Category Archives: Hurricane Katrina & Federal Flood

Bayou Brief: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Writing My Katrinaversary Column

I inadvertently took a month long hiatus from writing my bi-weekly column at Bayou Brief, The spell was broken yesterday.

My titles are typically short and punchy. This one is long, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Writing My Katrinaversary Column.

The column takes a look at hurricanes past and present and revisits some highlights of my post-Katrina and Federal Flood life:

I attended many “rebuilding meetings.” I saw then Mayor C Ray Nagin primp in front of a mirror and several City Council members show up drunk. I’ll omit the names to protect the guilty. Those in the know will know who I’m talking about. They’re long out of office so there’s no point to outing them many years later. Besides, who could blame them? Those were stressful times.

Those were crazy days indeed.

The column title was inspired by one of my all-time favorite musicals, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. The last word goes to Zero Mostel from the 1966 film version:

Hurricane Laura & Other Disasters

New Orleanians should have heaved a collective sigh of relief yesterday as Hurricane Laura headed due west of us. Instead, everyone who was here for or evacuated from Katrina was triggered. It’s a mere two days from the Katrinaversary. Plus, the storm is following in the footsteps of another devastating 2005 system, Hurricane Rita. People are unnerved, jittery, and depressed. 2020 continues to be the year from hell.

We’re expecting some rain bands associated with Laura today.  It will be nothing compared to what happened some 240 miles west from here. Lake Charles is the largest Louisiana town in the initial path of the storm; reports are grim but as of this writing there are no reported fatalities and the storm surge wasn’t as high as feared. It’s still a fucking mess that will leave thousands homeless.

In other news, the rolling ethical violation that is the Trumpvention continues. The MSM is shrugging-off the impropriety of holding purely political events at the White House. Fuck those guys. It’s the people’s house, not Donald and Melania’s house. The coverage of her speech was nauseating.  She’s complicit in her husband’s crimes and responsible for the lesser included offense of removing rose bushes planted by past First Ladies in the people’s rose garden. They’re slowly but surely eroding the norms of our civil society; make that uncivil.

The citizenship swearing in ceremony on Tuesday looked like a hostage video. It’s of dubious legality and participants were not informed that they were to be props in a Trumpist farce. The lying never stops.

I could go on and on about the freak show that is the RNC. They’re fond of red baiting so let’s respond in kind. This attempt to rewrite the history of the Trump regime is reminiscent of the Stalinist rewriting of Russian history. They’ve told so many lies this week that it will be impossible for them to keep them straight. Stay tuned.

The Impeached Insult Comedian has challenged Joe Biden to take a drug test as a condition of debating. Team Biden should throw its own gauntlet on the table: produce Trump’s tax returns or the debates are off.

Finally, I’m keeping a wary eye on events in Southwest Louisiana and East Texas. I feel a tinge of survivor’s guilt, but I’m relieved it didn’t hit my city. Nobody deserves to be hit by a devastating tropical system such as Laura. The fact that Acadiana has turned ruby red in recent years is irrelevant. People are suffering. It doesn’t matter how they vote. I’m sending waves of empathy their way. It could have been us.

The last word goes to Lucinda Williams who was born in Lake Charles:

 

Tweet Of The Day: Fog Of History Edition

I’m sure you’ve heard Trump’s captive Surgeon General compare the pandemic to Pearl Harbor. Sounds good on the surface, right? A week which will live in infamy and all that shit. George Takei took the words right out of my mouth:

I was a history major with a minor in art history. I’ve been mocked for those
impractical choices. They’ve come in handy in my life as a pundit. History is almost invariably misused and misrepresented by those in power. In this case, the Surgeon General’s intention was to rally the complacent Trump base around the flag. Telling the truth about the pandemic from the start would have been a wiser strategy. But wisdom is antithetical to Trumpism.

The Trump regime’s response to this crisis has made Team Bush’s response to Katrina and the Federal Flood look masterful. BUT there *are* some similarities: they played politics too. Karl Rove was the tip of the White House spear as they blamed Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin for New Orleans’ plight. Meanwhile they favored Mississippi and then Governor Haley Barbour a former RNC Chairman and fat cat lobbyist. I’m not horsing around so I need not mention Brownie at great length.

