Friday, September 30, 2005

Losing Sight of the Mission: Values and Power

It’s quite a disgrace that so many Democratic Senators (22 actually) voted to confirm John G. Roberts, Jr. as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. People who follow politics are aware that Roberts is a conservative protégé of the late radical "movement conservative" Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. One possible reason the Senators voted for Roberts is that they do not want to infuriate conservatives in their state. As such the Democratic Senators have, I believe, put their reelection concerns above their core values and they forgot why they were elected to the Senate in the first place: that is, to further the causes and concerns of Democrats in their state who hold the same values; that’s what elections are about. In short, citizens who care about social justice, the environment, due process, fair taxation, vote for Democratic Senators. The Senators sold the folks in their state who voted for them, to use a phrase from the 1850’s slave-holding South, “down the river.”

Moreover, politics is about the competition of values; that quickly becomes a quest for power in order to implement values in society. In the end, politics becomes, as political scientist David Easton wrote, "[An] authoritative allocation of values." To be sure, there is a huge difference between the values and mores of conservatives and liberals/progressives in America. Politically speaking, Southern California Democratic activist, Charles Ara PhD, who walked with Caesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960’s has very little in common with, let’s say, indicted Congressman Tom DeLay from Texas. That’s why the Democratic Senators who voted for confirmation have not only let their Democratic values down but they have let down the people who put them in power, and in the end, America; they forgot they are in competition, representing the citizens who voted for them, with the Republicans for those values and which ones get authoritatively implemented in society. As members of the Labor Party in Britain would say in unison, “Shame, shame, shame.”

More about how these Senators will rue the day they voted for Roberts in my next posting.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The President and Soul

Guest Blogger: Lawrence DiStasi

Though many have long suspected that George W. Bush is heartless, it took a hurricane to reveal his deficiency in something equally fundamental: soul. That which the Romans called "anima" also refers, according to Jung, to the often-suppressed feminine side of a man.

How fitting, then, for a hurricane named Katrina to expose it. How fitting for the wrath of mother earth to suddenly confront this six-pack, six-gun-toting administration, mirroring, of a sudden, Cindy Sheehanother mother demanding answers to her shockingly naïve, mother of all questions: for what did my son die? And now Katrina inundating New Orleans, the soul city of America, demands something similar: Mr. President, what of thy soul?

Strange concept, soul. Though commonly referred to, soul is not a given for humans. As Gurdjieff once wrote: "What they call soul does really exist, but not everybody necessarily has one." Soul has to be developed somehow, made somehow. And what makes soul possible seems to be suffering. The poet John Keats pointed this out in a letter. "How then are Souls to be made?" asked Keats. "How, but by the medium of a world like this? Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school Intelligence and make it a soul?"

Which is to say that the world is a vale of soul-making. And now the deprivation of Black America in general and New Orleans in particular can be seen to constitute one of the great American "vales of soul-making." This is reflected in the designations, so common, of soul music and soul food, whose meanings reverberate with precisely the forge in which an enslaved people created the signature music and traditional food of America. A music and a food forged in suffering. And through which comes a mutual realization of the communion of this specific suffering with the related suffering of all humanity. Which is what soul also means. Soul means to understand at somelevel that you, as a human being, as an element of life dependent on all other life, are vulnerable. Are one with suffering humanity unable to control the world.

Lapel-flag America tries to deny this. America is the place where suffering is supposed to end because the material world is controlled; for the first time in history, the world's disasters are able to be controlled by the personal efforts of brave settlers. And for George Bush and his upperclass, original-settler first family, what proceeds from the resulting sense of privilege is that coldness, that blank look in the face of human suffering that Saul Landau, citing "Bush on the Couch," has recently referred to:

"Suffering and death confound him. Perhaps Barbara traumatized the seven year old W when little sister died of leukemia? The day after the funeral, the Bushes played a round of golf --the proper set dealing with death. Barbara, according to Dr. Justin Frank, had trouble connecting emotionally with her son."

More broadly, the fundamentalist Christianity to which the President claims to adhere, and which makes much of the soul and its salvation, displays a similar lack of true soul. Promoting biblical literalism, which his to say, exceptionalism, it suggests mainly the salvation of a divinely chosen people, a people whose choice uniquely privileges them to survive fire and flood and thrive. All others are condemned to drown in the waters or be incinerated in the great coming conflagration. Beneath this eschatology, of course, and not very far beneath, lies the American fear of darkness, the wilderness, pleasure, the body, and all those things signifying raw life, and matter, and vulnerability, and thereby soul. And thereby, most emphatically, that embodied slave population brought to the promised land to make invulnerability possible, to make salvation possible for their white masters, but which had the unfortunate collateral effect of dumping in the promised land this unruly and uncontrollable and decidedlynot-invulnerable population of bodies. Dark bodies. Excessively physical and lust-inciting bodies.

The President is a fundamentalist in precisely this sense. Now that he's recovered from alcoholism, or more likely is simply "white knuckling" it (denying and suppressing the scream of his body to partake in alcohol), he takes to denying also the vulnerability, the common humanity of his disease. At least in public. And for this president, everything is public, is political performance. Projection. Projecting all the inner evil and weakness he feels in himself onto others. Arabs. The dark-skinned others. The, in his determinedly ahistorical mind, uncivilized others who are toblame for 9/11 and all other world problems. The evil ones. Who form thebody of the world, the vulnerable, enslaved body of the world.

With Katrina, all of this, all the repressed body of the world, has returned to attack him. With Katrina and the destruction of the soul city, the bottom city, the below-sea-level-city, the city of voodoo and slavery and prostitution and music emanating from whorehouses played in by black musicians who had only the music, the blues, to make life soulful, to turn that suffering into art, has come the exposure of America's underside. Its insides. The demand to come to terms with it. With true soul and true gospel. But which America under this President will continue attempting to repress, will continue, desperately, trying to convert, once again, into an "opportunity zone"--a finally all white New Orleans that will cleanse and displace and silence the embodied souls of New Orleans and America once and for all. For that is the lesson they will try to take from the flood, from what it has exposed to all the world:

"Get rid of that embodied soul, that soul we thought to have bleached for good. For soul is what we have most to fear. Soul and its natural expression, love. Soul and its natural city, New Orleans. Extraneous and dangerous and expendable, all three." That is the lesson. And it will surely fail. To be succeeded, as it already has, by the real revelation: when it comes to soul, this little President and his pale little notion of America, has none.

We Shall Overcome: Reflections on 9/11 & Katrina

Guest Blogger: Charles Ara, PhD

When British Tyranny oppressed our colonies, many died but we overcame with the American Revolution

When the country was torn apart over slavery in the Bloody Civil War between the North & the South, We overcame

When women did not have the right to vote, we overcame with Women’s suffrage

When workers were denied the right to organize, we overcame with the labor movement

When America was attacked at Pearl Harbor, we overcame at a great price

When Afro-Americans were segregated, we overcame with the Civil Rights movement and equal opportunity legislation

When Michael Harrington’s Book “The Other America” documented the disparity between the rich & the poor, we overcame with Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty

When immigrants were denied access to our country, we overcame with the welcome inscription at Ellis Island “Give me your tired and your poor.”

When our farm workers were mistreated, we overcame with the leadership of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers Union

And while we still have a long ways to go in overcoming poverty, war, injustice and our illusions of separation from our fellow human beings

We take hope in the words of Martin Luther King, “I have a dream that someday the sons of slaves and the sons of slave owners will sit down together at the banquet of brotherhood.”

And, as today, we remember the suffering and victims of 9/11 and Katrina,

let us work & hope & pray for the day in which we can all say

“I pledge allegiance to the earth, and to all the species for which it stands, one world, interdependent, with peace, justice & sustenance for all.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Priorities of a Banana Republic

The last two weeks has been a time of trial and turmoil for our nation and we are probably overdosed or about to be overdosed by the horrific scenes from Hurricane Katrina. The suffering of our neighbors is overwhelming to us. We are personally giving greater money and personal goods than ever before. Our personal priorities are clear and correct, but what are the priorities of our national government?

We can get some images that predate the latest catastrophe. The poverty rate defined as income of less than $19,307 for a family of four increased to 12.7% from 2000 to 2004 and up 1.1 million people since 2003. This slow tragedy happened during the largest tax cuts for the super wealthy in history. Give that priority to the wealthy. The number of people without health insurance grew by 800,000. Advantage wealthy.

According to a recent UN report, our infant mortality rate is the now the same as Malaysia. Until the year 2000, US children dying before age 5 declined in numbers. Since 2000, that rate has increased. Paul Vallely in the UK Independent noted that infant Blacks in Washington, DC have a higher death rate than the Indian State of Kerala. Black children are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthdays than white children. Priority; white over black. Hispanics are more than twice as likely to be without health insurance than whites. Priority; white over Hispanic.

The administration?s Estate Tax proposal to eliminate all estate taxes will serve to protect wealth over the interests of a living wage. Meanwhile, the national debt soars. Advantage rich; disadvantage middle class. In US history, the classic approach for the middle class to develop has been through education and the best example has been the GI Bill that enlarged the middle class to a new scale and helped our country produce a great set of everything from entrepreneurs to engineers and made us vibrant. Education inflation in double digits for the past 4 years; advantage wealthy. Do we need to mention CAFTA and how it will make wages downwardly mobile? Finally, let us cycle back to the tragedy on the Gulf Coast. President Bush is establishing a recovery labor system that will enable less than prevailing wages for critical building trade skills.

Meanwhile, his administration has given Halliburton and Shaw no-bid contracts for the recovery efforts. I guess that Dick Cheney needed a better profit margin for his friends. Meanwhile, Joe Allbough the former FEMA Director, is now a registered lobbyist for Halliburton and KBR as well as an old college chum of Mike Brown the recent FEMA Director. Priority rich and connected; disadvantage America. If this continues will our country have appeal or a peel?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bush's Element

Guest Blogger: Lawrence DiStasi

We now see President George W. Bush on his third trip to New Orleans, this time conspicuously enjoying himself as he jokes and jives with the aid workers and military personnel who are finally beginning to have some positive effect in the stricken city. And what we see is that this is really the President’s element. He thrives in a setting where he can stage a cheerful photo op--with a bullhorn in the ashes of the World Trade Center vowing to rebuild and to hunt down the bad guys who did this; on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in San Diego harbor announcing his premature Mission Accomplished; in Baghdad on a surprise Thanksgiving junket, eating fake turkey with servicemen; and now, now that the the crisis is resolving, TV-wise, pressing the flesh with the happy workers who have turned the New Orleans disaster into an occasion for a U.S. victory over nasty nature. And though he doesn’t respond well to crisis--his apparent bafflement when he heard about the WTC bombings and continued to read about a goat, followed by his craven flight to the remotest area of the country; his bumbling responses to the New Orleans catastrophe, playing golf while a great American city drowned--this is a President who knows how to lead the cheers when the danger is past.

This pattern might even be seen as humorous, as an ironic commentary on a man who has promoted the image of himself as a courageous leader, if it were not so troubling.

