Hastert's an Idiot; or, Why New Orleans will be rebuilt.

First of all, it's no great surprise to anyone who follows the House with even a modicum of regularity to hear the first half of that title. Hastert's a puppet in the House--DeLay is the real power, but he's been too much of a dickweed for too long to ever be an effective Speaker, so Hastert is his toy who stands out front and takes the heat.

Hastert tried to crawfish away from his statement later, which only tells me that his PR person told him to do so after seeing a bunch of outrage on the web and in the media.

I've been hearing this question about the wisdom of rebuilding New Orleans almost since the hurricane hit the Gulf it seems, and while my first reaction was outrage due to my long connection with the city, the longer I think about it, the more obvious it becomes that we have to rebuild the city, because of its strategic and economic importance to the US.

From Stratfor via the National Review Online (ugh):

Last Sunday, nature took out New Orleans almost as surely as a nuclear strike. Hurricane Katrina's geopolitical effect was not, in many ways, distinguishable from a mushroom cloud. The key exit from North America was closed. The petrochemical industry, which has become an added value to the region since Jackson's days, was at risk. The navigability of the Mississippi south of New Orleans was a question mark. New Orleans as a city and as a port complex had ceased to exist, and it was not clear that it could recover.

The Ports of South Louisiana and New Orleans, which run north and south of the city, are as important today as at any point during the history of the republic. On its own merit, POSL is the largest port in the United States by tonnage and the fifth-largest in the world. It exports more than 52 million tons a year, of which more than half are agricultural products -- corn, soybeans and so on. A large proportion of U.S. agriculture flows out of the port. Almost as much cargo, nearly 17 million tons, comes in through the port -- including not only crude oil, but chemicals and fertilizers, coal, concrete and so on….

The oil fields, pipelines and ports required a skilled workforce in order to operate. That workforce requires homes. They require stores to buy food and other supplies. Hospitals and doctors. Schools for their children. In other words, in order to operate the facilities critical to the United States, you need a workforce to do it -- and that workforce is gone. Unlike in other disasters, that workforce cannot return to the region because they have no place to live. New Orleans is gone, and the metropolitan area surrounding New Orleans is either gone or so badly damaged that it will not be inhabitable for a long time….

That's why you have to rebuild the city, Hastert. If not for humanitarian purposes, if not because it's the right thing to do, if not because it's the most culturally unique and interesting city in all of North America (sorry, San Francisco--you're close), then you have to do it because it sits at the mouth of the only navigable north-south river in North America with an outlet to the Gulf of Mexico, and you can't have major ports without major cities.

And if you're worried that you'll be pissing federal money away on a city that will just have this happen again (not that wasteful spending has ever bothered you before), then here's a guy who has some rebuilding suggestions, and he sounds like he knows what he's talking about.
What can we do to restore these natural protections?....

Cut several channels in the levees on the Mississippi River's southern bank (the side that doesn't abut the city) and secure them with powerful floodgates that could be opened at certain times of the year to allow sediment and freshwater to flow down into the delta, re-establishing it.

Build a new navigation channel from the Gulf into the Mississippi, about 40 miles south of New Orleans, so ships don't have to enter the river at its three southernmost tips 30 miles further away. For decades the corps has dredged shipping channels along those final miles to keep them navigable, creating underwater chutes that propel river sediment out into the deep ocean. The dredging could then be stopped, the river mouth would fill in naturally, and sediment would again spill to the barrier islands, lengthening and widening them. Some planners also propose a modern port at the new access point that would replace those along the river that are too shallow to handle the huge new ships now being built worldwide.

Erect huge seagates across the pair of narrow straits that connect the eastern edge of Lake Pontchartrain, which lies north of the city, to the gulf. Now, any hurricane that blows in from the south will push a wall of water through these straits into the huge lake, which in turn will threaten to overflow into the city. That is what has filled the bowl that is New Orleans this week. But seagates at the straits can stop the wall of water from flowing in. The Netherlands has built similar gates to hold back the turbulent North Sea and they work splendidly.

Finally, and most obviously, raise, extend and strengthen the city's existing but aging levees, canal walls and pumping systems that worked so poorly in recent days.

Mind you, I don't know what Fischetti's political affiliations are, but the way this administration's priorities are misguided, you bet that if he's not a faith-based idiot Republican, then these ideas will get as much play as Donnie Iris's last album.

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