There was a great deal of disaster capitalism in the months after Katrina. It’s happening now in the person of Slumlord Jared who is applying his King Midas in Reverse touch to the pandemic. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

I’d like to thank George Takei for being a stand-up guy and continually fighting the good fight. If only life imitated Star Trek. Starfleet would know how to handle this. Unfortunately, the executive branch is populated by nitwits, sycophants, and people who hate government. That’s a helluva way to run a railroad as it were. Heckuva job, GOP.

The last word goes to the Hollies with the unofficial anthem of the Trump regime. It works just as well for the Kaiser of Chaos as the Dauphin-in-law.

Bayou Brief: Love In The Time Of Coronavirus

The title of my latest 13th Ward Rambler column for the Bayou Brief was inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love In The Time Of Coronavirus. I’m particularly fond of the tag line:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has Peter Athas thinking about Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. We’ve gone from “heckuva job, Brownie” to “heckuva job, Trumpy.”

Since the column is, in part, an extended flashback to 2005, the last word goes to John Fogerty:

“Brownie’s in the outhouse
Katrina on the line
Government’s a disaster
But Georgie, he says it’s fine”

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Gates Of Delirium

Cover of Relayer by Roger Dean.

It’s been a tough week in the Big Uneasy and everywhere else on planet for that matter. The good news is that Governor John Bel Edwards excels in a crisis. He’s a West Point graduate and he’s brought some military calm to the pandemic. Mayor Cantrell bowed to the inevitable and issued a stay home order for residents of Orleans Parish. She’s doing all the right things but remains verbose in doing them. Every time I see her on teevee, my inner speechwriter dies a little.

This week’s theme song was composed by Yes for 1974’s Relayer album. The lyrics are by Jon Anderson. It was inspired by Tolstoy’s War and Peace and has four movements:

The song describe a battle, with a prelude, a charge, a moment of victory, and a peace. “It’s not to explain war or denounce it really,” Anderson said. “It’s an emotional description with the slight feeling at the end of, ‘Do we have to go through this forever?”

We have two versions of The Gates Of Delirium for your listening pleasure. The studio original and a 2001 live version with a dadgum Dutch orchestra:

Now that we’re all a bit delirious, here’s a song from Neko Case, KD Lang, and Laura Veirs:

Since we’re at the gates of a delirious new era, let’s jump to the break and see what’s on the other side.

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Half Pagan: Coronavirus In New Orleans

The press of events, both personal and global, made me forget to include something in today’s NOLA-centric post.  Some of my more eccentric friends have an eccentric band called Half Pagan. Their performance schedule is equally eccentric; it’s Solstice oriented. I am not making this up. I told you they were eccentric, y’all.

Half Pagan have a new tune with timely lyrics. It’s called Coronavirus In New Orleans:

“It started in Wuhan with some bat bitten meat,
Traveled to Korea and down to Italy
So now it’s mutating and we’re all getting sneezy
COVID 19’s rollin’ to the Big Easy

Chorus
Stock up on bourbon, boil red beans
The coronavirus’s coming to New Orleans
Soap up your hands, and cover your sneeze
The coronavirus coming down to New Orleans

The shops are all out of health care supplies
If you can’t find a mask tape on a Hubig’s pie
Instead of hand sanitizer use some Zatarain’s
Wash out your mouth in Lake Pontchartrain

Chorus
Stock up on bourbon, vodka and Dixie
The coronavirus’s coming to the Big Easy
Cover your mouth and don’t touch your face
Best to not put your tongue on any surface

Seems like our city is going to hell
Got two bodies stuck in the Hard Rock Hotel
Broken pumps and beads are flooding our streets
Here comes another boil water advisory

Chorus
Gotta get on the phone and call Mayor Cantrell
Human feces is exploding French Quarter manholes
Our neighbors don’t live here, they’re Air B and B’s
Record high profits for da Entergy

Stock up on bourbon, hunker down with some pralines
Put a lime in your Corona to toast New Orleans
Soap up your hands, and cover your sneeze
The coronavirus coming down to our city, to the Big Easy, down the Mississippi, way down in New Orleans”

I’ve known the members of Half Pagan since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. Back then, it was us against the world. It’s time for us to recapture the Spirit of ’05 as we hunker down and try to get through the COVID-19 clusterfuck.