For this pattern, far from signifying simply the accidental missteps of a canny politician under stress, speaks to a deeper paradigm of the man, and his entire philosophy. His party’s entire philosophy. What I mean is that the conservatives who now own the Republican party don’t do disaster well. As with the current president, their inclination in times of trouble seems to be to head for the hills, to get to some offshore haven or gated community from which they can shift the blame onto poorer or weaker others. As with this president, their moment really arrives when the nation enters a period of relative peace and/or prosperity like the 20s, the 50s, the 80s. (As to who promotes the prosperity, that is another matter: with the boom of the 1990s, it was the work of the Clinton administration’s economic and fiscal policies, generating trillions of dollars in surpluses.) Then it is that they can prate about morning in America, inveigh against welfare mothers and street criminals, and trumpet their anthem of rugged individualism, of citizens taking care of themselves, of the glories of privatization and the evils of liberal bureaucracy and pork-barrel handouts to the undeserving. And if into this mix should creep a disaster of some kind, either natural or man-made, they are once again nowhere to be found. At moments of crisis--the Great Depression, World War II, the attack on the WTC, or now the drowning of a great American city--the nation is shocked into the realization that its survival really does depend on all the dread engines of government bureaucracy the conservatives have been busy dismantling. Its collective welfare really does require all the soft-headed programs animated by concern for the less fortunate. Its safety really is secured by competent people committed not to fattening their pockets or rewarding their cronies but to creating support systems for those who have been or will be flattened by life.

Americans should seriously reflect upon this. They should reflect and understand that in truth, it is most often the conservatives in America who reap the benefits of big government--in subsidies for major corporations, in tariffs and price supports to benefit huge farming operations, in trillions expended and wasted on foreign adventures, and no-bid contracts for always newer and bigger weapons systems and privatized operational support for our armies of occupation, legal or illegal.

They should reflect that the size and scale of modern industrial civilization demands that a national government provide the indispensable infrastructure to make everyday necessities--roads, bridges, dams, power, transport, schools, levees, and now even air and water--work. That in crisis situations the health and welfare of a people cannot be left to “rugged” individuals struggling (or scamming) for their own narrow advantage. That there are recurrent times when people are brought face to face with the fact that a nation is a pact among millions of cooperating individuals, and that, in truth, the basis for survival of any one individual, no matter how self-reliant, always depends on the survival of seemingly distant, unrelated others, no matter how insignificant. The health of New Orleans is not something that can be left to individual residents of New Orleans. Because not only is any one individual New Orleaner unable to implement and maintain the strength of the levees upon which his very survival depends; individual farmers in Minnesota and South Dakota and Kansas and the entire nation are unable to thrive or survive without the strength of those New Orleans levees either. For those levees make possible the city and port of New Orleans, and the river leading to it and from it, and all those who work there and throughout the region as well.

This is the truth that the conservative movement in this nation has been trying to suppress and deny and ridicule. That people are dependent upon each other. All people. Rich and poor and middle class. That no one individual, no matter how talented or wealthy or self-serving, can survive alone. That individualism only works in a community of cooperation which takes care of all the tributary functions that every individual needs: clean air and clean water and streets and schools and hospitals and ports and the agreement by each individual to abide by the restraints and constraints and levies that are required in the social compact.

Nor does that social compact condemn individuals for being poor or dark or foreign-born or homeless. It, on the contrary, speaks to the inherent worth of every human being, any human being, regardless of circumstance. That is the meaning of the compact. In return for the agreement of each individual to abide by specific restrictions on individual greed and selfishness and freedom placed by government, government agrees to provide the services necessary to survival. It is moments of crisis that bring this compact into stark relief, moments of crisis that demonstrate what the competing political systems and their leaders truly have to offer. The drowning of New Orleans has done this in the most fundamental way possible. Now it is up to the people of the United States to draw their conclusions about who is likely to serve them in a crisis, and who is likely to turn tail and run until the waters have begun to recede.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Rehnquist Passing: What Liberal Media?

Movement conservatives have long made the case that America's media, in the main, carry water for liberal causes, and, it follows, for the Democratic Party itself. The journalist Eric Alterman, in his book, What Liberal Media, (2003) refutes that mythology masterfully; it’s worth a read.

Recently the death of Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist and how the media have dealt with his passing, and their total lack of examination, not only of his record on the Supreme Court but of his life in toto, is another example that Alterman's arguments were accurate.

The notion that the media leans towards or is completely liberal is now quite debunked. Recently, the media, by and large, have fawned over William Rehnquist and have never bothered to explain some of his very retroactive votes on the Court nor have they explained Rehnquist’s very unusual political background. By looking at his record it becomes clear that his historical animosity towards minorities and the underprivileged aren’t to be desired in today’s America, the evidence is there, just look at the Rehnquist record. The danger is that if we do not actively learn from the mistakes of yesterday, and, to actively preserve our history, then, as the acclaimed early 20th century Harvard professor and naturalist philosopher George Santayana once said, "We are doomed to repeat the past." America’s citizenry needs better information, and the media, to be sure, can be of tremendous help.

We should examine the background of Chief Justice Rehnquist past. Why should we be curious? The answer: so we as Americans can see the true Rehnquist and ask why he held such disastrous views towards so many of our citizens, and maybe more importantly, why President Nixon put him on the Supreme Court. In the mid 1960’s the country had just gone through terrible political fights in order for minorities to finally become true citizens in America, however conservatives were unsatisfied with the results, so enter President Nixon and William Rehnquist (and this is long before President Reagan appeared on the stage, well at least nationally).

Here is the man President Nixon put on the Court:

--Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, in a recent article, alleged that while at Stanford, Rehnquist engaged in terribly bigoted acts such as goose-stepping and making the "Heil Hitler" salute in front of Jewish student dormitories. Amazing. Let’s not forget that Jews were discouraged from attending Stanford and could not join any college clubs when Rehnquist was there. So it appears that due to Stanford’s bigoted environment he was in a college of his dreams.

--In the early 1950’s Rehnquist went to Washington, D.C. to work as a law clerk for the legendary Justice Robert H. Jackson (who was the primary attorney at the Nuremberg Trials, post World War II, in Germany). There, Rehnquist wrote a memo arguing against school desegregation while the Court was considering the landmark Brown v Board of Education of Topeka (1954), one of the early civil rights cases. Justice Jackson, in Brown, voted to end discrimination, in a unanimous decision ignoring the Rehnquist memo. God bless Justice Robert Jackson.

--Rehnquist concluded that Plessy v Ferguson (1896), that ugly Supreme Court decision that kept African-Americans at the cellar of society in the South and elsewhere in America, not long after the Civil War, "was right and should be reaffirmed." This point-of-view kills me; it is so retroactive as he tried to take back America to 1896. The case after all stated that “separate but equal” would be the law of the land. Yes, African- Americans would become separate, but not equal under the law until the Civil Rights Acts signed under President Johnson in the mid 1960’s. But, it appears, Rehnquist is not happy with minorities being equal under the law, at least, that’s what he argued in his memorandum.

--During the 1986 U.S. Senate hearings on his chief justice nomination, several people came forward to complain about what they viewed as Rehnquist’s attempts to discourage minority voters in Arizona elections when he served as a "poll watcher" in the early 1960s. “Operation Eagle Eye” sought to obstruct and challenge the voting qualifications of Arizona blacks and Latinos in Phoenix, the capital of the state. This is long before Republicans did that in the early 1990’s in Orange County, Calif. It appears that Republicans keep using the same tricks in order to keep minorities from voting.

And I won’t even discuss of how Rehnquist tried to reverse the many landmark decisions passed with the help of Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. in the 1950’s and 1960’s to help bring social justice to America. In short, that’s the man President Nixon put on the Court. Where was Congress during the hearings? I, say absent without leave. And, with the death of William Rehnquist, it seems the media has been as well. I ask: what liberal media?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Chauncey Alexander, Social Work Architect

A brilliant voice has left our land
A gentle voice with a strong firm hand
A caring voice with a heart of knowledge
A voice at home; a voice at college
A voice for social unity
A warm voice of community
A voice of love and understanding
A voice that compelled without demanding
A voice for Justice has been stilled
With deep echoes, our hearts are filled
Rest that voice in Peace our friend
Until we hear your voice again

Chauncey Alexander, often called the Master Builder of social work, died on August 30, 2005 at the Orange County Memorial Hospital in Fountain Valley. Chauncey is survived by his wife Sally. Between them, they have four daughters, eight grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. Chauncey?s son, Gregory, a Vietnam veteran, died in 1997 of an aneurysm.

Chauncey graduated from UCLA in 1938 with a BA in Psychology and earned his Masters Degree in Social Work from USC nineteen years later after building on practical experiences at home in the United States and away at war in the Pacific campaign. In a way, that was metaphor for Chauncey in being able to bridge between rivals to voice wisdom and workable understandings. He chose to integrate two rival schools in his life and then offered the melding as the fabric for active social work for a long and distinguished career.

Chauncey entered his public life at a time of dramatic world political and social upheaval. He volunteered for service in World War II and was initially rejected due to poor eyesight. He was rejected six more times and was finally accepted to assist in determining the suitability of volunteers and draftees to be in the Army. Subsequent service eventually brought him to the Philippines and when the war ended, he prevailed on the military to send soldiers home on ships returning to the United States empty.

While waiting for the slow wheels of the national bureaucracy to turn, Chauncey organized the Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists and Technicians for the CIO in the Los Angeles area. He also negotiated their contract with Lockheed Aviation. This organizing activity was looked upon as an essential voice for workers and yet somehow subversive at a time of turmoil in labor. While Chauncey always chose to help people and to use his considerable powers of persuasion to act in their behalf, that very trait was viewed suspiciously by some who could not understand a man who had the common good at heart. While some wondered about Chauncey?s motives and whispered about his loyalties, he gathered prolific experience and skill as a social worker. His military experience got him a civilian job as Research and Publications Director for the Veterans Service Center in Los Angeles. There he developed many useful materials including a compendium of all veteran?s benefits in each of the 48 states. Knowledge always served as a basis for helping others and he was generous with his time and energy in sharing the knowledge his experiences provided.

As Executive Director of the Southern California Society for Mental Hygiene, he staged mental health and education events and organized eleven chapters of the Society. It was at about that time that Chauncey uncovered severe shortcomings in the California mental health system that had used the system for political purposes and was able to influence the then governor Earl Warren, and later Supreme Court Justice, to obtain the resignation of the offending political appointee. It was largely through the efforts of Chauncey and his colleagues that the position was thereafter filled by a qualified psychiatrist who developed a progressive and effective mental health system.

Not all his California efforts were as well received by politicians, however. After working as a psychiatric social worker in California?s Patton State Mental Hospital and developing community based programs for patients that were harmless to themselves and others and placing 40 patients in appropriate boarding houses, the program was eliminated by Governor Reagan and most mentally ill patients were simply dumped on the streets of unprepared communities in the state.

Although Chauncey held a number of impressive positions, his longest tenure was as the National Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers in New York and later in Washington, DC. He served as the active leader and motivating force in building the profession of Social Work. He also created ELAN, the Educational Legislative Action Network and was supported by several legislators who were generous in their praise for the support provided by social workers in their districts.

Because of his research with Dr. Sydney S. Sobin to find ways to put heart patients back to work, Chauncey was selected as Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Heart Association. He served in that position for twelve years and developed the group into the largest income and program producing similar organization in the country. It involved 65,000 volunteers in public and professional education, community service and fundraising programs.

In his retirement, Chauncey taught social policy and management as a part-time professor at California State University, Long Beach. Even there, he was often found researching and preparing materials for his students rather than resting on his experience and memory. He was not only current, but took the time and exerted the effort to be ahead of trends and changes. He also organized the Health Care Council of Orange County, a non-profit organization that provided an important voice for older adults and persons with disabilities. The group, in corroboration with the Orange County Council on Aging emphasizes assistance to Chinese, Vietnamese and Hispanic groups.

Chauncey Alexander lived as a voice for the exploited, the misunderstood and for the disabled and disenfranchised of our community. He did his homework and fought the good fight despite personal physical pain and suffering and even the loss of a son who had also served the country they loved. His wife Sally remained steadfast in her love for 38 years of marriage. She shared his love of justice and the disenfranchised. Sally ran for Congress in 1996 to articulate ways to help the citizens of her community and to help lead them to a greater good much as her beloved husband had although in her unique and more political way. She served in many leadership roles for the California Democratic Party and yet was always at Chauncey?s side right to the very end when as delegates to the California State Party convention, they joined their many friends at Los Angeles.

The Louisiana Sellout

We have just taken a national test for preparedness and have failed with a grade of F. The loss of life during the recent hurricane Katrina and the continuing tragedy screams of a level of incompetence and callous disregard for life that is unparellelled in our nation's history. In striking similarity to Nero who, by tradition, fiddled while Rome burned, Bush strummed a gift guitar while the Gulf Coast teetered on the brink of oblivion.

Refusing to be pulled from the golf course or to cut his vacation short by more than a few hours, Bush exercised leadership clearly below and behind the call of duty. In keeping with his National Guard reputation, he was AWOL. Worse, all his appointed sycophants were also on vacation. The Director of Homeland Security claimed to be unaware of the critical situation and FEMA Director Brown was likewise flummoxed to learn that there was a crisis when questioned by the press. Jefferson orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase and now Bush has orchestrated the Louisiana Sellout.

Bush has indeed earned his place in history as the "dress-up" leader of Mission Accomplished fame who preached compassionate conservatism, but given a 3-day warning of impending disaster in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast would not be deterred from his staying the course of his vacation. He also took a month vacation just prior to the 9/11 attack and then sat stunned in a classroom mugging for a photo-op after ignoring warnings about al Qaeda. Once again, he was determined to stay the course and he was able to focus on his vacation. This is the same president that has made the term "Commander-in-Chief" a term that can only be used while referring to him and he officially eliminated the term for CINCPAC or CINC SOUTHCOM, etc. He wanted it to be absolutely clear that there was only ONE Commander-in-Chief. The combination of a massive ego combined with miniscule ability has produced incompetence of new proportions. Because of his ego, he is unable to take criticism and so he selects appointees based on loyalty as the most critical qualification.
Recent reports leaking from the White House indicate that the Bush staff puts out weather reports such as "calm," meaning that it is safe to approach the president, or "storm warnings," meaning that it is unsafe to brief or interact with a shaky Bush. The president has fired anybody who dared to provide unfavorable information from the Secretary of the Treasury on down. He announces Shinseki's retirement as soon as that general had the courage to tell Bush that it would take several hundred thousand to secure Iraq.

It is tragically ironic that the same staff that speaks of weather reports about the Commander-in-Chief failed to heed the three-day warning of the high category hurricane and take even the most basic steps to prepare for the storm in the Gulf of Mexico. He also chose to cut the budget for the repair of the very levees that failed and caused flooding of New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain. This president must be first on his bicycle or there will be hell to pay. This president claims to have choked on a pretzel and bruised his head during a Super Bowl. This president has boasted "bring it on" to our enemies. This president has claimed to be compassionate while enabling the worst barbarity of desperate people in New Orleans by demonstrated disregard and lack of basic leadership. This is the president who refuses to admit an error and claims to be in charge. He shows signs of paranoia that may or may not be treatable given his history of suspended alcoholism and may need care. How long can we continue to march the March of Folly behind the naked Emperor claiming to have new clothes?

Even if we cannot impeach the apparently insane, do we all need to pretend that he is OK? Even after the disaster of the Louisiana Sellout, he has refused assistance from many organizations that could provide specific assistance. Instead, he has shown preference for "faith-based" organizations including that of Rev. Robertson of recent fame for promoting assassination of Venezuela's Chavez. Think about it. We have an incompetent and egocentric president and a loyal party that is ready to support him at the expense of the poor and disadvantaged in New Orleans and elsewhere. Let us not fall into the "no criticism" trap. It did not work for Iraq. It did not work for a warned emergency. Incompetence is its own reward, but we are all being punished. Odds are that Halliburton will do the recovery on a no-bid basis.