The other day, Mark Morice, a hero of the storm–a resident of Uptown New Orleans who had commandeered a neighbor’s unused boat and rescued perhaps a hundred stranded citizens after Katrina’s floods–learned that he is being sued by the boatowner for not returning it. The owner said he didn’t mind Morice borrowing his boat and is glad he saved those lives, but he should have returned it to his house where he got it. The hero admitted that he left it elsewhere, but only so other people could use it to continue the rescue operation. The boat disappeared, the insurance company paid off, but a lot less than the boat was worth, and so the owner is suing the hero for $12,000. Residents are coming out of the woodwork to berate the boatowner who should have been honored that his dumb boat did something more worthwhile than haul his worthless carcass off to the lake on weekends.
A day or so later, the letters to the editors sounded off on this matter. One fellow said his name is almost identical to the boat-owner’s lawyer’s name, which had been listed in the paper, and his phone has rung off with mean-spirited callers which is pointless because he himself supports the hero’s actions. Someone else wrote that the owner at least got some compensation for his boat which is more than most people who did not have their boats–or even their homes–insured.
Police arrested Bryan Perrilloux, 20, of Reserve (a suburb a few miles upriver), late Monday night. He had walked down Airline Highway to LaPlace in the middle of the night and broken into a closed convenience store. Six minutes after he broke the plate glass window the cops showed up. They were probably surprised to find he was not robbing the store. He said he just had a craving for some pastries. His bond has been set at $15,000.
New Orleans has this district attorney named Eddie Jordan. When he was the local U.S. Attorney, most of us thought he was a pretty straight-up fellow. He’s the guy who got former governor Edwin Edwards sent to the slammer and that was no mean feat. He won the race for DA and then promptly fired almost all the white folks in the office so he could replace them with employees having the same color of skin as he. “Racism? Not me!” he protested. The terminated ones sued and he lost big-time. Except there’s no money in the DA’s budget to pay the judgment. Anyway, that’s Eddie Jordan. He made the news the other night in a way that once again embarrasses everyone around here.
Jordan was being interviewed on “Nightline” by Brian Ross, ABC’s chief investigative reporter. Ross quoted the U.S. attorney general who was commenting on the crime wave in this city and the lack of prosecutions of criminals. AG Alberto Gonzales said, “You need to have an effective police department, you need to have the courts operating effectively, you need to have a local prosecutor who is doing his job.”
When Ross asked Jordan about that comment, the district attorney lost it. “This is ignorance and stupidity on the part of people who don’t know how our system works.” When Ross pushed it, asking, “Was he talking about you?” Jordan’s manager–okay, spokeswoman–stood and declared the interview over. Jordan kept calling the questions “stupid.” Ross said, “These are honest questions, sir.” “They’re stupid! They’re not honest questions.” And he stalked out of the studio.
This kind of unraveling, writes Times-Picayune columnist Stephanie Grace, lets the world know that Mayor Nagin is not the only loose cannon around here.
One of the most embarrassing and, let us overuse that word, stupid, incidents occurred several months ago when two FEMA employees were arrested for soliciting bribes. These two men are said to be Colorado firefighters who came to town to help with search-and-rescue operations after the storm. This Spring they were managing a FEMA base camp in Algiers, just a few blocks over from Calvary Baptist Church. In fact, a lot of our volunteer workers stayed there. What these two birds did was approach the contractor who had won a million dollar contract from the government to provide meals, and promise they would inflate the number of meals served so he would be paid more. All he had to do for them was to slip them $2500 each per week for the length of the contract. The contractor went to the FBI. When he gave the culprits an envelope containing ten big ones and they took it, the feds moved in and arrested them. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced this week to 21 months in federal prison.
But all the strange birds are not around here. The front page of Thursday’s paper announced that studies have shown the makers of cigarettes have upped the amount of nicotine by some 10 percent in the last five or six years, particularly in the brands most popular with teens. I can’t wait to hear how the tobacco big-shots try to explain this away.
Maybe we can get them a cell beside the pastry-loving convenience store burglar and the money-hungry Colorado firefighters. One’s as foolish as the other.