New Orleans boosters are throwing Mardi Gras celebrations that end on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 28. But there is plenty the people of the “Big Easy” are not celebrating, starting with the criminal negligence of the Bush-Cheney administration before and after the levees broke and flooded their homes last summer. They are still waiting for anything close to an adequate response to the humanitarian crisis that has cut New Orleans’ population by half, the rest scattered in a vast diaspora across the country.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration, riddled with cronyism and bungling incompetence, has just evicted 4,400 Katrina survivors from New Orleans hotels and an additional 8,000 will be evicted March 1.

FEMA estimated that 98,000 travel trailers would be needed to provide shelter for the evacuees but six months later has provided less than half. Residents of the 9th Ward, Gentilly and other working-class neighborhoods of New Orleans are waging a determined struggle to prevent the bulldozing of their homes while the federal government stalls on making block grant funds available to rebuild. Meanwhile, speculators are offering residents $15,000 to $20,000 for their properties, a key element of the plan to gentrify New Orleans, turning it into a mostly white haven for the rich.

The Corps of Engineers is rebuilding the levees but only to a “pre-Katrina” standard. The people of New Orleans hear that with alarm. It means the Bush administration is turning thumbs down on rebuilding the levees strong enough to withstand a Category Five hurricane.

Politically savvy folks in New Orleans know their vote next fall, organized and focused, can help remove from office the corporate-right-wing politicians responsible for this “man-made” disaster. That’s why they are organizing to fight for their right to vote in New Orleans even if they are now scattered.

“They allowed Iraqi citizens living in the U.S. to cast their votes in the Iraqi elections,” says one voting rights advocate. “We’re demanding that they provide the same voting rights for Katrina survivors no matter where they are living.”

We agree.