So ... I thought that I'd try the old "fake my death
and boost sales" charade, 'cause I heard that it worked great for the
Beatles back in the '60s, but it hasn't worked out all that well for me,
to tell you the truth, which is why, for better or worse, I'm back. Did
anyone miss me?
I have a lot of catching up to do, so much so that I don't
really know where to begin, but I guess I'll start with the following brief
news story, which I happened to stumble upon while digging deep within a
recent edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Cuban Hurricane Preparation Offers Lessons in Organization
Los Angeles Times September 10, 2005; Page A30
HAVANA - Cubans have no Astrodome or cruise ships to house
evacuees, and meals-ready-to-eat usually consist of rice and beans.
But they have weathered some of the most violent storms the
tropics can churn up, with surprisingly low death tolls and almost perfect
compliance with evacuation orders.
Last year, United Nations emergency relief coordinator Jan
Egeland singled out Cuba for praise among Caribbean nations for hurricane
evacuation planning. When Hurricane Ivan swiped the island last September,
for example, Cuba didn't record a single death, but 115 people died regionally.
The same month, Hurricane Jeanne killed more than 1,500 in Haiti, many drowning
Now, as analysts and politicians examine how the U.S. government
responded to Hurricane Katrina - and how to avoid a similar catastrophe
- some say this communist island may offer a few lessons.
Cuban evacuations are mostly carried out by community groups
that take cues from the government. The military assists, unarmed.
"Cuba views hurricanes as a top national security priority,
and they know the drill," said Daniel P. Erikson, Caribbean specialist
at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank. The storms not
only imperil lives, he said, but threaten Cuba's economic underpinnings:
agriculture and tourism.
"The drill" Erikson refers to includes yearly military
exercises across the island, with two-day training sessions for emergency
workers, simulated vacuations and reviews of emergency plans.
During hurricanes, Cuba's four state-run television stations
run nonstop evacuation orders and weather reports. The coverage is anchored
by President Fidel Castro, who coordinates response during live broadcasts
as if waging battle against an invading army.
"It's an organized system, in a pyramid structure,"
said Dr. Gabriel Diaz Ramirez, a Cuban pediatrician dispatched to Indonesia
this year to treat tsunami survivors. "We have our government's support."
Perhaps the most striking element of Cuba's disaster preparedness
is that most residents obey evacuation orders without question. The government
says it evacuated 1.5 million people in July ahead of Hurricane Dennis.
Most went to safe zones, and 245,000 flocked to state-run shelters.
This contrasts starkly with New Orleans, where thousands decided
to ride out the storm and were later plucked from flooded attics or perished.
Others are still refusing to leave, even with toxic muck on the streets
and armed forces moving in to carry out mandatory evacuations.
Erikson suggested that the smooth displacements were a product
of the government's tight control over residents.
"It's still a police state," he said. "You
could say one advantage they may have is the ability to move large numbers
of people in a short amount of time.
Stupid f....ing Commies! Can you imagine a government actually
demonstrating concern for the health and safety of the people? What are
they thinking over there? And what is this business of sending in the military
unarmed, as if they were being sent in to do some sort of humanitarian work?
How in the hell are you going to issue shoot-to-kill orders if your relief
workers aren't even packing heat? Those pinkoes are just so damn backwards
in their thinking. I mean, who the hell relies on "community groups"
when you can just get on the phone and call in some professional mercenaries?
(Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans) Come to think of it, I bet
they don't even have any 'private' paramilitary outfits in Cuba. They do
though have an awful lot of medical doctors. So many that they offered to
send over a veritable army of 1,100 of them to tend to the victims of Katrina.
The Bush administration, however, realizing that the presence of swarms
of qualified medical personnel could negatively impact their denegrofication
project, declined the offer.
The writer and editor of the L.A. Times piece, after consulting
their trusty copy of "Orwell for Dummies," concluded that Cuba
is better at responding to disasters because "it's still a police state."
But that much is rather obvious, since, as any fool knows, a "police
state" is one that responds to natural disasters by sending in actual
relief workers, while a "democracy" generally responds to natural
disasters by militarily occupying the zone of destruction and criminalizing
the survivors. Most of you probably remember learning all that stuff back
in your Civics classes.
There is, of course, an alternative explanation for why the
Cuban people willingly follow evacuation orders while the residents of New
Orleans were reluctant to do so. Granted, the alternative explanation lacks
the disconnection from reality so clearly on display in the Times article,
but we should probably give it some consideration nonetheless, so here it
is: the Cuban people know that after the danger has passed, they will actually
be allowed to return to their homes!
