Friday, September 30, 2005

Sweet Gnome Alabama

Came across a t-shirt at Target (pronounced "tar-zhey", for you South Louisiana Cajuns out there :-) that had at first glance a Lynyrd Skynyrd song title ("Sweet Home Alabama"). Except it wasn't.

Now I can't get that demented thing out of my mind. I keep making up new lyrics for the stupid song...

Sweet Gnome Alabama [doo doo dee doo wah]
Where the garden's green [dee dee dee doh doh doo doo]
Sweet Gnome Alabama [doo doo dee doo wah wah wah]
My garden's coming' home for you [wee wee wee wah wah wah]

Someone help me, I'm going insane, GAAHHH!

- Badtux the Musical Penguin

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Oy Vey!

The fine news folks at NewsBlog 5000 have done it again:

Brown blames his inability to act during crisis on Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Brown says the two officials "sparred during the crisis and could not work together cooperatively." Brown’s statements do bring up a point. There needs to be some sort of overriding government agency that can take command in times of crisis.

We could call it, hmm... oh, I know: FEMA!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why do Pelosi and Waxman hate America?

These elitists have introduced a new bill in Congress, which they deceptively call the "Anti-Cronyism and Public Safety Act". They claim that, by ensuring that the President can only appoint qualified people to head critical public safety positions like FEMA director, that America will be safer.

This is a clear anti-American agenda. America is the land of opportunity. Only in America could a man go from inspecting horses' butts for signs of plastic surgery to heading a federal agency responsible for protecting millions of American lives. Furthermore, these DEMON-crats have a clear elitist agenda. How DARE they think that credentials are more important than good ole' American ingenuity! Why, if I need surgery to take my appendix out, why can't I go to my buddy Ed the Butcher down the street and let him cut it out with his big ole' butcher knife? All this stuff about how folks need to, like, know what they're doing, when it comes to jobs that affect people's lives is, like, a bunch of elitist bunk, intended to put SMART people over us good salt-of-the-earth types who, like, ought to have equal opportunity to those good jobs even if we didn't manage to grajiate high school!

Gotta go. I flunked out of grade school but I need to go tell my local high school teacher how he is supposed to teach biology (my preacher man says that my local high school teacher is one of those evil "evolutionists", which I don't understand what that means, but my preacher says it's bad, so it must be bad!).

- Badtux the Freeper Penguin

The untold story: Katrina, Rita, and oil

Close to 50% of U.S. refinery capacity is concentrated on the Gulf Coast of the United States, due to economic reasons -- it's simply cheaper to locate a refinery closer to other refineries, where it can tap into the same oil pipelines and feed into the same gas pipelines. Despite calls for refineries to be "moved to safer locations", that isn't happening.

The problem is that if you have built multi-billion-dollar oil refineries, pipelines, and dock facilities, those things are almost impossible to move. Even a small oil refinery nowdays is so complicated that there is no one single person who knows everything about it. I don't know if you've ever worked in an oil refinery (I have), but it is just this incredible maze of pipes and wires and conduits and towers, many of which were put in by subcontractors who are no longer around, all of which is maintained by a legion of subcontractors who know only their one little piece of the puzzle (like the little guy who maintains the Ph-balancing computer for the cooling tower, making sure all its little chemical pumps and testing paraphenalia meet industry standards -- multiply times a thousand, and you start to get the picture). You can't just pick up an oil refinery and move it. All you can do is build a new oil refinery from scratch in some other place.

But discarding billions of dollars of investment is NOT going to happen unless nature forces you to do so by permenantly submerging the thing. And the economic repercussions of losing these multi-billion dollar investments will be enormous.

The end result is that even if it takes 50 billion dollars to stop the wetlands loss (and even do some rebuilding) in certain critical areas by diverting the Mississippi River's silt flow to those areas, that is far, far less expensive than abandoning probably a trillion dollars worth of infrastructure that has taken almost a hundred years to build. But, like the latter-day Romans, our government is no longer interested in infrastructure. When the Emperor Justinian's troops looted Rome to "save" it from the "evil" Ostrogoths, they took away with them the brass spikes that held the marble slabs that lined the banks of Rome's streams when they retreated back to Byzantium. As a result, in the next big storm those slabs slid into the streams, causing major flooding and mudslides and contributing to the further decline of Rome from a once-great metropolis of a million people to what was, by 800AD, an armed war camp of maybe 40,000 people sheltering in the ruins. That's the level we're at right now -- where "our" government is literally stealing the brass spikes that keep our infrastructure from sliding into ruin.

So like the latter day Romans, who in only a few generations went from living in the greatest city on the Earth to a few ragged bands living in the ruins of that city, there is plenty of suffering coming up. One thing underreported right now is that virtually 100% of that infrastructure was shut down by Rita and Katrina. Some small part of it -- in the Houston area -- is coming back online. But capacity representing 26% of U.S. refining capacity was shut down as of Monday, and 18 refineries may take weeks to bring back online. You folks Back East are about to be in for a world of hurt... and as for me, heading back to my iceberg in the South Pacific sounds like a very, very good idea...

- Badtux the Oily Penguin

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

In a smoky room, pots discuss the color of kettles

The Chief hobbles into the room, looking like death warmed over. But then, he always looks like death warmed over, so nobody really notices except Turdblossom, who points and laughs. The Chief glares. "You wouldn't laugh if it was your own legs that had waterhoses run down them."

Georgie looks up from his comic book. "Howdie, chief!", he says. "What's up?"

"We got a problem," the Chief says. "That uppity bitch down in Louisiana wants a ton of money to rebuild her state. That's my money, dammit!"

"Err, technically it's China's money," says the Money Man. "We're just borrowing it for a while."

"Yeah? Once it gets in my pockets it's my money! And my friends at Bechtel and Flour are complaining too. How dare this woman say that Louisianians should decide how to rebuild Louisiana!"

Turdblossom looks thoughtful, his piggish cheeks scrunched up like an elderly lady's wrinkled breasts. "What kind of dirt can we make up on these guys?" he asks. "Surely Louisiana has a reputation for something, right?"

Skeltor laughs, a hollow, empty sound, like the sound of souls dying in despair at the bottom of a cavern of nothingness. "Yeah, they have a reputation for electing flamboyant crooks."

The Chief strikes up a fine Cuban cigar. Georgie looks up from his comic book again. "Stop that!" Georgie says. "Cigar smoke is bad for my heart rate! Did you know my heart rate is 53?"

"Shut up, Georgie," says the Chief.

"You can't tell me to shut up, I'm the Preznit of the United States!"

The Chief sneers, and says "Go fuck yourself."

Turdblossom is rapidly pounding away on the keyboard of his laptop. "I got it," he said. "I found a story about a city official who is taking supplies from the FEMA depot to various shelters. The police chief of that town hates his guts. Let's have him arrested for stealing relief supplies." Turdblossom smiles, his flabby jowls bouncing with glee as he nods. "Hold on a moment while I plant a story with Hindrocket about how the whole parish council in Jefferson Parish is stealing relief supplies... There you have it! We just call'em all too crooked to trust with money!"

The Chief smiles. "As vs. fine upstanding folks like Halliburton, who, of course, are totally trustworthy. I like it!"

Guffaws arise from around the room. Turdblossom's man tits are jouncing all over the place as he fights for breath. Skeltor smiles, causing a rose in a vase on the mantelpiece to droop over and its petals turn black and fall off.

"I like it," Skeltor says. "Us. Accuse Louisianians of being too corrupt to handle the rebuilding contracts. I like it!"

The Chief smiles. "So when do we do it?"

"Already done," Turdblossom says. "Already done. The moment it hit Hindrocket's site, five hundred of our bloggers picked it up. Within a few hours, our paid columnists will be planting columns about how corrupt Louisiana government is, using our bloggers as their source. It's a slam dunk!"

"I'm tired of Batman," Georgie says. "And my milk tastes funny, and why is it all yellowy and foamy? Can I have another comic book?"

"Shut up, Georgie," the Chief says, and hands him another comic book.

-- Badtux the Fly-on-the-wall Penguin

Left, right, and wrong

One of the things that has amazed me, over the past two years that I've been blogging, is how many people are willing to label me as a "liberal" or a "conservative" and to castigate me when I deviate from their idea of what a "liberal" or "conservative" is. I call bullshit. To be blunt: there's left, there's right, there's liberal, there's conservative, and they're all bullshit.

What's real is real. What's right is right. Real isn't liberal or conservative. Right isn't liberal or conservative. God is not a conservative -- or a liberal. God simply is. Reality isn't liberal or conservative. Reality simply is.

This champanzee instinct of dividing the world into "us" and "them" and then hooting and hollering and throwing feces at "them" is sick. The goal of public discourse should not be to score "points" on the "other side" in service of some ideological bullshit. The goal of public discourse should be to figure out what to do about problems that face us all. The goal of politics should not be to rule according to some idiotic ideology even if said idotic ideology ends up with people needlessly dying. The goal of politics should be to do what's right for the people who elected you.

