Saturday, September 24, 2005

Why America Needs Biased Media: Part 2

I would like to thank everyone who read and responded to Part One of this series last week. As expected, the post received a wide array of responses, which is exactly what I had hoped. Before we go on, I want to remind everyone that by definition, bias is simply the act of being influenced unobjectively in one direction or another. I'll be the first to admit that it's dangerous. However, it serves its purposes as my arguments show. For one thing, bias brings public awareness to important issues by capturing individual interests with rhetoric. In addition, it uses that public awareness to coerce the MSM into covering things that it doesn't want to cover. In turn, the MSM does (or used to do) an in-depth investigation and the facts, whatever they are, are brought to light for all to see. With that in mind, let's take up where we left off.
The Media Should Be Biased, For America's Sake: Part Two
Given the success of slanted media in the years before the Revolution, it shouldn't surprise us that the media was here to stay after. In fact, between the end of the Revolutionary War and 1800, newspapers popped up all over the United States. Also during that time, the ideological factions that had united to fight the British began to separate and grind against each other. Needless to say, newspapers took sides and often chose the wrong one.
President John Adams, Like Bush, Wanted To Be A King
When the Federalist Party put John Adams on the throne, er, in the White House, he set about destroying in as many ways as he could the rights guaranteed by the Constitution as well as the idea that the United States is a democratic republic. He was a fan of the British monarchy's method of rule and believed the masses were unworthy of ruling themselves. He was uncomfortable sharing information with his citizenry and even felt that his word should be law. Sounds familiar, like a certain tyrant sitting in Washington now, doesn't it? Needless to say, most newspapers were forced to tread lightly or not at all over his decrees if they wanted to stay in business. He even passed laws to make sure they toted the line.
In 1798, "President" Adams pushed for and got the Sedition Act, which made opposition to government measures illegal. Naturally, Federalist newspapers condemned anyone who spoke against it. However, Democratic-Republican (yes, the party that later split into the Democratic and Republican Parties) newspapers condemned the act openly. No paper was more critical than The Aurora, a paper owned and operated by Benjamin Franklin's grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache.
The Aurora and Benjamin Franklin Bache
Bache founded The Aurora in 1790. Located in Philadelphia, he drew on the liberal sentiments of that community for inspiration in his war-like condemnation of Adams and his Sedition Act. Very popular and a follower of Thomas Jefferson's liberal idealism (liberal for that time), he published article after article blasting Adams and the right-wing Federalists in general. Ultimately, this landed him in jail with a fine and prison sentence. His popularity earned him an early release but sadly he died of yellow fever shortly afterwards. While it's safe to say his passing wasn't truly mourned by Adams, his martyrdom helped bring the right-wing Federalists down. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson settled into his new job as President and within a few years, the Federalist Party died out.
In short, the lesson here is that if newspapers had simply reported on Adams' doings without spinning it so as to catch and hold the public's attention, it is highly possible that Americans who opposed his tyranny would have thrown in the hatchet, feeling that the Revolution had failed to prevent tyranny and that their cause was hopeless. It is hard, after all, to rally when there is no cause to rally to. Now let's skip ahead a few years and see how the MSM was coerced into discussing the immorality of slavery.
Opposition To Slavery Picks Up Steam
By 1830, every community that was a community had a newspaper. In the same token, every community that was a community tended to be either for slavery or against it. There were, by far, more opponents of slavery than advocates but the argument that slavery was immoral was relatively new and no one seemed to know how to use it advantageously. To make matters worse, the pro-slavery crowd tended to be rich and was willing to use that wealth to fund newspapers. These newspapers, in turn, rhetorically supported slavery and published arguments suggesting that Africans were inferior and thus lucky to be slaves. Mournfully, this environment maintained a high level of racism among the public and prevented the abolition movement from gaining ground. What the movement needed was a spark of rhetorical bias.
William Lloyd Garrison and The Liberator
In 1831, an abolitionist named Garrison founded a newspaper in Boston called The Liberator. Now, Garrison knew there were many abolitionists throughout America. He also knew that many were afraid to speak out against slavery because of the harm that slavery advocates' money could bring to bear against them. Thus, he was aware that it would be all but impossible to get local newspapers on his bandwagon. Because of that, he developed a system to turn to his own purposes the uneducated rhetoric of the conservative, pro-slavery crowd. Here's how it worked.
In The Liberator, Garrison would publish an article blasting the immorality of slavery and ridiculing slavery advocates. Naturally, pro-slavery newspapers would editorialize what he said and would then reprint his articles along with a nasty response. Then, Garrison would print a response to their response, followed by another article blasting slavery. Can you see where this is going? He figured out that the only way to get the MSM to discuss slavery was to be so blunt, so extreme and so outspoken that pro-slavery elements in society would have no choice but to respond. This of course divided the nation into two camps even more so than before but it also brought more Americans into abolitionist ranks by giving them a rallying point and by proving to them the ignorance and greed of slavery advocates.
The lesson here is that bias, if strategically used, can be a tool to force important issues into the public eye. The MSM often doesn't follow a story or cover a topic because they believe it's "too controversial" or "not sensational enough" or for other equally unjustified reasons. Sometimes, only a strong rhetorical bias can break the gridlock the MSM places or allows ot be placed or is paid to place on the flow of information. In this case, Garrison found that truth and reality were themselves a bias and used rhetoric to draw his enemies out where they were vulnerable. Though he had a $20,000 bounty put on his head by slave owners and couldn't mail his newspapers because the US Postal Service was destroying them, Garrison punched a hole in the pro-slavery lines using bias alone. Could he have succeeded by merely reporting the facts? There is no evidence to suggest this whatsoever.
Once again, it is apparent that without a strong driving bias, many of the things that are good about the United States would have been lost or simply wouldn't have come about. Bias is dangerous but it isn't inherently bad unless it's an evil bias, an abused bias or labeled as such by those who have something to hide. Today's examples along with those from last week demonstrate why we need a certain level of bias in our newspapers, magazines and television news. In fact, the very act of investigating something is a bias as is the act of choosing not to investigate. Thus, we come to the source of the controversy in our own time. There is nothing wrong with investigating the facts to find the truth. However, in the current political climate, extremist politicians are labeling investigative reporting as "negatively biased reporting" and by use of clever rhetoric, are convincing their followers that this is so. This is a case of good bias, evil bias and evil rhetoric by those with things to hide. Next week, in Part Three of this series, we will examine this current media bias controversy and compare it to the examples we've looked at so far. Where does the evil bias come from today? Who has something to gain or lose from it? Who is hiding something? Who is abusing the system? We'll look at all of those questions next week. For now, thank you for reading!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Why America Needs Biased Media: Part 1

Good day friends and readers! It is my intent today to write the first of a three-part series on why America needs a biased media. Before I entrench myself in this week's arguments, however, I want to first of all thank my loyal friends and readers who take time every week to read what I write. Certainly there are weeks where I really have something to say and others where I'm somewhat less interesting than I should be, but I seem to have a base of readers. For that I am grateful. Now, let's look at why the media has always had and should maintain a bias.
The Media Should Be Biased, For America's Sake: Part One
I'll be honest and admit that I've spent most of my life believing that media should avoid bias whenever possible. However, I've studied the history of media extensively in recent weeks and have concluded that while there should always be media sources that fight bias, it is in the nation's interest to have so-called "media on a mission" as well. In fact, without biased media, there literally wouldn't be a United State of America. Let's look at why.
As most Americans know, the very reason the United States was founded was to protest tyrannical government. What most Americans don't know is that coming together behind this ideal was very difficult for pre-revolutionary Americans. After all, communities were few and far between. Thus, information and ideas traveled very slowly. To make matters worse, newspapers had to be endorsed by the King of England at that time to be legal and he certainly wouldn't allow any talk of rebellion or reform to be published if he could help it. This led to the formation of underground newspapers and even to the secret publishing of unofficial news briefs by "endorsed" printers. What did they publish? Well, bias for the most part. Read on and I'll show you.
Publick Occurrences
Publick Occurrences was one of the first pro-American newspapers and it was also the shortest lived. Published by Richard Pierce and edited by Benjamin Harris, it opened its doors in 1690 on the streets of Boston. Featuring criticism of the crown and crown-appointed members of local government, it was quickly ordered to close down after printing only one edition. Thus, though its bias led to its demise, the spirit behind that bias led Publick Occurrences to inspire hundreds of equally biased and pro-American newspapers in the decades to come.
The New England Courant
The first successful attempt at a pro-American newspaper was The New England Courant, which was founded in 1721 by Benjamin Franklin's older brother, James, to whom Benjamin was apprenticed. The Franklins, like Pierce and Harris before them, were based in Boston and printed news stories that were decidedly in favor of Americans and unforgivingly critical of the crown and crown-appointed government authorities. Among the more popular rhetoric the paper published were stories by Benjamin about a fictional character named Silence Dogood, the wife of a country minister who held strong opinions about the government. Like Publick Occurrences, The New England Courant caught the fury of government authorities and James Franklin was eventually imprisoned for printing "libel" about government officials. The fact that his accusations were true held no legal bearing at that time. All together, The New England Courant printed 255 issues between 1721 and 1726. It's stability led to increased literacy among New Englanders which helped increase public awareness. Increased public awareness, in turn, would later help fuel the case for independence.
The Pennsylvania Gazette
In 1729, Benjamin Franklin came to the forefront of the war on tyranny when he began publishing The Pennsylvania Gazette in Philadelphia. Instead of using blunt attacks on outrageous government activities, Franklin used humor and entertainment to point out the absurdities of tyranny. His soft attacks did not draw the harsh government criticism that his brother's newspaper had so he was thus very successful in his endeavors. He became rich and used his wealth to sponsor newspapers in both the northern and particularly the southern colonies, spreading both pro-American sentiment and literacy as he did so. Americans were not ready to revolt at this time but they were waking up to the evils of British rule.
The New York Journal
The next step that biased media took to lead America away from tyranny came in the form of The New York Journal, which opened its doors in 1733. Published by a man named John Peter Zinger for a group of rich merchants and businessmen, The New York Journal's aim was to spread awareness of New York Governor William Cosby's abuse of power. As was the usual British response to published attacks in those days, Zenger was imprisoned and put on trial for libel. However, by this time public opinion was turning against the British and the judge overseeing Zenger's case allowed "truth as evidence" and Zenger was acquitted. This was the first time that tyranny was allowed to be referred to as such and it added fuel to the cause of American freedom.
The Final Straw
The final straw that pushed Americans over the edge into open rebellion was Britain's heavy taxation of colonists after the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The war drained Britain's treasury and resources. American colonists, however, gained new territories and resources by taking lands from France during the war. Because of this, the British Parliament in London decided to recoup a large part of its war debt by taxing the colonies. This led the media to take up its most biased and pro-American role ever.
The Boston Gazette
In 1755, Benjamin Edes and John Gill became the owners and editors of The Boston Gazette. Instead of outright attacks on the government, they focused their articles on making the public more aware of politics and tyranny. They frequently published columns by patriots such as John Adams and helped in every way they could to further the cause of government reform and, eventually, American independence. Benjamin Edes even helped organize the Boston Tea Party. How's that for a biased newspaper?
Common Sense
Perhaps the most influential source of biased media came from revolutionary Thomas Paine, whose writings inspired passion among advocates of American independence.
Born in Britain, Paine attempted careers in several professions but found the British hierarchical system very difficult to navigate. As he met with failure after failure, he became increasingly opposed to the British way of life and in 1774, he immigrated to Philadelphia with Benjamin Franklin's help.
In 1776, Paine published Common Sense, an article that spoke blatantly against British tyranny. Instead of writing in the prose of high society, he used the language of common people in his writings. This meant that anyone who was literate could read and understand what he was saying. Thus, Common Sense was very successful. This success can be measured by the fact that before Common Sense was published, most colonists merely wanted government reform and representation in British Parliament. After it was published, most colonists whole-heartedly desired independence from Britain.
As you can see, it is frightfully obvious that without a heavily biased media, it is unlikely that there would be a United States of America. This is the first fact that I put forward as evidence of America's need of a biased media. During the next two weeks, I will post Part Two and Part Three of my series in which I will present further evidence of why biased media protects and promotes the common good of all Americans. I hope that with this series I will make everyone on all sides of every issue think critically of America's political and economic leaders because, as most of us know, power corrupts and few people are more corrupt than those who lead the United States. Thank you for reading and God bless! I hope to see you all back again next week for The Media Should Be Biased, For America's Sake: Part Two.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

And The News Is Good, Bad and Foolish

So very much has happened this week that it has been hard to keep up with it all. It has been even harder to decide what things to talk about today. Suffice it to say that much good, much bad and much evil took place and even some well intended but foolish things. Before digging into the bad news, the evil news and the foolish news, let's look at the good news. It is, after all, the most important, wouldn't you say?
Good News In The Gulf
The good news this week doesn't have me dancing a jig but it does have me exhaling a sigh of relief.
Authorities in New Orleans are now saying that the casualties don't appear to be nearly as bad as they had previously expected. Mayor Ray Nagin had suggested last weekend that "it wouldn't be unreasonable to have 10,000" dead so it is with great pleasure that I have received this update. Authorities have yet to give an updated estimate but they are now saying that fatalities in the wake of Katrina are far less than expected. Amen to that.
Another bit of good news this week is that the people of the Gulf Coast have received astonishing levels of support from average Americans, companies, several states including my home state of Oklahoma and several countries. As all of these new assets have been made available, the Army Corps of Engineers now says that New Orleans can be drained and dry within a month instead of the previously predicted 80 days. Amen to that.
Finally, it is very nice to see communities across America taking in the refugees from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. I have no doubt that some of them will adopt their temporary lodgings as home but having known many a person from that region, I can tell you that most of them will eventually find their way home as time permits. The culture and roots of the Gulf Coast are an invisible and unbreakable bond between the region and its children. I look forward to the day when the Mississippi gleams again and its children return home to live as they have always done.
Grand Jury Indicts Tom DeLay's PAC
It was only a matter of time until the truth became official and finally, that time has come. Tom DeLay's PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority, has been indicted for accepting an illegal donation from a business organization and then using the illegal funds to steal Democratic seats in the state legislature. This illegal seizure of power led to a right wing re-mapping of Texas Congressional districts. That, in turn, led the GOP to steal several Democratic Congressional seats. The Texas Association of Business has also been indicted for working in tandem with DeLay's PAC.
Everyone in the reality-based community knew this was a serious charge but many Republicans have consistently rebuked the claims that DeLay and his PAC did many illegal things to steal seats from Congressman who were legitimately elected. As the facts began to come out, many Republicans attempted to claim that DeLay is not connected to what his PAC does. Of course, that is rhetorical bologna. PACs are formed by politicians to promote his or her agenda. That's what they do and that's what Texans for a Republican Majority did for DeLay. Anyone who honestly believes there is not a connection between DeLay and his PAC needs to see a doctor.
The Brownout Is Over
At last the brownout is over. Over the course of the last two weeks, I have begun to refer to the pathetic Federal response to Hurricane Katrina as a brownout, thanks in large part to FEMA Director Michael Brown's small part in relief efforts. Thus, it is with gratitude from me that the Feds have put the Gulf Coast relief effort under the command of Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen and sent Brown back to Washington with his tail between his legs. Let's examine the cause of Brown's lack of leadership.
Before getting involved with FEMA a few years back, Brown was a professor and lawyer in Oklahoma and Colorado. His only experience in emergency management was a brief stint in Edmond, Oklahoma as an assistant to the city manager, a post that gave him next to no authority and no power over other employees. Does he sound like he was qualified to become FEMA's director? The answer is no.
Promoting Brown to Direct FEMA was purely a mistake on Bush's part. I have no idea what Brown did to win Bush's favor but it must have been big. In any case, the Brownout following Hurricane Katrina is evidence enough why politicians shouldn't be allowed to merely promote friends and allies to high positions in government. No one should be able to take an office for which they are not qualified, end of story. Now, let's look at the bad news.
Fox Corporation's Journey To The Dark Side Is Complete
It pains me to see the company that gave birth to Star Wars, Independence Day and Aliens go so far right but indeed it has done just that. Not only has Fox Corporation completed its journey to the dark side, but it has also begun forcing its constituency to do the same. I came across yet another story this week that proves this to be so.
Brian Ellner, a Democrat running for the Manhattan, New York borough presidency, said Tuesday that the local Fox affiliate, Fox 5, had agreed to run his campaign ad. Shortly afterwards, the station rejected the ad because it is critical of President Bush and makes fun of him. Station officials said they are refusing to run the ad because it is "disrespectful to the office of the president." However, the very same station and network ran many equally nasty ads in favor of Bush during last year's election cycle. Is this a case of bias? Absolutely. Ellner says that so far, none of the other network and cable affiliates have refused his ad. Can we say Darth Fox?
The Blame Game
For his part, President Bush claims the Federal response to Katrina was great and punctual, despite the obvious 4-5 day delay in seeing anything happen. He is mysteriously quiet about his shifting of funds last year from New Orleans' hurricane protection system to the war in Iraq. Effectively, he is trying hard to avoid taking responsibility for the failures of the government that he supposedly leads.
For their part, Republicans across America are trying to shift the blame from Bush to local leaders in the areas mot heavily afflicted by Hurricane Katrina. They have been particularly critical of Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who both happen to be Democrats. Admittedly, the blame does not lay with one person alone. Let's examine this briefly.
Truly, Mayor Nagin should have had a better evacuation plan for his city. Truly, Governor Blanco should have had a better system for helping local authorities fulfill the evacuation of their communities. On the other hand, it is important to realize that like most Gulf Coast states, most of Louisiana’s cities and assets lie in the south near the coast. Hurricane Katrina completely wiped that region of the state out and made it almost impossible for local authorities to respond. That is why the Federal government, led by Bush, should have stepped in immediately. That is as far as blame can be placed on local authorities.
For their part, the Federal response to Katrina, as far as most Americans are concerned, gets an F-. First of all, if Bush had completed the levee and pump system around New Orleans, that city's crisis would not have been as bad as it was to begin with. The system was only designed to protect from a Class 3 Hurricane and Katrina was a Class 4 but it would have at least slowed the crisis and lessened its impact. Add to that fact that Bush hired an unqualified man to direct FEMA and that Bush himself failed to step in and lead the national relief effort and you find that Bush is responsible in three ways for the epic scope of this tragedy. These three portions of responsibility lie firmly on his shoulders. Of course, his followers are massaging him so he probably doesn't feel a thing. How do you like that? Now, let's look at the foolish news.
Barbara Bush: The Hurricane Worked Out "Very Well"
Ever since I was a small child in the days of Ronald Reagan, I've liked George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush. I didn't always agree with them but I always felt they had Americans at heart in most of the things they did. I still feel that way so don't get mad when I say I almost choked on my Dr. Pepper when I heard Barbara Bush tell Larry King the other night that Hurricane Katrina had worked out well for many of its victims. I was certain that this was merely a slight misuse of language on her part so I let it go. After all, her comment came as a response to King's questions about how the victims are responding to the hospitality of other states that are taking them in. Well, it was the very next day that she seems to have said the same thing in another interview, this time for American Public Media's "Marketplace" program. Here is the quote.
Barbara Bush: "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them."
