Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Arrest fest, cooperation, and individual style

September 27, 2005
11:21 a.m.

Okay, I’ve been bad for the last couple of days. Some would think it good, but, in my world, I would have probably garnered more respect had I been arrested with all the good folks along with Cindy and Medea. I wanted to make a stand. And I guess I did over three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) but which I didn’t take as far as I perhaps should have taken it. I didn’t get arrested at the mass march and arrest fest at the White House yesterday. The action really was for the recognizable and respected names to make statements and for those who wanted to stand in solidarity with them. I would have done it had my step-daughter not planned her wedding date shortly after the days of action.

I didn’t do lobbying either. Things got shifted around. The AZ appointment of significance to me was with Representative Raul Grijalva from District 7. And another group (Latinos for Peace) really wanted to meet Raul... which I have done... many times... so they used “my” time. I’m in District 8 and no appointments could be set up with Kolbe – McCain or Kyl also zip. So I attended the training for lobbying with UFPJ and will use all the materials and information gathered there when I set up the same appointments (that I couldn’t get set up here) back in the district when I get home. And that will ultimately be the success of these three days of action.... taking the energy, information and unified stance back to our homes and living with these elements in a more public and effective manner. So I will be looking for citizens to lobby with me on my return. (Leave a comment if you are in AZ District 8 and interested and we’ll figure out how to connect.)

I spent several days at the home of a lovely Buddhist woman, Marcy, who was raised in the Jewish faith/ tradition. I succumbed to the quiet calm of her home much of yesterday to lounge and recharge for what will be another full week of travel and wedding celebration activities.

Today I’m zipping in and out of bookshops museums and just sitting with a coffee and good old fashioned people watching. I’ve learned that I cannot be or do what others may expect an activist to do, be, or say. For example, I have the greatest respect for Medea Benjamin and feel true affinity when I am with her during and action, but we are not cut from the same mold. We do however work to the same end. We will each do what we can do. Her impact is high deep and wide and her currents will be felt for generations. I will never walk the path she walks, I follow my own path and make my own differences as I can. If I kept up her pace I would go mad. Literally. I have to have calm quiet alone time to be productive and being with people is draining. I give my energy freely and in large amounts when I am with others. She is an activist and ultimately I am a theoretician. We all have our roles to play and paths to walk.

The braiding of all our life paths into an exquisite path of life (whether the O’odham Maze or the Chartres eleven-circuit Labyrith the strength of the emergent progressive movement—we are finally beginning to understand the need for difference as well a diversity. Cooperation is not about sameness. It is a rich broth that can sustain life and provides the base for an amazing, rich stew.

(At some point I need to write about why I don’t like the word “progressive.”)

Trust yourself. Do what you can. Enjoy life and creativity.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hundreds of Thousands March

This is the first moment I've truly had to myself when I wasn't exhausted and writing after midnight. I'm not a quick writer. I like to ponder and choose and rearrange and mull. Interruption is far more of a distraction to having the internal dialog that is writing than noise or passers by. The March was phenomenal, amazing, fantastic. As is always the case; it is difficult to know the true number of participants other than by processing crowd density and area covered from aerial photo processing. At one point a wave of active processing passed through the crowd as a message "CNN reports 600,000." The permit was for 100,000. Some papers report 150,000. Others, 200,000. In any case the march was huge. Not as large as the march for women's lives -- closer in size to the marches just before the Bush regime invaded Iraq.

The waiting was hard, and a few cross words here and there were exchanged about positioning of banners and the bumping of signs and other trivialities, but 99.9 percent of the time there was a cooperative, calm determination, and appreciation of the jester in culture that greeted CODEPINK as we marched. I won't go into the specifics of the line up of the CP rally at Freedom Plaza, or the hours of waiting near the ellipse for the march to start. No time right now. The only snafu was that the march snarled when its course turned at too sharp of an angle in too small of a space for the massive size of the march.

The most notable chants, signs and groups will get talked about over the course of the next few weeks as I process the event -- but for now I'll just mention a few. CODEPINK of course was a highlight! The huge pink collection of balloons tied together into a 15 ft. tall peace sign that lead the CODEPINK contingent was almost float/parade-like. (And that is a good thing. -- I'll do an entry on that later.) The sense of playful jestering that is essential to CODEPINK touches people in a way that anger cannot. Our drop dead gorgeous cheer-leaders/majorettes were a hit.

I also saw a group --NOT CODEPINK-- doing "boobs not bombs" and the group of three people that depicted the devil controlling puppet reigns attached to bush and cheney was extremely effective.

I missed Steve Earle and really all of the music afterward, but collapsing on the grass near the Camp Casey on the Mall turned out to be a great synchronicity when I spotted Lee (from Tucson) and Arlington allowed me to connect with friends from Chicago for a great dinner. I am always amazed by the breadth and depth of the experience, intellect and humor of CODEPINK women whenever a group gathers together.

More later, but now I have to figure out how to get from here to American University for training for tomorrow's lobbying actions. Then I want to hear the 4-6 panel of Stop The Next War Now author's at the Green Fest at the Convention Center. And I'm not sure about this evening. Perhaps another dinner, perhaps some time writing and collecting thoughts.

More soon.

Friday, September 23, 2005

synchronized paddleboating and umbrella twirling

What a wonderful day of comraderie and peace building! I awoke at the CODEPINK house this a.m. to the sounds of people arriving at the house from all over the country. Luggage bumping up stairs, coffee brewing, folks coming in to drop off vegan cookies. People chatting about favorite actions and strategies for uniting people. It was energizing. While my thoughts flitted around remembering names, faces, hooking up my digital recorder so I could interview folks with good stories, I kept having thoughts running through my head about the people about to be set upon hurricane Rita and the soldiers and Iraqis immersed in the havoc of equally out of control forces.

It is always a precarious line between using creative energy to focus awareness on issues and going over the top. But the Tidal Pool Paddle Boat action once again proved the amazing synchronicity of CODEPINK think. The action involved at least 22 women dressed in pink in the paddle boats you can rent at the tidal basin. We paddled across to the area in front of the Lincoln memorial with pink bamboo and paper umbrellas with messages such as "education not occupation" written on them and when we finally all got in synch and were lined up with banners stretching between boats, and umbrellas all visible from the Lincoln Memorial it felt right. Tourists loved the action. Several fathers were explaining to their children what we were doing and how dissent is a part of the democratic process. It was really nice to present a non-threating image to the kids. A CBS news team showed up and did a lot of taping when we were singing the new lyrics sung to the tune of American Pie that one "car" of people came up with on the way to the action.

Why Why Mr. President Why?
The levees all broke
now the water's too high
Spent all our cash
on a war that's a lie
You don't care if poor people die
You don't care if Iraqis die
You don't care if our soldiers die
just as long as your profits are high

Then it was back to the Pink House to prepare for a meet and greet and organize that was to occur later in the day. But before that we had a very large vigil in front of Walter Reed where injured soldiers are brought. The adversarial group across the street was rude, attacked us verbally hoping for confrontation, and were very noisy and disrespectful of the vets they supposedly support. As usual CODEPINK was about real issues of importance to the folks inside walter Reed and the people across the street didn't really have a message other than just attacking CODEPINK. We just ignored them.

Then after the meet and greet for all the pinkers who have come from Fort Worth, Portland, Chicago, North Carolina, San Diego LA San Francisco, New York.

A long day but fruitful. Truly inspiring to see all these women building rather than tearing down.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Here in D.C. and ready for a weekend of action!

I'm writing from the PINK House in Takoma Park MD. Flew from Tucson to Dulles today. I feel like I haven't blogged in a really long time, but I think that will change very dramatically over the next few days. I will be in lots of actions, hopefully doing lots of interviews, and just observing (and being a part of) history in the making. I have thousands of notes for blogs to put up. It will take a while to catch up, but being on the east coast should change perspective enough to jump start regular writing again. So... in any case, I'm back!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Virtual March on Washington to Stop Global Warming

I am not as optomistic as the name of this site suggests others might be, but while I don't believe we can stop global warming, I do believe we must have more and better methods of responding to and slowing the escalation of global warming. Making one helluva lot of noise so the leaders have to notice our collective voices is an easy first step.

Join the Virtual March on Washington!

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Report Back from Food Not Bombs on the Ground in Louisiana about Feeding the Displaced

This just in from a local Tucson activist I know:


From: Walt Staton
Date: Sep 12, 2005 1:09 AM
Subject: In Baton Rouge

Well, I thought it was crazy enough the first time that I came to Louisiana a few years ago to live in Baton Rouge, and I figured I'd be back, but not in this capacity.

I made the decision a last week to travel to the south with some friends on an old school bus retrofitted with a small kitchen and packed with over a ton of food and supplies to bring some warm meals into communities that desperately need any kind of help. Our group is part of an organization called Food Not Bombs - which has been working for over 25 years to feed homeless and needy people in cities all over the world.

We first drove to Houston where we began to get some information as to where we could be the most useful. After weighing some decisions, we decided to head towards Baton Rogue, where I was able to call up a friend and secure a place to crash.
As it turns out, this friend is working at a small non-profit environmental organization and they had already been bringing supplies out into some far-fetched communities. They were grateful for us to arrive and let us use their office to being coordinating our own activities. The world is full of amazing people...
Today we were able to finally serve our first meals. We got word that over 100 truckers were basically just sitting around in an old Target parking lot, waiting for orders to take water and food into the areas that need it. The truckers, all contracted by FEMA, haven't had food brought to them and are basically stranded with nothing but an Exxon across the street (the Target is closed, so no food there...) They were extremely grateful for our warm meal of beans, rice, chili, watermelon and apples. Many shared frustrations with they way things were being handled. They all knew people needed the water and food they had, but couldn't do anything but sit there.

After spending a couple hours with them, we drove to the River Center, which is Baton Rouge's convention center where a few thousand refugees are being sheltered. We arrived an hour before their 10:00 pm curfew, so we caught people as they trickled back to re-enter. The security line to get into the building was 2 hours long. The food they were receiving was mostly fast food and junk food - nothing healthy or fulfilling. Children didn't have toys (we handed out some stuffed animals).

People were frustrated, but calm. We heard stories from a few people who lived in downtown New Orleans. We heard stories of people who spent time crammed in the Super Dome. People fought back tears telling us of their losses and the horrors they've been through. One man said that tonight was the first time he's laughed in weeks.

The disaster in New Orleans is very real. The death and destruction is real. The rapes, shootings, murder - it all happened. But the hope that people are clinging to is also apparent. People want to return and rebuild. Especially the people of New Orleans - they are proud of their city and want to go back.

We have barely scratched the surface of the emotions here. On Monday, we will embark on the next leg of our trip. We head to an ad-hoc aid camp being set up by Veterans for Peace. Since there is so much red tape that all the official agencies must go through, it is only the small, grassroots groups that can really reach out the the people, especially in rural communities. The red cross can't (or won't) do what it takes to bring medical care to thousands - so it is up to us to do it. While truckers with over a million gallons of water wait, we will go out and cook food. While politicians fuss over who's to blame, we will give children stuffed animals.

Three days into this journey, I already am feeling overwhelmed by the scope of what's going on, but I'm also very energized and excited to be here.

I will have very limited computer access for the rest of our trip until I get back to Tucson next weekend, and cell phone coverage is still spotty out here. But I will be in touch again later with a re-cap of the trip when I get home.

For some photos and stories of what we've been up to so far, check out my posts on Arizona Indymedia:

http://arizona.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/30474.php http://arizona.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/30511.php http://arizona.indymedia.org/news/2005/

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Blame Goes Deep and Wide

This from taking down words that references thishttp://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=32144&printerfriendlyVers=1&

How much did (now Indiana) Gov. Daniels have to do with the underfunding of levee repair in New Orleans? This story from govexec.com explores that.