I suppose if I have any ideology it could be called "Populist". That is, I believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people. I believe that the role of government is to serve the people who elect it, not some frozen ideology put forth by insane fanatics of left or right. I believe that We the People, not some unelected elite, should detirmine who our leaders should be, and that public policy should serve We the People, not some unelected elite. The moment we start playing chimpanzee and start throwing out all these abstract bullshit ideological categories like "liberal" and "conservative", we're not part of the solution -- we're part of the problem. Anybody who views himself as being "left wing" or "right wing" is actually just part of the "wrong wing". The only "wing" I belong to is the American wing -- that wing of politics that says, forget all that bullshit, let's do what's right for America and Americans.

- Badtux the American Penguin

Monday, September 26, 2005

Louisiana/They're tryin' to wash us away...

USGS reports massive wetlands loss caused by Katrina. Basically, the upper Breton Sound marshes, which protected the St. Bernard Parish back levees from a direct hit by storm surge, are *gone* -- Katrina almost completely wiped them out. The St. Bernard Parish back levees as a result took almost a direct hit from the storm surge and are in dire shape, simply melted away in many places.

The Louisiana goverment has a whole site with lots of maps of the wetland losses. It's scary. Especially the animated maps of the loss over just the past 50 years. The land literally melts away before your very eyes.

Most of that land is gone forever, because of subsidience caused by the oil and water underneath it being sucked out, and because of global warming causing sea levels to rise. But doing something to stop the loss, and to restore the losses in certain critical areas such as the upper Breton Sound marshes and around Port Fouchon, is absolutely necessary for the economy of the United States. These marshes protect close to 1/4th of the refining capacity and oil offloading infrastructure of the United States, and without them, all the multi-billion dollar levees being requested by Governor Blanco will be useless, because building a dike that will withstand a 40 foot storm surge directly is an engineering feat that not even the Dutch have managed...

Finally, lest we forget: Whoopsie Gras. We Louisianians will never forget that we were abandoned to die for five days by our nation, and that hundreds of thousands of people basically are still abandoned. Sadly, a press with the attention span of a fruit fly is going to forget this soon enough...

- Badtux the Louisiana Penguin

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Update: they're safe

Everybody I know got through this one okay. Lots of wind, lots of rain, and a day without power and with spotty phone service (they seem to be able to make outgoing calls fine, but incoming calls disappear into the twilight zone), but no damage to their homes or to life and limb.

More later...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Louisiana getting hammered again

I just got off the phone with my brother. He called me because he had called my mother up in Alexandria, Louisiana and she let him know that I had tried to call him but only got 'All Circuits Busy'. He is in Rayne, Louisiana, which is about 20 miles from Lafayette. He reports that the power went off about 30 minutes ago (as of 11PM CDT) and that they are getting category 1 hurricane strength winds and rain because all of Louisiana is on the wrong side of Ivan (the side that has the most rain and wind). They are about 15 feet above sea level and his house was built in the 1920's and is about 3 feet off the ground on piers so it isn't going to flood and the wind isn't going to hurt it (it's withstood worse and was recently overhauled and remodeled so it's in very good shape), but his wife is concerned that her new car is going to go underwater, because the last time a hurricane hit there was two feet of water in their driveway. So they are going to take her car to her mother's house, which is on higher ground, and come back in her son's beater car, which, if it goes underwater, well that's $800, not $18,000.

The mother of one of my coworkers lives -- lived, I should say -- in New Orleans. She evacuated to Lafayette, where she is living with friends until her home in Uptown New Orleans is livable again. He says she may end up coming out here to live with him for a while until things get settled down in Louisiana. He also reports that she isn't upset with the governor of Louisiana or the mayor of New Orleans who she feels is doing a pretty good job given that 90% of New Orleans and 50% of Louisiana is now pretty much toast, she's upset with God for destroying a city she loved, then upset with God for sending *another* hurricane to hit her where she'd evacuated.

My mother says that up in Alexandria they are getting gusts of 40mph or better and blowing rain from the east. She expects that the power will go out shortly. She says that the Katrina evacuees who had been moved into trailer houses at England Air Park (the former England Air Force Base) have been evacuated into more secure shelters. This is only days after they'd finally gotten out of shelters into semi-decent housing... first they almost drown, then they're homeless, then they have a home, now they're homeless again at least until all this dies down and they get to see whether the trailers blew off their piers. She also says that a FEMA plan to put a trailer park near Marksville LA next to an Indian casino was shot down by the locals because, the locals point out, there's no jobs and no services in that area and no public transportation to places where there *is* jobs and services, so it'd be practically a concentration camp environment with the residents reliant upon federal rations and assistance. The local's acronym for FEMA is unprintable.

By the time this is over, 2/3rds of Louisiana is going to be a disaster area. Of course, it's arguable that 100% of Louisiana had been a disaster area -- a disaster area of poverty and neglect -- but the twin hammers of Katrina and Rita have made the rubble bounce. The only question is whether this is going to show them the error of their koolaid-drinking "government is the problem, not the solution" ways, or whether they will suddenly realize that hey, they ARE the government, and that they, operating collectively via their government, are the only force that is going to fix things...

- Badtux the Louisianian in Exile

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The 3rd World is only a few blocks away

Poorer Americans have mortality rates similar to 3rd world hellholes. Poor Americans lack access to adequate health care, working schools, transportation, and healthful foods.

The obvious solution is that they should drag their sick, uneducated, car-less and fat behinds to the nearest Fortune 500 company and apply for a job as a senior vice president in charge of finance. The whole problem is that they're lazy. If they weren't so lazy, then they could be working hard behind a desk, doing the heavy work of lifting a phone and pressing computer keys, instead of doing those slothful jobs of cleaning bathrooms, digging ditches, stocking grocery shelves, pushing wheelbarrows full of concrete, and all those other lazy bum jobs like that which require no physical labor. I mean, those lazy poor people, they just sit around working instead of doing nothing like us successful business types, then they dare complain that we successful business types get tax breaks and they get, well, broken? How dare they!

- Badtux the Republican Penguin

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Out of the frying pan....

Hurricane Rita is currently churning towards the Texas coast. Thus far, people have been talking about the possibility of it hitting New Orleans. However, that is fairly unlikely right now. But what is likely is that the people of New Orleans, who largely evacuated to the west, are about to get hammered with a second hurricane -- especially the 100,000 or so Louisianians currently in Houston, who are likely to have to endure yet another hurricane only weeks after surviving Katrina. And let's not talk about the ones who evacuated to Lake Charles, or Lafayette, both of whom might also endure bad weather from Rita.

Talk about your "out of the frying pan, into the fire" scenarios... apparently swimming skills are a big plus for Louisianians nowdays. Because they sure are having to do a lot of it...

Badtux the "I swim real well!" Penguin

In the Kingdom of Fear, monkeys rule

Tanish the Wolf talks about a major differentiating characteristic between left-wing bloggers and right-wing bloggers. Lefties' blogs are filled with frustration, resentment, and humor, he says. While right-wing blogs express only one thing: pure, unfettered rage.

But of course, that is not surprising. In reality, human characteristics such as logic, reason, hope, charity, caring are rather recently evolved, and sit uneasily atop the psyche of what was, until maybe 15,000 years ago, just a bunch of jumped-up monkeys with delusions of grandeur. All those old monkey instincts are still there -- the instinct to divide the world into "us" (our tribe of monkeys) and "them" (some other tribe of monkeys, which is to be hated and derided as a threat to our tribe's prosperity). The instinct to hoot and howl and throw feces at any monkey not a member of our tribe. The instinct to follow an alpha male everywhere, regardless of what he does. All those instincts are still there in the human animal, and the human animal still tends to devolve to those old instincts whenever placed in a position of fear.

And fear is, of course, what the right wing hate machine is all about -- inducing fear in its victims, in order to devolve them back to their monkey instincts and away from that awful "thought" and "peace" and "hope" stuff. Peace and prosperity are despised by the right wing hate mongers because they lead to people loving each other and living in peace and harmony. Thus they continually push fear, rage, hate, relish the thought of war, continually do their best to destroy prosperity for the majority because prosperity threatens the very core of their power, the ability to devolve millions of two-legged primates into monkeys willing to follow whatever alpha male the hate-mongers have propped up today.

This is, of course, toxic to the civilized discourse necessary for democracy. But civilized discourse is not what the right wing wants. Hate, fear, and rage is what they want. For only by devolving human beings into monkeys can they retain power.

- Badtux the Non-primate Penguin

9/20/2005 Blink

Monday, September 19, 2005

9/19/2005 Blink

Help stop global warming *now*!

