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WaPo retraction on emergency declaration

Paul Craig Roberts offers "From Federal Failure Arises More Federal Power", which makes the following claims:
- funding for the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) was cut...
- likewise with the work of the US Corps of Engineers on the New Orleans levees
- FEMA didn't undertake "normal advance preparations"
- "FEMA took no action until 3 days after the hurricane"
- money for preparedness was spent on Iraq
And, this:

...A senior Bush administration official planted on the Washington Post the disinformation that FEMA could not act because the Louisiana governor had not declared a state of emergency. Hours after printing this disinformation, a red-faced Washington Post issued a retraction, which reads: "A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26."
Nevertheless, the disinformation was widely spread by Brit Hume and other Bush shills who operate out of Fox News (sic), and it continues to be spread via rightwing talk radio and pro-Bush Internet sites. Fox News (sic) host Bill O'Reilly spread similar disinformation. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff added to the disinformation against Gov. Blanco. Most Republicans cling tightly to the orchestrated disinformation as it coddles their state of denial about the failure of leadership in the White House...

Here's the retraction:

A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.

Confusion over the levees still unanswered least to your reporter.
From the report "No quick fix for New Orleans' breached levees", updated at 11:12 p.m. ET Aug. 30, 2005:

As failing levees allowed the murky waters of Lake Pontchartrain to inundate the streets of New Orleans on Tuesday, one thing was becoming clearer: Staunching the flood tide was not likely to be a quick fix.
Confusion persisted for much of the day over where the levees in the below-sea-level city had been breached and how badly. But as evening fell, the most serious problem continued to be "a large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new 'hurricane proof' Old Hammond Highway bridge," according to the Web site of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Smaller breaches were reported elsewhere.

That also has a good aerial shot of the 17th Street bridge.
According to this:

But by Tuesday [Aug. 30], conditions began to deteriorate when the water began to steadily rise. Water lapped at the edge of the city's historic French Quarter after failed pumps and levees sent water from nearby Lake Pontchartrain coursing through the streets.
"It's a very slow rise, and it will remain so until we plug that breach. I think we can get it stabilized in a few hours," Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security chief told The Associated Press.

Despite that date on that page, that same quote appears in "Katrina devastation called 'overwhelming'" from 02:33 PM PDT on Tuesday, August 30, 2005.
Now, take a look at Josh's timeline here, which, as you can imagine, has a left-wing bias.
From the other side, there's more on Ebbert here.
There are Ebbert mentions in the articles linked from here and here.

A flashback to just before landfall

The AP story "Monstrous Hurricane Heads for New Orleans" has a date of Monday, August 29, 2005; 2:50 AM, although what timezone and whether that's accurate is not known. It's also available here under the title "New Orleans flees as Katrina approaches Gulf Coast" and with a date of 8/28/2005 8:02 AM, although I'm pretty sure that's either a mistake or it refers to what used to be at that URL. But, if someone can find exactly when the article was written that would be helpful.
I'm going to try to split it into categories, with the most important item first:
Terry Ebbert:

Terry Ebbert, New Orleans director of homeland security, said more than 4,000 National Guardsmen were mobilizing in Memphis and will help police New Orleans streets.

So, what happened to those troops? Under whose command were they? Presumably the state of Tennessee, but you never know.
Aaron Broussard:

The head of Jefferson Parish, which includes major suburbs and juts all the way to the storm-vulnerable coast, said some residents who stayed would be fortunate to survive. "I'm expecting that some people who are die-hards will die hard," said parish council President Aaron Broussard.


Mayor Ray Nagin said he believed 80 percent of the city's 480,000 residents had heeded an unprecedented mandatory evacuation as Katrina threatened to become the most powerful storm ever to slam the city... Nagin said he expected the pumping system to fail during the height of the storm. The mayor said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was standing by to get the system running, but water levels must fall first. "We are facing a storm that most of us have long feared," he said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event."


The Louisiana Superdome, normally home of professional football's Saints, became the shelter of last resort Sunday for thousands of the area's poor, homeless and frail. Among those who lined up for blocks as National Guardsmen searched them for guns, knives and drugs were residents who hobbled to safety on crutches, canes and stretchers.

(Remember when the "liberals" were complaining about those searches? Oh, those were the days.)
Holding their breath:

By early Monday, there was little more anyone could do but hope. City streets were empty and bars were closed as gusts up to 55 mph were felt. Landfall of the eye was expected around 8 a.m. at Grand Isle, about 60 miles south of New Orleans.

The first devastating effects of the storm were felt in New Orleans around 8AM CDT.
What might happen:

By 1 a.m. EDT, Katrina's eye was 170 miles south-southeast of New Orleans. A hurricane warning was in effect for the north-central Gulf Coast from Morgan City, La., to the Alabama-Florida line. The storm held a potential surge of 18 to 28 feet that would easily top New Orleans' hurricane protection levees, as well as bigger waves and as much as 15 inches of rain... For years, forecasters have warned of the nightmare scenario a big storm could bring to New Orleans, a bowl of a city that's up to 10 feet below sea level in spots and dependent on a network of levees, canals and pumps to keep dry from the Mississippi River on one side, Lake Pontchartrain on the other. ...The fear is that flooding could overrun the levees and turn New Orleans into a toxic lake filled with chemicals and petroleum from refineries, as well as waste from ruined septic systems.

Driving out:

Major highways in New Orleans cleared out late Sunday after more than 24 hours of jammed traffic as people headed inland. At the peak of the evacuation, 18,000 people an hour were streaming out of southeastern Louisiana, state police said... On inland highways in Louisiana and Mississippi, heavy traffic remained the rule into the night as the last evacuees tried to reach safety. In Orange, Texas, Janie Johnson of the American Red Cross described it as a "river of headlights."

Other precautions:

In Washington, D.C., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it has been advised that the Waterford nuclear plant about 20 miles west of New Orleans has been shut down as a precautionary measure.

Other areas:

Evacuation orders also were posted all along the Mississippi coast, and the area's casinos, built on barges, were closed early Saturday. Bands of wind-whipped rain increased Sunday night and roads in some low areas were beginning to flood... Alabama officials issued mandatory evacuation orders for low-lying coastal areas. Mobile Mayor Michael C. Dow said flooding could be worse than the 9-foot surge that soaked downtown during Hurricane Georges in 1998. Residents of several barrier islands in the western Florida Panhandle were also urged to evacuate.

John Breaux: I deserve some criticism

From this:

Although he said it's not time to point fingers, former Louisiana Sen. John Breaux said he deserves some criticism for the problems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Breaux, a Democrat, said he and other current and former members of Louisiana's congressional delegation failed to get more money for evacuation efforts and the strengthening of levees.
But for now, he said, attention should be focused on relief efforts.
"Blaming each other does not save a life, does not feed a single family," Breaux said...

Loonies: 17th Street Canal breach was intentional

In our wacky world, anything is possible. And, throughout history various leaders have secretly done some mighty horrific things. However, even in that broad historical context I find this slightly difficult to believe:

Explosive residue was found on failed 17th St.levee debris.
Divers inspecting the ruptured levee walls surrounding New Orleans found something that piqued their interest -- burn marks on underwater debris chunks from the broken levee wall.
One diver, a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, saw the burn marks and knew immediately what caused them...

And, as it turns out, he was right! A trusted friend at the U.S. Army Forensic Laboratory at Fort Gillem, Georgia says the marks came from high explosives, saying:

"We found traces of boron-enhanced fluoronitramino explosives as well as PBXN-111. This would indicate at least two separate types of explosive devices."

Needless to say, all sources have requested anonymity.
Note that this story is dated today, yet this isn't the first time something similar has been uttered.
Way back on Aug. 30, a DUmmie said:

BTW, does anyone else think it's suspicious that the levees didn't break until AFTER the hurricane passed and it was clear the storm surge was not going to swamp the city. It would probably only take a couple of sticks of dynamite to get those things flowing. Seems like someone wanted Bush to have another pile of debris to climb on top of.

"Mary, Mary, Quite (To The) Contrary"


Louisiana's senior senator, whose brother is lieutenant governor and whose father was New Orleans' mayor, is blaming President Bush for "the staggering incompetence of the federal government." Come again?
It's understandable that on the Sept. 4 edition of ABC's "This Week," Mary Landrieu said of President Bush, "I might likely have to punch him - literally" if he or members of his administration made any more disparaging remarks about local authorities and their pre- and post-Katrina efforts. Some are and were family.
Brother Mitch Landrieu is lieutenant governor of Louisiana. Father "Moon" Landrieu was not only mayor of New Orleans, but also later became secretary of housing and urban development under President Carter.
...Despite Landrieu's complaints of budget cuts and paltry funding, the fact is that over the five years of the Bush administration, Louisiana has received more money - $1.9 billion - for Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects than any other state, and more than under any other administration over a similar period. California is a distant second with less than $1.4 billion despite a population more than seven times as large.
...The problem was at the local level. The ambitious plan fell apart when the state suspended the Levee Board's ability to refinance old bonds and issue new ones. As the Times-Picayune reported, Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle "repeatedly faulted the Levee Board for the way it awards contracts, spends money and ignores no-bid contract laws." Blocked by the state from raising local money, the federal matching funds went unspent. By 1998, Louisiana's state government had a $2 billion construction budget, but less than one-tenth of one percent, or $1.98 million, was dedicated to New Orleans levee improvements. By contrast, $22 million was spent that year to renovate a home for the Louisiana Supreme Court...

"Money Flowed to Questionable Projects"

The WaPo reports on "Largess in Louisiana" (same article here):

...Before Hurricane Katrina breached a levee on the New Orleans Industrial Canal, the Army Corps of Engineers had already launched a $748 million construction project at that very location. But the project had nothing to do with flood control. The Corps was building a huge new lock for the canal, an effort to accommodate steadily increasing barge traffic.
Except that barge traffic on the canal has been steadily decreasing...
...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...

