01 September, 2005

Calm Like A Bomb

Recently, I've been trying to avoid writing about Katrina and the near-life-support status that the Big Easy is in. Quite frankly, what could I say about it that isn't being shouted from the virtual rooftops of the entire nation? Absolutely nothing.

Yet, via TPM and NOLA, this one really pissed me off. And when I get pissed off, either I vent or I start putting holes in doors...
It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said of federal assistance for hurricane-devastated New Orleans.

"It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," the Illinois Republican said in an interview Wednesday with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill.

Mister Speaker, would you kindly stop speaking? Thank you.

New Orleans is one of the national treasures of this country. The mythos of the Big Easy has so permeated the popular culture that it should be impossible to think of it being simply abandoned, regardless of the cause. (Okay, if it was a nuke that wrecked the bayou, then I'd see the reasoning. But hurricanes do not have residual radioactivity, even if the damage almost looks like it got bombed.) And this little attempt at damage control (tongue placed firmly in cheek for having to call it that) did nothing to help the issue.
Hastert's press secretary, Ron Bonjean, said Hastert was not suggesting New Orleans should be abandoned or relocated. "The speaker believes that we should have a discussion about how best to rebuild New Orleans so as to protect its citizens," he said. "What he is saying is that rebuilding the city in the same way is not sensible."
Translation: My boss doesn't like the taste of his foot in his mouth, so I, with my Cajun-sounding name, need to feed you a bunch of crap about what he should have said if his brain hadn't gone on vacation.

And of course, Hastert's "discussion about how best to rebuild New Orleans" might not have needed to happen if they had just given them the budget for it:
For instance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested $27 million for this fiscal year to pay for hurricane-protection projects around Lake Pontchartrain. The Bush administration countered with $3.9 million, and Congress eventually provided $5.7 million, according to figures provided by the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

Because of the shortfalls, which were caused in part by the rising costs of the war in Iraq, the corps delayed seven contracts that included enlarging the levees, according to corps documents.

Much of the devastation in New Orleans was caused by breaches in the levees, which sent water from Lake Pontchartrain pouring into the city. Since much of the city is below sea level, the levee walls acted like the walls of a bowl that filled until as much as 80 percent of the city was under water.

Similarly, the Army Corps requested $78 million for this fiscal year for projects that would improve draining and prevent flooding in New Orleans. The Bush administration's budget provided $30 million for the projects, and Congress ultimately approved $36.5 million, according to Landrieu's office.
So let me get this straight... The city survived a major hurricane. And then was killed by the levees that it depended on for daily living. And those levees (and associated water drainage systems) were slated to be repaired and replaced by the Corps of Engineers. Who were denied sufficient funding by Congress. And was not even requested in full by the White House. Due to the budgetary pressures of the ongoing war in Iraq. And then Scott McLellan has the testicular fortitude to say that this "is not a time for finger-pointing or politics. And I think the last thing that the people who have been displaced or the people who have been affected need is people seeking partisan gain in Washington" in today's press briefing.

Riddle me this, folks. If this had happened during the Clinton administration, how many Republican commentators and pundits would refrain from "seeking partisan gain" over the issue?

The phrase "more fingers on a blind butcher's hand" comes first to my mind. And as for Scotty's polite request, there's a different finger I'm thinking about, and particularly in areas that are actually hit by the hurricane. Every single political office, from coroner on up to the U.S. Senate, in the disaster area held by the Republican Party should come under immediate and complete fire. However, if those officeholders come out and disavow Hastert, fight for the relief bill to be increased in value to at least $15 billion, and tell the Department of Homeland Security to get their assets in gear and secure the damn homeland like you're supposed to (particularly after halfway absorbing FEMA, the agency that would normally be all over the Lower Mississippi like white on rice), then we'll let off the pressure. Slightly.

And only for the trifecta. Anything less than that, we Democrats light the fuse.

UPDATE: Via Washington Monthly, here is the Liberal Blogs For Hurricane Relief. While I don't necessarily call myself a liberal, count me in on this one. Hell, if I can find a Conservative Blogs For Hurricane Relief, I'll post their link as well. It'd be even better if I also found a Moderate Blogs For Hurricane Relief, but that's almost too much to hope for.

While I don't mind being partisan about the political dimension of Katrina, being partisan about helping the relief effort is not something I'm able to do. Anyone that's helping to put food into mouths, clothes onto backs, and roofs over heads is doing A Good Thing.