Ahoy, me mateys! Today is Talk like A Pirate Day. And shiver my timbers, the Pastafarian Intifada has proven that global warming is caused by a lack of pirates. Why shiver me timbers, it appears that we have a sure-fired cure for global warning after all -- by becoming pirates, of course!

Gots to go, need to find an eye patch and funny hat...

- Badtux the Pirate Penguin

Busheviks vs. Conservatives

What is most infuriating about the Busheviks is their insistence that they are "conservative" when they are nothing of the sort. But then, this is typical of the Busheviks. When presented with facts, they stare at you with doe-eyed astonishment, then attack you as some kind of liberal Commie.

A true conservative is one who does not embark upon change for the sake of change. He is concerned about managing change, about making only those limited changes needed in order to perfect society. A true conservative hates change, and embarks upon change only when it is demonstrably needed, and only to the extent necessary to resolve the problem. A true conservative will, if possible, adopt only those changes that have been proven in the crucible of time, rather than untested, unproven changes.

Thus a true conservative, confronted with, e.g., the notion of school vouchers as a replacement for public schooling, rejects them immediately. A true conservative notes that all of our competitors who perform better in international comparisons of schooling do so using public school systems, and thus the proper, conservative thing to do is to examine those competitors, detirmine what they are doing right, and then adopt only those changes which said competitors have proven to work. The notion of completely dismantling the U.S. K-12 educational system in favor of some untested, untried system like vouchers makes true conservatives blanche. Yet Busheviks, like Communists, believe that an untried system ought to be put into place because, well, their ideology calls for it. That is not conservative, no more than Lenin was.

Similarly, true conservatives believe in fiscal responsibility. You don't spend more than you make. The notion that "Deficits don't matter" makes true conservatives nauseous. Busheviks, on the other hand, have no trouble with the notion of "borrow now, pay later (maybe)", having run up trillions of dollars in debt already during the regime of their Dear Leader.

Finally, true conservatives base their judgements upon reality, not upon ideology. For example, Bushevik ideology states, "low taxes good, high taxes bad." So ask them why aren't they moving to Mexico, whose taxes are half those of the United States, if low taxes creates a business paradise? They'll hem and haw and allow that it's because Mexico is a corrupt cesspool lacking public safety, public infrastructure, protection for private property rights, and decent schools. Then hammer them with statistics showing that if you graph percent of GNP collected as taxes vs. economic growth, the highest economic growth isn't over there on the left ("low tax") side -- those countries are virtually *all* corrupt cesspools lacking public safety, public infrastructure, protection for private property rights, and decent schools. Similarly, the highest economic growth isn't over there on the right ("high tax") side either. Rather, it's right in the middle. In fact, if you graph tax collections vs. economic growth, what you see is an inverted U, with the highest economic growth in the middle, and you also see that the United States is dangerously close to falling off the left side (low tax side) of that inverted U -- which would tend to imply that the United States is on the verge of becoming a corrupt cesspool lacking public safety, public infrastructure, protection for private property rights, and schools capable of creating an educated workforce. The conservative response, looking at that and at the current accounts deficit, would be to raise taxes enough to maintain the public infrastructure needed for honest governance and keep from going into debt, without veering over to the right (high tax) side of that inverted U. The Bushevik response is a blank stare and then, "You must be a Democrat, no wonder you don't win elections, since you believe in high taxes!"

The fact of the matter is that the Busheviks are not conservative, not in any way that the late Barry Goldwater would recognize anyhow. Busheviks are about as "conservative" as Communists. Both the Busheviks and the Communists are all about ideology, not reality. Both the Busheviks and the Communists have unrealistic views of human nature, and would impose changes upon the people based upon those unrealistic views. Unfortunately, the Busheviks, unlike the Communists, are also masters of Orwellian Newspeak, managing through their propaganda network to completely re-define the meanings of common words such as "conservative" to mean what they want them to mean. Thus the vast majority of people truly do believe that the Busheviks are "conservatives", even though that is not the reality. The reality is that the Busheviks are radicals -- radicals who, like Communists, are intent upon imposing their ideology at gunpoint upon the people. And like all radicals, their efforts will, in the long term, fail. Unfortunately, as with the case of the Soviet Union, the results of their failure are likely to be a lot of dead people and the impoverishment of a once-great nation. They've already done it to Iraq, which they've turned into a paradisehell-hole of terrorist bombings, ethnic warfare, and people dying by the thousands. Next stop is America. And we're letting them do it. We're letting them do it. Because the naked ape that is the human being would rather follow its alpha male to Hell than think for itself. Alas.

-- Badtux the Non-chimpanzee Penguin

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Misc. links about FEMA response to Katrina

Louisiana contractors not allowed to work

I'm listening to WWL-AM in New Orleans. They have thus far received several calls from local contractors who say that FEMA is not allowing them to help with the recovery effort, that only out-of-state contractors are on the ground. One guy reports that the only way he can get hired as a subcontractor is to give a kickback to the contractor hired by FEMA.

In other words, as predicted, the recovery effort appears to be being conducted to benefit Bush campaign contributors, rather than the people of the area. But then, why should we be surprised? Everything about the Bush Administration has been calculated to enrich Bush cronies at the expense of the American people...

- Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Why didn't Bush DE-federalize the response?

One of the persistent right-wing talking points has been that "Bush couldn't send in troops without the governor's permission." Other than being a lie (Bush is the Commander in Chief of the military, he has absolute authority to send them anywhere he wants), there is a tiny grain of truth: He could not send Federal troops *in a police role* to New Orleans without declaring a "state of insurrection". However, even that is a lie of sorts. Federal troops could certainly be sent to New Orleans in a humanitarian relief mode. And Louisiana law allows for self defense, meaning that they could certainly bring their military power to bear on anybody shooting at them.

But that wasn't all that could be done, and history shows how military manpower could have been deployed to Louisiana for maintaining public order far, far sooner than was done:

There is actually precedent for using Federal troops to maintain order in the event a city is destroyed by a national disaster. In 1906, the city of San Francisco was destroyed by a massive earthquake. Fires and looting broke out. 350,000 people were homeless and needed immediate evacuation.

Major General Frederick Funstan was the man on the ground at the Presidio, in charge of all forces in the California theater of operations in the absence of his superior officer. The Posse Comitatus law had been passed a few years prior prohibiting use of Federal troops in law enforcement situations, but the situation in San Francisco was clearly out of control of what the locals could do.

This being before the era of micro-managing limp-wristed civilians in the Pentagon micro-controlling commanders on the ground, he hit upon a simple and effective expedient -- he marched a column of soldiers up to where the Mayor of San Francisco was holed up, and said, "Mr. Mayor, we are at your disposal. Tell us what you need us to do." I.e., he basically deputized his men as San Francisco police officers under the command of the Mayor of San Francisco for the duration of the emergency. The Mayor then swiftly deployed them to break up riots, fight fires, and rescue people from the rubble.

Subsequent telegrams between himself and the War Department formalized this arrangement. For example, on April 26, Secretary Taft stated that "his [Mayor Schmidt] orders must control, and you must merely conform to his judgment so far as police matters are concerned."

Now: If a column of U.S. Marines under the command of a brigadier general had marched up to the Mayor's office in New Orleans and stated, "Mr. Mayor, we are at your command, what do you want us to do?" do you really, honestly believe that Mayor Nagin would have sent them packing? No freakin' way! But because our current leadership neither studies history nor understands command and control, the thought of turning federal military resources over to the local mayor for use in policing the city simply did not occur to them -- or if it did occur to them, was rejected out of hand (don't want to give that darkie mayor control over valuable federal resources, after all!).

So people die needlessly for the incompetence or turf-protecting bureaucratic BS of our leaders... we have, indeed, come a long way since 1906. The wrong way, that is.

- Badtux the History Penguin

Friday, September 16, 2005

FBI seeks public corruption

They have a hotline: 1-800-225-5324.

Remember, call this hotline only if the official in question is a Democrat. Any reports of a Republican charging for work not done will simply result in an FBI investigation of your children's parentage, an IRS auditor showing up at your home, and other such mayhem. And whatever you do, do not call this hotline and give them the tip that Dick Cheney is engaged in public corruption. Not unless you like the weather in Cuba.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Lest we forget...

For all the historical (hysterical) revisionists stating that the federal response was "timely":

Even the standard protocols for a federal response to a national disaster call for massive Federal presence within 72 hours of a request for assistance.

