Monday, September 05, 2005

Beautiful New Orleans Stirs America's Soul At Last

The body of a victim of Hurricane Katrina floats in floodwaters in New Orleans September 1, 2005. Up to 300,000 survivors from the hurricane still needed to be evacuated out of disaster zones in Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco said Thursday.Posted by Picasa

We sit to settle the self on the self and let the flower of our lifeforce bloom.

---Dainin Katagiri

You are not thinking. You are merely being logical.

---Niels Bohr to Albert Einstein

A monk was asked, "What do you do there in the monastery?"
He replied, "We fall and get up, we fall and get up, we fall and get up."

---St. Benedict

American humorist Harry Shearer devoted his entire hour to a loving portrait of New Orleans last night. If you've never lived there, which is probably the only way really to know this uniquely diverse gumbo of a city, this show might be the best way to get inside. It will be available for streaming sometime this week at his site by clicking Le Show link. He said, "Here is a city, known throughout the world for its cuisine, on its knees begging for food."

The lead story featured by Google News at the moment is a feature from BBC News that went up an hour ago. Its author is Matt Wells, a journalist uniquely qualified in the UK to write a story like this.

BBC News
Viewpoint: Has Katrina saved US media?
By Matt Wells
BBC News, Los Angeles

As President Bush scurries back to the Gulf Coast, it is clear that this is the greatest challenge to politics-as-usual in America since the fall of Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

Then as now, good reporting lies at the heart of what is changing.

But unlike Watergate, "Katrinagate" was public service journalism ruthlessly exposing the truth on a live and continuous basis.

Instead of secretive "Deep Throat" meetings in car-parks, cameras captured the immediate reality of what was happening at the New Orleans Convention Center, making a mockery of the stalling and excuses being put forward by those in power.

Amidst the horror, American broadcast journalism just might have grown its spine back, thanks to Katrina.

National politics reporters and anchors here come largely from the same race and class as the people they are supposed to be holding to account.

They live in the same suburbs, go to the same parties, and they are in debt to the same huge business interests.
Giant corporations own the networks, and Washington politicians rely on them and their executives to fund their re-election campaigns across the 50 states.

It is a perfect recipe for a timid and self-censoring journalistic culture that is no match for the masterfully aggressive spin-surgeons of the Bush administration.

'Lies or ignorance'

But last week the complacency stopped, and the moral indignation against inadequate government began to flow, from slick anchors who spend most of their time glued to desks in New York and Washington.

The most spectacular example came last Friday night on Fox News, the cable network that has become the darling of the Republican heartland.

This highly successful Murdoch-owned station sets itself up in opposition to the "mainstream liberal media elite".

But with the sick and the dying forced to sit in their own excrement behind him in New Orleans, its early-evening anchor Shepard Smith declared civil war against the studio-driven notion that the biggest problem was still stopping the looters.

On other networks like NBC, CNN and ABC it was the authority figures, who are so used to an easy ride at press conferences, that felt the full force of reporters finally determined to ditch the deference.

As the heads of the Homeland Security department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) appeared for network interviews, their defensive remarks about where aid was arriving to, and when, were exposed immediately as either downright lies or breath-taking ignorance.

And you did not need a degree in journalism to know it either. Just watching TV for the previous few hours would have sufficed.

Iraq concern

When the back-slapping president told the Fema boss on Friday morning that he was doing "a heck of a job" and spent most of his first live news conference in the stricken area praising all the politicians and chiefs who had failed so clearly, it beggared belief.

The president looked affronted when a reporter covering his Mississippi walkabout had the temerity to suggest that having a third of the National Guard from the affected states on duty in Iraq might be a factor.

It is something I suspect he is going to have to get used to from now on: the list of follow-up questions is too long to ignore or bury.

And it is not only on TV and radio where the gloves have come off.

The most artful supporter of the administration on the staff of the New York Times, columnist David Brooks, has also had enough.

