FEMA Director Michael Brown, the man with the dubious rÃ©sumÃ© who was fired from his previous job as director of the, ahem, Arabian Horse Association, was reassigned to Washington. Not fired for his gross incompetence, just relocated to Washington to "return to administering FEMA nationally," said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Is there anyone left in the entire universe who trusts Michael Brown's credentials or leadership?
Then the Washington Post and Newsweek allowed an anonymous "senior Bush administration official" to claim that Gov. Kathleen Blanco still hadn't declared a state of emergency as of Wednesday, Sept. 3. That's a flat-out lie ' Blanco declared a state of emergency the Saturday before Katrina hit ' and the spin driving such an attack on Blanco is disgusting.
Next consider the announcement of a "bi-partisan" committee to investigate the agonizingly slow relief efforts ' except it isn't an independent commission like the one formed after 9/11, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wasn't even told about the commission before Sen. Bill Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (who suggested that New Orleans wasn't worth rebuilding) announced the committee.
FEMA followed that by announcing it would not allow media to take pictures of dead bodies recovered in New Orleans. There's one word for this: censorship. How can the nation fully understand the magnitude of this tragedy without seeing the death that accompanies it? (CNN immediately filed a lawsuit over the policy and won a temporary restraining order.)
By Friday morning, I'm sure my blood pressure levels were off the charts. Then in my office mail, I saw a small envelope marked "Personal and Confidential." I recognized the handwriting immediately. It was from Chris Marshall, one of my best friends from high school whom I'd lost touch with for the past 15 years.
Inside was a five-page handwritten letter. He wrote:
"I've been meaning to get in touch with you for some time. â?¦ Now there's this hurricane, and to my disbelief, the news of it seems to be getting buried as a political embarrassment to the President. His trips down there seem more like PR campaigns than anything else. It appears to me as a huge tragedy of national significance, which is still unfolding, yet it's not even headline news anymore, less than a week after Katrina hit.
"There have been various fund drives around here: the Chicago fire department has been standing at busy intersections filling up firemen boots with cash, and I put some money in. But it seems so indirect. I imagine, with half a million people out of New Orleans you must be seeing many people in need. (I haven't seen how Lafayette fared.) I also imagine you're seeing more than you can help. So I'm enclosing some cash, which you can just give to a person/family who needs it. If this seems wildly inappropriate then send it back. To me it seems wildly inadequate. ... I hope you make it through this rough time okay."
I read Chris' note to the displaced families and friends staying with us that night in Carencro, and we put the money in a communal jar where it's accessible for groceries, clothes, or unexpected costs.
The rest of the weekend was heartening. The phone still rings off the hook and hurricane-related e-mails come in every few minutes, but managing the flurry is starting to feel like second nature. Between the chaos, we read books to our kids, took bike rides around the neighborhood, catnapped when possible, and sang along when Zachary Richard and Roddie Romero teamed up for "When the Saints Go Marching In" to close Saturday night's "Band Together" relief concert at Parc International.
And we were overwhelmed by random displays of kindness. One neighbor brought a computer monitor from his grocery store in Mamou for a displaced photographer at our house. Another neighbor brought a bean casserole and rice steamer. We ate watermelon and fried turkey between discussions of food stamps and flood water levels, and laughed at the joyous sight of six kids taking a bath together. And yes, we all let out raucous hollers when the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers.
I came into the office this morning ' Monday, Sept. 12 ' with a renewed sense of optimism. Scanning the morning news, I heard U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany give an interview to MSNBC. Here's what he said: "Most of the red tape and problems have been at the state level. I have to say that the federal response has been focused on New Orleans with search and rescue operations which is going very, very well at this stage. But we've had a completely ineffectual state response and this is being borne by the local communities to help now. I have asked the president to take this into consideration, consider that the state response is completely ineffectual and the full range of social and health care needs to be met."
My blood pressure's rising again; that's not what Boustany said after touring the Cajundome last week. He told The Advocate he was dissatisfied with the federal government's response to Katrina. He also told the Washington Post in its Friday, Sept. 2, edition that he'd spent the past 48 hours urging the Bush administration to send help. "I started making calls and trying to impress upon the White House and others that something needed to be done," he said. "The state resources were being overwhelmed, and we needed direct federal assistance, command and control, and security ' all three of which are lacking."
Maybe Rep. Boustany should stop changing his story and just admit that the failures post-Katrina stretch across local, state and federal levels. CNN's Web site now has damning video evidence of Blanco admitting to her press secretary that she didn't ask for military reinforcements in her first conversations with President Bush. Between interviews on Wednesday, Aug. 31, while the audio and video feed is still running but Blanco doesn't realize it, she says, "I really need to call for the military. I really should have started that with the first call."
So another week begins in this time when any sense of normalcy is difficult to find. But as the politicians keep spinning and their incomprehensible mistakes come to light, there's comfort in the heroic and nurturing efforts of Louisiana's citizens, friends and family. No matter what happens in the next seven days, I'll put on a pot of red beans and rice for the Saints game on Monday night against the Giants. And our crew at the Carencro commune ' along with Katrina evacuees scattered throughout Louisiana ' will have a few hours where we can forget our government's failings.
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.