Without further adieu, I give you Editor B, Dr. Homan, Kalypso Homan, and Mike Hogan collectively known as Half Pagan:

The Shadow Of Incompetence

First, I’d like to second what Athenae said yesterday about focusing on the big picture. The real enemy is Donald Trump, not Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders; not even their more obnoxious supporters. A reminder that the Impeached Insult Comedian has been undermining our democracy and the rule of law whenever possible. Incumbents are always the issue when they run for re-election, especially in 2020. The issue is Trump, Trump, Trump.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. The Trump regime has been trying and failing to lie its way through the COVID-19 crisis. It’s been their modus operandi since 2017, after all. They don’t know any other way to cope with a problem. They’ve been lucky so far: none of their past crises directly threatened the lives and health of the vaunted Trump base. This time is different.

The NYT’s Charles Blow nails it in a column titled You Can’t Gaslight A Virus:

Whereas his supporters can be lied to and gaslighted, a virus cannot. A virus is going to do what a virus does. Viruses are not thinking and aware. Technically, they’re not even living things. They are like an army of androids, multiplying as they attack and infect living things.

So none of the tricks that Trump has learned and deployed will work against this virus. Only science, honesty, prudence and genuine concern for public safety will work now.

President* Pennywise is still trying to use his characteristic combination of bluster, braggadocio, and bullshit. It seems that he knows more about the contagion than eminent scientists such as Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci. There was a group shot the other day of Trump with those two men; both of whom were looking down, not at the Kaiser of Chaos. I feel terrible for them and for everyone who has tried to bring expertise and common sense to bear on the problem.

In his frantic attempts to gaslight the public, Trump keeps pouring petrol on the fire. His self-appointed role as commentator-in-chief exposes his fatal inability to STFU. Trump’s motto seems to be, when in doubt babble. It’s something he has in common with Joe Biden. Team Trump is playing with fire in discussing Biden’s “cognitive decline” when their candidate is mentally ill.

The 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic established that lying one’s way through a public health crisis was the worst possible way of handling it. The Great War had put governments, including our own, in the habit of lying. In a public health crisis, the truth is the best disinfectant.

The inevitable comparisons between the COVID-19 catastrophe and the Bush administration’s inept handling of Hurricane Katrina have been drawn. Partisan politics played a role in that crisis as well: Karl Rove oversaw the White House response. He and Congressional GOPers demonized Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Trump followed suit by calling Washington Governor Jay Inslee “a snake.” More snake oil from the liar-in-chief.

Another thing these two seemingly disparate episodes have in common is historian John Barry. He has written two books applicable by analogy: Rising Tide and The Great Influenza. On January 31, Barry wrote an op-ed for the WaPo in which he argued that the government’s efforts to contain the virus were doomed to fail. The events of the last few weeks have proven Barry right. Again.

This is a tricky time. Lives are at stake, so we wish our government’s response was honest and competent. Unfortunately, those are two qualities that the Trump regime lack. This public health crisis is shadowed by their incompetence; even the stock market gets it. It’s a pity that the White House does not.

Repeat after me: In a public health crisis, the truth is the best disinfectant.

The last word goes to Jackson Browne:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

Sleeping Girl by Pablo Picasso.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the impeachment hearings ate my week. It wasn’t a snack, it was a tasting menu of scandal, malakatude, and heroism. Democrats have found their mojo: I was proud of their performance in the face of Republican shouting and conspiracy theorizing. That was down to Chairman Schiff  who refused to take any shit from committee GOPers. I’m less confident of the performance of Judiciary Chairman Nadler but the ball will soon be in his court. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by the late, great Pat DiNizio in 1986 for The Smithereens debut album, Especially For You. The band had been kicking around New Jersey for years before hitting the big time with this great rock song.

We have two versions of Behind The Wall Of Sleep for your listening pleasure: the original video and a 21st Century live version.

There’s a Black Sabbath song with the same title but metal is not my thing so I’ll pass.

Now that we’ve caught up on our sleep, let’s jump to the break.

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Dwight & Me

People who don’t read First Draft are always surprised that I like country music. I am emphatically a city boy, one might even call me urban or urbane. The second U-word is a value judgment so I’ll pass on that.

