Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Death President

ages-woman-death As the horrors of New Orleans begin to mount, one thing seems clear:

George Bush has their blood on his hands.

And before you dismiss this as just another liberal hatefest speech, consider the following, from the February 7, 2005 issue of New Orleans CityBusiness:
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified millions of dollars in flood and hurricane protection projects in the New Orleans district.
Chances are, though, most projects will not be funded in the president's 2006 fiscal year budget to be released today.
In general, funding for construction has been on a downward trend for the past several years, said Marcia Demma, chief of the New Orleans Corps' programs management branch.
In 2001, the New Orleans district spent $147 million on construction projects. When fiscal year 2005 wraps up Sept. 30, the Corps expects to have spent $82 million, a 44.2 percent reduction from 2001 expenditures.
Demma said NOC expects its construction budget to be slashed again this year, which means local construction companies won't receive work from the Corps and residents won't see any new hurricane protection projects...

Unfunded projects include widening drainage canals, flood- proofing bridges and building pumping stations in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. The Corps also wants to build levees in unprotected areas on the West Bank.
Demma does not expect the Corps to award many more projects before fiscal year 2005 ends...

The most urgent work being delayed by funding shortfalls involves levee construction on the West Bank.
The West Bank doesn't have the first level of protection completed. So, that's the really critical one, Demma said."
Now scroll 6 months ahead, to these words from the mayor of NOLA:
""We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water," and other people dead in attics, Mayor Ray Nagin said in calling for an all-out evacuation of the city's remaining residents. Asked how many died, he said: "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands."
From yesterday's Kansas City Star:
"“We’ve lost our city,” said Marc Morial, a former New Orleans mayor who is president of the National Urban League. “I fear it’s potentially like Pompeii.”"
Could the damage and deaths have been prevented, or at least seriously curtailed? Yes, and not only by better preparation; a larger force of rescue operations might have made a difference, had they existed. From yesterday's Washington Post:
"National Guard officials in the states acknowledged that the scale of the destruction is stretching the limits of available manpower while placing another extraordinary demand on their troops -- most of whom have already served tours in Iraq or Afghanistan or in homeland defense missions since 2001."
coatlicueMississippi has over 4000 troops in Iraq, or 40% of its Guard force. Louisiana has 3000 over there. Many of the exhausted troops that are here and available have just finished their rotations over there.

Will Bunch did an excellent job of pulling the sources and quotes together to draw a picture of a President and Congress more interested in sending money to a bogus war than "protecting the homeland":
"At least nine articles in the
Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars...

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, according to this Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness:

The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.
The Lake Pontchartrain project is slated to receive $3.9 million in the president's 2005 budget. Naomi said about $20 million is needed."
Bunch noted that:
"One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach."
Bush's absurd funding of Homeland Security projects has been criticized before (sending the same amount of money to the barren plains of Wyoming as to the target-rich states of New Jersey and New York, failing to require protective measures for chemical and nulcear facilities), but his castration of the very agency created to deal with emergencies like the New Orleans disaster is less noticed. In a recent Washington Post column, Eric Holderman, director of Washington state's King County Office of Emergency Management, outlined the birth and history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, its absorption into the newly-created Homeland Security department, and then blasted Bush for "destroying" it:
"This year it was announced that FEMA is to "officially" lose the disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. The move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support. In fact, FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission.
FEMA will be survived by state and local emergency management offices, which are confused about how they fit into the national picture. That's because the focus of the national effort remains terrorism, even if the Department of Homeland Security still talks about "all-hazards preparedness." Those of us in the business of dealing with emergencies find ourselves with no national leadership and no mentors. We are being forced to fend for ourselves, making do with the "homeland security" mission. Our "all-hazards" approaches have been decimated by the administration's preoccupation with terrorism."
Note that just last night on ABC, Elizabeth Vargas, reporting from NOLA, wondered why FEMA and many other government interventions talked up so much by spokesmen were "nowhere to be seen". It would be inaccurate to paint the agency as doing nothing; that's not true. What with much of the money and manpower that would have gone to averting this disaster misallocated or simply no longer there, FEMA is doing the best it can. And it has sent out the call for people to send cash contibutions to organizations like the Red Cross, Second Harvest, and an array of church groups. But maybe if Bush hadn't come up with the bright idea to divest it of it's true purpose and instead put it in charge of the concentration camps, it would have been able to take action sooner and in a more meaningful way.

Now it and every other remnant of Bush's ragtag domestic emergency contingent, is scrambling to put fingers in a dike that's already long since busted wide open.

If you want to know who their killer is, George, look in the mirror.

UPDATE: The NYTimes gets it:
"While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?
It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal."
Change that to none.

UPDATE 2: NPR News just played Bush's fatuous "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" speech, and followed up immediately with a "but the Times-Picayune had reported for years..." one-two punch that tore a big hole in that lie. The word is spreading.

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