• by Michael Fountain

    Science Fiction, Horror, and an Animal's Revenge...
    Animals are the poor children of Fortune. The research described in this story is all too real. If we cannot rescue Seventeen, why not a dream in which his tormentors feel just a little of what he feels...?

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    Flaming Asshole of the Week: the Nominees

    More antique Dane than Roman, I often berate myself for impulsive words that caused hurt while I was all of fourteen. When I was twenty, I so embarrassed myself in a conversation about existentialism that I went on to minor in philosophy until some of the sting went away. And the worst thing I ever said… bad enough to cut my own tongue out before I’d confess in print.

    Happily, those who feel chosen to lead us through the flood have no internal editor to protect them from speaking too soon. They ignore the old saw: rather than be thought a fool, they are compelled to open their mouths and remove all doubt.

    Whoever wins— and I’m sure there’s more to come! Will have to compete for Flaming Asshole of the Year against last week’s classic: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." (C. in C. Bush on "Good Morning America," Sept. 1, 2005.) Good luck to you all!

    The nominees for Flaming Asshole of the Week are:

    Dennis Hastert on rebuilding New Orleans:
    "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," the Illinois Republican said to the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Illinois. "We ought to take a second look at it. You know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake fissures and they rebuild, too. Stubbornness. I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me." … And Los Angeles had better not come crying to me after the Big One hits.

    Trent Lott to three child refugees, resting on cots:
    “Now tell me the truth boys, isn’t this kind of fun?” …Yessuh, Huckleberry, it JEST like camping out. Hope you rebuild your beach house porch in time for Mr. President G.W. Bush to SIT his SILLY ass DOWN.

    Rick Santorum, who saved us from dog-fucking by holding the line on gay marriage, now sees a need to punish those who didn’t get out in time:
    “There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.”

    Barbara Bush the Elder, visiting refugees in the Houston Astrodome:
    "What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them." Sept. 5, 2005, first aired on American Public Media's "Marketplace"

    But the president himself may take the palm for the second week in a row, after this endorsement of FEMA director Michael Brown on September 2:
    "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

    If A Social Darwinist Dies, Should Any of Us Care?

    Let's assume for just a moment that these Social Darwinists are correct, and it was the poor people's own damn fault they were caught when Ponchatrain broke through the levee that was neglected by their own local government.

    Can you also defend the federal government's abandonment of the doctors and nurses who stayed at their posts? By the end of the week, medical personnel were giving one another IVs in order to stay hydrated. These professionals were just as abandoned as the "losers" in the stadiums. Their own fault for not getting out in time, right?

    Let's blame the children in the stadium, too-- probably their fault for being born to lazy parents. And the old ladies, and the diabetics and the asthmatics.

    I would respect your rather nasty attitude more if you would honesly come out as a worshiper of Odin or some other pagan god. Republicans, stop pretending that Christianity motivates your political beliefs in any fashion.

    How sad that your entire political philosophy is an elaborate defense for your own meanness, your cruelty and small mindedness. It is only by the grace of God, inherited wealth, family connections and conservative blindness that your own coke addled, "reformed" alcoholic president isn't out there with his shirt off, whoopin' and lootin' with the rest of the "losers" along the Gulf. It could be your turn next week.

    You sad assholes, New Orleans is a great city, and in spite of its horrendous flaws and your disapproval, it deserves to live and laugh again.

    What Makes a Perfect Storm? Do the Math

    Reuters is reporting that 35 percent of Louisiana's National Guard is in Iraq. 40% of Mississippi's Guard is there. 23 percent of Alabama's and 26 percent of Florida's are deployed.

    Back in New Orleans, the 17th St. levee finally broke Monday morning; it was 4 feet lower than the rest of the levee and was one of the specific sites named for renovation by the Army Corps of Engineers and the spot most often cited by worried Louisianans. The UK Independent spells out exactly how the money needed for levees was spent elsewhere by George W. Bush:

    "The US Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the levees, requested $27m this year for hurricane protection around the lake. President Bush tried to cut this to $3.9m, although Congress allowed $5.7m. .... Federal spending on flood control in south-east Louisiana has been cut by almost half since 2001, from $69 million per year to $36.5 million. Funds for work at Lake Pontchartrain, the source of the flooding, have fallen by nearly two-thirds over three years, from $14.25 million to $5.7 million. As a result, work on New Orleans' east bank hurricane levees stopped last summer for the first time in 37 years."

    Mike Brown, current head of FEMA, was Judges and Stewards Commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association from 1991 to 2001. There were lawsuits involved in which "IAHA's insurance carriers agreed to pay $200,000 to the Orrs in settlement of the Orrs' case against IAHA and Mike Brown." IAHA's press announcement says Brown left amiably. The Denver Post says he was asked to resign after using contributions to the IAHA for his own defense fund. The LA Times hasmore background here:"Michael D. Brown left his job in Colorado supervising horse-show judges to work for Bush's longtime political aide, Joe Allbaugh, who was heading the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the new administration. Brown had been a lawyer active in Republican politics whose most relevant emergency response experience was a stint supervising police and fire departments as assistant city manager in an Oklahoma City suburb. But within two years, he rose from FEMA's general counsel to deputy director and, when Allbaugh left, he moved to the agency's top spot."

    Brown's replacement, George G. Johnson, Jr., speaks here of "opening up the office" and no longer working "behind a closed door." "Horses are the noblest of creatures," Johnson says, "They're a wonderful diversion, forgiving and honest; they're a nice change from a hectic world." Would that we had more of them in government.

    Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

    "Spasm" band of street kids playing whatever came to hand around 1900. Before "jass" had a name, there were established groups like Stalebread Lacombe's "Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band". When a rival advertised himself with a similar name, Lacombe and compeers showed up with razors and bricks to threaten harm to the establishment. The impasse was solved by the rivals changing their name to "Razzy Dazzy JAZZY Band" -- "jass" being Old French argot for "to fuck" as in jazzere, jism, and the request heard in sporting houses, "Play something a little jassy, Professor", meaning to fuck around with the music, to syncopate the stately rhythms of popular tunes into something quite unheard. At least that's the story I heard. See also Stephen Longstreets's wonderful "Sporting House: New Orleans and the Jazz Story".

    As reporters flip back through their notebooks, It becomes more and more evident that people knw this was coming, and that the loss of life in New Orleans, was caused in part by the inaction of the federal government. Links here, and here, and here. The Army Corps of Engineers has been trying to raise the levees, and had its budget for the projects slashed in half by the Bush administration. The 17th Street levee, where the first big break came, was 4 feet lower than the rest. A blue ribbon commission got a program called SELA going years ago, and that had its funding sent to the war in Iraq and the Bush tax cuts. How much evidence do you need? Only a village idiot would say something like "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." Oh, wait...

    One New Year's Eve in New Orleans, little Louis Armstrong wanted to shoot off fireworks too, so he got the gun from under his mama's bed and fired it into the air. Sadly, that got him sent to the Jones Colored Waif's Home, but blessedly, it was this band that gave him his first trumpet. I heard that Armstrong is buried in New York because New Orleans let him down one last time, making him a celebrity at Mardi Gras but refusing to let him perform in public with his friend Jack Teagarden, a white trombonist. Regarding his final home in Queens, New York, he said, “I’m here with the Black people, the Puerto Rican people, the Italian people and Hebrew cats and there’s food in the Frigidaire. What else could I want?”

    Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil

    (Mississippi River Flood of 1927)
    Thousands of people have died and are dying right now for the unforgivable sin of being too poor to get out in time.

    Lewis C., child of New Orleans and best man/best friend, reports that our friends and adoptive family in and around New Orleans are all safe and staying with friends and relatives. Phones routed through New Orleans are useless; they keep in touch by calling one of Lewis’ aunts in California to leave word for the others. The Beautiful Monica and her husband couldn’t reach their house in Mandeville or Lewis’ parents’ house in Covington, so property loss is still a question mark. Lewis’ sister Peggy may have lost her house as well. Uncle Russell is staying with Lewis and Kim in Houston. I’m hoping that Vance Bourjaily, one of my favorite writers, made it out okay. Terrible as the loss is, they were all able to take care of themselves.

    “I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city... It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country.” God bless Ray Nagin the mayor of New Orleans, Anderson Cooper on CNN and Ted Koppel on ABC, everybody at NPR, and all those who got in people’s faces, who told the truth and shamed the devil. And piss on NBC for feeling it needed to apologize because Kanye West "went off script". That's what America in 2005 cannot bear: that someone might go off script.

    When it thunders and lightnin' and when the wind begins to blow
    When it thunders and lightnin' and the wind begins to blow
    There's thousands of people ain't got no place to go

    Then I went and stood upon some high old lonesome hill
    Then I went and stood upon some high old lonesome hill
    Then looked down on the house where I used to live

    -- Bessie Smith, “Backwater Blues”, 1927