Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina -- day four

By Aussiegirl

Ultima Thule is once again prophetic as I have just heard that the first public official, Dennis Hastert, has suggested the previously unthinkable possibility -- is it possible, or worth it, to rebuild this city which is below sea level. Readers will know that I brought up this possibility yesterday.

What we are seeing taking place in our Southland is without precedent. If you ever watched one of those post-apocalyptic movies which showed a complete breakdown of law and order, with roving gangs attacking innocents and officials alike, this is precisely what is taking place in New Orleans today. Why has martial law not been declared? It was -- and then it wasn't. Let's be clear -- order is the first priority, because as we saw today, rescue efforts cannot go forward when savages are firing guns at rescue helicopters attempting to evacuate people from the Superdome, or at a flotilla of rescue boats which had gathered in order to search for victims still stranded in their homes in standing floodwaters.

Today we have to give credit where credit is due -- to the no less than heroic efforts of the much-maligned media. Fox News, CNN and other outlets are on the spot, reporters have voluntarily exposed themselves to real danger to report on this story, under horrific conditions of heat, humidity and danger from polluted waters and roving armed gangs. Disorder and lawlessness have taken hold of New Orleans. Reporters have managed to find people who are stranded on highway overpasses and have brought scenes of destruction and need to the attention not only of the nation at large, which looks on in horror, but to the very officials who need to know and are cut off from communication. The disturbing part of the scene witnessed yesterday all day by Shepherd Smith of Fox News, is that all day long police cars drove by the hundreds of people who sat hopelessly on the overpasses, exposed to the blazing sun, without water or food, and not one police car stopped, not one official was notified, and no help was forthcoming for the entire day, even in response to the pleadings of the Fox News reporter who begged officials to send at least water or first aid to the people stranded there. They had made their way there, wading through waist deep polluted waters to attempt to get to the Superdome, where they had heard there was possibility of evacuation. People were helping themselves as best they could -- they had gotten themselves to within sight of officials and waited for rescue, stranded as they were by the high water. This morning Shepherd Smith showed us the sobering film of a body of a man, lying in the sun, his face and upper body draped with a blanket. Did you ever imagine you would see such a sight in an American city? Sobering thoughts indeed.

The question has to be raised. It is day four. There is no coordinated effort to address the most crying issues of elemental rescue and survival, much less reconstruction. Where is the mayor of New Orleans? Let's remember Rudy Giuliani and his magnificent performance in the aftermath of the Trade Center disaster. He not only coordinated and comforted his city, he comforted the nation with his constant updates of what was being done and how the various problems were being addressed and gave us the impression that those in charge knew what to do and were doing it. Sadly such is not the case here. In Louisiana we have the sorry spectacle of a Governor who appears to have had a nervous breakdown in public. The last time I saw her on television yesterday she appeared to have entered a catatonic state of hopelessness. Mayor Ray Nagin has not been seen or heard from since the hurricane, as far as I can tell. Perhaps he was swept away himself. The people of that state and of that city deserve better. If there ever is another election even held in a city called New Orleans, let them keep in mind that officials are elected to DO things, not just hand out welfare and benefits.

The military must be moved in in a much bigger, and faster way. It is unfathomable how four days later there are still people trapped in flooded homes and trapped in a flooded city with no way out. People in New Orleans have variously been told on different days to go to the Superdome -- then to NOT go to the Superdome -- then to go to the Superdome for rescue, then today again they have been told NOT to go.

It does little good to complain that these people were warned to get out before the hurricane. Many had no transport, including many tourists who were stranded when airlines inexplicably canceled flights out of the city days before the hurricane hit. All rental cars had been taken. No buses were provided to evacuate those citizens who did not own cars. There are many elderly and infirm people who simply could not evacuate without assistance. This is a matter of life and death. No one should feel justified to ignore the pleas of help of trapped men, women and children languishing in tropical heat and isolated by floodwaters.

Further there are many, many ramifications of this disaster that will need attention in the future. Here are just a few:

1. The Strategic Oil Reserve. President Bush has released the reserve to those refineries which have indicated a shortage. Unfortunately the United States, it appears, has only raw petroleum in its reserve. We have no refined fuel ready for consumption. Evidently the EU mandates that all member states carry reserves of not only raw petroleum but of refined products -- gasoline. I would think that we would have to look into doing this in the future, as part of the major problem we face is the shutdown of 8 or 9 refineries, either from damage or from power outages, leading to a shortage of refined product. Releasing raw petroleum if there are insufficient refineries is of little help.

2. Refineries. There have not been any new refineries built in this country for decades. This is a critical shortcoming and a matter of national security of the highest priority. We need to bring new refineries online pronto.

3. Transportation. The Secretary of Transportation was interviewed this morning on the Tony Snow show and he mentioned that there will be difficulties in shipping fuel to the Midwest due to debris and sunken vessels in the waters of the Mississippi.

4. We need to open up the areas of Utah which contain the world's second largest reserve of low-sulfur, clean-burning coal to mining. This coal is highly useful for powering our electric plants and is a clean substitute for burning oil. These coal fields were declared off limits in a Presidental Executive Order of President Clinton in the final days of his administration. Curiously, the only other significant reserve of coal of this type exists in Indonesia and is owned by the LIPPO group, which were big donors to the Clinton organization.

5. We need to start building clean and safe nuclear power plants. We need to discover what the French have long known -- not all things French are to be scorned. The French get most of their power from nuclear plants. Nuclear plants as contructed in the west are safe and clean. Chernobyl is not a good example of what a modern nuclear generator can produce. That was an outdated and scandalously poorly built and managed Soviet-era plant.


At 10:55 AM, Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Great post, as always!

Once again, you are ahead of the curve!


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