This is what really matters:
Somehow, America has concluded that the scandal of Katrina was the government's response to the disaster, not the government's contribution to the disaster. The Corps has eluded the public's outrage -- even though a useless Corps shipping canal intensified Katrina's surge, even though poorly designed Corps floodwalls collapsed just a few feet from an unnecessary $750 million Corps navigation project , even though the Corps had promoted development in dangerously low-lying New Orleans floodplains and had helped destroy the vast marshes that once provided the city's natural flood protection.I was reading about the uselessness, the damage, and the danger of the Army Corps of Engineers in 1970. Nothing has changed, except now New Orleans has been drowned. Gossip about who will win, should win, and the strategies arising therefrom, have always been with us, too.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's failures didn't inundate a city, kill 1,000 residents and inflict $100 billion in damages. Yet FEMA is justifiably disgraced, while Congress keeps giving the Corps more money and more power. A new 185-point Senate report on what went wrong during Katrina waits until point No. 65 to mention the Corps "design and construction deficiencies" that left New Orleans underwater. Meanwhile, a new multibillion-dollar potpourri of Corps projects is nearing approval on Capitol Hill.
That's because the Corps is an addiction for members of Congress, who use its water projects to steer jobs and money to their constituents and contributors. President Bush has opposed dozens of the most egregious boondoggles, but Congress has kept funding them and the Corps has refused to renounce them -- while New Orleans has remained vulnerable.
Even Prather, the agency's public representative on the Hill, complained in that private e-mail that the Corps has sacrificed its credibility by defending its indefensible projects -- he called them "swine" -- just as the Catholic Church defended its wayward priests.
"We have no strategy for saving ourselves," he wrote. "Someone needs to be supervising the Corps."
Which is more important? Which one should left blogistan hurl all its energy and abilities into? Maybe we should use our new-found influence to do something useful in the world, rather than continue the national game of musical chairs.