Katrina

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 06, 2005 12:00 AM

There are times in our lives to restart,
Times when everything comes apart:
Do you know what it means
To miss New Orleans
When that's where you left your heart?

- F.R. Duplantier

SUBSTITUTE CHEFS

Given the tremendous loss of human life and personal property, it may seem ridiculous even to think about what New Orleans has lost in its restaurant sector, says our good friend John Mariani, a columnist for Esquire and Wine Spectator.

Still, the author of the Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink says "if any city on Earth seems to revolve around and exist for food, it (is) New Orleans. . . . New Orleanians live, sleep and breathe food and love their restaurants as much as the millions of visitors who came solely to eat there."

Now, with bayou stoves submerged in water, Mariani is helping spread word that top chefs here in Washington will join forces Monday as the soon-to-open Acadiana restaurant at 901 New York Ave. NW becomes "the po' boy headquarters of a fundraising effort."

Participating chefs serving up brown-bag carry-out po' boys for a donation of $25 include Jeff Tunks (Acadiana, DC Coast, Ten Penh and Ceiba), Robert Wiedmaier (Marcel's), Michel Richard (Citronelle), Roberto Donna (Galileo), Ris Lacoste (1789), Cesare Lanfranconi (Tosca), Frank Morales (Zola), Todd Gray (Equinox), Cathal Armstrong (Restaurant Eve), RJ Cooper (Vidalia), John Besh (August, New Orleans), Jeff Buben (Vidalia and Bistro Bis), Kevin Scott (New Orleans Bistro), and John Wabeck (Firefly).

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF

Reporters were told initially that the Hurricane Katrina press conference Friday at the National Press Club was being called by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Black Leadership Forum, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Urban League and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

As expected, black congressmen wasted no time criticizing the slow federal response to the massive storm, albeit Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Ohio Democrat, assured the audience: "The issue is not about race right now. There will be another time to have issues about color."

Now, the National Conference of State Legislatures informs The Beltway Beat that it was "mistakenly included as an endorser of statements" made at what it labels a "Congressional Black Caucus press conference."

"The issue discussed at the press conference today was not voted on at any of NCSL's business meetings nor was it ever considered," says the nationwide bipartisan organization.

THE LITTLE THINGS

On the heels of the black leadership group Project 21 throwing its support behind Judge John G. Roberts Jr., the National Black Republican Association is announcing that it backs President Bush's Supreme Court nominee because of his civil-rights record.

"The facts demonstrate Judge Roberts' long history of being a civil-rights advocate," explains NBRA official Don Scoggins.

While a practicing lawyer, the NBRA notes, Roberts, without compensation, argued a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit on behalf of welfare recipients who challenged a termination of benefits; participated in a program sponsored by the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs to help prepare first-year law students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds; and supported moot court competitions sponsored by the Black Law Students' Association.

INTEL FAILURE

The complete lack of preparedness by the federal government in responding to Hurricane Katrina "is one of the most significant intelligence failures in history, ranking right up there with Pearl Harbor and 9/11."

So writes Roger Pielke Jr.,a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., in the Sept. 4 edition of Science Policy.

He says it "will be important in the coming months for Congress to investigate this policy failure with every bit of effort that it did after 9/11. The question that needs to be asked, and it is not too soon to begin asking, is why was the federal government so unprepared for the disaster in the face of robust scientific knowledge about the disaster at all time scales?

"This is especially in light of the fact that the government completely reorganized itself (into the Homeland Security Department) after 9/11 to improve the nation's preparedness and response to catastrophes."

NO TIME TO PARTY

Among other canceled celebrations, CNN in Washington has postponed its glitzy event scheduled for Thursday to celebrate "The Situation Room," anchored by Wolf Blitzer.

"It's due to the overwhelming circumstances in New Orleans," Washington publicist Janet Donovan explains of the VIP party that was to have taken over all of restaurant Teatro Goldoni on K Street.

The new program, airing locally from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., is modeled on the concept of the White House Situation Room - albeit in place of the president, it is Blitzer debriefing CNN's correspondents, analysts and guests. (No differently from at the White House, Hurricane Katrina has been the most pressing "situation" of late, although President Bush's nomination yesterday of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to succeed William H. Rehnquist as chief justice of the Supreme Court will soon share center stage.)