I don’t like all forms of country music but I like the real deal for the songwriting and singing. That’s why I like Dwight Yoakam who I saw live for the first time last night.

I’m notoriously stingy when it comes to concert ticket prices so I hadn’t planned to attend. I’d entered a contest but did not win freebies. On the day of the show, I received an email from the Fillmore informing me that two free tickets awaited at will-call. I was so skeptical that I called the box office for confirmation. Apparently, they were papering the hall because it wasn’t sold-out but it was my lucky day.

As someone who grew up in the Bay Area attending Bill Graham Presents shows, the name Fillmore is tinged with magic. I was too young to go to the Fillmore West but more or less grew up at Winterland, its successor concert hall.

I loved the venue. It would be a great place for a certain carnival krewe to hold its ball: hint, hint, hint. The Fillmore is spacious, well-ventilated, and attractive despite being attached to Harrah’s Casino. We did not gamble before or after. I didn’t want to press my luck.

I had high expectations but they were exceeded. Dwight Yoakam’s set was great. Dwight and his crack band played for two hours at a breakneck pace barely stopping for a second. It’s probably why Dwight’s sidemen are all younger than the star. They’re great musicians and rocked like crazy. It goes without saying that Dwight is one of the greatest singers to have ever walked the planet, with or without cowboy boots.

It was a night for doppelgangers. Dr. A spotted a guy who resembled Gret Stet goober candidate Eddie Rispone. Mercifully, it was not him. A guy who was a dead ringer for our pal the Bear Jieux danced with Dr. A as the band played Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down. Initially, she thought it was him but it was not: the doppelganger was equally hairy but too short.

You’re probably wondering about the post title, Dwight & Me. We had tickets to see him in Biloxi in September of 2005. The show was hurricaned out and we were in exile in Dallas in any event. It was a long time coming but I finally saw Dwight Yoakam. It was well-worth the wait.

I wrote about last night because I needed a respite from all crazy in the news. A post called Talking Turkey can wait until Monday. That crisis will still be there.

The last word goes to (who else?) Dwight Yoakam with his set closer and encore:

Drew Brees Agonistes

I wrote about Drew Brees and his unfortunate relationship with Focus on the Family in my new not-so secret identity as the Bayou Brief’s 13th Ward Rambler, I should give credit where it’s due to Jenn Bentley of Big Easy Magazine for breaking the story, which, in turn, raised a ruckus on social media. I have a reading assignment for my readers: watch the video, read my piece, then Ms. Bentley’s before proceeding.

Welcome back.

The Saints QB responded yesterday in an awkward not terribly straightforward way, which made matters worse with the folks who were angry and/or disappointed with him. He provided an answer to the question I posed at the Bayou Brief: Wingnut or Conservative. Unfortunately, it’s the former but he’s still a great QB.

My friend Picvocate/Advoyune columnist Stephanie Grace wrote about Drew’s weaselly response so I don’t have to:

After several day of controversy, Brees responded that he knew nothing of the group’s anti-gay activities or “any type of hate-type related stuff.”

“I was not aware of that at all,” he said. He also insisted that the video was not meant to promote any group, and certainly not any group “that is associated with that type of behavior.”

“To me, that is totally against what being a Christian is all about,” Brees said.

Maybe he should have just stopped there, instead of adding that it’s a shame that people are using the controversy to “make headlines” and get clicks. Brees really has nobody to blame for that but himself.

Yeah you right, Stephanie.

Liberal Saints fans seem to be divided into two camps. Those who didn’t already know about his politics are up in arms about the whole mess. Others, like me, are well-aware that Brees is a right-winger. His association with the Focus on the Family fucks dates back at least to 2015 and perhaps even farther. I’m inclined to view this flap as part of what might call the Brees bucket, which contains both The Bad and the Beautiful as the title of one of my favorite movies goes.

One thing we’ve learned about Drew Brees this week: He’s a genius on the gridiron, not off field. Nobody should be surprised by this: the NFL is full of wingnutty white boys. Drew Brees is just one of many.

This episode is simultaneously saddening and maddening. The New Orleans Saints have long been a unifying force in our community. When owner Tom Benson threatened to move the team to his other hometown of San Antonio post-K, the community arose in such righteous indignation that they remained here. Saints fandom was an integral part of what I’ve previously referred to as The Spirit Of ’05.

