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Katrina One Year Later: Myths Still Prevail

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It has been one year after the largely ineffectual response to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Despite the failures on all levels of government, it seems that history shows that Bush bears the full brunt of the blame for the failures. While Bush and FEMA do bear some blame for the aftermath, there are many failures that must be noticed if they are to be rectified. It may be politically helpful to pick a favorite scapegoat for political gain, however, lives are lost if all the lessons aren't learned. After action reports have been discarded for political talking points.

First, the United States is a grouping of 50 sovereign states. The president has no authority, absolutely none, to tell a governor what to do with their own resources. Governors cannot be selected by the President, they are not accountable to the President, and most importantly, they cannot be removed by the President. It may be simple to say "The buck stops at the top" but it reflects a sad lack of understanding of the US governmental system. Bush is responsible for some aspects of the aftermath, but Louisiana Governor Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin bear a good chunk of the blame themselves. They were elected to be sole stewards of their governmental assets and they utterly failed their constituents.

Second, it is important to note that the disaster plan was written by the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans alone. It was their plan. They are responsible for what their governments do leading up to a disaster, it was their responsibility to be prepared to deal with a disaster as much as possible, and it was their responsibility alone to deal with evacuation. FEMA responds after a disaster strikes; it is the local and state governments which must take action to mitigate the potential damage.

Third, the failure to call for an evacuation until virtually the last effective moment only maximized the number of people in harms way. Mississippi managed to handle the disaster effectively with minimal loss of life. Florida did as well. All the tales of horror came from Louisiana, and in particular, New Orleans. This was largely because those officials did not call for an evacuation. In fact, the President got on the phone to ask them to evacuate when it was clear they weren't doing so. An extra 24 to 48 hours would have been more than enough to evacuate every man, woman, and child from the New Orleans area.

Fourth, the decision to leave fleets of unattended school buses in parking lots to get destroyed was a critical failure of Mayor Nagin. There were enough buses to evacuate every single person without their own transportation from New Orleans. The fact the buses went unused and the images of buses floating in the Mayor Ray Nagin memorial parking lots should serve as a testament of local government failure spearheaded by Mayor Ray "School Bus" Nagin.

Fifth, when disaster struck, Governor Blanco simply did not lead. Not only did she get on national TV and cry, she was clearly unable to make necessary decisions. The state government and disaster planners looked to her for leadership as the head executive of the state of Louisiana and she failed them. When 9/11 struck, there was no doubt that Rudy Giuliani was firmly in charge. When Katrina struck, no one knew who was in charge because the local and state government fell apart.

Sixth, when Katrina struck from one to two-thirds of the New Orleans Police Department simply walked off the job. For their efforts, they were given free family vacations to Vegas and are portrayed on billboards as symbols of courage. In the military, if a soldier walks off the job during war in a forward area, they can be summarily executed. In New Orleans, they get rewarded.

Seventh, patients were summarily executed by medical professionals. This was called "euthanasia" by the press and the medical community, however, they were not killed for being terminal, they were killed because the conditions of the storm made them "too difficult" to care for or move easily. They were killed because they were too high maintenance.

Eighth, everyone remembers the stories of carnage and rioting in New Orleans that permeated the media. When those stories turned out to be, at best, exaggerations, the organ most responsible for spreading the deceptions, the media, was not taken to account. It is unknown how many lives were lost simply because the media's stories of Armageddon had scared off people from helping. The media needs to thoroughly examine how it gets news and how it presents news. The media is known for sensationalizing stories to produce fear or anger in their audiences. This needs to be addressed.

Ninth, Louisiana and New Orleans have a long and "distinguished" history of corruption and embezzling funds. In fact, before Katrina federal officials were trying to find out were millions of dollars "disappeared" to when sent to Louisiana for homeland security and disaster preparedness. Since Katrina, $77 billion has been spent or is available, yet only one-third of hospitals and one-half of schools are actually open. How much of the money the government and aid organizations spent on New Orleans after Katrina just "disappeared"? The population of Louisiana is 4.5 million and New Orleans is 500,000 of that. Should it really cost hundreds of millions to build a city for that few people?

A year has passed since Katrina; if we truly want to prevent such an event from happening again we need to take a look at the failures. All of them.

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About John Bambenek

John Bambenek is a political activist and computer security expert. He has his own company Bambenek Consulting in Champaign, IL that specializes in digital forensics and computer security investigations.
  • http://hawkeyeindia.wordpress.com Apollo

    Hi john pls do not let some few uncomfortable facts interfere with the “nice” story as told by the leftist media.

    First declare “Bush is Evil” and then fit everything into place. If some facts get in the way blame it on the Joooish lobby, the wingnuts and the leprachauns.

  • RedTard

    Another dimension is the people of New Orleans. The poor unproductive wards of the state before the storm are exactly the same afterwards. They live in their free trailer with free food and stipend and in one year have managed to do absulutely nothing to help rebuild their city.

    Nagin was right about NO becoming a ‘chocolate’ city, it will be brown becuase of all the Mexicans they will have to bring in to do the work becuase the people that formerly lived are simply too lazy.

  • Nancy

    Most interesting would be a good, hard, honest audit of where exactly all the money has gone. As noted by the author, NO has a long, loooooong history of corruption & greed that dwarfs even that of Washington. I’m betting nothing short of moving in a battalion & systematically wiping out all the current inhabitants right up to the governor would cleanse the place, and that of course is unlikely to happen; therefore I do not look to NO to be rebuilt either now or in the future. But the money will disappear into the black hole….

  • From The N.O.

    Nobody talks about the 1.2 million people that were evacuated before Katrina made landfall on One highway. If you haven’t seen the devastation first hand you shouldn’t speak. Imagine whatever city you live is gone, everything, not just a few block like the WTC site but the whole city, every house, every school, every church, every hospital, every store under 6 – 20 feet of water. Everything you know and love gone. And to top it off, if you couldn’t afford to evacuate for more than a couple days, you have to hope someone cares enough to pluck you off a rooftop. Its amazing that people that are sitting in their homes on there personal computers can be so critical of those with nothing. You gotta love this selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed country.

  • Nancy

    The question arises, why, after one year and billions of donated funds, are they still with nothing? In a year, no one has managed to find a new home, a new job? Have they even tried? Or is it like it was before the hurricane: they’re all sitting around with their hands folded, waiting for someone from The Government to hand them something on a platter?

  • http://www.ladydragonfyre.com/index_files/LWS Lady Dragonfyre

    Red Tard:

    Another dimension is the people of New Orleans. The poor unproductive wards of the state before the storm are exactly the same afterwards. They live in their free trailer with free food and stipend and in one year have managed to do absulutely nothing to help rebuild their city.

    Agreed. Also, the refugees have spent at least a billion dollars of the FEMA money given to them on vacations, hookers, and drugs, to name a few. I’ve read one account of a family that spent relief aid on a trip to the Dominican Republic.

    Then we have the increased crime rates. Violent crime spiked in Houston when refugees were sent there.

    The refugees are starting to burden the city of Houston financially. 59% of them are STILL without jobs, and the crime rate among them continues to rise.

    At a recent job fair, the mayor pointed out to refugees that there are 5,000 open jobs. Many of them elect not to work, and the city is struggling financially to support them via welfare and other services.

    50% of the refugees sent here to Rhode Island had violent criminal records.

    My heart goes out to the refugees who are being proactive in rebuilding their lives. Those who wait for government handouts while not even lifting an ass cheek off their couches garner no sympathy from me, and the FEMA fraudsters among their ranks belong behind bars, not living off my tax dollars.

  • http://www.fifthdentist.blogspot.com The Fifth Dentist

    Bambie you’re doing a heck of a job.

  • http://www.zomboscloset.com ILoz Zoc

    It was one hell of a mess, and is still one hell of a mess. It was also a profound failure of leadership at all levels, but especially at the local. How that idiot got re-elected I will never understand.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Iloc, if there was ever a rigged election it was the last New Orleans mayoral election. They were letting evacuees vote without checking whether they were ever planning to come back to the city, and basically making the rules up as they went along.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    JB, excellent article. It was about time someone pointed out that the blame for the mishandling should be spread everywhere up and down the governmental line.

    First responsibility is the individual’s. PRPARE. These days, NOAA’s NHC gives us plenty of warning–there is no excuse for people not even having water stored up when a storm approaches.

    But in NO’s case, the lion’s share of the blame unquestionably lies with the NO municipal government and the LA state government.

    Somebody mentioned that NO hasn’t been rebuilt yet.

    It shouldn’t be.

    There probably couldn’t be a worse place in the world for a good-sized city. If NO is rebuilt in the same place, inevitably, we will all be paying for it to be rebuilt again in the future. Find a better location, and get the Federal government to pay for the relocation–we taxpayers will pay less that way.

  • Bliffle

    Nagin failed, Blanco failed. Is it too much to ask that someone finally do something? this was a chance for Bush to rescue his reputation as a bumbler and he failed.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    In order for Bush to circumvent the authority of a governor he would have to invoke the Insurrection Act.

    Exactly what would you be saying if Bush used the Insurrection Act to take over a state from a governor of the opposing party?

    Would you be singing his praises then? Or would you be claiming a power grab by an out of control Presidency?

  • Alec

    The nine points listed here are largely as wrong as much of the Katrina coverage. It is pointless to talk about first responsders, sovereign states, and who should have done what. The plain fact is that local, state and federal agencies were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and failed to respond. However, some of the most effective response was by the Coast Guard and later the Army, not state or local agencies. This point is important to keep in mind for future disasters or, God forbid, terrorist attacks. It is possible that local agencies will be overwhelmed no matter who has written their disaster manuals.

    The best news coverage came from the local paper, the Times Picayune, and some of the best subsequent reporting has come from local reporters, citizens and scientists. When media made mistakes, those mistakes were later corrected even though right wing nut jobs kept harping on the initial errors, not the later corrections.

    I watched a streaming video from a New Orleans TV station in which a disaster victim noted that some residents desperately fired at helicopters overhead in a foolish and desperate attempt to attract attention to people who needed to be rescued, not as an example of wanton lawlessness. This video was available to anyone with a computer and was linked in many blogs. And yet despite this the myth of lawlessness and the equally false countermyth of media distortion continues.

    I also think a special slap is deserved to all the pundits and talkradio blowhards who could easily have got up off their fat butts and gone to New Orleans and to Mississippi. Instead, these morons, both on the right and the left, sat on their comfortable rumps where they could conveniently ignore any facts that did not suit their ideology.

    The worst damage in New Orleans came from the flooding, not from the hurricaine. It is pointless to compare the damage and the problems in New Orleans to the damage caused in Mississippi or to other hurricaines.

    While it is wrong to bash Bush too much personally, the cold hard fact remains that FEMA was headed by a totally unqualified political crony, and that FEMA’s already shaky ability to respond to disasters has been fatally compromised by an increase of staffers who do not know what they are doing. You can even make a case that FEMA should be disbanded altogether, and that local and regional agencies, perhaps under the control of governors, would be superior to a federal agency. But the admitted failures of the New Orleans mayor and the Louisiana governor do not in any way excuse the abysmal failure of FEMA or of the Bush Administration’s general ineptitude.

  • Clavos

    the cold hard fact remains that FEMA was headed by a totally unqualified political crony,

    FEMA is still headed by a totally unqualified political crony. Chertoff is all hat and no cattle, as GWB would say.

    At least they now have Paulison, who does have a good reputation. We’ll see how does when he’s tested.

  • http://nicholasstixuncensored.blogspot.com/ Nicholas Stix

    Excellent article. Unfortunately, both major parties are dominated by people for whom “federalism” is a foreign term.

    However, one of your points appears to me to be mistaken; the other is simply wrong.

    Seventh, patients were summarily executed by medical professionals. This was called “euthanasia” by the press and the medical community, however, they were not killed for being terminal, they were killed because the conditions of the storm made them “too difficult” to care for or move easily. They were killed because they were too high maintenance.

    While I am aware of some nursing home patients dying after being being deserted b their nurse aides and nurses, I am not aware of any being murdered.

    Eighth, everyone remembers the stories of carnage and rioting in New Orleans that permeated the media. When those stories turned out to be, at best, exaggerations, the organ most responsible for spreading the deceptions, the media, was not taken to account. It is unknown how many lives were lost simply because the media’s stories of Armageddon had scared off people from helping. The media needs to thoroughly examine how it gets news and how it presents news. The media is known for sensationalizing stories to produce fear or anger in their audiences. This needs to be addressed.

    The stories of carnage and rioting were not exaggerations. It was the later stories, claiming that the carnage had been exaggerated, that were fraudulent. I’ve written on the New Orleans media fraud previously, and will have more to say about it presently.

  • Clavos

    While I am aware of some nursing home patients dying after being being deserted b their nurse aides and nurses, I am not aware of any being murdered.

    Murder is being alleged, and charges have been filed.

