Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ousted FEMA Boss Once Probed Equine Face Lifts 

Mike Brown's inquiry into loathsome horseplay preceded his rise to emergency czar

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 23, 2000:

by Florence Shinkle
( from the Hoof Beat column of the suburban zone St. Charles Post)

No one could have fought harder than David Boggs to stop the investigation against him on charges of cosmetically altering horses to be used for breeding and show.

The kingpin of the Arabian horse world didn't wait until the ethical review panel of the International Arabian Horse Association ruled against him to challenge the panel's findings. Instead, he tried to throw up protective legal barriers along every step of the investigation.

First, he filed a suit against Carmelo Hansen, the young man who in December 1996 had phoned the IAHA commissioner's office to say he had incriminating photographs of horses that had been subjected to cosmetic surgery. Most of the charges were thrown out.

Aiming for thoroughness, Boggs subsequently launched slander and defamation suits against both the IAHA and against its commissioner, Michael Brown.

Brown to this day says he carries with him a cargo of uneasiness. He won't say specifically where his hometown is; he won't talk publicly about his family.

He is 45, born in a small town in the Oklahoma panhandle, educated at Oklahoma City University, a staunch Republican, a former legal adviser to the Republican party in Oklahoma, a former court-appointed defense counsel for accused murderers, a former trustee of the Theodore Roosevelt Association. Brown reveres Roosevelt; he likes to point out how right Roosevelt's way of thinking always was, even when he came to the wrong conclusion.

Brown didn't have any background in horse showing when he was hired in 1991 as the first commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association. The office was established the preceding year in an effort to bring greater integrity to the judges' and stewards' performances. The commissioner was charged with the duty to investigate grievances against these show-ring arbiters. And every time a person reapplied for his or her judge's or steward's card, that person's signature signifiedpermission to be investigated. Boggs was a judge.

The case Brown put together against Boggs fortunately did not rely overmuch on testimony, because several witnesses reversed theirs. "I expected it," Brown says with a shrug. Regularly, two regional directors of the IAHA pushed for the investigation to be dropped. Brown withstood the subversive efforts. He spent a year and a half and a million dollars of the IAHA's money, but in the end uncovered enough documentary evidence of cosmetic surgery that the contradicting testimony wasoutweighed.

For instance, the horse, Ace of Bey, was supposed to have had muscles in its tail cut to correct a wry carriage of the tail. In addition to securing veterinarians' testimony that the scars on the underside of the horse's tail were consistent with those that would occur if such a cosmetic surgery had taken place, Brown thought to check the invoices at Midwest Station II, Boggs' Scottsdale establishment, for September 1995, the month the surgery allegedly occurred, and for the adjoining months. In September, Ace of Bey's owner had an invoice for eight tail wraps for the horse. In no other month did similar charges occur.

Hafati Elegance was alleged to have had the fat sucked out of her too-round croup. Boggs testified that the procedure was done because of a concern the deposit was cancerous. But there was no record of his having had the mass biopsied. On the other hand, Brown uncovered medical records from the clinic performing the procedure that described it as "fat resec tion for cosmesis."

And on it went. In one case, a pigmentation flaw of a horse's eye was actually tattooed to darken the discoloration. Brown somehow turned up the tattooist. His nom de plume was Spider.

In the end, out of 12 horses whose surgeries at Midwest were investigated, the ethical review board found that seven definitely had been subjected to cosmetic, not medically necessary, procedures. Boggs was suspended for five years.
He has another suit pending in federal district court in Colorado to charge that his right to due process was violated in the proceedings. But the chance of his suspension being overturned is dim. Not only have the courts routinely chosen not to interfere in the ethical proceedings of professional societies, but in a ruling on a preliminary motion related to the pending lawsuit, the court complimented Brown and the IAHA and commented that "plaintiff received a full panoply of rights that woulddo justice to a lot of hearing bodies both of record and not of record ... and did so in spite of a litany of litigation by plaintiff."

So David Boggs was nowhere to be seen this year on the showgrounds of Scottsdale, the hub of the Arabian show world. He was, however, down the road at a neighboring farm having a big sale.

"I am sure this suspension won't fatally injure him; he has many avenues to make money off the Arabian horse," Brown said. "And I don't think this will ruin the IAHA, as some have held. It should be a point of rejuvenation, a chance to renew the competition and camaraderie that love of the Arabian horse is truly about."
Carmelo Hansen is at home. He wanted to go to Scottsdale, but ...

