Thursday, September 01, 2005

Be Prepared

This from Knight Rider reads, in part:

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.

For example, in the 1990s, in planning for a New Orleans nightmare scenario, the federal government figured it would pre-deploy nearby ships with pumps to remove water from the below-sea-level city and have hospital ships nearby, said James Lee Witt, who was FEMA director under President Clinton.

Federal officials said a hospital ship would leave from Baltimore on Friday.

"These things need to be planned and prepared for; it just doesn't look like it was," said Witt, a former Arkansas disaster chief who won bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill during his tenure.

So, just wondering here, what in hell has Dubya provided to us all with the immense concentration and federal spending on Homeland Security? Sure, airports are taking aside eighty-year-old grandmas and making them take their shoes off and confiscating nail clippers and bic lighters and all that crap which, I'm so terribly sure, is protecting us all from Al Quida's evil designs. But, isn't part of the Homeland Security mission to protect/serve the American people prior to and following a natural disaster? But, since FEMA (Federal Emergency management Agency) was brought into the Homeland Security bureaucracy, it appears the only potential threats that these myopic bureaucrats are able to focus on are Dubya's "evildoers." Category 5 (later reclassified a Category 4, but, please, what's the fucking difference) hurricanes are not a threat to our homeland security?

Why weren't the remaining (so many have been deployed to Iraq) National Guard and Reserve units of our armed forces standing-by in safe haven--Houston for example--PRIOR TO Katrina's landfall? Why weren't food, water, clothing, exit strategies, boats, planes, helicopters, anti-looting troops gathered, or at least beginning to be gathered, prior to Katrina's hit on the Gulf Coast?

Why was Duba playing golf in San Diego and speechifying in Houston while Katrina was shaping up to be pretty much the most potent evildoer of the first decade of the 21st century?

Yup, just wondering about a lot of things these days.

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