Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Monday, January 09, 2006

FEMA cuts off rent checks for NOLA survivors

FEMA: Meet the F*ckers.

One of my co-workers said, "Haven't they cleaned up and re-opened New Orleans to the survivors yet?" and I had to tell him, "No, only the tourist areas are habitable." I had to tell him, "Nothing's been done -- the levees are still a shambles, the trash and debris is still in the streets, nothing's happening." I had to tell him, "No, New Orleans has been abandoned. Nothing is being done. Nothing."

Read the Rude Pundit's 5-part series, where he recently visited New Orleans:

New Orleans is gone. Nobody is going to do anything. Nobody. A great American city has been abandoned. We lack the will to do anything else. Don't want to interfere with watching American Idle and Survivor:Iraq while we receive our daily Soma from the tube that is the centerpiece of our living rooms, after all...

-- Badtux the Depressed Louisiana Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 1/09/2006 05:39:00 PM  


It's so sad that politics are playing a major factor in the rebuilding of the deep south after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

This is going to sound crass, but... I've got to say it. NO, while hard hit, wasn't hit as bas ad the Mississippi coast. The US highway 90 bridges haven't been touched, yet the Ponchatrain bridge is completely repaired. There were two ways to get around the MS coast, I10 and US90. US90 is gone for all pracital purposes. Point Cadet is *gone*. 95% of the buildings on the beach are *gone*. From what I've been hearing from old firends is that Biloxi and Mobile are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and not waiting for FEMA for anything. Mainly because parts fo the area has yet to see FEMA show up in town. Biloxi decided to tell FEMA to shove it on their contracted clean up crews and are doing it themselves. So, why can the residents of NO do the same???

ncr - former resident of Biloxi '75 - '83
# posted by Anonymous : 9/1/06 6:37 PM  

Biloxi is above water, at least. Most of Biloxi's population is still in the area, at least. And while the oceanfront and beachfront properties are gone, the entire infrastructure of the area wasn't destroyed. As for the Ponchartrain bridge in New Orleans, it was not harmed by the hurricane. Neither, as far as I know, was the highway that leads from Biloxi to Jackson (sorry if I don't recall the name of that highway, it's been a decade since I last made that trip).

On the other hand, 90% of New Orleans is *GONE*. Kersplash, Destroyed. Utterly. Nothing but rubble, its population scattered to the four winds. Biloxi is not 90% destroyed. Biloxi is only 10% destroyed. If you cannot tell the difference between 90% destroyed and 10% destroyed, you don't know beans.

In addition, reconstructing New Orleans has one, final, insurmountable problem: THE LEVEES. Right now, the levees are a shambles. Even a mild tropical storm would re-flood the city. Nobody is going to rebuild just to be flooded out again. New Orleans cannot be rebuilt until the levees are not only rebuilt, but rebuilt to the point where they can withstand at least a Category 3 storm (Katrina was only a Category 3 storm by the time it hit New Orleans). Until that happens, businesses can't rebuild in New Orleans -- they can't get insurance, for one thing. And until businesses rebuild, people can't rebuild, because they have nowhere to work or shop. Everything depends on the levees. And nothing -- *NOTHING* -- has been done to shore them back up again, other than to shovel some rubble into the breaches, rubble that would be swiftly swept away by any new storm to hit the city.

What parts of New Orleans are open now -- the parts above sea level -- did so without any FEMA or Corps of Engineers help. But the parts below sea level are just *GONE* unless those levees get fixed, and even the parts above sea level aren't safe. Katrina came within SIX INCHES of pushing enough water up the Mississippi River to overtop the Mississippi River levee. If Katrina had only been 1% stronger, *EVERYTHING* would have been gone, even the parts above sea level, the Mississippi River would have poured into New Orleans and washed everything away.

There's no way to rebuild in that situation, no way at all. So we're going to be treated to the spectacle of a major American city basically abandoned, its people condemned to homelessness or to living in the rubble of their former homes like some itenerate 3rd world denizens...

-- Badtux the Louisiana Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 9/1/06 6:53 PM  

We can trade story for story on how bad the situation is in NO and Biloxi. (the highway you're thinking of is US49 and is the only N/S route in the area. I10 is the only E/W highway left)

We both know it will take more than a decade for either area to resemble 'normal'. Most of the people of Point Cadet are going to loose their land to the casinos because they don't have the money to rebuild and/or fight the politicians/casinos. Just as the lower 9th ward will probably be turned over to 'proper' developers.

Now, to ask... why is NO so special that it should be rebuilt with taxpayer money when all the towns flooded out in the floods of '93 had to abandon their locations and rebuild at their own expense elsewhere?? During the '93 floods and after it became known that property along the rivers would be 'bought out' (cheaply I might add) and returned to its natural state as a river buffer. There are still towns being bought out after spring flooding all over here in Iowa. I can understand the fortifcation of levees to protect the above see level areas of NO, but not everything. Neither NO or Biloxi will be the same again.

ncr - native Iowan - but world traveler curtesy of her father having been in the USAF
# posted by Anonymous : 9/1/06 7:53 PM  

If you can't see the difference between a whole city basically destroyed, and a few thousand yards of city destroyed, well, I understand that the Optimist's Club will arrange for eyeglasses...

