June 21, 2006

"Can't'cha' See We're Talkin' Stupidity Heah!!!?"

This story in the Guardian -- thanks, Brits, you definitely got your story straight -- from last week just kinda' sorta' popped up in a link in the course of catching up with my reading, and seemed to be a lot more to the point than many of its more partisan U.S. variations.

No matter who tells it, the story reports on a serious goatfuck, courtesy of FEMA, but I can't, in any conscience, let the blame end with that heavily beleaguered agency.

However, this was the situation, according to investigators, as regarded the real spending of yours and my taxes in the aftermath of "Katrina the Bitch":

About $1bn (£542m) in relief meant for victims of Hurricane Katrina was lost to fraud, with bogus claimants spending the money on Hawaiian holidays, football tickets, diamond jewellery and Girls Gone Wild porn videos, the US Congress was told yesterday. The fraud, exposed through an audit by the Government Accountability Office, found a staggering amount of abuse of the housing assistance and debit cards given out by the beleaguered Federal Emergency Management Agency as a way of granting relief to those who lost their homes to Katrina.

To put that in perspective, gubmint bureauracrats screwed the pooch and squandered our money on fraudulent claims. They gave a billion smackers of our money away to people who spent it on their own personal vices or vanities, or simply made a cottage industry of ripping off Uncle Sam's money. Uncle Sam's money is our money.

Just think, some of the taxes you paid on your hard earned money were invested in lap dances {for those who do not know what a lap dance is, it's when a guy pays an exotic dancer at a strip club to writhe around on his lap for awhile}, jewelry, "drugs-of-choice", all kinds of neat, fun things that had nothing to do with surviving the aftermath of a brutal hurricane, just with pissing away our money.

I don't usually talk about my own charitable contributions, in fact I don't write them off on my taxes. Doing so would mean taking money from other taxpayers, who are my partners in the ownership of America, who might not agree with the cause or issue I'm spending the money on. Liberals have little problem there, they believe in pouring our money into whatever they feel it should go to -- we're merely the unwashed citizen, they are the moral, all-knowing guardians of society, but I'm a believer in the running of our great country as it was meant to be run by our founding fathers.

I'm not rich, but I donated a combined 5 digit figure, in the wake of Katrina, to the Red Cross and to a number of church groups I had checked out first, who were providing basic necessities, medical attention and shelter to people and families whose lives and fortunes were turned upside down by the hurricane.

Ah, now we get to my point.

I know others who contributed considerably more than I was able to afford to the Katrina relief effort. The difference?

Our money went to private organizations that used our donations to provide goods and services that were survival specific. The government's {FEMA'S and our money went as cash to anyone who gave them a bullshit story}.

This is really off the wall.

There is nothing in any of our nation's founding documents that compels the government to spend our money on a catastrophe like Katrina, because it is a state issue. States are supposed to budget themselves for local disasters, not spend every dime they collect in local taxes as soon as, or before, they collect it. The entire reason we were divided into states was that these political subdivisions, according to our system of government, were to remain autonymous where internal situations are concerned.

What, for example, do you think Patrick Henry or Lyman Hall would say about this?

The audacity of the fraud exposed shocked the congressional committee yesterday. As much as 16% of the relief distributed by the agency was lost to fraud, the auditors said. They also said it was likely they were underestimating the scope of the fraud.

"We expected it, but we didn't expect it on this magnitude," Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the house homeland security investigations panel, told reporters. "It's an assault on the American taxpayer."
During the audit investigators filed their own bogus claims and used other undercover methods to discover that most of the improper payments occurred because Fema failed to verify the identity of those making claims, or to confirm their addresses.

In the largest instance of abuse by an individual, Fema made 26 payments to someone who submitted claims for damaged property at 13 different addresses in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, using 13 different social security numbers. Only one of the social security numbers was valid, and a search of property records revealed that the individual had never lived at any of the 13 addresses. In addition, only eight of the addresses actually existed.

