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Federal Judge Says Corps of Engineers Liable For Katrina Damage 486

Posted by timothy
from the too-bad-a-judge-didn't-do-the-engineering dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Christian Science Monitor reports that a federal judge has ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers — and thus the US government — is liable for a big chunk of the damage caused when hurricane Katrina pushed ashore on August 29, 2005 by failing to stop the natural widening of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet canal (aka Mr. Go) causing it to eventually bump up against the shore of Lake Borgne, on the city's east side. 'It is the court's opinion that the negligence of the corps, in this instance by failing to maintain the MR-GO properly, was not policy, but insouciance, myopia, and shortsightedness,' wrote US District Court Judge Stanwood Duval. Judge Duval said he believed it was the failure to shore up the outlet that 'doomed the channel to grow to two to three times its design width' allowing waves on Lake Borgne to enter the Mr. Go and travel into the east side of the city, battering the levees to a degree to which they were not designed. 'One of the greatest catastrophes in the history of the US' was both predictable and preventable, testified veteran Louisiana geologist Sherwood Gagliano, a former Corps consultant."
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Federal Judge Says Corps of Engineers Liable For Katrina Damage

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  • What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wpiman (739077) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:15AM (#30170122)
    The people who knowingly decided to live below sea level bear no responsibility?

    Seriously; this look to government to protect one's self has gone too far.

  • Remember, kids... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:16AM (#30170130) Journal
    This is why you need to listen to the guys with hard hats and pocket protectors.

    They aren't the only necessary ingredients of a functional society; but engineers(in concert with scientists) are your best hope of pulling nature's teeth before it can bite you in the ass.
  • Re:What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Krneki (1192201) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:19AM (#30170144)

    The people who knowingly decided to live below sea level bear no responsibility?

    Seriously; this look to government to protect one's self has gone too far.

    In the US of A, being stupid is a civil right.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:21AM (#30170154) Journal
    Appealing to "individual responsibility" is fun and all; but senseless if perspective is not kept.

    Living below sea level is stupid. However, living below sea level behind a levee designed specifically to make that area habitable, which has been doing exactly that for years and years now is considerably less stupid.

    Does "individual responsibility" require near-Cartesian levels of doubt in every possible piece of infrastructure?
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:23AM (#30170164)

    The people who knowingly decided to live below sea level bear no responsibility?

    So, let's get this right... If you contract me to do some work on your roof and it leaks -- it's your own damn fault for choosing to live in an area where it rains?

    I like it!

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@ ... m minus math_god> on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:24AM (#30170174) Homepage Journal

    60% of the population of the Netherlands live below sea level. Are they all stupid too?

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:25AM (#30170184) Homepage

    Mmm. I think if you check the New Orleans flood map, you'll find that the hardest hit districts were the ones with the lowest social mobility. If you're born there, and can't afford to move anywhere else, then should you be damned for your "decision" to be poor? [cityofno.com]

    Perhaps the State has no responsibility to act for the benefit of its citizens, but if not, then what is its purpose?

  • Finger pointing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:26AM (#30170186)

    I've read in several disparate sources that the Corps repeatedly informed the powers-that-be in Louisiana and New Orleans that the levies were insufficient but were regularly ignored.

  • Re:What? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:26AM (#30170188)

    The people who knowingly decided to live below sea level bear no responsibility?

    Seriously; this look to government to protect one's self has gone too far.

    In the US of A, being stupid is a civil right.

    and you guys think political correctness has nothing to do with that. PC is a religion because you are made "right" by it, and everything non-PC has to be wrong by it. it's a nontheistic way of sanctifying yourself for being a good little robot and doing like they told you to do and making sure not to offend anyone, because that would be so horrible if they got on their high horse over a word or two since apparently these people have no idea what real animosity is about. this increasingly regimented increasingly centralized society and these unreasonable demands are part of why everyone is so stupid.

  • Re:What? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by jaggeh (1485669) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:26AM (#30170192)

    no but they at least know how to build levee's and dam's

  • Re:What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HaZardman27 (1521119) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:27AM (#30170198)
    If it were a cheaply made levee whose maintenance had been ignored for some time, then it's still pretty stupid. Obviously the average person wouldn't know what kind of state the levee was in, but as someone who lives down south, it's safer to just expect that everything is falling apart.
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:29AM (#30170216) Homepage
    Exactly, because breaching a levee in one place does not magically strengthen it in others, nor does it "relieve the pressure" being exerted by a fucking hurricane. What kind of fucking numbnuts even entertains such a notion?
  • by Brainpimp (919187) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:30AM (#30170222)
    Do any of you RTFA? Cheap levees had nothing to do with this portion of the ruling. They didn't maintain a large man-made canal. They let it expand and erode into the existing natural barrier. This applied to the St. Bernard and some lower 9th areas. This had nothing to do with the 17th street or other canals that were topped and then eroded. To the dimwit that said people that live below sea level, FYI the area is not below sea level. It is outside the levee and the MRGO and the corp's failure to maintain it as originally planned is what made this a problem. This would be similar to if a plane crashed into an area that was near a runway and then telling the people that they bear part of the responsibility.
  • susceptible cities (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rwv (1636355) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:31AM (#30170228) Homepage Journal