...a former chief of the Army Corps of Engineers disparaged senior White House officials for 'not understanding' that key elements of the region's infrastructure needed repair and rebuilding.

"Mike Parker, the former head of the Army Corps of Engineers, was forced to resign in 2002 over budget disagreements with the White House. He clashed with Mitch Daniels, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, which sets the administration's annual budget goals.

"Daniels, now governor of Indiana, did not respond to a request for comment."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Leadership is more than a style -- Brown vs. Honore

FEMA should not be a political appointment. How does Michael Brown become head of FEMA? Maureen Dowd describes him in her column as "the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center." The head of The International Arabian Horse Association?!?!

How about Lt. Russell Honere or someone like him to head up FEMA?
Lieutenant General Honore, commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, who has been shown on CNN commanding troops to point their weapons down -- "Put those weapons down, Goddammit!" knows how to take charge and promote calm.

Tulane , slums, contraception and whining.

According to the temporary web site for Tulane "Nine of the leading higher education associations, which represent hundreds of colleges and universities around the country, have developed a plan to accept Tulane students, as well as those from other institutions adversely affected by the hurricane, for the fall semester only." Educational bureaucracy is a massive lethargic monster -- and they are moving more quickly than recovery efforts by response entities that are supposed to move quickly.

Planned Parenthood needs your help. 100% of donations to PP for Katrina relief will go to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. One of the aspects of disaster (including war, by the way) that is rarely given attention is the lack of access to contraception and reproductive health care. Because it is, in my estimation, a woman's problem, and thus relegated to the back burner even though inattention in this area will create misfortune for generations. The burgeoning ranks of displaced, unemployed, homeless people may not be able to care for any new children for years. This is heart-breaking. But we must insure that no unwanted children come into the world accidentally to face a life of abuse and in about 15 years to dramatically raise the crime rate. (Stanford economics research has shown this to be the case. I will supplement with the complete reference soon.)

Chain-of-command requires effective top down leadership. Ultimately some orders that needed to be given were not issued until days into the disaster. Even a Junior Congressionional Member should be able to trace the chain-of-command to see what orders were issued when. The New Orleans Atrocity is what happens when you allow, at best, self-serving intersts, or, in the worst case, criminals, to take over a political system. Fedblog is a site by and for government employees, those people who are the ones likely to be blamed by their bureaucratic bosses for failure, and who are most often not to blame. Excellent set of Katrina resources.

Okay, now to address the Republican whining that has already begun to protest that people are being mean to them by saying, "Democrats will seek to politicize this." Hell yes. It is a political issue. Their whining supports a madman who is a crude s.o.b.. The political system needs to cut off the heads of those elements of governance (not actual decapitation, folks!) that failed. Isn't that the point of governance -- to be able to throw the bums out and from time to time; to at least, change bums?

The analogy that I have heard that makes sense to me is: "This" is no different the slum lord who knowingly builds a sub-standard building that collapses killing its occupants. It is about time for the American people to realize we do not have the highest standard living in the world. People here face horrors in their daily lives that other affluent western countries would never tolerate. Katrina has brought this out in a way that cannot be ignored.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Slow response to Katrina, Interview with Mayor Nagin, and Nat. Guard Shortages

This opinion piece in the Guardian by the former editor of the NYT pays tribute to the city of new orleans while mourning its fate.


Mayor Ray Nagin interview transcript

from this page you can load the audio of the same interview with the Mayor



Five part series that shows the knowledge of what was needed to be done to prevent just what has happened was there long before Katrina hit.


