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Live From New Orleans - Sort Of
Friday, September 23, 2005   By: Mahone Dunbar

Paxety Pages reports from the front

Paxety Pages Reports From The Front


Posted by: Mahone Dunbar

September 2005

At the behest of my editor, Juan Paxety - who thought one of us should check out the Katrina action in person - I have agreed to become a roving correspondent for Paxety Pages. This decision was reached after a series of increasingly acrimonious emails from Juan. His arguments were persuasive and cogent: he couldn't go to New Orleans because he lives down in Florida and is currently dependent on the Miami public transportation system, while I live just south of Atlanta and have a vehicle that runs. Therefore, against my better wishes, I agreed. Hence, two days ago, I packed some survival goods in my truck, topped off my gas tank, and headed for New Orleans.

So far, progress has been a little slow.

From the outset New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin - a paragon of public service, dedication, and virtue - has put out confusing signals about what to do regarding habitation in The Big Easy; don't leave, leave if you can swim or drive a flooded bus, come on back - the water’s fine; and now, don't come back, things are still pretty shitty. When I left on my trip Nagin had just said to come; then, already on my way, I heard on the news that he changed his mind again; no one is to come.

Getting vertiginous from all the mayor's mental swaying, I decided to stop and set up camp - at a Geraldo-safe distance from the danger - just outside the zone of destruction, and to wait to see what C. Ray would decide next. Therefore, I'm currently camped out near the Mount Zion exit just off Interstate 285, on the south side of Atlanta, in the parking lot of a Jiffy Chek; here, I am dealing with the primitive living conditions that follow such a disaster; the bottled water they sell here is stale, and their hot dogs on the spit, judging by the taste and texture, have been rotating and roasting since the Carter administration. (I am convinced they are foot-long bio-hazards and plan to notify the CDC when this is over.)

Thankfully, I had the foresight to bring along my battery-operated six-inch screen Sony TV, so I am still constantly in the middle of the action - commercial breaks excepted, of course - and able to bring you the latest news from the front.

Meanwhile, the biggest problem I face is the Jiffy Chek's owner, a Pakistani named Segme something-with-too-many-syllables, who has been threatening to call a tow truck if I don't leave soon. (I finally calmed him by saying I had a marriageable younger brother who might be interested in one of his admittedly homely daughters and would also probably love to hire on as a third shift manager.)

Paxety’s roving correspondent roughs it out somewhere near the front lines of Katrina, by having to use a battery-powered TV,
drinking stale bottled-water, and eating food that may be dangerously toxic.

As if all that wasn't enough, late yesterday afternoon I ran out of gas, making things even more hectic (I've had to keep the truck motor running continuously for the air-conditioner - the humidity being so terrible here). After much reflection on right or wrong, I decided to set a cardboard sign on my windshield announcing myself as a victim of Katrina and asking for donations to get to New Orleans. (Technically, this is correct, since we on-the-scene reporters are suffering the same deprivations as those we report on, and are thus victims of Katrina. So don't write in about this). My gas fund is up to seven dollars (a quarter of a tank) so far, and I hope to be ready to roll again should C. Ray give us the go-ahead sign. Donations failing, I also put in a cell phone call to my wife, who has agreed to stop by tomorrow morning on her way to work and spot me a twenty.

But everything hasn't gone completely wrong. Fortune favors the prepared, and she smiled on me this morning as I was having my foot-long hotdog breakfast. I noticed a series of large SUVs line up at the pumps. Then, who should get out and head into the Jiffy Chek but Vice President Dick Cheney! Dick, it turned out, was on his way back to Washington and had stopped to top off the tanks in his fleet and pick up some spare batteries for his pace-maker.

My initial effort at approaching the vice president was rebuffed by two burly steroid junkies dressed in dark suits and wearing expensive sunglasses. Though it was difficult speaking while in a head lock, I explained that I was a reporter for an important blog and the vice president, having time to kill while waiting for the SUVs to fill up, graciously acceded to a quick interview.

