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The Blame Game

In my column last week I wrote, “Blaming the Corps is a way for New Orleans to dodge its own responsibility for its demise” about Katrina. Since then, the paper version of Unfair Park has received angry missives from New Orleanians accusing me of blaming the victim. Well, you know, sometimes the victim is to blame.

Today’s New York Times has a story (not in The Dallas Morning News, of course) reporting that a long-awaited Corps of Engineers study of the Katrina disaster basically endorses just what I said last week. Which is: Sure, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must bear the blame for the hurricane protection system's failure, but many of the Corps’ worst decisions in New Orleans over the last half-century were the result of pressure from local officials in New Orleans.

It was New Orleans that wanted the cheaper, downer-and-dirtier flood control system, rather than the high-dollar one the Corps’ own engineers designed 50 years ago. The story doesn’t tell me if the report delves into why the locals wanted the cheapo system, but I think we can guess: keep local taxes low, make it easier to peddle swamp-land to the suckers.

Let me ask you something. If there’s an overarching moral political lesson in New Orleans about whom you should rely on in this world -- yourself or the feds -- what do you think it would be? I think the lesson is that if you are relying on Washington to protect you from huge local peril, your ass is grass.

Now lawyers in New Orleans are ginning up a lawsuit against the feds for allowing the city to flood. If that works, they should sue the FBI for allowing New Orleans to have such a high murder rate.

It’s so depressing, because it means New Orleans’ big answer is to try to gouge more money out of Washington and never ever once even try to look at its own responsibility for Katrina. So their theory is that Katrina was the result of evil engineers who plotted in secret for decades to cause as much flood damage as they could in New Orleans.

That doesn’t even rise to the level of paranoia (I speak with some expertise). That’s just sleazy and stupid.

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Why is this important to us in Dallas? Because our new mayor and his sponsors on the Dallas Citizens Council, a private group that meets in secret, are pushing the Corps to allow us to build the first high-speed limited-access highway that has ever been built inside a levee system in the history of the United States -- a wildly irresponsible, patently dangerous idea being pushed by people who want to keep taxes low and peddle land.

And what do the Big Hairs on The Dallas Morning News editorial page say about it? Be happy, don’t worry, the Corps of Engineers will figure it out.

Yeah. Like they did in New Orleans. Are we really New Orleans?

Nature had a big lesson for New Orleans in Katrina: Your own ass is your own lookout. Nature has the same lesson up her sleeve for us. --Jim Schutze

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