Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Karen Hughes to the Rescue

Bush Administration to Apply Successful Campaign Tactics to World Diplomacy

News item: CAIRO – Karen Hughes, a folksy Texan and longtime confidante of President Bush, has one of the toughest jobs in the US government: convincing the rest of the world, particularly the Arab world, that US policies are in their best interests. She started her first week as the State Department's top public relations officer with a "listening tour" of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

October 2, Ankara -- today Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes attacked the war record of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the former Major General of the Israeli Defense Forces and highly-decorated veteran of four of Israel's wars dating back to its struggle for independence. Echoing commercials broadcast this week by "Red Sea Dhow Captains for the Truth" on Al-Jazeera, Hughes said "Nobody saw Ariel Sharon get wounded. Isn't it obvious he fought in those wars just so he could someday run for the Knesset?" Hughes comments elicited confused looks from her Turkish hosts.

October 4, Baghdad -- Today US Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes made a surprise visit to Baghdad, where she met with members of the Iraqi provisional government and gave a pep talk to US troops. "We know that Sadaam Hussein was planning on making gay marriage legal in Iraq, " Hughes said, "and that if we hadn't intervened, he'd still be in Baghdad issuing wedding licenses to tourists from Morocco and Fire Island." Hughes went on, "Is that the kind of leadership you want? here in the very land of the Garden of Eden, without the US, the muslim world would've become the world of Adam and Steve instead of the home of Adam and Eve." A State Department spokesman later amplified Hughes' comments, saying, "I think the one point of agreement between muslim countries and the Bush administration is clearly we don't want homosexuals marrying and undermining traditional family values like they have in Saudi Arabia."

October 7, Tripoli -- US Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, extending her goodwill "listening" trip of the middle east to Libya, today told President Moammar Qadhafi that he had a "truth problem." "You claimed to have invented the internet, discovered global warming, and been the inspiration for 'Love Story', Mr. Qadhafi," Hughes said in a joint press conference to the stunned reaction of the Libyan leader. "So how will we know if you're really going to stick to that agreement to give up your nukes? We might as well tear it up now!" Hughes smiled and posed with Qadhafi for photographs after the news conference.

October 11, Karkuk -- On the last leg of her mideast "listening" tour, Karen Hughes heard the comments of a hand-picked audience of members of the Republican Party of Kurdistan. "What's your biggest concern today?" asked Hughes of Jalal Qazi, an unemployed refinery worker from Karkuk. "Secretary Hughes, without a doubt, the biggest concern we have today is that the United States Congress must pass a comprehensive energy bill with full oil depletion allowances to allow off-shore drilling on the California coast and continued exploration of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge," Qazi said. "Only then will the democrats' dangerous idea of adding a fifty cent a gallon gas tax be eliminated and I can feed my family as a gainfully unemployed member of the world petroleum community." Qazi then looked straight into a Fox News camera and pleaded, "Democrats, why do you hate freedom so?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

All Pigs Is Equal

There's a fairly large proportion of "new" children's books aimed at the under-3 set that are illustrated versions of nursery rhymes or kiddie songs. I strongly suspect this is for a combination of two reasons: first, the story's in the public domain, so there's no tricky creative problem of thinking up an original idea or possibly being sued by another author. One rather thinks that there's a diminishing return on new ideas in this literary space, anyway, since the kids have never heard the stories before; the cry for novelty, the emergence of boredom, and the demands of being fashionable have to wait until a kid is at least five or six. At least until they've run through the canon. The other reason, obviously, is that the story is pre-marketed. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Ethel, etcetera, all know "Old McDonald" already, so they just need to be sold on the version: some cutesy artistic style, or a drawing that's evocative of something else that will trigger that buying decision. (If it seems like I'm cynically imputing pure avarice and sales to the authors' selection of a text for their books, I'm not; I'm making a factual assumption about publishers who select authors for publication.)

Parenthetically, note I didn't mention fairy tales: the fairy tale seems to be absent from the early early childhood reader, or present only in extremely watered-down versions. The fairy tale requires some narrative sophistication from the tot to figure out how Goldilocks might get from table to bed, to provide a backstory to why she's in the woods, and so forth. Further, since most fairy tales have rather grisly implications or outright twists to them, it requires the buying audience not be offeneded. To that end, the re-use of classic folk tales takes on two variants, neither of which is necessarily a good thing for the literary tot. The first is the bowdlerization of the tale in favor of sensitivy, self-esteem, or whatever childhood development trend is deking publishers and parents into mediocre tameness. Case in point: in the library some months ago, I happened across a version of "The Three Little Pigs" that had a friendly wolf; I think the pigs and the wolf all sat down, ate hummus, and sang kumbaya at the end of it. The threat of destruction, being eaten, and the retribution of the victims towards the aggressor at the end, of course, is all absent. The three pigs and the wolf might just as well have come out of the same bottle in the 'Brave New World' Universe for all the differences they seemed to have. Don't get me started about where conflict resolution techniques might enterer into it. The other trend towards novelty, by the way, is a form of cultural imperialism that some might call diversification: using the myths and folktales of other cultures. This is not entirely a bad thing, as at least it provides education and novelty for the parent. Although the question in the world of the monomyth, of course, is the same as why college curricula may or may not wish to continue to teach the works of dead heterosexual men from the power elite. My son has a very charming little book from some Inuit cultural standpoint called "Mama, Do You Love Me?" (which we've read in both English and Spanish), in which the mother provides all these great ripostes to the kid's challenge of what-ifs: e.g., what if I turned into a walrus, would you still love me? The mom uses umiaks and mukluks and all sorts of culturally-significant iconifiers to answer the question, over and over, I'm going to love you no matter what, even if you become a man-eating serial killer (polar bear, orca, whatever). My question in reading this to my own kid is: well, that's cool, but is my kid learning about other cultures or being hopelessly confused by having completely alien objects to illustrate common emotional concepts? Although, honestly, it doesn't bother me, since I'm of the opinion that any reading is good reading and being able to dive into alien worlds is one of the best things about the literary life at any age. In any event, to get back to my main example, this particular 'Three Little Pigs' book was marketed to the pre-schooler (the current term for a kid between the toddling years and kindergarten, if you're not familiar with marketing niches for kids) so the discussion of the fairy tale will have to wait for a couple of years when my kid is old enough. We're talking right now about just nursery rhymes and old songs that are re-re-recyled into children's books.

I will digress away again for a moment and tell you I love bacon. It tastes great, and cooked pig in all its forms is mighty fine food. At one point, though, I gave up the flesh of the swine for a number of years. It wasn't (at the time) for any particular health concern. It was because I read an article about some reasearchers who had taught pigs how to play video games. They were trying to learn something about porcine cognitive functions, presumably so they could figure out how pigs could be research subjects for the usual gamut of human conceptual and cognitive research topics in psychology, neurology, etc. They did the usual thing of starting out the pigs with a food reward, but discovered after the pigs had learned the "rules" of this game (it was sort of, I gather, a form of Pig Pac-Man, where the pigs had to negotiate a character through a maze using their snouts on joy-sticks, and if they completed a level they'd get some food), that the pigs would play whether or not they got a food reward. (This has, of course, been exploited by the PETA crowd as more 'evidence' of some kind of higher moral character due to the higher cognitive function, as if having more cognition among the animal kingdom was some kind of special qualifier for not being eaten. On the contrary, one sees a definite correlation between higher cognitive function and cruelty.) In any event, PETA or no PETA, the idea that an animal that would play something for fun's sake, for some reason, really took to me, and I became weirded out by the idea of eating pig meat. I think it was the same way I don't want to eat dog or monkey, because they like to chase balls and masturbate, to no apparent purpose except self-gratification, among other qualities -- just like us! And we don't eat one another, do we, except under special circumtanxes, like Andean air crashes, or symbolically, like the Eucharist. (Rather coincidentally, my wife's cousin apparently saw the same study and gave up pork, too, for a similar reason...for a while.)

Then, after some years had passed, I came across a history of the US Civil War that touched on the quick burials of the massive numbers of dead after some battles. The corpses had to be covered with only an inch or two of dirt as a temporary expedient until more regular burial could be accomplished. One significant problem in those days when the battleas were fought largely in open fields and in farm country was...well, livestock getting at the bodies. Specifically, it turns out pigs really enjoy the taste of human flesh, and ate the corpses with gusto, using those video-game-playing snouts to get through the top layer of soil. (The cemetary at Gettysburg -- you know, at the dedication of which Lincoln gave the Gettysbureg Address -- was the permanent cemetary, set up to avoid the pig problem.) And I say they prefer human flesh, because I've subsequently learned that dumping corpses on pig farms is a preferred method of disposing of the murder victims of organized crime in certain parts of the world.