    CNN has an article here

  • http://nicholasstixuncensored.blogspot.com/ Nicholas Stix

    Thanks for the link, Clavos.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    Alec-

    Sometimes the best way to deal with disasters is planning to mitigate the damage BEFORE they strike… that point, which I made repeatedly is ENTIRELY valid.

    And for the record, I volunteered to go… I was told no.

  • Alec

    John – Clausewitz used the term “friction” to describe the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper. The same applies to disasters.

    FEMA had a playbook, Nagin had a plan, Blanco supposedly had a plan, but the events overwhelmed them all. I watched Blanco say that she asked the president for FEMA help, “everything they’ve got,” but also clearly saw that she was in over her head and didn’t even appear to have a staff capable of co-coordinating anything. Nagin supposedly had a plan, but clearly the impact of the unexpected flooding quickly neutralized the mayor and the police department’s ability to move throughout the city (they couldn’t drive cars and didn’t have boats). The Coast Guard was successful in quickly delivering help because they were able to hang back before the storm hit and then move in with the right equipment when it was safer for them to move.

    There are very important issues about logistics and the need to improvise communications, command and control and other points that go far beyond simplistic ideological blather about sovereign states and first responders. You saw similar issues with the attack on the World Trade Center, where some rescuers could not communicate with each other because their communication equipment either wouldn’t work inside the building or was incompatible with the equipment used by other agencies.

    Again, I don’t want to waste space blaming Bush personally, but the agency he was responsible for, FEMA, failed spectacularly on this point. They had a plan, but it was insufficient, and they lacked any institutional expertise to be able to be flexible in responding to a rapidly changing situation. Nobody seemed to ask, “What will happen if the levee breaks,” and they failed to recognize Nagin and Blanco’s inability to respond to the crisis.

    Also, by the way, much has been made about the buses that were supposedly available. But no one has shown that either the mayor or the governor had drivers ready or any clear route out of the city, or even keys to the vehicles. Also, I have to continue to emphasize that the flooding was a second, almost independent disaster that quickly followed on the heels of the hurricane. Apparently no one really thought that a near complete evacuation of the city was necessary, in part based on past history. And also, as we have seen later, in Houston, it is not as easy as it seems to get a full evacuation of areas of a city taken care of even under relatively good weather conditions.

    Lastly, it is clearly documented that volunteers were stupidly turned away, and also that rescue teams and medical personnel arrived on scene with nothing to do and no one to direct them. One group of firefighters ended up taking surveys and passing out literature.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    Alec-

    Nagin had a plan? To let buses sit in parking lots? To not order an evaucation until the last possible minute? These are NOT federal decisions, they are local decision. It wasn’t Bush that made the Superdome the refuge of last resort. The events overwhelmed it because they waited to take action. That’s what happens when you get caught in a collosal fuck up… you get overwhelmed.

    Blanco is a governor of a sovereign state in this country… if she’s in over her head doing the one thing we EXPECT people to do, there is something wrong in Louisiana. Their fuck ups were primarily BEFORE the disaster struck… they made it worse afterward.

    Guiliana had a bodycount 10x that of Katrina, including mass casualities among his police and fire, and he got the job done anyway.

    FEMA has been and always has been a SECONDARY agency in disasters. They give resources to locals to handle the situation. FEMA didn’t respond to 9/11, NYC did and FEMA lent resources.

    Sure FEMA screwed up… but if we are going to fix all the problems with Katrina… fix ALL of them.

    Exonerating Nagin and Blanco because they have a D after their name reaks of partisanship and if the left wants to keep it up, then they, as an entire class are not only unworthy of office, their are unworthy of citizenship.

    Those buses take people to school, yes? Exactly who drives them during normal circumstances? Hell… an 18 year old stole a bus, loaded it up, and drove out of NO. In an emergency, you could have gotten people off the streets to drive them. They had a clear route… the same route everyone else took. The city is underwater, they new those levees would only sustain a Cat 3 BY DESIGN (aka intentional choice). Once they got word that a Cat 5 was coming, they had no excuse not to order a complete evacuation. Instead they waited 24-48 hours. Evacuations are hard, yes. But that doesn’t exonerate not ordering one. That also is why you order them EARLY.

    Yes, volunteers were stupidly turned away… I gave thought to organizing my own team and just respond unilaterally but it was a little late to get that together (you need people ready in advance to work together, coordinating that remotely just won’t work).

    My point is, and remains, yes FEMA screwed up, but let’s deal with ALL the screw-ups. Let’s figure out what FEMA’s role is supposed to be, because it seemed everyone had a different opinion. Let’s deal with disappearing homeland security funds in La. Let’s deal with stupid ass disaster plans that simply maximize impact and human suffering. But let’s not simply deal with it to make partisan points. At least Bush acknowledged responsibility… all the Left wants to do is keep blaming the Right.

  • Clavos

    The city is underwater, they new those levees would only sustain a Cat 3 BY DESIGN (aka intentional choice).

    A good point made all the stronger by the fact that they were wrong–the levees didn’t survive even a CAT 3, which is what Katrina was when she went ashore.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    Strictly speaking it was only a subset of Cat 3.

    But gee… you mean the lowest-bidder problem meant we got shitty levees? You don’t say?

    What do you suggest? We give a no-bid to Halliburton to do it right?

  • Clavos

    JB,

    What do you mean by “subset of Cat 3″?

    I couldn’t find any reference to subsets in the Saffir-Simpson scale anywhere on the National Hurricane Center website.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Clavos, I dont know what he means by a subest of Cat 3 either. But it was unlike any other cat 3 in known tropical history.

    I seem to remember having this argument with you before Clavos in another thread. You were saying the cat. at land fall is the only thing of importance, while I was arguing the fact that it was cat. 5 for a day before landfall is very significant.

    At the time I had no good facts to back me up, only speculation. But recently I was reading the post-season analyses of several ’05 hurricanes including Katrina. The text of the 40 or so page summary made three important points. First, the fact that it was a cat. 5 and 4 for right up until several hours before landfall is important when calculating storm surge. The large surf and wall of water churned up and pushed ahead of the storm did not subside as soon as the winds did. There was a “lag time” as I put it in the last thread.

    The second point was that Katrina has the LOWEST central minimum pressure of any hurricane with 110kt winds IN HISTORY. The pressure was 920mb. Lower than the 922mb?? I remember for Andrew, cat. 5 at landfall. 920mb is much more normal a pressure for a strong cat. 4 or weak cat. 5. This was somewhat unheard of and surprising to the NHC. The NHC often uses normal pressure-wind ratios to calculate windspeed when only the pressure is known, and wind data is absent. However, as Katrina proved this ratio is not constant. In fact, the low pressure was so surprising that they reported the winds at 110kt, when the highest measurement by aircraft corresponded to 98kt ground speed winds! In effect, they were so baffled they added 12kts arbitrarily because they couldnt believe the winds were so low!!!