He and others are calling the debacle the "anti 9-11": "The first rule of the social fabric - that in times of crisis you protect the vulnerable - was trampled," he wrote on Sunday.

"Leaving the poor in New Orleans was the moral equivalent of leaving the injured on the battlefield."

Media emboldened

It is way too early to tell whether this really will become "Katrinagate" for President Bush, but how he and his huge retinue of politically-appointed bureaucrats react in the weeks ahead will be decisive.

Government has been thrown into disrepute, and many Americans have realised, for the first time, that the collapsed, rotten flood defences of New Orleans are a symbol of failed infrastructure across the nation.

Blaming the state and city officials, as the president is already trying to do over Katrina, will not wash.

Beyond the immediate challenge of re-housing the evacuees and getting 200,000-plus children into new schools, there will have to be a Katrina Commission, that a newly-emboldened media will scrutinise obsessively.

The dithering and incompetence that will be exposed will not spare the commander-in-chief, or the sunny, faith-based propaganda that he was still spouting as he left New Orleans airport last Friday, saying it was all going to turn out fine.

People were still trapped, hungry and dying on his watch, less than a mile away.

Black America will not forget the government failures, nor will the Gulf Coast region.

Tens of thousands of voters whose lives have been so devastated will cast their mid-term ballots in Texas next year - the president's adopted home state.

The final word belongs to the historic newspaper at the centre of the hurricane - The New Orleans Times-Picayune. At the weekend, this now-homeless institution published an open letter: "We're angry, Mr President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry.

"Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been, were not. That's to the government's shame."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/09/05 06:58:16 GMT

Matt Wells was a reporter at the Edinburgh Evening News, before moving to The Scotsman, first as its education correspondent and then as London reporter. He joined the Guardian in 1999 and moved and became its media correspondent the following year. Like everyone I suppose, he's always had mixed feelings about the BBC.


jazzolog said...

The Internet is seething with editorial comment about the death of the Conservative philosophy. This bundle of fantasy that government is the enemy and rich fatcats who run the marketplace are your friend has drowned in a Reality of Nature its smirking adherents didn't "create" but certainly promised to control. You do remember the victorious campaign promises We Will Protect You But The Other Guy Will Let You Die? How much time did Bush and his cronies who run those fabulous Homeland Defense agencies need to protect New Orleans? Does nobody read a weather forecast? Has nobody but environmentalists noticed the Louisiana coastline these past half dozen years? Does nobody review what defenses and help remain after decades of budget cuts? Does nobody remember the Louisiana National Guard is sitting in a desert 7000 miles away? In "due time" will the thousands of floating bodies plug up the levee leaks by themselves? Now we hear that Bush himself will conduct a vital review of his system that failed. From 9/11 on, we've had his tightly controlled little reviews of things. He's sending Cheney down to look into further "bureaucratic" failings that are preventing free enterprise from fixing everything. New Orleans is eager to be his new Iraq. Hello, Intelligent Design.

I imagine most of you who remain proud to be of the Liberal tradition subscribe to TruthOut and have discovered the essays of William Rivers Pitt by now. If you find no other editorial to inspire you today, do read his Washing Away The Conservative Movement at the link provided...which begins with this statement of Winston Churchill~~~

The responsibility of ministers for the public safety is absolute, and requires no mandate. It is in fact the prime object for which governments come into existence.
-- Winston Churchill

Somewhere, at this moment, a neoconservative is seething.

It isn't fair, he rages within. We had it wired. The House is ours, the Senate is ours, the Supreme Court is ours, the Justice Department is ours, the television news media is bought and paid for. We could act with impunity, say whatever we needed to say to get what we want, do whatever wanted, and no one could touch us. We could refashion the nation as we saw fit, whether people wanted to come along with us or not, because we know better.

We followed Leo Strauss's edicts to the letter, growls the seething neoconservative. Strauss, our neoconservative godfather, told us that this nation is best run by an elite that does not have to bother with the will or desires of the populace. Strauss told us we didn't even have to bother with the truth while pursuing our agenda. We are the elite, and we know best.

Somewhere, at this moment, a neoconservative is seething because his entire belief structure regarding government has been laid waste by a storm of singular ferocity. Hurricane Katrina has destroyed lives, ravaged a city, damaged our all-important petroleum infrastructure, and left every American with scenes of chaos and horror seared forever into their minds. Simultaneously, Hurricane Katrina has annihilated the fundamental underpinnings of conservative governmental philosophy.

What we are seeing in New Orleans is the end result of what can be best described as extended Reaganomics. Small government, budget cuts across the board, tax cuts meant to financially strangle the ability of federal agencies to function, the diversion of billions of what is left in the budget into military spending: This has been the aim and desire of the conservative movement for decades now, and they have been largely successful in their efforts.

Combine this with a wildly expensive and unnecessary war, rampant cronyism that replaces professionals with unqualified hacks at nearly every level of government, and the basic neoconservative/Straussian premise that the truth is not important and that the so-called elite know best, and you have this catastrophe laid out on a platter. The conservative and neoconservative plan for the way this country should be run has been blasted to matchsticks, their choice of priorities exposed as lacking, to say the very least.

The Katrina disaster in a nutshell: A storm that had been listed for years as #3 on America's list of "Worst Possible Things That Could Happen" arrives in New Orleans to find levees unprepared because massive budget cuts stripped away any ability to repair and augment them. The storm finds FEMA, the national agency tasked to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters, run by Bush friend Michael Brown, a guy who got fired from his last job representing the rights of Arabian horse owners. The storm finds a goodly chunk of the Louisiana National Guard sitting in a desert 7,000 miles away with their high-water Humvees parked beside them. The storm finds that our institutional decades-old unwillingness to address poverty issues left tens of thousands of people unable to get out of the way of the ram.

Grover Norquist, one of the ideological leaders of our current administration, once said he wanted to shrink the federal government until it was small enough to be drowned in a bathtub. Well, those who believe in his view of things have worked very hard to accomplish this, and we see now what happens when you do that. In this case, the government did not drown. An American city did.

Early estimates of the costs to repair the damage to New Orleans are rolling above $100 billion. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has cost many times more than that. The gigantic tax cuts of a few years ago further denuded the federal budget. Conservative and neoconservative dogma required this, and has left us singularly vulnerable. They have always wanted a weakened federal government, and now we have one, and a lot of people are dead because of it. The cost of this storm, plus the cost of the tax cuts, plus the cost of the Iraq war, plus the long-term damage to our economy caused by high gasoline prices, is going to kick the guts out of our government for a very long time to come.

In so many ultimately dangerous ways, their exposure is complete. For the last four years, we have been inundated with the claim that only Bush and the neocons can protect us from terrorism. The justification and shield for every action taken, no matter how absurd, has been that it is for our own good and defense. That's all dust now. "This is the Law and Order and Terror government," writes MSNBC newsman Keith Olbermann in his blog. "It promised protection - or at least amelioration - against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological. It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water."

Above and beyond the fact that the levees have broken all around the governmental philosophies of the conservative/neoconservative crew is the question of whether this could have been avoided with a little bit of personal responsibility. There is a lot of finger-pointing going on at the highest levels right now; at one point over the weekend, Bush defenders absurdly attempted to blame the Mayor of New Orleans for what happened. One boggles when trying to determine how the mayor of one city bears the responsibility for the damage and lack of rescue response that took place in Mississippi, Alabama and outside the realm of his parishes. This was a nicely Straussian twist on the truth, straight out of the playbook.