    At the beginning of the trial this summer, US District Court Judge Stanwood Duval asked, "You all know what this is about: ... What did the Corps know, when did it know it, and when should it have known?"

    He answered in a 158-page ruling late Wednesday.

    "It is the court's opinion that the negligence of the corps, in this instance by failing to maintain the MR-GO properly, was not policy, but insouciance, myopia, and shortsightedness," he wrote.

    He awarded 4 people (presumably New Orleans landowners) about $750,000 apiece for a lawsuit that's been going on since 2006. I don't know any more specifics about this case, but that seems like a small price to pay compared to the millions/billions that were spent immediately after the storm.

    What I don't understand is why natural disasters should have been mitigated by technology. There are certain areas of the country that are susceptible to certain disasters. They wouldn't blame a construction firm when a tornado rips apart a building in the Midwest. They wouldn't blame the fire department when fires are engulfing a city. Why point extra blame towards the Corps of Engineers when a very powerful storm hits a susceptible city with the full force of its power? I don't buy the argument that we should be expected to spend the money up-front to guard against storms that big.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dlt074 (548126) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:34AM (#30170246)
    if the levee is only rated to work and hold up to a category x type storm and a x+1 type storm comes along and you're still there. you have nobody to blame but yourself.
  • by aepervius (535155) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:35AM (#30170258)
    When my parents bought a home, the elevation was not on the contract or even sale presentation. You could only see if you were going to search for special map with precise elevation lines. So how many people living there do REALLY realize they live on ground below sea level ? Well *NOW* maybe a lot. but how many did back then ?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:42AM (#30170300)

    after the cows got killed by wolves.

    Sounds like the farmer's fault, not the barn makers.
    It's the people of New Orleans fault, not the President's, or Governor's or Army's fault.

    People need to look in the mirror more.

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:45AM (#30170318) Homepage Journal

    who is responsible else how will the lawyers get paid?

    So, the Corp is responsible. Big deal. Fix the problem. I do not see how this entitles anyone to sue the government for money. Whats next? Suing the government for permitting tobacco sales? Its not like the government doesn't know they are bad for you.

  • Fuck Yeah! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MRe_nl (306212) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:49AM (#30170360)

    Fuck the poor, the weak and the helpless!
    They've nobody and nothing to blame but themselves!

    That's the spirit.

    Silly ass-O.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:52AM (#30170384) Homepage

    Actually, their government does that.

    Oh wait.

  • Predictable... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wolvesofthenight (991664) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:52AM (#30170386)
    They are partly correct: This catastrophes in the history was both predictable and preventable. They built a city right next to the ocean, bellow sea level, in a major hurricane zone, on a sinking delta, and in the flood plain of one of the world's largest rivers. It is quite easy to predict that any such city will be flooded, and being a major city it was a major disaster. And it was preventable: they could have built the city somewhere else, and limited the use of the delta area to only stuff that had to be there.
  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:52AM (#30170388)
    There are some projects that can only be undertaken by large resources: the reclamation of the Netherlands and the East Anglian Fens from the sea being successful examples. The return on investment can be very large. But the effect of drainage is to reduce soil levels, so land that started up above sea level ends up below (you can see this very easily in East Anglia, where the drainage canals are often well above field levels.) East Anglia and the Netherlands have amazing hydrological systems to prevent flooding, which are well maintained, and I imagine that abandoning, for instance, Cambridgeshire and Befordshire to the sea might not be a sound idea financially. I don't know any more about New Orleans that a few articles in Sci Am have told me, but it looks as if the root cause of the problem is that large amounts of land and harbor have been reclaimed in ways that are perhaps hydrologically unwise, and the US Government decided to stop funding the protection measures. Now, what about all the people who have roots in the area from before the hydrological works started? They were presumably perfectly safe until the changed pattern of water movement created the conditions for a disaster. They at least should be able to claim against the developers and the Government who created the problem in the first place. And what of the people who moved into the area on the basis of misrepresentation that the system was safe?