So, my feeling since then, is: I better get the pigs before they get to me. Higher cognitive function be damned. Which leads me back to the thought" how ever did I get this vision of the pig as a creature whou wouldn't eat me, given a chance? Nature suggests that you're either a candidate for another species' dinner, or vice versa. Domesticated animals we've merely formalized a sort of biologicsl social contract with, in which they reproduce and live for fixed periods of time, rather than the rather random intervals and lifespans more typical of predator-prey relationships.

Why, the litrary canon of the nursery, of course. It's full of anthropomorphized talking animals who wear pants, talk on the telephone, hug their babies, and do similarly unlikely things. It is, after all, fiction -- as it turns out, virtually all science fiction when you stop and think about it. We raise each generation on "The Island of Dr. Moreau", filtered these days through progressively diluted characters marketed by Happy Meal merchandising tie-ins.

So my son has about five versions of "This Little Piggy", illustrated in a variety of ways, virtually all of them pretty happy. I suspect the "This Little Piggy" rhyme, like a lot of the rhymes and songs from the English folk canon, has its origins in some socio-political upheaval of 500 or 1000 years ago (you know, 'Ring Around the Rosy', 'Mary Had a Little Lamb', etc.) Who knows what a 'piggy' actually was when this rhyme was invented, literally or metaphorically? I don't. Told in the oral trradition, "This Little Piggy" is mysterious indeed. My earliest understanding, best as I can recoolect, was that 'Piggy' was just a synonym for 'toe'; but if you read any of my son's books, the conceit of illustration has turned all these piggies into literal domesticated but fully anthropomorphized pigs. The strangeness of what the market was (the pre-destination for a pig to the slaughter?) and the luck of the draw of life as to which one dies or 'stays home' is replaced by the confusing literalness og Pig 1 doing the grocery shopping, and Pig 2 under the bed covers with a thermometer in its mouth and a box of Kleenex (tm) on the bedside table. The question of why a pig would want to eat roast beef -- the carcass of a fellow barnyard animal -- and why another pig might get none is answered: one piggy likes the company of the diner, while another pig simply prefers peas ( "Good for Piggies!" says the label of the can.) Pig #4 doesn't even go hungry! Finally, in varoius versions we have, Pig No. 5 goes "weee wee wee!" all thw way home because (1) he is riding his tricycle, (2) he is happy to be out of school, and (3) he and another piggy (pig No. 6?) are playing hide and go seek with -- a wolf! They're having fun -- they're not in dire peril of being eaten, nor are they as the original rhyme rather suggests, beating a cowardly retreat. Nowhere, in any illustrated version, are there any human toes being wiggled. These books, exquisitely, are randomized metaphors without any actual symbolism -- anti-metaphors in a way. By being illustrated, they become oddly literal, picking at guessed meanings that neither make any sense nor produce mystery. In this sense, I think perhaps my son's conception about the five little piggies, like his future conception about the three little pigs and the big bad wolf, may end up being a bit less quixotic and puzzling than mine, but that also means his ability to create meaning between those odd spaces of the tale will be hobbled. What other rhymes and songs that will remain as spoken and song lore, and which will be marred -- perhaps ruined? by reading the picture books, time will tell. I do know that in some instances, "reading" a book may in fact be a poorer literary act than simply learning the story by word of mouth. God help us all if my son learns alternative words to "Popeye the Sailor Man" or "The Colonel Bogey March" via some illustrated book instead of the way the creator intended him to, that is, on the playground. I don't know where he's going to get the idea that pigs are, in fact, vengeful creatures intent on homicide, or even the idea that wolves eat meat, reading the kiddie books out there. Give me the flesh of flesh-eating swine. Then again, I myself had many misconceptions about pigs from the old stories, such as, just because they like to play video games is a reason I shouldn't eat them even though they'd eat me in a heartbeat if they could.

"Some Pig!" as the Bard once wrote. Actually, it's one of the best parts of "Charlotte's Web" -- Wilbur the Pig is spared the butcher's block through Charlotte's flim-flammerry -- but Charlotte dies in the end, anyway (and her children, most probably, ate her corpse.) I can hardly wait until my son is old enough to read the book and digest the implicit horrors. That is, if the digitally re-touched version hasn't supplanted it by then...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

John Roberts Interviews for Some Other Jobs

Been following those scintillating Supreme Court confirmation hearings for the putative Mr. Chief Justice Roberts? Me, neither, not after listening to the pablum drool unctuously and meaninglessly off his lips the first day. I was left wondering how John Roberts would interview for some other jobs....hmmmm....

Interviewer: "Thanks, Mr. Roberts, for coming in to interview for the position of structural engineer. Let's get right to it. If you were building a highway bridge, can you describe to me the appropriate ways of using pre-fabricated trusses versus concrete fill techniques?"

Judge Roberts: "Unfortunately, because I might actually be involved in building a bridge at some point in the future, I cannot respond to that question."

Interviewer: "Um...well, can you recap for us the factors that went into the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse in 1940?"

Judge Roberts: "I can say that in a general way it had a lot to do with wind and the bridge falling. But to go into greater detail would be to sacrifice my future impartiality in investigating future bridge collapses."

Interviewer: "Um. I see. Well, how about the Great Pyramids of Egypt? Were they built long enough ago? And I don't know of any current plans anybody has anywhere of building a large stone pyramid."

Judge Roberts: "Of course! It's not actually a pyramid, or rather they're not pyramids, they're tetrahedrons. The framers of the Great Pyramids clearly intended for the structure to have five sides -- counting the bottom."

Interviewer: "No arguing that, Judge Roberts. You're hired!"


Interviewer: "Dr. Roberts, why do you feel you'd be qualified for a position as Chief of Surgery for this, the most prestigious hospital and medical school in the country?"

Judge Roberts: "I am a doctor, I like to think a pretty good appellate doctor, that is, one to whom referrals are given. I've had 39 of my patients admitted to this hospital in the past."

Interviewer: "Can you tell us which of this cases were the hardest for you to diagnose?"

Judge Roberts: "I'm afraid to do that would be to violate patient confidentiality, and I have a sacred oath to avoid doing that."

Interviewer: "But, we don't want you to use names. Just tell us, say, which cases you found best illuminate your philosophy of medicine."

Judge Roberts: "I really must decline to talk about any cases. I will say that there were some cases where I diagnosed some medicine and performed some surgery that did not agree with my personal philosophy of medical treatment, but which I did at the request of my employer."

Interviewer: "Ah, and as the head of the medical staff here if we hire you, you will now be free to tell us what those practices are, so you can change the rest of the hospital staff's methods to better fit your idea of what good medicine is, right?"

Judge Roberts: "No, of course not, I would completely respect the precedents of established medical procedure, even if I thought it would kill a patient."


Interviewer: "Father Roberts, thanks for coming in for the interview for the job of parish priest. Do you believe that life begins at conception?"

Roberts: "Honestly, that issue might come up in a homily, sermon, or even confession some day, so I'd prefer not to comment on it."

Interviewer: "But, Judge Roberts, do you believe in a literal interpretation of the bible, or in the precedents of canon law?"

Roberts: "My own beliefs certainly would not come into any decision I might make with respect to the issue."

Interviewer: "But what if you thought a certain interpretation were wrong? Suppose your monsignor issued a proclamation saying that abortion was OK, and you thought it was murder under all circumstances?"

Roberts: "Obviously there are some circumstances in which my own strongly-held beliefs would take sway. I'm not saying, of course, that this necessarily is one of those issues, or isn't."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Write Your Own Best-Seller!

In contemplating how to sell my novel, I had occasion to peruse the New York Times Bestseller list, which in our local paper is rather conveniently located next to the sunday crossword, so when I'm stuck on a clue I can take a break and see what the rest of America is reading.

The thought occurs that when writing a book, the single most-important sentence is the one-sentence tag line that will end up on the best sellers' list -- perhaps analogous to the one-line pitch for a screenplay? In any event, I came up with ten sure-fire best-selling novel ideas by re-arranging the subject, verb, and objects of the current ten best-sellers. I have made up titles on my own for them, but I've appended the original titles at the bottom in case you want to do the Frankenstein thing and try to resurrect the originals from parts. (This way you have a complete set.)

