October 23, 2005
Katrina, Eugenics and 'Peak Oil'
So ... I thought that I'd try the old "fake my death and boost sales" charade, 'cause I heard that it worked great for the Beatles back in the '60s, but it hasn't worked out all that well for me, to tell you the truth, which is why, for better or worse, I'm back. Did anyone miss me?
I have a lot of catching up to do, so much so that I don't really know where to begin, but I guess I'll start with the following brief news story, which I happened to stumble upon while digging deep within a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Cuban Hurricane Preparation Offers Lessons in Organization
Los Angeles Times
September 10, 2005; Page A30
HAVANA — Cubans have no Astrodome or cruise ships to house evacuees, and meals-ready-to-eat usually consist of rice and beans.
But they have weathered some of the most violent storms the tropics can churn up, with surprisingly low death tolls and almost perfect compliance with evacuation orders.
Last year, United Nations emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland singled out Cuba for praise among Caribbean nations for hurricane evacuation planning. When Hurricane Ivan swiped the island last September, for example, Cuba didn't record a single death, but 115 people died regionally. The same month, Hurricane Jeanne killed more than 1,500 in Haiti, many drowning in floodwaters.
Now, as analysts and politicians examine how the U.S. government responded to Hurricane Katrina — and how to avoid a similar catastrophe — some say this communist island may offer a few lessons.
Cuban evacuations are mostly carried out by community groups that take cues from the government. The military assists, unarmed.
"Cuba views hurricanes as a top national security priority, and they know the drill," said Daniel P. Erikson, Caribbean specialist at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank. The storms not only imperil lives, he said, but threaten Cuba's economic underpinnings: agriculture and tourism.
"The drill" Erikson refers to includes yearly military exercises across the island, with two-day training sessions for emergency workers, simulated evacuations and reviews of emergency plans.
During hurricanes, Cuba's four state-run television stations run nonstop evacuation orders and weather reports. The coverage is anchored by President Fidel Castro, who coordinates response during live broadcasts as if waging battle against an invading army.
"It's an organized system, in a pyramid structure," said Dr. Gabriel Diaz Ramirez, a Cuban pediatrician dispatched to Indonesia this year to treat tsunami survivors. "We have our government's support."
Perhaps the most striking element of Cuba's disaster preparedness is that most residents obey evacuation orders without question. The government says it evacuated 1.5 million people in July ahead of Hurricane Dennis. Most went to safe zones, and 245,000 flocked to state-run shelters.
This contrasts starkly with New Orleans, where thousands decided to ride out the storm and were later plucked from flooded attics or perished. Others are still refusing to leave, even with toxic muck on the streets and armed forces moving in to carry out mandatory evacuations.
Erikson suggested that the smooth displacements were a product of the government's tight control over residents.
"It's still a police state," he said. "You could say one advantage they may have is the ability to move large numbers of people in a short amount of time.
"But of course the political environment in Cuba makes it difficult to resist those kinds of orders."
Stupid fucking Commies! Can you imagine a government actually demonstrating concern for the health and safety of the people? What are they thinking over there? And what is this business of sending in the military unarmed, as if they were being sent in to do some sort of humanitarian work? How in the hell are you going to issue shoot-to-kill orders if your relief workers aren't even packing heat? Those pinkoes are just so damn backwards in their thinking. I mean, who the hell relies on "community groups" when you can just get on the phone and call in some professional mercenaries? (Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans) Come to think of it, I bet they don't even have any 'private' paramilitary outfits in Cuba. They do though have an awful lot of medical doctors. So many that they offered to send over a veritable army of 1,100 of them to tend to the victims of Katrina. The Bush administration, however, realizing that the presence of swarms of qualified medical personnel could negatively impact their denegrofication project, declined the offer.
The writer and editor of the L.A. Times piece, after consulting their trusty copy of "Orwell for Dummies," concluded that Cuba is better at responding to disasters because "it's still a police state." But that much is rather obvious, since, as any fool knows, a “police state” is one that responds to natural disasters by sending in actual relief workers, while a “democracy” generally responds to natural disasters by militarily occupying the zone of destruction and criminalizing the survivors. Most of you probably remember learning all that stuff back in your Civics classes.
There is, of course, an alternative explanation for why the Cuban people willingly follow evacuation orders while the residents of New Orleans were reluctant to do so. Granted, the alternative explanation lacks the disconnection from reality so clearly on display in the Times article, but we should probably give it some consideration nonetheless, so here it is: the Cuban people know that after the danger has passed, they will actually be allowed to return to their homes!
The people of New Orleans, on the other hand, had good reason to fear that they would not.
It is painfully obvious that many of the former residents of New Orleans will never be going home. Many did not survive, though we will never know the true number since it was apparent from early on that the death toll would be covered up. Of those who did survive, many have seen the last of their family homes. Residents of New Orleans probably didn’t realize it at the time, but the stage was set two months before Katrina came ashore, on June 23, 2005, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, decreed that it was well within the ‘rule of law’ for the government to seize what is ostensibly privately held land so that that land can then be passed into the grubby, bloody hands of developers.
The stage was actually set earlier than that, in April 2005, when the United States Congress, in its infinite wisdom, opted to pass some bankruptcy ‘reform’ legislation. I’ll defer to the L.A. Times once again for an explanation of exactly how that ‘reform’ will come into play:
After virtually every major hurricane of the last 25 years, bankruptcy filings have grown significantly faster than usual as victims sought to shake off old debts in order to rebuild their economically ruined lives.
But unless changes are made to an overhaul of the nation’s bankruptcy law due to kick in next month, many of those affected by Hurricane Katrina and the resulting floods will have a substantially harder time winning court relief from loans they incurred for homes and businesses that are now gone, according to a variety of judges, lawyers and policy experts.
“Just because your house or car is somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t mean that your auto loan or mortgage went with it,” said Brady C. Williamson, who was appointed by President Clinton to head a national bankruptcy commission in the mid-1990s. (Peter Gosselin “New Bankruptcy Law Could Exact a Toll on Storm Victims,” Los Angeles Times, September 7, 2005)
Imagine, if you will, this purely – ahem – ‘hypothetical’ scenario (which, as we all know, could never happen in the land of the free and home of the brave): under the pretense that conditions are far too dangerous for you to stay, you and your family are forced from your family home by heavily armed troops. You are then shipped off, against your will, to some distant, unspecified location, where your actions are monitored lest you decide to do something crazy, such as attempting to return to what you, quite foolishly, still think of as your home. That home, meanwhile, is condemned and quickly bulldozed, though the actual damage to the property was quite minimal. The ground that your house used to stand on is seized by the government and will soon serve as the home of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at the new Disneyland New Orleans®. Having been stripped of everything that you once called your own – including your home and all its furnishings, the land it stood on, your vehicle(s), and your job – and having been separated from your friends and neighbors, you are now faced with the daunting prospect of completely rebuilding your life with little to work with other than a mountain of debt, which, you are quickly assured, you will be required to pay back. And guess what? This month’s payments are already past due.
If you were ever to find yourself in this ‘hypothetical’ predicament, which of the following would best describe your situation? (a) I live in some sort of hellish, Kafkaesque police state; (b) I live in the world’s greatest democracy; or (c) I’m Caucasian, so this doesn’t really apply to me – yet.
I have to admit that I am quite impressed at the amazing foresight displayed by the Washington gang in getting these new and vastly improved interpretations of “bankruptcy” and “eminent domain” on the books just in time to serve the needs of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. And I am also quite impressed with Washington’s propaganda unit, otherwise known as “Hollywood,” which continues to demonstrate an uncanny ability to serve up “product” that offers commentary on ongoing events, despite the fact that that product was filmed long before the events even took place.
Consider, for example, the new television series “Invasion,” which debuted on September 21, just a few short weeks after the flooding of New Orleans, and just three days before Rita came ashore. Two curious facts about this new show stood out even before the first episode aired: (1) ABC chose to premier it along with the rest of its slate of new Fall shows even though it was obviously in very poor taste to do so; and (2) there was not a whimper of protest from any avenue of the media over that decision.
For those who have not seen “Invasion” (and you are all excused for that oversight, since the series, shockingly enough, sucks), it concerns the rather strange goings-on in the aftermath of – are you ready for this? – a Gulf Coast hurricane. Prominently featured on the program are frequent allusions to governmental cover-ups. The hurricane that kicked off the series, you see, was apparently not your run-of-the-mill hurricane. According to one character on the show – a character who, as custom dictates, is portrayed as a paranoid ‘conspiracy theorist’ with a fondness for aliens – the hurricane was actually an elaborate “cover for a military operation.” Elsewhere in the premier episode, a young girl spoke cryptically about how “the truth will never come out” because the media wouldn’t hang around for long before they moved on to other things. (These may or may not be exact quotes; I wasn’t taking notes.)