    Me? I live 65 metres above sea level and my backyard drops two metres to a drainage ditch. The prospect of flooding does not alarm me. But some of the most agriculturally productive parts of our area (and the Fens, and the Netherlands) are potentially liable to flooding, and in 30 years some of them may be abandoned to the sea. This will result in large economic loss. The decision on when and what to abandon will have to be taken on ruthless economic grounds. The decision in the US seems to have been taken on the grounds that (a) isn't this war expensive? and (b) why are we paying to protect poor people who vote Democrat? People do have a right to expect better of the Governments that they elect and pay taxes to.

  • This is total BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:56AM (#30170418) Journal

    The same Army Core of Engineers recommended for years the levies be reinforced. There is no reason to think doing so would not have avoided the flooding problems. The people there failed to make the investment. Its the local government there that is responsible and nobody else.

    What we have here is a professional organization said the situation was unsafe and recommended a fix. The customer did not elect to implement the fix. Then when things went wrong the customer is trying to blame that organization for not having recommended something else.

    Its total crap.

  • by kick6 (1081615) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:56AM (#30170420) Homepage
    If this was such a major concern for the state of Louisiana......................why didn't they just use state money? This is a classic case of fingerpointing.
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:56AM (#30170422) Homepage Journal

    The people who knowingly decided to live below sea level bear no responsibility?

    They probably didn't even know they were below sea level. What is your town's elevation? Hell, Cahokia IL is smack in the middle of the midwest and it's only 400 feet above sea level.

    And a lot of people, especially the poor, don't have much of a choice where they live. If you were talking about the rich people in California who build mansions where they can slide off a cliff, or in a wooded area that was prone to wildfires you would be right. If someone's home Kansas gets blown away by a tornado do you blame them because they live in Kansas? If someone's house in Japan gets destroyed in an earthquake do you blame them for living in Japan? If someone in Florida's house is destroyed by a hurricane do you blame them just because they live in Florida? There aren't many places on earth that are immune from natural disasters. But the disaster in N.O. was caused by the Corps of Engineer's incompetence. It's scary; I have friends in the St Louis area. I just saw in the paper yesterday that the levees in Alton, IL are in bad shape. I hope the one in Caholia is good, I have friends there. When the hundred year flood hit in the nineties, the Mississippi was at the top of the levee there.

    Blaming the victim is despicable, and that's just what you're doing. The government reassured these people and they believed the gov. Who's to blame, the liar or the one who believes the lies?

  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:56AM (#30170426)

    Appealing to "individual responsibility" is fun and all; but senseless if perspective is not kept. Living below sea level is stupid. However, living below sea level behind a levee designed specifically to make that area habitable, which has been doing exactly that for years and years now is considerably less stupid. Does "individual responsibility" require near-Cartesian levels of doubt in every possible piece of infrastructure?

    The levee could not handle a Category 3 hurricane. Category 3 hurricanes which hit that area are periodic events that happen from time to time; they are absolutely inevitable. So you have a city below sea level protected by a barrier which cannot possibly handle an event that you know with certainty will one day happen. Additionally, all those years that passed without it happening were ample opportunity to reinforce the levee and otherwise to prepare for that eventuality. This did not happen. This alone would dissuade me from living there because the result is absolutely predictable. It's only a question of when.

    What do you call it when people make themselves available for preventable disasters that are easy to foresee? Usually the word "stupid" is used to describe actions like this. "Stupid" is also used to describe people who need a politician or other official to tell them when something is a bad idea because they've lost their common sense and have replaced it with various authority figures. So without a government mandate or official inquiry they, acting on their own, would not seriously question the integrity of the levees or the tremendous risk they were taking. That sheeplike dependency, that inability to independently question and reason, explains not only why New Orleans was such a terrible diaster but also most of American politics and government expansion.

    If you want to do something constructive, don't feel sorry for them or make excuses for them. Those sentiments are probably meant well but they accomplish nothing. They have no power to prevent a future disaster. If you want to do something, use this as an example for why there is no substitute for thinking for yourself and assessing your own risks. Let it represent why there is no substitute for those things, that all kinds of preventable harm is caused by the failure to value those things. The (minority of) people who understand this got out of New Orleans a long time ago and wouldn't have considered moving back without substantial improvements to the inadequate levee. The rest were surprised by the inevitable, which is like choosing to be a victim.

    So yes, individual responsibility was a big factor here. It's not about doubting everything to an absurd degree. It's about knowing the situation you're in and putting yourself into a different situation if it's an invitation to disaster. But the folks who were hit hardest were not thinkers. They didn't think about their situation or compare it to other situations or evaluate risks. They had no such awareness. They just did their daily thing without a second thought and were surprised when something happened. That's the real message here.

