Saturday, February 25, 2006

A button can tell the truth, too.

At today's meeting of the Arizona state Democratic party I bought a button for a dollar from one of the tables. It reads, STUPIDITY: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Clearly it was aimed at the Bush administration (i.e. cut taxes and watch the deficit explode once, or stampede people into war against Iraq and get caught in a guerilla war, and now be crying 'wolf' about Iran.)

It could also apply to levee construction in New Orleans. Many people seem to share Mr. Bush's philosophy, rebuilding directly in the flood area and trusting that divine providence does not send the next Katrina while they are still living there. Further, they are trusting in levees that were inadequate the last time, but are only being funded to be built just as they were before the storm. Al Naomi, a senior project manager for the New Orleans district of the Army Corps of engineers, told US News in June that his proposal entitled, 'Benefits of category 5 Protection: Loss of Life Prevented; Makes evacuation manageable," has yet to be funded-- even for a feasibility study. This is a lot like saying that if the brakes fail on your car and it turns out that there is a defect, they would replace the brakes that failed with an identical set that had the same defect. Maybe I'm missing something, but considering that the Dutch (who also live below sea level) were wise enough to revamp their flood control system with something different after a disastrous 1952 storm, I wonder why we are just building the same levees in the same way that failed already.

The people trying to rebuild everything just as it was, are fools. The effects of global warming on hurricanes aside, simply the law of averages indicates that sooner or later a Katrina size (or bigger) storm will score a direct hit on the city. To gamble that it will be later rather than sooner is indeed a gamble worthy of a fool.


Blenster said...

Do you really feel that Bush is crying "wolf" over Iran? Despite the fact that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly discussed his religious beliefs concerning his "duty" to instigate chaos and usher in the "Mahdi"? They guy is a religious nut and while the majority of the general population seems more secular, the leadership of Iran remain hard-liners. Personally, I'm a bit worried. "When religion and government ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows." If you think Bush is an unstable religious leader, he's nothing compared to this guy.

As for New Orleans, much of the levee system was not built to the code specified by the engineers due to the well-known rampant corruption. I'm not sure I agree with rebuilding in a stupid location however it's not fair to suggest that the technology couldn't be implemented correctly to guard better against these storms. In other words, the analogy you present, car brakes, would be more like this: "You purchase the manufacture recommended brakes but a dishonest mechanic puts on cheaper and less capable brakes which fail under stress and now you wish to replace them with the brakes you had originally ordered to begin with."

Eli Blake said...

You may have a point about the levees (especially since Katrina has since been downgraded to a category 3 storm which they were supposed to protect against) but it is nonetheless a matter of time before N.O. IS hit by a category 4 or 5 storm, in which case levees built to withstand a category 3 will still fail, even if built perfectly to specifications. As I have mentioned before, when a major storm breached the dutch dikes in 1952, they didn't just repair the breech, they also installed giant hydraulic seawalls that can be raised within minutes and cordon off any area that is flooded so that the flood is localized. Why we can't do something like that in New Orleans escapes me.

As for crying wolf with Iran, yes, I do think so. We heard pretty much the same kind of stuff about Iraq, and then when we got in there, it turned out that there were no chemical weapons, and that the biggest threat to us from Iraq was what was the morass that was waiting for us once we got there so I tend not to trust most of what we are hearing about Iran. And yes, Ahmadinejad is harsh on the rhetoric, but I look at it more like Kruschev saying, 'we will bury you.' Tough talk, but he knows as well as anyone that to actually start a nuclear war would be suicidal for him, so he is likely to be limited to talk.

We got stampeded into the last war, let's not have it happen again.