Despite being a mediocre show at best, “Invasion” has received rave reviews from many supposed critics. The fact that the show is on the air at all, despite the obvious insensitivity shown to the tens of thousands of victims of Katrina and Rita, coupled with the fact that it is actually being praised, rather than questioned, would seem to indicate that some powerful folks in the Washington/Hollywood axis feel that it is important that “Invasion” be seen by the viewing public.
And that, of course, raises the obvious question: why is it important that this show be seen? My guess is that it is probably because at the very time when people of conscience should be asking questions not too dissimilar from those raised in “Invasion,” Hollywood has already, in its inimitable style, proactively relegated such concerns to the world of television fantasies. And, of course, thrown a bunch of aliens into the mix. Can anal probes be far behind?
Perhaps we should throw caution to the wind and have a quick look at some of the ‘conspiracy theories’ surrounding Hurricane Katrina. There certainly is no shortage of them out there. Probably the most elaborate theories are the ones claiming that the government actually created Katrina, using advanced, ‘black’ technology. Personally, I find that scenario to be highly unlikely. And yes, by the way, I am well aware that control of the weather has been, for some time now, an explicitly stated goal of the U.S. military. And yes, I am also well aware of the HAARP project in Alaska. However, there is a big difference between having the desire and willingness to do something, and having the technological ability to actually do it. And I seriously doubt that the technology to create and control manmade weather systems currently exists. I seriously doubt that mankind even has an accurate understanding of how naturally-occurring weather systems operate, which would seem to be a prerequisite for creating artificial systems.
A related theory is the one that holds that while Katrina was not necessarily artificially created, it was deliberately steered into New Orleans. Again, this seems very unlikely – more plausible than the creation theories, I suppose, but still very unlikely. And the truth of the matter is that what these almost entirely speculative theories primarily do is draw attention away from the real question that needs to be asked here, which is: was Hurricane Katrina even the primary cause of the devastation in New Orleans, or did it just provide a convenient “cover for a military operation”?
Already long forgotten, by both the media and the always well-informed American public, is that there was a bizarrely long gap between when Katrina came ashore and when the levees were breached. Also long forgotten is that the earliest reports out of New Orleans held that the city had been spared from a direct hit, and the storm had therefore done considerably less damage than anticipated.
Captain Nora Tyson – commander of the USS Bataan, a Navy ship that first rode out the storm in the Gulf of Mexico before following it to shore – perfectly summed up the initial feeling about the storm’s impact on New Orleans: “On Monday it was like, ‘Wow, it missed us, it took a turn east,’ and everything eased up. It was ‘Let’s open up Bourbon Street, have a beer, let’s go party,’ and understandably so. And then all of a sudden, literally and figuratively, the dam broke, and here we are.” (Stephen J. Hedges “Navy Ship Nearby Underused,” Chicago Tribune, September 4, 2005)
According to the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street was feeling in a celebratory mood as well: “Hurricanes are never good news for insurance companies. But by veering east of New Orleans on Monday, Hurricane Katrina may have saved insurers a bundle. Major casualty insurers saw only modest losses on Wall Street …” (Kathy M. Kristof “Insurers Reevaluate Hurricane’s Losses,” Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2005, Page C2) On the front page of the same newspaper, Katrina was said to have “delivered a hard but glancing blow to New Orleans, then spent its full fury on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, swamping beach resorts and inland towns.” (Scott Gold and Ellen Barry “Katrina Hits the Gulf Coast,” Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2005, Page A1)
That “glancing blow” would have serious repercussions – but not until the next day. Hurricane Katrina arrived on the shores of New Orleans on Monday morning, August 29. By the time night fell on the partially evacuated city, it appeared as though the danger had passed and New Orleans had successfully dodged a bullet. The Category 4 winds never really materialized, the rain was no match for New Orleans’ formidable pumping system, and all 350 miles of the city’s system of levees and canals held fast against the feared storm surges. Until, that is, the wee hours of the morning of Tuesday, August 30, when three canals (the 17th Street Canal, the London Street Canal and the Industrial Canal, aka the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal) suffered major breaches in no less than five separate locations.
