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September 05, 2005

Partisanship stripped naked

In the comments section of my last post, commentor Stabbey TC asks, "How about pointing the finger at the people who cut the funding for hurricane defense long before Katrina existed?" Well, as I explain in the post, because hurricane defense doesn't really matter... no matter how strong the hurricane defenses are, the strongest hurricane will beat the strongest levee.

But for what it's worth, the editorial page of the New York Times agrees with Stabbey, blasting President Bush for an alleged lack of leadership. The editorial, which mentions nothing of the failed leadership of Nagin, Compass, and Blanco, asks:

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 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?

Well, as EU Rota points out (link via The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid), the answer to that last question is, "Perhaps they listened to the editorial page of the New York Times", which said in April of this year:

Anyone who cares about responsible budgeting and the health of America's rivers and wetlands should pay attention to a bill now before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill would shovel $17 billion at the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and other water-related projects -- this at a time when President Bush is asking for major cuts in Medicaid and other important domestic programs. Among these projects is a $2.7 billion boondoggle on the Mississippi River that has twice flunked inspection by the National Academy of Sciences.

The Government Accountability Office and other watchdogs accuse the corps of routinely inflating the economic benefits of its projects. And environmentalists blame it for turning free-flowing rivers into lifeless canals and destroying millions of acres of wetlands -- usually in the name of flood control and navigation but mostly to satisfy Congress's appetite for pork.

This is a bad piece of legislation.

And a couple of years ago:

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has a rare opportunity tomorrow to strike a blow for both fiscal sanity and the environment. Before the committee is a bill that would bring a measure of discipline and independent oversight to the Army Corps of Engineers, an incorrigibly spendthrift agency whose projects over the years have caused enormous damage to the nation's streams, rivers and wetlands.

In 2001 regarding the mighty Mississip':

No one welcomes a flood. No one wants to do away with flood prevention. But it is no surrender to recognize, as many Midwesterners have done, that there is something profoundly elemental in the spring rising of the Mississippi and its tributaries, an adherence to a law that is still greater than almost anything the Army Corps of Engineers can throw in its way. The Mississippi is powerful enough on an ordinary summer's day. But to see it in spring, overflowing into Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, is to witness one of the inarguable boundaries to human existence. The river lends out its flood plain wordlessly and takes it back without argument.

That same year:

The famous Wilkes-Barre flood of 1972 and the Mississippi River flood of 1993 led to fierce criticism of the Army Corps of Engineers, whose traditional methods of flood control were found to have made matters much worse than they might have been. But the Corps has never abandoned its blind faith in dams and levees that, when overused, constrict the river's natural flow, invite overbuilding and end up doing more harm than good.

Now, all of a sudden, the Times just loves the Army Corps of Engineers and its levees, and demands to know why more money wasn't shoveled into them. This is stark naked partisanship, and the time has come to ask the New York Times: have you, at long last, no sense of decency?

September 5, 2005 in Hurricane Katrina | Permalink


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