The people of New Orleans, on the other hand, had good reason
to fear that they would not.
It is painfully obvious that many of the former residents
of New Orleans will never be going home. Many did not survive, though we
will never know the true number since it was apparent from early on that
the death toll would be covered up. Of those who did survive, many have
seen the last of their family homes. Residents of New Orleans probably didn't
realize it at the time, but the stage was set two months before Katrina
came ashore, on June 23, 2005, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in its infinite
wisdom, decreed that it was well within the 'rule of law' for the government
to seize what is ostensibly privately held land so that that land can then
be passed into the grubby, bloody hands of developers.
The stage was actually set earlier than that, in April 2005,
when the United States Congress, in its infinite wisdom, opted to pass some
bankruptcy 'reform' legislation. I'll defer to the L.A. Times once again
for an explanation of exactly how that 'reform' will come into play:
After virtually every major hurricane of the last 25 years,
bankruptcy filings have grown significantly faster than usual as victims
sought to shake off old debts in order to rebuild their economically ruined
But unless changes are made to an overhaul of the nation's
bankruptcy law due to kick in next month, many of those affected by Hurricane
Katrina and the resulting floods will have a substantially harder time winning
court relief from loans they incurred for homes and businesses that are
now gone, according to a variety of judges, lawyers and policy experts.
"Just because your house or car is somewhere in the Gulf
of Mexico doesn't mean that your auto loan or mortgage went with it,"
said Brady C. Williamson, who was appointed by President Clinton to head
a national bankruptcy commission in the mid-1990s. (Peter Gosselin "New
Bankruptcy Law Could Exact a Toll on Storm Victims," Los Angeles Times,
September 7, 2005)
Imagine, if you will, this purely - ahem - 'hypothetical'
scenario (which, as we all know, could never happen in the land of the free
and home of the brave): under the pretense that conditions are far too dangerous
for you to stay, you and your family are forced from your family home by
heavily armed troops. You are then shipped off, against your will, to some
distant, unspecified location, where your actions are monitored lest you
decide to do something crazy, such as attempting to return to what you,
quite foolishly, still think of as your home. That home, meanwhile, is condemned
and quickly bulldozed, though the actual damage to the property was quite
minimal. The ground that your house used to stand on is seized by the government
and will soon serve as the home of the "Pirates of the Caribbean"
ride at the new Disneyland New Orleans®. Having been stripped of everything
that you once called your own - including your home and all its furnishings,
the land it stood on, your vehicle(s), and your job - and having been separated
from your friends and neighbors, you are now faced with the daunting prospect
of completely rebuilding your life with little to work with other than a
mountain of debt, which, you are quickly assured, you will be required to
pay back. And guess what? This month's payments are already past due.
If you were ever to find yourself in this 'hypothetical' predicament,
which of the following would best describe your situation? (a) I live in
some sort of hellish, Kafkaesque police state; (b) I live in the world's
greatest democracy; or (c) I'm Caucasian, so this doesn't really apply to
me - yet.
I have to admit that I am quite impressed at the amazing foresight
displayed by the Washington gang in getting these new and vastly improved
interpretations of "bankruptcy" and "eminent domain"
on the books just in time to serve the needs of the victims of Hurricane
Katrina. And I am also quite impressed with Washington's propaganda unit,
otherwise known as "Hollywood," which continues to demonstrate
an uncanny ability to serve up "product" that offers commentary
on ongoing events, despite the fact that that product was filmed long before
the events even took place.
Consider, for example, the new television series "Invasion,"
which debuted on September 21, just a few short weeks after the flooding
of New Orleans, and just three days before Rita came ashore. Two curious
facts about this new show stood out even before the first episode aired:
(1) ABC chose to premier it along with the rest of its slate of new Fall
shows even though it was obviously in very poor taste to do so; and (2)
there was not a whimper of protest from any avenue of the media over that
For those who have not seen "Invasion" (and you
are all excused for that oversight, since the series, shockingly enough,
sucks), it concerns the rather strange goings-on in the aftermath of - are
you ready for this? - a Gulf Coast hurricane. Prominently featured on the
program are frequent allusions to governmental cover-ups. The hurricane
that kicked off the series, you see, was apparently not your run-of-the-mill
hurricane. According to one character on the show - a character who, as
custom dictates, is portrayed as a paranoid 'conspiracy theorist' with a
fondness for aliens - the hurricane was actually an elaborate "cover
for a military operation." Elsewhere in the premier episode, a young
girl spoke cryptically about how "the truth will never come out"
because the media wouldn't hang around for long before they moved on to
other things. (These may or may not be exact quotes; I wasn't taking notes.)
