Six years after Katrina: Lynn's story

As Hurricane Irene was churning toward the Eastern coastline, I sent out an email about an item on CNN’s “Political Ticker,” which had caught my attention. GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, libertarian and congressman from Texas, has declared the country doesn’t need FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The response I got from my longtime friend Lynn was so moving, I asked her for permission to share it with you.

Lynn Lofton is a freelance writer who lives near the beach in Gulfport, Mississippi. Six years ago Hurricane Katrina’s wind, water and wrath swept through her home and assaulted her family. She writes about the effects of Katrina – and FEMA – on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and on her and her children, Tammy, Louann and Chip.

Lynn's story:

“Like any large bureaucracy, FEMA has problems and makes mistakes. However, as a recipent of FEMA funds after Hurricane Katrina, I hate to think where I would be without it. No one had a blueprint for a storm the size of Katrina. My town and others along the Mississippi Gulf Coast would not recover without FEMA.

“It's still ongoing as we're now in the midst of getting new water and sewer lines in my neighborhood. There have been some wonderful police, fire and other municipal facilities constructed with FEMA funds. Some families lost their homes, work places, schools, churches - everything. Thank goodness for FEMA and may no community ever have to go through another Katrina.”

Lynn then reflects on that disaster:

“Today is the sixth anniversary of Katrina so there are lots of reflections where I live.

“I've intently watched Hurricane Irene these past few days. It brought back so many memories. It was bad but it could have been so much worse. I'm glad it's over.

“Today is Tammy's birthday, so now it's forever marred for her as the day Katrina struck! Her home in New Orleans had water up to the roof line. She and her family were displaced for a long time. As a mother it was so unsettling not to be able to offer refuge to them, but my house was a mess, too. I had only about five feet of water, but it took two years to get it repaired.

“Chip was renting a house in Biloxi at the time. It had a small amount of water, and he was able to get back in quickly. He took in Tammy's two dogs, his boss' dog and had two of his own. He ran a kennel for a while!

“I actually was able to save some of my furniture, dishes and clothes. I took family photos and albums with me when I left. It was impossible to think of everything when evacuating. I lost baby books, high school yearbooks and things like that in addition to household items. It is accurate to say I lost most everything.

“Everything in the house had to be re-done (shored up the foundation, new plumbing, wiring, sheetrock, etc.). Because the windows and doors blew out I didn't have any mold. Consequently things dried out and some pieces of furniture were salvagable.

“I was from pillar to post but pretty much stayed with a good friend in Jackson, Miss., until I got a FEMA camper. It took six months for me to get a camper. because the paperwork kept going to the wrong place. I had five addresses within a very short time span!”

Life – so precious – goes on:

“Louann was supposed to get married in New Orleans on Sept. 17, 2005. Everything had been paid for and secured. Of course, that didn't happen in New Orleans so soon after Katrina. She was living in Arlington, Va., at that time. The wedding finally took place on Dec. 3 in Washington, D.C. When I evacuated the day before Katrina hit, my dress for her wedding was hanging in a garment bag outside my closet. For some crazy reason I grabbed it and took it with me. Anyone who's ever been the mother of the bride knows how difficult it is to find a suitable dress to wear - I guess I was taking no chances that I'd have to go through that search again!

“Anyway, she got married on a snowy December evening in D.C. and I, the mother of the bride, proudly wore the outfit I had planned to wear on a hot day in September in New Orleans.

“At that point half of Louann’s family was homeless. and we were just happy to be alive and together. Tammy and her children found an apartment in Alexandria, Va., shortly after Katrina struck. She had to get the children in school, and it was good to be there near her sister.

“I bought a laptop computer and a cell phone and kept right on writing from wherever I was. I was thankful to have work that allowed me to keep earning.”


I suppose it is easy to sit on Capitol Hill or in a comfortable armchair somewhere and criticize the work of a government agency. Lynn’s family was lucky: they all survived Katrina, and her story attests to what FEMA, which got off to a sluggish start, has done for the people of her beloved Gulf Coast.


A woman scorned

Forbes has released its annual list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” and coming in at No. 19 is Georgina Rinehart, described as “the richest woman in Australia - and said to be on track as the richest person in the world in 2012."

So, how does Ms. Rinehart count her blessings?

According to Forbes, she is using her wealth “to campaign against national environmental reforms and taxes.”

Am I reading that right? If so, Ms. Rinehart, a mining tycoon and heiress worth $10 billion, might just epitomize greed.

She has an American counterpart.

