September 2, 2005

DIVINE WRATH FOR SECULARISTS

After the Katrina tragedy, the looters come with their lies and half-truths (Gerard Baker, Timesonline, September 2nd, 2005)

Catastrophe, as is the natural order of things, brings out the best in most humans, and the worst in some. When Katrina struck the US Gulf Coast this week, the first images reflected man’s instinctive compassion, heartening tableaux of daring rescues and selfless giving.

Then, of course, came the looting, the inevitable exploitation of misery that contributes the insult of human depravity to the injury of natural disaster, a piteous reminder that in the race to the bottom, even the most heinous of the elements are no match for the baser instincts of Man.

This duality has its counterpart in the response beyond those immediately affected: around the world expressions of sympathy and offers of help poured in. And then came the predictable exploitation of the tragedy for political purposes, the dishonest advancing of an ideological agenda. This represents a sort of intellectual looting, in which the perpetrators help themselves selectively to convenient facts for their own delectation, sidestepping the dead and dispossessed before making off with their meretricious spoils.

In Katrina’s case, the intellectual looters have busied themselves with plundering half-truths and false analyses to advance one of their most precious agendas: global warming.

The German Environment Minister, Jurgen Trittin, was first, with a claim that this was a real-life version of the shock-flick, The Day After Tomorrow. Sir David King, Tony Blair’s chief scientific adviser, weighed in, saying global warming was increasing the risk from hurricanes. Robert F. Kennedy Jr, self-designated leader of the American environmentalist cause, said the US was reaping the failure to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol. And, of course, Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved mother of a US soldier who leads the antiwar campaign and any other left-wing cause that wants her, noted President Bush was “heading to Louisiana to see the devastation that his environmental policies and his killing policies have caused”.

Best of all, though, was the contribution of Jon Snow, enthroned as the objective voice of British media at Channel 4 News, who chortled: “How ironic that the world’s No 1 polluter is now reaping the ‘rewards’ that so many have warned would flow.”

More: Katrina comes home to roost (Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian, September 2nd, 2005)

In February 2004, 60 scientists warned in a statement, Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the US the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy ... Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W Bush has, however, disregarded this principle ... The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease..." Bush ignored the statement.

In the two weeks preceding the storm, the trumping of science by ideology and expertise by special interests accelerated. The Federal Drug Administration announced it was postponing sale of the morning-after pill, despite overwhelming scientific evidence of its safety and approval by the FDA's scientific advisory board.

The UN special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa accused the Bush administration of responsibility for a condom shortage in Uganda as a result of pushing its evangelical Christian agenda of "abstinence". The chief of the board of justice statistics in the justice department was ordered by the White House to delete its study that African-Americans and minorities are subject to racial profiling in police traffic stops. He refused to concede and was forced to quit. When the army's chief contracting oversight analyst objected to a $7bn no-bid contract awarded for work in Iraq to Halliburton, she was demoted despite her superior professional ratings.

On the day the levee burst in New Orleans, Bush delivered a speech comparing the Iraq war to the second world war and himself to Franklin D Roosevelt: "And he knew that the best way to bring peace and stability to the region was by bringing freedom to Japan." Bush had boarded his very own Streetcar Named Desire.

Just what exactly is the difference between these and this?


Posted by Peter Burnet at September 2, 2005 7:27 AM
Comments

What struck me more is this question: what's the difference between Falwell's take on 9/11, and Orrin's take on the London bombings?

Posted by: Brit at September 2, 2005 8:23 AM

"This duality has its counterpart in the response beyond those immediately affected: around the world expressions of sympathy and offers of help poured in. And then came the predictable exploitation of the tragedy for political purposes, the dishonest advancing of an ideological agenda. This represents a sort of intellectual looting, in which the perpetrators help themselves selectively to convenient facts for their own delectation, sidestepping the dead and dispossessed before making off with their meretricious spoils."

I wish I had written that.

Posted by: Genecis at September 2, 2005 11:05 AM

Anyone familiar with any of the studies on how Global warming will increase the strength of hurricanes; some estimates say almost double the strength?
Howabout Bush's slashing of the Louisiana budget, when for decades everyone has known that it was only a matter of time until this happened?
Howabout the Department of Homeland Security? What do they actually do?
The people throwing charges at our leaders should not be dismissed in the typical way that most criticisms are on this website and others ("Oh, thats just politics"). This is was not an act of God, it was entirely preventable, if we weren't bogged down in the insanity of the Iraq War, and forced to cut corners on the safety of Americans everywhere it is politically feasible. This storm is the perfect example of how our leaders in both parties are not motivated into policy out of concern for the safety and well-being of Americans. I'll bet it has more to do with a lot of black stuff underneath the ground of Iraq. Call me crazy.

Posted by: Kip at September 2, 2005 11:24 AM

Kip

You're crazy.

