“I’m not waiting on the government to give me nothing”

(A Docudharma first! Promoting two essays at once! Please see kj’s diary directly above. – promoted by buhdydharma )

Many of us (though, sadly, not all) know by now that the damage to New Orleans was not caused by a natural disaster but by human error — the errors of the Army Corps of Engineers.

That’s why back in February of 2007, New Orleans federal court judge Stanwood Duvall ruled the ACOE couldn’t claim immunity:

The Army Corps of Engineers can’t assert immunity in a lawsuit over the catastrophic flooding following Hurricane Katrina, because of the plaintiffs’ claim that flooding stemmed from the agency’s negligence in fixing defects in the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet navigation project that it had known of for years, a New Orleans federal court judge ruled Friday.

Many folks read the reports of someone suing the ACOE for a quadrillion dollars, but that hardly tells the story, and was obviously a symbolic gesture.

Turns out, though, that same Judge Duvall has now thrown out a class action lawsuit against the ACOE even while admitting their gross negligence.

(Note:  I believe there is a difference between the lawsuit over the MRGO and the charges against the ACOE over the breaking of the levees.  As often as I have read about this, I still don’t entirely understand the difference and would welcome in the comments any clarification.)

From the AP:

A federal judge threw out a key class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over levee breaches after Hurricane Katrina, saying that the agency failed to protect the city but that his hands were tied by the law.


The ruling relies on the Flood Control Act of 1928, which made the federal government immune when flood control projects like levees break.

Yep, the ACOE was negligent and responsible for so much heartbreaking damage to the city of New Orleans.  Even the judge admits it:

In his ruling, Duval said he was forced by law to hold the Corps immune even though the agency failed to “cast a blind eye” in protecting New Orleans and “squandered millions of dollars in building a levee system … which was known to be inadequate by the Corps’ own calculations.

But, Duval said, “it is not within the Court’s power to address the wrongs committed. It is hopefully within the citizens of the United States’ power to address the failures of our laws and agencies.

Yes, hopefully.  Hopefully we the citizens will address the failures of our laws and agencies.  But I guess accountability is too much to ask for.

The citizens of New Orleans who are working so hard to survive and rebuild their lives after the Federal Flood are an amazing community.  Their self-reliance beggars the descriptions we read of early Americans on the frontiers of this nation.  They know our government isn’t going to do anything to help them, so they are helping themselves.

But of course they can’t build levees all by themselves.  And they can’t fix the wetlands that are being destroyed by our own greed for oil and commerce.

Hopefully the citizens of the United States will address the failures of our laws and agencies.  Because, as I’ve said so many times before, this is a national issue.

Just a little last note.  At the end of the story:

James Ackerson, 36, is nearly done repairing his home several blocks from the 17th Street Canal. He filed a claim with the Corps but wasn’t distressed to hear that the judge dismissed the case.

“It don’t mean much to me,” he said. “I’m not waiting on the government to give me nothing.”

No, like so many citizens of New Orleans, he’s not waiting on the government.  It’s been over two and a half years, after all.

Hopefully we will remember, hopefully we will work hard to tell our representatives to address the failures of the laws and agencies that has caused this terrible tragedy and failed to hold accountable those who were responsible.


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  1. … and I hope no one else will, either.

    • Alma on January 31, 2008 at 04:03

    I wish all of our government officials had to actually live through what all happened during, and after, hurricane Katrina.  Then maybe they would grow hearts, and do what is in their power to do to help people.  They fail us in so many ways.  

  2. waiting for the government to not “give them something” but to do their fucking job which is to assist American citizens in times of needs, continued crisis, ect ect…..

    The fact that NOLA is still in spiritual and physical pieces should be a national disgrace. Thanks. NPK.

  3. Gentrification of America — get rid of the poor and middle-class.  Create a national playground for the rich! And control the people at the same time!

    Here is an article by Larry Kissell, who, I personally, think, is REALLY in there!

    NOLA: From the Overpass to the Underpass

    For those who might think that people living in underpasses is not real, take a look!


    There is a group Kissell recommends called “NENA”

    What is NENA?

    The Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association (NENA) was established in the aftermath of Katrina to play a lead role in rebuilding New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward.

    Organized and controlled by residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, NENA addresses not only the immediate recovery needs created by the storm’s destruction, but also the institutional neglect and disinvestment that plagued the neighborhood long before Katrina. NENA works with current Lower Ninth Ward residents, displaced residents living in other parts of New Orleans, and the broader diaspora who want to return to the neighborhood.

    . . . .call NENA at (504) 373-6483 to see what you can do . . . .


    Thank you, NPK, no, we must not forget ever!

    • KrisC on January 31, 2008 at 04:47

    was and remains effed up, from the very beginning.  You captured a lovely piece of magic and turned it into a diary….excellent job!

    My husband did wait on the government, for 8 days, and here’s our NO story.

    My husband, MrC., was working for a construction company here on the Cape for three years prior to Katrina, when she hit and we all saw the terrible damage, the owner of the company he was working for decided to take his crew, trucks, equipment and bust on down to help. MrC went with them, nine guys, 3 trucks, 3 trailers with different machines on them.  When they got to NO, they were at first turned away.  They drove towards a different direction to find a place to get down into the action to help rescue, fix, build, whatever needed to be done.

    They couldn’t get anywhere, they found themselves stuck in lines of other trucks, no gas, no food, stuck!  They were turned away and told to come home after 8 days.  They came home down-beaten and trodden, spitting through their teeth.  I’ve never seen a more sightly bunch, but none of them have been the same since.  The owner of the construction company was willing to pay for expenses while working down there, paying the guys extra salary and doing whatever it took to help somebody, anybody….they got a raw deal.

    It was complete insanity.

  4. Photobucket

    • kj on February 1, 2008 at 17:45

    KrisC is going to put together a diary for dkos to work up donations for the NENA group. since this started with your essay, your help/direction is needed.  she’s chatting over on my essay, but should we start another essay just for organizational purposes?  i don’t want to take the lead on this (zero name recognition on kos and am just fine with that) but am perfectly willing to do the grunt work.

    some links:



    Global Giving site for NENA:


    The Fish Foundation: (focus on grassroots Katrina efforts)


    “The Lower Ninth Battles Back”

    by: Rebecca Solnit

    August 23, 2007 (September 10, 2007 issue)


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