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[Ilya Somin (guest-blogging), April 2, 2006 at 10:00pm] Trackbacks
Voting With Your Feet and the Political Impact of Katrina:

As this article explains, the upcoming New Orleans mayoral election involves extensive efforts by candidates to woo the numerous residents of the city who have not returned since Hurrican Katrina. By some estimates (see above link), about half the population, including a disproportionate percentage of the city's poor African-American population, has not come back since the hurricane.

Lost in the debate over the election is the possibility that things might be better for both the evacuees themselves and our political system if many of them choose NOT to come back. Others have extensively detailed the extent to which the damage done by Katrina was exacerbated by the incompetence of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, and other state and local officials (see, e.g., here and here).

As I have argued in my academic work (see, e.g., here and here, pp. 63-68), one of the best ways citizens have for holding state and local governments accountable is by "voting with their feet" and moving to jurisdictions with superior policies. Often, this is actually more effective than traditional ballot box voting, because the latter is more prone to collective action and "rational ignorance" issues. Through foot voting, states with incompetent or corrupt governments (and Lousiana has a long history of both) lose some of the taxpayers and businesses they need to fund programs that help get them reelected. In the case of Nagin and Blanco, they might end up losing many of the poor black voters on whom Louisiana Democrats depend for electoral support. If Nagin and Blanco are punished in this way, future state and local officials in Louisiana and elsewhere will have an incentive to do a better job in planning for the next natural disaster.

This point also implies that federal assistance to disaster relief should be channeled as much as possible to the evacuees and other victims themselves, as economist Steven Landsburg recommends, rather than to state and local governments. That way, state and local officials can only benefit from the relief funds if they adopt policies attractive enough to persuade evacuees to return and other residents to stay. They won't be rewarded for their earlier incompetence with grants unrelated to future performance as judged by the flood victims themselves. Instead, they will have to earn the money by persuading residents to spend it in their jurisdictions rather than elsewhere.

It is true, of course, that incompetence by the Bush Administration and FEMA also contributed to the disaster, and this post should not be interpreted to suggest otherwise. Federal government failure, unfortunately, is not easily punishable by foot voting. This, to my mind, is an important consideration in favor of decentralizing government power. In the meantime, however, we can at least hope that foot voting will help to punish the failures of Nagin and Blanco, and deter their would-be future imitators in other states.

UPDATE: Two standard criticisms of "voting with your feet" are 1) that it doesn't work because moving is costly and 2) that it doesn't work for the poor. The latter is empirically false: the poor are actually more likely to make interstate moves than other Americans, as data cited in my two articles cited above shows. Historically, even VERY poor and severely oppressed people, such as the many African-Americans in the Jim Crow-era South who moved to northern states (also discussed in my work) have improved their position by leaving for relatively better jurisdictions. The cost point is true in a sense (moving IS costly), but people will still vote with their feet if the benefits of moving out of a poorly governed jurisdiction outweigh those costs (as, empirically, they often do). In the case of New Orleans, the cost issue may not even apply for many of the evacuees because they are already out of the city and many have little or no property left in New Orleans to return to.

Tom Round (mail) (www):
I strongly agree with Ilya that the possibility of "voting with your feet" is a powerful justification for a decentralised federal system.

Unfortunately, however, its potency as a means of bringing about policy change at the governmental level (as opposed to its individual benefit in getting you, yourself, out from under the "jackboot") is undercut by another aspect that is necessarily — or at least historically — linked to decentralised federations: over-representation of the less-populous States in the federal legislature.

Many federations guarantee each State or Province equal seats in the national upper house; [1] and even when they don't (and almost always for the national lower house), the less-populous S/Ps still get many more seats than strict proportionality to population numbers would warrant. [2]

This means that, if a State does pursue such malicious, foolish or downright incompetent polices that large numbers of its residents shake the dust from their boots and emigrate elsewhere, it will not only ** NOT ** be penalised — it will be positively "rewarded" by having more federal seats per capita than its rival States that do attract internal immigrants with their promise of the good life.

To me, this seems like giving all political parties equal numbers of seats even though some are favoured and others rejected by the voters.

Moreover, it tends to create a steep "threshold" that discourages the national legislature from granting statehood to territories (eg, Australia's Northern Territory, USA's Puerto Rico) if, as a matter of either const law (USA) or political consensus (Aust), the fed leg must grant new States the same guaranteed number of seats as the original founding States have.

Notes:

[1] I'm Australian, and our Senate shares this feature with not only the World's Greatest Leg Body in DC but also the upper houses of Switzerland, Brazil, South Africa — oddly, given that SA is otherwise quite centralised and doesn't even call itself a "federation" — and, IIRC, Russia, Malaysia and Nigeria, unless those have been tinkered with since last I looked. OTOH, federations like Germany, Austria, Canada and India have some population weighting for the national upper chamber.

[2] Eg, in Australia and, IIRC, India the minimum number of federal Reps per State is five; in Brazil, it's four, but with a ceiling of 70. The USA's one-seat-per-State minimum is defensible as an alternative to either giving the micro-States no seats at all, or subsuming them in larger neighbours for federal elections.
4.2.2006 11:20pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Ilya,

I think the economic analogy is particularly undesirable for foot-voting because it also presents a ready metaphor to explain that concept's failure.

Transaction costs.

Nagin et al are not "competing" for votes because the presence or absence of poor blacks from the jurisdiction is generally not a consequence of deliberate policy accounting and choice, but is instead of climatic accident. The electoral composition the jurisdiction after katrina has as little to do with the relative efficacy of its policies as it did before it. People don't move because they're poor and can't afford to, not because they've made some reasoned assessment of costs and benefits.
4.2.2006 11:44pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
One thing that I've found rather disturbing about much of the post-Katrina evacuee coverage is the subtext to what many New Orleans and Louisiana politicians are saying when interviewed. They talk about the evacuees as though they BELONG to New Orleans and have a moral obligation to return.

In some cases, you almost get the impression the politicians think the evacuees have somehow stolen themselves by moving elsewhere and that the government should be allowed to go round the reluctant evacuees up and force them to return.
4.3.2006 12:13am
Jake:
Having constituents "vote with their feet" is good for incumbents if they manage to drive off the people that vote against them, while keeping the people that vote for them in their jurisdiction. See James Michael Curley.
4.3.2006 12:33am
Freder Frederson (mail):
First of all, let me say, that as a resident of New Orleans, I deeply resent being turned into some kind of academic abstraction. I, and the rest of the residents of New Orleans, are real people in real pain with real problems and real lives and real devastation to recover from, not just abstract talking points to prove some abstract economic, sociological and political point. We love our city in spite of its many flaws and don't just want to vote with our feet just because some boring city in the midwest gets the garbage collected on time.