"Finances," he said, a one-word explanation. He still admires David Boggs. He still dreams of an equity existing between them in the show ring.

"Maybe we will show horses in the same class, and the judge will line us up - first him and then me. Or maybe I will be first. If I beat him, I would do like he does and throw my ribbon high into the air."

[read more]

Gore Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is 

Associated Press, Sept. 9:

Al Gore helped airlift some 270 Katrina evacuees on two private charters from New Orleans, acting at the urging of a doctor who saved the life of the former vice president's son.

Gore criticized the Bush administration's slow response to Katrina in a speech Friday in San Francisco, but refused to be interviewed about the mercy missions he financed and flew last Saturday and Sunday.

However, Dr. Anderson Spickard, who is Gore's personal physician and accompanied him on the flights, said: ''Gore told me he wanted to do this because like all of us he wanted to seize the opportunity to do what one guy can do, given the assets that he has.''

In the speech, Gore urged that the Bush administration be held accountable for the government's inadequate relief response, particularly ''when the corpses of American citizens are floating in toxic floodwaters five days after a hurricane struck.''

Bush administration officials have said Katrina's damage could not have been anticipated, but Gore rejected that.

''What happened was not only knowable, it was known in advance, in great and painstaking detail,'' Gore told the Sierra Club's national convention. ''They did tabletop planning exercises. They identified exactly what the scientific evidence showed would take place.'' ...

[read more]

Do the Hokey-Pokey: Post-Dispatch Gutted by Lee Enterprises 

In the summer of 2004, readers from Lee Enterprises were quietly lurking about my blog on an almost daily basis. I know this because my site meter registers those who visit. At the time, I thought it curious, but didn't think too much more about it. I guess, in a way, I was flattered that somebody in the media was paying attention to my screeds, many of which targeted the hometown paper-of-record.

It wasn't altogether that uncommon, however. In the early days of Media Mayhem, there were some times when I was actually ahead of the curve on breaking news, the blog phenom was peaking and I was riding the wave. Of course, I had more time back then because as a chronically umemployed reporter I had nothing better to do. Reporters from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and New Times, my former employer, would drop by to check out my error-ridden copy. At the time, I was working with glitchy Blogger software using Netscape, composing entries online. The spontaneity was exciting, but often the characters would jump around on the screen as if they were doing calisthenics. The blog -- including all its mistakes -- was the antithesis of the mainstream media's slick appearance, which suited me fine, but, of course, also served as an anti-public-relations reminder to those in the "industry" on why I wouldn't necessarily be a good fit within their organization. Essentially, I was doing everything possible to thwart the remote possibility that I would once again find gainful employment in my profession.

On occassion, I would find somebody from one of the national newspapers would check in such as the Los Angeles Times. But I was clueless as to why anybody at a regional newspaper chain like Lee Enterprises would be interested in my blog. I didn't figure it out until rumors began to surface that Lee was about to buy the famed Pulitzer Publishing Co.'s mothership.

Since the takeover, the Lee lurkers have ceased paying any attention to Media Mayhem. Their early surveillance, I assume, was part of a corporate intelligence-gathering operation to see what the over-all market conditions were in St. Louis. Now that they own the newspaper there is less reason for them to have any interest in my opinions.

So the chances of my latest criticism of the Post-Dispatch, having any impact on the decision of the new owner to redesign the newspaper are zero. That decision obviously was carried out after much thought and consideration. But I have to still wonder what on earth they were thinking.

Under the new design, the Post-Dispatch, looks like a glorified newsletter not a newspaper. The san serif headline font is so thin that it's barely visible, giving the stories an airy, weightless quality. In addition, the new format has increased "white space," at the expense of the news hole. Using a USA Today template, Lee has attempted to make the Post-Dispatch more "user friendly" by adding sidebar teasers that reduce news stories to blurbs. The over-all effect gives the paper an empty, vacuous feel. It doesn't really make the newspaper easier to read. Instead, it gives the impression that there isn't anything in the newspaper worth reading, which isn't far from the mark.

Then there is Lee's concept of increasing local news coverage. What this means to Lee Enterprises is providing "community" bulletins in the news digest column the content of whidch leans toward the church-bake-sale school of journalism; upbeat, positive stories with little are no news value are given priority, while crime news, which might give the area a "black eye," has been relegated to the back of the Metro section.

