The Straight Story About Katrina

The straight story about Hurricane Katrina. That is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo."

Not in my lifetime has a major American city been wiped out. But New Orleans is not functioning this evening and the Mississippi coast is close to that.

Even after the brutal attack on 9/11, essential services here in New York City were up and running and life went on. Not in New Orleans. That city's dead. Can it come back? We'll report on that in just a few moments.

Like California cities on the San Andreas fault line, New Orleans has cheated death many times. The city was carved out below sea level and depends on levees to exist. Once the dikes fell, there's nowhere to hide.

Over the centuries, Americans have altered the flow of the Mississippi River for farming and commerce reasons, putting more pressure on Fort New Orleans. The walls had to be built stronger and stronger to keep the water back, but Katrina put too much pressure on and the water breached.

Now the Crescent City has little fresh water, power, or infrastructure left. It's always been a poor city with most of the 1.5 million people living in the area underfunded. It'll take a massive amount of government money to bring this city back.

Meantime, millions of people are at risk in hundreds of ways. And only a methodical, disciplined strategy will allow them to begin living normally again.

"Talking Points" has some suggestions. Any person or company exploiting the situation should be immediately identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This includes looters. No justification for taking TV sets. That should get you a harsh prison term.

Every American should immediately cut back gasoline and oil consumption right now. Don't drive unless you have to. Watch the thermostats in your house.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman (search) should inform American oil companies not to profiteer. In fact, I think their profits should be cut back by 20 percent to spare America's pain. Any oil company that does not voluntarily comply with that should be exposed.

President Bush should ask OPEC to drop the price of oil $15 a barrel tomorrow. It costs OPEC about $4 a barrel to produce and market the crude. They're getting $70 a barrel on the open market. Do the math. This is a gouge.

And finally, Americans should help the Red Cross and other legitimate charitable organizations as we did in the tsunami disaster. Also, one more thing. Hotel owners in the South should make vacancies known to the authorities and not price gouge. After all, we're not OPEC here.

Over the next few weeks, “The Factor” will do what we always do. We will watch those in power to see exactly how they help the folks hurt by Katrina. And that includes you oil company CEOs. You're on notice.

And that's "The Memo."

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

No "Ridiculous" or mail tonight because of the breaking news situation. We do, however, want to run down some stories we're following outside of Katrina.

A federal judge in New York City is deciding whether to release more Abu Ghraib (search) photos. That decision could come at any time. My column this week, posted now on, explains that situation in stark terms. Quite simply, the ACLU (search) is putting our troops in danger. I hope you check the column out.

Apparently hundreds of people died in a panic situation on a Baghdad, Iraq, bridge. A rumor that a suicide bomber was present apparently caused a stampede. An awful situation.

Jesse Jackson met with Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez and says Chavez is offering to help low income Americans heat their homes this winter. How nice if that happens. We will let you know.

And Joran Van Der Sloot (search) is in court again today. Nobody really cares, just a bunch of lawyer stuff. It's expected they will extend his prison time until October and then charge him with some kind of wrongdoing in the Holloway case.

Now, tomorrow on "“The Factor”" we will continue our Katrina coverage and look at some of the people trying to politicize the situation. That is not good.

In the meantime, we hope you check out and listen to the "Radio Factor." Also, please e-mail us with some pithy comments:, Name and town if you wish to opine. We'd like to know what you think about our Katrina coverage. If there's stuff you want to know, let us know and we'll try to find out for you.

You can go to We have links to all of the charitable foundations, trying to help the folks.

—You can watch Bill O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" and "Most Ridiculous Item" weeknights at 8 and 11 p.m. ET on the FOX News Channel. Send your comments to: