In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 12, 2006 / 12 Teves, 5766

Katrina and consequences

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | An e-mail that showed up in my inbox the other day contained a photograph of the modern floodgates that keep Venice from being inundated by the Adriatic Sea. Below it was a picture of Holland's high-tech dams, which rise as much as 40 feet above the waves that perpetually threaten the Dutch. A third photo showed London's futuristic-looking flood barriers, a series of semicircular silver gates along the Thames that can be raised or lowered as needed to regulate tidal heaves surging up from the North Sea.

Following these images of impressive European flood control technology came a picture from New Orleans. It showed a section of a broken, low-tech, decidedly unimpressive concrete levee surrounded by water, presumably taken in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Sneered an accompanying message: "Way to go, Corps of Engineers!"

Whether it is fair to compare New Orleans's flood-control system with Europe's, or whether those European barriers are as effective as they are photogenic, I don't have the expertise to judge. Nonetheless, that e-mail is a good reminder of a key truth about the Katrina disaster: It was mostly the result of government failure.

The flooding that devastated New Orleans was caused not by Mother Nature but by defective infrastructure — infrastructure built and operated by the federal government, such as the now-infamous 17th Street Canal levee. When the Army Corps of Engineers designed that levee, it made critical mistakes. It badly underestimated soil strength, for example, which led to the use of sheet pilings that were too flimsy, resulting in floodwalls unable to withstand the water Katrina hurled toward the city.

Worse, the "obviously faulty designs," as the New Orleans Times-Picayune termed them on Dec. 30, were flagged during a design review by the Corps of Engineers' regional office, which ordered the engineers in New Orleans to correct their plans. But they didn't. When the chief engineer in New Orleans balked, the Times-Picayune found, "his superiors dropped the issue."

Compounding that structural weakness was the dreadfully misguided Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a 76-mile long manmade river created by the federal government 40 years ago to speed navigation. For decades, critics warned that the canal was a flood disaster waiting to happen — a giant "funnel" that would accelerate and intensify any storm surge headed toward the New Orleans levees. Sure enough, when Katrina hit, the canal greatly magnified the height and speed of the wall of water that slammed into the levees. Entire sections of the wall gave way, leading to the destruction of a major American city. And all of it made possible by your tax dollars at work.

Could such appalling errors ever occur in the private sector? Of course they could, and had the New Orleans levee system been in private hands, there is no guarantee that Katrina wouldn't have proved just as catastrophic. But failure would have had consequences — financial reverses, firings, loss of market share, costly lawsuits. A private corporation whose incompetence leads to dire results can expect to pay a price for its bungling, but there is no market discipline in the public sector, where dissatisfied "customers" — better known as taxpayers — generally cannot take their business elsewhere or refuse to keep paying.

If levees are to be built, says Walter Block, an economist at Loyola University of New Orleans, the job should be carried out "by an economic entity that can lose funding, and thus put its very existence at risk if it errs. This can only apply to the market — never the state." But neither the Corps of Engineers nor any other government agency is about to lose its funding, or face any penalty. On the contrary, they will be rewarded with even more money and authority — the government's usual response to its own failures.

Indeed, in the aftermath of Katrina plenty of voices clamor for more government and more central planning — from Ted Kennedy's call for a new, Cabinet-level Gulf Coast Redevelopment Authority to the USA Today editorial wishing New Orleans had "a singular vision of how to rebuild and a take-charge leader." For his part, President Bush more or less announced that the hurrican recovery process would be governed by fiscal indiscipline. "It's going to cost whatever it costs," he said, when asked if the administration's plans didn't amount to "writing a blank check." An AP headline summed up the prevailing attitude: "Katrina Ushers in Return of Big Government."

And how is big government handling things, post-Katrina? Well, the New York Times reports that in those Louisiana communities that hired private contractors to clear away the debris left by the storm, 70 percent of the cleanup is complete. In those that are relying on the Army Corps of Engineers, the job is only 45 percent done. Biloxi, Miss., which turned to private operators, now has "whole neighborhoods . . . primed for new development. But in Pascagoula, 25 miles east, only about 25 residential lots have been cleared."

Pascagoula's cleanup, it probably goes without saying, is being handled by the feds.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2006, Boston Globe