Fema also paid rental assistance to people who were already enjoying luxurious hotel accommodation - footing an $8,000 hotel bill in Hawaii for someone who simultaneously received $2,358 in rental assistance.

This is a perfect example of the federal government being forced to assume responsibility for the failings of local government. Not their responsibility!

That entire brain-dead debit card fiasco was... was... WTF were they thinking!!!? I'm sure liberals loved the performance put on by our politicians, via FEMA, late last year -- there is no truer way to throw money at a problem than to... literally throw money at it. Our money.

This is what happens when you make the government responsible for issues that aren't their job.

You promote the growth of beauracracies, which are both milk and meat to Democrats. Hundreds of thousands or millions strong of folks who get paid the same no matter what or how much they contribute, know better than to rock any boats and are guaranteed a pension after they retire. The realities of other peoples' lives are alien to the sterile environs of these peoples' old plastic, cheap wood and corkboard offices.

My point being?

States have the National Guard. States have their own taxpayers. Presumably, states have people on the payroll whose job it is to troubleshoot -- oh, wait, what am I saying? We're talking about Nawlins, here, and Ray Noggin Nagin. Ooops!

It has been explained to me why it was in the Crescent City's best interests that Noggin Nagin be reelected as mayor, which he was, and after considering all the data and being as I am a conservative, and having lived for several years in Nawlins, I have, sorrowfully, to agree.

I won't get into the "why" of that, as un-Republican as it may sound, but we are dealing with The City That Care Forgot, and also one of my favorite U.S. municipalities.

I am saddened by the trend on Bourbon Street of Jazz, Dixieland and Blues entering extinction in the new age of frozen daiquiris and karaoke, but I've come to grudgingly understand that our young today are being weaned away from anything preceeding today's liberal message in their schools, in movies and on T.V., in media, books, "recommended" websites, etc.

But that's all neither here nor there. What is, is the fact that the Levee Board is not run by engineers, but by local businessmen as "rewards" for campaign contributions. How is it that Bush's refusal to sign on to the Kyoto BS was splattered across liberal news venues, accusing the President of creating the disaster via "global warming", but little was said about the Levee Board and its Boss Hogg membership?

We see here how public funded agencies handle tragedy -- they throw money at it and believe that their "expenditures" figures will carry the day.

Whoa, not so fast!

The "Fed Is Mom & Dad" plan {see "Liberals"} is neither a part of any U.S. founding document nor a productive approach to the blueprints laid by our founding fathers. By "blueprints", I mean those well laid plans that turned 13 colonies into the richest and most powerful country on earth.

What's happening is that our liberal fellow citizens are still trying to milk some political mileage out of Katrina, so they're still attempting to encourage racial hostility. They've managed, somehow, to rationalize the destruction delivered by the hurricane without exposing the fact of good ol' boy politics being the only consideration for membership on something as vital as the Levee Board, done their damndest to contain any news of local politicians' failures, etc, in order to focus perceptions of racism and all blame for the entire disaster on the Bush Administration. If racial hostility ceased to exist, so, probably, would today's Democratic party, so they propogate it whenever and wherever they can.

Summing Up: In a corrupt 3rd World state that embraces Napoleonic Law and has always viewed its U.S. statehood as a necessary inconvenience, why should we all have to contribute to relief efforts that amount to tossing away cash for vice and/ or vanity spending?

This is a typical case of the federal government trying and failing, as they always do, to do a job that isn't even their responsibility to begin with.

Hat Tip -- James Taranto.

Posted by Seth at 02:09 AM |

November 28, 2005

NOLA Restaurants After Katrina

I ran across this article at the Journal News website and, Nawlins cooking ranking right up there near the top in my personal culinary esteem, had to comment on it.

NEW ORLEANS — Breakfast at Brennan's, a tradition since 1946, is postponed until next year. Dinner at Antoine's, a French Quarter delight for 165 years, won't be served until January or later. Same story at Galatoire's, the century-old Bourbon Street landmark. In this city where two favorite pastimes are eating and talking about eating, Hurricane Katrina caused a massive case of indigestion for the world-renowned restaurant industry.

