FAILURE IS AN OPTION - Harry Shearer: Politics

Uploaded by MyDamnChannel on Oct 23, 2007


HARRY SHEARER: We're back in the general New Orleans area.
Actually, we're on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain
across the big lake from New Orleans.
And with me today is Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director
of the LSU Hurricane Center.
And, um, I would imagine the last two years for you have
been a prophet vindicated?
DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Uh, yeah, but
there's no joy in that.
You know, something as serious as this, there's no joy in
getting it right.
HARRY SHEARER: When you say getting it right, all the
predictions beforehand, did they envision the weakness of
the levee system?
Or were they about just the effects of a hurricane?
DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Um, most of our research had been
looking at a major hurricane, one that flooded the city.
And while we couldn't model the failure of the levees, the
work that we did for a flooded city became very applicable
once the levees failed and it flooded the city.
We had always had concerns about the levees, because we'd
seen some sections that were bowed.
But in trying to get information from the Corps,
their response was that these were to federal standards and
they're not going to fail.
So the only thing we didn't predict was the failed
response from the federal government.
HARRY SHEARER: And there had been sort of a dress rehearsal
just the year before, right?
Hurricane Pam?
Hurricane Pam in 2004, it looked to the scenario of a
slow-moving Category 3 storm that flooded the whole city.
HARRY SHEARER: And that was a full-scale dress rehearsal of
all emergency response?
DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Yes, they were-- there were
probably over, well over 100 people there from all the
different agencies, federal and state, local government
emergency managers.
And the whole idea was to look at how we would deal with a
scenario like a completely flooded New Orleans, with
60,000 people dead, 300,000 trapped.
Unfortunately, it never went to the second phase.
So all that we saw was draft plans developed.
A lot of issues weren't fully explored.
Certainly sheltering for the homeless, sheltering for those
that didn't have motor vehicles and nursing homes,
those sorts of issues, hospitals,
weren't fully addressed.
HARRY SHEARER: Any idea why not?
DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Um, I don't know.
Because you know, we at LSU were pretty much cut out of
the process.
All I know is as we got a CD and a lot of sections were
blank, just, you know, with "to be determined" or "to be--
so and so."
HARRY SHEARER: When we talk about the last two years,
what's it been like personally for you, watching the response
to this disaster?
Do you feel as though lessons have been learned and
appropriate steps have been taken to look to the
future of this area?
DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Well, I think the lesson that we in
Louisiana have learned is that you can't trust the federal
The federal government failed the response.
The federal government has failed to own up to the fact
that it was their levees that failed, and they're
responsible for the damage, and they
responsible for the deaths.
And they made all these promises, especially the White
House, about moneys for response, but we
haven't seen them.
I don't know if it's because we're a--
we had a Democratic governor and a female governor, or it's
because it's Louisiana and we don't count much in--
in the overall scheme of things.
You know, it's very significant to us that
President Bush always refers to us as "those people" and
"that part of the world," or words very similar.
And I think the lesson for the rest of the country is don't
depend on the federal government, because
they will fail you.

HARRY SHEARER: Next time we're with Dr. Ivor van Heerden, our
boat trip takes us to the wetlands--
the future of New Orleans.