In a town hall meeting in Charleston, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley popped in as a surprise guest to throw Michele Bachmann a softball question about the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Bachmann, No. 22 on Forbes’ list, replied:

"If the NLRB would also be continuing their current stance, they may not last very long. Once they see what I do to the EPA they may shape up,"

So, what would this GOP presidential hopeful do to the Environmental Protection Agency – whose sole purpose is, well, to protect the environment?

“Lock the doors and shut off all the lights.”

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and apparently Mother Nature is no exception. Talk about a powerful woman.


A few apt adjectives

“He counts votes before he chooses what to eat for breakfast. He’s a two-faced, cutthroat, dirt-dumb, chicken shit, slimy, little bastard with a bright future in politics.”

That’s a defense attorney, desperately trying to save an innocent man from lethal injection, describing the governor of Texas in John Grisham’s “The Confession.”

Copyright 2010.

Might be fiction, but that sounds about right to me.


Seriously, folks. The last thing this country needs right now is another evangelical cowboy riding out of Texas with eyes on the White House.

DemWit calls your attention to some pretty slick investments as Rick Perry supporters in Texas turn thousands of dollars in campaign contributions into millions reaped from Texas’ coffers.

And, oh, those lucrative appointments.

Don’t miss “Perry Mines Texas System to Raise Cash for Campaigns,” Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo, The New York Times, 20 August 2011.

Mr. Perry, there’s a passage in the New Testament where Jesus exhibits the very human emotion of anger. This is just the sort of thing to tick off the Master you so publicly – and hypocritically – claim to love.


A study in contrasts

A real look at America’s haves and have-nots that goes beyond partisan bickering:

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) released a report this past week stating that 64 percent of Americans cannot come up with $1,000 to cover an emergency situation.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax data for 2009 shows there were 235,413 taxpayers who earned $1 million or more that year.

According to the non-profit NFCC, of the 2,700 survey respondents, 17 percent of those who could not meet a $1,000 emergency expense said they would borrow money from friends or family. Another 17 percent said they would neglect other financial obligations, such as a credit card or mortgage payment, to meet the emergency.

The IRS data just released shows that in 2009, "incomes fell, unemployment claims rose and the U.S. economy shed nearly 2 million taxpayers."

A previous NFCC study found that “30 percent of Americans have zero dollars in non-retirement savings. A separate study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 50 percent of Americans would struggle to come up with $2,000 in a pinch.”

According to the IRS, of the 235,413 taxpayers who earned $1 million or more in 2009, 1,470 paid no taxes.

From a news report in The New York Times: Standard & Poor’s “based its downgrade and its negative outlook for America’s credit rating partly on the assumption that Bush-era tax cuts for high incomes would be extended past their 2012 expiration, ‘because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues.’ S.& P. said it could change its outlook to stable if the tax cuts ended.”


Three days that shook America

OK, enough Kumbaya. I’m angry.

My hair has been on fire since I read the following quote from former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, who wants to be president:

“America’s creditworthiness just became the latest casualty in President Obama’s failed record of leadership on the economy. Standard & Poor’s rating downgrade is a deeply troubling indicator of our country’s decline under President Obama. His failed policies have led to high unemployment, skyrocketing deficits and now, the unprecedented loss of our nation’s prized AAA credit rating.”

Mr. Romney’s claim is so blatantly hypocritical it takes my breath away.

If this nation is in decline; if it does fall, it can, in my opinion, be traced back to three dates:

12 DECEMBER 2000

As most DemWit readers know, I am a retired newspaper editor with degrees in political science and journalism, so I’ve long had a propensity toward both.

I began to monitor politics in earnest following the 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore, simply because I could not believe what had just taken place in the United States of America.

Two of this country's most famous lawyers wrote books about this decision:

Charles Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi (boo-lee-O-see) wrote “The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President.” Law professor and famed defense attorney Alan Dershowitz wrote “Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000.”

What happened that day wasn’t about your favorite candidate: it was about the real loser, the Constitution of the United States of America. That got lost in the joy of victory and the agony of defeat.

20 JANUARY 2001

How do you argue that George W. Bush, inaugurated on this date, was the worst president ever to occupy the Oval Office? Where do you begin? How do you disseminate in a single article, post or conversation what I referred to in a previous post as “a million pieces of evidence”?

If we view his presidency in terms of our current economic crisis – “treasure” – the equation is quite simple: two wars and tax cuts equal bad fiscal policy.

If we view it in terms of “blood,” how do we measure the cost in countless lives – military and civilian - lost in an unnecessary, pre-emptive, unilateral war to overthrow a tinpot dictator who was no threat to us at all?