These days, instead of serving up shrimp remoulade and trout meuniere, owners are installing new coolers, fixing roofs and trying to replace wait staffs and cooks.

At least they're all working hard to reopen, but even still they'll most likely need a lot of local support owing to the fact that it will take some time to re-attain the comfortable cash flow of strong tourism they enjoyed prior to the descent of Hurricane Katrina on the Crescent City, if they are to even begin recouping both their losses and the costs of preparing their restaurants to begin serving again.

One prominent victim was Commander's Palace in the city's Garden District, where folks craving dishes such as fresh Gulf fish served with a potato crust in a caper beurre blanc will likely have to wait until March. The distinctive turquoise building received heavy damage when Katrina roared ashore Aug. 29.

Commanders Palace is one of my favorite among the most famous eateries in Nawlins, and their Sunday Jazz Brunch was{hopefully will someday be again} a really special experience. Their food is wonderful in every way and a trip through the upper Garden District by streetcar adds volumes of ambiance to the whole experience. I lived there for years, and my own sensation as such never diminished.

Commander's is the jewel in the crown of the local Brennan family of restaurants, and not the only one of the group that suffered physically as a result of Katrina's visit from hell.

Food isn't the only concern. At Brennan's, a wine expert is evaluating its 36,000 bottles of wine, which were left untended in soaring heat after the storm.

But let's not forget the low-end economic concerns.

Finding waiters, bus boys and dishwashers is another chore, and wages are extremely competitive. Restaurateur Ralph Brennan, for example, is paying $10 an hour for dishwashers, up from $6 pre-Katrina.

This is interesting, since the national minimum wage was raised well above $6.00 long before Katrina came to call, but then, living in Nawlins for a few years can easily make you forget that you're in the United States, anyway.

Maybe that's why the food they serve you down in New Orleans, and for that matter the state of Louisiana, in addition to its mega-deliciousness, is completely different from the cuisines featured in other parts of the country. Because in spite of its membership in Congress and its presence on maps of the United States, the Pelican State really is a foreign country...

Posted by Seth at 09:35 AM | Comments (2) |

September 15, 2005

Katrina Today

On reading this morning's Washington Times online, I was pleasantly surprised to find a statement I made in a previous post about Democrat politicians never accepting responsibility for their screwups but instead blaming Bush challenged, as it looks like we have an exception to the rule.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco yesterday took responsibility for failures and missteps in the immediate response to Hurricane Katrina and pledged a united effort to rebuild areas ravaged by the storm.
"We all know that there were failures at every level of government: state, federal and local. At the state level, we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. The buck stops here, and as your governor, I take full responsibility," Mrs. Blanco told lawmakers in a special meeting of the Louisiana Legislature.

I applaud Governor Blanco for stepping up to the plate and admitting her role in the local mishandling of the Katrina disaster.
Of course, being somewhat suspicious of the motives behind the utterings of today's Democrats, I'm kinda sorta wondering if her emulating George Bush in taking responsibility has anything to do with the fact that there seems to be an outcry among a segment of her constituency for her impeachment, and she's trying to make nice. Sister Toldjah's got something on that front, while Raven talks about Captain Wiener's wife Hillary being put firmly in her place and Ogre posts a great funny about a U.N. response to aid for Katrina victims.

No matter how things work out in Katrina's aftermath, I believe the recriminations will go on for a long time on both sides, but it's good to see that with hindsight has come the beginnings of cooperation. We Americans are a resilient people, as we proved after 11 September 2001, and businessmen, yes, the private sector 'way down yonder in New Orleans are already beginning to lay plans for rebuilding what has been destroyed, which is as it should be and always has been in America. The government is there to help, not to facilitate a free ride nor micromanage local affairs, which is also as it should be.

Posted by Seth at 04:07 AM | Comments (2) |