Hastert: Rebuilding below sea level senselessHastert: 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.