Two Sides of Human Nature

Haley Barbour said yesterday that a crisis like Hurricane Katrina brings out the best in most people, but the worst in a few. How true. There are countless stories of heroism and sacrifice, most of which we’ll never hear. For one great example, check out this email from Jason Peterson of the Children’s Hospital of Alabama, reproduced by Hugh Hewitt. Peterson describes how he and a small group of colleagues helicoptered into New Orleans to rescue four newborn babies from a hospital there:

Upon entering the make-shift nursery, the first two staff were onphones crying their eyes out talking to someone on the other end trying to cope. All of the staff in the unit were overjoyed to see that someone had come to help. They had requested help from all over but they told us we were the only ones to show up today. They thought we were coming for only one patient and when we told them we had the resources to transport 4, they were shocked to say the least. Then we said maybe we can help more tomorrow and to our surprise they all were even more excited that we would come back again to help. The nurse practioner in the unit pulled me aside and asked me “How bad is it out there looking from the air? I mean really, is it as bad as they say?” With tears running down her face and tears in my eyes I said “Yes Ma’am it is, maybe worse and my heart is broken for all of you down here”. With that she had to walk away.
All of the staff are working in t-shirts, shorts and flip flops due to the lack of ventilation. It was at least 110-120 degrees in the unit. They had all of the babies in open cribs or warmers that were off and all were down to their diapers, some with elevated temps still. All of the staff have been there since Saturday and said they don’t think they will be able to leave until the 5th of September. With that said, many have nothing to go home to.

Peterson and his team will be back tomorrow to rescue more infants.
That’s the good. For the bad, we obviously could talk about the looters. But I think an even worse example is the appalling Sidney Blumenthal. Blumenthal authored this disgusting piece in the German magazine Spiegel. Taking a ghoulish delight in turning a natural disaster into political gain, Blumenthal begins:

In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. But the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by 44 percent to pay for the Iraq war.

But wait! The Iraq war didn’t start until two years later, in 2003. And, in any event, you could more logically say that flood control funding was “cut” to pay for Medicare, $345 billion in the current budget, vastly more than Iraq.
Who’s to blame for the hurricane’s devastation? Not nature: President Bush!

With its main levee broken, the evacuated city of New Orleans has become part of the Gulf of Mexico. But the damage wrought by the hurricane may not entirely be the result of an act of nature.

According to Blumentahal (and many other Democrats who have dipped their toes into this water today), everyone knew that this particular disaster was sure to strike New Orleans. Predictions were made! Memos were written! Dire warnings were communicated! The theory is that the levees that protect New Orleans from flooding were to have been raised and strengthened, and if only that had been done, the city would have emerged unscathed from the hurricane.
Of course, the alleged “underfunding” of the levee project didn’t just start this year:

A corps plan to shore up the levees began in 1965 and was supposed to be finished in 10 years but remains incomplete. “They’ve never put enough money in to complete it,” [former Congressman Michael] Parker said.

Where are Lyndon Johnson and Tip O’Neill? Let’s blame them! Also, it is far from clear that even if the proposed levee expansion had been carried out, it would have made any difference:

Even if the projects had been funded at the highest amounts, [Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the corps’ chief of engineers] said it might not have changed the situation in downtown New Orleans. He said the levee near the 17th Street Canal, where one of the breaches occurred that emptied water into the city, was fully completed.

It’s also not clear to me when Congress would have had to appropriate more money for levee construction for the work to have been completed by last Sunday night. The planning and construction process takes years. And, if it were true that everyone knew that a strong wind would flood New Orleans, causing thousands of deaths and almost immeasurable destruction, don’t you think that the purported “underfunding” of $20 million could have been found somewhere in the $4 billion plus Corps of Engineers’ budget? Prioritizing the Corps’ projects is a responsibility that is shared among the Corps, Congress and the administration. And I really suspect that, had the likelihood of this particular disaster been foreseen as clearly as Blumenthal and other Democrat hit-men suggest, the funds–totaling a whopping four hundredths of one percent of the Corps’ budget–would have been there.
Blumenthal’s outrages continue:

The Bush administration’s policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge.

Yes, that’s the administration’s policy, all right: “turning over wetlands to developers.” And how more wetlands could have prevented the levees from bursting is nowhere explained. Blumenthal wraps up with a passing reference to global warming–no mention of the fact that major hurricanes have grown less frequent over the last 70 years–and, finally, abortion! What on God’s green earth abortion has to do with Hurricane Katrina, I have no idea; but Blumenthal leaves no obsession unturned, concluding with a riff on the morning-after pill.
It isn’t easy to be a lower species of human than a looter, but I think Blumenthal qualifies.
UPDATE: Red State has more.
FURTHER UPDATE: Baton Rouge lawyer Patrick Martin writes:

ohn, your post on Sidney Blumenthal was right on except for one thing, your comment on wetlands. America

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