Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Governor Blanco finally begins to tell it like it was

WizBang says: Blanco is Toast. Game. Set. Match. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco got caught on camera admitting to her press secretary that she "I really need to call for the military, I mean, I really should have started that in the first call."

See the video at The Political Teen.

And, believe it or not, it is CNN's Miles O'Brien who really nails it when he presses the governor for the exact day that she asked for federal troops. Her position has been that she asked for federal troops on Saturday before Hurricane Katrina hit. Governor Blanco, obviously exhausted, stammers a bit, says she "doesn't even know what day this is," then admits that she did not ask for federal troops until Wednesday, 4 full days later than she and her supporters had been claiming.

But, you know, the vitriolic attacks on Governor Blanco, and to a lesser extent perhaps against some others in the loop, while no doubt being fanned by the almost instantaneous attacks blaming Bush, have perhaps clouded some judgments, here. Along with the video of Senator Mary Landrieu coming unglued, it is becoming more apparent that the vicious attacks on George Bush are going to backfire on his enemies. The Bush supporters will lose no sleep nor time over exposing every mistake made at the local and state levels. It also now appears that the Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, had the responsibility of launching FEMA's first response. Until today, Michael Brown, former head of FEMA who just resigned yesterday, has been blamed. Brown, however, did not have authority to order FEMA into action until he was specifically tasked with that responsibility by Chertoff, 36 hour after the storm hit.

Governor Kathleen Blanco, in what is no doubt a somewhat self-serving statement, nevertheless probably makes the most relevant and accurate description of the whole fiasco:
Did I ask the president early on for help? Yes, I did. I asked him before the storm even came because I know what a storm can do to my state and I know that we need help.

He wanted to help.

We both got caught in trying to make a bureaucracy work on something bigger than it ever imagined it would have to work on.
That probably tells it like it is, or was. What so many of the commenters, newspersons, bloggers and politicians do not mention is the enormous size of the catastrophe. It is the worst natural disaster to ever strike the United States in terms of area and population affected. It will rank well down the list in terms of lives lost.

The land area devastated by Katrina is roughly 90,000 square miles (233,000 sq. km). An area the size of Britain and larger than all these countries: Laos, Romania, Ghana, Oman, Belarus, Uganda, Guyana, Senegal, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Cambodia, Uruguay, Suriname, Tunisia, Tajikistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Greece, Eritrea and North Korea, to name just a few. So what possible relevance could any British or European commentators have? They have no idea of the size and scope of the rescue and recovery that still faces us.

Damage estimates range as high as 150 billion dollars. That is more than the Gross Domestic Product of these countries: Denmark, Greece, Finland, Thailand, Ireland, Portugal, Iran, South Africa, Israel, Argentina, Malaysia, Venezuela, Singapore, Egypt, Myanmar, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Czech Rep., Pakistan, Chile, Hungary, New Zealand, Peru, Algeria, Bangladesh, Romania, Nigeria, Ukraine, Morocco, Libya, Viet Nam, Kuwait, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, 61 Slovakia, Syria, Dominican Rep., Tunisia, Croatia, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Oman, Guatemala, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, Qatar, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Belarus, Sudan, Lithuania and 53 more countries.

The hurricane affected over 5 million people directly with hundreds of millions more affected indirectly in every manner from digging into their pockets for donations to paying more for a gallon of gasoline. That is as many directly affected by the hurricane as the population of Denmark or Finland and more than the populations of any of these countries: Armenia, The Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Croatia, East Timor, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Latvia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Singapore and Uruguay and many others.

The squealing from the anti-Bush and anti-American crowd drowns out most voices of reason. Take a close look at the numbers in the preceding paragraphs and try to imagine the size and scope that we are facing and what faced Governor Blanco, Governor Barbour, Secretary Chertoff, Director Brown and President Bush. Too many believe that the hurricane hit New Orleans directly and that the city is all that is damaged, so where was George Bush?

The hurricane did not hit New Orleans directly. It hit near the Louisiana/Mississippi border, well to the east of New Orleans. At first, even state officials believed that New Orleans had been spared. But the true catastrophe was the collapse of sections of levees that protect the city from Lake Pontchartrain. These collapses are being referred to as "breaches" and people are confusing a breach with "overtopping". Levees are overtopped when the flood or storm surge or whatever is higher than the levee. That did not happen to the critical 17th Street Canal levee. A 2 block-long section of that levee gave way, possibly due to being hammered by one or two loose barges on the lake. The levees are designed to protect against a 15 to 17 foot storm surge, depending upon the levee's location. In addition, the Corps of Engineers adds 3 to 5 feet to the levees to account for "freeboard" which means wave action. The Katrina storm surge was not that high. So, Michael Brown's and Chertoff's and Bush's statements that the levee breaches (failures) were not anticipated or were a surprise were correct. No one had anticipated that the levees would collapse. The emergency reaction plans of city, state and the federal government anticipated the overtopping of the levees if hit directly by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. Since Katrina was a Category 4 storm when she hit and she made landfall well to the east of the city, even the overtopping of the levees would have been a surprise, let alone their collapses.

And all this is still not settled. An LSU computer model shows the storm surge that hit New Orleans to have been at 15 feet, not enough to overtop the levees. The LSU computer model, however, contains some errors. It shows overtopping and flooding where none occurred due to incorrect information about levee heights. The computer model also shows that some of the levees were only built to withstand an 11.5 foot storm surge. That data may also be incorrect. LSU engineers have examined the levee breach sites and say that it appears that a barge or barges from the lake caused the 17th Street Canal breaches because they found two barges sitting in the street outside the breached walls. The other levee sections breached are more difficult to understand. Design flaws should have caused more failures than occurred, LSU engineers say. They say that most likely material and or construction flaws caused the other levee breaches.

But a breach is not an overtopping. Overtopping was predictable under a set of circumstances that was not met. Levee failures - breaching, whatever - was not predicted except in cases where overtopping was so severe that scouring of the levee base would occur from the inside of the levee causing its collapse. That did not happen.

What we have here is the pent up hatred of George Bush, his administration and each and every one of his appointees, employees and advisors, the Democrats' first perceived "gotcha" moment in 6 or 7 years, the MSM's revenge for the Kilian papers debacle and finally the knee-jerk rabid defense of Bush, Brown, Chertoff, FEMA, Republicanism. neo-conservatism, The New York Yankees, mom and apple pie all colliding in a monstrous and shameful exhibition of useless finger pointing. Governor Blanco is exhausted, grieving for the destruction of much of her state and the deaths of so many of her people as well as dealing with the demons of self doubt and guilt. It comes as no surprise to me that she does not know what day it is.

Those who should be most ashamed are the ones who have not lost 5 minutes of sleep over this American catastrophe but are sure where the fault lies. Those like Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Rep. John Conyers, Al Gore, about 1/3 of the blogosphere and almost all of the MSM. When the facts come out, as they hopefully will, I wonder how many retractions we'll see from either side?

And in the middle of all this, this idiot pipes up. What grand timing this was. What a foolish thing to say. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be a Republican.

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