Drew Brees’ first year with the Saints was 2006 and the team went to its first NFC Championship game. Then they won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season. This season there are high hopes, which, hopefully, will not be dashed on the rocks of controversy.

This mishigas is a vivid reminder of the perils of athletes dabbling in politics, particularly in the Trump era. If you take a stand, someone in your fan base will be offended. That’s especially true in New Orleans, which is a very blue city whereas the Gret Stet of Louisiana is ruby red.

Repeat after me: I’m disappointed by his wingnuttery but not surprised.

The last word goes to one of my favorite writers, the 13th Ward Rambler:

Does this alter my Saints fandom? Hell, no. Football is full of right-wing white boys and I’ve known for years that Drew Brees is one of them. Besides, his views on the Kaepernick kneeling contretemps were more nuanced than expected; he even criticized  President* Trump. That’s why I have no plan to renounce my Saints fandom or return my tickets for the season opener.

I simply want to know if our QB is a wingnut or a conservative.

The answer is, alas, wingnut. As Stephanie put it, Drew Brees should have known better.

The Spirit Of ’05 Revisited

Root Beer Blues. Photograph by Dr. A.

Last year I decided to do something different on the Katrinaversary. I’m posting it again on the 14th anniversary:

I hate to go Dickensian on your asses but the period after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood was indeed the best of times and the worst of times. My Katrina experience was nothing compared to many people but it has stayed with me in a way that few life experiences have.

Each Katrinaversary gets a bit less painful. Today almost feels like an ordinary Wednesday but I still have the survivor’s guilt I wrote about last year when parts of New Orleans flooded on my birthday:

It’s a common malady for those of us who live in what has come to be known as “the sliver by the river.” We did not flood in 2005, so I do not like arguing with those who did. It makes me uncomfortable and uncharacteristically deferential. In the year immediately after the storm, I  cringed every time I had to tell *our* Katrina story to those worse off since we were so lucky. We did have $20K worth of damage and were in exile for 7 weeks but that was nothing compared to what so many others went through. Hence my survivor’s guilt and this weekend’s survivor’s guilt flashback. I re-posted my account of Dr. A and my sneaking into the city at First Draft in 2015. Here’s the link.

As bad as that period was for all concerned, there was an esprit de corps that I miss. Everyone was in the same leaky boat so we helped one another out. Spontaneous and random acts of kindness were commonplace. I recall a day when we helped our neighbors duct tape their dead refrigerators and drag them to the curb. It was dirty, stinky work but it felt good to help.

Cajun Tomb. Photograph by Dr. A.

The Spirit of ’05 endured for several years, which looking back is remarkable. It could not last forever but those were heady days. I wish we could recapture the camaraderie but crisis brings out both the best and worst in people. And when the crisis ends, everything changes.  I met many people after the storm, made some enduring friendships and others that were more fleeting. But I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, it has made me who I am in 2018.

The lasting impact of the storm on my life is that I started blogging. I never expected to still be at it thirteen years after the day that everything changed, but here I am. I landed at First Draft because of Scout Prime who not only wrote about her experiences helping in New Orleans after the storm, but came up with the idea for the Rising Tide conference. My friendships with Scout and Athenae are two that have endured over the years. Thanks for letting me tell jokes here, y’all.

Speaking of enduring friendships, here’s an apt tweet from my dear friend Julie:

In past years, the blog has stayed dark for the entire Katrinaversary thereby allowing this solemn image to dominate:

I decided it was time for a change. I also wanted to mention my empathy for the people of Puerto Rico where  2,975 American citizens died as a result of Hurricane Maria. It’s what happens when you have bad leadership: in our case it was the Bush-Cheney gang, with Maria it’s the Trump-Pence regime; both of whom lost the popular vote, then lost the thread when it came to hurricane relief. It’s what happens when you give power to people who hate government. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

The Spirit of ’05 is a touchstone for all that’s good about human nature. It’s still lurking in a city that has changed radically since the storm and its aftermath. Here’s how I put it in a post five days before the 10th Katrinaversary:

After the water receded, there was a second inundation of people flooding into the city. Some were do-gooders, some were hipsters seeking the next trend, still others were here to make a buck. Very few of them understood the essence of New Orleans and what makes the city and its inhabitants tick. Many of them, especially on social media, have come up with an orthodoxy of what it means to be a New Orleanian. That has come to be known as copping a NOLAier than thou attitude, a swell phrase that was coined by Karen Dalton Beninato.  Some of the NOLAier than thou set seem to have spent way too much time watching Treme. Instead of a Cabaret, life is apparently a second line, old chum.

