Thoughts on Katrina

I didn’t pay all that much attention to Hurricane Katrina last week. She was a Category 1 for a few days (Florida got off relatively lightly this time), and as late as Monday it looked like New Orleans had been lucky.

Floods are the Biblical natural disaster, but God had help in New Orleans this week. We couldn’t turn away the hurricane, but we could have strengthened the levee and prevented the flood. The work was supposed to have been done already, but for three years the money allocated for the project has been spent on Iraq instead. Now we have a natural disaster that has killed several times more people than were killed by the 9/11 attacks. Brilliant. (On a related note, Kevin Drum reports that conservative-partisan politics are killing FEMA and making the agency less able to prevent and respond to natural disasters like Katrina.)

By the way, I am not at all impressed that the Vacationer-in-Chief has cut his holiday a mere two days short. Can’t let a major catastrophe disturb his beauty rest, oh no. (Atrios cuts right to the point.)

This fiasco reminds me of the Mill River Dam, which broke in 1874 and destroyed everything in the valley below it. The dam had been built by the businessmen whose water-powered factories lined the banks of the Mill River and who didn’t know a damn thing about dams. Their cost-cutting and egotism destroyed the lives and and homes of everyone who lived in the valley, but they were never required to pay a cent in reparations.

At that time, there was no structure for official government aid, so all aid came from donations. I can’t find it now, but this morning I read in my blog feeds that somebody on FOX News suggested that the federal government has no responsibility for disaster relief and that all aid should come from donations. (Because that has worked so unbelievably well in the past, of course.) Idiots notwithstanding, the outpourings of generosity from my fellow citizens are amazing.

In other news, about 1,000 Shi’a died this morning, most of them women and children. They died not from a suicide attack, but merely because someone screamed and started a panic. Some suffocated; some jumped or fell from the bridge and drowned. How tragically pointless.

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