Global News: September 2005 Archives

Megarefinery, meet megatornado


Mel at Engine of the Future commends our public officials for their concern about refinery capacity, but he thinks their proposals need a little (ahem) refining.

Regarding Congressman John Sullivan's Cushing megarefinery proposal, Mel likes the idea of a Cushing refinery, but it shouldn't be the only one:

If we were dependant on one “megarefinery” anywhere as our lone reserve capacity, I can imagine one “megatornado”, causing “megadamage”, leading to another “megacrisis” in energy. Megabad idea in my opinion.

With respect to our energy infrastructure, if Katrina is to teach us anything, it is this: We must diversify the locations and their capabilities.

I do applaud Congressman Sullivan though, at least he’s thinking along the right path.

Regarding Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode's proposal to provide tax incentives for increasing refinery capacity, Mel says tax breaks won't budge oil companies who are quite happy with reduced capacity.

By the way, of Tulsa's two refineries, only the Sinclair Refinery produces gasoline. The Sun Refinery produces lubricants, waxes, and aromatic oils for industrial uses.

Katrina gleanings

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Keeping up with the latest commentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Mister Snitch! has several more informative links today, including one to a "fingerpointing-free timeline of the Katrina response" by Rick Moran. Moran lists what actions were taken, by whom, and when, and avoids questions of what might have been done but wasn't. Snitch's entry has the Readers' Digest version, and a link to a masterful Mark Steyn column on the culture of passivity and New Orleans' response to Katrina.

Louisiana native and New York resident Ken Wheaton compares the situation and leadership in New York on 9/11 with the situation and leadership in New Orleans now. He says that unlike NYC in 2001, NO lacks "a functioning political system," and he thinks what happened may wind up improving the lot of many of the poorest New Orleans residents:

I don't think any human on the face of the earth could have busted up New Orleans slums and fixed the city, not even Rudy G. And, as harsh as this may seem, I think this natural disaster may have served as a radical chemotherapy for one of the last big malignant tumors of extreme poverty in this country. Free from a useless government, predatory criminals, lack of employment options, and a barely-there-but-still-addictive social net, I expect a lot of those evacuated will indeed move up in life.

Oklahoma City's Downtown Guy notes that the city has a large supply of vacant housing in public hands and suggests fixing it up and making it available at a nominal cost to hurricane refugees. Some of the comments echo Ken Wheaton's sentiment, for example, this from "PapaJack2":

My experience with New Orleans indicates a lot of the evacuees wanted to get out of New Orleans, but lacked the means to do so. Many will never return. A friend of mine at Express Personnel said they were contacted by evacuees as early as last Friday looking for jobs in OKC. People with that kind of initiative are always welcome.

Speaking of personal initiative, Charles G. Hill links to Baseball Crank, who writes that Katrina proves there's a lot to be said for having the means to move yourself to safety.

The lesson here is that anybody who can afford a car is crazy not to have one, the dreams of bicycle-riding environmentalists and central planners the world over to the contrary. In addition to its other virtues, a car can get you out of harm's way without having to depend on the government in a time of crisis.

There's an interesting (and, for Dustbury, unusually heated) comments thread on Charles's entry, in response to his closing remark:

And there remain those who are anxious to point out that poor people don't have all these options. This is, of course, one of many reasons why it sucks to be poor, and if you have any ambition and any sense, you'll reorient your life so at some point you become not poor. (Waiting around for the government to do things for you, incidentally, is neither ambitious nor sensible.)

Oklahoma Baptists are ready to welcome 3,000 refugees at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center near Davis, but the refugees haven't arrived, and there's no word on when they're likely to show up. Yesterday the highway patrol had to turn away volunteers, who drove from all over the state to help.

Finally, the intrepid DirectNIC crew has more news and photos from the heart of New Orleans, where they have been keeping a data center operating through the entire crisis. They're offering to help those who have fled but have an office in their building or nearby -- they will check on your office or even try to hook up your computers into their network to allow you to access your data.

I'm happy to see that Oklahoma Baptists have taken the initiative to welcome and house refugees from Hurricane Katrina at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, near Davis in south-central Oklahoma, home to one of the largest church camps in the country. Falls Creek has a cafeteria, a conference center, and a hundred or so "cabins" owned by local churches, most of them air conditioned, each housing between 20 and 200 campers. It should be a pretty comfortable situation.

Mister Snitch! links to the fascinating Survival of New Orleans blog, written by someone with DirectNIC, a New Orleans ISP which has managed to remain running and connected to the net since Katrina struck. He also links to Brendan Loy, who wrote about the impending disaster as the hurricane bore down on NO, and who says it could have been much worse.

Lance Salyers notes that Dennis Hastert wasn't the first to question the wisdom of rebuilding NO after the devastation of a hurricane. The first was a city official. (UPDATE 10/25/2005: Had to remove the link, as Lance has taken down his blog and the URL has been hijacked by a spammer.)

David Warren is optimistic about New Orleans' future:

If I may be so insensitive as to continue looking on the bright side, the experience of Katrina was just what was needed, to reconsider the city's environmental defences. After the expenditure of a few more billion dollars (the kind of government spending in which I exult), it ought to be possible to make the whole levee and pumping system good to withstand Category Five. It is an engineering challenge, the sort of thing Americans love, and can afford....

Indeed, one of the things that makes great disasters so exciting is the prospect of recovery -- of restoring what was best and building what is better. It is a moment in which the cost-benefit analysis swings out of view, and in which we confront the elements with what is elemental in ourselves.

Vanderleun of American Digest Modestly Proposes that America take a year off from helping the rest of the world to rebuild itself.