To get to the central point of your thesis. Even if people were driven by purely rational motivations and treated every decision in life as though family, job, quality of life, climate, culture and the myriad of other factors that contribute to the decision on where to live were fungible, the current situation in New Orleans and its local government have nothing to do with your thesis. New Orleans is a mess because the levees failed. The levees are the responsibility of the Federal Government and the failure is most likely due to poor design and inadequate construction oversight by the Army Corps of Engineers. Furthermore, New Orleans is vulnerable to hurricane storm surge because it has been robbed of its protective barrier of wetlands. The wetlands have been destroyed because of 80 years of flood control policy in the Mississippi basin. The responsibility for repairing the levees and protecting the city is that of the Federal Government. In spite of what the president says, they have done nothing but stall and delay reconstruction since the storm hit.

Do a little homework before you go off and use the misfortune of hundreds of thousands of people to support some abstract academic point.
4.3.2006 12:36am
Tom Round (mail) (www):
Kovarsky's point would apply the 99% of the times when inertia/ lack of resources is the controlling factor. Normally, you would never abandon your home and strike out to another State if you were too poor to obtaiin another decent home there (after paying travel costs, finding a buyer, etc). But when some cataclysm "makes the decision for you", such that living in a tent or a trailer is the alternative to dying in a flood (or a famine, a la "Grapes of Wrath"), then the decision becomes a live one: return or not?

IOW, a choice between "unsatisfactory vs better" won't induce many people to move, but a choice between "perish vs survive" will -- and once living in tents or trailers, they can approach the question of "where to live next?" as a tabula rasa. (Not, of course, in any way minimising the non-economic lossess involved; just to note that, through history, many peoples have made lemonade from some pretty sour lemons).

Re my post above -- I ought to clarify that while a State's number of federal seats doesn't directly affect the power and prestige of its ruling politicians (the "lost" seats may have gone to the opposing party), it can still affect their power 'n' prestige *in*directly:

[a] more federal seats = helps them block federal laws that would override State policies they want to retain (eg, Southern CongressReps blocking US bills against segregation)

[b] more federal seats = helps them block the appointment of federal judges who may rule adversely to the State's constl claims (most noticeably -- but not solely -- when federal judicial nominations go to the fed leg for a vote)

[c] apart from federal seats, federal funding is often based on a "per State" (not just per ccapita) component.. Now, I concede the justice of giving a very large, dispersed State extra federal moneys to help overcome problems of distance, even if its population is low. But a small-area, low-population State is morally more akin to just a German-style "free city" than a quasi-nation like Alaska, and should be treated as such.
4.3.2006 12:46am
Tom Round (mail) (www):
> "I deeply resent being turned into some kind of academic abstraction. I, and the rest of the residents of New Orleans, are real people in real pain with real problems and real lives and real devastation to recover from"

Political scientists don't engage in this kind of study for fun, as some sort of "Age of Empires" game on a big canvas. The point is to learn from misfortunes (I usse that term broadly) in one place and time, to prevent or alleviate other disasters striking other places at others times. For example, I will bet my life savings that never again in history will a new city be built below flood level and rely on levees for protection.
4.3.2006 12:51am
Kovarsky (mail):
i don't want to personalize this to the same degree as frederson does above, but i am sitting in my living room in the houston neighborood in which many of the former residents now live. the idea that their decision to stay reflects some judgment about new orleans policy strikes me as somewhat absurd. houston has been extraordinarily generous, and many of the evacuees enjoy distorted benefits here that a product of local and national goodwill, not of a well-functioning market.
4.3.2006 12:58am
Humble Law Student:
Freder,

If you want to get technical, the levee construction while under the control of the army core of engineers is subject to considerable influence by local politicians. Your politicians who, btw, diverted the money to other projects.

Righteous anger is a good thing. Just aim it properly next time.
4.3.2006 1:00am
Kovarsky (mail):
Tom,

I believe Freder's objection is a reaction to what he perceives to be shoddy political science pretty transparently presented to vindicate a particular ideology about federalism.

I am not saying whether I agree or disagree with it, I'm just articulating what I perceive the objection to be.
4.3.2006 1:05am
Kovarsky (mail):
Humble Law Student,

"subject to considerable influence by local politicians" is a nice-sounding retort, but it just doesn't erase the fact that the stewardship of the levees was primarily a federal responsibility.
4.3.2006 1:07am
Lev:

efforts by candidates to woe the numerous residents of the city who have not returned


I have to say I had never seen the verb "to woe" in the English language, nevertheless with respect to the sorry former residents of New Orleans and their criminally incompetent public officials, it is appropriate.
4.3.2006 1:10am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Well, Freder, as a taxpayer of the United States, I deeply resent being turned into some kind of cash register. If you want to love your city with its many flaws, fine. But when you ask everyone else to subsidize your decision to live with those flaws, then it ceases to be about you.

Incidentally, what were all those levee boards in Louisiana doing, while we were paying for those levees with our federal dollars?

As for your point about abstractions, these are policy discussions. Should we not talk about the problems with foreign aid because it might offend someone suffering in the third world? Should we not talk about the success or failure of democracy promotion because there are real people suffering in Iraq and Afghanistan? Should we not talk about agricultural subsidies because there are real farmers out there? Get over yourself.
4.3.2006 1:10am
eng:
"Moreover, it tends to create a steep "threshold" that discourages the national legislature from granting statehood to territories (eg, Australia's Northern Territory, USA's Puerto Rico) if, as a matter of either const law (USA) or political consensus (Aust), the fed leg must grant new States the same guaranteed number of seats as the original founding States have. "

Uh? Huh. Puerto Rico has repeatedly been offered by the US Congress the opportunity to either become an independent nation or become a full state. The people of Peurto Rico have rejected both options repeatedly. Why? Speculation: they are absolved of Federal Income Tax in their current status and yet retain most of the benefits of statehood.

So please, don't ues Puerto Rico to argue your point.

Incidentially, I have to say I think your point is wrong... as you seem to neglect that states still lose in the house when people move to other states.

Whatever may be the result of popularly electing the Senate, the common reason given about big states and small states is exaggerated versus actual historical records. An important purpose was to array the electorate of the house against the electorate of the senate against the electorate of the presidency.

I think it is a fair hypthesis that such a structural design is important for an enduring republic and that the 17th amendment inflicted more damaged upon that structure than the de facto break-down that preceded it.
4.3.2006 1:15am
Jake:
In particular, the idea of jurisdictional competition (or "voting with your feet") as a deterrent to bad political behavior is dealt with (persuasively, I think) in Daryl Levinson, Empire-Building Government in Constitutional Law, 118 Harv. L. Rev. 915, 945-51.
4.3.2006 1:15am
Kovarsky (mail):
David,

The point about people "choosing" to live in those conditions is obnoxious. You strike me as a smart man, probably familiar with the demography of many of the evacuees.

