Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hastert: Rebuilding below sea level senseless

Hastert: Rebuilding below sea level senseless

It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said of federal assistance for hurricane-devastated New Orleans. Hastert, in a transcript supplied by the suburban Chicago newspaper, said there was no question that the people of New Orleans would rebuild their city, but noted that federal insurance and other federal aid was involved. "We ought to take a second look at it. But you know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake fissures and they rebuild too. Stubbornness." There are "some real tough questions to ask," Hastert said in the interview. "How do you go about rebuilding this city? What precautions do you take?" Asked in the interview whether it made sense to spend billions rebuilding a city that lies below sea level, he replied, "I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me." Hastert later issued a statement saying he was not "advocating that the city be abandoned or relocated." "My comments about rebuilding the city were intended to reflect my sincere concern with how the city is rebuilt to ensure the future protection of its citizens and not to suggest that this great and historic city should not be rebuilt," the statement said.

After Centuries of 'Controlling' Land, Gulf Learns Who's the Boss

The Gulf Coast has always been vulnerable to coastal storms, but over the years people have made things worse, particularly in Louisiana, where Hurricane Katrina struck yesterday. Since the 18th century, when French colonial administrators required land claimants to establish ownership by building levees along bayous, streams and rivers, people have been trying to dominate the region's landscape and the forces of its nature. As long as people could control floods, they could do business. But, as people learned too late, the landscape of South Louisiana depends on floods: it is made of loose Mississippi River silt, and the ground subsides as this silt consolidates. Only regular floods of muddy water can replenish the sediment and keep the landscape above water. But flood control projects channel the river's nourishing sediment to the end of the birdfoot delta and out into the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico. Although early travelers realized the irrationality of building a port on shifting mud in an area regularly ravaged by storms and disease, the opportunities to make money overrode all objections.

Even in America, civil order is more fragile than we think.

One frequent reaction we heard yesterday is that the disorder in New Orleans is typical of Third World countries, something that was thought could never happen in America. This happens to overlook a fair chunk of U.S. history, some of it relatively recent, including riots and violence. But it is also a sign of complacency born of prosperity and the resilience of our legal and civic institutions. This battle of New Orleans should remind us that civic order, even in America, is more fragile than we like to think. After this week and amid the continuing threat of terrorism, our political leaders at all levels are going to have to think harder about how to maintain order in the next crisis.


At September 03, 2005 3:30 PM, Blogger sissyblue said...

New Orleans will be rebuilt, just as San Francisco was. We just need some better engineering on the levies, like they have in Amsterdam. Americans are tenacious... think Pit Bull.

At September 03, 2005 5:09 PM, Blogger bordergal said...


My husband is a emergency responder. They have a word for certain places that people build their homes, such as flood plains, heavily forested areas with only one way in/out, etc. They call it the "stupid zone".

The entire city of NO is a stupid zone. It makes more sense to relocate to a more defensible position, given that hurricanes occur on a yearly basis. Keep the port facilities, but have the citizenry move to higher, and safer ground.

At September 03, 2005 5:54 PM, Blogger Don Miguel said...

Hastert was, is and always will be a flaming idiot.

With that being said, bordergal's husband is right -- NO is a "stupid zone." The problem is that there are several things that could have been done over the years to mitigate the current situation, but no one wanted to spend the money or effort. NO will be rebuilt, but I bet it will be a lot smaller.

At September 03, 2005 6:21 PM, Blogger sissyblue said...

Unfortunately the whole gulf coast is one big "stupid zone", but with the oil in the Golf of Mexico, we need ports. Actually, I think the ideal would be to use it as a port, plus tourist area, then rebuild homes further out bringing them in on LRT to work.

It sure won't be the same place though. I really loved the atmosphere that came with the native population in the area. It was a really awesome city.

At September 03, 2005 10:56 PM, Blogger Ole said...

To call the entire gulf zone a stupid zone is not right. I lived in Pensacola before and liked it. But to build an entire city under sea level in that area is really stupid.

At September 04, 2005 4:01 AM, Blogger The Scoopster said...

I was shocked--more shocked by the Battle of New Orleans than I was by 9/11 or 7/7.

I have now realized that even in these United States, civil society is very fragile.

I have also realized that those people outside the mainstream who have been warning about the dangers of excessively "diverse" nation-states weren't talking about a hypothetical future.

The situation in New Orleans, the demonic unleashing of tribal warfare, was worse than we thought.

I have been aggregating news items from around the Anglosphere of whites that have been targetted by black mobs in hate crimes.