The redesign has changed the appearance of the Post-Dispatch in such a way that it no longer looks or feels like a major metropolitan daily newspaper, but a small town daily or weekly, which is the defining characteristic of other Lee Enterprises newspapers. Perhaps the most disturbing element of this provincialism is the decision to throw the AP Stylebook out the window and to use datelines for stories generated in such exotic locales as South County and Belleville.

You can't possibly get more hokey than that, peeps.

Call for a New Deal and a New Kingfish 

GregPalast.com, Sept. 6:

Louisiana Governor Huey "Kingfish" Long, hellraiser and father of the New Deal.

by Greg Palast

The National Public Radio news anchor was so excited I thought she'd piss on
herself: the President of the United States had flown his plane down to 1700
feet to get a better look at the flood damage! And there was a photo of our
Commander-in-Chief taken looking out the window. He looked very serious and

That was yesterday. Today he played golf. No kidding.

I'm sure the people of New Orleans would have liked to show their appreciation
for the official Presidential photo-strafing, but their surface-to-air missiles
were wet.

There is nothing new under the sun. In 1927 a Republican President had his
photo taken as the Mississippi rolled over New Orleans. Calvin Coolidge, "a
little fat man with a notebook in his hand," promised to rebuild the
state. He didn't. Instead, he left to play golf with Ken Lay or the Ken Lay
railroad baron equivalent of his day.

In 1927, the Democratic Party had died and was awaiting burial. As depression
approached, the coma-Dems, like Franklin Roosevelt, called for balancing the

Then, as the waters rose, one politician finally said, roughly, "Screw this!
They're lying! The President's lying! The rich fat cats that are drowning you
will do it again and again and again. They lead you into imperialist wars for
profit, they take away your schools and your hope and when you complain, they
blame Blacks and Jews and immigrants. Then they push your kids under. I say,
Kick'm in the ass and take your rightful share!"

Huey Long laid out a plan: a progressive income tax, real money for
education, public works to rebuild Louisiana and America, an end to wars for
empire, and an end to financial oligarchy. The waters receded, the anger did
not, and Huey "Kingfish" Long was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1928.

The Mississippi River flood of 1927 desvastated the Delta region, from Cairo, Ill.
to New Orleans.

At the time, Louisiana schools were free, but not the textbooks. Governor Long
taxed Big Oil to pay for the books. Rockefeller's oil companies refused pay the
textbook tax, so Long ordered the National Guard to seize Standard Oil's fields
in the Delta.

Huey Long was called a "demagogue" and a "dictator." Of course. Because it was
Huey Long who established the concept that a government of the people must
protect the people, school, house, and feed them and give every man or woman a
job who needs one.

Government, he said, "We The People," not plutocrats nor Halliburtons, must
build bridges and levies to keep the waters from rising over our heads. All we
had to do was share the nation's wealth we created as a nation. But that meant
facing down what he called the "concentrations of monopoly power" to finance the
needs of the public.

In other words, Huey Long founded the modern Democratic Party. Franklin
Roosevelt and the party establishment, scared senseless of Long's ineluctable
march to the White House, adopted his program, called it the New Deal, and later
The New Frontier and the Great Society.

America and the party prospered.

America could use a Democratic Party again and there's a rumor it's alive --

And now is the moment, as it was in '27. As the bodies float in the streets of
New Orleans, now is not the time for the Democrats to shirk and slink away,
bleating they can't "politicize" this avoidable disaster.

Seventy-six years ago this week, Huey Long was shot down, assassinated at the
age of 43. But the legacy of his combat remains, from Social Security to
veterans' mortgage loans.

There is no such thing as a "natural" disaster. Hurricanes happen, but death
comes from official neglect, from tax cuts for the rich that cut the heart out
of public protection. The corpses in the street are victims of a class war in
which only one side has a general.

Where is our Huey Long? America needs just one Kingfish to stand up and say
that our nation must rid itself of the scarecrow with the idiot chuckle, who has
left America broken and in danger while he plays tinker-toy Napoleon on other

I realize that the middle of a rising flood is a hell of a bad time to give
Democrats swimming lessons; but it's act up now or we all go under.

[read more]

Sunday, September 04, 2005

World Press Condemns Bush's Slow Response to Katrina 

BBC, Sept. 3:

Newspapers around the world see Hurricane Katrina's chaotic aftermath as a defining moment for the presidency of George W Bush.

While there is clear sympathy for the disaster's victims, many commentators place the blame for the delayed rescue effort squarely on Mr Bush's administration. ...

[read more]

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