  • by Bakkster (1529253) <Bakkster.manNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:58AM (#30170448)

    It also makes the entire state of Louisiana look stupid for not declaring an emergency (Federal gov't can't send in the national guard without the state's say so) or forcing an evacuation, even though they are the ones who should have best known that anything above a category 3 would put the city underwater.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:02AM (#30170482) Journal
    That's the irony, actually. Normally, the same people who are big on "personal responsibility" are also big on "accountability". Why would they be opposed to the Army Corps of Engineers being "accountable" for fucking up?

    One can legitimately assert that this bit of engineering shouldn't have been their job; but it has been for some decades now and they've never been absolved of it. Why would anybody not want them to be accountable for doing their job properly?
  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:04AM (#30170502) Homepage

    You pretty much decided to be poor. You decided not to be educated. You decided not to try to better yourself.

    This is the great conservative myth, born in the 1970's under the auspices of Barry Goldwater and popularized by Ronald Reagan.

    People don't decide to be poor. No one wakes up in the morning and says "I want to lose all my money and become broke". But the statistics don't lie: Either the vast majority of children of poor people are lazy, stupid, and unmotivated while the vast majority of children of wealthier people are smart, hardworking, and motivated, or there's some other factor at work.

    For instance, in private colleges and universities it is not uncommon to find children from wealthy families who have a hard time writing at a 6th grade level. Explain that via personal decision-making. In your typical Best Buy you can and will find people who with a bit of training could have become darn good developers and admins, but the best they can manage is working overtime for the Geek Squad to make ends meet. Explain that via personal decision-making. Or for that matter, explain someone who works at my company answering customer service calls while earning a 2-year degree in web development, got that degree, and still is answering the phones for a living.

    Even in Horatio Adler stories, being smart and motivated wasn't enough. The hero usually needed quite a bit of luck, and a benefactor of some kind.

  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flyneye (84093) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:06AM (#30170522) Homepage

    Actually yes. Eventually those shingles will wear and be damaged and it'll rain again and it'll leak again. Move to the desert if this arrangement bothers you. Its not the governments responsibility to control weather, raise land to above sea level, plug faults, super glue cliffs together by the ocean, fireproof trees or quench volcanos. If you choose to live where there are naturally dangerous occurrences and they occur , It isn't my fault, it isn't the governments fault, it isn't even the insurance companys fault , it's yours.
            To further look into this, It isn't the governments job to make you safe against anything but invasion (what a fine f**king mess that is) and various sundry constitutional duties. If you really want to know what the states liability is, then read your states constitution. The rest is in your hands. Live in a flood zone? Build on stilts and take the elevator up. Live in a quake zone? Build a single story in the wide open. Live on a volcano? Buy some barbeque sauce , Einstein.
                Unless my semen had something to do with your birth and it was my responsibility to teach you how to get along in life, everything else is your responsibility.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chibi Merrow (226057) <mrmerrow@monkeyinfinity . n et> on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:18AM (#30170642) Homepage Journal

    The levees in New Orleans were not ever designed to make a Category 3+ storm survivable, and they've always been in a TERRIBLE state of repair (anyone who's actually been the the area could tell you that water constantly seeped through them in several places). New Orleans floods during normal rainstorms. Anyone who thought they were safe there during a Hurricane doesn't deserve any pity.

    Also, the money allocated to levee repair/upgrade was spent on things like off-ramps for casinos and such by the local levee boards. This judge declaring the Corps. to be responsible while ignoring the gross criminal negligence by state and local officials is one of the biggest miscarriages of justice I have ever seen.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lorenlal (164133) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:18AM (#30170644)

    They don't tend to pray that hurricanes decide to change direction to avoid them... So I say no.

    Location. Location. Location.

  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flyneye (84093) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:24AM (#30170706) Homepage

    Conservative myth? And you're quoting fiction literature?

              I was born poor, buddy. I watched poor friends decide not to try. I watched poor friends use their resources to get ahead as I did. I made the effort to stay in school. I made the effort to further my education while they decided to party and turn into welfare leeching drunks. You can quote all the liberal regurgitation you want in place of actual knowledge, and it won't make it anything but Democratic campaign vote buying points. If this is truely what you believe, you can be a Democratic dressing room fluffer. At least you picked a career that pays better than writing html. (which by the way was his fault for choosing a shakey career. Why not just take your college money to Vegas instead of finding something that actually pays?)
              If you spent a bunch of money on education and the industry you prepared for tanks, start over again. Just don't remain inert crying in your beer and accepting poverty. Even in the 90's average career changes had changed to every 6 years down from 10 in the 80s and 12 in the 70s.
    Did you have something better to do? Feeling sorry for yourself is a low paying job.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazztastic (814296) <spazztastic@@@gmail...com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:30AM (#30170768)

    Stop posting AC & I could be bothered to respond to you.