A woman's quest to learn about her family disrupts the world of a man believed to be a serial killer.

The murder of a curator at the Louvre involves research into a plantation owner's daughter.

Things go terribly awry when a lifeguard takes hostages connected to a centuries-old secret society.

Dillon Savitch and Lacey Sherlock may be pregnant.

A hospital patient takes part in a terror ring.

An unhappily married woman swears vengeance against Vlad the Impaler and Dracula.

A Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton is trapped in a cabin to make a political point.

A magazine editor discovers a violent couple.

Two intelligence agents pursue a $5 million heist.

The hunt for a troubled debutante turns deadly.

OK, get typin'.

(Original titles: Lifeguard, The Interruption of Everything, Without Mercy, Sweetwater Creek, Chill Factor, The Historian, Vanish, The Davinci Code, Point Blank. I suppose if you've read enough of them you'd be able to match titles with S, V, and O....good luck with that.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More Great Moments in American Leadership

We’re happy to provide exclusive excerpts from the forthcoming book, Great Moments in American Leadership due to be published in October, 2006 by the Heritage Foundation Press. The recommended uses of the book, according to the promotional material provided to booksellers, include as a history text for home-schooling, for re-sale as a fundraiser at Lincoln-Reagan Day dinners, and stacked to provide emergency protection against flooding for “the self-sufficient citizen”.

February 12, 1778 – Today General Washington responded to criticism from members of the Continental Congress concerning the future of the war in Pennsylvania by saying that the Continental Army was “making good progress” in the struggle against the British. “The British resistance is in its last throes,” Washington said.

Concerning reports his troops had inadequate protection against the winter cold and were scrounging the Valley Forge countryside for food, Washington said that additional supplies were in the pipeline. “No one could have foreseen the conflict lasting this long,” Washington maintained. "You have to fight with the army you have, not the army you want."

When asked by a reporter from the New Amsterdam Times as to whether he was receiving adequate appropriations from the Congress, Washington stated there was no need for additional financing. “As soon as the wheat harvest is in outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania will be self-supporting,” Washington said through a spokesman.

April 22, 1861 – Newly-inaugurated President Abraham Lincoln met today with President Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States of America in a highly-anticipated meeting of the leaders. “I looked into his eyes and I saw the soul of a good man,” Lincoln said of Davis. “He’s a man I can work with.” When asked about the government’s reaction to reports of fighting in the breakaway state of South Carolina, Lincoln replied that he had full confidence in Davis’ ability to handle the situation without outside interference.

August 1, 1876 – President Grant today addressed the US Congress, asking for broad new police powers in what he called “the ongoing War on Global Scalping.”

“I am asking Congress for its support in battling the evil-doers, the Lakotah and the Oglalalala, who without provocation attacked the peaceful exploration party headed by General Custer in South Dakota last month,” Grant said. “They claim the land there is theirs by treaty, and use excuses about prospectors invading their lands as a pretext for unleashing their hatred of freedom,” Grant continued.

The Grant administration also issued a $25 million reward for Scalper leader Sitting Bull. “We will not rest until Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse are brought to justice,” said a spokesman for Vice President Henry Wilson, long thought to be the administration point man behind the scenes in the Global War on Scalping.

May 3, 1930 – The Hoover administration today released new data showing the economy was “turning the corner” out of “a mild correction” relating to the stock market “adjustment” of last October. “Employment in the apple-selling and street-vending sectors are at an all time high,” according to the report, which also cited the extremely low inflation rate and cheap cost of fuel as among the many indicators that economic activity was picking up. Hoover later criticized reports of widespread economic disruption as “products of the imagination of the media” and blamed holdovers from the Wilson administration for the leak of previous data which contradicted the White House report.

December 8, 1941 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt today took a break from his month-long pre-Christmas vacation at his Hyde Park estate to attend a political fund-raiser in South Hampton, Long Island. Asked about the developing situation in the Pacific, President Roosevelt released a statement through his press secretary that the President was monitoring events closely and that he was waiting for a request for assistance from the Territorial Governor of Hawaii.