The body guards relaxed their grip somewhat, and I began asking questions.

Mahone: Mr. Vice President, first I want to thank you for . . .

Cheney: Get on with it. I don't have all day to kill. Halliburton keeps me plenty busy.

Mahone: Oh. Well, what do you think about the rumor that President Bush caused hurricane Katrina?

Cheney: It’s not a rumor.

Mahone: What?

Cheney: You heard me.

Mahone: But, how could the president control the weather?

Cheney: Technology. Black ops.

Mahone: What kind of technology could . . .

Cheney: G.O.D.

Mahone: God?

Cheney: No! G.O.D.

Mahone: Oh, sorry. I didn't hear the periods.

Cheney: That stands for Grand Omnipotent Device - Grand Omnipotent Destruction as the boys in the lab like to say. G.O.D. is the most powerful device we've yet to come up with.

Mahone: So . . . George W. Bush has the power of G.O.D. at his fingertips?

Cheney: Sure. How else could a mere human be responsible for calling up a hurricane. G.O.D. was developed by the R & D boys at Haliburton last year. It was inspired by Pat Robertson. If some wanker preacher could claim to use GOD to control a hurricane, they figured, why couldn't a technological equivalent be developed for the supreme commander of our armed forces?

Mahone: How does it start a hurricane?

Cheney: It’s actually pretty simple: The universe basically works on a simple principle of heat invariance. This is true at all levels of operation. You start on a small level by inducing a heat invariance. Then you add to the energy. Since, according to a basic principle of quantum physics called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, mind influences the outcome of any experimental results, it can, inversely, be used in a positive mode on the quantum level.

Mahone: But to heat up the ocean surface over an area big enough to generate a hurricane . . . where does the initial energy come from?

Cheney: Surely, if you're an average web weasel - and you look much like one to me -  you’ve heard of zero point energy.

Mahone: Well . . . sort of.

Cheney: Well, zero-point energy is what powers G.O.D. Imagine nothing not bouncing around inside a perfect vacuum. Hard to do, huh? According to the eggheads, this is the case only until some little tiny quantum point of energy finds itself statistically probable and springs into what you and I commonly call existence. This is free energy, and it’s all around us.

President George W. Bush invokes the G.O.D technology to call up Rita to finish the business Katrina started.

Mahone: How does the president operate G.O.D. technology?

Cheney: How? Well, the universe is basically one vast binary computer, full of encoded information about everything, and containing, in addition to ceaseless energy, both intelligence and consciousness. The G.O.D. machine is already in place. Our technicians basically figured out how to employ it. Contact is easy. First, the president bows his head - this puts him in harmony with telluric currents and the magnetic field of the earth; then he puts his hands together, steeple-fashion, just so. This makes a circuit in his body and ensures that the current doesn't leak out but achieves maximum resonance and increases in pitch; that done, he merely has to think about his request. Since thoughts generate specific brain waves, waves that computers can read - and since the universe is one big binary computer - the waves are interpreted easily and immediately accessed by G.O.D. Once the president feels the energy begin to course through him, he shoots his arms into the air, so they can better resonate with the G.O.D. vibrations. Here, . . .

VP Cheney snapped his fingers, and a third bodyguard, who had approached while we were talking, snapped open a zero case, retrieved a picture from it, and passed it to him.

Cheney: look at this. This is recent picture of Bush using G.O.D.

Mahone: Wow. Is that Katrina forming in the background?

Cheney: No. That’s Rita.

Mahone: Why is he wearing the black suit? It makes him look like a priest.

Cheney: He has to wear a black suit to increase the phenomena called black-body radiation so that . . . Nah, just kidding about that. George just figures that since the left ascribes God-like powers to him - and hates him with a religious intensity - why the hell not go for the whole religious motif. Actually, I think it’s all going to his head.

