Matthew McGoffin, a 2008 graduate of Lafayette High and a third-year cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, is safe today in Istanbul, Turkey, after being evacuated with seven fellow cadets from Cairo, Egypt, where nearly a week of intense civil unrest has brought the country — and its Internet and telephone service — to a chaotic standstill.
McGoffin is studying Arabic at West Point and was supposed to spend the semester immersed in the culture in Cairo, where he would also take language courses at American University.
“He was going to be able to let his hair grow out and let his beard grow for the first time since he left,” says his father, Lafayette attorney Gary McGoffin.
The group from West Point arrived in Cairo on Monday, Jan. 17, eight days before tens of thousands of angry, disaffected Cairenes took to the street to protest the authoritarian regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The cadets were not in uniform during their time in Cairo and had rented apartments in a suburb where they stayed — Egyptian authorities instituted a curfew when the rioting began — until late in the week when they made their way to the U.S. Embassy. They were then taken to a secure compound where an official attached to the embassy lives.
McGoffin says he and his wife received a phone call from Matthew at 6 a.m. Central Time — Cairo is eight hours ahead of Lafayette — on the day the unrest began.
“He was in a bazaar, shopping and haggling and just having a great time,” McGoffin recalls. “That afternoon at 2:30 p.m. our time, which would have been 10:30 p.m. their time, I heard on BBC news that there were 20,000 protesters in the street and things had started.”
The McGoffins knew through sporadic Internet contact with Matthew during the week that he and his fellow cadets were safe. On Saturday the families of the cadets received a reassuring email from the embassy official who wound up sheltering the group:
My wife and I have had the honor of hosting cadets during their time in Cairo over the last couple of years, and last night had planned on meeting/taking the new group out on a felluca ride on the Nile. Well….obviously that didn’t happen! I think you’ve heard from some of our stateside connections already, but just wanted to send out another email this AM from the embassy (the only place with Internet) to let you know the boys are fine, and will be staying at our house for the duration of whatever the heck this is. I apologize for the short/group nature of this message, and will hopefully be able to provide an update tomorrow. Once Internet is turned back on, they will be emailing you themselves from our house. They’re a great group, and we consider them our surrogate son and will treat them as such. (That probably means my wife will have them doing dishes….)
The cadets were evacuated Monday to Istanbul and within a week they should arrive in Morocco where they will complete their Arabic-immersion semester.
McGoffin says that while he and his wife, Thelmi, were naturally concerned about Matthew’s safety early on, the military academy kept them up to speed on developments.
“We knew that being West Point cadets they were valuable assets to the United States government, so we were pretty confident that things were going to work out for them,” McGoffin says, adding that Matthew’s main concern was being able to complete his immersion semester — and let his hair and beard grow out a bit. “The biggest disappoint for him,” McGoffin adds, “was the fact that he might have to go to West Point for the semester instead of finishing up in Egypt or one of those countries.”
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.