Whatever Freder's position, a considerable portion of these people did not "choose" to live in New Orleans in any meaningful way. They were born there, and couldn't afford to leave their families behind and move. To maintain otherwise strikes me as profoundly naive or disingenous.

Whatever misgivings you may have about being a "cash register," they should be premised on something other than the asinine farce about many of these people "choosing" to live there.
4.3.2006 1:20am
Anon Law Student:
Freder,

Correct me if I am wrong, but:
(1) While the Corps designs and builds levees, control (and allocation of resources) was by quite literally dozens of local "levee boards."
(2) While I am not about to argue that the federal response couldn't have been improved, much of the fault lies with the state and local government officials who failed to adequately utilize resources (e.g. Gov. Blanco's refusal to yield control of the national guard to the professional military, or accept the compromise of temprarily granting Lt. Gen. Honore a commission in the LA National Guard.
(3) As a Mississippi resident, I am proud to hold my state up as an example of how to respond to a disaster. In Biloxi, citizens are rebuilding hotels, casinos, and industry (with the only argument being "How high should the Point Cadet Bridge be rebuilt?") rather than blaming the federal government, demanding to rebuild houses in below sea-level areas, and worrying about displaced voters. While not perfect, Mississippi's response demonstrates the benefits of co-operation and self-reliance (and having a governor with truly national political clout) over bickering and refusal to face facts.
4.3.2006 1:20am
Kovarsky (mail):
I think the academic discomfort from the Katrina situation is that it more or less conforms perfectly to the "liberal" public choice theory that threatens to explode many of the procedural myths about equal representation in this country.

There's a lot more going on in the academic community on this subject than meets the eye.
4.3.2006 1:26am
Tom Round (mail) (www):
All right, Eng, I'll leave Puerto Rico alone. I have heard a number of conflicting claims as to what its residents both "want" and "deserve" in terms of representation and const'l status, so I'll refrain from pontificating.

While it's true small States still lose federal seats in the lower house, their per capita representation overall is still inflated by their Senate numbers, and in certain circumstances when seats in both Houses are summed together for some important purpose (in the US, to determine numbers of Presidential Electors; in Australia, for a post-election joint sitting to decide on a deadlocked Bill), this could mean that in some cases, the small States can not merely veto but actually override a national head-count majority.

Besides, a State that so completely annoys its residents that it becomes a "rotten borough" or a ghost town -- such that its const'l minimum guaranteed number of Lower House seats kicks in -- remains over-represented. It can't lose any more seats. A US State that drops below c. 670,000 or so in population is going to have one US Rep however many of its former residents may quit it in disgust.

To clarify, I don't believe in pure population-based representation for a federal upper house: I believe there should be some weighting, but capped so that the largest State cannot have more than, say, twice as many UH seats as the least populous -- something like the German Bundesrat. Lower House rep'n should be based solely on voter population and electoral boundaries should be allowed (and required) to cross State lines to achieve thiss. Yes, I know this would take a const'l amendment approved by every State (in Aust as in USA). But a man can dream.
4.3.2006 1:28am
Bob Smith (mail):

They talk about the evacuees as though they BELONG to New Orleans and have a moral obligation to return.


Of course they do, as said politicians are Democrats. Most of the people who left were poor and black, a population that votes almost reflexively Democrat. Nagin may not suffer much, as he can blame most of his incompetence on Bush to curry votes from what is probably still a majority Democrat town. On a statewide level, it's much different. Blanco's margin of victory in the last election is much smaller than the number of people who left New Orleans. I'm sure she's done the math.
4.3.2006 1:36am
Smithy (mail) (www):
This isn't very politic to say, but in some ways the hurricane may have been the best thing to ever happen so some of the people in Katrina who have been displaced. Mayor Nagin was only the latest and most extreme example of incompetence in local New Orleans politics -- and now some residents are going to get a chance to start a new life in a city with less corruption and more opportunity.

I certainly hope Blanco ends up out on her ass. She certainly deserves it for lousing up disaster preparations.
4.3.2006 1:39am
Kovarsky (mail):
O Smithy,

You're so irreverent! That is just SOOOOOO gutsy of you.

Gross.
4.3.2006 1:42am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Whatever Freder's position, a considerable portion of these people did not "choose" to live in New Orleans in any meaningful way. They were born there, and couldn't afford to leave their families behind and move. To maintain otherwise strikes me as profoundly naive or disingenous.
1. I doubt Freder is one of those people.
2. I'm not convinced that this is the case at all. ISTM that the poorer you are, the easier it is to move. The direct costs of moving are lower, since you have less stuff. You probably rent, so you don't have the transaction costs involved with selling property and buying new property. Your income may involve government assistance, which is very portable, or low skilled jobs, which are pretty fungible.

(Yes, I realize there are factors that cut the other way -- obviously if you've got more disposable income, you can afford to pay more to move. And if you're wealthier, you can more easily afford to job hunt before moving, and/or afford to be unemployed for a time while looking for another job. Still, I see no reason to think that being poor makes it impossible to move.)
4.3.2006 1:51am
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
>The levees are the responsibility of the Federal
>Government and the failure is most likely due to poor
>design and inadequate construction oversight by the Army
>Corps of Engineers.

I believe that you will find the responsibility for the levees lies with the various levee districts established by the Louisiana State Constitution and the various levee boards that exist under them.

http://www.albl.org/levee_districts.php
http://www.orleanslevee.com/
4.3.2006 1:54am
Smithy (mail) (www):
The failure of levees is not something anyone could have anticipated in this instance. But the failure of the evacuation plans was clearly brought about by Blanco's and Nagin's incompetence.
4.3.2006 2:01am
abb3w:

The cost point is true in a sense (moving IS costly), but people will still vote with their feet if the benefits of moving out of a poorly governed jurisdiction outweigh those costs (as, empirically, they often do).

I am not an economist, but I suspect this is partly inaccurate. From what I recall, suppliers remain in the market if the long term cost curve is below the demand curve, exit the market rapidly if the short term cost curve is above the demand curve, and exit more slowly if the demand curve is between the long and short term cost curves. I suspect this is analogous with the situation for voters: they move rapidly only if the short term cost of staying becomes more than the short term cost of moving. (Bearing in mind, of course, that many of these costs are non-monetary.) It would seem likely that many people might live in conditions where the long term costs would dictate moving, but the short term cost of doing so are high enough to disuade immediate action.

I also would note that there is some national economic benefit to the port of New Orleans remaining operational. Depending on the degree to which you believe the government should involve itself in business decisions (a fundamental left-right political divider), it can be argued that government intervention to facilitate the long-term viability of the port is justified. Given that the port is large-scale transportation infrastructure, I'd lean in favor of it. (For Peak Oil fans, I'll also note that it was considered a key tactical and transportation resource in the pre-oil economy.) Hopefully, any such help will be of better quality than the previous federal "help" on the Levee system.
4.3.2006 2:03am
Kovarsky (mail):
Smithy,

Did you happen to miss the VIDEO where the administration was briefed about the possibility of the levees breaking.
4.3.2006 2:06am
Vorn (mail):
Professor Volokh is usually quite careful in his posts, but I think there are serious flaws in his use of historical evidence in this particular post.

Blacks did not migrate to the North until economic opportunity allowed them to do so. This economic opportunity was associated with labor shortages resulting from war. In other words, blacks generally tolerated Jim Crow until war created labor shortages in the North. In the Jim Crow south, blacks tolerated disenfranchisement, peonage, lynchings and brutality under white supremacy without "voting with their feet." On the other hand, even without Jim Crow, many blacks would have likely migrated north in response to economic opportunity.

The problem with Volokh's use of historic evidence in a nutshell is this: it is not Jim Crow that caused black migration to the North. Thus, it really does not make sense to say that "migration" was a solution to Jim Crow. Of course, over a long period of time, it is true that black migration helped the civil rights movement enormously. But this is because blacks in the North had a voice which, ultimately, over a long course of time, influenced the use of national power in the South. The story of black migration does not support decentralization, but rather, nationalization. As anyone who has studies the civil rights movement realizes, decentralization was a major enemy to civil rights. Decentralization empowered white supremacy in the South versus the North. Within the South, decentralization empowered white supremacy, as rural areas where white supremacy was strongest, used their relative autonomy to abuse the civil rights of rural blacks. While rural blacks did migrate to comparatively more hospitable Southern urban areas, this was more a matter of economics than a "vote" against Jim Crow. And it did little for the huge numbers of blacks who remained behind.

Perhaps "voting with your feet" is a more viable alternative in modern times, but it wasn't a very viable alternative in the Jim Crow south before war created economic opportunities. One also should not forget that the migration of blacks and movement into northern white neighborhoods was not always welcome and their were mob actions in Illinios and other northern areas as a result. Racism was obviously worse in the South, but it was still quite bad in the North. The North's record on racial issues only looks good when compared to the South, not good compared to what it should be.

I am not persuaded by Volokh's suggestion that the possibility of "voting with your feet" provides much support to excessive decentralization of power. Maybe instead of forcing perceived "undesirables" to "vote with their feet" people should learn to accomodate each other in a manner so that people can live together anywhere in the country. Last time I checked, the United States was one country, not fifty.

The better view is that conditions should never be so bad that people are forced to migrate from their homes. In truth, it would have to be really bad for MANY people. While some people, including the poor, are admittedly mobile, their are many individuals whose social circumstances beyond poverty make them unwilling to move, even if the face of conditions equivalent to say, Jim Crow. What about those who remain behind? Migrating with your feet may be a partial solution for those who leave, but it may sometimes make the condition of those who remain much worse off, as the number of similarly situated individuals decreases, opportunities for successful collective action likely decreases as well.

In any case, regardless of the merits of Volokh's (obviously wrong) larger view that "voting with your feet" justifies decentralization, Volokh has definitely overlooked major problems with his use of historic evidence and cited it in a one-sided way without considering the ways in which it cuts against his view. Obviously, one does not expect as much from a blog entry as a law review article. Nonetheless, Volokh is usually careful to acknowledge the limitations of the evidence he cites. He has failed to do so here.
4.3.2006 2:09am
abb3w:
Stormy: my understanding is both you and Freder are partly correct. The root responsibility for the initial bad design and flawed construction are with the Army Corps of Engineers; final responsibility for safety approval was with local inspection boards.

However, I'm not sure what the local inspection boards could have done even if they had found deemed the construction unsatisfactory, given the difficulty in obtaining the federal funding allocation for the mediocre construction they got. There's plenty of blame to go around, but I think on balance it lies distributed more on the last fifty years of the House of Representatives and ACoE than the same timespan of Levee boards.
4.3.2006 2:10am
Vorn (mail):
Oops.

I have mixed up Eugene Volokh and Ilya Somin. I sure hope that Somin takes that as a compliment. =) If I could edit the above post, I would do a find and replace of Volokh for Somin.
4.3.2006 2:10am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Smithy,

Did you happen to miss the VIDEO where the administration was briefed about the possibility of the levees breaking.
Did you watch the video, or only read the AP story about it? The actual video didn't mention the levees breaking; it only talked about overtopping the levees.
4.3.2006 2:23am
Ilya Somin:
In brief response to Vorn on African-Americans and Jim Crow, and mobility:

1. Many blacks moved to the north even before the economic opportunities created by World War I. On the order of several hundred thousand. And movement continued after the War was over.

2. To the extent that "economic opportunities" did cause the moves, those opportunities were in part created by the absence of Jim Crow laws in most northern states.

3. Jim Crow policies in the South certainly were an cause of the moves, though not the only one. A 1917 NAACP publication noted that black migration to the north was in part a response to "Southern lynching, lawlessness, and general deviltry."

4. Even for those who stay behind, foot voting can improve their situation because it gives state and local government an incentive to improve their policies in order to prevent further outmigration that will reduce their tax base and (in some cases) their political support. These

5. I'm all for making things better for everyone around the country. But sometimes that is politically or economically unfeasible. Even where it is possible, there will probably always be relative differences between states and regions, and those differences will sometimes be great enough to make a foot voting a desirable option.

Foot voting doesn't solve all problems in state policy (and the post never suggests otherwise), but it can make things better than they would be otherwise.
4.3.2006 2:27am
Kovarsky (mail):
David,

I watched the video 50 times, thanks. Sorry that I said "break," that must have profoundly retarded your information uptake.
4.3.2006 2:39am
Kazinski:
Kovarsky:
If you watched the video 50 times then you know that Bush was warned about "overtopping" which was well forseen, but much less dangerous than "breaking" or breaching. Overtopping would have caused some flooding but would not have caused widespread devestation.

That is why the AP issued a correction that many newspapers ran on the front page. I kind of get the feeling that the AP's intial error, and your slip are intentional, and trying to create a false impression of mendacity and intentional neglect by the Bush adminstration.
4.3.2006 2:56am
Kovarsky (mail):
kazinski

thou doth protest too much.
4.3.2006 3:28am
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
>However, I'm not sure what the local inspection boards
>could have done even if they had found deemed the
>construction unsatisfactory, given the difficulty in
>obtaining the federal funding allocation for the
>mediocre construction they got.