Mahone: I guess that makes sense. You know, for some reason, with his hands raised, calling down the mysterious powers of the G.O.D. this picture of the president has a sort of Cecil B. DeMille quality to it; in fact, the pose reminds me of Moses.

Cheney: It should. The head of Halliburton's R & D is Jewish. Well, looks like the fleet is gassed up.

At this point Cheney and his entourage started away. Throughout our interview Cheney had been munching on a large bag of Crunchy Cheetos he had purchased inside the Jiffy Chek. As he stuck them back in the bag, I noticed that he had also purchased a Penthouse magazine. So, taking a chance, I asked:

Mahone: One more thing, sir.

He stopped

Cheney: What?

Mahone: Do you have any spare papers?

Cheney: What kind?

Mahone: One point fives would be nice.

Cheney: Sure. Step over to the car.

Things are looking up a bit now. The Cheney interview went well and my Katrina donation fund for gas is up to thirteen dollars; as well, the wife - after a second pleading call from me - managed to drive a little out of her way as she went to work and dropped me the cash she'd promised. About thirty minutes ago a brother towing a portable BBQ grill stopped by to fill up his gas tank; then he set up his rig at the edge of the parking lot next door, fired it up, lathered up about a dozen chicken halves, flopped 'em down on the grill, then topped the grill off with a mess of whole sweet corn. It's starting to smell pretty good.

Hmmm. I'm wondering if maybe he'd like to make a food contribution to my Katrina relief fund? Maybe he missed my sign as he drove by? We'll see.

Meanwhile - though being in the midst of all this Katrina devastation is hell - I am your roving correspondent so I put together this quick survey of some Katrina-related items. If there is a theme here, it is this: (a When it comes to human nature, self-interest always trumps morality; (b and when it comes to government, incompetence and waste are the bywords. Mathematical studies have clearly demonstrated that increases in government involvement result in proportional increases in incompetence and waste. Katrina went through the landscape like a hurricane (pun intended); now the government will blow through our pockets with a ferocity that will make Katrina seem like a mouse fart.

According to Jeff Duncan, a reporter for "The New Orleans Times-Picayune," who visited the Superdome shortly after it was evacuated, the damage done by Katrina's victims was surprising, and included, in addition to the debris and large amount of trash, "a lot of shattered windows. The suites were trashed. The couches and chairs turned over." He also adds that "The Superdome offices were completely trashed with file cabinets and archives completely looted, so a lot of damage."

Duncan graciously ascribed the abhorrent and barbaric behavior to the Katrina victims' level of frustration over having to wait for buses to remove them. When asked if the Superdome was now considered a hazardous place primarily because of sewage, Duncan replied, "Yes, sewage and of course, you've got you know human waste and you know the building is basically one big giant science project right now."

At least that explains some of the looting. They were ransacking the Superdome's office files in search of impromptu toilet paper. Oops. What's that the New Orleans Saints wide receiver just stepped in? And of course, Jesse Jackson wants to know why the federal government wasn't there to wipe their behinds.

(Inside the Superdome: A toxic biosphere _ The Abrams Report _ MSNBC.)

Rude behavior is not limited to New Orleans. Kenner, Louisiana officials have responded to complaints that some city workers were helping themselves to Katrina relief supplies such as Gatorade, brand-new clothing and other donated items intended for victims. The mayor’s chief of staff, Philip Ramon, said the city had removed the official who had presided over the pilfering . . . ah, exclusive distribution. Ramon also suggested that many city employees were themselves hurricane victims. So - his argument seems to be - why should they have to wait in line.

A trucker from Tennessee, Robert Shumate, who dropped off a load of supplies and then stayed to help with distribution, said he saw it (pilfering by city employees) every day. National Guard soldiers (reported by Kenner police officer, Mark McCormick) stated that the "city official in charge of distribution and other city employees had taken brand-new clothing from Ryder trucks and handed it out among themselves."

When visiting beautiful downtown Kenner, be sure to shop at Katrina’s, where the price is always right.