And, that’s just two of the million pieces of evidence known to those who paid attention. In his second term – indeed, in his recent book – Bush was concerned for his “legacy.” For the most part, he managed to turn around advances made over decades. History will not be kind.

7 OCTOBER 1996

The first lie was its slogan, “Fair and Balanced.” Since its launch date, Fox News Channel has been the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. The flagship of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has the highest ratings of the three cable news networks, attracting the conservative half of the country. Viewers who tune in simply because Fox News is biased toward their ideology don’t want news, they want validation. Under the skillful direction of Roger Ailes, Fox News has manipulated both the ignorant and the uninformed, convincing its audience to trust no other news source.

According to Frank Rich in New York Magazine
, in an in-depth piece about Murdoch's phone-hacking scandal in England, right-wing Canadian media mogul Conrad Black, in the Financial Times, "describes Murdoch as not merely a ‘tabloid sensationalist’ but ‘a malicious mythmaker, an assassin of the dignity of others and of revered institutions, all in the guise of anti-elitism.’ Or as the former Bush speechwriter David Frum said more than a year ago, ‘Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.’ ”

There are Web sites like Newshounds and Media Matters for America which have meticulously documented the lies on Fox News, based on direct quotes from its shows.

Incredulously, Fox News actually used lying as a defense in a court case:

“In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by Fox News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.”

But, there is a good rule-of-thumb used by credible media: always get more than one source. If you must watch Fox News, don’t let it be your only source of news.


There have been many days that shook America - from the stock market crash of '29 to Pearl Harbor to 9/11 - but I believe the three dates above have affected America's present and will have a sustained effect on its future.


Divided we fall

It is NOT sour grapes which leads me to share the article below. I honestly believe that if the economy does not miraculously turn around, Obama will be a one-term president. A shattered base cannot sustain him. And God help us all if any one of the current GOP contenders wins!

Hillary will never oppose the president in 2012: she has too much class to do that. And too much sense.

President Obama’s campaign trail will be interesting: I just don’t see multitudes at rallies chanting “Yes, We Can!”

Now about the article – it's a good example of the kind of talk that's out there. No question about that. I hasten to point out that, with the exception of Bill Maher and a few sources who have previously appeared in print, the writer has peppered her “report” throughout with quotes from unnamed sources – look for them. I could have sat at my cpmputer and written such an article with made-up quotes! And, how can she know what’s being talked about from the Beltway to gatherings at office water coolers? Finally, her motivation for writing the article is pretty apparent from the title of her book. While there is nothing wrong with stating a point-of-view in an opinion piece, she attempts to make this sound like a factual news story. As a writer she fails at attribution. I give her no credibility.

Because I believed she was the most qualified to be president and clean up after George W. Bush, I supported Hillary passionately, but I voted for Obama and have given him my support. I do confess, however, that I think Hillary would have shrunk Boehner’s balls. :-)


Hillary Told You So

Author: Leslie Bennetts
Source: Reader Supported News, August 7, 2011

As Democratic disgust with Obama’s debt fumbling spreads, Clinton supporters recall her '3 a.m. phone call' warnings—and angry, frustrated liberals are muttering that she should mount a 2012 challenge.

At a New York political event last week, Republican and Democratic office-holders were all bemoaning President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling crisis when someone said, “Hillary would have been a better president.”

“Every single person nodded, including the Republicans,” reported one observer.

At a luncheon in the members’ dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday, a 64-year-old African-American from the Bronx was complaining about Obama’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the implacable hostility of congressional Republicans when an 80-year-old lawyer chimed in about the president’s unwillingness to stand up to his opponents. “I want to see blood on the floor,” she said grimly.

A 61-year-old white woman at the table nodded. “He never understood about the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,’” she said.

Looking as if she were about to cry, an 83-year-old Obama supporter shook her head. “I’m so disappointed in him,” she said. “It’s true: Hillary is tougher.”

During the last few days, the whispers have swelled to an angry chorus of frustration about Obama’s perceived weaknesses. Many Democrats are furious and heartbroken at how ineffectual he seemed in dealing with Republican opponents over the debt ceiling, and liberals are particularly incensed by what they see as his capitulation to conservatives on fundamental liberal principles.

In Connecticut, a businessman who raised money for Obama in 2008 said, “I’m beyond disgusted.” In New Jersey, a teacher reported that even her friends in the Obama administration are grievously disillusioned with his lack of leadership—and many have begun to whisper about a Democratic challenge for the 2012 presidential nomination. “I think people are furtively hoping that Hillary runs,” she said.