Levee corruption: flashback to Nov 29 2004

From a DOJ press release of Nov. 29, 2004:

Shreveport, Louisiana . . . A federal grand jury has returned two separate indictments charging three members of the State Military Department with offenses related to the obstruction of an audit of the use of federal funds for flood mitigation activities throughout Louisiana, United States Attorney Donald W. Washington announced today.
Two of the individuals charged, MICHAEL C. APPE, 51, of Mandeville, Louisiana, and MICHAEL L. BROWN, 61, of St. Francisville, Louisiana, are senior employees of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Both APPE and BROWN are charged with conspiracy to obstruct a federal audit; BROWN is additionally charged with making a false statement.
The Hazardous Mitigation Grant Program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is designed to fund mitigation projects to prevent future flood losses or flood claims made upon the National Flood Insurance Program. BROWN was responsible for overall management the program in Louisiana; APPE was responsible for managing employees who perform fiscal transactions regarding these funds.
The indictment alleges that during an audit of the program being conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Office of Inspector General, a State Military Department employee realized that $175,000 in expenditures of federal monies was improper in that the money was not used for purposes authorized by the federal program and would therefore have to be re-paid to the federal government. This employee notified APPE, who in turn directed the employee to provide false documents to the federal auditors...

Levee upgrade wouldn't have prevented failure

One of the major "liberal" talking points concerns funding for New Orleans' levees. Just one problem:

...Indeed, if editorial writers had a comment to make it was to say something about the levees.
And why not? The levees broke, didn't they? That's what helped mess up the rescue effort, didn't it? And there were cuts in federal help, weren't there?
The answers to all these questions are yes. But, the fact is, they miss an important point, which The New York Times editorialists might have discovered had they read their own news story by Andrew Revkin and Christopher Drew. The reporters quoted Shea Penland, director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, about how surprising it was that the break in the levee was "a section that was just upgraded."
"It did not have an earthen levee," he told them. "It had a vertical concrete wall several feet thick."
Worse for the editorial writers were statements by the chief engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen Carl Strock: "I don't see that the level of funding was really a contributing factor in this case. Had this project been fully complete, it is my opinion that based on the intensity of this storm that the flooding of the business district and the French Quarter would have still taken place."
The reason: the funding would only have completed an upgrade of the levees to a protect against a level 3 hurricane. Katrina was a level 4 plus...

Technical info on repairing levees

Sep. 2's "Repairing Levees, Getting the Water Out" has more:

...The Army Corps of Engineers learned that the [17th Street Canal levee or flood wall] had broken early Monday even as the storm hit, but it was impossible to do anything about it before lake water cascaded unimpeded into the below-sea-level city for 36 hours, turning a really bad storm into an unimaginable abomination. There was no public announcement that the levee had broken until late Monday.
Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, the Corps' commander, told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday that Katrina had simply overpowered levees designed 30 years ago with a 99.5 percent chance of enduring for 200 to 300 years: "We, unfortunately, have had that 0.5 percent" happen, Strock said.
On Friday, the Corps was trying to close the 17th Street breach and another breach at London Avenue to the east. A third break -- two breaks actually -- in the Industrial Canal, were left alone because water levels in the lake and the surrounding wetlands had subsided so much that water was draining out instead of coming in.
Col. Richard P. Wagenaar, the Corps' New Orleans District commander who is the on-site commander at 17th Street, said a police officer called him Monday morning to tell him about the break, but he could not drive there. On Tuesday, the Corps tried to drop some sandbags into the breach, but "it didn't work real well," Wagenaar said. "They were too small, and the water velocity carried them away."
It was better on Friday, but there was a big, deep hole to fill, and the bags -- made to hold 20 tons of sand -- were only carrying five, because the helicopters that arrived every five minutes or so, Black Hawks, Sikorskys and even the Chinooks, could not haul more.
Still, the Corps had a plan. Michael Zumstein, action officer for the Corps' "unwatering team," said the canal had been sealed off from the lake with steel slabs, causing water levels in the canal to drop further. That should eventually make it easier to plug the breach.
While the preferred strategy was to plug the breach and allow the city's pumps to discharge floodwater into the canal, the Corps was also prepared to use emergency pumps to flush directly over the steel dam and into the lake if stopping up the hole proved too difficult.
Zumstein said engineers were using the same strategy at a 250-foot breach in the London Avenue Canal, where they were closing the canal mouth even as they tried to stopper the hole: "They're tearing up Lakeshore Drive and using the concrete as fill," Zumstein said.
Elsewhere, flood teams were taking advantage of the fact that the city is divided by internal levees and floodwalls into 13 "sub-basins" with their own drainage systems and pumping stations -- like separate basements with their own sump pumps.
Walter Baumy Jr., engineering chief for the Corps' New Orleans District, said water levels in the lake had subsided by mid-afternoon Friday to within a foot of normal levels, and "when the water inside the bowl is higher than the lake level, we want to drain the water out of the bowl as much as possible."
Baumy said engineers planned to cut new breaches, or "notches" in levees elsewhere in the city, creating makeshift gutters in flooded areas to let water leak out. "We'll see an immediate improvement," he predicted...


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