Despite being a mediocre show at best, "Invasion"
has received rave reviews from many supposed critics. The fact that the
show is on the air at all, despite the obvious insensitivity shown to the
tens of thousands of victims of Katrina and Rita, coupled with the fact
that it is actually being praised, rather than questioned, would seem to
indicate that some powerful folks in the Washington/Hollywood axis feel
that it is important that "Invasion" be seen by the viewing public.
And that, of course, raises the obvious question: why is it
important that this show be seen? My guess is that it is probably because
at the very time when people of conscience should be asking questions not
too dissimilar from those raised in "Invasion," Hollywood has
already, in its inimitable style, proactively relegated such concerns to
the world of television fantasies. And, of course, thrown a bunch of aliens
into the mix. Can anal probes be far behind?
Perhaps we should throw caution to the wind and have a quick
look at some of the 'conspiracy theories' surrounding Hurricane Katrina.
There certainly is no shortage of them out there. Probably the most elaborate
theories are the ones claiming that the government actually created Katrina,
using advanced, 'black' technology. Personally, I find that scenario to
be highly unlikely. And yes, by the way, I am well aware that control of
the weather has been, for some time now, an explicitly stated goal of the
U.S. military. And yes, I am also well aware of the HAARP project in Alaska.
However, there is a big difference between having the desire and willingness
to do something, and having the technological ability to actually do it.
And I seriously doubt that the technology to create and control manmade
weather systems currently exists. I seriously doubt that mankind even has
an accurate understanding of how naturally-occurring weather systems operate,
which would seem to be a prerequisite for creating artificial systems.
A related theory is the one that holds that while Katrina
was not necessarily artificially created, it was deliberately steered into
New Orleans. Again, this seems very unlikely - more plausible than the creation
theories, I suppose, but still very unlikely. And the truth of the matter
is that what these almost entirely speculative theories primarily do is
draw attention away from the real question that needs to be asked here,
which is: was Hurricane Katrina even the primary cause of the devastation
in New Orleans, or did it just provide a convenient "cover for a military
Already long forgotten, by both the media and the always well-informed
American public, is that there was a bizarrely long gap between when Katrina
came ashore and when the levees were breached. Also long forgotten is that
the earliest reports out of New Orleans held that the city had been spared
from a direct hit, and the storm had therefore done considerably less damage
Captain Nora Tyson - commander of the USS Bataan, a Navy ship
that first rode out the storm in the Gulf of Mexico before following it
to shore - perfectly summed up the initial feeling about the storm's impact
on New Orleans: "On Monday it was like, 'Wow, it missed us, it took
a turn east,' and everything eased up. It was 'Let's open up Bourbon Street,
have a beer, let's go party,' and understandably so. And then all of a sudden,
literally and figuratively, the dam broke, and here we are." (Stephen
J. Hedges "Navy Ship Nearby Underused," Chicago Tribune, September
According to the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street was feeling
in a celebratory mood as well: "Hurricanes are never good news for
insurance companies. But by veering east of New Orleans on Monday, Hurricane
Katrina may have saved insurers a bundle. Major casualty insurers saw only
modest losses on Wall Street ." (Kathy M. Kristof "Insurers Reevaluate
Hurricane's Losses," Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2005, Page C2) On
the front page of the same newspaper, Katrina was said to have "delivered
a hard but glancing blow to New Orleans, then spent its full fury on the
Mississippi Gulf Coast, swamping beach resorts and inland towns." (Scott
Gold and Ellen Barry "Katrina Hits the Gulf Coast," Los Angeles
Times, August 30, 2005, Page A1)
That "glancing blow" would have serious repercussions
- but not until the next day. Hurricane Katrina arrived on the shores of
New Orleans on Monday morning, August 29. By the time night fell on the
partially evacuated city, it appeared as though the danger had passed and
New Orleans had successfully dodged a bullet. The Category 4 winds never
really materialized, the rain was no match for New Orleans' formidable pumping
system, and all 350 miles of the city's system of levees and canals held
fast against the feared storm surges. Until, that is, the wee hours of the
morning of Tuesday, August 30, when three canals (the 17th Street Canal,
the London Street Canal and the Industrial Canal, aka the Inner Harbor Navigation
Canal) suffered major breaches in no less than five separate locations.
