Schutze Says: If There's One Film About the Corps of Engineers You See All Week ...



Wednesday night I scared my wife by shouting during a basketball game, which I rarely do, because I don't watch basketball.

I said: "Hey! I know that guy!"

She watches basketball. She fulfills the role in our marriage of the normal person. I was walking through the room. I saw Harry Shearer sitting on the sidelines at the Mavs-Hornets game in The Big Easy.

I recently had interviewed Shearer, of Spinal Tap fame, also the the guy who does half the voices on The Simpsons, for my column in this week's paper about his documentary The Big Uneasy. It's about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Katrina.

I talked to Shearer by phone a week ago. He was very compelling on the subject of the Corps and the real causes of the disaster in New Orleans.

He and I didn't argue, exactly, but we disagreed.

I asked him if the local business community in New Orleans didn't bear some of the blame for the Katrina disaster for collaborating with the Corps on cheap levees so they could sell hurry-up house lots.

He was willing to put some blame on "the growth machine" for the building of the immense Mississippi River Gulf Outlet shipping canal ("Mr. Go") out in the boondocks, believed by critics of the Corps to have contributed heavily to the damage in New Orleans. But as for the levees inside the city that failed, he said, "Locals really had no output into that."

I still say that's a point everybody misses, because it's politically incorrect to "blame the victim" in New Orleans but O.K. to blame the Corps. I do blame the Corps, there and here. But New Orleans, like Dallas, was a partner in its own demise through its levee boards.

You can say, "Oh, nobody pays any attention to levee boards ... blah blah." Fine. But I don't know how to give people any more democracy than we have in this country. If we waste it and vote the wrong way, shame on us.

In Dallas we have voted twice as a city for the future disaster looming over us on the Trinity. When it comes, you can go ahead and blame the Corps, if you want. I will blame us. My starting point is, "Why would you ever trust the Corps with your life?"

Shearer said he saw direct parallels between our situation in Dallas, where The Money wants to build a highway out between the levees, and the situation in Louisiana with Mr. Go. "The situation you are describing," he said, "is so similar to what was going on in New Orleans when they wanted to build the Mr. Go. The business community and the growth machine said, 'Get out of our way. This is going to be great for business. The corps generated these incredibly over-optimistic predictions."

And 2,500 people died.

His documentary premieres in Dallas tonight at 6 p.m at the Texas Theatre at 231 W. Jefferson at Zang. (This is Spinal Tap follows.) I say in my column that anybody who has a stake in the Trinity River levee situation has to go see this documentary.

Oh. And when I asked my wife what they mean by "a good foul," she asked me to go in the other room.

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19 comments
Levees.org
Levees.org

I really would love to see evidence or even a blog post that says the local business community in New Orleans collaborated with the Corps on cheap levees" so they could sell hurry-up house lots." I live in New Orleans and thought I had heard all the reasons to blame the residents. That's a new one.

Levees.org
Levees.org

I really would love to see evidence or even a badly written blog that says the local business community in New Orleans collaborated with the Corps on cheap levees" so they could sell hurry-up house lots." I live in New Orleans and thought I had heard all the reasons to blame the residents. That's a new one.

Jack E. Jett
Jack E. Jett

Shearer's wife Judith Owen is an amazing jazz singer. She also has a big bottom.

Jay
Jay

An agency of the federal government utterly sucks at fulfilling it's core mission? Who could have imagined?

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

We will wait for the flood, call the police chief on his private line, blame our problem on two imaginary friends when the Elite Police Squad appear, and then sue to make sure this stay secret. Well, it works for the Mayor, why won't it work for everyone!

White People -- going to Hell -- In solar powered water taxis!!

Anonymous
Anonymous

Step 1: Apply as much political pressure as possible to get the Corps to sign off on your project.Step 2: Collect profit.Step 3: Blame Corps when Mother Nature shows you why your project should not have moved forward.Step 4: Hire expensive lawyers/lobbyists to make sure that you don't have to pay for the consequences of your actions.Step 5: If your argument isn't gaining traction, repeat the word JOBS a whole lot and say that making you pay will cost JOBS. This reminds people how you are not the same as a "deadbeat homeowner" who was sold a subprime loan that defaulted.

Fill in the appropriate regulatory body and repeat these procedures for offshore drilling, fracking, nuclear waste storage, etc.

Robert in LH
Robert in LH

"But I don't know how to give people any more democracy than we have in this country. If we waste it and vote the wrong way, shame on us."

This may be the two most meaningful, thought provoking, real lines of reporting written in Dallas in 2011.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Jim, you should call the Army Corps and ask them about the rule that seismic activity is not allowed within 3000 feet of the Joe Pool Lake Dam. Then ask them about the Chesapeake gas rig that is across the street on West Camp Wisdom just 850 feet away.Our guys have called and the answer we get is: 'uh, we'll get back to you. thank you for calling.'Is this going to be the Dallas and Grand Prairie tsunami disaster that no one asked about?

John
John

The Mavericks played in New Orleans on Wednesday, not Thursday.

JimS
JimS

Don't know how you missed it, buddy. Start with Barry's book, Rising Tide. Its your history, not ours.

JimS
JimS

Another important related fact: The Texas Theatre is where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. Wilonsky edited that out of my original copy. I put it in because we were at the Texas Theatre recently with a bunch of arty college-graduate or college-going 20-somethings, and my wife asked if anybody knew what happened in history at the Texas Theatre. After much fumbling, one of them said, "Is this where that guy was arrested who shot a president?" Then we had more fumbling over which president. Nobody came up with Oswald's name. Some of them were kind of looking around with alarmed expressions, like, "Well, shit, is he still here?" But they were the ones who had been going out "for a smoke." But he is still there, in a sense. If you know where to look..

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Looks like they have been doing some "WORK" on the North side of the dam.

And when not if the disaster finally happens The Default mode of the folks will be, YES MISTAKES WERE MADE BUT NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO PLAY THE BLAME GAME.

Editilla the Pun
Editilla the Pun

Yeah, Jim, I'd also like to see that passage from Barry's book. BTW, he's a good friend of Levees.org, but here's a list of their Advisers before you start getting too honky on us http://levees.org/contact/

As Mrs. Rosenthal notes, we've heard a million of 'em, yet this one you've pulled out of your... ahem, hat, takes the cake you'd let us poor stupid proletariat New Orleanians eat.Our only mistake was in taking the Corps of Engineers at its word.You don't get such a luxury.

Thank youEditilla~New Orleans Ladderhttp://noladder.blogspot.com/

Levees.org
Levees.org

Could you please show us the passage in John Barry's book that says "the local business community in New Orleans collaborated with the corps on cheap levees so they could sell hurry-up house lots."

I live in New Orleans and I have heard a lot of reasons to blame the residents for the failure of the federally-built levees. But this is the first time I have heard this one. Please show us the passage.

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

Did you ask them face-to-face or did you tweet them?

Something tells me their comprehension may be directly related to the medium...

JimS
JimS

I doi not believe it is proper, at my age, to go around tweeting the youth.

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