The official story, for the first several weeks, was that storm surges from the mighty Katrina were simply too much for the overburdened levee walls to handle. The rising water first surged over the tops of the levee walls, we were to believe, sending the first floodwaters into New Orleans, and then the levee walls themselves ultimately succumbed to the surging waters. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, that’s a nice little story. It really is. It’s at least as good, I’d have to say, as any of the other stories cooked up in recent years to explain away unusual events. True, if you really give it some thought – like, say, for thirty seconds or so – then it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but that has never stopped a wild yarn from becoming a part of the new reality before, so it shouldn’t be a problem now.
Once upon a time, in a more innocent era, people might have questioned how it was that storm surges could have caused the breaches in the levees nearly a full day after the storm had hit town. “How can that be?” they might have asked. “The storm came through here on Monday and the levees weren’t breached until Tuesday. The wind and rain were pretty well gone by then, so it seems to me like it would have been kind of an odd time for a massive storm surge. And it seems pretty darn peculiar that all five of those breaches – all five of them! – occurred under cover of night some 18-21 hours after Katrina came ashore.”
Today, in these much more enlightened times, we would never raise such foolish questions. Instead, we instinctively do what is expected of all refined, cultured men and women of the twenty-first century: we warmly embrace whatever nonsensical lies are thrown our way, and then we go and share those lies with others, only to find that everyone else already knows the same lies, which is okay, as it turns out, because that makes it easier for us to all sit around and discuss current events as though we actually know what we’re talking about.
In this particular situation, however, we do not have to blindly accept the first official lie. There are slightly different rules at play here, because this is one of those cases where the official story has been officially repudiated. That official repudiation, however, was a rather coy one, which means that this is a situation where it is okay to believe either the first official lie or the second official lie. Either one will do just fine, just so long as you firmly believe in one of the two. The closest parallel I can think of here concerns the attack on the Pentagon on September 11. Readers will recall that at first it was claimed that the plane and everything in it was vaporized by the intense heat from the resulting fire. Later, however, it was claimed that the passengers were actually recovered and identified through DNA analysis, and that the plane had been largely reconstructed and was sitting in an unidentified aircraft hangar.
Obviously, both stories could not possibly be true, and, in fact, neither one of them was actually true. But that’s not the point here. The point here is that it is perfectly okay to be a true believer in either official version of reality. What is not okay is trying to insert your own reality, or, worse yet, a relatively objective reality into the mix. That would be considered a major faux pas. The important thing to remember here is that, while you are not limited to a specific official reality, you must choose from one of the available official realities. And as I started to say, there is a new official story concerning the breached levees. It goes something like this:
The levee breaches along two major canals that flooded New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina resulted from massive soil failures under concrete storm walls, not from hurricane surges that sent water over the tops of the walls as Army officials initially said, according to teams of investigators who have examined evidence in the last week. The findings appear to chip away at the simple story that the storm surge was much larger and higher than the walls were designed to handle … Investigators have found no evidence of such overflow and foundational scouring at the breaches in the London Avenue and 17th Street Canals, two main failures behind the central New Orleans flooding. In fact, in one case, water marks are a full 2½ feet below the tops of the walls. (Ralph Vartabedian “Soil Failure, Not Overflow, Cited in Levee Breaches,” Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2005, Page A26)
So it appears that it has now been officially acknowledged that there was no massive storm surge that sent water pouring over the levee walls, on either Monday or Tuesday mornings. Even at the height of the storm, the hurricane’s surges didn’t come close to overflowing the levee walls at either the 17th Street or London Avenue Canals, where water remained "more than two feet below the tops of the walls." (Ralph Vartabedian and Stephen Braun “System Failures Seen in Levees,” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2005) But then, hours later, when the winds and rain had died down, and relative calm had returned to the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, the soil underneath the levee walls, in multiple locations, spontaneously failed. Along the London Avenue Canal, for example, “a 100-foot-long block of soil, about 15 feet deep, was pushed back 35 feet. As the earth berm shifted, the concrete storm wall on top collapsed into the hole left by the moving soil and disappeared into the water.”
I wonder what could cause that to happen? Why would there be such a tremendous lateral force exerted on the soil underlying the levee walls at that particular time? Is that the norm in the aftermath of a hurricane? I’m no expert in the dynamics of various types of natural disasters, but it seems to me that a phenomenon like that would more likely be the result of an earthquake than a hurricane. Another possibility, I suppose, is that some type of depth charges were responsible for undermining the levees. I’ll bet that the Pentagon has something in its catalogue that would do the trick. But I don’t recall reading any news reports of the levees being deliberately blown, so I guess we have to rule out that possibility.
Luckily, we have an alternative explanation. According to the most recent reports, the soil failures were caused by oak tress and burrowing rodents: "The triggering event in the catastrophic failure of the 17th Street Canal may have been the fall of a large oak tree planted at the base of the levee ... The tree's falling started a chain reaction that took out several hundred feet of flood wall. A similar scenario may have played out on the London Avenue Canal." In addition, "burrowing animals created large tunnels that undermined already weak foundations." Levee board officials, however, openly scoffed at such foolishness, noting that "there were no trees on the levees anywhere," and neither were there large concentrations of burrowing rodents. (Ralph Vartabedian and Stephen Braun “System Failures Seen in Levees,” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2005)
Since it is pretty obvious that only a crazed 'conspiracy theorist' would buy into the notion that oak trees and rodents caused the massive flooding of New Orleans, let's turn our attention back to the more credible theory that the levees were deliberately breached. And, as it turns out, there were indeed some reports of deliberate flooding, albeit much later in the day Tuesday, many hours after the initial breaches: “authorities took the decision to flood [Crowder Road] district in an apparent attempt to sluice out some of the water that had submerged a neighbouring district … The authorities had given people in the district until 5pm on Tuesday to get out – after that they would open the floodgates.” (Jamie Doward “They’re Not Giving Us What We Need To Survive,” The Observer, September 4, 2005)
Do levees have floodgates? Gates that, if opened, allow neighborhoods to be flooded? That’s a pretty odd feature. I hope they keep them locked, to keep the neighborhood kids from trying to open them. What really happened, I suppose, is that a levee was deliberately breached. But I wonder how they did that? I wonder if they undermined it by blasting away the soil underneath? I’m just curious because that seems to be a pretty effective technique. And it probably makes relatively little noise. But I guess in this case noise wasn’t really a factor, since breaching the levee was an officially acknowledged act. No one was trying to hide anything. If you were trying to hide authorship of the breaches though, it might be a good idea to undermine the levee walls rather then just blasting them directly.
Does anyone find it curious, by the way, that the Crowder Road District was deliberately flooded? What was the thought process behind that decision? ... “Well, it looks like we have one neighborhood over here that is pretty well trashed. There’s just water everywhere. So I think what we should do – and I’ve given this a great deal of thought – is try to drain some or all of the water into that neighborhood right over there. That way, we will have two flooded neighborhoods! Actually, truth be told, we’re hoping that if we act quickly enough, the first neighborhood can be saved – at the expense, of course, of the second neighborhood. And I’m sure the people in the second neighborhood won’t mind because, as a general rule, the black folks around here are always willing to lend a hand to help out the white folks.”
The main point of this semi-digression, I suppose, is that as of Tuesday (August 30) evening, actions were being taken to deliberately cause flooding in certain neighborhoods, and no credible explanation was being given for these actions. Perhaps then it is not so unreasonable to ponder whether the initial breaches, all occurring under cover of night, all occurring many hours after the storm had passed through town, and all causing flooding primarily in the poorest sections of the city, were deliberate as well. And perhaps the additional flooding – occurring too long after Katrina’s landfall to be credibly attributed to the storm, and so therefore officially, though quietly, acknowledged as a deliberate act – was undertaken to correct a ‘problem’ with the initial flooding, that problem being that a few of the targeted neighborhoods were spared while a few of the non-targeted neighborhoods were not.
Before moving on from this discussion of the levees, I should probably mention one rather curious incident that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I realize, of course, that America is home to the largest, mightiest, ‘freest’ media machine the world has ever seen, and because of that, there is virtually no scrap of news that escapes the attention of the press corps and the American people. Nevertheless, in the unlikely event that some of you may have missed this story the first time around, I present it to you here in its entirety:
Police shot eight people carrying guns on a New Orleans bridge Sunday, killing five or six, a deputy chief said. A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said the victims were contractors on their way to repair a canal. The contractors were walking across a bridge on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain to fix the 17th Street Canal, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Corps. Earlier Sunday, New Orleans Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley said police shot eight people, killing five or six. The shootings took place on the Danziger Bridge, which spans a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. No other details were immediately available. (“Police Kill Five Contractors on LA Bridge,” Associated Press, September 4, 2005)
This was, of course, a huge story when it first broke. I mean, how often do groups of armed military personnel and groups of armed police personnel reenact the “gunfight at the OK Corral” on an American street using live ammunition? This unprecedented event – the gunning down of half-a-dozen military personnel on American soil for merely going about doing their jobs – naturally generated a considerable amount of media attention. Bill O’Reilly alone spent the better part of a week hashing over the ‘talking points’ of the story. To the surprise of everyone, Greta Van Susteren and Nancy Grace even took a break from their relentless search for Natalie Holloway to focus attention on the big story. Oprah had on the wives of the fallen contractors to discuss how they were dealing with their loss. Investigations were quickly launched into the incident by the Army Corps of Engineers, the New Orleans Police Department, the Louisiana Governor's Office, the New Orleans Mayor's Office, the United States Congress, and various other concerned parties.
You all remember all of that … right? If not, it’s probably because none of it actually happened. Except for the part about the shootout between the Army Corps of Engineers and the New Orleans Police Department. That part really happened. At least, I’m assuming that there was quite a shootout, since one would expect that when armed military personnel are being fired upon, they will generally fire back. But all the rest, I just made up. Kind of like the real media just makes stuff up.
It is difficult to determine, given the scarcity of details available, what really happened. When the two organizations involved are the New Orleans Police Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it’s near impossible to determine who might have been the good guys in this story. Was this a case of corrupt elements of the NOPD thwarting efforts to arrest the flooding of New Orleans? Or was this a case of honest police officers thwarting efforts to further sabotage the levee system? Or was it neither? Was it merely a tragic case of mistaken identity? Possibly so, but the fact that this story was quickly buried suggests otherwise.
Moving on then …
Much less discussed than the breakdown in the levee system was the unprecedented breakdown in the city’s second line of defense, its imposing system of pumping stations. Given that New Orleans sits below sea level, an effective pumping system is absolutely essential to the city’s survival. Without it, New Orleans would flood every time a decent rain came through town. Luckily then, the city has a pumping system like no other in the world. (“How the Levees Failed,” Discovery Channel, October 9, 2005)
Built in the early 1900s, New Orleans’ pumping system is composed of 23 pumping stations that house a combined 140 pumps. Though nearly a century old, these pumps remain, to this day, the largest and most powerful of their kind in the world. And, since they were built before America became a society that reveres disposability, the pumps are remarkably reliable. Right up until the day that Katrina came ashore, every one of those 140 pumps were fully operational. But that all changed very quickly in the aftermath of the storm, when, for reasons that have never been adequately explained – and never will be, because no one in government or the media will ever bother to ask – the decision was made to shut the system down.
The explanation that was given was that, since the major levee breaches lay between the pumping stations and Lake Pontchartrain, the pumps were serving no purpose other than to circulate the water right back through the breaches. It was not the case, however, that all 23 of the stations were situated in that manner, and yet all of them were apparently shut down. And all of the stations, while they were running, were serving at least one crucial function: keeping the pumping stations themselves from being flooded.
Once the pumps were shut down, the stations were promptly, and quite predictably, submerged, thus doing major damage to all of the pumps’ electrical components. With one incredibly stupid, or one incredibly malicious act, a system that had performed nearly flawlessly for almost a century was rendered completely inoperable. Before repairs could even be attempted, workers were faced with the uniquely challenging task of pumping out the pumping stations. The damage was so extensive that two weeks after Katrina hit New Orleans, over half of the stations still had no running pumps.
It is difficult to think of a reasonable explanation for why the pumping stations were shut down, just as it is difficult to think of a logical explanation for why at least some neighborhoods were deliberately flooded. It is difficult as well to explain the curious timing of the five major levee breaches, though I suppose that in a world where three steel-framed skyscrapers can spontaneously collapse on a single day, the nearly simultaneous appearance of five major levee breaches, many hours after the supposedly precipitating event, doesn’t really require any explanation at all.