(Did city employees pilfer Katrina donations? _ Hurricane Katrina _ MSNBC)

Now that the waters are receding in New Orleans, some homes seem to be mysteriously burning down; mysteriously because until recently most of them were saturated in water and had no electricity available to start a fire. A New Orleans Fire Department official noted that the most recent fires could not be confirmed as arson. However, Deputy Chief Joseph Buras did explain that, "Many homeowners could receive little compensation for their water_damaged homes because insurers have argued the destruction from the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina that broke levees in New Orleans and swept across the Gulf Coast was not covered under most policies."

In plain English, since it isn't covered for flood, and is for fire, burn the sucker down as quickly as possible. Say, do you have any dry matches I can borrow?

(Firefighters fear arson in New Orleans _ Hurricane Katrina _ MSNBC)

Congress, it turns out, was concerned about evacuation from New Orleans in case of an emergency and had done the one thing which Congress can do about any major problem - which is to carelessly throw money at it. Eight years ago (for those of you out there who are politically innumerate, such as Democrats, that was in 1997, during the Clinton Administration, duh) Congress mandated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency develop an evacuation plan for New Orleans in case of a massive hurricane and appropriated $500,000 for the task; however, the money that was earmarked for the evacuation plan somehow went to a study of the causeway bridge that spans Lake Pontchartrain.

The money was intended specifically for an evacuation plan - keeping in mind those who would never leave, or be able to leave New Orleans, such as minorities with no access to transportation - but was never used for this purpose. Despondent that nothing came of this, two years later Congress this time ordered that an evacuation plan for a Category 3 or greater storm be developed. This was to include such contingencies as a levee break. Somehow, and no one is sure exactly how, this money got directed to the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission.

Barry Scanlon, senior vice president in the consulting firm of James Lee Witt - former FEMA director during the Clinton Administration - said he believes that FEMA did what it needed when it gave the money to the state. Hmmm. Why didn't President Bush hire world-class buck passer Scanlon to speak for his boys at FEMA?

Unfortunately, according to Robert Lambert, general manager for the bridge expressway, the report generated by the Expressway Commission was not about evacuation. Neither Lambert nor Shelby LaSalle, a consulting engineer on the causeway who worked on the plan, could determine how the money came into the commission’s hands.

(Source: Money Earmarked for Evacuation Redirected: RITA BEAMISH: ASSOCIATED PRESS/ REUTERS /DRUDGE REPORT: Sep 17 2:36 PM US/Eastern)

Here is another clear case of George Bush’s evil malfeasance (in that he did not immediately have the foresight to snatch the reigns power from Democrat Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin, but instead make the insane assumption that Louisiana public officials would show some semblance of responsibility to the people of New Orleans .) Bush should have known better than to trust Democrats. The rest of us do.

Several senior officials of Louisiana's emergency planning agency are awaiting trial over allegations that stemmed from a federal investigation into waste and mismanagement of funds - $60 million dollars - federal FEMA funds that were channeled to the state in 1998. (Again, sigh, under Billy Clinton's watch, and under his FEMA sweetheart). The feds have demanded that Louisiana repay a little over thirty million dollars to the federal government. To really compound things, the state agency involved in the dispute is the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness - the very agency that will administer many of the billions of dollars in federal aid that will result from Katrina! Hey, here’s a unique idea: let’s send the wolves to find out who’s raiding the chicken coop.

Federal Homeland Security officials stated their intent to send thirty auditors and investigators to the Gulf Coast to ensure that relief funds are properly spent. Right. Good luck with that guys. We'll be sure to send somebody to the bayou in an air-boat to look for your bodies in a few months.

(Source: Louisiana Officials Indicted Before Katrina Hit _ Ken Silverstein and Josh Meyer: Los Angeles TimesNational News)

Well, smells like the chicken's ready. Maybe I can spare a little money out of my gas fund. So this is Paxety Pages correspondent Mahone Dunbar signing off until after lunch.


(c)1968- today j.e. simmons or michael warren