As if outing a C.I.A. agent isn't bad enough, Novak now sets his soulless sights on New Orleans:
I spent two days here with Donald E. Powell, federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding, who conducts oversight on the remaking of New Orleans. Physical reconstruction is slow, and the city will never regain its former size or appearance. But civic leaders I met agreed that law enforcement, criminal justice, education and health care all are better than they were before Katrina. WaPoOHMYGOD! Did he actually say that? Did he? Law enforcement is BETTER? Yeah, just that little problem with having 2 to 4 murders every weekend (special report). Criminal justice is better? Volunteers follow cases via Court Watch NOLA, which reports:
Court Watch NOLA has monitored 300 cases in the New Orleans criminal justice system in its first four months. Only four of those cases went to trial and two were for the same case after a trial ended in a hung jury.
It gets worse, said Karen Herman, coordinator of Court Watch NOLA. More than 68 percent of the time, court watchers observed cases rescheduled for another day through continuances. "Turnover and attrition" within the district attorney's office were the primary cause of the delays, according to Court Watch.
Five of the eight prosecutors have quit the Violent Offenders Unit since Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan created it in March....
Herman, a prosecutor for eight years under former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, said her return to Criminal District Court has been an eye-opener. She points to a case monitored by Court Watch NOLA that illustrates how the criminal justice system is failing the public.
Anthony Thomas was 17 years old when he was arrested Oct. 29, 2004, for armed robbery and carjacking. In the ensuing three years he was released from jail on bond and re-arrested three times without ever going to trial for 15 different offenses, including second-degree murder, possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of illegal firearms, flight from an officer and possession of marijuana, heroin and crack.
So, that's the D.A.'s side. What about the Public Defenders?
An angry New Orleans judge says he will release 42 criminal defendants on April 18 because they lack adequate legal representation.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter lashed out at the Louisiana Legislature for making a "mockery" of the criminal justice system and also warned that he will no longer appoint the beleaguered public defender's office to represent poor criminal defendants in court.
"Indigent defense in New Orleans is unbelievable, unconstitutional, totally lacking in the basic professional standards of legal representation and a mockery of what criminal justice should be in a Western civilized nation," he wrote in an order issued last week.
The judge, one of 12 in the Orleans Parish criminal courts, has been pushing for more than a year to reduce the pre-Katrina backlog of poor defendants who have been in jail awaiting trial without attorneys. He has suspended prosecutions, released four defendants charged with misdemeanors and ordered lawmakers and Gov. Kathleen Blanco to appear in his court to explain why they have not provided more money for the public defender system.
"The Louisiana Legislature has allowed this legal hell to exist, fester and finally boil over," Hunter wrote. more
Oh, but, my dear judge, funny little man in a robe, it can't be all that bad. Robert Novak says it isn't. And Novak knows his s**t.
Education is better now, Novak tells us.
Hmmm, well, that only leaves health care to be better post-K. Let's see. No ("more than 40 percent of adults in the New Orleans area have poorer healthcare access after Katrina than they had before the storm;" "70 percent of the adults without health insurance in Orleans Parish were African American;""among the most frequently reported health-access problems were deterioration in the ability to have health needs met now compared to before Katrina, difficulty in getting to a medical care center, and adapting to different medical providers after the storm;""the findings help explain why residents ranked getting medical facilities up and running as such a top priority only behind repairing levees and controlling crime"). No:
A major part of this reshaping of the city’s ethnic face and economic profile has been played out on the stage of the New Orleans public schools. The Bush administration and certain high level Louisiana government officials saw in the devastation of Katrina an opportunity to create a new national model of a ‘market based system of education’ that could replace the existing public school systems. To this end, state takeover legislation broke up the existing New Orleans Public Schools [NOPS], creating a balkanized patchwork of competing school systems, firing all of the teachers and staff in NOPS, and abrogating their collective bargaining agreement.
Eighteen of the best functioning New Orleans schools remained with a much smaller NOPS; two-thirds of these schools have been converted to charter status with NOPS as the authorizing agency. A recovery school district [RSD] run by the state Board of Education has responsibility for more than 20 schools, including the schools of last resort in this ‘market’ system, and is chartering more than 20 other schools. A number of charter school operators, including the Leona Group, KIPP, and several local universities, also run schools. Further, both NOPS and RSD have spun off a number of charter schools to an independent organization – the Algiers Charter School Association. The sheer number of competing entities creates much confusion among parents, students, decision-makers, community residents and the public in general. While these intermediary organizations multiply, New Orleans still has barely one-half of the public schools it possessed pre-Katrina....
A much larger group of schools, including most of the RSD, is struggling mightily. The State Board of Education and the RSD has failed to provide them with the most elementary tools of education. New Orleans teachers told me stories of their RSD schools that, two years after Katrina, had neither textbooks for their students nor teaching materials for their teachers. Many RSD schools were beset with serious environmental problems such as mold, mildew and rodent infestation. Other schools were still unable to deliver a proper lunch to their students. Having dismantled the pre-Katrina teaching force, forcing large numbers of them into retirement and into other Louisiana parishes for work, this experiment in market education has created a major teaching shortage in New Orleans, heavily concentrated in the RSD schools. During our June visit, many RSD schools still lacked a full complement of teachers. A recent UTNO-AFT report, No Experience Necessary, describes in detail the difficulties New Orleans public schools are now facing in attracting and retaining qualified, experienced teachers. Throughout the 2006-2007 school year, students were actually turned away from the RSD schools and denied their right to a public education because there are no seats for them in those schools and insufficient school teachers to teach them.