CNN is silent. Middle America doesn't get it. Black America is trying to spin Katrina so that they get to be the victims and not the victimisers.

This isn't about sea level, you drones!

This is about how the American media looked away when blacks unleashed a wave of criminality, much of it targetting unprotected whites.

At September 04, 2005 5:08 AM, Blogger TheKaffir said...

I don't know. My thinking is that the Corp of Engineers really has screwed up. You're probably right that most of their flood control projects have done more damage than good in the long term. Actually, land in Louisiana already shows signs of sinking. I think what they have to do is find some land near the lake that they could flood without causing a disaster.

Since most of Holland is below sea level, it is possible that people can inhabit areas below sea level. Now they can talk all they want about the federal government not fully funding some of the projects that were proposed by the Corp of Engineers for Louisiana. But the problem is that the system was not built to withstand the type of storm surge and water level that occurred with Katrina.

Now if the state and city believe that certain projects needed funding, then why didn't it spend its money on those projects. That might have been more important than a football stadium or a convention center expansion. In other words, if they could spend 186 million dollars in subsidies to a profitable football team, then why didn't they fund flood control projects.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Gov. Kathleen Blanco says the New Orleans Saints seem receptive to her idea of building a new football stadium in combination with an expansion to the New Orleans convention center.

During a conference call with reporters Thursday from Boston, where she was attending the Democratic National Convention, Blanco said she hopes to meet with Saints owner Tom Benson soon to discuss the idea and find out how much money the team could put into the project.

No date has been set for a meeting, said Tim Coulon, Superdome Commission chairman and one of Blanco's representatives in talks with the Saints. Blanco floated the idea of combining the two projects about a week ago.

The $400 million convention center expansion has been delayed for months because a legal fight over the low bid for the project.

The governor said she still favors renovating the Superdome for the Saints, and has not committed to the idea of a new stadium. She said a study probably would take several months.

Three years ago, Benson demanded a new stadium, but instead got a $186 million deal from the state for the team to stay in New Orleans while the idea of a new stadium was studied.

Blanco proposed renegotiating the deal this year just before the Superdome Commission had to borrow $7.1 million to meet the scheduled payment of $15 million to the Saints this summer.

At September 04, 2005 6:46 AM, Blogger Zach said...

"This battle of New Orleans should remind us that civic order, even in America, is more fragile than we like to think. After this week and amid the continuing threat of terrorism, our political leaders at all levels are going to have to think harder about how to maintain order in the next crisis."

Very very true. "Civilization" as we know it rests on the edge of a knives, and is certainly far outside the norm or natural state of man.

Also, I recommend reading The Scoopster above. Some of what is going on there, especially against whites, women, and children will make you literally sick.

At September 04, 2005 1:10 PM, Blogger sissyblue said...

Ole, I think you're right. NO has 2 strikes against it. It could handle being under sea level, like Amsterdam, or the other like Miami, but both is probably too much. OK, you won me over:>)

At September 04, 2005 3:50 PM, Blogger TheKaffir said...

The problems in New Orleans are much bigger than keeping the water out. The land in New Orleans and Southern Louisiana has been sinking rapidly. They really have to rethink the approach to the city. If the estimates that the City has sunk about 6 to 20 inches in the last 20 years are correct, I don't know the amount of rebuilding that can be done. Basically, all the levee projects by the Army Corp of Engineers have caused the land to sink, something that makes flooding much worse, not better. And, what you hear in rebuilding is lets make the walls bigger and thicker. There is much more that needs to be done.
Louisiana is sinking
Tuesday, February 25, 2003 Posted: 8:32 AM EST (1332 GMT)

While most of North America rests on bedrock, New Orleans and the surrounding area are built on Mississippi River silt. And the silt is slowly settling and compacting because of gravity.

The settling has been going on for ages, but the surface really began dropping fast during the 20th century because of man's doing: The levees built to keep the Mississippi within its banks all but stopped the floods that used to lay down new layers of soil over the land.

Moreover, the human effects of the sinking are greater than ever simply because more people are living here.

Houses not built on deep pilings are tipping and cracking. So are streets, often rupturing water mains and sewer lines beneath them. Along parts of the coast, the ground is now under water, and some yards have become marshland.

The situation is so dire that some highways may be unable to serve as evacuation routes while a hurricane is approaching, the National Geodetic Survey recently warned. The roads themselves could be awash.

Among the solutions that have been floated: spreading fertilizer to stimulate the growth of plants, which trap soil and add to the dirt when they die. Also: digging a deep trench to divert the Mississippi River and its silt, or building pipelines to spread silt across the landscape.

