Friday, September 02, 2005



It may be, that the United States is without the city of New Orleans,
which we've had since the early 19th Century as a great American
city. This is not an exaggeration. Former Marc Mayor Morial is
quoted saying, that, "We've lost our city. I fear it's
potentially like Pompeii." And similarly, the New York Times, in
its lead editorial, "New Orleans in Peril," says that "it looks
as if rescuing New Orleans will be a task much more daunting than
{any} city has faced, since the San Francisco fire of 1906. It
must be a mission for all of us." But the question is whether the
Bush Administration, which is sitting on its hands in this
situation, is going to measure up to the challenge.
With Bush still not in Washington--he didn't arrive until 4
p.m. today--. Or, let me begin earlier, actually, and then get
to that.

[reading] "New Orleans, of course, has long known it was
vulnerable to flooding caused by a hurricane, and local and state
officials have worked with the U.S. government on flood-control
projects since the 1930s, when Roosevelt directed the Army Corps
to build the tremendous flood-control system on the lower
Mississippi, and throughout New Orleans. When flooding from a
massive rainstorm in May '95 killed six people, the U.S. Congress
authorized a Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood-Control Project, or
SELA. Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps spent $340 million
of SELA funds, on shoring up levees and building pumping
stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least another
$250 million crucial SELA projects still have to be built. But in
2004, Bush's U.S. Office of Management and Budget cut SELA
funding by 65%, down to a little less than $11 million per year.
"Further, the Army Corps is directing the Lake Ponchartrain
vicinity hurricane protection project, a similar $50 million
project to build up levees and protection for pumping stations,
on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St.
Bernard, and Jefferson Parishes [counties]. For 2005, the Army
Corps needed at minimum $20 million to complete vital project
work. The Bush Administration slashed appropriations to only $3.9
million." And this is where the levees and then the pumps were
overwhelmed by the floods,-- precisely where this incompleted
contstruction, incompleted thanks to this administration, was
going on at that moment.

"In June 2004, as the hurricane season was starting, Al
Naomi, project manager for the Army Corps in New Orleans and
southern Louisiana, went before a local flood-dcontrol agency
that is part of the New Orleans flood-control system, the East
Jefferson Levee Authority, to beg for $2 million for urgent work.
He had been unable to get the money from [Office of Budget and
Management]. He told the group, `The system is in good shape, but
the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't
get the money fast enough to raise them, we can't stay ahead of
the settlement that's raising the water level. The problem that
we have, isn't that the levee is low, but that federal funds have
dried up so we can't raise them.'

"He was able to get the funds for this project"--that is,
the $2 million--"but because of the Bush OMB cuts during 2004 and
'05, he had to wage guerrilla war to get the money to keep
the system minimally functioning."

And this is where it's failed, where Bush's OMB cut the budget.

Now, given the fact that the National Guard has been
severely attrited in the whole area, they have only about 60% of
their National Guard, and less than 60% of its equipment, about
40%-45% of the National Guard of the three affected states, is in
Iraq. So, the National Guard is unable to do what it would otherwise do.

At long last, the Bush Administration has brought the
military proper into action, the Navy and the Army and the Air
Force, all three, but they didn't do so, until yesterday. So, a
press conference under Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland
Security--with Bush still not in Washington--about 2 p.m. this
afternoon, Chertoff and others at the press conference announced
that they have a lot of plans to move military equipment and help
into the area, but, in fact, as of this afternoon, there was no
military equipment, or help, in the area, from the Army, the
Navy, or the Air Force. The Coast Guard was on the scene, as they
have been since the beginning, as is the Army Corps. And Chertoff
says, that the Coast Guard has rescued 1,000 people. But the
effort under the other services is just getting under way. No
assets are in the area, as Chertoff has promised that they would
be brought in, but for the most part, he didn't even know exactly
when; it will be several days.

Now, 1,000 people have been rescued by the Coast Guard,
others have been rescued by local police, by neighbors, by
various forces, the total number is really not known.

New Orleans housed about 550,000 people. They were ordered
to evacuate, but estimates are that upwards of 100,000 did not,
not so much because they didn't want to, but because they
couldn't. Greyhound shut down, many people have no automobiles,
or the roads were flooded--there was no way actually, to get out,
and no place to go.

So, it seems, according to the best accounts we can find,
there were about 100,000 people to be rescued. How many have been
rescued? Well, the Coast Guard has rescued 1,000; some forces
have rescued others. A lot of the Navy and other forces being
sent to the area, will be rescue forces, such as boat rescue
forces to rescue people from the tops of their houses by boats
and so forth--they're not there, yet.

So, how many are dying now, and how many will die before
they're rescued because this mobilization has taken the Bush
Administration so long? It even took Bush so long to cut short
his vacation by a day or two and arrive in Washington about an
hour and a half ago.

The city of New Orleans is 80% under water, and much of the
water is as much as 20 feet high. And the water contains all the
city's raw sewage, and apparently thousands of corpses washing
around in it. Rescue workers are ordered not to do anything about
the corpses, because there's no way to handle them. So they're
just sloshing around amid the sewage and everything, which has
submerged the city.

Now, contrary to the assurances of the Washington Post,
which says you can't have cholera or typhoid, because it doesn't
exist in this country, the Centers for Disease Control is
extremely concerned about exactly cholera and typhoid. And
medical teams which are sent to the area, will attempt to deal
with that. But the whole mobilization, is a far cry from that
with which, years ago, under the Clinton Administration (if I
remember that's what it was), the U.S. military brought
sanitation and clean water to Uganda across the world in Africa,
with a very rapid, quickly organized movement, which saved
thousands of lives. That's not what's going on here,

Now, after several days of attempts, you had breaks in two
levees around New Orleans, which flooded the city which is below
sea level. And one of those breaks started at 20 feet wide; it's
now estimated at 500 feet wide. The other is not as wide. This
flooding, flooded out the pumps, which are being used to pump
water out, so all that pumping has stopped.

The Army Corps dropped various objects into the gaps in the
levees to attempt to repair them, unsuccessfully. And what
they're doing now, is waiting for the flood waters surrounding
the city, in the lake, which is really a bay, and the ocean to
subside, so that then the levees will be higher and they can then
repair them. They expect that the water level will be low enough
to do that by Friday.

So, I suppose there's probably more to say about it: This is
an unparalleled man-aided natural catastrophe, as far as I
understand, for the United States. And it's clear that if some
simple things had been done, which were on the drawing boards for
years, and which should have been completed today--that whole
SELA project I discussed was supposed to be completed in 2005--if
that had not been sabotaged by the Bush Administration, while
there might be something you might characterize as a natural
disaster, it would be nothing of the magnitude we're seeing
today, where, it seems to me accurate to say: that our country
stands to lose a major city, which has been a part of this
country since the Louisiana Purchase.

That is the major update for today.