Friday, September 09, 2005

What the New York Times won't report

Two of the most explosive post-Katrina charges were debunked over the last 24 hours. One of them, that the eeeevil Bush Administration has starved the Army Corps of Engineers for money to maintain and repair New Orleans' levee system, was demolished in that noted redoubt of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, the Washington Post:

In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.

For example, after a $194 million deepening project for the Port of Iberia flunked a Corps cost-benefit analysis, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) tucked language into an emergency Iraq spending bill ordering the agency to redo its calculations. The Corps also spends tens of millions of dollars a year dredging little-used waterways such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Atchafalaya River and the Red River -- now known as the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway, in honor of the project's congressional godfather -- for barge traffic that is less than forecast.

The Industrial Canal lock is one of the agency's most controversial projects, sued by residents of a New Orleans low-income black neighborhood and cited by an alliance of environmentalists and taxpayer advocates as the fifth-worst current Corps boondoggle. In 1998, the Corps justified its plan to build a new lock -- rather than fix the old lock for a tiny fraction of the cost -- by predicting huge increases in use by barges traveling between the Port of New Orleans and the Mississippi River.

In fact, barge traffic on the canal had been plummeting since 1994, but the Corps left that data out of its study.

Landrieu was quoted over the weekend threatening to "punch in the mouth" anybody who criticized the local officials in Louisiana over their response to the hurricane. I doubt she's rethinking that threat in light of this Fox News report from yesterday, but after I first saw it, I definitely thought a few mouth-punches were in order:

[Brit] Hume: [The Red Cross was] Standing by, ready. Why didn't FEMA send The Red Cross into New Orleans when we had all of the people there on that bridge overpass and elsewhere. Why not?

[Major] Garrett: First of all, no jurisdiction. FEMA works with The Red Cross, The Salvation Army and other organizations but it has no control to order them to go one place or the other. Secondarily, The Red Cross was ready. I got off the phone with one of their officials. They had a vanguard, Brit, of trucks with water, food, hygiene equipment, all sorts of things ready to go where? To the Superdome and convention center. Why weren't they there? The Louisiana Department of Homeland Security told them they could not go.

Hume: This is isn't the Louisiana branch of the federal Homeland Security? This is --

Garrett: The state's own agency devoted to the state's homeland security. They told them you cannot go there. Why? The Red Cross tells me that state agency in Louisiana said, look, we do not want to create a magnet for more people to come to the Superdome or convention center, we want to get them out. So at the same time local officials were screaming where is the food, where is the water? The Red Cross was standing by ready, the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security said you can't go.

Hume: FEMA does, presumably at some point, have some jurisdiction over some military forces. Of course, the first responders there are the National Guard. Why didn't FEMA send the National Guard in? You heard that cry from many people.

Garrett: FEMA does not have jurisdictional control over any state's National Guard, only the governor does. The governor in this case, Kathleen Blanco, A democrat, did use the Louisiana National Guard for some purposes, did not deploy them in massive numbers initially and they were not used to move any of these relief organizations in and they could have been for the very same reason I talked about earlier, the state decided they didn't want the relief organizations where the people needed it most because they wanted those people to get out.

Hume: But even today we know that Governor Blanco has now decided that a mandatory evacuation may not be necessarily after all. But we can go into that later. What about the use by her of the National Guard to impose law and order during the early looting and all of that?

Garrett: She had a choice, as I am told. She could have taken up the offer from FEMA to federalize all of the activities in Louisiana, meaning that FEMA would be in control of everything. Not only law enforcement, but everything else. She declined to give them that authority. So essentially FEMA was trapped between two bureaucracies. One the Department Of Homeland Security where many of its decisions have to be reviewed and in some cases approved, and a recalcitrant state bureaucracy that wasn't going to give them the authority they needed to make things happen, among them, the National Guard.

Blogger John from Wuzzadem independently confirmed Garrett's story--which, for some strange reason, has not been picked up by any major news outlet other than Fox:

Here's the Red Cross FAQ entry (entitled "Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?") that liberal web sites (and irresponsible politicians) are using to indict FEMA and the USDHS:

Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

Yesterday I called the National Affairs office of the Red Cross (202-303-5551) and talked with Red Cross spokesperson Lesly Simmons, who told me that the shipment was not turned away by the US Dept of Homeland Security, but by this agency:

The Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (LHLS & EP); formally the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness (LOEP), was created by the Civil Act of 1950 and is under the Louisiana Military Department.

Ms. Simmons also told me that the Red Cross has never mentioned any involvement in this incident by FEMA, because FEMA wasn't involved.

Note to the MSM: this is called reporting. I think it might be in some of your job descriptions, but I'd be happy to post a correction if I'm wrong about that.

So here we have the governor of Louisiana, acting out of God-knows-what motivation--probably nothing more malign than bureaucratic cowardice, but that was plenty destructive enough--refusing to send nearby food and water to all those people who were trapped in downtown New Orleans, at the mercy of both the natural elements, and an unleashed criminal element in their midst. And she also refused to give authority to her own National Guard to enter the city in force and end the violence

Again, this has not been reported elsewhere. Can you imagine--can you even conceive of the reaction if George Bush had told the Red Cross to stay away from the Superdome?

But hey, if you're the MSM, there's a simple answer: Doesn't matter. It was all Bush's fault.