EVENT - The Band Played On

This page is a little tedious, but I felt it necessary.  If you do not, then skip to the analysis on the next page.
This page is full of sarcasm.  If your sarcasm meter is broken, then skip this page.

Timeline: Monday, August 29, 2005,  6:00 AM CDT
Setting: South East Louisiana, a stage upon which a marvelous drama is about to unfold.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to tonight's show!  We've got an exciting line up for you this evening, so everyone order a drink get ready to relax and enjoy yourselves.  As you know, we've been preparing for this show for a long time.  While you're waiting for your drinks, let me tell you a little about what we've done here to set up tonight's entertainment - because nobody has ever seen a show like this one, and it took a lot of work to make sure it could happen!

I don't have time to tell you everything folks, so let me just start with the last ten years.  Going back to...oh...May of 1995.  That was when Congress authorized SELA, the US Army Corps of Engineersí Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control project.  After nearly 500 million dollars of federal and state money is poured into storm and hurricane mitigation, nobody bothers to appropriate the last $250 million for critical projects needed to complete it. 

On October 13, 2001 federal officials decided to postpone SELA projects because, "federal budget constraints and the cost of the war on terrorism may create a financial pinch for the program."

Al Naomi pipes up in February of 2004.  After we managed to cut his budget, Al (the project manager for the Corps of Engineers) told CityBusiness magazine, "The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink. Iíve got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be. Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And weíre going to have to pay them interest."

In April of 2004, we received the happy report that, "less money is available to the Army Corps of Engineers to build levees and water projects in the Mississippi River valley this year and next year." We even pulled one engineer off Louisiana wetlands restoration - an important hurricane protection project - to oversee a $100 million study of wetland restoration in the Tigris-Euphrates valley in Iraq.

In June of that year, Walter Maestri - the Emergency Management Chief for Jefferson Parish - noted, "It appears that the money has been moved in the presidentís budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose thatís the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees canít be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us." 

I'm happy to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that we have Mr. Maestri with us tonight!


Not to be out-done by Mr. Maestri, the next day FEMA announced a new contract with Innovative Emergency Management, Inc. "a Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant," to "lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans." (As if there wasn't one already!)  While this sounds like a serious impediment to our show, IEM, Inc. is a key GOP campaign donor and can be expected to help us out.  (Nudge, nudge.  Wink, wink.)  The first phase of the project is "to complete a functional exercise on a catastrophic hurricane strike in Southeast Louisiana and use results to develop a response and recovery plan." (As if we didn't already know what was going to happen!)

Barely a month later, the "Hurricane Pam," disaster simulation provided a near spoiler of our show tonight.  It reads very much like the program sitting your your tables:

Working groups came up with a comprehensive set of plans, and the data goes all the way to FEMA, which quickly begins work on a national plan taking the magnitude of the potential catastrophe into account. Many meetings are held.  Follow-up activity is scheduled for late 2004 or early 2005, to formalize the final hurricane plan and send it to the state for adoption.  Praise the Lord that this is abruptly cancelled due to lack of funding!

Not only were we blessed by that happy fortune, but just 23 days ago CityBusiness magazine reported that the New Orleans district of the US Army Corps of Engineers will have a $71.2 million budget reduction for fiscal year 2006. This is the largest single year reduction ever! We are happy to tell you that the district has declared a hiring freeze for the first time in 10 years.

Despite all the dangers, ladies and gentlemen, our show will go on tonight as planned!  Even all the plans to try to prevent it wouldn't have been in place until 2015 anyway - even with proper funding and oversight - so as you see, there really was never any danger at all. 


Even so, we still want to thank President Bush and his administration, which just seven days ago defunded all the studies for the design and budgeting for finally raising the levees and ordered the Army Corps of Engineers not to begin any work.  A little late, but they did come through!


Enough of the setup, folks!  Let's talk about tonight's lineup!  First up on tonight's show is Mister Go.  Some of you have heard of Mister Go, but for those who have been living in a hole for the last forty years, here's a little history for you:

Mister Go, aka MRGO, aka the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, first made his debut in Washington DC when he was proposed as a 76 mile channel to provides a shorter route between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans's port.  Resisted by many people as a bad idea, politics and money made sure that Mister Go's show was funded by Congress in the River and Harbor Act of 1956.  Mister Go opened his new show in 1965.  Mister Go is also a cunning plan to allow as much water from the storm surge of a major hurricane to enter St. Bernard Parish as possible.  Let's hear it for Mister Go!


After that, boys and girls, we'll hear from the world famous Albert Baldwin Wood and his the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board players!  Unfortunately Mr. Wood could not attend this evening due to a slight case of death, but we're sure that the S&WB players won't disappoint you!


Governor BlancoWe also have with us this evening, Governor Kathleen Blanco.  She declared a State of Emergency in Louisiana on Friday.  It is commonly known that Mrs. Blanco is just the public face of the real Governor - her husband.  Even so, she will be one of the stars of this show, continually encouraging all of us to pray.  All through the show she's gonna dance for you folks.  She's gonna issue orders, suspend laws, and perform all the most outrageous acts for your amusement and edification! 


No second place to Mrs. Blanco is our next star - a man you will see again and again as our little show goes off.  Clarence Ray Nagin, Jr. is a man of so many talents that is impossible to know where to begin.  A conservative businessman, he did an expedient  political flip-flop to become the Mayor.  He came out strong against corruption, and after one or two encouraging campaigns was obviously bought off by somebody because we never heard another peep about corruption after a point.  As Hurricane Ivan threatened in 2004, C. Ray told us all to be ready for the storm, preferably to evacuate with some "Benjamins" ($100 bills) handy, and told those of us staying to stock up on food and water and have "an axe in the attic." He issued a voluntary evacuation order, and 600,000 people left.  Ivan missed us, but the show was entertaining - but not as entertaining as this one is going to be!

For our show, C. Ray calls for a mandatory evacuation - and that's where the hilarity begins.  Not only does he issue a mandatory evacuation, he also fails or refuses to use any available transportation options to move sick, elderly, or poor people out of danger.  Instead, he provides the Superdome as a 'shelter of last resort' and sets us up for an entire act of our tragedy.  Why, without C. Ray, this show wouldn't be nearly as dramatic!  Come on, ya'll!  Give it up for Ray-Ray!


Michael ChertoffOur next entertainer was very hard to find, ladies and gentlemen.  The man who helped give us the Patriot Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the man voted most resembling Skeletor, a man whose name means 'devil' in Russian...I give you...Michael Chertoff!  He won't bother to do his job and declare an "incident of national significance," because he knows that the national significance status kicks in as soon as the president declared the emergency.  Unfortunately, he seems to be the only one who knows this!  As you see in this photo, he is adept at various kinds of hand magic, and will entertain us periodically through the show.  Let's hear it for Mike!


Of course, the show wouldn't be complete without Skeletor's... ah...Mike's boss - a man who needs no intro - The President of the United States!  Unfortunately he doesn't do much and isn't that entertaining, but we'll have to forgive him for that.  He's got war on his mind, and war is a heavy thing ladies and gentlemen. 

He does, in fact, declare an emergency in Louisiana for the parishes shown in red in the image below.

What the f*$k happened to the Gulf Coast?

The list does NOT include Orleans, St. Bernard, Jefferson, or any other parishes in South Louisiana - which is where the show takes place.  There is NO federal state of emergency in the southern parishes.

I have to be fair, though, folks that the next day Mrs. Blanco asked Mr. President to fix that.  

"The affected areas are all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor that are accepting the thousands of citizens evacuating from the areas expecting to be flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina."

She even sent a message to the White House through FEMA:

"Pursuant to 44 CFR ß 206.35, I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster. I am specifically requesting emergency protective measures, direct Federal Assistance, Individual and Household Program (IHP) assistance, Special Needs Program assistance, and debris removal."

The pissing contest that follows is part of the show, so I won't spoil it just now.  It's one of the few things that Mrs. Blanco actually got right.  Let's just say that after this, Mr. President issued statements on Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, but not Louisiana. 


No, no!  Mr. Long!  Sit down!  It's not your turn yet!  Sit DOWN, Huey! 

Pardon the interruption, folks.  At this point, let's go ahead and introduce Mr. Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center.  He started calling everywhere a few days ago talking crazy talk about how, "This was it!  This is the big one!"  Well, Max couldn't join us tonight - but he was right - This IS it!  His buddy Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center and the same genius that ran the Hurricane Pam predictions started making the rounds too.  He said all kinds of crazy stuff too...but you know what folks?  He's right too!  In the middle, Max took time out of his busy schedule to have a video conference with Mr. President, who was on vacation in Crawford, Texas.


There are a few more people we would like to recognize tonight.  Mr. Marty Bahamonde, for one.  Marty is the FEMA regional director for New England.  Through some wild misfortune, Marty got stuck in New Orleans - making him the sole FEMA representative in the city.  A little more than 13 hours ago, we intercepted his email to David Passey, Region 6 FEMA Director.  His email says, in part, "Issues developing at the Superdome. 2000 already in and more standing in line. ... The medical staff at the dome says they will run out of oxygen in about 2 hours and are looking for alternative oxygen."   Eleven hours ago, he sent out a group email, and we've got that one too!  It says, "The current population at the Superdome in New Orleans is 25,000. That's a large crowd during a normal event. Among the shelter population are 400 special needs evacuees and 45-50 sick individuals who require hospitalization. The on-hand oxygen supply will likely run out in the next few hours. According to the ... [health and medical services] folks, the local health officials have struggled to put meaningful resource requests together."  Marty is a real trooper folks, and we'll be hearing from him again.  Let's show him some support!


Less than ten hours ago, Dave sent an email back to Marty that said, "Our intel is that neither the ... [Oklahoma DMAT medical team] nor the public health officers staged in Memphis will make it to the Superdome tonight. Oxygen supply issue has not been solved yet either."


Four hours ago The Department of Homeland Security sent a report to the White House Situation Room with a warning that flooding "could leave the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months," and also that damage would run into the tens of billions.


Two Hours ago Jefferson Parish emergency manager Walter Maestri reports from the operations center that he has no reports of wind damage or tidal surge problems, though he also notes that the pumping of water from New Orleans is raising the levels of drainage canals to dangerous stages.

One hour ago Kenner Police Department pulled its officers off the street.  (Kenner is a few miles west of New Orleans)

It is now 6:00 AM on Monday, August 29th, ladies and gentlemen.  Our show will begin in ten minutes.  There will be no intermission.  Please take your seats and enjoy the show!  Do hold on to your hats.  It may be windy in the theatre.



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