Posted by: h-man at September 2, 2005 11:32 AM

Kip:

Big Brother* was very impressed with the enthusiasm you displayed at this morning's Two Minute Hate.

Everything is Bush's fault!

--O'Brien

*George Soros

Posted by: Mike Morley at September 2, 2005 11:35 AM

Kip:

You're crazy. But so is everybody else.

Posted by: Brit at September 2, 2005 11:38 AM

Kip -

You do realize that your post confirmed exactly what Peter was trying to say - or were you being intentionally ironic?

Bush make sea gods angry!

Posted by: Shelton at September 2, 2005 11:58 AM

It doens't help the Louisiana is regularly voted as being the most corrupt state in the country.
And don't give me your sarcastic branding of my comment with cries if "Bush-Hater" when you can't dispute the fact that this was an entirely preventable disaster if it weren't for the bumblings of bureaucrats who have been out for years to cash in on much more lucrative deceptions of the public trust.
Still, I guess you guys will stick to your buddies, call your detractors crazy and treasonous, and smile as America sinks into a feudalistic chaos. I just hope I'm there to say, "See I told you so" when God doesn't give us 10,000 years of peace and joy, or whatever kind of crap it says in the Book of Revelations. Wake up, and realize that our leaders, of all persuasions, are failing us; our systems is driven by wealth and it is no longer working for an increasingly larger segment of America, and the rest of the world.

Posted by: Kip at September 2, 2005 12:01 PM

Kip;

Before I call you crazy as well, could you explain about "Bush's slashing of the Louisiana budget"? As far as I can tell, that's determined by the Louisiana state government which, as you yourself note, is very corrupt. Bashing Bush doesn't get you called a "Bush-hater" here, but bashing him over what even you admit was a failure of the local political culture does.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 2, 2005 12:12 PM

Kip: You have no idea the joy is gives me to say: You people with your personal revelations are turning your back on science and the enlightenment. Your irrational statements must not interfere with our rational, science-backed policies.

In other words, all the scientific evidence is that global warming has had no effect on either the frequency or strength of hurricanes. The levees were designed to withstand category 3 winds, but withstood category 4/5 winds. The thought now is that levee was undercut by water pouring over its top, which is what was expected and what it was designed for. The levee that failed was worked on last year and the administration cut funding for a proposal to develop plans by 2008 for upgrading the levees. No Bush era budget cuts could have stopped a major upgrading of the levees by 2005 because that's just not how big construction projects work. After all, the Big Dig, which still has a couple of years to go, was put in motion by Tip O'Neal, who left the House in 1987 and died in 1994.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 2, 2005 12:27 PM

Kip:

...our systems is driven by wealth and it is no longer working...

Can you tell us when, in your view, the system did work?

Posted by: Peter B at September 2, 2005 12:31 PM

Kip: can you tell us what it would mean, to you, for a system to work? If, as we suspect, you are looking for some system of governance that can completely banish fear and panic from your own life, you won't find it. In the meantime you have to decide who to make common cause with. As after 9/11 you can listen to carrion-crows like Blumenthal, or you can get behind people like these guys. Your choice but you do have to choose.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 2, 2005 12:53 PM

I think Kip may be referring to the budget cuts to the ACOE which runs the SELA projects. Of course he fails to notice that those cuts weren't to take place until 2006. The proposed first steps of the restructuring would have cost around 295 million dollars and the ACOE argued that the 71 million dollar reduction (from their 2005 budget of 4 billion) would hamper their plans for SELA. It may have who knows? Even if the ACOE would have gotten the full amount they asked for the first upgrades to the levees would not have been completed until 2007 specifically the 17th street canal project, where the main breach occurred, was not scheduled for completion until 2007. Even then the proposed upgrades to the levee system would theoretically only withstand a category 4 which may not have stopped a Katrina sized storm anyway. Its just childish to try to pin blame for the catastrophe on any one individual or even one administration. We could ask why the ACOE received 25 billion dollars over the last 5 years wasnt able to complete a 300 million dollar project earlier. We could ask why previous administrations didnt make NO levees a priority. We could ask why the local governments didnt take the proper steps to raise the money the ACOE claimed it needed for its projects. But those of us who are grown-ups dont ask all those questions because we are familiar with human nature enough to know that the answers are meaningless.

Posted by: Shelton at September 2, 2005 1:07 PM

Kip, you ignorant slut:

Oh, what's the use!

Posted by: obc at September 2, 2005 1:15 PM

Think about it for a while folks. Why wasn't there 1,000 feet high levees around NO? And then ask yourself this question (because WE knew it was going to happen) why wasn't there a retractable domed roof over NO? I'll tell you why, because BUSH LIED! How am I doin Kip?