Amidst all the finger-pointing about the mismanagement of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the blogosphere is digging for the facts.

Don Singleton has been tracking down the emergency response plans, and the timeline of official actions and responses. I haven't had time to wade through it all, but he's put it together here. Bottom line is that New Orleans wasn't prepared to execute and didn't execute its own plan.

Don links to JunkYard Blog, whose site has maxed out its bandwidth. JunkYard Blog has aerial and satellite photos showing hundreds of New Orleans school buses that were abandoned to the flood waters, rather than being used to evacuate NO residents before the hurricane hit, as the hurricane plan called for.

Since JYB's site is down, I'll point you to the key photos. This is a photo of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's bus facility, less than a mile from the Superdome, with 146 buses, enough to ferry at least 9,000 passengers out of the city before the hurricane, if city officials had followed the evacuation plan.


This photo is of 255 New Orleans school buses, a site that's been dubbed the Mayor Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool. There are enough buses here to have carried 13,000 to 17,000 passengers out of New Orleans (depending on bus capacity) prior to the hurricane.


JunkYard Blog has maxed out its bandwidth, but you can find the information in Google's cache for now.

UPDATE: Be sure to read W.'s comment on why the buses weren't used.

Refugee. What a strange word to apply to Americans. Refugee is a word for people in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. It's for people who have had to leave their homes behind because of war, famine, or natural disaster, and they may never be able to return.

There may be as many as a million refugees from the New Orleans area alone. Their homes are gone or uninhabitable. Their jobs are gone. If they aren't out of money already, they will be soon enough. These people will need to start over in some other part of the country -- find a place to work, find a place to live. In the meantime, they need places to stay and food to eat.

The Presbyterian Church in America's Mission to North America is seeking volunteers and financial contributions to help with the recovery effort. The Southern Baptist Convention have deployed feeding units in cooperation with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. Oklahoma Baptists have a feeding unit deployed to Baton Rouge.

Glenn Reynolds has a long list of relief organizations recommended by bloggers, including the two mentioned above.

UPDATE: Bumped the date to keep this at the top of the page.

Lafayette, they are there

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Ken Wheaton has posted a lengthy report from his friend Felicia, who has been talking with New Orleans refugees at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana. She relates one story from a man who watched National Guard troops drive away, rather than assist New Orleans police in a fight with looters. This same man tells of a private initiative to get people out of the city that was thwarted:

The man who witnessed this from his windows also stated that the owner of the Montleone Hotel charted 10 buses and paid $25,000.00 out of his own pocket to get the people out of hotel because he was getting no assistance. The witness was offered a ride and packed up. He said that when the buses got there, he looked out of his open window and watched as a Guard walked up to the owner and asked what the buses were for. When the owner explained and asked for assistance in getting the guests onto the shuttles, the guard laughed and said no. They confiscated the buses. The witness didn't even get a chance to get down to the street and they were gone. Where they went he didn't know. He immediately went back upstairs and bolted himself in. He's still up there.

Hurricane damage links

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Just getting in on the tail end of Katrina Blog Relief Day:

Here are some links that have helped me understand the extent of the damage caused in New Orleans and the central Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

Referring to the city's distinct accent, New Orleans writer John Kennedy Toole called New Orleans "that Hoboken near the Gulf of Mexico." Hoboken, New Jersey, local-blogger Mister Snitch! has a good round up of links, including links to charities working in the area and to a slideshow of aerial images of flooding in New Orleans. He links to an affecting personal account on Slate, "Mourning My New Orleans" by Josh Levin. Levin writes:

As the endlessly looping aerial footage shows little more than a giant lake with highway overpasses peeking out, I'm glad I wasn't there and terrified I never will be again. A friend from high school told me he took the scenic route out of town on Sunday morning so he could remember the places he needed to remember: Molly's at the Market, the Warehouse District, the Uptown JCC, the corner of St. Charles Avenue where he drank his first beer. I squint at the screen, searching for some kind of landmark to say goodbye to, but the only thing that's recognizable is the Superdome, which now looks like a potato with the skin peeled off to reveal the rotten insides.

Mister Snitch! also has a well-researched and level-headed article asking who's to blame for the flooding of New Orleans. Is it because the levees haven't been maintained? Is it because the levees are there at all? Is global warming to blame for the apparent increase in higher-intensity hurricanes?

The Truth Laid Bear has a special page set up to track blogging about Katrina and relief efforts.

Here's a blog devoted to reporting on damage around Slidell, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The Times-Picayune has evacuated the city, but they're still publishing online. Here's their special Katrina section. The paper also maintains a blog-like breaking news column.

Can New Orleans be rebuilt? Should it? In his weekly "Vent" column, Charles G. Hill responds to the idea of abandoning the site:

New Orleans is there, not because of some accident of fate that plopped it down in a suboptimal location, but because, over the years, millions of people have wanted it there. And one of the great privileges of living in this land is being able to live just about anywhere you want.

Jessica of The New Vintage says that federally-subsidized flood insurance encourages people to buy homes in high-risk areas.

Areas where insurance only costs a couple of hundreds dollars from the feds should be costing closer to a couple of thousands from a privately owned insurance company. So now cheap insurance is causing more people to move into high risk areas which ends up costing even more money for the government in a disaster's aftermath which ends up coming out of whose pockets?

Ken Wheaton, a Cajun transplant to New York City, has a collection of useful links to insurance companies' catastrophe information and to FEMA. He's got much more news and commentary.

Ken links to Slate's Explainer: What is sea level and how did New Orleans get built below it?

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Global News category from September 2005.

Global News: August 2005 is the previous archive.

Global News: November 2005 is the next archive.

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