On the 13th anniversary, we continue to struggle with what happened that August day. There’s still a special feeling among those of who went through it together. If only we could fully recapture the Spirit of ’05.

The last word goes to Peter Gabriel with a song that’s been on my mind and in my head thirteen times over:

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, R.I.P.

The first, and thus far only, woman elected Governor of the Gret Stet of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, has died at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer. It’s often forgotten that Blanco was a strong, effective, and popular Governor on her way to re-election until Hurricane Katrina struck. It was a life changing event for all concerned and, unfortunately, led eventually to the election of Bobby Jindal who ran the state into the ground.

Much of the post-K criticism of Blanco was unfair. The storm was expected to hit the Florida panhandle until the 10 PM advisory on August 26. There wasn’t much time to prepare for a massive evacuation but it could have gone far worse. It *was* a mess but most of that was down to panicky and inept New Orleans Mayor C Ray Nagin. The subsequent flood was a federal affair.

The Bush administration, in conjunction with Nagin, chose Blanco as their political patsy. That was made obvious when the White House made Karl Rove its Katrina point man. Turd Blossom left his partisan stink all over the recovery effort and our Democratic Governor took the fall for Bush and Nagin’s mistakes. She stood her ground and won many battles, but lost the PR war.

Kathleen Blanco was a kind, compassionate, empathetic, and warm human being. She was “pro-life” but, unlike our current Governor, insisted that there be exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother in an anti-choice bill passed by the lege during her term as Governor. Her record otherwise was sterling, big-hearted, and liberal for a Blue Dog Democrat.

Blanco’s reputation has grown since leaving office. She was so effective in her dealings with the lunkheads in the lege that she earned the nickname, The Queen Bee. And the term steel magnolia seemed to have been invented for his charming, kindly but tough woman.

Other than shaking her hand at a public event, I never had the chance to meet Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, so I’m linking to three friends who had the pleasure of her acquaintance: Bob Mann, Clancy DuBos, and Lamar White Jr.

Finally, it was a rough weekend in New Orleans. Beloved local anchorwoman, Nancy Parker, died in an airplane crash while doing a story on the pilot. I’ve enjoyed her work over her 26 years as lead co-anchor at WVUE, but I’m a WWL news viewer. It’s a tribute to Parker that the competition has devoted so much airtime honoring her. Like Kathleen Blanco, Nancy Parker was famous for being nice. They will both be missed.

Not Everything Sucks: Springsteen At Jazz Fest 2006

An early high point of the Katrina/Federal Flood recovery era was when the Boss played the first Jazz Fest after the storm. It was one of the best sets I’ve ever seen.  It closed in a way that guaranteed there wasn’t a dry eye at the Fairgrounds:

The New Orleans Advocate-Times-Picayune?

Seven years of slow motion seppuku culminated in the sale of the Times-Picayune/NOLA.com to the owners of the upstart Advocate. Seppuku is a ritual form of suicide that involves self-disembowelment and bleeding out. That’s exactly what happened at the Times-Pic as a series of stupid business decisions led to its sale to the competition. Did I say stupid? I meant wicked stupid. That’s why I call it the Zombie Picayune.

Once again, a newspaper staff is suffering at the hands of the suits. The TP/NOLA.com staff were laid-off. Some will be hired by the Advocate company, others will not be so lucky. Twitter is full of tweets from TP people who are looking for work. Mass layoffs are an inauspicious way for a new era in local journalism to begin. My condolences and best wishes to the folks who were fired yesterday.

The “new era” at the Times-Picayune started in 2012 with a wave of mass firings. Management bragged about its “new paradigm” and promised “robust content.” I knew they were in for a bumpy ride when it became apparent that the paper’s Newhouse/Advance masters were winging it. It was an experiment that ended up destroying a profitable newspaper that was at the height of its journalistic powers when the slow motion seppuku began. The bond between the Times-Pic and its readers had strengthened because of its superb coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. That bond was shattered seven years ago at the hands of the paper’s outside owners. Repeat after me: wicked stupid.