As for why taxpayers should pay to rebuild the levees around New Orleans is simple: New Orleans sank below sea level and became vulnerable to hurricanes because of activities that support the taxpayers. Specifically, the fact that the Mississippi River is dredged and funneled out to the edge of the continental shelf so that shipping can make it to the Port (thus giving the taxpayers goods they want), and the fact that the Port pays not one dime (nada) in taxes or tariffs to the City of New Orleans so the city can't rebuild the levees itself, and furthermore because all the oil and salt water was sucked out from under New Orleans by the oil industry in order to feed the taxpayers' oil addiction, causing the entire city to sink by as much as a dozen feet over the past 100 years. And furthermore, New Orleans was destroyed because the levees did not meet even the supposed criteria they were supposed to meet. They were supposed to withstand a Category 3 storm. They didn't.

In short, people have lost the possessions of a lifetime because the taxpayers screwed New Orleans, and it's only fair that the taxpayers give something back, specifically, by rebuilding those damned levees to the point where New Orleans won't flood again!

Frankly, I've given up on any help with actually rebuilding within New Orleans. I don't even think it's necessary, people will return home and rebuild themselves if they can get insurance. But without those levees built to a reasonable standard, New Orleans is not a viable city because people can't get insurance thus cannot get banks to loan them money to rebuild. Even the suburbs of New Orleans that were *not* flooded, like the West Bank, were not flooded only by luck. Like I said, Katrina came within six inches of topping the Mississippi River levee. If it had topped that levee, there would be *nothing* south of Baton Rouge.

And before you say "why not abandon New Orleans?", New Orleans and its surrounding suburban area is where it is for one and only one reason: *THE PORT*. There's no other place to put the port on the lower Mississippi. And the biggest ocean-going vessels that call on New Orleans won't fit further upstream. If the taxpayers want the benefit of New Orleans, they should pay for that benefit, don't you think?

Right now I'm thinking that Louisiana would be better off outside the United States. At least they could then charge tariffs on the goods going through the Port of New Orleans and the oil flowing through Port Fouchon. Right now, Louisiana isn't even getting a tenth of a penny from each dollar that goes through those ports (due to automation ports no longer need a lot of people, meaning that payroll, the only thing the state is allowed to tax, is pitiful). If the taxpayer wants the benefits of those ports, but isn't willing to pay for them, that just makes the taxpayers a bunch of welfare whores. But what else is new?!

- Badtux the Louisiana Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 9/1/06 8:33 PM  

I'm well aware of the importance of the NO port. So, the port is completely tax free, except payroll?? Or do they pay to the State, or Feds, and not the City??? There's lots and lots of companies that get this special treatment of huge to complete tax breaks. The Saturn plant in Tennessee is tax free, or minimal taxes. The oil companies aren't out for the taxpayer, they only care for their own bottom line - note that they recently got a multi billion dollar tax break as the result of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. But the general tax payer still has to pay the oil companies their due and they're still making record profits. This is now a country where companies decide policy at the city, state and federal level, not the citizens. The Citizens are just worker bees for the Company bottom line.

I'm not going to argue the percentages of damage between NO and the Mississippi coast. The Biloxi penisula is only a few thousand yards wide anyway. Waveland was wiped off the map, literally, nothing is standing.

The thing I have a problem with is that NO was saved during the floods of '93 by the loss of dozens of towns along the upper Mississippi. St. Louis was saved by the grace of God breaking the levees up river. Most of the levees along the upper Mississippi were federally funded. Most were not rebuilt after the floods because the Federal Gov't decided it was to expensive to rebuild and fund the flood insurance program. If the State or city wanted to rebuild the levees and towns, fine. But, it was at their own expense. The Federal Gov't banned construction for x amount of area from the navigable rivers, which is controlled by the Corps of Engineers. The Feds paid out the insurance on existing claims and cut the people loose.

So, why is there a double standard when it comes to NO??? If the NO levee system is completely rebuilt to the point where the lower 9th ward will never flood again... then the Federal Government should fork over the cash to rebuild the levee system of the upper Mississippi River and other navigable rivers.

By the way, for every dollar per that LA pays in Fed taxes, it gets 1.5 back. LA ranks number 25 in Federal expenditures. Iowa, number 32, Alaska number 1, and Nevada number 50. About half the states get more back than they pay in. Iowa is not one of them. Our ratio is 1 to .9. So, I don't see how LA is gettting shafted in the tax department at the Federal level. I got the information from the US Censenus Board.

