Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Monday, May 23, 2011

Governor Bentley Upset With FEMA Rejection Letters

Governor Bentley pens his "Epistle to the Afflicted" version of a  FEMA rejection letter

Alabama republican and ever-stalwart man of God, Governor Dr. Dr. Bentley, thinks FEMA is being "insensitive to elderly couples in rural Alabama who have had their homes blown away” by starting out the FEMA claim response letters with the line “You have been denied.”

The good Dr. (and self-professed superior Christian) has volunteered his services for a more appropriate letter and managed to get the federal coordinator Michael Byrne to acquiesce to this nonsense:
"The agency's federal coordinating officer, Michael Byrne, has agreed to *revise the letter," Bentley said.
"The first sentence should not say you have been turned down, especially when you are hurting and you've lost everything," the governor said Friday. "That is my disagreement, but let me tell you Mike Byrne has been nothing but gracious."
Mike Byrne, FEMA's state coordinator in Alabama, said the agency would *address the governor's concerns. (Which is it? “Revise” or “address” the wording?)
Bentley, a retired doctor, advised that FEMA should adopt a better bedside manner, with a little understanding of Southern manners.
"You cannot write a letter in Washington and make that letter fit an elderly couple in rural Alabama who has had their home blown away," Bentley said. "They (the letters) can say the same thing, but you need to say it the right way."
Gov. Robert Bentley said he was worried that the letters FEMA is sending people are “too full of government jargon” and “would discourage many people from pursuing assistance.”
In other words, Bentley seems to be implying in a roundabout way, ‘You all aren’t smart enough to understand the letters. You need me to help you with this and you can cry on my shoulder, because I know you will cry from that unchristian-like government language.' 

He has asked to “personally review a rewritten version of the letters before more go out in the state.” 

Wouldn't it be a better use of his office to mobilize 'solution centers' set up with hotlines and staff that can assist residents through the process after they have received denial letters? That's what other communities have done after disasters and denials. Let him put his own FEMA money where his mouth is, Alabama has gotten a sizable amount so far.

$33 million in federal aid has poured into the state since the April 27th tornadoes, where has this money gone? If it is not reaching the people, then who is it reaching and how are they using the tens of millions? Maybe they can consider floating the folks a loan.

We don’t deny that it’s tough to go through a disaster, lose everything you have and then receive a claim rejection letter from the federal government. But it’s not a unique situation, and numerous communities in America have gone through this process and managed to deal with letters from FEMA without their governors needing to call in the psychologist (or priest depending on geographic location) at large.

Or take over the federal government's written response to claimants and inject veiled religious dogma into the matter. There's hardly a speech or public commentary that goes by where Bentley does not do this in one form or another and it's wearing thin.

This is quite the unique circumstance that our governor thinks this state deserves special kid-glove treatment and word specific government letters that are “more sensitive” to his constituents sans the perceived “complicated governmental jargon.” Is he suggesting that no one in Alabama can deal with "No" or is it simply they shouldn't have to unless it comes in a satin lined box, complete with complimentary crucifix and state republican party donation envelope, of greater sensitivity?

Here’s a link to a denial letter from FEMA to the state of Virginia that we are struggling to find "complicated and insensitive governmental jargon in." There’s the obvious disappointment in "No," but the logic behind Governor Bentley’s claims are not apparent to us. Maybe we are just too insensitive ourselves, but no other governor has ever made this kind of surreal request of FEMA before. And they shouldn't again.

It’s embarrassing and nonsensical beyond belief. And ineffectual. 
Who really gives two whits about the choice of word placement when action is what is needed more than anything right now? And yes, that action includes federal intervention! If southern governors and politicians continue to stick their thumbs in the eye of the federal government, a la Rick Perry of Texas, then who is really to blame when those same states desperately need federal assistance and the feds say "No?"

It is not FEMA’s job to replace everything you have. FEMA is designed, even with all of it's inherent flaws, to act as a stop gap in helping with specifically defined immediate needs, like temporary housing, food and water, etc.--the basic necessities of existence. They are not capable of making you whole, and they shouldn't be in the business of bowing to behind-the-times religious zealots disguised as governors.

Governor Bentley knows that individual claims do not have the strength to turn on the spigot of federal dollars like state agencies do. The $33 million that has already been paid to Alabama is weighted much more towards the state's requests for assistance than for individual payouts--clearly they have figured out how to deal with "No" and get their fair share and much more to follow. 

We think the state can best help these denied claimants by using the weight of the state to cut through governmental red tape and resubmit claims, with organized centers staffed with knowledgeable people, that can help guide citizens through the process. 

Anything else is grandstanding.

If Governor Bentley is seeking a leveling of the payout playing field, citizen claims catch up to state payouts, on that point alone, we stand behind him without all the other nonsense included. If however, he is seeking to score political points off the disaster, and we suspect he is, then his actions are even more troubling.

Alabama has been doing some bragging about the fact that they are "doing a better job taking care of their own" and "really don’t need the federal government to intervene." Certain radio talk show hosts and Tea Party types have been saying just that very thing, and the mantra is echoed in a recent Letter to the Editor from the Birmingham News May 19th.

You can’t have it both ways.

Alabama has suffered some real embarrassment in the national media and we think the governor's latest public meddling with FEMA verbiage continues us straight down that path and into the wide-open spaces of more public embarrassment.

So, rather than reaching for the well worn Kleenex box, we decided to make lemonade from the increasingly abundant lemons and have a little fun with Dr. Dr. Bentley. Laughing is easier than crying after all and it's going to be a looooong four years.

Here’s how we imagine a letter from the Governor, based on his public missteps, religion first governing, and his incredibly amateur way of speaking (complete with his favorite, overused folksy sayings), might go:

“Bentley’s Epistle to the Afflicted”

The Brothers and Sisters Who Are Hurting
555 Blown-Away Street
Deprived County, Alabama 00000

Dear Elderly Christians in Rural Alabama:

We feel your pain, but we can‘t give you any of that government money right now, and why do you want anything from the evil federal government anyway? They are nothing but a bunch of socialist liberals and we don’t need that in Alabama.  The fact that you have been denied by FEMA is really a blessing. You should be rejoicing!

The Lord God our savior said: (insert uplifting and zealous bible verse of your choice here)

Brothers and Sisters, we want to make you whole again, but you have been tried and found wanting and suffered God’s wrath! (Like you didn’t know that).  Suffering and sacrifice is not enough; God also thinks you shouldn’t get a federal handout at this time. He works in mysterious ways, don’t he?

But don’t you fret none now, because “you have a Doctor in charge of Alabama now” and he will make everything as right as rain. Well, maybe that wasn’t the best choice of words.  I’m not known for my oratorical skills, but I do love the Lord Jesus and I think you should too. And not just any Jesus, I’m talking about the righteous Christian blue-eyed Savior, because if you’re worshiping the son of the wrong God, you are not my brother and sister in Christ, maybe just a half-wit 2nd cousin or something.

And are you right with my God? Because if you aren’t than maybe that’s why your house blew away.  In Revelation, 11:19, “… there was opened the temple of God that is in heaven; and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there followed lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail.”  Sound familiar?

 "But you know what?" We really don’t need the federal government all in our business here in the great state of Alabama. If you’ll just pray with more conviction, your house and property and everything that the bad ol’ socialist liberal tornado took away (it had to be liberal because it hurt so may of you good conservative Christians) will miraculously rebuild itself. God can do anything. And so shall I despite Mike Hubbard and Bob Riley's meddling.

“Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of the ages.” (Revelation 15:3)

I so personally approve this letter that I asked Mr. Craig Fugate to let me write it myself. That devil FEMA has been insensitive to you, offering money and then sending those straightforward rejection letters with no mention of Divine Intervention. I told Mr. Fugate that he should just send all those demon rejection letters to the pastors of your churches so he could pray with you, as you read the words “you have been denied,” words written by the Devil himself, denying you both the Kingdom of Heaven and a few dollars to rebuild your little Kingdom on Earth.

You will never be denied the Kingdom of Heaven if you just follow me and my Daddy, the Lord.  We may torment and test you for a thousand years, but just as Noah survived the Flood and Job endured his boils, you can get past a few more years of me as governor. Wait, did that come out right? Never mind, I'm low on White-out and just remember, the Rapture will come. Just not right now, and certainly not in the form of a check or any kind of compensation from Alabama or the Federal Government.  

Say “Hallelujah!”

The Self-Anointed, Righteous, Governor of some all Alabamians
Dr. Dr. Robert Bentley

*Disclaimer--it was not our intent to harm the feelings of Christians or deride religion with this parody of a letter. We simply don't believe governing should be weighted too heavily on religious beliefs first and foremost.
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  1. RFLMAO!

    Bentley the tolerant, you pegged him.

  2. Bentley is such a huge disappointment and embarrassment. Who gives a damn about words! We get rejection letters with insurance and such and don't fall apart and need divine intervention from above. This is ridiculous! He needs to get off the pulpit and do just what you suggest; set up some organized places for people to get assistance with denied claims.
    That's an idea that can get results.
    Trying to rake political hay off a tragedy is not what Alabama needs!

  3. Now that was funny!

  4. Anybody remember Bentley's speech to the legislature quoting Isiah "......Send Me?"
    It got a standing ovation.
    I am glad that some of these politcos have faith, but does it have to be a banner to walk around in?

  5. I agree Henry.
    What's the old saying?;"don't discuss politics and religion."

  6. Someone has a new set of sharp knives.
    It was deserved though.
    Bentley seems to forget that he is not in Sunday school class.

  7. Outstanding wicked humor Max!

  8. From now on anytime I get a rejection letter of any kind I expect the governor to run interference for me.
    Man, he is an embarrassment to the nines.

  9. One thing you cannot do is talk biblical and surround yourself with the wicked. That;s exactly what the Dr. did during his TT and even now with some of his alliances.
    There's nothing Christian-like about Balch & Bingham and the BARD boys, if we judge them on past history and present involvements.
    I don't see the need to lean on FEMA about the letters in any shape, form or fashion.

  10. Gerald Johnson wrote on the "Montgomery Wars" a few years back and the role religion has played in Alabama politics.

    It's a great read and a primer in the tightly wound alliance of religion and politics, with the added element of race in the mix.

  11. i'myourhuckleberryMay 23, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    When I see this governor and the so called compassionate Christians in the legislature actually show some concern for Alabama's poorer citizens, then maybe I will be a little more tolerant of the politics with religion. Until that happens, forget it. Good for you Max for being bold enough to call the Dr. out on his pious and judgmental behavior.

  12. Huck is right. Nothing Goat Hill does is designed to help the poor or the average citizen. It's all designed to pay back special interests and line the pockets of our no good politicians!

  13. If FEMA goes along with Bentley's hare-brained idea that should raise some serious eyebrows that a state governor can tell the federal government what to do, no matter how small the issue is.

  14. Really like the Epistle!!
    Too sharp your wit was on that!

  15. Trolling around and found this site.
    Thanks for the good laugh! Steven Colbert should do a bit on that letter.


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