    But you did respond...

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:31AM (#30170772)

    That's the irony, actually. Normally, the same people who are big on "personal responsibility" are also big on "accountability". Why would they be opposed to the Army Corps of Engineers being "accountable" for fucking up?

    I personally think the Army Corps of Engineers should be held partly accountable for its actions contributing to the mess. But it's worth noting that the Corps isn't the primary source of blame. The city of New Orleans and its inhabitants have to be responsible for their part in this mess as well.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by locallyunscene (1000523) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:35AM (#30170822)
    So we should have stuck to the African plains? Humans are not meant to go underwater/in space/in the air/over the ocean so we should never try? Your opinion is terrible.
  • Re:What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tophermeyer (1573841) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:39AM (#30170878)

    Perhaps the State has no responsibility to act for the benefit of its citizens, but if not, then what is its purpose?

    There are some that would argue that it would have been inappropriate for the State (I'm assuming you mean State to represent Government as a whole, rather than just the State of Louisiana) to selectively assist only those districts based on their lack of social mobility. The people as a whole have a right to Government assistance, but 'poor' people don't have a greater right to assistance than 'rich' people.

    On a personal level, I would argue that lack of social mobility doesn't translate to a lack of physical mobility. Even if these people were not able to afford to move out of these risky areas, given the several days of warnings that preceded Katrina's landfall, most NO residents should have been able to simply walk out of harms way. Instead many of them simply sat in their homes waiting for someone to tell them what to do. In the days immediately following the storm, many residents were something like 7 miles away from help, but refused to walk there under their own power.

    I have a friend that was a Marine at the time. His unit was sent to the area to assist in disaster operations. He personally wound up as a door gunner of an evacuation helicopter, this was necessary because people were shooting at helicopters to get their attention.

    The State certainly has an obligation to act for the benefit of its citizens. The citizens also have a responsibility to act for themselves.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Evil Shabazz (937088) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:49AM (#30170996)

    60% of the population of the Netherlands live below sea level. Are they all stupid too?

    Not yet - but they would be if they were devastated by a natural disaster exacerbated by their elevation (say, a tsunami or hurricane), and then proceeded to whine to their federal government for not protecting them from it. However, unlike Louisiana, the Netherlands is not in a prime hurricane or tsunami path, so their elevation in relation to the sea is less of consequence.

  • so don't live in (Score:2, Insightful)

    by doginthewoods (668559) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:03AM (#30171166)
    any town on the MS river, CA for earthquakes, FL for hurricanes, the midwest for drought and tornadoes, the north for snow storms, etc. Are you trying to show how little you know about why New Orleans flooded? It was not Katrina, but the failure of the levees. And they failed because they were not maintained, and the reason they were nto maintianed is becasue Bush stole the money to pay for tax breaks for his rich friends.
  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Machtyn (759119) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:17AM (#30171348) Homepage Journal
    Yes, but what about the previous 35+ years? This puts the blame squarely on the local and state government. At least with the Administration, they knew where the money was going to in Iraq. With New Orleans, we're not sure which person's freezer the bags of cash would wind up.
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) * on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:22AM (#30171402) Homepage Journal

    I just got off work, and I'm just to tired to do the search that I ought to do. Anyone can google if they care to.

    The retaining walls in New Orleans failed in exactly two places. No more, and no less. In precisely those two places, the N.O. water and sewer department had disturbed the wall, years earlier. They lifted the panels out of the wall, and out of the prepared soil in which they had been planted. After making alterations to these panels, they were lifted back into place, and set back on the very same groung, without any work being done to the ground.

    Some people who have never been around a construction site may need to ask around, or research, but I'll tell you what you'll find. Lifting a fencepost, a wall, or anything out of the ground, breaks built up adhesion. In fact, adhesion is going to lift great gobs of dirt along with whatever you are lifting. When you put that fencepost, or panel, or whatever BACK into the hole, you will have voids. Voids are conducive to water flow.

    And, those two panels that failed, did so BECAUSE water had percolated UNDER them, removing all the loosened soil under and around the panels. Once all the loose soil was gone, water flow increased, washing out more and more stabilized earth.

    Eventually, the walls collapsed when several panels were left without any support.