I have friends who have been fired by both media companies. My sympathies are with the TP staffers who are suffering because of the stupidity of long-gone managers; make that mismanagers. I have nothing but contempt for the villains of the piece: the suits at Newhouse/Advance. What the hell were they thinking? Nothing much as it turns out. They were the ones who zombified the Picayune. They’re not the ones who are suffering the consequences of their “robust new paradigm.” It’s the American way: the people at the top fuck up and their employees pay the price for their ineptitude.

I saw this coming years ago but, even though I agree with Gore Vidal who said, “the most beautiful words in the English language are I told you so,” I don’t have the heart to write or say them as New Orleans once again becomes a one-newspaper monopoly town. That’s our new paradigm. Let’s hope it’s a robust one.

Steve King Can Go Fuck Himself

The King of Bigots is at it again, and this time it’s personal:

[H]ere’s what FEMA tells me: We go to a place like New Orleans, and everybody’s looking around saying, “Who’s going to help me? Who’s going to help me?” We go to a place like Iowa, and we go see, knock on the door at, say, I make up a name, John’s place, and say, “John, you got water in your basement, we can write you a check, we can help you.” And John will say, “Well, wait a minute, let me get my boots. It’s Joe that needs help. Let’s go down to his place and help him.”

I don’t want to say anything derogatory about Iowa flood victims. They’ve been through enough trauma. They don’t deserve to be dragged into a political argument by one of their elected officials BUT this is such bullshit.

People in New Orleans after the storm and federal flood were just as determined to help their neighbors as the “nice white Midwesterners”  represented by the King of Bigots.  Does he think that Iowans will turn down government assistance when it’s offered? Of course not and they should not.

We all depend on the kindness of strangers after a disaster. It doesn’t matter if you’re white or black or a Democrat or Republican: people should give you a hand up instead of a kick in the head. It wasn’t right when New Orleans flood victims were used as political pawns and it’s not right if the same thing were to happen in Iowa. Unfortunately, the Trump regime has already set a pernicious precedent in Puerto Rico. I sincerely hope that federal and private aid to Iowa and other flooded area is dispensed without regard to politics. Iowans shouldn’t suffer because one of their Congresscritters is a white nationalist moron.

One more thing: Steve King can go fuck himself. I can’t say that often enough.

In Loving and Awed Memory of Tom Butler, First Draft Krewe

You ever get shown up thoroughly by someone twice your age?

Tom Butler and his wife June did that to me in 2007 in NOLA. Longtime readers may remember we assembled a bunch of Internet people who’d never met (pictured above) to go to New Orleans to gut a house in the aftermath of Katrina. Tom, second from left up there, absolutely kicked my ass.

He and June, beside him as always, hauled out barrow after barrow, bucket after bucket, of filth from this roach-ridden rotting hulk of a flooded home in 90-degree heat and 90 percent humidity, working dawn to dusk with hardly a break to make this busted thing a home again. I needed a long lie-down after about two hours of swinging a sledgehammer and all Tom did was keep working. He smiled the whole time.

Tom passed away this morning. He was generous, kindhearted and true, and helped where he could, always. Our condolences to June and her family, and Tom, I hope, is somewhere finally resting up.

A.

The Three Thousand & Where Power Lies

It doesn’t matter whose fault it is:

He’s a feral animal, of course, who can only see things in terms of how they affect him. You know this and so do I and I think so does he, not that it matters. I’m so tired of spending time in his psyche. Who cares if he’s crazy or evil or crazy-evil; three thousand still died.

And more will, and more. When this was all going down this week I thought of friends who died years after Katrina, after wars, after trauma. Kick and I drove home from a festival Saturday night listening to Springsteen’s concert in New Orleans in ’06, barely seven months after the storm:

And I thought of Ashley, who Adrastos wrote about this week, and Betty, and Morwen, and Greg, and all the people who died later, much later, because their lives got ripped to shreds and never quite got put back together, because everything that happens to you wears you down a little more, because it’s hard to tell when all the threads are woven together which one will unravel you when it’s pulled.

