Sunday, September 04, 2005

Blame has a nice explanation of what's behind both sides of the dizzying argument about whether or how much blame for the New Orleans disaster can be placed on the Bush administration. The short version is, Bush did substantially cut funding for levee improvements and reinforcements, but the administration-allied Army Corps of Engineers says that the improvements wouldn't have made a difference, and it's basically impossible to tell whether they're right or not. The long version is here. Posting this link does not constitute an endorsement of this debate. Let's get things at least a little bit under control before we start worrying about whose short-sighted policies are to blame.


  1. the administration-allied Army Corps of Engineers says that the improvements wouldn't have made a difference

    Where do they (the ACE) say that? All I see is that they say that even with the funding they asked for, the levees still would have been designed with only the goal of being able to handle a Cat. 3 hurricane. They seem to refuse to venture an opinion either way whether or not the levees would have held if their projects had been funded, sticking to their safe statement about what the goals of their proposed projects were. Levees can hold through storms bigger than they were designed to hold through, and this particular one, though it was beyond a Cat. 3, did miss a direct hit on New Orleans a bit to the East.
    So, anyway, I don't see where the ACE ventures an opinion on the crucial counterfactual. Am I missing something?

  2. You are right, Keith. In the passages quoted, the ACE says nothing stronger than "the proposed improvements would only have been designed for a category 3 hurricane."

    The article puts these quotes in a context which impies that ACE says it wouldn't make a difference, which is why I didn't notice the distinction you did on my first quick read.

    But you are right: the possibility that the improvements would have prevented the breaches, even though they were only designed for a category 3 hurricane, is not addressed in any of the ACE quotes in the article.

  3. The recent news that Katrina was in fact a cat. 3 when it made landfall (see: ), seems to make it extremely possible that the failure to fund the projects was responsible.

  4. Sorry that URL got cut off. It ends: index.html
    The "in" of the "index" made it onto the previous comment, but the rest got cut off.