    And third, because the hurricane was old, and decaying (eye wall replacement cycles), the wind field had expanded beyond any normal hurricane. SO because it was cat. 4 + 5 prior to landfall, but weakening, it had a large windfield. In fact one reason it weakened was precisely because it was expanding.

    Not to rub it in your face or anything ;), but Im sure you appreciate the bizzarre meteorological phenomenon of such a record breaking storm.

  • Clavos

    You’re right, we (or you, rather) have discussed all of this before, and there’s no doubt in my or anyone else’s mind that, because of a confluence of circumstances at the time (including the crappy job by the Army in constructing the levees), Katrina was a devastating hurricane.

    However, the Saffir-Simpson Scale categories of hurricanes are determined (according to the NHC) by “present” wind velocity, which in the case of Katrina’s landfall in Louisiana, fell in Category 3. There are no subsets. Here’s the relevant quote from the NHC website:

    The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane’s present intensity.

    This is my one and only point. All of what you say is true, but not relevant to what category Katrina was, only to how much damage she caused.

    Except for the point about Katrina’s pressure, which does have an additional relevancy in that it was hitherto unheard of, and that it revealed that the pressure-wind ratio is not constant after all.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    If I recall right the levees would handle a fast moving cat 3, not a slow moving cat 3.

  • Clavos

    Fair enough, JB.

    But the spec was for Cat 3 (and that was short-sighted and penny-pinching to begin with).

    Which means, as you said earlier, the Corps of Engineers did a crappy job of building and maintaining them.

    And now they’re the ones rebuilding them.

    Sheesh.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Im not saying it was a different catagory, im just saying that because it was cat. 5 before landfall, it caused surge higher than a normal cat. 3. The evolution, not just landfalling windspeed, of the storm was important to the damage caused.

  • Clavos

    I understood what your point was, PETI, and I wasn’t disputing it (I think I said that, though indirectly, in #25). :>)

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    You have to grovel. :p

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    O and John, your subtitle should say “that really need” not “the really need,” I think. I dont know if you care, but I thought I’d mention it since it is the subtitle.

  • Alec

    John – It’s odd how you misconstrue my remarks into left vs. right, defense of Democrats, etc. I clearly noted that Blanco was clueless (I wonder why the Louisiana National Guard did not have a more prominent role in Katrina). On the other hand, I do not believe that issues of emergency planning and response can be shoehorned into political ideology, or the notion that government response must be rigidly based on what local governments and “sovereign states” are “supposed to” be responsible for, no matter what actually happens in the real world.

    Most simply, just because you have a plan does not mean that you will be able to execute that plan. It doesn’t really matter how early you react.

    Catastrophe planning has to consider the possibility that local and state governments may become disabled or be unable to respond to a disaster. Catastrophe planning has to consider the possibility that local and state governments might be incompetent and need to be superseded, especially when lives are at stake.

    My biases come from working with industrial engineers and managers in the newspaper industry, who often had to throw out the rule books and plans in order to execute the prime directive of getting the newspaper out on time every day, despite power blackouts, street flooding, etc. For catastrophic disaster planning, the most important thing is getting assistance to trapped or endangered people as quickly as possible, without regard to political jurisdictions or theories of government

    That FEMA is a secondary agency is not relevant to its inability to perform its assigned tasks effectively. Both Homeland Security and FEMA are riddled with hacks, cronies and incompetents. This is unacceptable. I vaguely recall some charges that Boston airport security managers during 9/11 were also largely Democratic political appointees, which is also completely unacceptable. In my ideal world, FEMA would be disbanded. If it has to exist at all, it has to be reconfigured from top to bottom, and staffed with people who are competent and who have relevant experience. For too many key positions, the Bush Administration’s view is that the first qualification is loyalty, and the second qualification is obeisance to an ideological litmus test. Similarly, the disaster planning and reaction arm of Homeland Security is not up to its responsibilities.

    I would be very happy to see Nagin and Blanco thrown out of office, and if the people of Louisiana don’t deal with these two, they will likely guarantee that New Orleans will be at risk to future disasters. On the other hand, one of the oddest things I heard was the statement of a local (California) conservative talk radio host, who said that since the federal government should be limited, it didn’t matter as much that Brownie and his FEMA gang were incompetent. But the idea of tax dollars being squandered to pay the salaries of people who are pencil-pushing incompetent fools is revolting. I don’t care that Bush feels it necessary to utter mea culpas. I do care that neither he nor his advisors seem to be able to formulate and execute an intelligent policy on how FEMA and the disaster arm of Homeland Security can be improved (I have fewer objections to Homeland’s anti-terror activities).

    By the way, Ivor Van Heerden is the cofounder and deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center and director of the Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes. His new book is worth a look: The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina — the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist.

  • Clavos

    I would be very happy to see Nagin and Blanco thrown out of office, and if the people of Louisiana don’t deal with these two, they will likely guarantee that New Orleans will be at risk to future disasters.

    As long as NO is rebuilt in the same location, it will ALWAYS be at risk of future disasters, regardless of who’s in office down there, or what, if anything, the Federal government does about it.

    And the taxpayers of the rest of the country will be stuck with bill for the mess.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    And as long as LA is run by the same democratic machine you’ll keep seeing corrupt weasels reelected no matter what horrors they perpetrate.

    Dave

  • Nancy

    Party doesn’t matter, Dave; the GOP machine down there is equally corrupt. They just haven’t had a chance to exercise their sticky fingers for awhile is all. Corruption at all levels is a way of life down there, on all sides.

  • JustOneMan

    Headline…should have been…

    “Black Mayor Abandons Black Constiuents – Runs for Higher Ground Leaving Them To Drown”

  • Nancy

    I really am surprised (sort of) that Nagin got re-elected, after the way he screwed up. But then again, Bush got re-elected pretty much by the same people in 04, so I guess the answer is that you can never underestimate the stupidity of the American voter.