  1. June 9, 2005: Mayor Nagin requests of the Orleans Parish School Board that he be allowed to use the approximately 250 working OPSB buses to evacuate the city in the event that a major hurricane approaches the city in the upcoming hurricane city. The school board takes no action on the request.
  2. June 10, 2005: The Orleans Parish School Board goes on vacation until August.
  3. Saturday, August 27, 2005: The governor of Louisiana issues a formal request for assistance, stating that, since 1/4th of the population of the state has Katrina bearing down upon it, that this is an emergency too big for the state to handle by itself and thus requires federal assistance including coordination, planning, evacuation, and supplies. This starts the clock ticking.
  4. Saturday, August 27, 2005: Mayor Nagin calls for an evacuation of New Orleans. The New Orleans papers, television, and radio stations go into "All Evacuation, All The Time" mode as has been planned and practiced for decades, with the evacuation routes fully laid out. Nagin requests assistance from the state and FEMA in the form of buses and drivers for said buses in order to evacuate those without transportation. No such help arrives.
  5. Saturday, August 27, 2005: City's buses run their usual routes, carrying people to the Greyhound bus station, airport, shopping centers, etc. The majority of people are in denial and refuse to leave home, stating that they're sure Katrina will reduce in size and power or veer away from New Orleans, like all other hurricanes in their lifetime have done.
  6. Sunday, August 28, 2005: Mayor Nagin of New Orleans and Governor Blanco of Louisiana hold a news conference stating that all people capable of leaving New Orleans are required to evacuate because this is the Big One. The roads immediately become clogged with fleeing drivers in a continuous 7 hour traffic jam to the nearest high ground, which is 90 miles away. Due to the fact that it normally takes 72 hours to evacuate New Orleans and there is less than 24 hours to do so, Mayor Nagin activates the two-phase evacuation plan rather than the single-phase evacuation plan. The two-phase evacuation plan calls for evacuating people to the Superdome, which was designed to withstand 200mph winds, then, if necessary, evacuate them from there to high ground. The city's media continues All Evacuation, All The Time, as has been planned for decades, with colorful maps of evacuation routes and with details of the evacuation plan, which calls for 12 neighborhood centers to which people without transportation should report, from which they will be bussed to the Superdome.

    They also announce a state of emergency under state law. This state of emergency gives Blanco power to confiscate any and all resources from any state body. It does *not* give Mayor Nagin any such power, despite blustering otherwise -- Mayor Nagin has no power to order the Orleans Parish School Board to release its buses to the city.

    Blanco fails to order the Orleans Parish School Board to release its buses to Nagin for the evacuation effort.

  7. Sunday, August 28, 2005: 67 city buses are put to work shuttling people from the neighborhood centers to the Superdome. The remaining bus drivers have fled or cannot be found. Approximately 80 of the city buses are parked in "safe" areas, such as on the levee near the lakefront airport and the Superdome parking garage, that are not expected to flood. The remainder are parked in the city bus depot.
  8. Sunday, August 28, 2005: New Mexico governor Bill Richardson calls Governor Blanco of Louisiana asking if he can help. Blanco says yes, she needs truck drivers and trucks for relief and evacuation purposes. Governor Richardson tells his National Guard head to do so.
  9. Sunday, August 28, 2005: Mayor Nagin asks the Louisiana National Guard to stock the Superdome with emergency food and water for 15,000 people for 3 days, and they do so.
  10. Sunday, August 28, 2005: As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, FEMA requests that the Louisiana National Guard and Louisiana State Police set up a perimeter to prevent "looters" from entering the disaster area. FEMA personnel join the roadblocks.
  11. Sunday, August 28, 2005: Wal-mart trucks full of food and water destined for shelters in the New Orleans area are turned away by FEMA representatives at the roadblocks, which insists that the supplies are more needed elsewhere.
  12. Monday, August 29, 2005: At 6:05am, Hurricane Katrina waddles ashore.
  13. Monday, August 29, 2005: Lower 9th Ward goes underwater as the Industrial Canal levee is overtopped by storm surge.
  14. Monday, August 29, 2005: The National Guard command and control center on the levee near the Lower 9th Ward is swamped, knocking out all emergency coordination of National Guard resources. The 400 National Guardsmen located there relocate to temporary quarters in the Louisiana Superdome.
  15. Monday, August 29, 2005: U.S. Coast Guard personnel stationed in New Orleans begin search-and-rescue operations along with the New Orleans Police Department and a flotilla of approximately 500 boats either commandeered from local marinas or manned by local volunteers.
  16. Monday, August 29, 2005: The 16th St. Levee is breached. Water starts filling the western part of the city. The Corps of Engineers says that they will drop giant sandbags into the breach in an attempt to close it.
  17. Monday, August 29, 2005: City buses are used to evacuate the portions of the city that are going underwater to the Superdome.
  18. Tuesday, August 30, 2005: Mayor Nagin reports that the attempt to sandbag the breach never happened, and now the breach has widened to the point where Lake Ponchartrain will fill the city like a bowl. It turns out that the two helicopters that were to be used to do this were ordered by FEMA to abort the mission and instead go to work looking for survivors.
  19. Tuesday, August 30 2005: New Orleans City Hall is swamped, knocking out all emergency coordination of city resources.
  20. Tuesday, August 30, 2005: Skiffs and boats manned by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries arrive on the scene and add another 200 boats to the search and rescue operation.
  21. Tuesday, August 30, 2005: The buses in the bus depot are flooded out, and the buses in the Superdome parking garage are flooded in, with the exits to that garage undrewater.
  22. Tuesday, August 30, 2005: The remaining city buses (the ones not underwater, trapped, or inaccessissible) are used to evacuate people from the slowly drowning neighborhoods to the downtown area, from whence they are told to go to the Convention Center and wait for assistance. One by one, the buses are knocked out by water, run out of fuel (their fuel depot is underwater), or the drivers abandon them to go save their own families.
  23. Wednesday, August 31, 2005: Homeland Security Directory Chertoff says in a press conference the next day, "We began evacuating yesterday evening [August 31] from the Superdome", stating that 400 buses and 500 school buses were deployed in the effort. The buses did not in fact arrive until Friday evening and did not start mass evacuations until Saturday morning.
  24. Wendesday, August 31, 2005: A column of approximately 600 National Guard troops in 40 trucks arive in the Superdome area on Wednesday evening, and load a token ten buses (which had not actually been chartered by FEMA at all -- they'd been chartered by stranded tourists in the downtown hotels!) to leave the Superdome for Texas and the Astrodome, just in time for Chertoff's press conference. The National Guardsmen then went to sleep.
  25. Wednesday, August 31, 2005: Governor Richardson of New Mexico asks his National Guard commander whether the state's assistance had been dispatched. They had not.
  26. Thursday, August 1, 2005: Bush talks about Trent Lott's front porch. USS Bataan ordered to go help Trent Lott's state of Mississippi rather than Louisiana. Supplies on a landing craft intended for convention center are instead redirected to Mississippi. The first 100 buses (the ones that Nagin had first requested on SUNDAY) arrive to evacuate the Superdome. They fill up within two hours, disappear into the sunset, and no other buses arrive all day. No buses arrive to evacuate the convention center.
  27. Thursday night, August 1, 2005: Mayor Nagin says there's no beef in New Orleans -- no food, no water, no buses to evacuate those trapped under horrible conditions, calls Chertoff et. al.'s press conferences about how much aid was in New Orleans "bullshit".
  28. Friday morning, August 1, 2005: New Mexico National Guard finally authorized to travel to Louisiana to assist the evacuation and recovery effort. Explained the Pentagon: "We could not dispatch them until we had a specific duty assignment for them." Remember, folks, paperwork is more important than saving lives, and having these people report to the mayor and having the Mayor dispatch them the way that General Funston did in 1906 when responding to the last time an American city was destroyed, why, there is just no precedent for such an order from Army headquarters, right? Right?
  29. Friday night, August 2, 2005: Geraldo reports from the Convention Center that there are thousands of people still stranded. No buses are in sight. At this point, almost 5 days (five *DAYS*) have passed since Katrina made landfall. Seven (*SEVEN*) days have passed since the Governor requested assistance.
  30. Saturday morning, August 3, 2005: Almost *SIX DAYS* have passed since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The remainder of the buses arrive, and the evacuation starts in earnest.
  31. Sunday, August 4, 2005: Parish President Broussard of Jefferson Parish, outside of New Orleans, states that he is having needed resources confiscated by FEMA bureaucrats and has received no help at all from any federal or state agency. He states that people are dying, murdered by bureaucracy, and after relating one such story, says "We have been abandoned by our own country".
  32. Tuesday, August 5, 2005: The evacuation of the Convention Center is largely complete. Attention then turns to body collection and draining the toxic soup that is Lake George (the lake where New Orleans once was).
By the Department of Homeland Security's own standards, this was an apalling performance. They not only didn't make their 72 hour deadline -- they didn't even make a 144 hour deadline! Federal resources should have been flowing within 72 hours of the declaration of the state of emergency (which happened the Sunday before the hurricane). Yet by the time the 72 hours expired on Wednesday, only the most meagre of resources -- a single column of 40 National Guard trucks and 10 buses -- had arrived in New Orleans.

Furthermore, the federal response to New Orleans, as inadequate and pathetic as it was, was still more than people in outlying parishes got. Parts of Jefferson Parish were underwater too (especially Old Metairie, the part nearest New Orleans on the East Bank). Yet Jefferson Parish got no help -- nothing, nada -- even after a WEEK had passed, despite constant pleading and constant cries for help. The same is true of St. Bernard and Plaquemines.

