Showing posts with label fema. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fema. Show all posts

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mitt, Big Government, and the Deeply Confused Deep (Red) South

People living on the Gulf Coast, especially Louisianians, should be the last ones complaining about big government programs.  D-SNAP, FEMA, NFIP, USACE, National Guard, Road Home Program, etc.  Need I say more?

No I don't.  But I will.

Many local Republicans decry the amount of federal dollars spent on those no-income-tax-paying leeches living off the government dole, those same leeches who Mitt believes will never support him.  What many local Republicans seem unable to recognize, or at least admit, is that they are those leeches.


Such folks are either misled, uninformed, or disingenuous.  Either way, if they want the rest of us to start taking them seriously, Republican politicians and their local supporters need to walk their talk.  The ones living in St. John the Baptist, Plaquemines, and St. Tammany need to vote for enough new taxes to cover the full cost of the levees they want.

(Well OK, they don't have to hold that vote now.  We can wait until after they get out of the disaster food stamp line.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Louisiana: Where Progress Comes to Die

This is a map from the NY Times showing the shift in voting between 2004 & 2008. The redder the county, the greater the gain in Republican votes between 2004 & 2008. As usual, we here in LA insist on being 5 minutes and 500 years behind the rest of the nation. Here, things like progressive thought and a greater concern for making sure one's own kids graduate high school as opposed to worrying about whether Joe the Plumber and Joe Six Pack should be allowed to marry are viewed as tools of the liberal elites and Hollywood to destroy America. Funny, I was under the belief that it was the Republicans who slashed levee funding and who rendered FEMA ineffective by placing it within the bureaucratic black hole of the Department of Homeland Security who literally destroyed this part of America. And isn't it still the case that nearly a billion dollars of your Road Home money is going to the Bush administration buddies over at IFC, whilst you remain relegated to a life of toxic trailer trash? And isn't it true that the people most disgusted by "the gays" probably spend the most time thinking about disgusting gay sex? (Tip: If you don't think about it, it won't disgust you! Why ARE you thinking about it so much anyway?)

But I doth digresseth.

A few days ago, some local bloggers were bouncing around idears for turning LA more blue. Not to piss in anyone's cornflakes, but Louisianians haven't been progressive and open to change, even change that benefits us, since France ran this show. An educated populace would help, but that's not a short-term strategy unless you absolutely blitz them with media about particular issues in any given election (e.g., None of your broke asses will ever make $250,000 so chill out with the Obama will raise my taxes hysteria...[or something to that effect]). Judging from the map, it's not just LA. Most of the south, Appalachia, and the midwest are dying to remain about 20 years behind "big city coastal elites." The us-versus-them schema has been so drilled into people's psyche that cultural issues and fear tactics will drive regional politics for several years to come. Democrat strategists yearning for change would be trying to change the minds of people that still will not vote for a Landrieu because Moon hired blacks to work in N.O. City Hall in the 1970s and who have voted Republican (except for Clinton & Carter - two Southern white men) since LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act and forced them to integrate. Umm...yah, good luck with that one.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

California-Louisiana Contrasts: More "Hot Air" from the Right

On the appropriately named conservative blog Hot Air, they are doing an excellent job following the Bush administration's lead of blowing smoke up our asses in times of crisis. However, they get much props for admitting the Right's long-known (but only recently to them, I think) technique of responding to obvious fact with "hot air" (Blog Founder: "We fight hot air with Hot Air." [Notice how their brilliant use of capitalization establishes once and for all that their Hot Air supersedes all other hot air. Plus, I'm pretty sure God said so in the Bible somewheres.)

Unfortunately, I don't think Californians need more hot air right now, and I know that those of us sweating to rebuild the Gulf Coast without much help from conservatives at the federal level don't need more of it.

It makes me ill to even give attention to their efforts to -- yet again -- politicize the destruction and death of fellow human beings. Nevertheless, I feel it my patriotic duty to point out -- yet again -- that the feds fucked up. Funny how the party of personal responsibility can't seem to own up to its own responsibilities. Louisiana's state and local officials could have supplied every survivor with handheld electric fans, frozen daiquiris and daily meals from Antoine's whilst they, our fellow Americans, waited for Lords Bush and Chertoff to decide whether the levees had been breached or merely overtopped before sending help (FYI: It makes no fucking difference!!!). REGARDLESS OF THE (IN)COMPETENCY OF BLANCO, NAGIN, JUNIOR RODRIGUEZ, WALTER MAESTRI, and even AARON "WOLFMAN" BROUSSARD, the simple fact remains that THE FEDS DROPPED THE BALL, THEN DRAGGED THEIR FEET PICKING IT UP WHEN IT CAME TO FULFILLING THE ROLE THEY HAD SET FORTH FOR THEMSELVES in the aftermath of Katrina... (that bitch, I might add).

It so happens that I am finishing a disturbingly eye-opening book called Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security (by Christopher Cooper & Robert Block)*, which highlights that Louisiana officials "excelled" in the areas of the FEMA-coordinated emergency plan that had been completed pre-Katrina. My friends at Hot Breath or whatever marvel at the wonder of a state enormously larger than Louisiana evacuating 250,000 people...over the course of a few days. Contrary to popular misbelief, you don't always get DAYS of warning that a hurricane will strike. About 1.2 million people left Greater New Orleans in less than 40 hours (less than 2 days in non-fuzzy math terms), without a fraction of the problems Texas had with evacuations only weeks later before Rita struck, AND there are really only 3 or 4 routes off this island commonly known as New Orleans.
*recently purchased copy at local Barnes&Noble for $5.98*

It took FEMA 5 days to get a communications truck to N.O. from Baton Rouge when the roads were clear heading into New Orleans, and 2 days to transport ice that was sitting only 40 miles away to Biloxi. The governors of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama literally picked up the feds' slack and orchestrated their own disaster plans, not because us po' Suh-thunahs cain't do fo' us-selves, but because the feds said for years had told them "Oh, don't worry about that. FEMA will do that," etc., etc.

There are tons more reasons you can't compare Katrina with the CA wildfires, as nicely laid out in Sunday's T-P feature, par exemple:

Katrina's scale of devastation and its impact on humanity, however, was far greater. The number of homes destroyed or still threatened in California is about 10 percent of the roughly 200,000 left uninhabitable by Katrina and the often overlooked Hurricane Rita, which struck three weeks later.

In New Orleans alone, 140 of 180 square miles flooded, -- rendering uninhabitable a residential zone seven times the size of Manhattan. Across the region, its winds and rains wreaked havoc to a 90,000-square-mile swath of the Gulf Coast, an area twice the size of the entire state of New York.

Katrina forced the evacuation of 1.2 million people -- 500,000 remained displaced after four months. Almost 2,000 people died in Katrina.

The death toll from the fires stood at seven as of Saturday.

But hey, facts schmacts -- the folks at Hot Ass Breath got some GREAT talking points out there, and what's more important and American than that?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

When No One and Everyone Is To Blame

I don't know why exactly I was relieved to learn the Manganos were acquitted of negligent homicide charges, but I guess it has something to do with erring on the side of not ruining peoples' lives for no good reason. Until I read more about the case just before trial started, my impression from media reports and Foti was that these heartless people just left senior citizens in their nursing home to die. After finding out that the Manganos stayed at St. Rita's with their children and grandchildren through the storm, my whole view of them changed. Mabel Mangano can't swim. We all knew the storm would be bad. We were all equally shocked to find out just HOW bad. Katrina's surge and the levee failures ushered in horrors beyond what most of us were really capable of understanding before August 29, 2005.

On the other hand, I can't totally let them off the hook. Were they responsible for those people who drowned? Yes. Fourteen hundred+ people died, so alot of us made a lot of mistakes and wrong decisions. As one juror said: "Why were these two people singled out when so many people made so many mistakes?"

My views have nothing to do with whether the state or the parish officially called for mandatory evacuation or not, or whether the Corps is to blame for levee failure. I'm not happy or sad for the Manganos or for those who died and their families or for you and me, because this disaster and our actions during those tense, horrific days, like so much in life, can't be shoved into the black-or-white, right-vs.-wrong, guilty-or-innocent mentality that pervades our answer-seeking, justice-must-be-done culture. Many tragedies do not happen because people are greedy or evil or reckless but because tragedies happen. Shortsightedness, foolheartedness, and poor judgment are human nature; and they may be to blame, but do they a criminal make?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Welcome to the Jungle

(Much love to Gentilly Girl for the heads up on this one.)

Hey America,

Sorry. This couldn't have happened to nicer people. Like most of you, I thought all 146 were in the New Orleans area. Only 6 are in Louisiana.

I know! It's a horrible way to find out, but at least you guys got some warning. It pains me to welcome you to our reality, although honestly, those of you who insisted we were entirely to blame for being stupid enough to live here needed the wake-up call. As did those of you who said "well they knew it was going to happen!" So, when are you moving?

146 Levees May Fail in Flood (USA Today)
"Spokesman Pete Pierce says the corps does not want to release the list of the 146 places where levees have been identified as inadequate until all levees are inspected and all communities with faulty levees are notified."

Allow me to explain / translate for my fellow Americans who are not used to dealing with FEMA and the Corps of Engineers: He's not kidding. He actually meant what he said.

And no, they do not let the mentally retarded serve as spokespersons!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thoughts on the $595 Million Question

Thanks to Alan for bringing this to folks' attention.

U.S. Homeland Security says we blew off a buttload of money because we didn't request it.

It's quite an incendiary move for the feds to call a press conference to discredit local government. I'll be the last one fighting to join Nagin's fan club, but this article mentioned some things that make me question DHS's statements. Of course, I could be wrong, but these are my thoughts:

1. I recall that as recently as November-ish the contractor FEMA had handling reimbursement requests had to go back and recalculate their figures because their reimbursement amounts were too low. (Wish I could find a link to that.) So, I wonder WHEN did New Orleans get 96% of the available $311 million?

2. The article states: "Once the proper documentation is submitted, the money is available for replacing city property..." Making money available for something and actually using it for that purpose are two different things. Of course the money was "available" because Congress had to approve its allocation before it could have been offered to us.

3. Then there's the part about the City not only missing out on "available" money but having to actually give money back (the $1.7 million in interest made off of $102 million dollars in federal money held by the City last year). Why is this even a point DHS would make if we were not supposed to have the $1.7million in the first place since you can't collect interest off of federal money? Clearly, that was not money set aside for recovery anyway. And please, $1.7million? What would that fix, like two Popeye's and a snowball stand?

All that said, the reimbursement process to a regular citizen like me has always seemed esoteric and shrouded in mystery, so the City's role in using and acquiring funds needs to be looked at -- like right away. And what the fuck is Nagin doing in NYC, again? Must be nice to get away from your problems.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

And So This Is Christmas...

I keep hearing in my head the lyrics to that song "Happy Christmas (War is Over)":
So this is Christmas,
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun...

It's Christmas again, for the 2nd time post-K, and what have we done? It was hard putting myself into the Christmas spirit this year with the constant thoughts running through my head that things are not looking good down here, this long after the fact. Even though I was surrounded by family and loved ones, there weren't as many as usual because some of them don't live here anymore. Everyone who was there didn't seem to be in as festive a mood as in past gatherings. Maybe it was just my own perception, but a friend from New Orleans shared that her family gathering felt more subdued, perhaps even a bit depressing, too. After all, Baton Rouge just isn't home to them -- not yet anyway. Last Thanksgiving and Christmas was like this too, but that was to be expected less than 4 months after the fact.

I am certainly not ungrateful for the people and the things I still have and for this Christmas, which was still more than many people will ever have. Still, it's not MY Christmas, and I can't help but wonder how many more Christmases before Katrina doesn't dominate our conversations and our new lives, and when our "new lives" will just feel like regular ole everyday lives.

Hope, however, does spring eternal. Otherwise, why would we still be here? Fortuitously, for the first time since I can recall, I wasn't infuriated or completely disheartened by the news. There were actually developments to be hopeful about. The new Congress will FINALLY look into the fat no-bid disaster contracts that went to already wealthy companies well-connected to the White House. State legislators have wised up to the notion that they should question ICF's contract, and are finding some questionable allocations. Democrats and Repubs from LA and MS may actually unite to take on the insurance companies, now that they've even screwed Trent Lott. The Saints (need I say more?). Hell, who knows? Maybe Nagin will miraculously wake up mute next week!