  • Clavos

    Nancy,

    It was a race-based vote. Plus, as someone mentioned, a very suspect one, in terms of who was allowed to vote, how the votes were counted, etc.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Clavos, you keep pointing out NO is always going to be at risk no matter what the politicians do and that inevitably one day we will be cleaning it up again. Can’t the same thing be said of every major city from Brownsville to Providence? Certainly, damage was worse in NO than it would have been otherwise because it was below sea level. But even if it was at sea level, if Katrina hit 50-100 miles west of where it did, the damage would be just as bad or worse. If Katrina hit downtown Miama with the 27ft storm surge they got in MS what do you think would happen? And, Katrina could have been even worse if it maintained its intensity, but dry air off the land helped weaken it. You dont have too much dry air down in S. FL do you? So shall we say a 40 ft storm surge for a slow, large, Cat 5? That puts the water line on the third story…hmmm. Of course I dont know what the sea floor is like in S. FL, but 25 ft surge is perfectly reasonable for a maximal hurricane.

    The problem isnt NO. It’s large numbers of people living in one place where a natural disastor is possible. Move to St. Louis. O wait, they have the MS river.

  • Clavos

    Yes, you’re right, PETI.

    But obviously, NO is a particularly egregious situation, given that most of it’s below sea level.

    As to all the rest:

    You’re right there, too. I have long advocated that residential waterfront development with an elevation of less than 50′, on barrier islands and all tidal waters at risk for hurricane damage, should be halted. This would include all of the Florida keys, as well as most of the Gulf coast, and the east coast up to about NJ, if memory serves. I think the elevation rises north of NJ; if not, then the restriction should apply.

    Notice I said residential building. Obviously we can’t move all of MIA. But we CAN stop the stupidity of waterfront housing (and I own one, in St. Pete).

    Using my house, which has an elevation above MHW of 4.2 Ft., with the water only 25′ from the back door, as an example for what should be done for existing housing, what I advocate is that if my house is more than 50% destroyed by a hurricane or even a non-cyclonic severe storm, I should be compensated, by a combination of my insurance co. and the government, for the fair market value of the home (and its land, where the real value is), BUT NOT ALLOWED TO REBUILD. Title to the land should revert to the government for parks, with access for everyone. Land not needed for parks should be reserved as nature preserves.

    BTW, something similar should be applied to known fresh water flood plains, as well.

    This idea would also have the serendipitous effect of wiping out nearly all coastal pollution.

    One last point, all property owners exempted (i.e. commercial and government property) from the ban should thenceforth only be compensated to the extent of their insurance coverage, and by their insuror, not the government.

    In a generation or so, the amount of property at risk for which the taxpayers (and insureds out of these areas) currently have to assume the financial risk, would be considerably reduced. And property insurance rates nationwide would go down substantially as well.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    If you bought a house on waterfront property why should anybody but your insurance company compensate you when you lose it? Did GWB tell you to build or buy that house 25′ from the waterfront? You getting compensated by the govt is taking money out of my pocket.

    No offense here Clavos, but my insurance rates go up because people like you have to have that view! I live near the ocean…about 20 miles away. I don’t have that awesome view, but my fucking insurance rates would have you believe I do! I’m not even in the 100 year flood plain, but because I live less than an hour from the outerbanks I get screwed!

    Why does everyone always expect the govt to pull them up…you need to stay out of my pockets and move inland.

  • Nancy

    I think if the caveat is that, having accepted compensation, the owner can’t rebuild and the land reverts to the government for parkland, I could live with that. Trouble is, I don’t trust the government (especially as corrupt as they are today) not to allow some favored crony or industry in there to re-build/re-develop anyway. I sure as hell wouldn’t trust BushCo not to. Hell, they’d sell Alaska back to the Russians if they thought they could find some way to put the money in their own pockets.

    In any event, the government (state, that is) already has the means of forbidding development, but they don’t. Look what Florida has done to destroy the everglades and mangroves – they allow rampant development where there are houses standing that don’t even have buyers, just because someone’s buddy gave generously to the party campaign fund.

  • JustOneMan

    Clavos “I should be compensated, by a combination of my insurance co. and the government, for the fair market value of the home (and its land, where the real value is), BUT NOT ALLOWED TO REBUILD.”

    Say what???? The government shouldnt pay you a dime…no one forced you to live there…you enjoyed an ocean front view now you want to get paid for choosing on the water….

    Andy…you are right on…guys like Clavos cause insurance and taxes to go up…

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Drives me nucking futs I tell ya!

  • Clavos

    Andy,

    Did you read the whole proposal? I’m aware that I and every other waterfront property owner is costing you money. That’s the reason for the whole post.

    But to eliminate private waterfront property ownership fairly, we have the legal concept in this country that grandfathers people when the law is changed. As far as my moving inland: as long as the situation allows me to take a legal free ride to the extent it does, I’m not going to be so idiotic as to unilaterally change that, except by advocating that the LAWS be changed to apply to everyone; as I’ve done here.

    JOM,

    You obviously didn’t read my post…the government helps pay BECAUSE THEY GET THE LAND.

    And, I agree, people like me with waterfront property DO cost everyone else money–that’s why I made this proposal.

    Read it, before you make any more uninformed comments.

    Sheesh!

  • Clavos

    Nancy,

    You’re right–the possibility of corruption is the hole in the plan.

    It would have to be structured somehow to eliminate that possibility.

    But again, it’s just an idea in its infant stages.

  • Clavos

    Oh, and Andy–it’s not ocean front–only bay front, bought 30 years ago for only $100K. I’m not a rich man.

  • Clavos

    Re #47: I hit the wrong key. That should have been 20 years ago.

  • JustOneMan

    Clavos…i read your post…why should the government but any private property…here in the Socialist Republic of New Jersey we have a government ruse called Green Acres…citizens pay taxes to buy private land, take them off the tax rolls and hire the mayors nephew at 50k a year to mow the lawn this equals HIGHER TAXES and very little public utility…in addition in five years they will flip the land to some developer to build 100 houses…thats why the government shouldnt “BAIL YOU OUT OF A BAD INVESTMENT”

    JOM

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Clavos – I have two words for you…and you’re not gonna like them…and I don’t think the editors will even mess with them…

    EMINENT DOMAIN!