    Bottom line? That judge is full of shit. The New Orleans water and sewer department caused the city to flood. Katrina was not the primary cause, nor were the Corps of Engineers. Water and sewer fools who had no idea what they were doing, took it upon themselves to tamper with vital infrastructure, without consulting the Corps.

    I'm going to bed. If I'm barraged with challenges, maybe I'll find the pertinent reports for everyone when I get up. But, I'm sure that SOMEONE can find the news articles as well as the reports.

    Have fun!

  • Sue the Pope next (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:23AM (#30171416)
    New Orleans is heavily Catholic and God could have steered Katrina away. As God's representative on earth, we should sue Pope Benedict.
  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Clover_Kicker (20761) <clover_kicker@yahoo.com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:24AM (#30171420)

    Exactly. Let's stop wasting money on all that water diversion to California, those guys can go back to their natural state of dying of thirst.

  • Moving (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:25AM (#30171428)

    Mmm. I think if you check the New Orleans flood map, you'll find that the hardest hit districts were the ones with the lowest social mobility. If you're born there, and can't afford to move anywhere else, then should you be damned for your "decision" to be poor?

    Very, very few people in the US are so poor they cannot move elsewhere. Yes it's harder for those without means but it's not remotely impossible. I grew up in a family that was poor as church mice when I was little. We could have moved if we felt the need. Saying you can't move because you are poor is demonstrably untrue most of the time. Nobody promises you it will be easy but it most definitely is possible.

    Perhaps the State has no responsibility to act for the benefit of its citizens, but if not, then what is its purpose?

    Of course its job it to act for the benefit of the citizens but ONLY for those things the citizens can't do themselves. There is hardly an able bodied or able minded adult person in this country who could not pick up and move to another location within the US if they set their mind to it. They don't need the government's help to do that in most cases.

  • Re:What? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:31AM (#30171504)

    I find this line of reasoning pretty abhorrent. Admittedly I live a long way from the coast, but its not like I make periodic inspections of Mansfield damn or check the undercarriage of the upper deck of the freeway for damage. There are people who are supposed to do that, and there is plenty of blame to go around that things were allowed to fall apart like they did during Katrina, but to blame people for living in the city because they were "stupid" for not taking time out of their jobs and lives to investigate their cities infrastructure is both callous and hypocritical, as I doubt you have done any civic inspection recently (unless that is your job) and every where people can live has natural hazards. Are people stupid for living on an earthquake fault? What about in tornado ally? Man any one on an island must be a retard by your logic, as now amount of infrastructure spending can save one of those from a mega storm. Course you better stay south of the heavy snow, have you checked your cities snow plows lately? etc.

    One day this sort of dickheaded intellectual snobbishness is going to drive all the decent readership from this site.

  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nametaken (610866) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:34AM (#30171548)

    They get a lot of hurricanes in the Netherlands, huh?

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tarsir (1175373) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:35AM (#30171552)
    You wrote:

    So you have a city below sea level protected by a barrier which cannot possibly handle an event that you know with certainty will one day happen. Additionally, all those years that passed without it happening were ample opportunity to reinforce the levee and otherwise to prepare for that eventuality.

    The judge agrees with you:

    'It is the court's opinion that the negligence of the corps, in this instance by failing to maintain the MR-GO properly, was not policy, but insouciance, myopia, and shortsightedness,'

    The thing is, the judge lives, along with most of us, in a world where people and organizations have some minimal obligation to other people. Thus, when there is a government organization whose responsibility it is to build levees that will protect a city full or people, and when this organization fails to protect against something that is, as both you and the judge point out, perfectly predictable, then we say this organization has been negligent, and we hold it responsible. We call this state of affairs civilization. Come join us!

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aceticon (140883) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:53AM (#30171814)

    It's complicated.

    In my case, for example, my parents were both from very poor farmer families.

    They moved to the city, studied at night after work to finish high-school and slowly progressed up to what's essentially lower middle class. Even so, they choose to only have one child (me) because they knew they couldn't afford to have their kids go through university if they had more than one - I still remember that when I was 8 I had to sleep in the sofa in the living room in an apartment and the paint would peel from the walls due to humidity and improper construction.

    For myself, it so happens that I'm good with intellectual endeavors so I managed to go through High-School and University without needing any extra (paid) tutoring. Now, 15 years past the end of my education and 3 countries later, my income is in the top 10% of the country where I live (UK) in, roughly 7 times the average around here. Compared to where I came from, my income is probably 20+ times the average income there.

    A lot of my success is my own doing (the intellectual abilities, the taking the risks of changing jobs, employment styles and countries) but all of that is based on my parents choices:
    - Their choice of moving to the city.
    - Their choice of furthering their education.
    - Their choice of only having one kid.
    - Their choice of pushing me to go through University instead of putting me to work when I was 16.
    not to mention the values they taught me, some of which came from my grandparents.

