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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Real Lesson of Katrina

If Katrina had hit vanilla Orange County instead chocolate New Orleans, the damage would have been repaired in a matter of weeks. We've all heard this charge from the usual demagogues who make solid livings lighting and throwing the racial equivalent of gasoline in Coke bottles, ducking for cover and hoping to scorch as much ground as possible, always in the name of social justice, sensitivity, and, oh yeah, respect for diversity. From the pulpit of a Harlem church, Mrs. Bill Clinton offers this gem: "Our leadership has turned its back on those people who still need us." This from the co-president of an administration whose idea of compassion was to determine that not quite enough chocolate (Mayor Nagin's festive term) Rwandans had been genocidally bludgeoned to death to justify U.S. intervention. By contrast, the scope of government aid to Katrina-ravaged America is without precedent. "Staggering" is not too strong a word for the breadth of the aid, nor for the sheer waste; the two are nearly synonymous. And is any sane observer surprised to learn there's still no local recovery plan in place a year later in the swamp of cronyism and dependency known as New Orleans? The Wall Street Journal's account of why "post-Katrina spend-fest in Louisiana will be remembered as one of the greatest taxpayer wastes in U.S. history" is a sobering reminder that Ronald Reagan got it exactly right when he declared, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Katie Couric is My Kind of "Journalist"

A guy pens a note to his girlfriend: I want you to know how much I "love" you. At first she's touched by the sentiment, but she can't help wondering why the word love is inside quotation marks. Doesn't that usually convey irony, or some similar kind of emotional distance? I wonder if this same question is going through Katie Couric's mind today, in the wake of what strikes me as a curiously tone-deaf statement from CBS about how valuable she is to the network. Here's the deal. Walter Cronkite will introduce Katic Couric on the new CBS EVENING NEWS next week. Not surprisingly, critics are dismissing this move as a PR stunt. (Of course it's a PR stunt; we're talking a ratings war among the networks that once dominated TV news.) No less surprisingly, CBS stepped forth (anonymously) to explain how Cronkite's appearance is truly substantive:
"This is a bold statement of continuity and 'trust,' a commitment to the quality of the CBS EVENING NEWS."
What's with the CBS official putting italics around trust? I think it's an admission that the network that stood behind the Deputy-Dawg character named Dan Rather for way too long, cannot with a straight face use the word "trust" in defining its mission. "Stellar" doesn't even come close to my expectations about Missy (my personal pet name for Katie, known to most people as Couric), who has just finished up a six-city "listening tour" to find out who viewers expect her to be, what viewers want her to say, how viewers want her to groove with their deepest hopes and aspirations. Man, that's the kind of outreach I want my TV anchors to make. I'm absolutely "confident" of Missy's skills as a "journalist," which is to say I "trust" her stunning acumen as expressed by her apparent need recently to assure skeptics that she doesn't plan to turn her evening news program into "smiley-face happy news," oh heavens no. Missy, America is "with" you all the way, please do lots of cooking segments and bring back Willard Scott with the centennial birthdays, and a studio band would be really cool, too. Stop all this yuccky stuff about "Iran," it's just so dang depressing.