    I grew up in NJ…all the beaches are either private or state owned…and ya gotta pay…down here in Va Beach, the beach is public, but the land right in front of it belongs mostly to hotels…at least the main waterfront area…down the road in Sandbridge, the beach is public and the land in front of it is privately owned…the folks in Sandbridge want the govt to build the beaches back up again…at my expense of course…

    on the bay, we have an area called Willoughby Spit. WS was built by a hurricane back in the 30’s or something like that and now it’s full of houses and condos and shit like that…do you suppose that if a hurricane made WS it could just as easily take it away? Yeah, so do I…so why are there houses and condos on it? Must be because people are really really stupid and if the govt doesn’t tell them not to it must be ok…and why worry anyway…someone will bail them out…

    That’s the problem I have…yeah, the govt…city, state and fed…allowed it to happen…but developers wouldn’t build there if people wouldn’t buy there…

    40 years ago my father built a 4500 square foot home in Monmouth County NJ for less than $30 grand on an acre and a half…today you can’t spit on the side walk in monmouth county for that kind of money…30 years ago $100K was a good amount of money…30 years ago I was an E-2 in the military…I made less than a third of that a year…and I bet your bay front property is worth a lot more than $100K today Clavos…so, better do one of those equity things on your house before the next hurricane takes it away.

    And as far as your “Laws be changed to apply to everyone” argument…I don’t own any waterfront property…so your law…the one that puts money in your pocket wouldn’t apply to me…only to you and your neighbors…the other folks with millions of dollars in equity in their homes…

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Clavos – in that case, 20 years ago I was making less than half that…so, it’s still a lot of money…you may not be rich…but you’re sure as hell well off!

  • Nancy

    Anyone that can afford a $100K property 20 years ago is pretty damned well off by any definition. However, I do have to agree w/Clavos about the grandfathering aspect. At any rate, I think it’s a good idea, IF we could figure out a way to close corruption loopholes.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Simple solution: require all waterfront development projects to include construction of hurricane-proof and flood-proof domes that completely cover the buildings.

    Come on, people. It’s the 21st century already. We were supposed to have domed cities by now.

    If we weren’t so far behind schedule on this, we wouldn’t have to squabble over little things like insurance compensation for storm damage.

  • Clavos

    JOM,

    thats why the government shouldnt “BAIL YOU OUT OF A BAD INVESTMENT”

    You really don’t get it, do you?

    Waterfront property is anything BUT a bad investment, and I’m NOT trying to “bail out”–I was just addressing (and acknowledging) the complaint, which has merit, that both the taxpayers and other insureds are to some extent ALREADY partially subsidizing me and all waterfront property owners.

    But, if you want to continue to do so, I’m fine with it; I’ll just keep on rebuilding every time it gets blown down.

  • Nancy

    Well, no, you’re right: as the law currently is, there are no restrictions on property holding or development, so any sort of government reversion would have to provide for fair market value, even if they do take it by eminent domain. The problem would be, what is fair market value. The law could then provide for banning all future sales & development on such properties, altho you’d get everyone who had swampland then claiming that you were destroying their property rights, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

  • Clavos

    Andy,

    You have heard that eminent domain requires the government to pay fair market value, haven’t you?

    If you’re referring to Kelo (and others), those are being fought by the landowners not because of unfair compensation, but becdause they simply don’t want to sell–different situation.

    city, state and fed…allowed it to happen…but developers wouldn’t build there if people wouldn’t buy there…

    You’re right–that’s why I’m proposing it not be allowed anymore, and that New Orleans not be rebuilt in the same spot.

    nd I bet your bay front property is worth a lot more than $100K today Clavos…so, better do one of those equity things on your house before the next hurricane takes it away.

    Of course it’s worth more..considerably more. That’s why, if it’s taken from me, I would want to be paid for it.

    I don’t need to do the “equity thing”. It’s insured, for enough to let me rebuild, which is what I’m talking about: you and every other homeowner in the country pays higher insurance premiums because I can do that.

    Wouldn’t it better to pay off all the waterfront people ONCE (and only the difference between their insurance payoff and the market value of their property), kick ‘em out, and STOP subsdizing them?

  • Clavos

    Nancy,

    Thank you, YOU get it.

    You’re right, there would be a lot of problems to resolve, but it’s worth exploring, don’t you think?

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    the Corps of Engineers did a crappy job of building and maintaining them.

    The Corps takes the blame for this in its own report. As no one seems to have noticed, the Corps is a federal agency, not a state or a city one. In that sense, the ultimate blame for the disastrous floods in NO lies at the federal level. This article, like most Katrina bloviating, fails to recognize that. Also, I think John B. was rather late to the party. It’s widely recognized now by pretty much everyone that there’s lots of blame to go around.

  • Nancy

    Oh absolutely I do. And I think you have a great idea – not that any politician would ever go for it, mainly ’cause most of them & their buddies are the special interests holding all the swamp lands. Unless they could figure out a way to inflate the prices & make a killing off worthless land, that is.

    It might even just be better to let them have their inflated values and save the money on lawsuits. Once it’s out of their dirty little hands, they can’t get it back.

    Interestingly, Hawaii has done just this: ALL beaches and lands immediately adjoining any waters (such as waterfalls, streams, rivers, ponds, etc.) are public lands. No one can bar access to any beach or natural body of water anywhere on Hawaii, and no one can claim ownership, sell, develop, or bar at least one public access route to it. They also have some really interesting state laws about how close to a body of water you can develop or build, and obviously, if beaches and riverine land adjacent is public land, nobody can develop it or build on it, so that puts paid to substandard housing built on beaches and sandspits. Good, huh?

  • Clavos

    Yes it is.

    Did you know that all lakes built by the Corps of Engineers (and there are literally hundreds of them nationwide) already have a much more limited version of this idea? You can buy and build waterVIEW land, but the Corps always retains title to (and restricts the use of) the waterfront. I’m not sure whether they have elevation restrictions; probably not, because those lakes are formed by dams, and their level can be lowered at will, eliminating the possibility of flooding.

  • Clavos

    Andy,

    One other thing:

    Clavos – in that case, 20 years ago I was making less than half that…

    Twenty years ago, I was making about a third of that–the real estate agent told me I should buy a house worth about three years’ gross earnings–which I did.

    Today, without the equity in that house, I couldn’t even dream of buying it–or even one worth considerably less. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

  • Nancy

    Still you must have been pretty well off to be able to get financing for it. in today’s dollars a $100K piece of property would be about half a mil., hardly what the average joe could afford, then or now.

  • Nancy

    LOL – I was amused to find that my little cheap-o condo is now selling for 5x what I paid for it, even in the current ‘burst bubble’ of housing sales slowdown. I certainly couldn’t afford to buy it these days.

  • Clavos

    No, Nancy 62;

    As I said just above, I was making $35K and had enough savings to make a 10% down payment ($10K), plus closing costs. Not exactly a Donald Trump land deal. :>)

    I am a saver–I try to put at least a little in the bank every month–even if it means giving up something else (obviously non-essentials).