I still want to believe that Mrs. Bush is merely saying that refugees are welcoming the help they are being given but I am not completely sure anymore. It's starting to sound like she has grown a bit Mary Antoinette-ish. Is this her equivalent of Antionette's famous "let the peasants eat cake" speech? I have held out coming to such a conclusion but I must say it's not looking good as Mrs. Bush has so far refused to clarify her statements. I pray that she did not mean what it sounds like she meant.
September 13 Update: Bush Takes Responsibility?
Under very suspicious circumstances, FEMA Director Mike Brown quit his post on Monday, September 12 after having been under intense pressure to do so in the wake of his very weak response to Hurricane Katrina. Whatever the reason, this move was one in the right direction. However, the suspicion cannot be totally dismissed that he has been turned into a scapegoat by the Bush Administration.
For his part, President Bush admitted Tuesday, September 13 that "the Federal government didn't fully do its job right" in getting help to the victims. Going a step further, he even did something he has rarely if ever done: claim responsibility for the failure of the Feds in this matter. "I take responsibility. I want to know what went right and what went wrong," he said.
For my part, I commend Bush for claiming responsibility for the Federal government's letting the ball drop. Every level of government failed on this matter so no one person or group is to blame. Be that as it may, Bush was in the wrong in almost every way. It's a nice change to see him admit wrongdoing for a change. Perhaps some good will come out of this.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Failings And Vices Of A Presidency

As the nightmare that is reality in New Orleans begins to take its final shape at last, there are several things that we Americans are obliged to do. First and foremost, we are obliged to help the people of the Gulf Coast. Second and equally important, we are obliged to identify those persons and agencies that have failed and put the Gulf Coast at catastrophic risk because of events such as Hurricane Katrina. As a fact in point, this is the main topic of discussion in my post today. Towards the end, however, I also want to briefly address the death of Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. Let's begin with the tragedy unfolding on the Gulf Coast, shall we?
The Aftermath of Katrina
Previously this week, I was so intensely concerned about the disaster in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi that I made a plea that anyone who can do anything to help the needy should do so. That plea still stands. The mayor of New Orleans has said that in his city alone, we should expect thousands of casualties to be documented before this nightmare finally ends. In Mississippi, there are already 161 documented deaths and God only knows how Alabama is doing. An entire region and culture have been forced by Hurricane Katrina to undertake a diaspora. Between those who choose not to return home and those who have perished, the Gulf Coast region will never be the same. The lively, fun-loving people of that land will rebuild and their culture will remain but Katrina has forever scarred them. We owe it to ourselves and our posterity to do everything we can to help these besieged people rebuild their lives and ensure that such a catastrophe never again threatens their way of life. So let it be written so let it be done. But what of those whose job it is to protect this nation from threats such as Katrina? Where were they when it was time to shore up the levees? Where were they before the floodwaters rose? Let's see if we can identify those who let the Gulf Coast down.
Who Didn't Prevent The Diaspora?
First of all, I want to remind everyone that no one can prevent a hurricane or other natural phenomenon. It is not proper or even sane to blame Katrina on any one person. What we can and should do, however, is identify the culprits who left the Gulf Coast open to such utter mass destruction. Obviously, the coastal flats along the shore were virtually undefendable so for that no blame can be laid out but what of New Orleans? Despite its perpetual sinking (about one inch every three years), the constant erosion of land separating it from the sea and the continual shift of the Mississippi River, the work being done to protect New Orleans has been severely hindered in recent years. Why is that? Who is responsible? Read on to find out.
As The President Watched The Sinking City...
It is important to note that no one person is totally to blame for the plight of New Orleans, which without doubt is among the hardest-hit areas of the Gulf Coast. From the beginning of this crisis, virtually every Federal agency whose responsibility it was to help keep safe the city has failed in some fashion or another. However, the chief failure comes from the top. That is where the leadership is and that is where the budget is laid out. Thus, speaking not along political lines but along American ones, President Bush is at least as much to blame for the poor defense of New Orleans as anyone.