MONKEY BUSINESS

Defending the "great research" accomplished for senior citizens by Covance Inc. at its Vienna, Va., laboratory is Jim Martin, president of the 60 Plus Association of nonpartisan seniors. The lab has come under attack by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for purported "physical and psychological abuse of monkeys."

To combat PETA, Martin says: "I want to start PETS: People for the Ethical Treatment of Seniors."

GODSPEED, 'CHIEF'

More than anything else, the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist cherished his relative obscurity. The potential loss of it was what worried him the most about an impeachment trial of President Clinton.

Apart from the devastating impact he knew a trial would have on the country as a whole, Rehnquist realized that his life would never be the same. Indeed, Rehnquist authored the 1992 book, "Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson," until then the only two impeachment trials in our nation's history.

"His anonymity goes away once he's on TV for a few days and that has got him terribly concerned," a Supreme Court insider told this columnist in January 1999. "Right now, he can go out and walk around the Supreme Court, as he does every morning at 9 o'clock, 9:15. Every day, he walks around the building a couple of times, walks around the block alone and nobody's there.

"Of course, there's security guys within reach, but nobody is walking with him. Nobody recognizes him. Tourists don't know who that guy is."

As it was, when the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History later displayed travails of American presidents, including Johnson, next to the relics of Clinton was the robe worn by Rehnquist while presiding over the Senate impeachment trial.

(We reported later that in his annual financial-disclosure report, the chief justice listed this same robe, which he himself presented to the Smithsonian, as a "donation." He declared in the report that the robe was appraised by Sotheby's at a whopping $30,000. One can only imagine the price tag put on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress.)

Like it or not, Rehnquist had crawled out of his shell. One day, he had tongues wagging at the Supreme Court when he showed up in a packed courtroom wearing a robe with four bright gold stripes on each sleeve much like a Navy captain wears, but around the biceps instead of the wrists.

"The chief," or so it was explained to us by a top court official, had designed the robe himself after seeing a similar one worn by the lord chancellor in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "Iolanthe."

And as for his seemingly gruff exterior, Rehnquist actually possessed a sense of humor. Not too many years ago, while addressing a ceremony at the University of Virginia Law School, he began his speech by noting that the audience was filled with lawyers and nonlawyers alike.

"In the past, when I've talked to audiences like this, I've often started off with a lawyer joke, a complete caricature of a lawyer who's been nasty, greedy and unethical. But I've stopped that practice," he said.

"I gradually realized that the lawyers in the audience didn't think the jokes were funny and the nonlawyers didn't know they were jokes."

BLOWN HISTORY

Tens of thousands of homes, many of them historic, were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, including a house that had stood for 154 years in Pascagoula, Miss., and belonged to Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.

Lott, whose children grew up in the home, counted himself among the Mississippians whose "morale" was "hurting right now."

Another was Rep. Gene Taylor, Mississippi Democrat. He found his Bay St. Louis home virtually obliterated.

And in Biloxi, Beauvoir, the retirement home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which was constructed in 1848, hardly weathered the 21st-century storm. One aerial shot of the 500-acre estate showed its main house still standing, although columns, windows and doors that had withstood many previous hurricanes over the course of more than 150 years were gone.

"If the structural integrity of the house is sound, I believe Beauvoir can be restored," says Dan A. McCaskill, a Beauvoir trustee from Indianola, Miss.

WHEN IT RAINS. . .

"The rainstorm has done the worst that it can do, now we have to answer ourselves a question: Are we going to become a human problem or are we going to see this as a human opportunity . . . to offer hospitality to those who are hurt, to offer sacrificial action?"

So the Rev. Luis Leon asked President Bush and other members of the St. John's Episcopal Church congregation, his sermon speaking to the immense tragedy inflicted by Hurricane Katrina.

Bush certainly had much to absorb during the 8 a.m. service, with prayers also offered for the soul of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died Saturday night at the age of 80.

TIME TO PRAY

Given the ongoing war in Iraq, and now Hurricane Katrina, the Christian Coalition of America says there was no better time than this week for the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis to decide to continue its practice of saying grace before lunch.

"The Air Force Academy's decision to discourage public prayer is a wrong decision," says coalition Vice President Jim Backlin, a West Point grad, who is calling on Congress to step in and pass a bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, and Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam Democrat, that would ensure voluntary, nondenominational prayers at the nation's military service academies.

The Naval Academy is the only one that holds formal prayers at lunch, offered each day by Navy chaplains. The practice dates to its founding in 1845.