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Originally published September 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 30, 2005 at 12:59 AM

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Danny Westneat

This story starts at the rear

Now it can be told: the real reason the federal government bungled its disaster response to Hurricane Katrina. It was because of that horse's...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Now it can be told: the real reason the federal government bungled its disaster response to Hurricane Katrina.

It was because of that horse's ass guy. When the defrocked director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, testified to Congress this week, he blamed the usual suspects — the governor, the mayor, the media.

But he also fingered a mysterious group with an indelicate name.

"Ironically, it started with an organization called horsesass.org," Brown told Congress, "that on some blog published a false and, frankly, in my opinion, defamatory statement that the media just continued to repeat over and over. ... I guess it's the media's job. But I don't like it. I think it's false. It came at the wrong time. And I think it led potentially to me being pulled out of Louisiana because it made me somewhat ineffective."

So there you have it. The man heading the response to the biggest natural disaster in the history of the most powerful country in the world was neutered by a Web site named for the buttocks of a horse.

Or really for Tim Eyman.

Turns out the "organization" is one 42-year-old guy, an "uptight East Coast Jew" named David Goldstein who lives in Seattle's Seward Park.

You may recall him. He's an aggressively liberal, smart, foul-mouthed irritant who two years ago ran a campaign to have Eyman legally declared a "horse's ass."

That got lots of publicity but didn't make the ballot. So Goldstein did what any marginally employed agitator would do: He started a blog.

He kept the name "horse's ass" mostly because it had given him his 15 minutes.

"People say I should change it, but it's become my brand," Goldstein says. "I'm stuck with it. I'm the horse's ass guy."

On Sept. 2, Goldstein posted e-mail from a local horse enthusiast claiming FEMA's Brown had been fired from the International Arabian Horse Association. Goldstein softened this to "forced to resign." Then he opined that regardless, running a horse group hardly qualifies someone to head a major federal agency.

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This tidbit, highlighting what a crony hire Brown was, is now known to millions of Americans. It percolated up from Goldstein through the blogosphere (via the largest blog, dailykos.com) to newspapers, TV and on to Congress.

That the horse's ass guy could influence national politics is one of those power-of-the-Internet moments.

That the head of FEMA would blame the horse's ass guy is surely one of the lowest bureaucratic excuses ever. Not to mention an epic admission of incompetence.

Goldstein, though, has had an epiphany. Maybe he can rake muck for a living. He has plans for a think tank to "attack the right as relentlessly as they attack us." His blog now is ranked in the top 300 most visited (out of millions). He's hoping to land a talk-radio gig.

Two years ago, I figured this horse's ass guy would be a one-trick pony. Who knew it might be a career?

Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Friday.

Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.

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About Danny Westneat

Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

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