Could it have been avoided? Let's ask the National Weather Service, which sent out this alert on Sunday, August 28th: "A hurricane warning is in effect for the north central gulf coast from Morgan City, Louisiana, eastward to the Alabama/Florida border, including the city of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. Maximum sustained winds are near 160 mph with higher gusts. Katrina is a large hurricane. Coastal storm surge flooding of 18 to 22 feet above normal tide levels, locally as high as 28 feet, along with large and dangerous battering waves, can be expected near and to the east of where the center makes landfall. Some levees in the greater New Orleans area could be overtopped."

"Some levees in the greater New Orleans area could be overtopped." That was Sunday. Monday passed, and then Tuesday, and then Wednesday, and then Thursday, and then Friday, and then the weekend came, before any action of any significance whatsoever was taken to protect the lives of the citizens of that city.

Also on Sunday the 28th, Governor Blanco of Louisiana dispatched a letter to Bush formally requesting help for the horror she saw rolling towards her state over the southern horizon. "Under the provisions of Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 USC. 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR 206.36, I request that you declare an expedited major disaster for the state of Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina, a Category V hurricane approaches our coast south of New Orleans; beginning on August 28, 2005 and continuing," read the letter. She went on in great detail over four full pages to list a series of requests that, had they been granted, would have spared thousands of people from death.

She was flatly ignored. Forget the fact that a hurricane hitting New Orleans has been on the danger list for decades. The Bush folks got the word on Sunday, not once but twice, and instead of swinging into action, they literally ate cake.

Have they learned anything from this? Hardly. The most important bit on this week's conservative agenda, beyond stuffing Mr. Roberts into the Chief Justice chair, is to repeal the estate tax. Yes, that's correct, before we do anything else, we have to make sure the rich of this nation get an even larger slice of the pie. This caused DNC Chairman Howard Dean to launch a singularly pointed salvo over the weekend.

"Countless thousands of our fellow Americans throughout the Gulf Coast region continue to suffer in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina," said Dean. "While some have begun the painful task of rebuilding their lives and coping with the unfathomable loss, so many still await help. And the cost of this disaster in human and material terms remains unknown. It's simply irresponsible for Senator Frist and Ken Mehlman to even think about spending our tax dollars on breaks for millionaires at a time when our top priority must be to ensure we have the resources needed to address the long and short term costs associated with rescue, recovery, and rebuilding in the wake of hurricane Katrina. Not to mention the vital lesson we learned this week about the deadly cost of diverting funds at the expense of the safety of the American people. These costs, continued Dean, "also come at a time when our nation faces a massive deficit, and mounting costs in the ongoing war in Iraq."

It isn't irresponsible, Chairman. It's standard operating procedure. They've been doing it like this for so long that they've forgotten how to do it any other way. They are such true believers that they cannot fathom doing it any other way. Likely, they will get away with it, and the loss of estate tax revenues will further damage our nation's ability to care for its own.

The house of cards has fallen in. A generation of conservative thinking, combined with five years of neoconservative thrashing, has finally come to an unavoidable head. The agencies tasked to protect us - FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security to name two - have been proven to be utterly useless. The heads of these agencies - Chertoff and Brown - are the perfect avatars of Bush's way of doing business, insofar as they have no business being in the positions they are in. The conservative movement has failed spherically, from all sides and in all directions.

So here's a thought: Let's repudiate these fools. When the basic software for the operating system of a computer is proven to be riddled with bugs and bad code, it is time to rewrite the whole thing. We have to do that here, with our government and institutions, and we have to do it now. Throw conservative dogma into the dustbin of history where it belongs.

Remember that a massive, highly industrialized and infrastructured, diverse nation requires an effective central government, funded properly and staffed by professionals and patriots, in order to keep the wheels on the road. Remember the words of that great Republican, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, "Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society." What we are seeing in New Orleans is not civilized society, but anarchy. The reasons for this are as clear as the nose on your face.

They have failed us. Many people are dead because of it. It's time to change the software. Enough of this Boo Radley leadership.
© : t r u t h o u t 2005
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

jazzolog said...