Whatever the case, or however down I feel today (and I must keep emphasizing that this is how I feel today, right now), I have no choice but to keep going because at this point the alternative is an even less acceptable option. It's not like anyone promised any of us blissful holidays for eternity anyway, and who are we to demand such?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Yo, El Diario, Kiss My Gumbo-Eatin, Two-Step Dancin, Seafood-Lovin', Where Y'at, How's Ya Mama 'Nem, New Orleans Ass

Dear El Diario,
I got nothing against New York City. In fact, I used to live there and love the place. Besides N.O. it's the only other place I'd live. LOVE LOVE LOVE NYC! So what's with the hate in the editorial today? If you couldn't tell from the title, you guys printed a few things I take issue with.

Yup, we had alot of money ALLOCATED to us that hasn't gotten down to most folks yet. So if some of us seem a little stuck, that's one reason why. Also, the insurance companies fucked us. And now FEMA continues to fuck us, as our Pulitzer award-winning newspaper just wrote an editorial about.

The other thing I took issue with was the comment about some of us "waiting for the gravy train to end." As most people who insinuate we're getting too much money, I'm guessing you haven't been here to see the place for yourself. Again, the gravy train hasn't quite gotten here yet -- probably because it's stuck in NYC:
You said it's "crazy" to spend so much tax payer money to fix things that never should have been there (i.e., below sea level) anyway. Seems equally crazy that we should pay for your transportation system and your Medicaid patients.

Oh yeah, another thing -- you assholes are in the same boat.
And the Corps of Engineers did the study for this? Let me warn ya, cuz I still LOVE NYC, y'alls asses is in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!!!!


Monday, September 18, 2006

Don't Listen to Me!

OK. In my previous post when I said local merchants should play the big money game so they can get them some big FEMA contracts...I was kidding. I didn't mean for y'all to go and do it -- like these suspects did.

Judge overturns fine against trailer dealer

By James Varney
Staff writer, Le Times-Pic
"A state judge in Baton Rouge has determined that Bourget’s — the politically connected custom motorcycle shop that has sold almost $120 million of trailers to FEMA — does not have to pay a fine for selling travel trailers without a license, according to attorneys who have read the judge’s unsigned ruling. The decision also appears to let Bourget’s off the hook for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in Louisiana sales tax, the attorneys said."

Why waste time going after these guys when we could keep stickin' it to those Blac -- I mean those people who used their $2000 FEMA voucher on foolishness?

Big Fat FEMA Contracts to Big Fat National Companies Waste Big Fat Money

Vitter says nearly half of debris clearing cost was wasted

By Jenny Hurwitz
St. Tammany bureau, The Times-Picayune

"The Army Corps of Engineers will have spent $2.4 billion clearing the staggering mounds of hurricane debris left behind by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by the year’s end. But taxpayers could have saved $1.1 billion of that amount — an estimated 45 percent — if they had gone through local channels instead of federal ones, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said Friday."

it fraud to waste money like this, or just a by-product of big bureaucracy? Granted, smaller local companies couldn't tackle debris removal from this disaster without outside help, but it sounds like local folks could have handled a bigger piece of the pie. But see, that's the problem with ignorant Louisianians -- if they wanted big government money, they should have been giving alot more $ to the GOP!
No wonder our state's schools are so bad; too much focus on shaping ethical behavior!

And what the hell does the Corps mean by this?
The corps requested that Vitter not disclose individual contract prices, which they contend could drive down competition. "
hey y'all!! Be quiet! Public information is now SECRET!!!! shhhhh!!!!

And one last quote from the article:

"Officials from the corps would not comment, deferring inquiries to Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is overseeing debris removal. Officials from FEMA were unavailable for comment Friday evening.""

Get the F*** Outta here!! You mean they couldn't find nobody from FEMA? How unlike them! I hope they're OK...OK, now I'm worried.

Seriously, though, props to Vitter for bringing this to light.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ohhhh, Alberto!

Oh look, Albie! Here's some FEMA fraud you can prosecute!

It's been about a month since CorpWatch released their report on disaster area profiteering. So, Albie, the good American taxpaying folks down here, scraping by financially since we haven't seen that post-disaster economic boon we been promised, were just wondering what progress the good ole U.S. of A. Attorney General's office has been making in cracking down on THESE fraudulent disaster claims.

The Army Corps, Bechtel and Halliburton are using the very same "contract vehicles" in the Gulf Coast as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" open-ended "contingency" contracts that are being abused by the contractors on the Gulf Coast to squeeze out local companies. These are also "cost-plus" contracts that allow them to collect a profit on everything they spend, which is an incentive to overspend.

Hmmm...I wonder where that economic boon is?