But those solutions would work only on undeveloped land, not property that has already been built over.

"Say your neighborhood's 8 feet below sea level," said University of New Orleans geologist Shea Penland. "Are you going to say the government wants to cover your house in mud to raise the level?"

For lack of any better solution, houses have to be jacked up and stabilized one at a time. Some house levelers use a technique called "mudjacking" -- drilling holes in the foundation, then pumping in a mixture of mud and cement under pressure to raise and level part of a building.

The sinking has run anywhere from 6 to 20 inches over the past 20 years, said Roy Dokka, a professor at Louisiana State University's Center for Geoinformatics.

Penland disputed that, saying those figures apply only to the highways where the measurements were taken, not to southern Louisiana as a whole. The marshlands are sinking much more slowly, he said.

Whatever the case, there is "a huge trend of sinking throughout Louisiana, making it the hotspot of the country in terms of this kind of phenomenon," said geologist Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University.

Part of the problem is that silt is even finer than sand and compresses more easily.

In southern Louisiana, pilings often must be sunk 30 feet or more to get to sand dense enough to stabilize the buildings they bear. In Metairie and Kenner, just west of the city, a large building might need pilings up to 100 feet deep.

In Leeville, 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, the land has sunk 14 inches over the past 20 years. At Leeville's old cemetery, brick mausoleums that were on land back then are now under water.

The sinking in Louisiana is compounded by dry spells, which cause soil at the surface to shrink like a sponge left on a kitchen counter. Some say the settling is also worsened by drainage projects that lower the underground water level.

Not far from Leres' home, an auto dealership won $3.7 million in 1999 in a lawsuit against the Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board over damage from a drainage project. Hundreds of home- and business owners in the area have also sued.

The city of New Orleans has not had to have any buildings shored up, but spends $150 million a year to repair and replace streets damaged by subsidence, said Rosalind Cook, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ray Nagin. Subsidence is also one of the main causes of broken water and sewer lines.

In fact, many Louisiana homes built since the mid-1960s have flexible gas pipes to prevent disastrous ruptures caused by shifting foundations.

At the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility -- the Lockheed-Martin-operated plant in New Orleans where the fuel tanks that have come under suspicion in the space shuttle Columbia disaster are made -- the buildings are on pilings, but settling still causes occasional plumbing problems.

"Every now and then, we'll have an underground piping problem, like a water leak," plant spokesman Harry Wadsworth said. "It's a recurring nagging headache kind of thing. Nothing dramatic -- just that recurring maintenance."

At September 04, 2005 6:18 PM, Blogger bordergal said...


Horrible. I hope these stories get out, and we have something on hand beyond "Bush was deliberately letting black people die". I wondered why the refugees just didn't organize and keep the Superdome clean, have search parties for supplies, dig makeshift toilets, etc. Even in bad circumstances, working together can help alleviate suffering. This helps explain why conditions were so atrocious.

Maybe having NO cleansed in a biblical sense is not such a bad idea in the long run (not that I am happy about the loss of life, far from it!). From what I've seen of the local and state authorities, police department (with sincere apologies to those who DID do their jobs under horrible conditions) and many of the citizens, it was a highly dysfunctional city. Maybe the breakup of the old power structure will help erase the old pathologies.

At September 04, 2005 6:45 PM, Blogger Herr Unswedenizer said...

What has happened in New Orleans should give the Jihadists some useful ideas. Seeing how very fragile the civic order of a society is.

Go for Holland. Use dynamite to blow up levees. A whole number of cities could be put under the same kind of situation as New Orleans.

But consider the differences! All to the advantage of the Jihadists:

1. In New Orleans the mayhem was created by criminals taking advantage of the situaton. Black people buying into the victimization myth, and hostile to their nation (and their own kind). That's certainly bad enough. But replace them with Muslims, which is the case in Europe, for whom holy war is a sacred duty, and Holland is seen as part of Dar al Harb (the abode of war). We are talking about a magnitude of difference between these two types of barbarians. As an example, for the barbarians in New Orleans their lives are precious, for the barbarians we will face in Europe, it's not.

2. There is also a difference of magnitude when it comes to the resources of police and military. Post-materialist Europe has persistently liquidated such resources during the last decades. And it is not like if Holland could call the "federal" level of the EU and find a lot of extra resources.

Western Europe is like a powder-magazine just waiting to blow off. Some dynamite in the right places in Holland would do the job. War happens in the minds of people. The resistance to the barbarians in Holland will enrage Jihadists all around Western Europe -- and recruit a lot of new ones! It will be a signal for an early start of the second stage of Jihad here. They will start fighting in the name of the martyrs and victims dying at the hands of the violence of infidels in Holland.