    And, except for house and cars (which I keep a minimum of 8 years–most ten years), which I must buy on time, I keep this rule: if I can’t afford to pay cash for it, I don’t buy it, and never have. So, I don’t have a fancy watch or a big screen TV, etc.

    Oh, the other exception is our portion of my wife’s medical bills, which are considerable, and for which I negotiate payment plans with the providers, who are cooperative, as long as you talk to them and commit to pay something monthly.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    Clavos #40.. lol, the government pay you for your destroyed house? hahaha what a joke.

    Actually, that’s not so absurd at all. Isnt that what we’re doing for NO? Funny, Andy wants to rebuild the poor folks homes in NO, but apparently you’re not deserving of his tax dollars. I guess he doesnt like you.

    I dont understand where this combination of funds from the gov. and your insurance is coming from though. Either your insurance covers flood damage or it dont. And I think you forgot, Long Island, NYC, Providence, and Cape Cod are all surge prone areas as well. Much of Providence was flooded by some storm way back.

  • Clavos

    PETI,

    It’s simple. You’re forgetting the land. The insurance pays me for the house, but not the land, which is actually worth WAY more than the house.

    I didn’t forget those areas, although I can’t remember the last time Manhattan saw a storm surge. I’m advocating this idea for ALL tidal water residential coast land with an elevation of less than 25-30 ft. (not the 50′ I stated above-mistake) and all river and lakefront residences meeting the same criteria, everywhere in the country that is prone to flooding of more than a few feet, whether due to hurricanes or river and lake flooding. In short, any place where the need for rebuilding over and over is impacting everyone else’s insurance and tax bills.

    I know it’s not really going to happen–I’m just pointing out what I consider to be a major flaw in our system, and, at that, to my own (and every other waterfront property owner’s) detriment, since currently we are the beneficiaries of that discrepancy.

  • pleasexcusetheinterruption12

    oops, forgot about the land.

    And concerning hurricanes in NY … several force 2 and 3 hurricane hit Long Island in the 20th century. Not as likely as disastor in NO, obviously, but it meets your criteria.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    So Clavos…because your investment…your land in other words…would become a bad investment the govt should reimburse you? Does the govt reimburse people that pick the wrong stock? No! So why should they reimburse you for picking the wrong land?

  • Nancy

    They’re not, Andy. Under his proposal, he’d be reimbursed for the government taking his land so he couldn’t rebuild, thus incurring more future expenses if another storm came along & did the same thing. Sort of a form of emininent domain. Right, Clavos?

  • Clavos

    Exactly correct, Nancy.

    And Andy, as I said to JOM in #54, it’s NOT a bad investment–NO waterfront property in FL is, that I know of.

    Every time it does get damaged in a storm, I repair it with the insurance money, and YOUR (and everybody else’s) insurance premiums go up. But the house (or rather the land, really) keeps increasing in value, steadily and continuously. Hardly a bad investment. Even now that property values are declining, it continues to increase, because it’s waterfront.

  • Nancy

    There’s something about water that fascinates humans. You’re lucky to have been smart/fortunate enough to snagged a waterfront parcel; it was a good investment…unless as predicted, sea levels rise, in which case you’re going to be holding title to 1/2 acre of ocean floor, and then what? Flood insurance doesn’t cover sea level increases, does it? I am surprised that NYC would be subject to storm surges, unless they were ‘way major. It would take something to get over those seawalls & up the streets, even down on the tip of the island. How big a surge did that? I should think it would take even more to effect Boston, since Boston/NE is protected by the cape. Comment?

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    but you want me to pay for your overvalued property if the govt decides to take it away…that makes it a bad investment…for me anyway!

    I understand that waterfront property isn’t a bad investment…right now…but if your plan comes together…then you want the govt to use my money to line your pockets…that makes it a bad investment for me…yeah yeah…my insurance premiums might go down…not likely…but they might…

    Maybe…just maybe…if insurance companies refused to insure waterfront property…what do you suppose would happen to the value of your property then? It’d probably fall like a rock! Then…that imminent domain I was talking about would work against you…yeah the govt would have to reimburse you…but not at the ridiculously high value that you’d like…or think you’re entitled to.

    Clavos…I understand where you’re coming from…and if I had a piece of waterfront property I’d probably agree with you…but I don’t…so I don’t!

    Like I said…because I live within 50 miles of the outerbanks…I get screwed on my insurance premiums…and I just don’t get it…I’ve never made a claim on my house…EVER…but because some people like to live on the ocean…and make several claims a year…my premiums go up…if I owned the insurance company…you wouldn’t be able to get insurance on your home…one of those high risk deals…or you’d be able to get it…if you could afford it…but for some reason…I have to subsidize your insurance…and that sucks the big one!

    Tell me you at least have a boat on that waterfront property!

  • Nancy

    Andy, currently the way the law is written, if the government takes over property, it has to pay for it, which means you & me. Now, in the case of a hurricane flattening Clavos’ theoretical house, and the gov. deciding to buy it in for the public interest, value will be set (probably, unless he has friends in high places, like Jeb Boy) according to his latest property tax averages, and that will be considered fair market value. And frankly, sometimes it’s worth it to pay the owner a little more than you COULD dick him out of, just to save legal issues and costs down the road. I don’t know what influence insurance has on property values; if something becomes uninsurable, whether its value falls; in the case of real property, I doubt it. The HOUSE on the property may become worthless, but not the land itself – unless, as I postulated above, sea levels rise and he ends up owning prime ocean floor footage, in which case, barring a nice big reef thereon, or oil underneath, he’s outta luck, I suspect.

    In any case, such a project, of buying up building rights, etc. on behalf of the public, makes a good deal of sense, since it permanently removes possibility of private development and further damage claims on the public.

    But in any event, if you take the land, you have to pay the holder of title. They were even going to do that with slaves, remember: free them by paying the slaveholders fair market value, because by law they couldn’t just deprive them of their property. This deprivation was made moot when the south lost the war, but the principle was the same.

  • Clavos

    Andy,

    Like I said…because I live within 50 miles of the outerbanks…I get screwed on my insurance premiums…and I just don’t get it…I’ve never made a claim on my house…EVER…but because some people like to live on the ocean…and make several claims a year…my premiums go up…if I owned the insurance company…you wouldn’t be able to get insurance on your home…one of those high risk deals…or you’d be able to get it…if you could afford it…but for some reason…I have to subsidize your insurance…and that sucks the big one!

