Monday, September 05, 2005

Founded Against the Advice of His Own Engineers

We suppose such Schadenfreude is inevitable given America's economic vigor and current global dominance. The temptation to see the U.S. humbled is great, especially when that humbling can be exploited to justify assorted domestic political agendas and to bash a Bush Administration that is unapologetic about asserting U.S. power
writes the Wall Street Journal (thanks to Kurt Schmautz) as it mentions, among other sophisticated strands of European thinking, the "gloating editorial in yesterday's Le Monde … (The French, for the record, don't blame Bienville for founding New Orleans below sea level in the first place.)"
That America has flaws is hardly breaking news, of course, least of all to Americans who debate their weaknesses endlessly in public and in a fashion the rest of the world can hear.
There is penty of blame to hurl around, but before our French Bush-bashers get too cocky after listening to their élites explain how the destruction of Hurricane Katrina is entirely the fault of arrogant Americans, America's greedy capitalists, blinded warmongers, and others who don't share the solidaristic generosity (so naturally) prevalent among French intellectuals, they might want to ponder the following thoughts.

Michael Barone:

New Orleans' heritages of upper-class complaisance and political corruption -- the result of the city's French tradition -- work against a more broadly based commercial and economic revival. Without changes in these attitudes, historic New Orleans may revive, but the city will become little more than a theme park, like Venice, and not the great commercial beehive it once was.
Indeed, writes a visitor to la Minute du Sablier:
What happened has been a problem since the foundation of New Orleans by a Frenchman, against the advice of his own engineers.
The Economist adds that
Everybody agrees that some of this pain was inevitable. Ever since 1718, when Jean Baptiste le Moyne de Bienville, a French colonist, decided to build his settlement on a hurricane-prone patch of swampland surrounded by three huge pools of water (the Mississippi Delta, the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain), New Orleans has been living in nature's shadow.
(Kind of reminds you — but to a far lesser degree, naturellement — of the brouhaha surrounding the unveiling of the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, whose architecture is entirely impractical for the task for which it is designed: protecting books. Plus ça change…)

Check Le Monde Watch pour une discussion en profondeur de Katrina en français

That post starts out (in English) with the three following paragraphs:

Arthur Chrenkoff offers a plethora of tasteless quotes about Hurricane Katrina, along with interesting food for thought, the most powerful of which comes perhaps from Americans for Freedom

Global warming and hurricanes - The hurricanes aren’t historically on the increase, and the number of the most serious – category 4 and 5 – is down compared to previous decades (EU Rota has some nice tables). Hurricanes are also a part of a natural decades-long cycle of changing temperature of the Atlantic Ocean.

Bush diverted the money away from flood-proofing New Orleans - Two problems with that – New Orleans has been on notice since the previous devastating hurricane Betsy in 1965. Bush has been in the White House for only the last five of these past 40 years, so one might as well blame every other President since LBJ for not doing enough – and then ask, why should all the blame be laid at the feet of the feds, instead of sharing it with state and local authorities?

No comments: