Monday, September 19, 2005

Spectacular tales of malfeasance here, as well as a particularly idiotic quote from Ray Nagin. Dude, you have to do something about that constant hard-on. Stand down, Hoss!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

YOU DO NOT QUESTION KARL ROVE. JUST DON'T. Oh, and personal to Roger Williams: Does Karl pay extra to ride you bareback, or is that just considered professional courtesy?

Friday, September 16, 2005

What the fuck is this? And Chuck DeWitt's name on it? Is this the real Chuck DeWitt or that wingnut from the politicsla.com forum? (I can hardly stand to go over there any more.) Just for the record, it's full of lies, misstatements, and, according to Oyster, plaigiarism as well. Nice job, "Chuck"! The reality of her performance isn't enough for you? You had to ham-fistedly piece together paragraph from articles you don't understand and avoid any mention of, oh, I don't know, this? Or this? Whatever, Dude. I'm sure this will get traction right after Bill Clinton gets convicted of murdering all of those State Troopers. I emailed the "real" "Chuck" to see what his take is. Very important article here from almost two weeks ago. Includes one of the first mentions in the mainstream press of the Universal Task List. Thinkprogress has some responses to Bush's speech, some more well thought out and substantial than others. Maybe I'm not as cynical about the speech as everyone else is, maybe because I heard a couple of actual promises (although I didn't hear any ways to fund those promises). So I say, hold him to those promises, crush anyone who stands in the way (I'm looking at you, Sensenbrenner), and if he fails to come through with a single promise, stage a fucking coup. Oh hell. Maybe I'm just tired and want to believe something good will come out of this "reconstruction" (nice choice of words, there, monkeyboy). Maybe I forgot that monkeyboy put Karl Rove in charge of the whole project. Isn't that reassuring? Karl Rove, who spun the breathtakingly inept federal response back at the state and local level. Karl Rove, traitor. Oh, this is going to be jolly just JOLLY.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The first transitional Suspect Device cartoon is up in the usual place. This marks the beginning of a shift from Louisiana-only to National topics, although I imagine there will be a few more focused on this INHUMAN SHITSTORM we're currently living in. Senate Republicans voted down the proposed independent Katrina Response Investigation. The vote was along part lines, and every republican voted against the investigation -- with the exception of our own David Vitter, who has been openly critical of the federal response. Dave didn't bother to vote at all. Here is what looks like a typical USA Today article, but look closer.
She says that two days after Katrina, desperate for help, she couldn't get through to Bush and didn't get a callback; hours later, she tried again, and they talked.
vs.
Barbour hasn't had to wait hours to talk to Bush. In fact, Barbour said in an interview with USA TODAY, the president called him three to four times in the wake of Katrina. "I never called him. He always called me," he said.
Guess which Governor is the Republican? Get ready for the New New South. I think I need a bathroom break. So does Tom Coburn. His head's getting full. Filling out our starting lineup of stinking treacherous hypocritical evil pus-sucking weasels is James Sensenbrenner, one of only 11 reps to vote against aid to Katrina victims. He's the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and yesterday decided that the monumental bankruptcy law passed earlier this year will not be revisited -- even in the light of the probably massive number of bankruptcy claims coming in the wake of the hurricane. Guess what party he belongs to. Go ahead, guess. (Via 2millionth)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

In the Wake of Poseidon: How it all continued to go wrong Part 1: The Hurricane Pam exercise in 2004 ended with a brace of big ideas and an honest feeling of hope. Emergency management professionals and responders from around Louisiana had finally sat down with each other and representatives from FEMA, the Red Cross, and other agencies, and begun the process of communication: assessing capabilities, defining needs, and planning for the big one. So what happened? It's easy to understand where the big plans went; the same place all big plans go. Hatching a plan to dismiss LSU for a semester or more and turn the campus into a giant tent city-triage unit, or to bring in fleets of Army transport planes to relocate evacuees, checks in hand, to any state where they cared to go, or to construct brand new temporary towns -- all of it sounded great, big strides being made, why didn't we do this sooner, etc. With everyone at the conference in the full flush of excitement, the monstrous logistical problems inherent to most of the Pam plans were glossed over by the planners -- all of that was to be ironed out later or modified accordingly, to be fair --or waved on through by FEMA reps. Even if the second Pam conference had taken place on time, there would not have been enough time or cooperation or money to put the large-scale plans into operation. These plans may (or may not) be feasilbe, and should be considered as part of future planning, but their (temporary) loss into the secret FEMA files really doesn't factor into the atrocious response to Katrina: we would have been stuck with a modified version of the existing plan in any event. There were more reasonable plans made at Pam, of course; less ambitious, more detailed suggestions for for search and rescue operations, mobilization of volunteers, medical care, even dewatering (or unwatering, if you want to be perfectly accurate and a pedantic little turd). Many of these plans could have been adopted with very little difficulty and for very little cost -- but Pam was a package, and when the feds decide to ignore something and the state decides not to care, well, baby, bathwater, you do the math. There have been some jumpy moves in the press and the blog world regarding FEMA's decision to "outsource" disaster planning. It would be nice, I suppose, to have an agency so well-funded and staffed that they could complete each and every aspect of their mission in-house, but I doubt it would ever happen. Privatization is everywhere, it's not going away, and I don't think it's evil per se -- I'd much rather see a company like IEM, which designed the Pam exercise, coordinating such planning than the unresponsive and bureaucratically hobbled leviathan that FEMA has become. IEM put that program together in a little over a month; can you imagine how long it would take FEMA to put together a similar exercise on their own? They couldn't order the fucking pastries in less than a fiscal year. Where IEM -- where everyone involved -- faltered is in feeding the hubris required to think a working statewide plan involving the coordination of local, state, and federal resources (not to mention the evacuation, rescue, and care of 100,000 people) could be whipped up in two week-long conferences. The creation of a comprehensive plan is a tremendous undertaking, obviously more complicated than FEMA was willing to pay and allow time for; IEM, which has always been loathe to turn down work, no matter how thinly their own resources are stretched, was certainly not going to argue with $500k (or whatever it was) under any circumstances. So, like Watterson's Calvin ignoring his homework for action-packed fantasy, the Pam attendees got carried away by the fairy dust (apparently a schedule II opiate) and ignored the existing plans, both NOLA and statewide-- plans so inadequate as to necessitate the very conference which ignored them -- in favor of starting from zero and creating an entirely new response plan. I said before that good things came out of Pam, and they did, but those good things seem to have been ignored in the face of this real disaster. Even the old, crippled plan was forgotten as fast as a soliloquy in a high school Hamlet. Bad things came out of Pam, too; the most significant of which are the over-reliance on FEMA and the learned inability to adapt and configure response efforts based on ground conditions. A plan is great, gotta have a plan, but FEMA apparently (I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here, and assuming they're not just cruel and/or perniciously vegetative) was working from a plan when they turned back supplies, transportation, and assistance. The state was working from the plan when they sat and waited for those 700 buses to show up. Plans are a starting point, not the end-all inviolate script. What Pam shows me most clearly is 1) that planning, while absolutely necessary, can lull the planner into a false sense of security if the plan isn't tied to demonstrated ability; 2) that plans are not a substitute for creative thought and operational flexibility; and 3) that the single greatest asset that was granted to Pam attendees was the first, most completely, and most tragically ignored: communication. The Pam conference brought together the people who would actually be on the front lines and let them collaborate, creating plans and recommendations from a first-hand knowledge and experience. When the second Pam conference was cancelled, those newly opened avenues of communication vanished as fast as the phantom satellite phones that were so often mentioned curing the planning sessions. When Katrina finally bitchslapped Louisiana back into reality, the absence -- not only of the physical means of communication, but of the institutional knowledge of the avenues, structures, and purpose of communication from a centralized command-and-control office to responders in the field -- was the beginning of the horrifically inept response on every level: local, state, and federal. Next: Communication Breakdowns, Response, Recovery, and Business Continuity
Oh yeah and: Hello fellow pinko-com-symps from The Majority Report. In other news, I've decided to try and repurpose my previously-Louisiana-only, ran for-eight-years, four-NOLA-Press-Club-Award-winning, Lousiana-Press-Association-Award-winning, AAN-Award-Nominated (goddamn Chris Ware), Ted-Rall-book-featured political comic strip, also coincidentally called Suspect Device as a national strip. First national interest version will be up at the site tomorrow, and I'll be mailing it off to potentially interested parties today. Anyone else in the legitimate money-paying publishing business who is interested can contact me, through comments or email at greg at sign suspect-device.com.
Quick one: Let's get something clear, because it's starting to irritate me: the levees in New Orleans did not breach or break. The levees are intact. When I mentioned in an earlier post that no one foresaw levees breaking (as opposed to overflowing), that's because levees are enormous mounds of reinforced earth fifty feet wide at the bottom. They can overflow, but breaching is highly unlikely. What did break in NOLA were canal floodwalls, much smaller, steel-and-concrete structures much more likely to be damaged by some kind of impact or extreme pressure. And here's the part that irritates me: Yes, the levees are the responsibility of the thoroughly inept and historically corrupt NOLA levee district, not the federal government. But the levees didn't break. The floodwalls on the outfall canals did, and the canals are the joint responsibility of the levee board, the NOLA sewerage and water and the Corps of Engineers. This canal work was put on hold when federal funding was cut. Okay? The levees did not break, and what did break is not the sole responsibility of the levee district -- it's also a federal responsibility. EDIT: In the blizzard of contradictory reports, I may have missed news of the storm surge overflowing the levees. I don't know if that happened or not; I wouldn't be surprised. But overflow is not the same as a breach, and those pictures we've all seen on the news were of floodwall breaches, not levee breaches. Despite what nearly every published report says. C'mon: these people aren't from here. They don't know the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine, or Jambalaya and Dirty Rice, or Zydeco versus Cajun music; they think the Atchafalaya swamp is a quick swim from the CBD and that everyone in NOLA has a French accent. I doubt they could tell a levee from a coulee without flashcards. "Levee" just sounds more southern, so that's what gets used instead of boring old "floodwalls." Okay, fine. They breached. First floodwalls, then levees.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Working on a long, involved post. But I had to drop this in, since I missed it the other day: "Most of the red tape and problems have been at the state level. I have to say that the federal response has been focused on New Orleans with search and rescue operations which is going very, very well at this stage. But we've had a completely ineffectual state response and this is being borne by the local communities to help now. and I have asked the president to take this into consideration, consider that the state response is completely ineffectual and the full range of social and health care needs needs to be met." Yeah, I'll say. Hey, ain't you the gomer that got suckered out of thousands of dollars on a phony English upper-crust title? You sure change your mind a lot for a Faux-Viscount, or whatever you are. From the NYT:
"An Acadian crew also commandeered several tractor-trailer trucks to evacuate nearby Charity Hospital. The trucks brought the patients to the company's medical triage center at the Superdome. Dr. Ross Judice, chief medical officer for Mr. Zuschlag's operation, said he arrived at the Superdome at noon Tuesday with a team of about 20 medical volunteers. A federal disaster medical assistance team was already on the scene, tending to the most seriously injured, and a state medical officer was there, too. But few of these officials were communicating with each other, Dr. Judice said."
There was a medical triage center near the superdome? A fed medical assistance team at the dome as well? Hmm. What the fuck, people:
The governor of Louisiana was "blistering mad." It was the third night after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco needed buses to rescue thousands of people from the fetid Superdome and convention center. But only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived.Ms. Blanco burst into the state's emergency center in Baton Rouge. "Does anybody in this building know anything about buses?" she recalled crying out. They were an obvious linchpin for evacuating a city where nearly 100,000 people had no cars. Yet the federal, state and local officials who had failed to round up buses in advance were now in a frantic hunt. It would be two more days before they found enough to empty the shelters.
As for his plans, Mr. Brown, in an interview with The Associated Press, said: "I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep. And then I'm going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims."Nobody go in Brownie's office! He's cranky from his hangover and farting up a shitstorm! Time to polish that resume, Mike. So to speak. Plenty of blame to go around, right? Make sure the Red Cross gets their share -- but don't forget who gets the biggest slice of the pie.
Welcome readers from Kos, AndrewSullivan.com, and titusonenine. I'll have some updates later today. Feel free to poke around here and at my site, home of my waterlogged comic.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Gretna Police Chief blocks undesirables from despoiling his cute little white village. I have no patience with people like you any more, Arthur. Just shoot yourself in the head, ascend to Valhalla, and get out of my fucking way. I'm guessing the final SELA death toll will be around 3-5000. No idea about MS and Alabama.
Rick Santorum, without question the stupidest motherfucker on this or any other planet, says that the National Weather Service advisories leading up to Katrina were "insufficient":
U.S. Senator Rick Santorum is suggesting that early mistakes in predicting the path of Hurricane Katrina may be a symptom of lost focus at the National Weather Service. Santorum, who introduced legislation earlier this year to curb the output of government weather forecasters, says tracking life-threatening weather must be central to what the agency is doing. ... Asked about Katrina by WITF, Santorum described weather service warnings for Florida, where the storm first made landfall, as “not sufficient." Santorum’s bill instructs the government to abandon weather prediction and data reporting efforts that duplicate private-sector activity. He came under fire when it was revealed that the head of State College-based AccuWeather, which would benefit, has given his campaigns thousands of dollars.
I don't know about warnings for Florida (I don't recall Katrina doing a lot of damage in Florida, but I take a lot of medicine), but the warnings for Louisiana were MORE than sufficient. They were downright panicy. Ahem:
Urgent Weather Message from NWS New Orleans WWUS74 KLIX 281550NPWLIXURGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA 1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005 DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED HURRICANE KATRINAA MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH...RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969. MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. ATLEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL.PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE...INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE. HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY...A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT. AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD...AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATEADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS...PETS... AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK. POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING... BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEWCROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BEKILLED.AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEARHURRICANE FORCE...OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE.. .ARECERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS.ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ONSET...DO NOT VENTUREOUTSIDE!LAZ038-040-050-056>070-282100-ASSUMPTION-LIVINGSTON-LOWER JEFFERSON-LOWER LAFOURCHE-LOWER PLAQUEMINES-LOWER ST. BERNARD-LOWER TERREBONNE-ORLEANS-ST. CHARLES-ST. JAMES-ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST-ST. TAMMANY-TANGIPAHOA-UPPER JEFFERSON-UPPER LAFOURCHE-UPPER PLAQUEMINES-UPPER ST. BERNARD-UPPER TERREBONNE-1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005
All that's missing is "Roving bands of Negro youths, high on crack and sporting rock-hard dicks, can be expected to maraud in white areas. Menstruating women may wish to take precautions."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Quick postings on the news: Has anyone ever noticed that whenever someone -- columnist, TV clown, or addled-letter-to-the-editor writer -- starts off by saying that NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO PLAY THE BLAME GAME they can't resist throwing in a couple of chips anyway? Me, I don't have any problem with the blame game, since there's so much blame piling up at the dropoff points that it's going to take forever to get it all distributed to those who are still struggling along without adequate blame. Jeez, if I still had a weekly cartoon, I'd use that as a topic. Red cross fucking up too? That's unpossible! Christ, why should anybody be exempt from stunned, cow-like immobility and mass cyanotic unresponsiveness? Why should anyone put the safety and welfare of endangered people above red tape and proper filing techniques? Sure, Red Cross, you can have some blame! I'll just PULL THE FUCKING TRUCK AROUND. "As soon as Barb gets back from Office Depot with my White-Out and sticky notes, we'll just jump right up and get this gosh darn old relief money processed quick like a bunny, so you just have a seat in the waiting room and we'll call you, okay Hon?" Presidential Declaration of Emergency mentioned only Cenla and North Louisiana parishes. What? Shoot looters, but gas gougers get the Conservative pundit seal of approval. This article is particularly -- I was going to say ignorant, but I think the author knows exactly what he's doing, so I'll just call it brazen and preposterous: "That’s why the first thing we notice about price controls is that they lead to shortages. Price to the left of the intersection of the supply-and-demand curve and you are guaranteed to vaporize whatever you are attempting to keep inexpensive. It happened in 1973 when President Nixon imposed price controls on oil — gasoline lines were the result. It happened in 2000/2001 when California Governor Gray Davis refused to lift retail price controls on electricity — blackouts soon followed." That was Enron, you revisionist pig. Jesus. Speaking of revisionism, Media Matters has a good spin round up here.
More DeLay hypocrisy, although that's hardly news. What needs to be mentioned here is DeLay's mistaken idea -- we'll be generous and say mistaken and idea, as opposed to craven, self-serving and lie -- that state and local authorities should only call FEMA after all their resources have been exhausted, which is R-O-N-G wrong. State and local officials are supposed to call FEMA IMMEDIATELY when disaster looms, so that supplies can be prestaged (that is, transported as close to the effected area as is safely possible, usually while the disaster is still going on. Prestaging is like failsafe; when the supplies move into staging areas, they're talking about distribution points). Don't let DeLay's misstatement become a talking point: In the event of an emergency, local and state officials are supposed to contact FEMA as soon as possible. That's been FEMA's stated position. The National Response Plan does say that emergencies are to be handled at the lowest jurisdiction possible, but it also makes clear that
When an incident or potential incident is of such severity, magnitude, and/or complexity that it is considered an Incident of National Significance according to the criteria established in this plan, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with other Federal departments and agencies, initiates actions to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the incident. These actions are taken in conjunction with State, local, tribal, nongovernmental, and private-sector entities as appropriate to the threat or incident.
So let's shut down this "It wasn't the Fed's job and your democrat I mean governor should have squee frap honk gibber tweet." Like the consies all say, there'll be plenty of blame to go around -- but some people are going to be getting bigger helpings than others. Hey, remember that new law that was going to make it harder to declare bankruptcy? It's about to kick in! Hahahahahaha! TAKE IT ALL, BITCH! Every inch of my love! Maybe we can get Santorum's "Fine the Survivors" idea signed into law and then we can all take turns pissing on you after we're done, you know, back there.Military shutting down media access to NOLA.Now why would they do that.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

News from New Orleans, the World's Largest Potemkin Village: Firefighters from around the country used as "community relations" flacks and human props for George Bush while the people of South Louisiana starve, drown, and die. Brown and Chertoff got extensive briefings on Katrina before landfall. Why does this remind me of that wonderous exchange from "A Fish Called Wanda":
Otto: Apes don't read philosophy. Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it.
Well, it's a good thing Brown and Chertoff were kept up-to-date, or they could have flaked and not sent help until days after the storm made landfall. Someone get this driveling bitch another pitcher of cosmopolitans and a Nembutal and wheel her sorry ass back into the sunroom to wait for the icy finger of death to slide up her pooper before she PISSES ME OFF ANY FURTHER. Charmaine Neville's story. Video. Excellent timeline from thinkprogress. We'll be referring back to this, so study up. Louisianians, you feel that? Feel that thick, burning, probing sensation? Really uncomfortable, kind of humiliating? You know what that is? IT'S TOM DELAY FUCKING YOU UP THE ASS. Hey, I wonder if Richard Ieyoub changed parties yet. Dick, any word? Now's the time to jump ship, big guy. Gonna be lots of openings in the top slots! More to come. Hard to sort all of this shit out, but I'm game.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

In the unlikely event that anyone has given it a moment's thought in the past week: Suspect Device, the comic strip, is defunct as of this writing. I may attempt to bring it back as a national strip, but with Gambit under water for the foreseeable future and no other paper willing to run it, I'm just going to lay it rest. Eight years wasn't a bad run. Here's another prize: Arizona Senator Jon Kyl. Senator Kyl isn't so harsh when it comes to his constituents insisting on living in the same forests where fires start every year. And I would be remiss if I did not mention Rick Santorum, who wants to fine hurricane victims. Victims in Louisiana, that is. VIctims on his home state would get slightly different treatment.
Hurricane Pam: Where it all started to go wrong. You may have seen mention of the "Hurricane Pam" exercise in press coverage of Louisiana's emergency preparedness, or lack thereof. I was at the Hurricane Pam exercise, and I think maybe I can clear a few things up. First, let's get one simple one out of the way: Ivor Van Heerden of the LSU Hurricane Center had nothing to do with the conception or execution of the Hurricane Pam exercise. In fact, the participation of the Center was limited to presenting the same tired computer animation they've been trotting out to all the networks, and arguing with the data and assumptions provided by Innovative Emergency Management, my former employers and the company that designed and facilitated the exercise, at the behest of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, and with the cooperation of FEMA. I don't know if Ivor is playing the media or if the media is simply enchanted by Ivor's hair, but he didn't do dick except piss people off. As with most IEM projects, the Hurricane Pam exercise was put together at the last minute, in a blind animal panic with no time for refinement, testing, or subtlety, but it still was a remarkable and bold idea. Hurricane Pam was a week-long simulation (not a tabletop exercise) with a difference: while response to the fictional Hurricane Pam, a slow-moving category three storm making steady progress up the Mississippi and landing just to the west of New Orleans, was the designated activity, the purpose of the exercise was to create a series of plans and recommendations which would be presented to the State of Louisiana and adopted as the official Hurricane Response Plan. Attendees included emergency managers from all across Louisiana, representatives from the EPA, the National Guard, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the DOTD, the Red Cross (who I remember as being marginalized and tolerated at best, with more than a little eye rolling from the "professionals"), the State Police, and many others. Also taking on important roles were representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA, who provided facilitators, computers, and a great deal of support. Here's how it worked: Daily information regarding the progress of the Hurricane was distributed in the form of briefings, presentations, and maps. Details of wind damage, flooding, displaced populations, communication outages, and much more, was available through handouts and detailed maps. Participants were divided into small groups with a single (albeit sometimes multi-faceted) issue to tackle: Search and Rescue, Power & Water & Ice, Dewatering, First Aid, Evacuations, etc. There was cross-communication between rooms, and persons with particular expertise would often be called in to provide detail. Notes were taken and a draft plan was created and presented to the Command Committee (or whatever it was called) at the end of each day, with a final plan presented at the end of the week. Now. There has been considerable talk in the press about this exercise being one of the instances of experts admitting that the NOLA levees could be breached. This is true, but only to this extent: there was uniform agreement that water would overflow the NOLA levees or migrate around gaps in the St. Charles Parish levees, but I heard no serious or sustained talk about levees breaking. In fact, one of the first priorities of the dewatering teams was to blow (they preferred "open") the levee drain gates in order to send the accumulated toxic soup down into the gulf. (the EPA was okay with this, according to their rep -- really, what choice would they have?) Reps from NOLA held that they could begin pumping water out of the city within two to five days and could complete pumping within a few weeks (remember, this was assuming that the levees were holding and that water could be drained out through them). This was also assuming major flooding, perhaps even worse than what we've seen with Katrina. There was a certain amount of contention, a few turf wars, some loud talk. None if it consequential, in the end, because of the single greatest emollient: FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency promised the moon and the stars. They promised to have 1,000,000 bottles of water per day coming into affected areas within 48 hours. They promised massive prestaging with water, ice, medical supplies and generators. Anything that was needed, they would have either in place as the storm hit or ready to move in immediately after. All it would take is a phone call from local officials to the state, who would then call FEMA, and it would be done. There were contracts-in-place with major vendors across the country and prestaging areas were already determined (I'll have more to say about this later, but this is one reason FEMA has rejected large donation and turned back freelance shipments of water, medical supplies, food, etc: they have contracts in place to purchase those items, and accepting the same product from another source could be construed as breach of contract, and could lead to contract cancellation, thus removing a reliable source of product from the pool of available resources. I'm not saying I agree with this -- in fact, I don't, and think it's boneheaded -- but the reasoning is that if they accept five semis of water from the east Weewau, Wisconsin, Chamber of Commerce, the water supplier who is contractually bound to provide 100,000 gallons per day will be freed from that obligation. The organizers of the exercise -- particularly the former commender of LOHSEP, Col. Michael Brown (not that one) -- insisted that the plans contain no "fairy dust": no magical leaps of supply chains or providers: if you said you would need 500 semis for your part of the plan, you had to specify where the 500 semis were coming from. Everyone tried to keep the fairy dust to a minimum, and they did so, for the most part, despite having big plans: LSU, Southern, Southeastern and other campuses dismissed for the semester and turned into giant triage centers/tent cities; acres of temporary housing built on government-owned land; C-130 transport planes ferrying evacuees to relatives in other states, and so on. Bold plans, but doable, with cooperation. A comprehensive plan was beginning to emerge. Except that it didn't. A followup conference, to iron out difficulties in some of the individual plans and to formalize presentation of the final package, scheduled for either late '04 or early '05 -- I can't remember and can find no mention of the followup event on the web -- was cancelled at the last minute, due to lack of funding (which agency called the cancellation, I'm not sure, although the lack of funds would take it all back to FEMA, in the end). So: Louisiana did have a hurricane plan, but was devising a new one, to be based on recommendation from the people who would actually be doing the work. The need to evacuate people from impact areas, including those without transportation or the means to obtain it, was discussed, despite media assertions to the contrary. The possibility of levee overflow was discussed (levee breaching may have been discussed at some point, but I was in the dewatering room, and I never heard it mentioned. A rescue and evacuation plan, including sheltering, was reasonably firm. There were and are officials in Louisiana, including New Orleans Emergency Management, who know the limitations of current planning and who have been trying to come up with a better solution. The problem is FEMA, and by extension the Department of Homeland Security, which gobbled FEMA up in 2003. FEMA promised more than they could deliver. They cut off deeper, perhaps more meaningful discussion and planning by handing out empty promises. The plans that were made -- which were not given any sort of stamp of authority -- were never distributed or otherwise made available to those who most needed stable guidance; they vanished into the maw of FEMA and LOSHEP (probably when Col. Brown was removed from his command due to financial "irregularities" -- the project was tainted after that). Adoption of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) would have made most of the plans moot anyway -- FEMA's adherence to the untried NIMS is a primary reason for the chaos and ineptitude surrounding their relief efforts. More later.