    Now you’re getting it. One last piece of the puzzle:

    Insurance companies work on the basis of the POOL of funds they collect from everyone. They take that money and invest it until needed to pay claims, which makes them more money. the idea is that they’re spreading the risk among millions of customers; most of whom will not make a claim in any given year. That’s why, when they have massive claims, as in NO, everyone’s rates go up. That’s a bit simplistic, but it covers the basics.

    The insurance company will continue to insure me without raising my rates prohibitively because they don’t have to–they can get you to pay for it. That’s unfair; that’s why I’ve come up with this idea.

    BTW: I rather think other waterfront property owners would NOT like my idea, which basically forces them to move inland. They live on the water because they LIKE it. I don’t think too many would be happy with it. And Nancy’s right; The only scenario (other than economic collapse) that’s going to stop the steady rise in the value of waterfront property is if the environmentalists are right and it all goes permanently underwater one day. Otherwise, people will continue to demand it because, they way it works now, there’s no risk.

    As for the insurance company refusing to insure me: It’s already happened here in Florida; the commercial insurors began to refuse to sell flood insurance to anyone in the state. What happened then? The STATE formed an insurance company and started selling us (everyone–not just waterfront) flood insurance. You KNOW where the state gets its money.

    Also, though my property has increased substantially in value over the years, it’s not overvalued–there’s a limited supply of waterfront (much more limited than land in general, obviously), and as long as buyers demand waterfront property, the price will continue to rise.

    And last: There’s a dock, but no boat. I live in a rental apartment in Miami, the house is on the Gulf coast in St. Petersburg.

  • Clavos

    nancy 71:

    It was mostly dumb luck. I was transferred by my employer to the Tampa Bay area at a time before the surge in prices, so we were able to buy it at an affordable price. I couldn’t touch it now.

    BTW, it’s anothing house: 2 BR, 1 bath (only) and 1550 sq. ft. Killer location, though.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Oh…in that case…thanks for sending this weather up here!

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    and yeah…I know it was you…don’t try to blame the president!

  • Clavos

    (smiles sheepishly)…Damn, Andy. you’ve outed me.

    BTW, Love the Outer Banks. My wife and I cruised them in a little trailerable sailboat many years ago. Towed the boat to Oriental, cruised up the Alligator river to Abermarle Sound, over to Manteo, then down the islands and finally back to Oriental. Wonderful fond memories of the people and places!

  • Nancy

    A lovely area, St. Pete’s, altho I hear Miami sucks these days. I remember when it used to all look like the old Coral Gables, with the canals & palm trees & beaches all over the place, very quiet, almost small town. As I said, a loooooong time ago. I grew up on the ocean, in northern MA., messing about with boats, as Rat says. I miss it a lot, so I understand the draw to waterfront life, even if it’s on the edge of a swamp or a large puddle. A canal, even.

    Meanwhile, until the policies of Hawaii are universally adopted, the rest of us are out of luck as far as equitable application of insurance robbery goes.

  • Clavos

    Nancy,

    Si hablas español, Miami es muy lindo.

    Clavos

  • Nancy

    Uhhhh…no. I got the ‘muy’ part, but don’t know “lindo”. Last I heard, Miami was very violent & full of crime. And Cubans who have no intention of becoming Americans.

  • Clavos

    Nancy,

    Sorry for the lag–had to run some errands.

    Lindo means beautiful.

    Miami is not crime free, but it’s no longer one of the worst. For example the murder rate in Miami for 2004 ranked it 26th in the US. Twenty years ago, it was one of the top-ranked cities, but the authorities woke up and started cleaning it up to the point that our violent crime rates have been dropping rapidly for several years now.

    As for the Cubans, probably more than 85-90% are citzens, and most of the ones who are not are relatively recent arrivals.

    The Cubans are now outnumbered by all the rest of the Latinos-about the only latin country without a large contingent here is Mexico-probably because they prefer the Southwest and CA.

    We also have substantial communities of Russians (second in the US), Brits, Spaniards, Central Europeans, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Argentinians, Haitians, Jamaicans, Bahamians, Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, and people from virtually every other Caribbean island.

    In fact, 51% of the people in the metro area were born in another country.

    Demographically, the metro area is 57% Latino, 21% native born white, 19% African American, and 3% all others.

    It’s actually quite exciting-almost like New York must have been at the turn of the twentieth century. There are wonderful ethnic restaurants all over the place, lots of art and theatre (in four or five languages), great clubs (South Beach) and the city never sleeps. The biggest downside is the traffic, which is horrendous almost all day long.

    It’s a very vibrant and interesting city in a gorgeous setting.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Clavos – you can come up here and get your weather back any time!!!

    Wind has kicked up…roads are flooding…my roof is leaking!!!

    …and I haven’t bought my boat yet…maybe I need to start building one…what’s a cubit???

  • Nancy

    Andy: ROTFLOL-!

    My understanding is a cubit is the measurement from elbow to mid-finger-tip of the King, which means it can range from 17.5″ to over 24″. A more pressing problem will be where to get gopherwood? I don’t think Lowe’s or Home Depot carry it.

  • Clavos

    Andy,

    That IS one of the classic comedy bits, isn’t it?

    (zhhoop-zhhoop, zhhoop-zhhoop, zhhoop-zhhoop) Heh.

    I see you guys have kicked ol’ Ernie on up the line, but with no punch anymore. You came through it OK, I hope?

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    Not bad…neighbor lost a Bradford Pear tree…they’re notorious for spliting at the “V’s” when they get a little to big and that’s exactly what the tree did…my fence that Isabel tore up last year handled this one with no problems…the exhaust on my Dakota sounded like a boats’ axhaust a couple of times on the way home yesterday…more flooding around here than I’ve ever seen in the past…I’m due for a roof on this 20 year old house soon…there’s been a small leak lately…but even with all the rain yesterday it didn’t leak but a tiny bit…couple of drops…it was raining sideways…and from the other way, so that part of the roof was kind of protected…guess we got lucky.

    When I typed that “what’s a cubit” thing yesterday…I could almost hear Cosby saying it…one of the funniest things I think I’ve ever heard.

    It’s in the 60’s this morning…feels great! The rest of the clouds are supposed to pass this morning and it might hit 80 today. Should be a great golf weekend! I saw some pics on the TV from Asbury park, NJ this morning…monster waves in Jersey…don’t see that very often!

    Nancy – thanks for the info on the cubit…looks like I’m safe for a while…I’d be afraid to go to sea on a wood structure I made anyway…

  • Bliffle

    Now suppose that, in contrast to the failure of the city, the state, and the feds, to supply some relief and help, some independent outfit, let’s call it “Rezbolah”, starts helping NOLA people out. Would they be establishing a state within a state?