The Democrats provide the following bits of information:

National Guard Units In US Recently Forced To Give Up Equipment. Already suffering from manpower shortages, the National Guard's overstretched forces are being confronted with another problem: not enough equipment to supply Guard troops at home. "To fully equip troops in Iraq, the Pentagon has stripped local Guard units of about 24,000 pieces of equipment. That has left Guard units at home, already seriously short of gear." [Detroit Free Press, 6/13/05]

The GAO Found Army Reserve Facing Increasing Equipment Shortages. In July 2005, the GAO found that "Army Reserve units are not generally allotted all of the equipment they need to deploy." Since September 11th, commanders have required deploying units to have 90 percent of their required equipment, yet in February 2005 the Army Reserve reported it had about 76 percent of the equipment it requires, an estimate that includes older equipment. [GAO, "An Integrated Plan is Needed to Address Army Reserve Personnel and Equipment Shortages." Rpt # GAO-05-660, 7/12/05]

Nearly Half of Army Reserve Equipment Needs to be Repaired. The Army Reserve estimates that "currently as much as 44 percent of its equipment needs servicing." [GAO, "An Integrated Plan is Needed to Address Army Reserve Personnel and Equipment Shortages." Rpt # GAO-05-660, 7/12/05]

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Camp Casey to be set up outside Clinton & Schummer offices

A friend just sent me this email:

Did you Know:
On Wednesday morning, August 31, a coalition of Peace Groups, (Pax Christi, Suffolk Peace Network, etc.) including representatives from Code Pink LI, visited Senator Clinton & Senator Schummer's offices at their Melville Long Island location, to demand that they retract their 'war vote', admit it was a mistake, and actively work toward getting our troop out now. Since there seems to be a lack of adequate response, these groups will be setting up:

Camp Casey Long Island
A "Presence" at
Senator Clinton's & Senator Schummer's Offices
135 & 145 Pine Lawn Road
Melville, Long Island
Daily from
Tuesday, Sept. 6 through Friday, Sept. 9, 2005
4:30- 6:30 p.m.

This is the first report I've seen of CODEPINK's campaign to Meet with the Mothers.

I'm gonna do this! I have lots of questions for McCain and Kolbe. Wish Grijalva was my congress person... He's one of the few progressives in Congress.

Cindy Sheehan in Austin (reprint of article)

A Mother's Protest
By Lindsay Mathews
Special to The Star

With signs ready to tout, hundreds of anti-war supporters welcomed Cindy Sheehan at the Capitol building in Austin at 5 p.m. yesterday to participate in a peace rally. Sheehan, who since the conception of Camp Casey located in Crawford, has quickly become the face of the antiwar movement in the US.

After 26 days in Crawford protesting the war and demanding to speak with President George W. Bush regarding her son’s death while serving in Iraq, Sheehan took Camp Casey to the streets making Austin the first stop on the Freedom and Faith bus tour. She led a peaceful march down Congress Avenue to Austin City Hall where additional supporters waited to hear her speak.

The event included poetry readings, musical performances by Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Eliza Gilkyson, and speakers from various anti-war organizations. CodePink is an organization of women against war that has been instrumental in the success of Sheehan’s campaign thus far, was present.

Jim Goodnow, a member of Veterans for Peace, has been with Camp Casey since it began on Aug. and is against Bush’s policies and the war.

“Desperate men do desperate things, like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld,” Goodnow said. “And now that Bush’s approval rating is at its lowest, I’d watch out for some kind of major diversion.”

Voices of opposition could be heard through the constant chanting. Across the street about 20 supporters of President Bush and the war stationed themselves. At one point, Jordan Leu, a government student and a member of College Republicans, crossed the street to engage their opponents in debate.

“I think (Sheehan) is cheapening what her son died for … we need to finish the job in Iraq,” Leu said.

However, many supporters believe that because she took a public stand against Bush and the Iraq war, people who agree will speak up as well, possibly bringing the war to an end.

“Military families are the best message we can use to end the war,” said Jason Kafoury, a law student at Tulane University in New Orleans.

According to an August Gallup Poll, Bush’s approval rating has dropped to 40 percent, the lowest for his administration.

The event culminated when Sheehan took the stage. She expressed her gratitude to the audience for their support.

“This has been the most amazing thing I have ever been involved in,” Sheehan said.

After her son was killed in Iraq, she sent an open-ended letter to President Bush requesting an answer as to why her son died. “For What Noble Cause” has become a popular slogan for the antiwar campaign and was taken from the letter she wrote to Bush.

“We have to hold Bush accountable … don’t give your children to this government when they misuse them,” Sheehan said.

The Freedom and Faith bus tour is destined for Washington, D.C. for the annual Peace Walk on Sept. 24. The next stop will be in Houston. More information about Cindy Sheehan and the bus tour can be found at www.meetcindy.com.

Katrina Resources

Times-Picayune's Everything New Orleans -- nola.com
Those being looked for
Those who are ok

People offering a place to stay

This is a site for people who want to offer homes to refugees. It show you how, and lists it securely.

Message boards from
weather.comyou can access two extensive topics (at the moment they are at the top of the bulletin board) one about Katrina Affected Cities, counties, and parishes in the LA/MS/AL area and the other for general information related to Hurricane Katrina.


Red Cross Donations
Washington Post: where to donate
Hurricane Katrina Help Wiki
Network for Good
Houston-area Resources (where many refugees are headed)

Missing Persons Databases and Forums
Times-Picayune forum for Orleans Parrish
Hurricane Katrina Survivor Database with listings for New Orleans, Biloxi, Shreveport, Mobile, and other cities
Gulf Coast Missing Persons Database
Craig’s List New Orleans:
Missing People

Rebuilding St. Bernard–contains a long list of people missing from St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans
Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network Complete a form to submit information about a missing person. Your inquiry will be sent to the disaster area, where SATERN personnel will attempt to locate the person or persons about whom you are inquiring.

reprint of Waiting for a Leader

The New York Times
September 1, 2005
Waiting for a Leader

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.

My anger conflicts with peace building

There has been an escalating war going on within me. I have a profound belief in the positive transformational potential of channeling effort, energy and thought into individual peaceful and constructive action. But there is anger growing within me that does battle with the belief in transformation. I want to be positive, but the obvious negligence of the governments (both state and national) to prepare and respond in the first hours of the crisis brings me to tears several times a day. Unless I consciously breathe and maintain focus, the hurt transforms to seething and slow-burning anger. The invisible hand of capitalism, the power of the free market, the let-them-eat-cake ownership socity... this is where it leads. Perhaps this will be a wake up call for the supposedly compassionate conservatives who go along with the obscene usurious accumulation of profit by ruling families and corporations. This level of suffering could have been prevented. Here is a bit of an article that appeared today on Common Dreams that skims the surface of some of the budget cuts that made a bad situation turn into a nightmare:

Budget cuts haven't made disaster preparedness any easier.

Last year, FEMA spent $250,000 to conduct an eight-day hurricane drill for a mock killer storm hitting New Orleans. Some 250 emergency officials attended. Many of the scenarios now playing out, including a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, were discussed in that drill for a fictional storm named Pam.

This year, the group was to design a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of stranded citizens.

Funding for that planning was cut, said Tolbert, the former FEMA disaster response director.

"A lot of good was done, but it just wasn't finished," said Tolbert, who was the disaster chief for the state of North Carolina. "I don't know if it would have saved more lives. It would have made the response faster. You might say it would have saved lives."

FEMA wasn't alone in cutting hurricane spending in New Orleans and the surrounding area.

Federal flood control spending for southeastern Louisiana has been chopped from $69 million in 2001 to $36.5 million in 2005, according to budget documents. Federal hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain vicinity in the Army Corps of Engineers' budget dropped from $14.25 million in 2002 to $5.7 million this year. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu requested $27 million this year.

Both the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper and a local business magazine reported that the effects of the budget cuts at the Army Corps of Engineers were severe.

In 2004, the Corps essentially stopped major work on the now-breached levee system that had protected New Orleans from flooding. It was the first such stoppage in 37 years, the Times-Picayune reported.

"It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay," Jefferson Parish emergency management chief Walter Maestri told the newspaper. "Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

The Army Corps' New Orleans office, facing a $71 million cut, also eliminated funds to pay for a study on how to protect the Crescent City from a Category 5 storm, New Orleans City Business reported in June.

Being prepared for a disaster is basic emergency management, disaster experts say.

You can read the full article here.