# posted by Anonymous : 10/1/06 8:41 AM  

Under the Constitution, Louisiana is not allowed to tax the billions of dollars of goods going through the port. Only the Federal government is allowed to do that.

Regarding the levees in the upper Mississippi, they protected primarily farmland, they did not protect large cities. There were fewer than 100,000 people in the towns affected by the flooding, and those towns were not critical to the economy of the United States, unlike New Orleans, which is the point of export for most of the farm products of the Midwest. They were built too close to the river in the first place, causing the river to be too constricted at flood stage. That is a totally different problem from that facing New Orleans. New Orleans is not going to get flooded by the Mississippi River except by water being pushed up from the mouth of the river by a hurricane -- even if the upper Mississippi levees had not collapsed, there are massive water diversion works upriver of New Orleans to divert water into the Atchafalaya Basin, Lake Pontchartrain, and Bayou Lafourche. So don't say that the collapse of those levees "saved" New Orleans either. The Bonnet Carre Spillway "saved" New Orleans.

If you cannot see the difference between a small town being wiped off the map, and a major metropolitan area of 1.5 million people being wiped off the map complete with people and facilities critical to the national economy, well, [shrug]. The only part of the New Orleans metropolitan area (which is more than the city) that was not destroyed was the West Bank and a tiny sliver of the East Bank, and not by much -- the water came within six inches of wiping out *everything* south of Baton Rouge, 1/3rd of the population of Louisiana.

As for why Louisiana can't rebuild by itself, no state that has 1/3rd of its economy destroyed is going to be able to recover from that by itself. Most of Mississippi is above water and had no permenant damage from the hurricane. Most of the upper Mississippi was above water and had no permenant damage from the flood. None of these areas had 1/3rd of the entire state's economy destroyed and 1/3rd of the entire state's population turned into refugees in their own country.

That's right, one THIRD of the state of Louisiana was homeless in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita (let's not forget Rita, it caused enormous damage to Southern Louisiana too). HALF of the economy of the state of Louisiana was either destroyed, or put offline by Katrina and Rita (most of Louisiana's economy is within 100 miles of the coast, that's where all the oil refineries and related ports and infrastructure are). Was half of Iowa's economy destroyed? Was half of Illinois's economy destroyed? I think not.

Scale matters. If you can't see the difference between a small town of 500 people being wiped off the map, and a major metropolitan area of 1.5 million people being wiped off the map, I don't know what to say. But you'll notice that the Corps of Engineers did *NOT* abandon the levees protecting St. Louis, Missouri, even if they abandoned the ones protecting the small towns. Even the Clinton White House wasn't stupid enough to do that.

- Badtux the Louisiana Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 10/1/06 9:05 AM  

Oh, one last thing regarding the amount of money Louisiana gets from the Feds -- a lot of that money is Social Security and Medicare money that was earned by Louisianians when they worked in other states. The typical pattern is that Louisianians go out and work in other states then come back to Louisiana and retire. I'd be interested in seeing what the numbers would look like if retirees were taken out of the equation... I suspect it wouldn't be such a wayward number.

In addition, as I explained earlier, the protection of the ports is not "welfare". It is critical to the economy of the entire nation. Iowa can't export its wheat economically if everything south of Baton Rouge is wiped off the map. And 20% of the nation's oil comes through Port Fouchon. Lousiana could survive just fine without those, Louisiana does not itself generate a lot of exports and would be self-sufficient in oil if it were a nation. Why should Louisiana bear the costs rather than the rest of the nation, when Louisiana is not getting any benefits itself from those ports? The ports are trivial as far as the Louisiana economy is concerned, but are NOT trivial as far as the national economy is concerned. Who's the welfare whore, again?!
# posted by BadTux : 10/1/06 9:12 AM  

No where did I say we, the taxpayer, shouldn't help. Only that we shouldn't have to foot the *entire* bill.

"There were fewer than 100,000 people in the towns affected by the flooding, and those towns were not critical to the economy of the United States, unlike New Orleans, which is the point of export for most of the farm products of the Midwest. "

Try again on how many people were affected by the floods. The number directly, but temporarily, affected numbered in the 10s of millions. 50% of Iowa was under water for 2-4 months. Des Moines (pop 400k) lost water for several weeks. Permanetly affected was well over 100k and that includes towns of sizes more than 2500. Quincy has a population of over 20k and most of it flooded out.

And you better find out what the agriculture impact of the upper midwest is before you state that it's a meer pitance compared to the City of NO. The State of Iowa outproduced every other state in corn *and* soybeans this past year. Both major food crops. Take a look at a food package and find out what's in it. You'll find huge quantities of corn syrup in everything. Just where do you think all the grain goes to??? From a farm field to a barge??? No, it has to go to elevators first and then distributed from there. If some of the elevators aren't located near the river, the cost of transportion goes up and therefore your food costs will to.

ncr - who does enjoy the majority of your postings as some of them are right on.
# posted by Anonymous : 10/1/06 11:14 AM  

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