Even if the locals and state government were total boobs, these were, and are (the ones still alive) citizens of the UNITED STATES. They are AMERICANS. And they by-god deserved better than a bunch of pansy-assed Republican politicians in Washington D.C. slapping each other on the back congratulating themselves on how good a job they were doing, all the while that people were dying because these self-same bureaucrats didn't realize that the situation was SNAFU, FUBAR, and just plain requiring thinking out of the box instead of ass-covering politics as usual. While I don't buy the notion that the locals (other than Blanco) were total boobs, in the end, it's irrelevant. The government of the United States has a fundamental duty to preserve and protect the life of Americans regardless of what local authorities do, and it failed to perform this duty, and failed miserably, indeed, even hindered the rescue and relief efforts.

Ten buses. Ten (10) buses. And 40 trucks of National Guardsmen. That was the sum total of the federal response at the 72 hour mark. And anybody who thinks that was in any way an adequate response to the biggest disaster to ever hit the United States is smoking some stronger dope than I can get out here where I'm exiled in California...

- Badtux the Remembering Penguin

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bill Maher to George W. Bush

From HBO, courtesy of G.D. Frogsdong:

On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans...Maybe you're just not lucky!

I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So, yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is, "Take a hint."

Alas, I doubt that Sir Bush Head-of-wood is listening...

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Emergent behaviors

Check out the Wikipedia article.

Some people ask me whether I believe there is a formal, organized conspiracy to loot the nation for the benefit of an unelected elite. My answer to this is that no such formal conspiracy is necessary, because what we are seeing here is a clear-cut example of emergence -- where a simple set of rules leads to results which could be predicted from the rules, but which are not anywhere written into the rules.

The roots of American porkocracy go deep. The early years of this nation were shaped and molded by an unelected elite who deliberately wrote the Constitution in such a way as to protect the power and influence of the porkocrats. It was seemingly obvious, back then, that the work of governing the nation could not be left to the people. Rather, it had to be placed into the hands of fine upstanding gentlemen of means, who had the education and training to properly govern the greater masses of the unwashed.

Thus Senators were not elected by the people. They were appointed by the governors of the respective states (this was true until 1913). Similarly, Presidents were not elected by the people. They were elected by the Electoral College, the members of which were appointed by the governors of the respective states.

None of this was accidental. The whole point was that the United States was *not* to be government "of the people, by the people, for the people" (as Abraham Lincoln dishonestly put it). Rather, the design, from the beginning, was that the United States government was to be "of the people, by people of means, for the people." That is, that while the government was supposed to take care of the needs of *all* of the people, only those of wealth and means need apply for participation in the government.

The problem... the problem is that this system has nothing in it to prevent those "gentlemen of means" from ignoring the last part of that trilogy of phrases and, instead, govern entirely for their own benefit. And that has been true all too often in this nation's history, with exceptions only when those pesky people were getting antsy and needed an Andrew Jackson or FDR thrown to them in order to keep them from engaging in outright rebellion.

This, in the end, is why no amount of "throw out the bums" will permanently clean up our system of government. The fundamental rules via which it operates virtually guarantee that only people of wealth and means can run. And people of wealth and means will, over time, no matter how well-intended, engage in the kind of law-making that benefits people like them. This is not because of a deliberate conspiracy by wealthy people. This is because the whole system of rules guarantees that this will happen, even though there is nothing in the Constitution that deliberately lays out that we will have "government of the people, by the porkocrats, for the porkocrats".

To say that our system of government must change, that the fundamental rules -- even our very constitution -- must change if we are to have fundamental change, that we must basically overthrow everything we ever knew and ever learned about how to govern America if we are going to have the government "of the people, by the people, for the people" that Abraham Lincoln lied to us about, is drastic. But it is the only way we can have the government that Lincoln promised us.

But I do not see it happening. I do not see it happening. The porkocrats are not going to vote to overthrow a system that serves them very well. And they have become expert in throwing the people just enough cake to keep them from revolting and overthrowing the porkocrats by force. And there is no grand "porkocrat conspiracy" to throw into jail and replace with politicians concerned about the people as a whole rather than just porkocrats... because the very system is set up to reward porkocrats for being, well, porkocrats, it invariably corrupts anybody who enters it with the best of intentions.

In short, though there is no "vast conspiracy", the way the fundamental rules are set up gives us the same basic effect. There may not be a vast conspiracy to loot America for the benefit of an Orwellian Party elite, but if that is the emergent behavior that will always happen due to the fundamental rules via which this nation's political system is organized, it doesn't matter what caused it, just that it is happening. As someone mentioned regarding the disastrous Bush Administration response to Katrina, it doesn't matter to the woman who died for lack of food and water whether it's malice, incompetence, or indifference that killed her. Either way, she's dead. And it doesn't matter whether it is emergent behavior or a vast conspiracy by an Orwellian "Party" that ends up with rule of the people, by the porkocrats, for the porkocrats. Either way, the ordinary people of the nation have their very lives strip-mined and drowned (in New Orleans) for the benefit of a Party elite.

- Badtux the Emergent Penguin

The Military Rule of New Orleans

The City of New Orleans is out of cash, the Mayor says.

This isn't surprising. The City of New Orleans gets the vast majority of its money from two sources: 1) Sales tax, and 2) a city-imposed payroll tax. In both cases, the money is submitted on a monthly basis to the city by the 5th of the month. Which obviously didn't happen this month, because both the businesses collecting these taxes, and the City Hall to accept the tax money, are underwater.

So what now? Well, with no money, there are no city workers -- they either walk off the job due to not being paid, or they are laid off. With no city workers, there are no firemen, no policemen, no garbage men, nobody running the water works, no one running the sewer plant, no one filling potholes, no nothing.

So what's the end result? Well, the end result is a de-facto Federal protectorate, with police and fire protection provided by the military, and all other services (water, sewer, etc.) provided by Halliburton and the rest of the usual suspects under contract to FEMA, which has been granted a $60 billion blank check by Congress to enrich Bush Administration cronies. FEMA of course being this amazingly wonderful agency that just works *so well* that, of *course* we must entrust it with $60B more money... talk about rewarding failure!

Now, there are some conspiracy theorists who see this as a prelude, a test case, for a military takeover of the entire United States. And indeed, this really *is* unprecedented. The last time we lost a city -- the 1906 San Francisco earthquake -- the military stepped into a similar role, but they did so under the direct control of the Mayor of San Francisco in order to bypass the Posse Comitatus law (i.e., the troops were placed under the direct command of the Mayor, who then directed them to where they were needed). The only other precedent I can think of actually is from New Orleans, in the time period 1862-1865 when New Orleans was the spoils of war under the command of Federal troops under General Benjamin "Beast" Butler, most famous for the Woman's Order. But that was in the midst of a massive civil war, rather than in peacetime.

Given the precedent (1906) for putting the federal response to a disaster within a city under the command of the local mayor, I cannot begin to fathom why that is not happening here. Oh wait, yes I can -- the porkocrats in charge of our porkocracy (rule of the people by the porkocrats for the porkocrats) see the opportunity for profit. And if siezing control of an entire city at gunpoint is what is most profitable for the porkocrats... why, what a shame that FEMA can't give the mayor any of that $60 billion dollars to keep his policemen and firefighters on the job, but, y'know, Halliburton needs the money worse than some soon-to-be-unemployed New Orleans cops and firefighters, right? Right?!

- Badtux the History Penguin

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What's that smell?

The Internets are rife with conspiracy theories about the Katrina aftermath in New Orleans. Conspiracy theorists talk about levees being blown up by explosives, the evacuees from New Orleans being transported to concentration camps, the dead bodies being "disappeared" by the Bush administration and its cronies in order to hide the final death toll, and other seemingly-bizarre stuff of that nature.

My first inclination is to dismiss all of that out of hand under the "never attribute to malice what can be reliably attributed to incompetence" maxim. I mean, we're talking about the *BUSH ADMINISTRATION*. A bunch of dimwit numbskulls whose only core competency is the ability to scare the American people into voting for them. Yet... yet... that said, something funny has been going on here, and even though I can't put my finger on it, it stinks to high heaven.

There's the mystery of the slow response. Bloggers note that FEMA was far more responsive in earlier hurricanes, delivering food and water to the affected areas within 48 hours -- rather than 5 days. FEMA did not even deploy its search-and-rescue teams to the hurricane area until the Saturday after the hurricane, i.e., 5 days too late. Why could FEMA respond effectively last year in Florida, and then this year apparently was caught with its pants down?