December 10, 1941 – President Roosevelt decided today to cut his vacation short one day and take the train back to Washington, according to White House sources. ‘He’s taking the express, not the local,” said first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to a throng of reporters waiting outside Union Station. The President earlier today praised Secretary of State Cordell Hull for the conduct of ongoing negotiations with the Empire of Japan over the trade dispute. “Cordie’s doing a heckuva job. Or should I say a Hull of a job?” the President quipped.

December 14, 1941 – A day after an aerial tour of Oahu from the window of his DC-3, President Roosevelt announced that “a bigger, better Honolulu will be built.” Responding to criticism from opposition Republicans that his administration has been slow to respond to the growing crisis, President Roosevelt bristled. “This is not a time for the blame game. I just want to find out which vessels can sail, and which are going to need some time to recover. I’m concentrating on saving lives in the USS Arizona, not pointing fingers,” he said to reporters as he played with his dog, Fala, on the south lawn of the White House.

September 24, 1963 – In the daily briefing of the White House Press Corps, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger jousted with a reporter today concerning President Kennedy’s proposed manned mission to the moon. Kennedy’s proposal, which created a stir when he first made it over a year ago, continues to languish on the NASA drawing boards. “We’re studying the issue very carefully, and things are moving forward,” Salinger said. The US Space program has been grounded since 1961 after questions concerning the safety of the Mercury capsule were brought up after Astronaut John Glenn’s heat shield problems aboard the Freedom 7 spaceship.

August 11, 1974 – In a stirring Rose Garden ceremony, President Ford today awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former White House aides John Haldeman and G. Gordon Liddy, and retired four-star General William Westmoreland. “The Watergate committee investigation showed the heroic efforts of these two great patriots in uncovering misdoings in the government,” President Ford said of Haldeman and Liddy at the ceremony. Press Secretary Ron Nessman later released the White House citation of General Westmoreland, which noted his important role in the “triumph of democratic forces” in Vietnam.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Storm Damage

I write this sickened, curled up with a deep disgust that permeates my inside, at the awful harvest of Katrina's wake. I wouldn't blame a hurricane on politics, although the current administration doesn't even admit global warming, which played a role in the strength if not the existence of the storm, even exists. But we are left with the picture of thousands upon thousands of poor, black, elderly, disabled, and/or very young and vulnerable people suffering terribly because society simply didn't have them in its evacuation plans. Even as the media complicitly criticizes the "idiots" for not leaving while ignoring the fact that they had no means to leave, no assistance to leave before the storm from the government, we are treated to the spectacle of relief from looting taking on more importance than search and rescue. To our society, apparently, protection of worthlessly water-logged property is still more important than the chance of finding survivors. In Washington, the President mutters platitudes about everybody coming out of this stronger and things like "don't buy gas if you don't need it", his first thoughts going to his loved ones in the energy industry as gasoline lines start to appear. The Homeland Security director says things like "no one could have foreseen this", even though local New Orleans disaster preparedness officials have been begging Congress for more money for flood prevention and control. Instead they got less. The war in Iraq gets a billion dollars a day, and an extra few hundred million would have at least prevented the levee breaks. We do fullscale exercises in reacting to bioterrorism, yet we are caught completely unready for a disaster that was just a better of when, not if. And the President had to wait until a day after the hurricane to decide to cut his vacation short. Terrorist attacks, earthquakes, and the like, they may strike without warning. This hurricane was being tracked for weeks, and it was obvious that it would hit New Orleans and the gulf coast days before it actually did. Why weren't the cabinet meetings held then? Because to the mindset of this administration, nothing is anybody's fault. Anybody who has correctly predicted disaster is ignored, not consulted humbly after the fact. "There was nothing more the federal government could have done" is the mantra of those who have spent their time in power dismantling the ability of the federal government to do anything. I heard an interview with a Dutch reporter today, who was covering the disaster, who was livid, utterly angry, that all the greatest country on earth could do days and days after this disaster was sputter helplessly as the city of New Orleans became home to anarchy and firearms. The Dutch know something about flood disasters. I doubt seriously they're as unprepared as we were. The National Rifle Association has nothing on its website about Katrina's victims; poor, black, as long as they're armed, every one for himself. Great civilizations have been swallowed up by disaster time and again in history. I wonder if we hadn't been swallowed by the disaster of selfish government well before the levees every broke.