The New York Times
September 18, 2005

Message: I Care About the Black Folks

Once Toto parts the curtain, the Wizard of Oz can never be the wizard again. He is forever Professor Marvel, blowhard and snake-oil salesman. Hurricane Katrina, which is likely to endure in the American psyche as long as L. Frank Baum's mythic tornado, has similarly unmasked George W. Bush.

The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.

In the chaos unleashed by Katrina, these plot strands coalesced into a single tragic epic played out in real time on television. The narrative is just too powerful to be undone now by the administration's desperate recycling of its greatest hits: a return Sunshine Boys tour by the surrogate empathizers Clinton and Bush I, another round of prayers at the Washington National Cathedral, another ludicrously overhyped prime-time address flecked with speechwriters' "poetry" and framed by a picturesque backdrop. Reruns never eclipse a riveting new show.

Nor can the president's acceptance of "responsibility" for the disaster dislodge what came before. Mr. Bush didn't cough up his modified-limited mea culpa until he'd seen his whole administration flash before his eyes. His admission that some of the buck may stop with him (about a dime's worth, in Truman dollars) came two weeks after the levees burst and five years after he promised to usher in a new post-Clinton "culture of responsibility." It came only after the plan to heap all the blame on the indeed blameworthy local Democrats failed to lift Mr. Bush's own record-low poll numbers. It came only after America's highest-rated TV news anchor, Brian Williams, started talking about Katrina the way Walter Cronkite once did about Vietnam.

Taking responsibility, as opposed to paying lip service to doing so, is not in this administration's gene pool. It was particularly shameful that Laura Bush was sent among the storm's dispossessed to try to scapegoat the news media for her husband's ineptitude. When she complained of seeing "a lot of the same footage over and over that isn't necessarily representative of what really happened," the first lady sounded just like Donald Rumsfeld shirking responsibility for the looting of Baghdad. The defense secretary, too, griped about seeing the same picture "over and over" on television (a looter with a vase) to hide the reality that the Pentagon had no plan to secure Iraq, a catastrophic failure being paid for in Iraqi and American blood to this day.

This White House doesn't hate all pictures, of course. It loves those by Karl Rove's Imagineers, from the spectacularly lighted Statue of Liberty backdrop of Mr. Bush's first 9/11 anniversary speech to his "Top Gun" stunt to Thursday's laughably stagy stride across the lawn to his lectern in Jackson Square. (Message: I am a leader, not that vacationing slacker who first surveyed the hurricane damage from my presidential jet.)

The most odious image-mongering, however, has been Mr. Bush's repeated deployment of African-Americans as dress extras to advertise his "compassion." In 2000, the Republican convention filled the stage with break dancers and gospel singers, trying to dispel the memory of Mr. Bush's craven appearance at Bob Jones University when it forbade interracial dating. (The few blacks in the convention hall itself were positioned near celebrities so they'd show up in TV shots.) In 2004, the Bush-Cheney campaign Web site had a page titled "Compassion" devoted mainly to photos of the president with black people, Colin Powell included.

Some of these poses are re-enacted in the "Hurricane Relief" photo gallery currently on display on the White House Web site. But this time the old magic isn't working. The "compassion" photos are outweighed by the cinéma vérité of poor people screaming for their lives. The government effort to keep body recovery efforts in New Orleans as invisible as the coffins from Iraq was abandoned when challenged in court by CNN.

But even now the administration's priority of image over substance is embedded like a cancer in the Katrina relief process. Brazenly enough, Mr. Rove has been officially put in charge of the reconstruction effort. The two top deputies at FEMA remaining after Michael Brown's departure, one of them a former local TV newsman, are not disaster relief specialists but experts in P.R., which they'd practiced as advance men for various Bush campaigns. Thus The Salt Lake Tribune discovered a week after the hurricane that some 1,000 firefighters from Utah and elsewhere were sent not to the Gulf Coast but to Atlanta, to be trained as "community relations officers for FEMA" rather than used as emergency workers to rescue the dying in New Orleans. When 50 of them were finally dispatched to Louisiana, the paper reported, their first assignment was "to stand beside President Bush" as he toured devastated areas.