Then there's the befuddling lack of leadership. The National Response Plan assigns responsibility for responding to a national disaster to the Director of Homeland Security, and an order by the President gives him full authority to deploy any and all Federal resources necessary in order to respond to a disaster of national significance (which the drowning of the highest-volume port in America most certainly is). In other words, Secretary Chertoff, not FEMA head "Drownie Brownie" (who we should now re-nickname "Sacrificial Duck"), was officially in charge until Chertoff formally appointed Drownie as "principle federal official" 36 hours after the hurricane hit, and had full authority to deploy any and all federal resources to the hurricane area irregardless of what the governors of said area requested or desired. Yet Chertoff appeared to not understand a plan that he himself had participated in writing, and continues to insist that he could do nothing until a formal request from the local leadership arrived in his office asking him to provide specific resources. Is it plausible that Chertoff could utterly forget a plan that he himself participated in writing?

Then there's the puzzling case of the emergency assistance turned away by FEMA. Food, water, generators, firemen, policemen, boaters, and rescue teams from around the globe were ready to swarm into the New Orleans area to help save lives and rescue those in need. Yet FEMA turned them away, time after time, sometimes at gunpoint.

Okay, so the above can be possibly explained by the fact that the Bushies are friggin' morons, more devoted to ass covering than saving lives, but... what about the case of FEMA cutting Jefferson Parish's emergency communications lines? We are now in active malice territory here -- lack of bureaucratic paperwork can't explain this one. The stench is starting to get unreal...

Computer simulations show that the canal levees should not have been overtopped. While it's possible that the simulations are wrong, they correctly predict what happened to the 9th Ward and St. Bernard levees. What happened to the canal levees?

Then, there is literally the question of the bodies. Where are the bodies? News reporters aren't allowed to photograph them. Volunteer funeral directors are told they're not FEMA certified and thus can't help with preparing the bodies. Meanwhile, bodies are hauled off to D-MORT in refrigerated trucks, where they're stacked like cordwood and hidden from view until handled by a company with connections to the Bush Administration that has a history of "losing" bodies.

Finally: What happens to the government and people of New Orleans? Without people, you can't hold elections, and it appears that, when the City of New Orleans runs out of money at the end of this month (stores and restaurants that are underwater don't pay taxes), it will become a de-facto Federal protectorate run under military law... not to mention the now-seemingly-permenant displacement of most of its population, to be replaced, presumably, by fine upstanding Republicans... could we be, in fact, seeing the future of America? Is New Orleans our Jeruseleum circa the Jewish Diaspora (Roman times), to be cleansed of the pesky rebellious native population so that we can replace them with fine upstanding RomansRepublicans loyal to the Emperor?

I don't hold much truck with all the stuff about bombs and such -- anybody who knew New Orleans knew that a Category 4 storm surge hitting levees intended to stop a Category 3 storm surge meant the city was going underwater -- but there's a stench here, one that I can't ferret out, but man it stinks to high heaven...

- Badtux the "What's that smell?" Penguin

"Fuck everybody but me"

Driftglass sums up the Republican party with those four simple words. Says he:

The broader, more descriptive and inclusive ideology that sums up the whole of the GOP – from the NeoCon fascists, to Christopath theocrats to the millions of just plain dumbfuck racists for whose throbbing electoral love the Republican Party gladly lubes itself up spreads ‘em – comes down to four, simple words.

Fuck Everyone But Me.

That’s what being a Republican comes down to in the end.

Those four, little words that mean so much.

The pillars of the Republican Party.

Preach it, Brother Driftglass, preach it!

Anyhow, go read the whole post. He makes a number of good points about the moral bankruptcy of today's Republican Party and the way it panders to the inner monkey rather than to civilized values.

- Badtux the Appreciative Penguin

Bush takes responsibility

Says President Bush, "When Mayor Nagin said he needed MRE's at the Superdome and Convention Center, I thought he meant alligator MRE's..."

Apparently the strategy of blaming the victims (derisively referred to as "Rove vs. Waders" by pundits) only worked with the koolaide-drinkers, and repulsed the majority of Americans...

In other news: Delta and Northwest Airlines mull bankruptcy. Their main goal appears to be to get yet another "one-time" cash infusion from the federal government, in this case by having the federal government take over their pension fund obligations.

Of course, it won't solve their basic problem. There's maybe two dozen routes between major cities in the entire United States where it's possible to make a profit, and the discount airlines are skimming that cream, leaving only the dregs -- the hundreds of routes to smaller airports in "flyover country" -- to the "full service" airlines. See, if I want to fly to, say, the Alexandria (LA) airport, I have two choices -- Delta or Continental. That's it. I can't fly Southwest or Jet Blue or etc., because they don't go there, because you can't make a profit going there. You can't make a profit going there because if you try to raise your fares past a certain point, fewer people fly on your airplane because they put off making the trip or find some other way to get there (maybe fly to the nearest major airport then take a Greyhound bus) and you make less money. The most money you could ever make flying there would be $0. Which is what Southwest and Jet Blue and etc. make from going there (i.e., they don't go there).

So the only way the full-service airlines will *ever* be profitable again would be to abandon flyover country. Which they will, if they stop getting cash infusions from the federal government to go there. But nobody wants to admit this fact. The airlines are afraid that if they admit it, they'll end up like Amtrak, being jerked around like a puppet by politicians, whereas at the moment they're the ones doing the jerking by threatening to abandon flyover country and getting "one-time" bailouts in return because, you see, flyover country has people in it and those people elect Congressmen and those Congressmen don't want to be the ones who have to tell their constituents, "sorry, you're not first-class citizens of the United States with the ability to fly anywhere in the United States, you're second-class citizens who have to take the bus." The Feds don't want to admit it because that raises questions about their religion -- that private enterprise can handle all problems -- and just doesn't fit with their ideology. So everybody kind of nods and winks and pretends.

Of course, interstate transportation is right there in the Constitution as a duty of the federal government (in section 8 clause 7, in case you're wondering). And I fail to see how abandoning 90% of the United States -- the so-called "flyover country" -- as "not good enough for airline service" is conducive to the national welfare. So something permenant is going to have to be done, sooner or later, as the airlines and the Feds run out of excuses for "one-time" bailouts. I'm having trouble figuring out what that permenant solution could be. But then, I'm just a penguin, surely with all these big brains on display in Congress and in the Bush Administration, they could figure out a real solution to the problem. Right? Right?!

- Badtux the Economist Penguin

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

New man has new plan to fix New Orleans

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA Director Mike "Good job, Brownie!" Brown has resigned, and is now being replaced by firefighter David Paulison.

Asked what his plan was for rebuilding New Orleans and assisting those who are now homeless, Mr. Paulison had a simple and pithy recommendation:"Duct tape. And plastic sheeting." He noted that these two substances were not only useful for defending against terror attacks, but also were useful for defending against other terror weapons -- like water, say. At the very least, if the levee broke again, you could make your very own boat using duct tape and plastic sheeting and float to safety.

Asked what his favorite foods were, Mr. Paulison responded "Duct tape. And plastic sheeting." This reporter ended the interview at that point.

In financial news, stocks of Home Depot were up today upon reports of heavy sales of duct tape and plastic sheeting. Reports that new FEMA head David Paulison has stock in Home Depot are thus far uncomfirmed.

And that is the news for today, here from the Department of Homeland Security, where we just finished interviewing new FEMA head David "Duct Tape" Paulison...

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Monday, September 12, 2005

Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Bayou

Today, an unnamed source made it clear why the Bush Administration failed for four days to dispatch U.S. troops to Louisiana in order to save American lives: Governor Kathleen Blanco was a bigger threat to the U.S. Army than Saddam Hussein.

"Look," our informant said. "That lady is scary. What's with that hair, she, like, looks totally butch? And her military... her military is just awesome! We couldn't send the Army in without her permission, the U.S. Army would have been utterly destroyed!"

When asked what military capabilities the State of Louisiana possessed, given that all of the Louisiana National Guard's combat brigades and half of its equipment were in Iraq, our informant flew into a frenzy. "Weapons of Mass Destruction! Weapons of Mass Destruction! I mean, have you ever even SEEN Chef Paul Prudhomme?! Mass, man, mass! And his cooking will clog your arteries, ah guerr-an-tee! Destruction, man, destruction!"

Critics of the Bush Administration point out that Chef Prudhomme evacuated to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where the American Red Cross has had to pull in a dozen semi-trailers of food plus dozens of large tarps in order to keep Chef Paul properly fed and clothed. "This is just ridiculous," said one highly-placed New Orleans official in the Mayor's office who angrily shook his bald head. "Oh sure, Chef Paul didn't serve mushy peas and meatloaf like those crackers up North, but mass destruction? Well, mass, yeah, but destruction? That's B.S.!"

The Governor's office, given 3 minutes to comment, failed to comment before deadline.

And that is our news today. From the Whitehouse, this is Badtux the Snarky Penguin, saying: Good day!

- Badtux the News Penguin

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sept. 11 Parade

The so-called "Freedom March", organized by the U.S. Department of Defense and where only carefully pre-screened acolytes of Dear Leader were allowed to participate, occurred today. Hmm, where have I seen that image before?

