Masochism: Dissecting a week's worth of Chron editorials

Last Saturday, I took off for nearly a week of music and down time in the Pacific Northwest. I had wifi and was keeping up with the news back home, so I saw no need to announce the trip here.

While I did keep up with local news and the Chronicle's mostly good coverage of Katrina, I didn't pay much attention to the Chronicle's lackluster editorial page. As I went through a week's worth of editorials this morning, it struck me that perhaps I ought to offer up as a blog post the annotations I was making in my mind. If that sort of thing interests, click on the [Read More] link. If not, feel free to ignore this post, which admittedly deals with "olds" and is not written or edited tightly.

Saturday, Sept. 3

Sojourners: The new arrivals at the Astrodome are a reflection of America's most vulnerable.

Eventually, the Astrodome's occupants will voice why they stayed, and whether they had a choice. But several facts are clear: They are mostly poor. And most are black.

Wasn't there a small uproar among the Lefty Keyboard Corps of Engineers when former First Lady Barbara Bush made some mention of this fact? I have to admit that my reading of lefty blogs during my down time was limited, so maybe they were making a molehill out of something else.

Man-made destruction: A unique, beloved piece of Houston will likely be wiped off the map, and not by a hurricane.

You didn't have to know about its national standing as a design icon. You didn't have to get its witty critique of architectural modernism. All you had to do was swim a few laps in the glorious, indoor, junior Olympic swimming pool to see why the Masterson YWCA on Waugh Drive was an extraordinary and beloved building.

Was. Last week, the 23-year-old building overlooking Spotts Park in the Heights closed. Its board of directors declared it too costly to maintain.

The editorial board is so bizarrely preoccupied with this issue that they wrote a second editorial a week later trying to tie the preservation of the swimming pool to helping out Katrina victims. Strange.

Sunday, Sept. 4

PEAK OIL: Hurricane Katrina's aftermath only hints at what will happen when demand for crude outstrips supply.

I dealt with this example of Peak Oil cultism here.

RELIEF DONE RIGHT: After a shaky start, Houston's efforts to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina are hitting full stride.

Exerting decisive leadership that has been lacking in federal relief effort, Houston Mayor Bill White countermanded the fire marshal's decision. Rather than turning away exhausted drivers and passengers for lengthy journeys on to San Antonio and Dallas storm shelters, the mayor ordered police to admit all buses with evacuees into the Reliant Park complex. The dramatic turnabout saved the displaced New Orleans residents further torment and spared Houston the embarrassment of failing to make good on its promise of shelter and hospitality.

This is revisionism apparently designed to boost Mayor White. As noted here, the Chronicle erroneously reported that a very small number of buses were being turned away, a number that interestingly was the same as the number offered by the mayoral spokesman Pat Trahan later in the evening. Dave Ward and KTRK reported the actual number of buses that stood to be turned away -- more than 100 -- and Ward's critical, incisive commentary apparently roused the mayor out of bed to fix the fiasco. White deserves some credit for getting the fiasco fixed, but without the critical reporting from Ward and KTRK (contrasted with the erroneous reporting of the Chronicle), it might not have gotten fixed.

Monday, Sept. 5

LABOR AND LAMENTATION: Does the United States need illegal immigrants? How can destitute Americans be put to work?

ILLEGAL immigration is again a hot-button American issue. Fear of terrorism, economic insecurity, concerns about "cultural dilution" and resentment over public extra spending for social services drive this growing anxiety and xenophobia. Whatever arguments might be made on these fronts, the case that illegal immigrants are stealing jobs from American workers is increasingly difficult to make.

Whatever arguments might be made on these fronts? The Chronicle has made its own "argument" on this front clear by calling people concerned over illegal immigration xenophobic. Not everyone who's concerned about illegal immigration is xenophobic. It's insipid to suggest they are.

SHAME ON FDA: Emergency contraception stall shows the agency prefers playing politics to protecting women's health.

The editorial fails utterly in carrying the argument that somehow this delay injures the health of women. It seems that the delay is rather more injurious to the mental health of the Chronicle editorial board.

Tuesday, Sept. 6

Packing lunch: Schools should act now to transfer their federally funded free meal programs when cafeterias close for the summer. It won't cost them a thing.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina impressed on Americans the horror of what happens when people are without food for a few days. Yet some school cafeterias close for weeks at a stretch, leaving poor children without the meals that are their principal source of nutrition.

Apparently, the new tack of the editorial idealists is simply to cite "the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina" and then bitch and moan about whatever pet peeves they have about entirely unrelated matters. Although we generally avoid cursing on this blog, Anne Linehan's characterization of the people who wrote this insipid editorial as "dumbasses" continues to stand as a justified exception to our general editorial policy.

William H. Rehnquist: Long-serving chief justice likely to be replaced by his former law clerk and philosophical heir.

Complicating calculations on how the court would rule with Roberts in the driver's seat is the changing nature of the cases likely to come before it. Rather than the rights of the accused and the legality of executing young or mentally disabled defendants, the court will be deciding whether the government can rummage through the records of Americans who are not suspected of committing a crime. Recent cases involving the federal government's right to overrule state law, such as California's medical marijuana statute, have split the court along unpredictable lines. Usually allies, conservative justices are divided between law enforcement authoritarians and defenders of states' rights.

President Bush might have intended all along to make Roberts chief justice. Struggling for progress in Iraq and taking heat for rising gasoline prices and a poor federal response to Hurricane Katrina, Bush should have little trouble with Roberts' confirmation.

The editorial idealists devoted two small paragraphs to the life of a remarkable, long-serving Supreme Court Justice before turning to their usual corrosive commentary on other matters (such as the over-the-top reference to "law-enforcement authoritarians," with the hyphen erroneously omitted in the Chron copy) I suppose it would have been too much to ask for them simply to eulogize Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Wednesday, Sept. 7

Loose talk: As Houstonians pitch in to aid storm victims, they should ignore unverified reports of crime, violence.

An ugly aspect of disrupted communications during disasters is the innate human tendency to fill in the blanks with whatever information is at hand. In the absence of facts, it might be second- or thirdhand anecdotes or the word of an anonymous person who supposedly talked to an unnamed police officer or rescue worker. While the news media maintain standards of verification, no such filter governs the rumor mill.

Reasonable Houstonians have legitimate questions about the impact of so many newcomers on our city. They should get their answers from responsible public officials and the press and avoid feeding fears by repeating alarming hearsay.

The bolded portions are particularly amusing coming from the Chronicle, since immature smears of "bad guys" appear regularly on the Chron editorial pages, and hearsay and gossip are a regular part of the editorial and news pages. We highly recommend that Chron editors also take that advice to heart.

As the bigger issue goes -- Houstonians should not be made to feel guilty by the Chronicle editorialists for wondering about the impact of thousands of new guests in our city. The Chronicle prefers to ignore the problem, just like Mayor White and his Council, but the fact is that HPD has a serious manpower shortage, and that public safety is a concern in the city even without an influx of tens of thousands of new people.

Talking points: The U.S.-Arab Economic Forum wants to improve economic ties as a way of encouraging peace in the Middle East.

When those civilians include the chiefs of Boeing, M.D. Anderson, Cisco and BBC news, chances are they'll spend their time productively, seeking points of profitable contact with other participants. If jobs and opportunities come from these links, at least some Arabs and more Americans will feel invested in a positive relationship.

Finally, the forum is presenting panels on topics that merit serious discussion. Among them: "Media, Knowledge and Freedom," "Shifting to New Sources of Competitiveness," "Empowering the Next Generation of Reformers and Peacemakers" and "The Future Face of Sustainable Growth." On these important issues, participants should be encouraged to speak civilly but substantively in search of solutions that warfare, oil dependence and obsolete social structures have failed to offer.

Umm, okay, whatever. It's not clear why the Chronicle needed to post a press release for this summit.

Thursday, Sept. 8

PENDULUM SWINGS: After Katrina, fewer calls for starving government and having less revenue to fund relief

Congress returns to Washington after its August recess to find its previous agenda not only irrelevant following Hurricane Katrina, but also undesirable. Some of the leadership's priorities are now unthinkable, as they should have been before Katrina.

Here the editorialists go again with the formula, "In the aftermath of Katrina," we want our liberal statist agenda at the fore, instead of the agenda of the twice-elected President and Republican majority! Whatever.

Silent for the moment are the cries to reduce revenue to the federal government and starve its ability to provide security and social services. Gone is the urge to make big government smaller.

Have there BEEN cries to shrink the government from this administration? The Bush Administration has drawn a fair amount of criticism from libertarian conservatives for spending like drunken sailors. Apparently the editorial idealists, who don't seem to have much contact with libertarian or conservative thinking, missed that.

The sluggish federal response to the destruction of New Orleans and stretches of the Gulf Coast elicits angry criticism of the federal government for not acting big enough.

As my muse Orrin Judd remarked,

How can even the Left look at the local, state, and federal response to the Hurricane and say to itself the answer is to add more bureaucracy and boondogglery?

As Orrin further notes with links to the Washington Post and an interview with Fox News' Major Garrett, federal spending on New Orleans prior to this disaster was massive (and, in some ways, misguided), and the response to the crisis was hindered significantly by the ineptitude of state and local officials. But that information has no place in the editorials of liberal zealots. One wonders if they were even aware of those news accounts.

Bush's spokesman said Katrina was a one-time event and the administration would pursue its agenda of tax cuts unchanged. Surely he was misinformed. No administration could be that divorced from reality, and no Congress could be destructive enough to oblige.

No, idealists, I'm pretty sure he was serious.

Why do liberals continue to assume that the latest crisis -- any event really -- will turn President Bush into a statist "Great Society" liberal? It hasn't happened yet. It doesn't seem like it's going to happen. Except to lefty editorialists who themselves seem "divorced from reality."

COVERING ALL BASES: Houston's Katrina relief effort includes supplying FEMA as well as evacuees.

A bit too self-congratulatory for my taste, but for a change, there's nothing notably objectionable in this one.

Friday, Sept. 9

POSTMORTEM: Independent commission needed to probe failure in dealing with Katrina

Anne already dealt with this laugher.

LEXICON OF DISASTER: For many survivors of Katrina, 'refugee' is a word that describes someone else

Strictly speaking, the survivors who made their way to Houston, Baton Rouge, San Antonio and other cities could be called refugees. According to Webster's, the word describes "a person who flees from home or country to seek refuge elsewhere, as in a time of war or of political or religious persecution." Seeking sanctuary from a hellish storm falls into that category.

In international relations, refugee has a specific meaning: someone who has crossed a national border fleeing persecution. People escaping danger within their own countries are known as "internally displaced persons."

And here we thought after citing a non-existent treaty, the editorialists might shy away from showing off their knowledge of international law! Undeterred, they march on bravely!

It's clear, though, that the Louisianans' objections have little to do with international treaties. Instead, the survivors want to make clear that, though Nature betrayed them, they are still part of a society that guarantees them rights, representatives and financial support.

But the ire over semantics likely stems from something else. The prolonged agony of so many black, impoverished New Orleans residents has elicited charges that the nation's leaders did not consider them as important as other Americans.

Yes, because the massive unprecedented outpouring of support illustrates that racist and uncaring attitude of so many American individuals, corporations, and non-profit organizations! Pardon me for being frank, but what a load of crap.

Language, like geography, is constantly transforming. A gigantic storm in New Orleans has made its mark on both.

And the Chronicle editorial board, like many members of the Lefty Keyboard Corps of Cadets, is constantly fiddling while Rome burns.

Saturday, Sept. 10

STATE OF ALERTNESS: Texas health officials have made a series of quick practical decisions that benefit Louisiana evacuees and Texans both. The state can do even more

Doesn't the bolded part of the headline just sum up their editorial worldview beautifully?

In a disaster marked by gross ineptness on the part of many leaders, a set of rapid-fire decisions by Texas public health officials exemplifies clear thinking in Katrina's wake. Among the measures meriting praise and emulation by other states:

Texas' HIV Medication Program and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program are offering free antiretroviral therapy to evacuees in Texas who fill out a single-page form. An approved patient can receive a free 30-day supply of medication at a participating pharmacy.
The state pharmacy board authorized Texas pharmacists to offer evacuees up to 30 days of medication, including HIV-AIDS drugs. Texas law ordinarily forbids pharmacists to supply more than 72 hours' worth of medicine without authorization from the prescribing doctor. These relaxed rules conform to existing Texas law, which lets pharmacists use professional judgment in giving emergency refills in cases such as natural disasters.

Those are the top two measures by Texas public health officials meriting praise?! Seriously, the fixation on HIV-AIDS drugs is just bizarre.

BREATHING SPACE: The YWCA's board is selling off its magnificent, award-winning public gym. Hurricane Katrina should persuade it to reorder its priorities

I dealt with this one previously, but it is worth noting that it's the latest of the new Chron editorial genre, "In the aftermath of Katrina, we shall bitch and moan about entirely unrelated items until we get our way! Waah!"

Okay, kids, that was brain numbing. Here's some friendly advice: don't try dissecting a week's worth of Chron editorials yourself unless you have a good stiff drink nearby. I didn't, and I definitely need several after that experience.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 09/11/05 01:41 PM | Print |

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