The first thing Bush did to fail the people of New Orleans was his refusal to adequately fund the construction and maintenance of the region's levee system. In 1995, due to rain-induced flooding in and around the city, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project or SELA. Between 1995 and 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers spent $430 million building, upgrading and maintaining levees and other structures to protect the city from flooding and storm surges. However, after Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq, funding dropped to a slow trickle. In 2004, local authorities and the Army Corps of Engineers identified a need for about $35 million to adequately complete and maintain the levee system. They received only $5.7 million. Before Katrina, Bush had allocated only $2.9 million for next year. On several occasions, The Times-Picayune quoted the region's Army Corps of Engineers project director, Al Naomi, as saying, "We don't have the money." In effect, Bush said he was fighting the war in Iraq to protect Americans but because of the war, he has failed utterly in that task and over 500,000 Americans are now homeless. Thousands more are now dead.
The second thing Bush did to fail the people of New Orleans was his excruciatingly slow response to the devastation wrought by Katrina. His response was so slow, in fact, that for about 4 days it didn't look like he was doing anything at all. If you look back, his response or lack thereof was an eerie reminder of the slowness with which he responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In any case, while hundreds of thousands were suffering and watching their lives float away on churning waters, he was sitting comfortably in the White House and observing their plight from afar. Then, to make matters worse, after he finally came out into the real world, he refused to enter New Orleans until military supply convoys entered the city so that he could pass himself off as a hero. Effectively, he turned the entire operation into a massive public relations fiasco. He placed higher value on his popularity than on the well-being of his citizens and in doing so, he gave us a glimpse of where his true loyalties are. He cares nothing for anyone if his caring does not turn a profit in some way.
There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from the failures that led to the catastrophic aftermath of Katrina. While no one is to blame for the storm, the Federal government is largely to blame for not adequately defending the city and the President is the chief culprit in this failure. He said we were fighting in Iraq so that Americans wouldn't die needlessly at the hands of our enemies. However, by failing to finish the levee system in Louisiana and failing to install pumping stations to fight flooding, one of the greatest and oldest of southern cities is now suffering the darkest days of its history. What would have cost only millions of dollars to protect will now cost billions of dollars to rebuild. The truth is that while Bush's war was important, so was keeping safe the nation from natural disasters. While it was not possible to protect the entire coast, the President should have at least finished the work that would have protected the communities in and around New Orleans, where most in the region lived. Instead, he left them sinking and turned their plight into a PR event to boost his ratings. That is not leadership but it is a huge slap in the faces of the people of Louisiana who, if you recall, voted for him on two occasions. Truthfully, there is no word that adequately describes how far he has fallen.
On The Death of Chief Justice Rehnquist
Though I never liked Rehnquist and often disagreed with his rulings, I always respected his devotion to the nation and his dedication to duty. He was a truly moderate Justice who believed in following the Constitution and not in making laws through his rulings. In saying that, he did have at least one major break with that philosophy. After the 2000 Elections, when he voted in favor of George W. Bush in the case of Bush vs. Gore, I was very upset that he ruled so in a case that, according to the Constitution, should never have been a matter for the SCOTUS in the first place. For that, I can never forgive him. However, I respect and honor his years of service to the nation. I pray that his successor will, whomever he or she may be, demonstrate the same dedication to this nation that Rehnquist has shown for these many, many years. May he rest in peace eternal.
September 5 Update: Chief Justice John Roberts?
Perhaps the first decent thing Bush has done in a long time happened today when he nominated John Roberts to be Rehnquist's successor. While I do not agree with Roberts in all things, I believe that he is truly moderate in his views after the fashion of most Americans. I also believe that he will be a compassionate Chief Justice that will see that the rights of the American people are protected within the bounds of the Constitution. While there are undoubtedly better candidates, aren't there always? I see him not only as an acceptable candidate but as the likely best that can be expected out of George W. Bush. May God bless Roberts and may his confirmation hearings be swift and thorough.

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