Posted by: AllenS at September 2, 2005 2:34 PM

There is no realistic Bush budgetary activity (starting in 2000) that could have made an iota's difference to the levees. By the time environmental impact statements, engineeering studies, and political wrangling had been concluded, the year 2010 would have passed, at the least.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at September 2, 2005 3:22 PM

The most recent cutback was a $71.2 million reduction for the New Orleans district in fiscal year 2006. Ive never seen this level of reduction, Naomi told the New Orleans CityBusiness paper on June 6. His district had identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls, and pumping stations, the paper said. But with the cuts, Naomi said its enough to pay salaries but little else.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu blamed the Bush Administration for not making the funding a priority. Its extremely shortsighted, she told the paper. These projects are literally life-and-death projects to the people of south Louisiana and they are (of) vital economic interest to the entire nation.

After Katrina hit, The New York Times interviewed Naomi. A breach under these conditions was ultimately not surprising, said Naomi, who had drawn up plans for protecting New Orleans from a Category 5 storm. It would take $2.5 billion to build a Category 5 protection system, and [now] were talking about tens of billions in losses, all that lost productivity, and so many lost lives and injuries and personal trauma youll never get over.

Naomi wasnt the only one who warned of this disaster. In 2001, prior to the terrorist attacks, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing the country, wrote Eric Berger in a prescient article in the Houston Chronicle on December 1, 2001, entitled Keeping Its Head Above Water: New Orleans Faces Doomsday Scenario. In that piece, Berger warned: The citys less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of ten left behind as the city drowned under twenty feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston."

Posted by: at September 2, 2005 4:11 PM

In June 2003, Civil Engineering Magazine ran a long story by Greg Brouwer entitled The Creeping Storm. It noted that the levees were designed to withstand only forces associated with a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane. If a lingering Category 3 stormor a stronger storm, say, Category 4 or 5were to hit the city, much of New Orleans could find itself under more than twenty feet of water. One oceanographer at Louisiana State University, Joseph Suhayda, modeled such storms and shared his findings with emergency preparedness officials throughout Louisiana, the article noted. The American Red Cross estimates that between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die if the hurricane floods breached the levees and overwhelmed the citys power plants and took out its drainage system.

On October 11, 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story by Paul Nussbaum entitled Direct Hurricane Hit Could Drown City of New Orleans, Experts Say. It too said that more than 25,000 people could die, emergency officials predict. That would make it the deadliest disaster in U.S. history. The story quoted Terry C. Tuller, city director of emergency preparedness: Its only a matter of time. The thing that keeps me awake at night is the 100,000 people who couldnt leave.

Posted by: at September 2, 2005 4:12 PM

But study after study on global warming has warned that as the water temperature of the worlds oceans goes up, the likelihood of more vicious hurricanes also increases. The most recent MIT study, released in the June 25 issue of New Scientist, showed that hurricanes were increasing in duration and intensity by 50 percent over the past thirty years as water temperatures increased

Posted by: at September 2, 2005 4:13 PM

The Bush administration's policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge. In 1990, a federal task force began restoring lost wetlands surrounding New Orleans. Every two miles of wetland between the Crescent City and the Gulf reduces a surge by half a foot. Bush had promised "no net loss" of wetlands, a policy launched by his father's administration and bolstered by President Clinton. But he reversed his approach in 2003, unleashing the developers. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency then announced they could no longer protect wetlands unless they were somehow related to interstate commerce.

In response to this potential crisis, four leading environmental groups conducted a joint expert study, concluding in 2004 that without wetlands protection New Orleans could be devastated by an ordinary, much less a Category 4 or 5, hurricane. "There's no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection," said one of the report's authors. The chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality dismissed the study as "highly questionable," and boasted, "Everybody loves what we're doing."

Posted by: at September 2, 2005 4:15 PM

In February 2004, 60 of the nation's leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warned in a statement, "Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking": "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy ... Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle ... The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease." Bush completely ignored this statement.

Posted by: at September 2, 2005 4:15 PM

"In November 1995, 2,500 leading climate scientists announced that the planet is warming because all the emissions from coal and oil burning are trapping in more of the sun's heat than is normal for our climate," Gelbspan wrote then. "...The catalog of anticipated effects ...reads like a biblical apocalypse. Scientists say these consequences will include not only more extreme temperatures, with hotter heat and colder cold, but also ... extraordinarily destructive hurricanes...."

Posted by: at September 2, 2005 4:17 PM

On a wider scale, the oil and gas industry actively dismissed assertions that its activities were an important cause of wetland loss and, until fairly recently, even that wetland loss was a serious problem. The federal government, with its multibillion-dollar revenue stream from offshore oil and gas leasing and production in the gulf, long resisted any notion that the shore-based support activities and pipeline corridors played a role in wetland loss and, therefore, that it had a responsibility for restoring the damage.