Well, the state of Louisiana could have financed the construction of levees itself instead of sitting around expecting the citizens of other states to fund civil works that were of no direct benefit to them.

Why should someone who lives in California feel obliged to fund a levee in Louisiana when even the people who live there don't think it's worth spending their money on?
4.3.2006 3:45am
CrazyTrain (mail):
It is true, of course, that incompetence by the Bush Administration and FEMA also contributed to the disaster

Understatement of the year decade.
4.3.2006 4:03am
Splunge (mail):
It is true, of course, that incompetence by the Bush Administration and FEMA also contributed to the disaster.

To true! They knew about the hurricane days before it hit. Clearly they had plenty of time to, you know, tell it to turn around. Or at least turn down the wind velocity. Something. Geez, what are we paying taxes for?
4.3.2006 4:51am
Perseus:
If being poor makes it so difficult for people to vote with their feet, then why do so many poor Mexicans vote with their feet against Mexico and show up in California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico?
4.3.2006 5:10am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I watched the video 50 times, thanks. Sorry that I said "break," that must have profoundly retarded your information uptake.
Well, since you're making light of your error, I guess you don't understand the significance of the distinction. Maybe you could have skipped the last 40 or 45 showings of the video, and read up on the levee situation instead?
4.3.2006 5:24am
Kovarsky (mail):
David,

My response makes light of the fact that although I wrote "break," every non-freak reader knows I mean both break and be run over. There's ample evidence that the administration knew about both. Would you like to seriously dispute that, or are you just bent on childish carping?

Or maybe we could revisit the silly idea above - that ability to migrate doesn't correlate with wealth. did you do any research on that? Well, first you probably found that the geographic-lock in effects of familiarity with a variety of institutions really prevent peope of all socioeconomic classes from foot voting. Second,despite your wanton speculation otherwise, that it is harder for lower income brackets to so-vote.

I live in houston and commute to New Orleans to work, don't lecture me about familiarity with the situation.
4.3.2006 8:26am
Kovarsky (mail):
David,

O, and by the way, like most with you're m.o., you're wrong:

"I don't think anyone can tell you with confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very great concern," Mayfield says in one.

In a September 1 television interview, Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," a statement Chertoff agreed with three days later.

I said "break" instead of "topped off." Excuse me. My point remains, o, completely valid.
4.3.2006 8:36am
Kovarsky (mail):
David.

O, by the way:

"I don't think anyone can tell you with confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very great concern," Mayfield says in one.

In a September 1 television interview, Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," a statement Chertoff agreed with three days later.
4.3.2006 8:37am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Well, the state of Louisiana could have financed the construction of levees itself instead of sitting around expecting the citizens of other states to fund civil works that were of no direct benefit to them.

The levees in and around New Orleans do not sit in isolation. The are the culmination of a system of dams, levees, locks, and lakes that stretch from the Appalachain to the Rocky Mountains and north to the Canadian border and the Great Lakes. They control navigation and flooding on the largest river basin in the entire world. Because of this Federal system, the whole country benefits, as it enables the center of the country to be protected from flooding and move bulk commodities cheaply and easily to market (with massive Federal subsidies, by the way). The drawback of the system, though is that the flood control has resulted in the wetlands that once protected New Orleans from Hurricane storm surges have been destroyed (southeast of New Orleans, The Gulf of Mexico is 40 miles closer to New Orleans than it was 80 years ago). This destruction has been excarbated by other decisions of the Federal government including oil exploration and the construction of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.

So to say that the vulnerability of New Orleans is a local and state problem or that the causes of it are the state's and don't benefit anyone but us is simply untrue.
4.3.2006 9:02am
SenatorX (mail):
So now Blacks are "voting with their feet" by moving south out of New York.

Oh wait they are being driven out by economic factors...

First I think you give people too much credit. People are lazy and incentive driven. The affects of voting are too distant; blacks for example don't feel like their votes matter. It simply is not part of the decision process. If their personal economic incentives "force" them to move, they will.

Second, having poor people move out of an area to affect the politicians left behind doesn't make much sense to me. By definition "poor" means they likely are more of a burden on the local economy than anything else. Unless you mean all those food stamp dollars pouring into the local economy...
So the poor, black people have left NO. And the pols want them back? Yeah right. They want them back for ONE REASON and that is to manipulate with lies for an election. It's insulting really. Basically a "get your dumb ass back here and vote for X" and X of course will never benefit them personally (has it ever?). At best they get the Democratic Party "handouts" which seems to be the primary angle of gaining that base. It's pathetic really. A kind of insulting pity that panders to a disenfranchised culture. The war on drugs, welfare, and religion are an effective trifecta of suppression. I am not sure what state they are supposed to move to in order to escape that...

What "everyone" there really wants is for everyone who left NO that's poor to stay away and sell whatever land they left behind for cheap (the levies will never be rebuilt until enough land is sold to developers).

I wonder how all those communities that absorbed the refugees are doing. An economic plus I am sure (especially when the federal teat shrivels up).
4.3.2006 11:01am
frankcross (mail):
I'd like to see the empirical evidence that voting with your feet happens much, on an interstate basis. I think it does happen a fair amount locally, i.e., city or suburb. But I would be extremely surprised if most interstate movers today are even familiar with most state government policies. The poor may be the exception, though, to the extent they depend on government

I suppose there is an indirect effect, better state policies produce stronger economies, which draws movers, but I suspect the effect is swamped by noisy external factors.
4.3.2006 11:19am
Freder Frederson (mail):
The actual video didn't mention the levees breaking; it only talked about overtopping the levees.

I just love this particular argument. President Bush didn't lie when he said that nobody anticipated the breaching of the levees because only the overtopping of the levees was discussed. So you have won the semantic point (we have discovered what the definition of "is" is).

But of course to win your semantic point you have to concede the the president was either wilfully ignorant, criminally incompetent, distracted or disinterested to the the point that his actions amount to nothing less to gross dereliction of duty. His statement on Thursday that nobody anticipated the breach of the levees was simply wrong. Every expert, Federal, local, and state who had studied the issue had not only anticipated the breach of the levees, they had warned of it both generally and in the specific case of Katrina. And it had got extensive press attention.

All the president had to do was ask a simple and painfully obvious question in that briefing: "What will happen if the levees are overtopped?". He would have quickly learned that overtopping of the Lake Ponchartrain levees means that they will also be breached. They are earthen levees and if they are overtopped, the wave action of the water will quickly scour out the land side of the levees causing a breach. This is exactly what happened to the marsh side levees in Plaquimines and St Bernard Parishes (where up to 60% of the levees were breached) and would have happened in New Orleans if the full brunt of the storm had hit it as it appeared was going to happen at the time of that briefing. All the engineers and experts knew this.