    Had my parents not made those choices they did or taught me the values they taught me, my own skills and abilities might not have been enough to make me go much further beyond just another poor peasant.

    In the end, a bright kid with unlucky, dumb, inept or just plain screwed-up parents (say a single-mother junkie) will be way much more likely to end up in a life of poverty than a dumb kid with reliable, educated and wealthy parents.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:07AM (#30171990) Homepage

    To be clear, I myself am doing extremely well professionally compared to others my age. I'm not any of the people I mentioned in my previous post. I'm not sorry for myself in the least: I'm raking it in and worrying more about how to properly invest the savings than how to make ends meet.

    How poor were you born? Seriously. Did your family ever survive via government assistance? Did you ever move frequently because your parent/guardian couldn't pay the rent? Was there a time when largest meal of the day was your government-supported school lunch? Believe me, I know what poor looks like: I never lived it, but I spent a lot of time with kids in all of these circumstances.

    I'm not saying people can't overcome their circumstances. I'm saying they're the exception, not the rule, and that the answer of "they're stupid and lazy" seems to me to be a massive oversimplification.

  • Re:What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:10AM (#30172028)

    You do realize, of course, that it's not nearly as simple as "we've identified that the levees are inadequate and now we're going to fix them." I mean, nobody in their right mind would believe that the Corps was fully funded, fully staffed and with free mandate to enact change just sat there with their thumbs up their arses, looking at the existing structures and liabilities thinking "eh...good enough." Once again, what * I * see here is a knee-jerk reaction of people unwilling to take a look at the real complexities of acheiving ANY change where a government/locality/municipality/etc is involved. Short of criminal negligence, and i've not yet heard "Mr. Jones, the engineer responsible for the levee was lying about it's suitability for it's intended purpose" or "Mr. Jones takes extended Hawaiian vacation on Corps $$$", it's reasonable to assume that they were attempting to do their job with whatever limited resources were available to them. I can't envision that the Corps went to Congress, asked for a Billion Dollars, got it and then ignored the repairs. Isn't it at least reasonable to assume they had limited funds to acheive the overall management of their charges in the area and were therefore as a necessity, required to make a cost-benefit analysis for available projects. In this case they got burned. But I never hear anyone shouting from the roof tops about how the Corps was responsible, give me one credible real-world idea about how to accomplish what they needed to do on limited resources.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff@@@gindulis...net> on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:19AM (#30172182)

    So the two years before Katrina outweigh the 30+ years, since 1965 or so, that the Corps had been asking for budget to fix JUST THIS?

    Talk about myopic!

  • by DarthVain (724186) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:21AM (#30172198)

    News at 11.

  • Re:Predictable... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ambiguous Coward (205751) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:49AM (#30172742) Homepage

    They did not build the city next to the gulf and below water. Open a history book, this is a man made disaster, we humans have moved the Gulf to New Orleans and sunk the city. Its what happend when you destroy thousands of square miles of wetlands to allow a couple more ships per day up the Mississippi and ignore why people built New Orleans so far inland (it was to the Gulf originally as Baton Rouge is now.)

    I'd mod you up...

    For a supposed bunch of intelligent people, most of you readers on Slashdot seem to know nothing of history, nor of engineered malfeasance.

    But you're a douche.

  • Re:What? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @12:40PM (#30173592)

    I hope they're dead serious, because I haven't seen anything more accurate than this posted in this thread yet.

    Jesus H Christ. The "poor" get more chances in life than my middle-class white ass ever did growing up.

    My classes were -hard-, because my school actually expected something from students rather than being happy to hand out diplomas to anyone willing to show up for enough hours a day for enough years.

    I didn't get any goddamn grants to further my education because I was already broke. I didn't get any scholarships, because they got handed out to the poor kids that bothered to show up to class in the urban district where everyone knew classes were a joke, "Honors" classes were weighted, and so you had people graduating with 5.0 GPA's and all they did was suck wind all day and suck ***k for money at night.

    No, instead, I got to choose to mortgage my future (and become broke) to further my education. I sat in class there with people who couldn't spell "broke" but were now in a position where they were basically being paid to go to school. Even if their grades started to suck there, the "school" bent over backwards to jack their GPA up, keep the "grant" or "scholarship" money flowing in (because, these morons are a revenue stream!), and keep their minority ass in the class room.

