destroyed by a weak category 3 hurricane that didn't even hit the city dead on.

Of course the blame isn't all on the corps. The article makes some good points about local politicians:
Katrina didn't change that system. Louisiana Senators Vitter and Mary Landrieu promptly proposed a bloated quarter-trillion-dollar Louisiana reconstruction bill, drafted by lobbyists for oil, shipping and other corporate interests. The request included $40 billion for the Corps—10 times the agency's budget for the rest of the nation—including non-reconstruction projects like the Industrial Canal lock and a New Iberia port deepening that had flunked the Corps' cost-benefit tests. It also included pre-Katrina coastal levee schemes, with names like Morganza-to-the-Gulf and Donaldsonville-to-the-Gulf to suggest their grandiose sweep. The bill stalled after it was widely mocked as legislative looting, but it sent the message that pre-Katrina priorities were still in effect. Vitter kept pushing a measure to help timber companies harvest cypress swamps. Landrieu tucked language into emergency bills ordering the Corps to redo its New Iberia analysis and fast-tracking the Industrial Canal lock. "Katrina was just a perfect excuse to pull the old pork off the shelf in the name of otherwise-we-drown," says Tulane law professor Oliver Houck, the sage of Louisiana environmentalism. "And away we go: another Louisiana hayride."

That is disgusting.

The thing that will remake New Orleans, Louisiana and the rest of the gulf coast are the people:
In Shrimpers Row in tiny Dulac, a sign says water on road ahead—not a flashing sign, a permanent sign. Ivy Pierre has fished these bayous since he was a kid. He says the biggest change over his 78 years is that he walks up a ladder instead of down a ladder to climb into his boat. "We're sinking!" he says. Katrina was the fifth time his house has flooded, but home is a powerful place. "They call it Dulac," he says with a grin, "because we Du what we Lac!"

This is an intense read. It's worth the time it takes. It's intense enough that I couldn't finish it in a single sitting. I had to come back after taking a break for a day. I think The Threatening Storm will win an award for Time. It deserves it.

Take care,



doctorj2u said...

The reaction of this country to the tragedy of the Gulf South has made me feel as if I am not an American. My faith in my own country has been destroyed and has changed me forever. I try and concentrate my attention on the wonderful volunteers. Maybe the real America is out there somewhere still. The reality is that we have been deserted by our own country. It will be the shame of this country for years to come.

LewisC said...


Thanks for the comments. I have to say I agree. I think of it more as the government has abandoned New Orleans as well as some of the people. Like you I try to concentrate on the many people who are still helping as they can, volunteering, giving to charities that rebuilding, etc.

I've lost faith in the government but not in the people.


Bourgeois Nievete said...

Hi, I have been enjoying your blog for a while. This post today was excellent as I read the Time article too and had the same reaction: "Fuck Yeah!"
I spend quite a lot of time hunting articles and emailing letters to editors correcting the propaganda that the flooding was a natural disaster...or anything else I see as dissing New Orleans or trying to portray that disaster as anything less than a crucifixion.

I stalk Harry's blog (as well as others but he's my favorite) on Huff Post as "backhandpath". I like to play "kick the neocon". Hi doctorj2u!

If you like my blog I would be honored to be on your New Orleans list.


LewisC said...


You're on the blogroll. Thanks for reading and commenting.