It was the president's duty to ask what he was up against. He didn't ask a single question.
4.3.2006 11:24am
Houston Lawyer:
Meanwhile, the murder rate in Houston is up 25% this year over last year. People, especially the poor, vote with their feet all the time. During the early 80s, we had people living all over Texas under underpasses. These were poor people who were mostly from the Midwest. They were fleeing the decay and joblessness of the Rust Belt. I worked as a laborer in a plant that produced precast concrete in the summers of 1982 and 1983. In 1983, my crew consisted of 12 people. I was the only American other than the foreman. By 1983, the crew had only two illegal aliens. The others had been replaced with poor white guys from the Midwest.

Economic relocation does have its costs. In the early 80s, when the oil boom was at its peak, the murder rate in Houston was much higher than it is now.

The levee boards in Louisiana are notoriously corrupt. This is not news and is not new. It has been going on since they were established. Local corruption notwithstanding, the man officing next to me has been temporarily relocated out of New Orleans. His house is above sea level and can be rebuilt. He claims to be a life-long Republican and yet seethes at the Administration's incompetence in the rebuilding effort.

From all reports, over the next 20 years we will see an increase in powerful hurricanes. The next time NO could be hit with a category 4 or 5 storm. Whose responsibility will it be the next time that the portions of the city below sea level flood?
4.3.2006 12:09pm
Justin (mail):
So Houston, does global warming exist or not? :)
4.3.2006 12:12pm
Aaron:
Ilya, voting with your feet is only effective if the remaining politicians and policy goals are rational. If the remaining populace is more concerned with an irrational goal (white supremacy,and driving out blacks) then even where there are negative economic effects, e.g. Jim Crow laws leading to a loss of taxpayers, there is unlikely to be any political backlash. Thus the Great Migration did not have the political effect that it should have in the South, because the remaining politicians were pursuing a perversely popular policy, pursuant to public pressure, and were thus insulated from blame for any ill-effects.
4.3.2006 12:57pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
He claims to be a life-long Republican and yet seethes at the Administration's incompetence in the rebuilding effort.

What, aren't Republicans allowed to point out incompetence of Republican administrations when it slaps them in the face. FEMA hasn't even gotten the new Flood maps out yet. No one can rebuild until the flood maps are released. They were promised by March 31, which was about three months too slow anyway, now they are saying mid-summer. Which means a year before vast swaths of the city will be able to rebuild with any degree of confidence (without the floodmaps, you can't get insurance and you may have to undo any reconstruction you do undertake).
4.3.2006 1:03pm
Houston Lawyer:
Justin

Hurricanes come in cycles. Experts on hurricanes say that we were in a down cycle for the last 30 years and we are due for an up cycle. These experts also say that global warming is not responsible.

The question is not whether global warming exists. The question is whether we are causing it.
4.3.2006 1:09pm
Smithy (mail) (www):
Well, since you're making light of your error, I guess you don't understand the significance of the distinction.

Overtopping is just water splashing over the top, in effect. Not really a big deal, whereas breaching will lead to major flooding. There is no real connection between the two. Overtopping does not lead to breaching and breaching can happen in the absence of overtopping. The breaching of the levees was truly a freak occurence that one would have predicted or anticipated. And no number of briefings about the minor issue of overtopping will change that.
4.3.2006 1:15pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
These experts also say that global warming is not responsible.

Although the number of hurricanes seems to run in cycles, the intensity of hurricanes is related to ocean temperature and the consensus among experts is that great number of severe hurricanes in recent years is caused by global warming.

As for whether we are causing global warming, the great weight of scientific evidence supports the theory that man is the primary cause of global warming through the burning of fossil fuels and destruction of forests. You may want to deny it, but the science just isn't on your side.
4.3.2006 1:16pm
frankcross (mail):
Smithy, the "lessons learned" report issued by the White House said that overtopping causes breaches, and Michael Brown said
'I can tell you everyone involved in that videotape and in my conversations with the president and with the chief of staff, our concern was always the breach of the levees."
4.3.2006 1:53pm
Random3 (mail):
"New Orleans is a mess because the levees failed. The levees are the responsibility of the Federal Government and the failure is most likely due to poor design and inadequate construction oversight by the Army Corps of Engineers. Furthermore, New Orleans is vulnerable to hurricane storm surge because it has been robbed of its protective barrier of wetlands. The wetlands have been destroyed because of 80 years of flood control policy in the Mississippi basin. The responsibility for repairing the levees and protecting the city is that of the Federal Government. In spite of what the president says, they have done nothing but stall and delay reconstruction since the storm hit."

"The levees in and around New Orleans do not sit in isolation. The are the culmination of a system of dams, levees, locks, and lakes that stretch from the Appalachain to the Rocky Mountains and north to the Canadian border and the Great Lakes. They control navigation and flooding on the largest river basin in the entire world. Because of this Federal system, the whole country benefits, as it enables the center of the country to be protected from flooding and move bulk commodities cheaply and easily to market."

I'm not persuaded by this argument. The notion that since NOLA is a major port/commerce hub it is therefore the responsibility of the federal government to keep it safe - one could use the same argument for virtually any major city in the country, and lots of other economically important areas also. Sure, lots of cities are important, but the Feds don't have a "Department of Making New Orleans Safe from Flooding" any more than they have a "Department of Making Los Angeles Safe from Earthquakes." (By the way, it vastly overstates the case to claim that the New Orleans levees provide control or protection from flooding on the whole Mississippi River - they basically just protect the New Orleans area from flooding. I mean they certainly didn't help with the Midwest floods of 1993 - and why wasn't anyone blaming President Clinton for those floods)? Commerce will eventually still flow up and down the Mississippi with or without the New Orleans levees. Yes, given the fact that New Orleans is an important port and commerce hub (although it should be noted, not nearly as important as several other U.S. ports), it is in everyone's economic interest not to have it flooded. But you have to torture logic pretty badly not to place a lot of the blame for this one on state and local governments. Could the feds have performed better once the disaster happened?

Probably. But what exactly was this President supposed to do about the levees that every President before him failed to do? Or are all the previous ones just as incompetent for not paying more special attention to New Orleans? Do you seriously believe this President should have anticipated this disaster and fixed the levees? Or do you hold all previous Presidents in the same contempt for not fixing the New Orleans levees?
4.3.2006 2:16pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
By the way, it vastly overstates the case to claim that the New Orleans levees provide control or protection from flooding on the whole Mississippi River - they basically just protect the New Orleans area from flooding. I mean they certainly didn't help with the Midwest floods of 1993 - and why wasn't anyone blaming President Clinton for those floods)

Of course the levees around the city only protect the city. My point is the reason that the city is so vulnerable is the result of flood control and navigation policy that benefits the entire central part of the nation.