These things have long tails, have a half-life and you can’t just say the waters receded and then everything was all right again. More will die in Puerto Rico. More will die on the Carolina coast. More will die every day and the point isn’t how many, when. The point is we could have stopped it, and helped, and didn’t.

That’s all that matters to the three thousand.

The story in Puerto Rico, it matters less who’s to blame for it than who’s supposed to handle it. Yelling at Trump isn’t about finding someone to blame. It’s about getting someone to DO THINGS. Like okay, the bottled water isn’t getting where it should go, SO FIX IT ALREADY.

Government is, six days of the year, an actual job and not just cutting ribbons on new supermarkets and shit. I thought Trump was supposed to be this colossus. I thought he was this great legendary thing, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and overcome ordinary obstacles with his giant business penis or whatever the hell he was on about during the campaign.

“I alone can fix it” is a promise you’d best be prepared to make real, time comes.

The three thousand people who died in Puerto Rico don’t care if Trump is to blame or not. If he saved them, they’d just be glad to be alive. And we had the capability to save them; this “well, FEMA just drops stuff off, derp derp derp” is horseshit. We can override laws and rules and regulations whenever we feel like it, and there are lots of people at, say, Mar-A-Lago and in Iraq who can attest to those things.

It’s amazing how Trump wants to violate every norm and rule when it’s time to put some money in his bank account, and how Republicans are all WHAT EVEN IS REGULAR ORDER when they want to put the personification of 6-month-old sour cream on the United States Supreme Court, but when there’s bottled water to be distributed in Puerto Rico it’s “well, somebody else was supposed to do this one thing and we were powerless to override that vague convention.” Like just send in the 82nd, you’ve already proved literally nobody is gonna fuck with you.

I mean, even if you grant that we have an imperial presidency and have since around 9/11/01: PUT IT TO USE ALREADY. Unless you just didn’t want to do that, in which case, fucking own it. Admit that you have power where you want to have it, so that we can assess, and make decisions, without somebody throwing a giant tantrum all day long about FAKE NEWS and DEMOCRAT PERFIDY and other shit that doesn’t matter one bit to three thousand dead.

A.

Your President* Speaks: A New Low

I’ve been doing fewer Your President* Speaks posts as the Trump administration slogs along. The stupid fucker wants us obsessing over his tweets and I prefer not to give him what he wants. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and this is one of them. I woke up mad, now it’s time to get even.

I briefly considered using Rock Bottom instead of A New Low in the title. Unfortunately, there *is* no rock bottom for the Insult Comedian. He thinks he stoops to conquer when instead he shoots himself in the foot every time he pulls a stunt like this:

It goes without saying that none of this is true. Fuck you, Donald.

It goes without saying that this is obscene. Fuck you, Donald.

It goes without saying that Trump thinks Hurricanes Maria and Florence are about him. Fuck you, Donald.

It goes without saying that he is desecrating the memory of those who died in Puerto Rico and those who might die as a result of Florence. Fuck you, Donald.

The real reason this president* never cared about the deaths of some 3,000 Puerto Ricans is that they were never going to vote for him. It’s a horrible thing to say about anyone but it’s true. Fuck you, Donald.

As someone who lived through Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood, I take this very seriously. When a major storm makes landfall, I feel twinges of PTSD and I was one of the lucky ones. You shouldn’t play politics with hurricanes. This is about human suffering, not about a ridiculous man who sits in the White House live tweeting Fox News. Fuck you, Donald.

Having said that, I disagree with those who think Trump should be thrown off twitter. I want to know what the enemy is up to. I believe in turning over rocks and exposing the evil underneath. Besides, the Insult Comedian keeps saying damaging things on twitter. Let the stupid fucker tweet to his heart’s content.

This tweet in response to Trump’s new low is perfect:

In the immortal words of my late and much missed friend Ashley Morris:

FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCKS.

The Bayou Brief Makes Landfall

My latest piece at The Bayou Brief is a review of Landfall by Greg Meffert. Meffert was former New Orleans Mayor C Ray Nagin’s fixer. Meffert flipped on Nagin and testified against him at his 2014 corruption trial.

What’s a fixer to do after he gets out of jail? Write his memoirs, of course. Meffert has bills to pay and scores to settle, after all.  Click here for the gory details.