Thursday, September 01, 2005

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.

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