The official story, for the first several weeks, was that
storm surges from the mighty Katrina were simply too much for the overburdened
levee walls to handle. The rising water first surged over the tops of the
levee walls, we were to believe, sending the first floodwaters into New
Orleans, and then the levee walls themselves ultimately succumbed to the
surging waters. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, that's a nice little story. It really is. It's at least
as good, I'd have to say, as any of the other stories cooked up in recent
years to explain away unusual events. True, if you really give it some thought
- like, say, for thirty seconds or so - then it doesn't seem to make a lot
of sense, but that has never stopped a wild yarn from becoming a part of
the new reality before, so it shouldn't be a problem now.
Once upon a time, in a more innocent era, people might have
questioned how it was that storm surges could have caused the breaches in
the levees nearly a full day after the storm had hit town. "How can
that be?" they might have asked. "The storm came through here
on Monday and the levees weren't breached until Tuesday. The wind and rain
were pretty well gone by then, so it seems to me like it would have been
kind of an odd time for a massive storm surge. And it seems pretty darn
peculiar that all five of those breaches - all five of them! - occurred
under cover of night some 18-21 hours after Katrina came ashore."
Today, in these much more enlightened times, we would never
raise such foolish questions. Instead, we instinctively do what is expected
of all refined, cultured men and women of the twenty-first century: we warmly
embrace whatever nonsensical lies are thrown our way, and then we go and
share those lies with others, only to find that everyone else already knows
the same lies, which is okay, as it turns out, because that makes it easier
for us to all sit around and discuss current events as though we actually
know what we're talking about.
In this particular situation, however, we do not have to blindly
accept the first official lie. There are slightly different rules at play
here, because this is one of those cases where the official story has been
officially repudiated. That official repudiation, however, was a rather
coy one, which means that this is a situation where it is okay to believe
either the first official lie or the second official lie. Either one will
do just fine, just so long as you firmly believe in one of the two. The
closest parallel I can think of here concerns the attack on the Pentagon
on September 11. Readers will recall that at first it was claimed that the
plane and everything in it was vaporized by the intense heat from the resulting
fire. Later, however, it was claimed that the passengers were actually recovered
and identified through DNA analysis, and that the plane had been largely
reconstructed and was sitting in an unidentified aircraft hangar.
Obviously, both stories could not possibly be true, and, in
fact, neither one of them was actually true. But that's not the point here.
The point here is that it is perfectly okay to be a true believer in either
official version of reality. What is not okay is trying to insert your own
reality, or, worse yet, a relatively objective reality into the mix. That
would be considered a major faux pas. The important thing to remember here
is that, while you are not limited to a specific official reality, you must
choose from one of the available official realities. And as I started to
say, there is a new official story concerning the breached levees. It goes
something like this:
The levee breaches along two major canals that flooded New
Orleans after Hurricane Katrina resulted from massive soil failures under
concrete storm walls, not from hurricane surges that sent water over the
tops of the walls as Army officials initially said, according to teams of
investigators who have examined evidence in the last week. The findings
appear to chip away at the simple story that the storm surge was much larger
and higher than the walls were designed to handle . Investigators have found
no evidence of such overflow and foundational scouring at the breaches in
the London Avenue and 17th Street Canals, two main failures behind the central
New Orleans flooding. In fact, in one case, water marks are a full 2½
feet below the tops of the walls. (Ralph Vartabedian "Soil Failure,
Not Overflow, Cited in Levee Breaches," Los Angeles Times, October
8, 2005, Page A26)
So it appears that it has now been officially acknowledged
that there was no massive storm surge that sent water pouring over the levee
walls, on either Monday or Tuesday mornings. Even at the height of the storm,
the hurricane's surges didn't come close to overflowing the levee walls
at either the 17th Street or London Avenue Canals, where water remained
"more than two feet below the tops of the walls." (Ralph Vartabedian
and Stephen Braun "System Failures Seen in Levees," Los Angeles
Times, October 22, 2005) But then, hours later, when the winds and rain
had died down, and relative calm had returned to the waters of Lake Pontchartrain,
the soil underneath the levee walls, in multiple locations, spontaneously
failed. Along the London Avenue Canal, for example, "a 100-foot-long
block of soil, about 15 feet deep, was pushed back 35 feet. As the earth
berm shifted, the concrete storm wall on top
collapsed into the hole left by the moving soil and disappeared into the
I wonder what could cause that to happen? Why would there
be such a tremendous lateral force exerted on the soil underlying the levee
walls at that particular time? Is that the norm in the aftermath of a hurricane?
I'm no expert in the dynamics of various types of natural disasters, but
it seems to me that a phenomenon like that would more likely be the result
of an earthquake than a hurricane. Another possibility, I suppose, is that
some type of depth charges were responsible for undermining the levees.
I'll bet that the Pentagon has something in its catalogue that would do
the trick. But I don't recall reading any news reports of the levees being
deliberately blown, so I guess we have to rule out that possibility.
Luckily, we have an alternative explanation. According to
the most recent reports, the soil failures were caused by oak tress and
burrowing rodents: "The triggering event in the catastrophic failure
of the 17th Street Canal may have been the fall of a large oak tree planted
at the base of the levee ... The tree's falling started a chain reaction
that took out several hundred feet of flood wall. A similar scenario may
have played out on the London Avenue Canal." In addition, "burrowing
animals created large tunnels that undermined already weak foundations."
Levee board officials, however, openly scoffed at such foolishness, noting
that "there were no trees on the levees anywhere," and neither
were there large concentrations of burrowing rodents. (Ralph Vartabedian
and Stephen Braun "System Failures Seen in Levees," Los Angeles
Times, October 22, 2005)
Since it is pretty obvious that only a crazed 'conspiracy
theorist' would buy into the notion that oak trees and rodents caused the
massive flooding of New Orleans, let's turn our attention back to the more
credible theory that the levees were deliberately breached. And, as it turns
out, there were indeed some reports of deliberate flooding, albeit much
later in the day Tuesday, many hours after the initial breaches: "authorities
took the decision to flood [Crowder Road] district in an apparent attempt
to sluice out some of the water that had submerged a neighbouring district
. The authorities had given people in the district until 5pm on Tuesday
to get out - after that they would open the floodgates." (Jamie Doward
"They're Not Giving Us What We Need To
Survive," The Observer, September 4, 2005)
Do levees have floodgates? Gates that, if opened, allow neighborhoods
to be flooded? That's a pretty odd feature. I hope they keep them locked,
to keep the neighborhood kids from trying to open them. What really happened,
I suppose, is that a levee was deliberately breached. But I wonder how they
did that? I wonder if they undermined it by blasting away the soil underneath?
I'm just curious because that seems to be a pretty effective technique.
And it probably makes relatively little noise. But I guess in this case
noise wasn't really a factor, since breaching the levee was an officially
acknowledged act. No one was trying to hide anything. If you were trying
to hide authorship of the breaches though, it might be a good idea to undermine
the levee walls
rather then just blasting them directly.
Does anyone find it curious, by the way, that the Crowder
Road District was deliberately flooded? What was the thought process behind
that decision? ... "Well, it looks like we have one neighborhood over
here that is pretty well trashed. There's just water everywhere. So I think
what we should do - and I've given this a great deal of thought - is try
to drain some or all of the water into that neighborhood right over there.
That way, we will have two flooded neighborhoods! Actually, truth be told,
we're hoping that if we act quickly enough, the first neighborhood can be
saved - at the expense, of course, of the second neighborhood. And I'm sure
the people in the second neighborhood won't mind because, as a general rule,
the black folks around here are always
willing to lend a hand to help out the white folks."
The main point of this semi-digression, I suppose, is that
as of Tuesday (August 30) evening, actions were being taken to deliberately
cause flooding in certain neighborhoods, and no credible explanation was
being given for these actions. Perhaps then it is not so unreasonable to
ponder whether the initial breaches, all occurring under cover of night,
all occurring many hours after the storm had passed through town, and all
causing flooding primarily in the poorest sections of the city, were deliberate
as well. And perhaps the additional flooding - occurring too long after
Katrina's landfall to be credibly attributed to the storm, and so therefore
officially, though quietly, acknowledged as a deliberate act - was undertaken
to correct a 'problem' with the initial flooding, that problem being that
a few of the targeted neighborhoods were spared while a few of the non-targeted
neighborhoods were not.
Before moving on from this discussion of the levees, I should
probably mention one rather curious incident that occurred in the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina. I realize, of course, that America is home to the
largest, mightiest, 'freest' media machine the world has ever seen, and
because of that, there is virtually no scrap of news that escapes the attention
of the press corps and the American people. Nevertheless, in the unlikely
event that some of you may have missed this story the first time around,
I present it to you here in its entirety:
Police shot eight people carrying guns on a New Orleans bridge
Sunday, killing five or six, a deputy chief said. A spokesman for the Army
Corps of Engineers said the victims were contractors on their way to repair
a canal. The contractors were walking across a bridge on their way to launch
barges into Lake Pontchartrain to fix the 17th Street Canal, said John Hall,
a spokesman for the Corps. Earlier Sunday, New Orleans Deputy Police Chief
W.J. Riley said police shot eight people, killing five or six. The shootings
took place on the Danziger Bridge, which spans a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain
and the Mississippi River. No other details were immediately available.