The flood control and navigation channels throughout the system, which has been built up since the floods of 1927 (actually earlier, but that is when it began in ernest--btw in 1927, they actually did blow up the levees to save the rich people in New Orleans) is what has deprived New Orleans of its natural flood protection.

New Orleans used to be surrounded by thousands of acres of protective wetlands, especially southeast of the city, that prevented the hurricane storm surges from entering Lake Ponchartrain and inundating the city from the north. Those wetlands are now gone and the only thing between the outlet of Lake Ponchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico is a strip of land about a quarter of a mile wide and a few barrier islands. The destruction of these wetlands are the direct result of the flood control, navigation and oil exploration policies of the Federal Government, especially the Army Corps of Engineers.
4.3.2006 2:47pm
Justin (mail):
Houston, none of the predictions of the increasing strength of hurricanes over the next 30 years has to do with cycles (often compared to the hurricane anomolies of the turn of the century), and instead has to do with the warming of the ocean and its effect on weather patterns. Unless one includes global warming into their calculations, there's no serious reason to believe that the water temperature will continue to rise, given credence to the "cyclical" theory.
4.3.2006 3:11pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I wonder just how they are entitled to vote. They are citizens of the state where they reside, per 14th Amendment, and thus may not be citizens of LA, let alone NO. Granted, a person may temporarily relocate, with intention to return, and remain a resident -- but a pretty fair piece of time has passed .
4.3.2006 3:34pm
Houston Lawyer:
In the aftermath of Katrina, a senior European official (French, I believe) blamed the severity of the hurricane on global warming. The newscaster I was watching was interviewing an elderly Southern Gentlemen, who had been studying hurricanes longer than most of us have been alive. When confronted with this question, the expert stated that the man making the remarks spoke from ignorance of the history of hurricanes. He was kind enough not to mention the malice in the remark.

The earth has a tendency to heat up and cool off. Global warming advocates speak of the man-made nature of this supposed problem with the same certainty as the sun rising tomorrow. The computer models that have been constructed to date predicting further warming have all the relevance of the rooster crowing to bring up the sun. They cannot be empirically proven.

Belief in global warming has become a substitute religion for many people. Its proponents look down on skeptics like a religious man on the heathens. I'm sure heretics would be burned at the stake if we could find an eco-friendly fuel.
4.3.2006 4:12pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Of course the levees around the city only protect the city. My point is the reason that the city is so vulnerable is the result of flood control and navigation policy that benefits the entire central part of the nation.
Really? I thought that the reason that the city is so vulnerable is because it was built below sea level.

The other policies you cite may have increased the danger from hurricanes, to be sure. But it was inherently vulnerable.


Freder:
I just love this particular argument. President Bush didn't lie when he said that nobody anticipated the breaching of the levees because only the overtopping of the levees was discussed. So you have won the semantic point (we have discovered what the definition of "is" is).
Freder, I realize you're not responsible for the arguments made by another poster. Nonetheless, if you're going to attack an argument, you should at least acknowledge the context in which the argument was made. Kovarsky specifically cited the video. I pointed out that the video doesn't say what he claimed. If you want to argue that he should have known even without the video, fine -- but that doesn't change what the video said.

And breaching vs. overtopping is not a "semantic" argument. They're completely different. If the levees hadn't been breached, the damage would have been significantly less serious.
4.3.2006 4:23pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
And breaching vs. overtopping is not a "semantic" argument. They're completely different. If the levees hadn't been breached, the damage would have been significantly less serious.

It is a semantic argument, because overtopping would have been have led to breach. When the gentleman in that videotape was talking about overtopping, he was talking about overtopping followed by immediately by scouring of the landside of the levees and then breach. What he was talking about was much, much worse than what actually happened. The city would have flooded all the way to the Mississippi River levees and maybe even topped the Mississippi River levees from the city side in a matter of an hour or two. Anyone who was unable to get to ground higher than 10 or 15 feet above sea level (meaning almost nobody) would have died. This is exactly what happened downstream where the storm surge breached the marsh side levees and actually crossed the Mississippi River (The River levees actually held even though they experience both from a surge up the river and and were overtopped by a surge coming from the land side.

If the president didn't understand the distinction or the danger, he should have asked the question. He didn't. This displays a shocking lack of attention, ignorance, or just plain disinterest. Whichever way you look at it, it is not a trait that we want in our president.
4.3.2006 4:56pm
SL (mail):
If global warming is actually coming and hurricanes are going to get worse, then maybe it is time to admit that New Orleans is undefendable. Why wait for FEMA flood maps? They won't help you when the next Category 5 storm hits.
4.3.2006 5:07pm
Smithy (mail) (www):
Overtopping is not the same thing as breaching. The difference is far more than semantic.

And why should anyone believe Michael Brown. He's just the latest in the parade of disgruntled former White House employees who went whining to the media.

Bottom line: no one knew this would happen. And if anyone was in a position to know, it was Blanco and Nagin, not the White House. Whatever went wrong was Blanco's and Nagin's fault.
4.3.2006 5:15pm
mariner (mail):
Freder Frederson said:

Although the number of hurricanes seems to run in cycles, the intensity of hurricanes is related to ocean temperature and the consensus among experts is that great number of severe hurricanes in recent years is caused by global warming.


... and he's full of it.

The multi-decadal cycle is NOT known (or even believed by most scientists) to be caused by global warming:

USA Today

CNN

Science Netlinks

And, even if there *were* a consensus, I'd point to what Michael Crichton has observed: Consensus is not science, and science is not consensus.
4.3.2006 5:16pm
Leland:
Of course the levees around the city only protect the city. My point is the reason that the city is so vulnerable is the result of flood control and navigation policy that benefits the entire central part of the nation.

That's not accurate. The Old River Control System is what deals with both the flood control and navigation policy in relation to New Orleans. That system prevents the Mississippi River from following its naturally preferred course down the Atchafalya Basin. Some people to the West of New Orleans and East of Lafeyette would need to be relocated, but Morgan City would become the major port. Most of the vulnerability issues would be diverted with the river. At that point, New Orleans would be as important as Biloxi, which is to say the latter is very important yet can handle problems like flooding without blaming the rest of the country or mankind.
4.3.2006 5:17pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
The multi-decadal cycle is NOT known (or even believed by most scientists) to be caused by global warming:

That's not what I said. I was talking about the intensity, not the number, of storms. The intensity of storms is related to ocean temperatures, which are rising because of global warming.