War is peace. Death is a Culture of Life. Military rule is freedom. Welcome to 1984+21.

- Badtux the Orwellian Penguin

More bus antics

The "Mayor Nagin failed to execute the evacuation plan" nonsense still permeates the right blogosphere. First of all, some facts:

  1. Mayor Nagin did NOT have the right, under Louisiana law, to confiscate property for use in the evacuation plan. His statement at the news conference that he had the right to do so was pure bluster. Only Governor Blanco had that power.
  2. Mayor Nagin did know that the buses existed, because on June 9, 2005, he requested of the Orleans Parish School Board that they put their bus fleet at his disposal for evacuation use in the event of a hurricane. The request was tabled for later consideration. Due to the fact that the OPSB web server is underwater I don't know whether the School Board ever acted on that request. I doubt it.
  3. However, even if he had dispatched armed officers to seize the buses (which were guarded by OPSD police), there wasn't enough buses there to be worthwhile. Media Matters has documented that there existed approximately 600 usable buses within the city limits of New Orleans, including the OPSB fleet and Nagin's own Regional Transit Authority (note that the RTA provided transportation for middle school and high school students using the normal city buses, so the Orleans Parish School Board had fewer buses than you would expect of a district its size). The nearest high ground is a 3 hour drive away under normal traffic conditions on the three (3) land routes out of New Orleans. According to witnesses, these highways were so crowded with private automobiles that it instead took 7 hours to reach that high ground. Thus the buses would have been able to make at most one trip. Meaning that the *only* way to completely evacuate the 100,000+ people left in the city after those with autos fled was to have 1500+ buses already prepositioned within the city. Which would be difficult even under the best of conditions -- the entire Greyhound Inc. bus fleet is only 1950 buses!
  4. Nagin instead decided to evacuate anybody who couldn't leave on their own to the Superdome, which was designed to withstand 200mph winds, using the existing city bus fleet (which was entirely adequate for that purpose). An article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune describes Nagin setting up 12 neighborhood collection points (note that New Orleans is geographically a fairly small city) from whence people would be carried to the Superdome via the city buses.
  5. Nagin is also faulted for not putting the buses on "high ground" in order to use for Stage II of the evacuation plan he put into place (the one that called for people to be evacuated to the Superdome, and from there to high ground a three hour drive away). The question of what qualifies as "high ground" remains. The City has precious little of that. The riverfront parking garage is mostly below ground (i.e. they would have been swamped there). The upper decks of the Superdome parking garage were well above water, but their exit ramps were under 4 feet of water. The parking garages of most downtown buildings were also below ground and thus under water. The notion of parking them on the elevated freeway is utterly ludicrous -- the winds of a Category 4 hurricane would have tumbled them like chess pieces, completely blocking the freeway and rendering it unusable for the Phase II evacuation. It's unclear where you could park 265 city buses on the surface streets of the French Quarter, about the only "high ground" in the city. I don't know what the final disposition of the city bus fleet was, but given the situation, I really can't fault the mayor for saying "f'it, we'll let the state and the feds figure out how to do stage II if we need it."
All in all, Mayor Nagin's sins here were minor. At best he did not preserve resources that he could have used to help himself after the hurricane passed. Nagin had no control over the levees (they are owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- I have walked those levees, and that's what the signs say, 'Warning: Entering U.S. Government Property'), Nagin didn't have enough buses to evacuate New Orleans before the hurricane hit, and there are undoubtedly people alive today because they were evacuated by what buses he did have to the Superdome and Convention Center who would otherwise be dead. The aftermath was out of Nagin's control -- his city was underwater, his resources were drowned, all he had was a handful of homeless firefighters and police officers to try to handle a huge national disaster. I am puzzled as to what exactly the Republicans hope to gain by attacking Mayor Nagin... he wasn't the one dithering about bureaucratic bullshit while people died. That was Governor Blanco and President Bush. Somebody needed to step up and lead and say "f*** bureaucratic bullshit, I'm going to save those people's lives." Unfortunately, neither Blanco nor Bush did so, and thus hundreds died who should be alive.

- Badtux the Bus Penguin

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Dangerous terrorist spotted in Cincinnati!

The suspect is 12 years old, black, female. Approach with caution. If spotted, be sure to taser her. Make sure she has a school experience she will never forget.

Remember, armed police officers are the only viable approach to dealing with disruptive school children. Things like sending them home, calling parents, etc. are no longer desirable. We must make sure that our children are properly indoctrinated for their proper role in the New American Police State by having plenty of examples of unruly citizenry beaten down into their proper place.

That is all.

-- Badtux the "Children are for tasering" Penguin

Paperwork is more important than lives

Today on the radio I heard a Bush administration offical (I believe it was Homeland Security Director Chertoff) somberly intone that he would have loved to send help to those thousands of starving, dying people in the Superdome and Convention Center, but you know, he just couldn't do it. Because he did not have the proper paperwork from Governor Blanco requesting that he do so (apparently this paperwork from August 27 wasn't the right paperwork, guess the proper t's weren't crossed or something). He somberly intoned that until Governor Blanco got the proper paperwork to him on that Thursday, he just couldn't act to save those lives because, well, he didn't have the proper paperwork.

Remember, paperwork is more important than people's lives. When people are dying, the first thing you should always do is make sure you have the proper paperwork in hand before taking action. Then, and only then, can you act to save lives, even if it takes four days while people are dying for lack of food and water.

Well, at least that, apparently, is how a Bush administration official thinks. Now me, I know that if I see someone dying, I'm not going to give a **** about paperwork, I'm going to do whatever is in my power to save that person's life. But then, that's why I'm a penguin instead of a Bush administration official -- because I actually give a shit about people's lives.

Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Friday, September 09, 2005

My latest scheme to make a million dollars

As you know, diet books are a multi-million dollar industry. I have an idea for a sure-fired best seller, one that I just *know* will sell.

See, here's how the diet goes. You go to a large domed stadium, and stand with 40,000 strangers without food and water for five days. At the end of that five days, I guarantee you will have lost weight, or your money back!

Oh, the title of my book? I call it "The FEMA Diet".

That is all.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

The relief effort in a nutshell

Courtesy of Desi.

That is all.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

FEMA to evacuees: "Go Cheney Yourself"

It has now been reported on WWL Radio New Orleans and other evacuees that FEMA is not going to give emergency help to the hundreds of thousands who have been made homeless by the hurricane. Instead, they're going to issue paper checks -- by mail -- to the permenant mailing addresses of the evacuees. Which, given that said addresses happen to be underwater, is going to do them a whole lot of good, right?

Yet another example of how the Bush Administration is, as Rep. Nancy Pelosi put it, "Oblivious. In denial. Dangerous.".

- Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

My diet is working

I got on the scale last night and found that I have lost 5 pounds over the past week. Which is good. Like most rotund penguins, I carry more fat around than is really good for me.

However, the diet which achieved those results -- a diet of grief, anger, sorrow, and mourning over the fate of a city (New Orleans) that I loved and the people therein, combined with heartbreak and difficulty sleeping -- is not a diet which I recommend.

- Badtux the Grieving Penguin

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Rovian talking point... it's the local's fault

It's the locals, the talking point goes, who denied food and water to their own citizens, because the state Department of Homeland Security wouldn't let the American Red Cross in.

Hmm, let's examine that...

Let's see, on August 28, those notorious liberals at Fox News report that the U.S. government has declared a Federal state of emergency for the affected area:

The president's emergency declaration authorizes the FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and to provide appropriate assistance in a number of Louisiana parishes, or counties.

In other words, the feds OWNED this emergency at that point. The Presidential declaration, according to both that notorious source of Communist disinformation, the FEMA web site, and those liberals at Fox News, gives FEMA the authority to order the American Red Cross to deliver food and water anywhere because they are now in charge of coordinating all disaster relief efforts. Regardless of whether the state Department of Homeland Security was a bunch of incompetent morons or not. (And for the record, I think they are... I've seen their "Colonel" in action on local TV, and he's a freakin moron). The Feds clearly are granted authority to override the locals. And didn't.

Now, the next Rovian talking point is that, well, but FEMA didn't have any food and water to deliver to those poor folks at the convention center and Superdome. Hmm. Let's look at the web site of those liberal America-haters at FEMA again, where we learn:

FEMA is moving supplies of generators, water, ice and food into the region for immediate deployment once the storm passes.

But I mean, what would FEMA know about what FEMA has?

So FEMA says they have that water, ice, and food all ready to go, ready to deploy.

And the FINAL talking point was that FEMA didn't know those people were there. I guess FEMA doesn't watch television. Probably too busy playing golf. It's hard work. Got some wood?

So why was it FOUR DAYS before any of that reached the people at the Superdome and Convention Center? Hmm? Are you saying that FEMA, which has the whole friggin' United States government behind it (I mean, we're talking about the FEDS here, they got the goddamned ATOMIC BOMB!) somehow lacks the power to deliver water, ice, food, and generators, despite a Presidential decree and a law (the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act)) that gives them the power to order around just about anybody or anything in the disaster area?

I'm sorry. This just doesn't pass the giggle test. FEMA had the authority to order the Red Cross to deliver food and water. FEMA had its own food and water that it had the authority (under Presidential order) to deliver anywhere in the affected region. There's no excuse -- NO excuse -- for FEMA failing to do that for FOUR DAYS while hundreds died of lack of food, water, and medicine.

- Badtux the Fact-finding Penguin

Those fine old days of the antebellum South

Thinking about it, the whole "they're better off" meme has disturbing resonances with the whole "the nigras was better off under slavery" meme, which was common in the American South prior to, say, the mid 1970's, when doyennes of the Daughters of the Confederacy would rant about how that mean Abraham Lincoln stole their slaves and how the black people were better off under slavery because at least then they were valuable property and thus were cared for and given medical attention, unlike today, when they're disposable goods, and they'd rant about how Abraham Lincoln was a dictator who destroyed the best place ever, God's land, the antebellum South of graceful plantation homes and happy darkies singing in the fields...

Then I hear about military recruiters having a job fair next Wednesday in the Astrodome. In a place full of desperate, now-jobless people. And I wonder: in the aftermath of Katrina, has the Bush Administration finally figured out a way to fill the ranks of the U.S. Army without a draft? I.e., by taking a bunch of people who've lost everything, and giving them a choice of either starving to death on the streets, or joining the Army?

Granted, the above is only a rumor at a web site with a poor reputation for accuracy (to say the least!). But I don't think it's an accident that this rumor would exist. Even in today's "enlightened" times, there are those who pine for those good old days of the antebellum South, where men were gentlemen and darkies were, well, slaves. Given that a military man is basically a slave to the United States Government for the term of his enlistment (or until the government feels like letting them leave), with no Constitutional rights, no ability to move about as will and change jobs and live a normal life... what better form of slavery than one that the person "voluntarily" subjects himself to?

Ah yes, those good ole' days of the antebellum south, when white folk were in charge and darkies were, well, slaves. It's 1855 all over again! Because, y'know, them nigras will just be better off under slavery, yessiree...

- Badtux the Historian Penguin

The new meme: They're better off

Former first lady Barbara Bush trotted it out first. Now the right wing babboon squad is heartily flinging feces big time. People like Charmaine Neville are better off. I mean, what's a little rape or two between neo-cons, anyhow? People like Fats Domino are better off now that their homes have been destroyed and a lifetime's worth of memorabilia turned into rubble. They're better off to be crowded into auditoriums instead of being in their own homes, they're better off being held behind barbed wire in veritable concentration camps. They're better off as prisoners for five months in isolated locations. They're better off being fenced in like animals than they were in their humble homes in New Orleans. They're better off.

And you know what? It's going to work. It's going to work because it is what the two legged hairless apes that are the American people want to hear. It's going to work because they WANT someone to lie to them, to tell them that everything is okay, that there's no need to worry, no need to rouse youself from your pathetic little life of defecating and fornicating and masticating and accumulating shiny baubles of no import, no need to help other than maybe sending a check to the Red Cross. People WANT to believe, deep down in the monkey instinct that is the heart of every one of the naked apes called "human beings". So they will. So they will.

Sometimes I wonder whether being a penguin in a time of chimpanzees is a curse.

- Badtux the Non-Chimpanzee Penguin


As the right-wing spinners play "blame the victims" like a pack of baboons frantically flinging feces, all the way saying "lets' not play the blame game"...

Enough. I am sick at heart. I have not slept well for over a week. Now that my outrage has died down some, one step back says that the right wingers will succeed in convincing the majority of the American people that those who died and those who had much-needed help delayed for four days (while FEMA bureaucrats slapped themselves on their backs for a "job well done") are the ones responsible for the aweful things that happened to them. Because, you see, the majority of people want to believe that. They want to believe that their government, that they elected, is there to help and protect them, and that if it didn't happen, it's someone else's fault, maybe the fault of those savages shooting at helicopters (so far one such "savage" has been found, a drug-addled felon who was not even in New Orleans when he did it), maybe the fault of the cities states involved, but not the fault of their government, which is wise and helpful and never would do such a thing.

See, that's the easy answer. It's the answer that says, "I don't have to do anything." If it's all those OTHER people's fault, all that OTHER bunch of hairless babboons' fault, then why disturb myself and try to help them? They are now "them", other, not worthy of consideration as human beings. And thus I can wipe them out of my conciousness and not worry myself about them anymore.

In short, the response of America to the right wing noise machine is making clear that the majority of Americans *want* the government we have, which tells them comforting things and strokes their inner monkey, gives them an Other to hate, tells them soothing lies, lies that they are good people and helpful people and that they never do evil and that all is okay, lies that allow them to go back to their pathetic lives of fornicating and defecating and masticating and accumulating shiny baubles of no import feeling good about themselves, lies that they are God's people, the Chosen people, and that everybody else is... what? Just untermenschen, sub-human, that's all. No need to worry about them, no need to help them, because they're not human, really, right?

As a penguin, this does not work on me, of course. Penguins don't have monkey instincts to be massaged by the howling screeching feces-flinging monkeys of the right-wing noise machine. But that is not going to stop the rest of America from writing these people who lost everything out of their collective conciousness. After all, blaming the victim is the American way. It wasn't rape, because she really wanted it, y'know?

-- Badtux the Sickened Penguin

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The violence at the convention center

Apparently consisted of a woman leading the crowd in reciting the 23rd Psalm. At least, that is all that a reporter reported that he saw with his own two eyes. But hey, that's not exciting, so let's report all these rumors as if they're fact, it's not like our viewers would know the difference, right?

That is all.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

What was FEMA's role, anyhow?

One of the areas of confusion appears to be FEMA's role in this whole fiasco. FEMA's job was/supposedly is to coordinate the relief effort -- not to provide the relief effort. Traditionally, FEMA itself did not have assets. FEMA relied on the National Guard, the American Red Cross, the U.S. Military, and local first responder assets. Now FEMA has access to Department of Homeland Security assets, but that is supposed to be secondary to its coordinating role.

I've lived through several Louisiana hurricanes in the past. Each parish's designated Emergency Response Center got a FEMA guy with a radio so that they could always communicate with FEMA. All resources registered with FEMA, whether it was a school board with buses and schools, the Red Cross, the military, or the National Guard, with numbers and location of assets. Then once the disaster was over, FEMA reps in the field talked with the first responders on the spot, assessed needs, then went to their list of assets and, e.g., notified the National Guard that they needed X soldiers here, Y soldiers there, notified the Red Cross that they needed shelters set up in location A and location B for people displaced by the hurricane, etc. By 24 hours out, assistance had reached everybody who needed assistance, and FEMA largely bowed out insofar as their field responsibilities went, and instead shifted into a monetary assistance role, providing monetary assistance to those who'd lost property and governments that needed to e.g. hire a bunch of trucks to haul debris away.

I'm not sure what failed here, but it is clear that FEMA's coordinating function didn't work. There appears to have been at least three major problems that I observed:

  1. FEMA did a poor job of registering assets, apparently relaying the information to their center in Atlanta where it was keypunched into a computer, rather than the information being available to people in the field who would be able to look at the list of assets and say, "Oh, I know! Those 400 buses that the Orleans Parish School Board has, we could move those to high ground before the waters rise and use them to evacuate people after the hurricane!".
  2. Secondly, people registered their assets to FEMA, but FEMA had nobody in the field at the parish Emergency Response Centers with radios, so they got no requests for assets. Rather than sending runners or guys in choppers to the Emergency Response Centers to see why they weren't getting requests, they instead decided that everything was okay (no news is good news, right?), and spent three days congratulating each other and slapping each other on the back on a job well done, while vitally-needed resources sat idle.
  3. Because their stupid computer told them that no assets were needed (because they failed in their job of maintaining communications with the parish emergency response centers), they turned away volunteers and material coming in from the outside. And because they're now part of the Department of Homeland Security, they had armed DHS agents to "secure the perimeter" and turn that aid away.
Then the shit hit the fan when their non-response became THE issue...

In short: FEMA used to work, albeit often haphazardly (the volunteers often were not well trained, resources often did not get efficiently dispatched because they were being managed by guys in the field off of clipboards). But at least the resources DID get dispatched, even if a shelter with 5 people got 20 porta-potties and a shelter with 500 people only got five porta-potties. Let's face it, inefficiently-dispatched resources are better than NO resources. Which is what the New Orleans area got for FOUR FREAKIN' DAYS in the aftermath of this disaster, as FEMA completely dropped the ball.

- Badtux the Louisiana Penguin