The son of a longtime Democratic congressman from Texas, a 73-year-old lawyer, is so enraged with Obama that he’s threatening not to vote for the 2012 Democratic ticket—the first time in his entire life that he’s contemplated such apostasy.

Among many of the 18 million Americans who supported Hillary Clinton in 2008, the reaction is simple and bitter: “We told you so.”

On Real Time With Bill Maher, the host said that as far as he was concerned, Obama might as well be a Republican, and added that he thought last week represented the tipping point in Obama’s presidency. Wondering if liberals have “buyer’s remorse” about Obama, Maher asked his panel whether Clinton would have been a better president.

“Yes,” replied astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, adding that Clinton would have been “a more effective negotiator in the halls of Congress.”

“She knows how to deal with difficult men,” Maher agreed. (BJ NOTE: Hillary jokingly made this remark about herself during her campaign.)

Among Clinton fans, particularly older women, the language was frequently far more caustic. “Obama has no spine and no balls,” said a 67-year-old New Yorker.

In recent days, political conversations from inside the Beltway to office water coolers all over America have abounded with unflattering comparisons between Obama and President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Capitol Hill veteran who was a master of knocking heads to get things done. A Texas Democrat, Johnson served as a representative, a senator, the Senate minority leader, the Senate majority leader, and vice president before becoming president when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. “Unlike Obama, he knew how to work the system,” said one political reporter.

In his New York Times Sunday Review essay “What Happened to Obama?” Emory University psychology professor Drew Westen summed up the president’s lack of experience with devastating succinctness.

“Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he occasionally, as a state senator in Illinois, voted ‘present’ on difficult issues,” wrote Westen, author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.

The presidential scholar Matthew Dickinson went even further with a post under the headline “Run, Hillary, Run!” on the blog Presidential Power. “She did warn you,” Dickinson reminded his readers.

“Remember that 3 a.m. phone call? Remember the warning about the rose-colored petals falling from the sky? Remember about learning on the job? Sure you do. Doesn’t a part of you, deep down, realize she was right?” wrote Dickinson, a political-science professor at Middlebury College. “If I heard it once this last week, I heard it a thousand times: You were duped by Obama’s rhetoric—the whole ‘hopey-changey’ thing. And you wanted to be part of history, too—to help break down the ultimate racial barrier. That’s OK. We were all young once. But now it’s time to elect someone who can play hardball, who understands how to be ruthless, who will be a real ... uh ... tough negotiator in office. There won’t be any debate about Hillary’s, er, ‘man-package.’”

Other observers contrasted the president’s declining popularity with Clinton’s widely acclaimed performance as secretary of State. “To be blunt, her resume outshines the incumbent’s,” wrote Dickinson, noting that Clinton’s approval rating is close to 70 percent while Obama’s is around 40 percent.

Such polls notwithstanding, insiders insist that Clinton will not challenge her president for the 2012 nomination, and many pundits dismiss the idea as political suicide. “A challenge from Clinton would be a complete disaster, both for her and for the Democrats,” wrote Jon Bernstein on the Plain Blog political site.

Political experts point out that Republicans’ hatred of the Clintons in the 1990s was just as virulent as their efforts to destroy Obama’s presidency in the last couple of years. Longtime analysts also remember the carnage that ensued when Sen. Ted Kennedy challenged President Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination, fracturing the party and paving the way for Ronald Reagan’s election. Four years earlier, Reagan himself had challenged an incumbent Republican, President Gerald Ford; Reagan lost the nomination, Ford lost the presidency, and Carter was elected.

However unlikely a Democratic challenger might seem at present, Obama would be foolish not to heed the deep dissatisfaction represented by such speculation, which is now spreading like an ominous brush fire. Given the abundance of devastating economic news lately, he would also do well to remember the Clintons’ rallying cry from the 1992 election.

“There’s no question in my mind that Obama is a one-term president,” says one passionate Democrat. “Even if he were a great president, this economy is a calamity. And in the end, ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’”

“No one ever had to tell Hillary that,” says a disgruntled member of Clinton’s 18 million.

Leslie Bennetts is a longtime contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author of the national bestseller The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up


Obama took on argueably the toughest job in the world today and is learning a tough lesson: these days you can’t be president of all the people. The lies and slime would be hurled just as ferociously at Hillary as that attacking our sitting president.

If we still have hopes of moving our country beyond this moment of insanity, we had better coalesce around our president.