And Michael Crichton is a novelist, not a scientist (yes, I know he has a medical degree). His glib statement manages to be both accurate and inaccurate at the same time. I guess that's what makes him a good writer of fiction.
4.3.2006 5:43pm
Leland:
Thank you Mariner for providing links to your material. It is always good to read others sources for the findings they make. I note that besides Ilya Somin, you were the only one to backup your points with material. I'm ashamed that I didn't do the same.

However, I find it strange someone would dismiss your sources with some unrelated rant about Michael Crichton, but you know what they say about people that make glib statements.
4.3.2006 6:04pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Overtopping is not the same thing as breaching. The difference is far more than semantic.

Overtopping would have led to breaching. And it did lead to breach elsewhere along the levee system. Read what I wrote. The experts, and most of the people who lived in and around New Orleans knew this. The LSU hurricane center knew this and was warning people about it on Saturday as were all the local tv and radio weather people. Everybody knew what was going to happen. Only when the storm veered east at the very last minute did we avoid a much greater disaster and loss of life.
4.3.2006 6:23pm
Leland:

Overtopping would have led to breaching. And it did lead to breach elsewhere along the levee system. Read what I wrote. The experts, and most of the people who lived in and around New Orleans knew this. The LSU hurricane center knew this and was warning people about it on Saturday as were all the local tv and radio weather people. Everybody knew what was going to happen. Only when the storm veered east at the very last minute did we avoid a much greater disaster and loss of life.


That seems like a great argument for saying the people of Southeast Louisiana were willfully negligent in the face of eminent and certain disaster. I also think this comment is true. I live close to Louisiana and many of my coworkers came from that state and particularly the areas around New Orleans (some with degrees from LSU). They told me for years about the concerns of NOLA sinking below sea level, loss of the barrier wetlands, and the potential of disaster from a major Hurricane. The thing is, those people realized that the local politicians were not doing a thing about it. Eventually, these people moved to other states like Texas, because no matter how many times the issue of flooding came up, they couldn't find a politician at any level (including national office) that wanted to do anything about it. So as Ilya Somin notes, these people voted with their feet and left.

Freder, what you are really upset about is that the federal government funded a project that built a levee system that was not tall enough to prevent over-topping during a class 4 or 5 hurricane event. However, the federal government built this system and then openly warned the local population for decades that the system may only work for up to class 3 hurricanes. At that point, the state and local government was expected to prepare contigency plans for handling the remaining risk from larger storms.

You are perfectly within your rights to hold Bush accountable for his actions in regards to Katrina. Voting for his opponent is not an option, but I suppose you could pressure the Louisiana congressional delegation to hold him accountable. However you should know that you lack a convincing argument for the other 49 state congressional delegations to join your bandwagon.
4.3.2006 7:39pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Freder, what you are really upset about is that the federal government funded a project that built a levee system that was not tall enough to prevent over-topping during a class 4 or 5 hurricane event. However, the federal government built this system and then openly warned the local population for decades that the system may only work for up to class 3 hurricanes. At that point, the state and local government was expected to prepare contigency plans for handling the remaining risk from larger storms.

No, what upsets me is that New Orleans flooded because of concious decisons made by the federal government that have made the city New Orleans more vulnerable to hurricane storm surges over the last eighty years. Eighty years ago New Orleans was forty miles from the Gulf of Mexico (the mouth of the river is still 110 miles downstream), now the southeast corner of Orleans Parish is on the Gulf of Mexico. Who is to blame for the immediate response to the hurricane is a different argument, but it is indisputably the actions of the federal government that led to New Orleans' vulnerability. For anyone to say that it is now the responsibility of New Orleans to pay for protecting themselves from conditions created by the Federal government is preposterous. Also, much of the reason rebuilding is going so slowly can be laid directly at the feet of the Federal government, from their failure to supply temporary housing, delays in aid, and most importantly not releasing the new flood maps.
4.3.2006 9:47pm
Cabbage:
Anyone else notice that Lee Kovarsky has fled the board after having been shown up as both a liar and an asshole?
4.3.2006 10:32pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
>That's not what I said. I was talking about the
>intensity, not the number, of storms. The intensity of
>storms is related to ocean temperatures, which are
>rising because of global warming.

The only problem with your theory is that average hurricane intensity has been trending downward:

http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/downward/Fig2.html
4.3.2006 10:44pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
The only problem with your theory is that average hurricane intensity has been trending downward

The only problem with your graph is that it ends in 1995.
4.3.2006 10:49pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
>The only problem with your graph is that it ends in 1995.

So you're suggesting global warming only began in 1995?
4.3.2006 11:06pm
Lev:
Global warming could not begin until global cooling ended - hey, in the winter of 1976-77 one could walk on the Potomac River at the Memorial Bridge.

My kitchen sink has been overtopped any number of times, but it is never breached.

New Orleans should be a port city with a "quaint tourist attraction" attached, it should not be rebuilt unless it is in a different location that is more than 1-2 feet above sea level.

I think I heard Mother Nature saying, pretty clearly: "I built SE Lousiana to be a swamp, and that's what I want it to be."

Yet another reason, aside from criminal incompetence of local elected officials and Corps of Engineers Edifice Complex, why "old" New Orleans should be abandoned:

A geological fault is sinking the place - Wash Post
4.4.2006 1:02am
Leland:
Cabbage:

I missed the coming out party but was there doubt?
4.4.2006 10:47am
Bill Woods (mail):
Although there has been a general global warming over the last 30 years and particularly over the last 10 years, the SST increases in the individual tropical cyclone basins have been smaller than the overall global warming (about half) and, according to the observations, have not brought about any significant increases in global major tropical cyclones except for the Atlantic which as has been discussed, has multi-decadal oscillations driven primarily by changes in Atlantic salinity. No credible observational evidence is available or likely will be available in the next few decades which will be able to directly associate global surface temperature change to changes in global hurricane frequency and intensity.
from William Gray's hurricane season forcast for 2006


These are hypothesized changes that may occur around the end of the 21st Century, when a doubling in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may be observed. Changes seen today are likely to be on the order of a 1% alteration in frequency, intensity and rainfall in hurricanes - not even measurable by today's observational techniques.

Overall, these man-made alterations are quite tiny compared to the observed large natural hurricane variability. The Atlantic basin activity has cycles with about 3.5 major hurricanes a year in active periods and about 1.5 majors annually in quiet periods, with each lasting 25-40 years. Moreover, as Knutson and Tuleya stated in their 2004 Journal of Climate article:
"CO2-induced tropical cyclone intensity changes are unlikely to be detectable in historical observations and will probably not be detectable for decades to come."

NOAA FAQs: Subject: G3) What may happen with tropical cyclone activity due to global warming?
4.4.2006 2:28pm