Saturday, March 17, 2007

Every Potemkin Village Needs its Idiots.

The Army Corps of Engineers has proven itself to be unworthy of our trust. Like any bureaucracy, it has a strong ethos of self-survival. As an example, parse closely this juicy quote from the pumps scandal...

"Let me give you the scenario: You have four months to build something that nobody has ever built before, and if you don't, the city floods and the Corps, which already has a black eye, could basically be dissolved. How many people would put up with a second flooding?" said Randy Persica, the Corps' resident engineer for New Orleans' three major drainage canals.

Randy, you are an idiot. Do you realize, that to those of us whose homes 'dissolved' – to use your word- into the levee breach flood, the fate of the Corps of Engineers is not a priority. I am attaching a photo of parts of my home that were 'dissolved' in the flood, namely the ceiling that collapsed when the attic flooded.

What has my anger at a Bushehr level of critical mass is that it is possible to infer the rationalization of the ACOE for everything. Because it is an unaccountable bureaucracy, the problem isn't bad engineering that results in loss of lives, property, or livelihoods – the objective consequences of their failure.

No-- the problem is being held accountable.

In a second flood, basically, Randy is worried the ACOE could be dissolved. So, rather than being honest about the risks of their bad decisions --- and informing those affected of the risk that were taken-- the ACOE has once again chosen to hide the truth and leave the perception that the situation was better than it really is. To the detriment of those who may face the consequence of these decisions.
This impulse to build 'protective' projects that do not work and then intentionally deceiving those who would be protected by concealing known flaws fits the definition of criminal negligence...
Criminal negligence is the failure to use reasonable care to avoid consequences that threaten or harm the safety of the public and that are the foreseeable outcome of acting in a particular manner.
In this case, the duty is not just to build projects that work, but also there is a duty to inform the public of those projects which will fail if they face the circumstances for which they are designed.
In the 17th street canal litigation, it is likely to come out that the foundations were known to be insufficient to hold the column of water that would occur if the canal was filled. [No surprise here, it failed catastrophically at something like 30% of its design loading].
With the pumps, the Corps has only compounded the problem. If they shut the floodgates, and if the pumps are not working, then the Baldwin Wood pumps in the City will fill the canal with water. We know the foundation is inadequate when the canal is 30% full, so the floodgate pumps must work or the Baldwin Wood pumps have to be turned off, which results in citywide flooding from rainwater until the floodgates can be re-opened.
This is crucial information and the impulse to ignore the duty to disclose the known risks is negligent.

1 comment:

Mr. Clio said...

Don't forget the key black pearl from Darth Vader: "Use your anger."

Mr. Persica has done you and thousands others a sick favor: his quasi-autistic inability to grasp an outside world has placed the inertial evil on display for all.

I work for people infected with a less virulent (and deadly) form of this self-chosen and self-cultivated virus, Mr. Mel. KnowwhatImean?

Actually, I think the version I work around is just as virulent. If the people infected could get six-figure jobs with the ACOE, they would jump at the chance--and would be part of the next inundating slaughter.