The cashiering of "Brownie," whom Mr. Bush now purports to know as little as he did "Kenny Boy," changes nothing. The Knight Ridder newspapers found last week that it was the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, not Mr. Brown, who had the greater authority to order federal agencies into service without any request from state or local officials. Mr. Chertoff waited a crucial, unexplained 36 hours before declaring Katrina an "incident of national significance," the trigger needed for federal action. Like Mr. Brown, he was oblivious to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the convention center, confessing his ignorance of conditions there to NPR on the same day that the FEMA chief famously did so to Ted Koppel. Yet Mr. Bush's "culture of responsibility" does not hold Mr. Chertoff accountable. Quite the contrary: on Thursday the president charged Homeland Security with reviewing "emergency plans in every major city in America." Mr. Chertoff will surely do a heck of a job.

When there's money on the line, cronies always come first in this White House, no matter how great the human suffering. After Katrina, the FEMA Web site directing charitable contributions prominently listed Operation Blessing, a Pat Robertson kitty that, according to I.R.S. documents obtained by ABC News, has given more than half of its yearly cash donations to Mr. Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. If FEMA is that cavalier about charitable donations, imagine what it's doing with the $62 billion (so far) of taxpayers' money sent its way for Katrina relief. Actually, you don't have to imagine: we already know some of it was immediately siphoned into no-bid contracts with a major Republican donor, the Fluor Corporation, as well as with a client of the consultant Joe Allbaugh, the Bush 2000 campaign manager who ran FEMA for this White House until Brownie, Mr. Allbaugh's college roommate, was installed in his place.

It was back in 2000 that Mr. Bush, in a debate with Al Gore, bragged about his gubernatorial prowess "on the front line of catastrophic situations," specifically citing a Texas flood, and paid the Clinton administration a rare compliment for putting a professional as effective as James Lee Witt in charge of FEMA. Exactly why Mr. Bush would staff that same agency months later with political hacks is one of many questions that must be answered by the independent investigation he and the Congressional majority are trying every which way to avoid. With or without a 9/11-style commission, the answers will come out. There are too many Americans who are angry and too many reporters who are on the case. (NBC and CNN are both opening full-time bureaus in New Orleans.) You know the world has changed when the widely despised news media have a far higher approval rating (77 percent) than the president (46 percent), as measured last week in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Like his father before him, Mr. Bush has squandered the huge store of political capital he won in a war. His Thursday-night invocation of "armies of compassion" will prove as worthless as the "thousand points of light" that the first President Bush bestowed upon the poor from on high in New Orleans (at the Superdome, during the 1988 G.O.P. convention). It will be up to other Republicans in Washington to cut through the empty words and image-mongering to demand effective action from Mr. Bush on the Gulf Coast and in Iraq, if only because their own political lives are at stake. It's up to Democrats, though they show scant signs of realizing it, to step into the vacuum and propose an alternative to a fiscally disastrous conservatism that prizes pork over compassion. If the era of Great Society big government is over, the era of big government for special interests is proving a fiasco. Especially when it's presided over by a self-styled C.E.O. with a consistent three-decade record of running private and public enterprises alike into a ditch.

What comes next? Having turned the page on Mr. Bush, the country hungers for a vision that is something other than either liberal boilerplate or Rovian stagecraft. At this point, merely plain old competence, integrity and heart might do.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

jazzolog said...

Katrina Pain Index: New Orleans Three Years Later
Tuesday 26 August 2008

by: Bill Quigley, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

As the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches this week, the city ranks No. 1 in the nation in percentage of housing vacant or ruined.

Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast three years ago this week. The president promised to do whatever it took to rebuild. But the nation is trying to fight wars in several countries and is dealing with economic crisis. The attention of the president wandered away. As a result, this is what New Orleans looks like today.

0. Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant - compared to 116,708 homeowners.

0. Number of apartments currently being built to replace the 963 public housing apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the St. Bernard Housing Development.

0. Amount of data available to evaluate performance of publicly financed, privately run charter schools in New Orleans in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years.

.008. Percentage of rental homes that were supposed to be repaired and occupied by August 2008 which were actually completed and occupied - a total of 82 finished out of 10,000 projected.

1. Rank of New Orleans among US cities in percentage of housing vacant or ruined.

1. Rank of New Orleans among US cities in murders per capita for 2006 and 2007.

4. Number of the 13 City of New Orleans Planning Districts that are at the same risk of flooding as they were before Katrina.

10. Number of apartments being rehabbed so far to replace the 896 apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the Lafitte Housing Development.

11. Percent of families who have returned to live in Lower Ninth Ward.

17. Percentage increase in wages in the hotel and food industry since before Katrina.

20-25. Years that experts estimate it will take to rebuild the City of New Orleans at current pace.

25. Percent fewer hospitals in metro New Orleans than before Katrina.

32. Percent of the city's neighborhoods that have less than half as many households as before Katrina.

36. Percent fewer tons of cargo that move through Port of New Orleans since Katrina.

38. Percent fewer hospital beds in New Orleans since Katrina.

40. Percentage fewer special education students attending publicly funded, privately run charter schools than traditional public schools.

41. Number of publicly funded, privately run public charter schools in New Orleans out of total of 79 public schools in the city.

43. Percentage of child care available in New Orleans compared to before Katrina.

46. Percentage increase in rents in New Orleans since Katrina.

56. Percentage fewer inpatient psychiatric beds compared to before Katrina.

80. Percentage fewer public transportation buses now than pre-Katrina.

81. Percentage of homeowners in New Orleans who received insufficient funds to cover the complete costs to repair their homes.

300. Number of National Guard troops still in City of New Orleans.

1,080. Days National Guard troops have remained in City of New Orleans.

1,250. Number of publicly financed vouchers for children to attend private schools in New Orleans in program's first year.

6,982. Number of families still living in FEMA trailers in metro New Orleans area.

8,000. Fewer publicly assisted rental apartments planned for New Orleans by federal government.

10,000. Houses demolished in New Orleans since Katrina.

12,000. Number of homeless in New Orleans even after camps of people living under the bridges have been resettled - double the pre-Katrina number.

14,000. Number of displaced families in New Orleans area whose hurricane rental assistance expires in March 2009.

32,000. Number of children who have not returned to public school in New Orleans, leaving the public school population less than half what it was pre-Katrina.

39,000. Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federal assistance in repair and rebuilding who still have not received any money.

45,000. Fewer children enrolled in Medicaid public healthcare in New Orleans than pre-Katrina.

46,000. Fewer African-American voters in New Orleans in 2007 gubernatorial election than in 2003 gubernatorial election.

55,000. Fewer houses receiving mail than before Katrina.

62,000. Fewer people in New Orleans enrolled in Medicaid public healthcare than pre-Katrina.

71,657. Vacant, ruined, unoccupied houses in New Orleans today.

124,000. Fewer people working in metropolitan New Orleans than pre-Katrina.

132,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the City of New Orleans current population estimate of 321,000 in New Orleans.

214,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the US Census Bureau current population estimate of 239,000 in New Orleans.

453,726. Population of New Orleans before Katrina.

320 million. Number of trees destroyed in Louisiana and Mississippi by Katrina.

368 million. Dollar losses of five major metro New Orleans hospitals from Katrina through 2007. In 2008, these hospitals expect another $103 million in losses.

1.9 billion. FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to metro New Orleans for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

2.6 billion. FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to State of Louisiana for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

Bill is a human rights lawyer, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and author of the forthcoming book, "STORMS STILL RAGING: Katrina, New Orleans and Social Justice." A version with all sources included is available. Bill's email is For more information see the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center and Policy Link.