My colleagues visiting RSD middle and high schools saw large numbers of security guards, one posted virtually every 100 yards in its halls, but there is a grave shortage of counseling and mental health professionals in these same schools, as well as throughout New Orleans. [The ratio of students to security guards has gone from a pre-Katrina 333-to-one to a post-Katrina 37-to-one.] Knowing how important mental health services were for New York City public school students following 9-11, I was shocked that New Orleans students who were Katrina survivors were not receiving even minimal assistance. Our AFT colleagues in the New York State Psychological Association were part of our June visit to New Orleans, and are working with UTNO on this important front.
One target of the takeover legislation was United Teachers of New Orleans, a great union with a proud legacy as one of the first integrated teacher unions in the South and the very first teacher union in the South to win collective bargaining rights. UTNO had built itself into a powerful educational and political force in New Orleans, and union-busters in Washington DC and Baton Rouge saw in the post-Katrina reorganization of schools what they thought was an opportunity to destroy it. They eliminated by fiat its collective bargaining agreement....more, and see National Model or Flawed Approach: The Post-Katrina New Orleans Public Schools (pdf) and also Dismantling a Community and, to learn how this neocons' wet dream was planned well before Katrina, read Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
Almost all of the patients are elderly and in some cases, bedridden. Those who can manage to get to a doctor often can't find one.Hell, I can't find anybody to see me in less than two months. I wish. My doctor now has a three month waiting list - and that's to reup my diabetes meds.
How would Lawson describe the state of health care in New Orleans? "It's still on the respirator," she says. "It's still in the ICU."
Two years after Katrina, the health care system in New Orleans is as dilapidated as many of the still-unlivable houses, reports CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Katie Couric. Four hospitals remain closed, thousands of doctors have left, and a quarter of the adult population has no insurance.
"The hospitals in this area are literally hemorrhaging cash, hemorrhaging resources," says Dr. Kevin Jordan, chief medical officer at one of the few remaining hospitals. He says emergency rooms are even more overtaxed today because of the exodus of primary care physicians.
"You can wait anywhere from a month to a month and a half, two months to get a regular appointment, given that that doctor is willing to see you. Because remember, there's that much demand," he gestures with spreading arms, "and that much resource," he adds, closing the gap with his hands.
And speaking of mental health (we were, weren't we?):
Payne said the number of psychiatrists in the greater New Orleans area was reduced by 80 percent after Katrina. The higher cost of living and the risk of future hurricanes have made returning to New Orleans less attractive for most specialists.How about life in a FEMA trailer park? Mental health?
New Orleans' medical infrastructure was already top-heavy and not fully integrated with the mental health care system, Payne said, but after Hurricane Katrina "the entire health care system was literally dismantled."
"Now that all the children are stressed, we clearly don't have enoughmental health care providers," said Dr. Harold Ginzburg, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Louisiana State University and Tulane University, both in New Orleans. "Tulane's medical school went to Houston," he told CNS. more
"What's it like to live around here?" I asked. "Well," he replied, "I'll be honest. Ain't a day goes by when I don't think about killing myself."Well, it sounds good enough to me. You're right, Bobby Novak, it's all good; come on down!
According to a recent study of 92 different Katrina FEMA parks published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, suicide attempts in Louisiana and Mississippi's parks are 79 times higher than the national average. Major depression is seven times the national rate.
When I first read those numbers, I found them hard to believe. But after three days at Scenic Trails, they made a lot more sense.
The residents there, in essence, are trapped. It is no longer possible for them to live outside the trailer parks. Prior to Katrina, most of the people who now live in the parks were renters.
Along the Mississippi coast, a family of four could rent a two- or three-bedroom apartment or small home for around $500 a month. But when the storm wiped the Mississippi coast clean, it took out all the housing infrastructure that supported these people. Most of them are minimum-wage workers who live paycheck to paycheck. Today, a two- or three-bedroom apartment in Hancock County, where Scenic Trails is located, costs $800, $900, even $1,000 a month. This is an impossible amount of money for the people who live in the parks, and there is no immediate end in sight. FEMA says it would like to close the parks, but state and federal government plans to rebuild low-income housing for Mississippi coast residents have yet to break ground. Housing experts says it will probably take years to produce enough low-cost housing to move people out of the parks.
And so they are stuck. And the place they are stuck is not the kind of place you would want to spend an extended amount of time. For two years, many have lived in travel trailers intended for weekend use. Families of four housed in a space the size of most people's living rooms.
Worse, as time wears on, the communities around them seem to be falling into a kind of madness. At Scenic Trails, almost everyone at the camp has been burglarized at
least once. Meth and cocaine addiction is rampant, and residents seem to be
turning against one another.
Recently, the park has seen a rash of animal mutilations. One resident told me that her cat had come home bleeding — a long, thin razor cut along its leg. Another resident said his dog's throat had been cut, and several people reported that someone in the camp had been feeding
anti-freeze to dogs. more