    Shoot, even the school was being paid to put up with their stupid antics. These "poor" people didn't want to learn. And these "poor" people were being handed -everything-. Money, Food, Good Grades, and a chance at a "future" because they get some piece of paper claiming that they know something (when really by the time we got out of there, they didn't).

    And for the rest of the class, that came from mixed backgrounds, where we had to work our asses off to get decent grades, and -paid- for our chance at that piece of shitty paper, we were getting taught something far more valuable than any degree program advertises.

    The "entitlement" attitude of the "poor" is enforced from crib to grave by the welfare state. The Profiteering that takes place on the back of these people as their sense of self-worth is over-inflated with each hand-out they receive is gut-wrenching.

    YOu want to fix New Orleans? You want people to start to make decisions? YOu want the "poor" to become "mobile?" It's simple

    QUIT REWARDING THE BEHAVIOR THAT EXACERBATES THE SITUATION. Cut off welfare. Cut off the scholarships and grants. Cut off public schooling. Cut off food-stamps. Those assclowns will move -- to the first place they can get what they've grown to depend upon for free.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us work our asses off to support their lazy fuck lives.

    I say let them drown. I say let them die. Quit making their "problems" (I believe you mean sense of entitlement and laziness) my burden.

    Maybe I'm a bit too right-wing, maybe I'm a bit too old-skool, but I think the Bible (OMG now I'm a zealot!) had it right. You don't work, you don't eat. Fuck off.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Friday November 20, 2009 @02:09PM (#30175204)

    I could see blaming the French for setting up a fort / trading post in a vulnerable but lucrative location, but blaming fifth or sixth generation native-borns (who weren't exactly rolling in dough) for not moving away seems a bit Darwinian.

    It's not about blame. It's about the choice of either taking effective action or waiting until there is a disaster so you can assign blame. If I live in New Orleans prior to Katrina and the federal government won't fund better levees, I might ask the state or local governments to do so. If they won't do so, then I can't do it myself.

    At that point, if the government won't do it and I can't do it myself, then two options remain: 1) stick around and eventually get hit by an inevitable disaster, or 2) move away and leave the area to its fate. I'll take the second option every time. If I have a family, then it's no longer an option at all; I would then have an obligation to safeguard my family and would be a piss-poor husband/father if I cared about the inconvenience of moving more than their well-being.

    Now, why don't others see it in terms of foresight and proactive action? Do they see it differently because they have a superior point of view? I would argue that a point of view which needlessly places them and their families in danger is not superior. Take a hard look and you'll find that they didn't care enough to look into it, didn't use some foresight and some sense, or naively expected that government would take care of everything without their input. None of these are good attributes worthy of acquisition.

    They are all personal failings or character weaknesses. Calling them by their proper names is the first step towards getting rid of this victim mentality which, in the name of "compassion", wants to tell people who are not helpless that they are helpless victims. I don't find anything compassionate about telling people that they are helplessly at the mercy of every problem that might come their way, like a leaf in the wind. I think doing so condemns them to experiencing a lot of preventable suffering. I don't think people need my pity. I think they need to inform and equip themselves and learn to be their own masters.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Friday November 20, 2009 @06:55PM (#30179804)

    "60% of the population of the Netherlands live below sea level. Are they all stupid too?"

    The Dutch don't live in an area plagued by hurricanes, they don't have much alternative due to crowding (which is what drove land reclamation in the first place), and they don't live in a willfully culturally backward and infamously corrupt state.

    The US has vast amounts of land. No one "needs" to live in New Orleans, below sea level or otherwise. (Do note that the old French Quarter wasn't wiped out because they didn't fucking build in a flood zone!)

    Katrina was a "perfect storm" of the most backward culture and people in the US insisting on staying in their slums so they could die in droves. They had time for crime, violence, and drugs. They had time for sloth and ignorance. They didn't devote appropriate time to prepare, and they suffered the consequences. Katrina flushed some slums, big deal. They'll be rebuilt to humor the stupid, and will get zapped again one day.

  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000.yahoo@com> on Saturday November 21, 2009 @01:30AM (#30182408)

    The Army Corps of Engineers failed in their responsibilities.

    Can you get it through your head the Corp of Engineers asked congress for the money but congress refused? It's one thing to blame the military when the military is in control, and it's something else when instead of having the power they have to beg for money.

    Falcon

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ahabswhale (1189519) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @07:19PM (#30189424)
    It actually has nothing to do with lacking the technology to solve the problem, as you imply. The ACE was both fully aware of the problem and knew how to fix the problem. The real issue was simply an issue of funding: there was none. Now if the Dutch and Japanese have some kind of technology for imparting common sense in politicians, you might be right. However, I'm guessing they don't.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein

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