About 18 months ago, the Bush administration rejected a comprehensive restoration plan developed by the state of Louisiana and the Army Corps of Engineers as too ambitious and too costly. It asked for a scaled-back program, for which funding is still pending before Congress

Posted by: at September 2, 2005 4:18 PM

And by the way-I'm not trying to pin the problems on one individual in one administration. You should listen harder before you all come up with the same response. I know its easier to argue against what you want to hear, so try to pay more attention to what I, and the critics of government are saying. Its not just the Republicans. The whole system is failing us. Have a nice weekend.

Posted by: at September 2, 2005 4:21 PM

Thanks, Anon, we will

Posted by: jdkelly at September 2, 2005 4:49 PM

1 will get you 10 that neither Kip nor Anon have given a penny to the relief effort.

Posted by: Gideon at September 2, 2005 6:43 PM

Those postings are very nice, and very irrelevant. It would be nice to see the self-proclaimed "critics of government" spend some time criticizing a government other than the Federal government.

In general, show us some evidence that the state and local governments took their planning responsibilities seriously, and were stymied by the Feds only in the last few years. (Don't cite squabbles over budget sizes, show actual cases where all funding was denied for reasonable projects, or previously budget projects were cut or delayed.) All the evidence (like that photo of the hundreds of school buses that could have been used in the so-called "mandatory" evacuation last weekend sitting there like a flooded battleship row at Pearl Harbor) has shown the exact opposite, local authorities who, when they did something, seemed to have a Midas-like magic power to make a bad situation worse. How did the Evil Bushitler manage that fiasco? Another subcontract to Haliburton?

It also appears that no one in New Orleans figured out that putting your hospital generators on the first floor where they'll get flooded was not a smart move. I've seen statements by Lousiana pols who are saying that now they will plan for this sort of thing. Now. I've see reports that the levees are seen a as patronage turf, and we all know how efficient and well managed patronage is. Bush declared the area "disaster areas" last weekend even before landfall, enabling all sort of actions to be taken, if requested by state and local authorities. What did the governor, mayor, etc. ask for from the Feds in that time period?

Talking about this as a failure because of wetlands or so-called global warming or some other trendy "system failure" is, to be charitable, intellectual opportunism. Can't pass up an opportunity to push our favorite boilerplate talking points for our utopian projects, can we?

"The whole system is failing us" The system that failed was one setup and run as a one-party state since Nathan Bedford Forrest's wife stitched his first hood, and one perfected by Huey Long. That state has never had a GOP gov or controlled legislature, and only last year elected its first GOP Senator. We've got state officials there who are saying that maybe they need to plan for this sort of thing. Now they're going to start planning? After the disaster? That's the system that failed, and from that we are supposed to make unspecified changes to "the system"? What changes? Besides reducing corruption.

(If anything, Bushitler should be impeached because it's obvious that by letting the Dems control Lousiana for so long, he was not doing what he could to guarantee a republican form of government for that state.)

Expect one outcome from this fiasco will be that there will be empire building bureaucrats at FEMA who will cite it as a reason why they should take control immediatedly from local authorities, rather than waiting to be called in. In other words, government planning failed this time, so the solution is more and bigger government planning. Yep, that's the ticket. (Another example of opportunism, too.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 2, 2005 6:47 PM

Anon: (or Kip)

Just a couple of questions before you run off to the cottage:

A) Do you recall agitating about the failure of the "system" when the tsunami stuck?

B) Assuming you aren't from New Orleans, can you give us an estimate of how much time you spent demonstrating and lobbying for preventaive measures to save New Orleans from direct hits from Category 5 hurricanes before last week? You did digest all those articles you cite, didn't you?

Posted by: Peter B at September 2, 2005 7:12 PM

Mr. Ortega;

Actually, Louisiana has had three Republican governors since Reconstruction, according to the official state list. In fact, according to that, Mike Foster was governor from 1996-2004 as a Republican. I don't know about the state legislature, though.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 3, 2005 12:26 AM

Dave Treen, the only true republican since reconstruction was too quiet for his own good, and the Oil Bust killed him. Buddy Roemer was a democrat who became a republican in office, even then he did not win with a plurality, and was beaten in just about every political battle in the legislature. Mike Foster did not become a republican until the election.

Posted by: Michael at September 3, 2005 2:21 AM

I stand corrected. I should know better to check my facts around here and not succumb to my inner troll.

I now remember those GOP governors, such as they were. My impression is that they were taking advantage of Louisiana's weird primary system (a system which the reformers actually have tried to inflict on the Upper Left Washington since the courts invalidated the state's open primary) and ineffectual GOP to game a corrupt system. Bob Michaels' way isn't the only way to "get along to go along."(or is that "go along to get along?") Anyhow only Jindal has left the recent impression of being a reformer, and he lost.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 3, 2005 3:06 AM
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