Divided we fall.


Restoring America

I refuse to accept that I am an enemy of America because I am a liberal Democrat. And, I refuse to believe that many of my loved ones are America’s enemies because they are conservative Republicans.

Quoting a CNN report: “S&P gave two primary reasons for downgrading U.S. debt: The nation's fiscal path and its broken political system.”

“Broken political system.”

And so once more that little possum, Walt Kelly’s “Pogo,” reminds America that “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

What then is the fix for a broken America? We are, hopefully, too civilized to engage in a second civil war. Should we divvy up territory, giving the left 25 states and the right 25 – calling ourselves, as my friend Carolyn once suggested, “The Divided States of America”?

While you and I look to our elected leaders for solutions, we do not need to make ourselves part of the problem.

But, damn, it’s hard to shake the unshakeable conviction that, after reading and writing and hearing a million pieces of evidence over the last decade, I am right to be on the left.

The thing is: the other half of the citizenry feels the same way.

Are we loving America to death?

My country is in trouble. So, it goes without saying that the following quote, read this morning, gave me pause:

“It is easy to look at America's place in the world right now and believe that we are in a downward spiral of decline. But, this is a snapshot of a tough moment. If the country can keep its cool, admit to its mistakes, cherish and strengthen its successes, it will not only recover but return with renewed strength. There could not have been a worse time for America than the end of the Vietnam War, with helicopters lifting people off the roof of the Saigon embassy, the fallout of Watergate and, in the Soviet Union, a global adversary that took advantage of its weakness. And yet, just 15 years later, the United States was resurgent, the USSR was in its death throes, and the world was moving in a direction that was distinctly American in flavor. The United States has new challenges, new adversaries and new problems. But, unlike so much of the world, it also has solutions - if only it has the courage and wisdom to implement them.”

This quote was not ripped from this morning’s headlines. It is from a 13 June 2007 post on my previous blog, “I See My Dreams.” Its source is a lengthy and insightful article by Newsweek’s International Editor Fareed Zakaria, “Beyond Bush: What the World Needs Is an Open, Confident America,” June 11, 2007, issue: LINK

Do our elected leaders have the “courage and wisdom” to stop listening to the lunatic fringes on the left and the right, to stop worrying about their re-election campaign coffers and to salvage the strengths that have made this democracy endure?

I’m not sure. Are you?


NRA prez misses target

Could I ask the United Nations to ban telephones in the United States?

Yesterday I was awakened from a much-needed nap by a robocall from David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association.

The message went something like this:

The United Nations is going to take away your guns and ban all guns in the United States, just as they have been banned in, and here he named several countries. And isn’t it just a damn travesty that the United Nations is located on U.S. soil?

OK, that’s loosely paraphrased, but that was the gist of the scare tactic.

At the end of the call I was given the choice to punch “1” if I did not think the UN should (what?) do this on U.S. soil, and “2” if I thought it was OK. I punched “2” and was thanked for taking the "survey."

The NRA knows its target audience. This wasn’t a survey. It was a scare tactic aimed at an area populated by gunowners who love hunting. I do not object to hunting: it’s been around since the cavedwellers. What I object to is the NRA’s eternal effort to raise funds by convincing Americans that “they’re gonna get your guns.”

The member states of the UN, it seems, are drafting a treaty to “regulate the multibillion dollar global arms trade,” aka the weapons of war. To the members of the NRA this translates into threatening their hunting guns.

I am often astounded when my current read echoes current issues. In John Grisham’s “The Brethren,” a fictional member of the U.S. House is handpicked by a fictional CIA director to run for president because he is willing to double the defense budget – a move to ward off Armageddon, because a couple of Russian goons are stockpiling materiel to start “a second Cold War.”

Anyone who read the book or saw the movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” knows that such weapons are readily sold between countries. It’s a fact that Israel sold weapons to arm the mujahideen in Afghanistan as they founght the Soviet Union.

Hey, this stuff goes on, and it’s not just the transfer of war materiel, it arms terrorists, paramilitary groups and drug cartels. It’s got nothing to do with duck hunting.

But, the UN treaty is just the sort of thing to trigger mass hysteria among American defenders of the 2nd Amendment. And, keep the NRA’s coffers filled.

Remember the dreaded “16 words:” “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .”

If some nut job really is out there bartering for yellowcake, I, for one, would like to know some effort is being made to control it.

Read more about the NRA’s action HERE.


As for the United Nations tainting U.S. soil, I think it’s a good time, once more, to read the preamble to its charter HERE.