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September 19, 2005
Blame the Hippies!

Senator James "Spawn of the Devil" Inhofe (R - OK), has a new idea about why the levees in New Orleans may have failed. Because of those damned environmentalists!

A Senate committee is investigating charges that environmental groups' lawsuits against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers played a role in the flooding of New Orleans, documents show.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wants the information for a series of Hurricane Katrina hearings.

The Justice Department asked U.S. attorney's offices Wednesday for information on cases environmental groups brought against the corps regarding the New Orleans levees. The Clarion-Ledger obtained that internal e-mail and another saying the request was being made on the committee's behalf and asking for a response by closing time Friday.


The Senate committee is headed by James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., who is proposing legislation to give the Environmental Protection Agency the power to suspend any environmental law in responding to Hurricane Katrina. That proposal comes at the same time EPA officials in New Orleans are finding oil spills and high amounts of sewage-related bacteria and lead.

The Clarion-Ledger

This all started when John Berlau of the "Competitive Enterprise Institute" (lovely name, that.) wrote an article in the National Review suggesting that the dirty hippies were to blame.

The article chastised the Sierra Club, American Rivers and other environmental groups for suing to halt the corps' 1996 plan to raise and fortify 303 miles of Mississippi River levees in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

But the walls that broke causing New Orleans to flood weren't Mississippi River levees. They protected the city from Lake Pontchartrain on the other side of the city.

The Clarion-Ledger

This simple logic —that the water that flooded New Orleans was from the lake, not the river— is apparently lost on Berlau. From his article:

The lawsuit was settled in 1997 with the Corps agreeing to hold off on some work while doing an additional two-year environmental impact study. Whether this delay directly affected the levees that broke in New Orleans is difficult to ascertain.

National Review Online

Difficult to ascertain? Really? It's difficult to ascertain whether a delay in raising levees on the Mississippi River caused the levees on Lake Pontchartrain to fail? I'm no hydro-engineer, but that seems pretty easy to ascertain to me.

No, "difficult to ascertain" is just code for "the truth would destroy my thesis" and ruin my chance to go on TV and accuse environmental groups of murder.

Berlau, appearing Thursday night on MSNBC, asked if "blood was on the hands" of environmentalists in the New Orleans flood.

When host Tucker Carlson noted it was the lake, not the Mississippi River, that flooded the city, Berlau replied, "The main point is there was a campaign in the '90s against many, pretty much all levees and dams. The mantra was let the natural rivers flow."

The Clarion-Ledger

Yeah, see, it doesn't matter that the lawsuits he's describing had absolutely nothing to do with the flooding of New Orleans, it's the mantra of these groups— it's their attitude— that somehow undermined the dikes and inundated the city. They might not have done anything in this case, but they did similar stuff elsewhere that might have caused something like this, had they done it here. It didn't cause anything similar anywhere else either, but you know, it could have, if such a thing had happened.

See how it's all their fault?

Strangely, Mr. Berlau didn't mention the fact that the White House has cut $400 million from the Army Corps of Engineers funding requests for flood control in the New Orleans area.

That can't be related.

No, it's got to be the hippies. Always getting in the way of Competitive Enterprise.


Previous Comments

Nice work Anthony. What a hilariously scary story. After reading it, I feel partially responsible because, well, sometimes I think bad things about leevee. I wonder if Tucker Carlson was proud of himself for figuring out the mississippi/ lake ponchotran difference.
The sad part is that they are debating something on TV that is not really an issue for debate. But instead of calling an expert, why not call a drunk southern senator? Clearly it is more fun. This could be a business: 1-900-DRUNK-SOUTHERN-SENATOR.

1-800 drunk southern democrate senator