("Police Kill Five Contractors on LA Bridge," Associated Press,
September 4, 2005)
This was, of course, a huge story when it first broke. I mean,
how often do groups of armed military personnel and groups of armed police
personnel reenact the "gunfight at the OK Corral" on an American
street using live ammunition? This unprecedented event - the gunning down
of half-a-dozen military personnel on American soil for merely going about
doing their jobs - naturally generated a considerable amount of media attention.
Bill O'Reilly alone spent the better part of a week hashing over the 'talking
points' of the story. To the surprise of everyone, Greta Van Susteren and
Nancy Grace even took a break from their relentless search for Natalie Holloway
to focus attention on the big story. Oprah had on the wives of the fallen
contractors to discuss how they were dealing with their loss. Investigations
were quickly launched into the incident by the Army Corps of Engineers,
the New Orleans Police
Department, the Louisiana Governor's Office, the New Orleans Mayor's Office,
the United States Congress, and various other concerned parties.
You all remember all of that . right? If not, it's probably
because none of it actually happened. Except for the part about the shootout
between the Army Corps of Engineers and the New Orleans Police Department.
That part really happened. At least, I'm assuming that there was quite a
shootout, since one would expect that when armed military personnel are
being fired upon, they will generally fire back. But all the rest, I just
made up. Kind of like the real media just makes stuff up.
It is difficult to determine, given the scarcity of details
available, what really happened. When the two organizations involved are
the New Orleans Police Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
it's near impossible to determine who might have been the good guys in this
story. Was this a case of corrupt elements of the NOPD thwarting efforts
to arrest the flooding of New Orleans? Or was this a case of honest police
officers thwarting efforts to further sabotage the levee system? Or was
it neither? Was it merely a tragic case of mistaken identity? Possibly so,
but the fact that this story was quickly buried suggests otherwise.
Moving on then .
Much less discussed than the breakdown in the levee system
was the unprecedented breakdown in the city's second line of defense, its
imposing system of pumping stations. Given that New Orleans sits below sea
level, an effective pumping system is absolutely essential to the city's
survival. Without it, New Orleans would flood every time a decent rain came
through town. Luckily then, the city has a pumping system like no other
in the world. ("How the Levees Failed," Discovery Channel, October
Built in the early 1900s, New Orleans' pumping system is composed
of 23 pumping stations that house a combined 140 pumps. Though nearly a
century old, these pumps remain, to this day, the largest and most powerful
of their kind in the world. And, since they were built before America became
a society that reveres disposability, the pumps are remarkably reliable.
Right up until the day that Katrina came ashore, every one of those 140
pumps were fully operational. But that all changed very quickly in the aftermath
of the storm, when, for reasons that have never been adequately explained
- and never will be, because no one in government or the media will ever
bother to ask - the decision was made to shut the system down.
The explanation that was given was that, since the major levee
breaches lay between the pumping stations and Lake Pontchartrain, the pumps
were serving no purpose other than to circulate the water right back through
the breaches. It was not the case, however, that all 23 of the stations
were situated in that manner, and yet all of them were apparently shut down.
And all of the stations, while they were running, were serving at least
one crucial function: keeping the pumping stations themselves from being
Once the pumps were shut down, the stations were promptly,
and quite predictably, submerged, thus doing major damage to all of the
pumps' electrical components. With one incredibly stupid, or one incredibly
malicious act, a system that had performed nearly flawlessly for almost
a century was rendered completely inoperable. Before repairs could even
be attempted, workers were faced with the uniquely challenging task of pumping
out the pumping stations. The damage was so extensive that two weeks after
Katrina hit New Orleans, over half of the stations still had no running
It is difficult to think of a reasonable explanation for why
the pumping stations were shut down, just as it is difficult to think of
a logical explanation for why at least some neighborhoods were deliberately
flooded. It is difficult as well to explain the curious timing of the five
major levee breaches, though I suppose that in a world where three steel-framed
skyscrapers can spontaneously collapse on a single day, the nearly simultaneous
appearance of five major levee breaches, many hours after the supposedly
precipitating event, doesn't really require any explanation at all.
(to be continued ... )
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