At September 04, 2005 6:50 PM, Blogger Don Miguel said...

bordergal, the refrain of "Bush was deliberately letting black people die" is coming from two angles: professional and political race-baiters (the usual suspects) and those who are trying to deflect the blame from where it really belongs (the political leadership of NO, which is mostly black).

You wonder why the "refugees just didn't organize and keep the Superdome clean, have search parties for supplies, dig makeshift toilets, etc.?" The reason for that is the most of those refugees have been sucking at the teat of government welfare for much or all of their lives -- they have no clue how to take care of themselves, much less each other. NO is one of the last vestiges of the Democratic-style welfare state that is so loved by the previously mentioned race-baiters and their ilk. This mentality of not being able to "do for oneself" and to expect the government to handle everything is found in poorest man on the street up to the mayor of NO.

All you have to do is listen to what the mayor has ranted about the last few days. He spends a lot of time whining and complaining about what other people and agencies are not doing when, in fact, much of what is not being done is in reality his responsibility. He is whining because someone else is not doing HIS JOB!

Even in bad circumstances, working together can help alleviate suffering. This helps explain why conditions were so atrocious.

At September 04, 2005 6:51 PM, Blogger Don Miguel said...

Please ignore that last small paragraph. It was a cut & paste scrap I didn't erase.

At September 04, 2005 7:05 PM, Blogger Herr Unswedenizer said...

It is the same tactics that has been used by the far left as long as it existed (and to some extent it is the same tactics that is used by the Bush Administration by being in Iraq).

The idea is to provoke an open front where forcing open violence to occur.

It's being used by aggressive anti-globalists. Provoking the police to act forcefully, and thereby start street wars, and thereby making also the otherwise nonviolent anti-globalists feel that they are being attacked, and thereby making many of them also resort into violence.

A movement hostile to Western civilization, such as Leftism and Nazism, does not only consist of the aggresive elements. There is also the huge amount of supporters and apologists. The people who will say that: yes, it was wrong to smash the windows of that shop owner, but that also we have to understand the people who did it since he was a Jew/Capitalist, and since all the bad things Jews/Capitalists did to us.

The violent elements are just the tip of the iceberg. But by creating an open front, and big and violent enough to enrage the latent elements, they can make the iceberg rise high above the water. Many of the apologists at this point will realize that they have been on the wrong side, but equally many will join the violent elements or actively support them.

The same mechanism is at work in Islam, only that the ratio of violent elements is already higher to start with. And for the rest, they fear Islamic hell more than they fear for their own lives.

So yes, we are in for trouble of high magnitude.

At September 04, 2005 11:53 PM, Blogger bordergal said...

Edward Abbey said in Desert Solitaire that people living in cities are easy to control. They are also targets of choice for natural and manmade disasters.
It sounds like Holland, being dependent on its dike system is particularly vulnerable.

I've listened to the Mayor. He was not impressive. Nor was the Governor of Louisana. Nor was the Senator from Lousiana (both women, I am sorry to say). One person I know of who did show initiative (the young man who put 100 people on a bus and drove it to Houston) is under threat of legal action for using the bus for saving lives rather then leaving it there to be flooded. With idiots like that in charge, no wonder everything went to heck in a handbasket.

At September 05, 2005 3:36 AM, Blogger TheKaffir said...

That kid who took the bus is one of the few heros in this situation. If he had the initiative and resourcefulness to get the damn bus, why the hell did 1200 buses sit in the water. He didn't steal the bus. He didn't try to make any money. He saved a lot of people, something the Mayor failed to do.

Why the hell weren't those buses near the Superdome or near high ground. Why weren't those buses used in the evacuation?

Not to get on Bush for his failures here but if some people in local government had done a better job preparing, there wouldn't have been such a mess!

At September 05, 2005 7:24 PM, Blogger bordergal said...


Emergency planning responsibility resides at the local level, then up to the state, which has to REQUEST federal assistance. One of those checks and balances to keep a powerful central government from taking over a state.

The locals and state level both performed poorly (for example, Gov Blanco turned down offers of Ntl Guard from other states). Compare Lousiana's response with 9-11, and the quality of their police and FF with NO.

The kid who took the bus deserves a medal, and should be trained as a first responder due to demonstrated coolness under fire.

The rest of the rag tag bunch should be given the boot. It's time for the Big Easy to clean house, in more ways then one.

It's a sad commentary on how little leadership and politics have in common.


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