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Meyer's Inbox: Partisan Carping

Like to read other people's mail? Well, have at it. The Against the Grain inbox is open for your perusal. And by the way, this is not a blog.

Not A Time For Partisan Sniping
Some readers thought I had hit the nail on the head this week with my comments on the partisan harping about the Hurricane Katrina. But many others, it seems, would like to hit me on the head.

Thank you for a thoughtful piece; the media is much at fault for showing ONLY the dreadful horror of the event; it would be wonderful to hear from a few of those risking their life to help others and to hear from those who don't blame Bush for EVERYTHING that happens anywhere, anytime. May God bless and protect all who have suffered so much.
Barbara Anderson, AZ

Bush has shown incompetence in everything he has ever attempted. It is vital that Americans are aware of it and make decisions in light of it. To not point out how stupidly Bush acts, and the tragic results of his decisions, would be a failure of understanding and action on the part of the people.

Quoting Limbaugh is a fool's errand. Limbaugh is the ultimate partisan, who uses any tactics to accomplish his sleaze. I frankly am amazed a legitimate professional like you would quote Limbaugh for any purpose.

It is vital that the people unite in strength to hinder any other actions on the part of this dim bulb. If we can't, then we deserve what we get.
Jim Slark, Dana Point, CA

"Of course some howlers in the winds of politics and culture war are trying to score political and rhetorical points on Katrina's back; we'll make fun of them later."

I think making fun of this ridiculous comment is warranted now. This was a tragedy being predicted and talked about for years. The government had days to plan for the hurricane's arrival. Bush cut funding to fix the levees so more money could go toward Iraq and other areas which do not help Middle America. Now is not the time to hold people accountable?? Please, WHEN is the time?? How much more are Americans going to sacrifice and suffer for the miserable failures and delusions of this President?? Can someone please explain why helicopters did not air drop food and water supplies to the Dome until FRIDAY?? Even if we believed Bush's pathetic excuse that our superb military couldn't make it into a flooded American city before now and that no one could have possibly predicted this tragedy, WHY couldn't helicopters have at least air dropped these supplies Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday?? But no, let's just hold Bush unaccountable yet again for another one of his miserable failures.

What will it take to wake up Americans to what Bush has done to us by sending all our resources, lives, and money for his delusional war and ignoring warning after warning after warning on global warming? What will it seriously take? How much longer are Americans going to tolerate listening to Bush parrot over and over again how he's working hard and thinking about things? The absolute failures of this President with NO consequences is literally amazing. When will we finally say enough?

"This event is frankly too big to have opinions about."

Frankly, if you really believe this, find a new job.
Jenny Wienke

You often hit the nail on the head in your commentaries, and this one, again, sinks into the wood. When a neighbors' house is on fire, we rush to put it out, first. Later, when everyone is safe, we can talk about the housing code violations that may have caused it. Today we have Americans dying across the Gulf states, and dead bodies to be respectfully picked up and buried. My state -- Vermont -- stopped what we were doing yesterday and filled dozens of tractor trailers with water, clothes and food at 11 drop-off sites, including the statehouse lawn. I was at one site, loading pallets with countless volunteers who just appeared and were likewise grateful to pitch in. It may be human nature to seek advantage out of turmoil, but it was human spirit that filled the trucks with essentials for our southern neighbors.
Michael T. Heath, Hinesburg, VT

No, Dick, it IS time for partisan sniping. We've been told for six years that this administration was re-organizing agencies to protect the U.S. in case of disaster. We've had color coded warnings that make Chicken Little look mild-mannered. Billions have been squandered to that end only to discover that, when the chips are down, the responsible agencies cannot manage a simple water drop to an elevated freeway. And the former F.B.I. head who was tipped to the imminent hijacking jet attack has been given a medal of honor.

It is time for more than partisan sniping. It's time for people to hit the streets to show their disgust with this sham of a government and a poseur for a president.
Dean Hubbard, Orlando, FL

Admittedly, I have not for a couple of years done more than rarely browse your website nor those of the other mainstream media outlets because I became tired of the lack of news being reported and the obvious increase of editorializing being offered instead.

In the wake of the hurricane catastrophe, however, and the unbelievable speed at which this country and its elected leaders are being scoffed, I felt compelled to scan some of the headlines on CBS News and other media websites to confirm what I could not believe was already being said by the media in the hourly radio reports. Your lone headline, "Not a Time for Partisan Sniping," is the lone sane voice on all of these websites (,, to this average American who is trying to gather the facts, to decide where to send my money, and to make sense of this American human tragedy. Mr. Meyer, you are it...the only one expressing this sentiment.

I have decided one thing already: I would prefer to persevere with my fellow Americans without those who would take this time to politicize this disaster. Thank you for your point of view and for putting it into words for the world to read. I hope to hear more such sanity from you and your cohorts -- although, sadly and except for you, I will not hold my breath.
M. K. Cirame, Saint Clair Shores, MI

I agree it is no time for partisan sniping. However, it is a time for accountability. The road map for that accountability will need to include the decision to cut funding for the New Orleans area levees for the first time in 37 years, starting in the first year this administration was in office (See Times Picayune, New Orleans CityBusiness, etc.), the decision to fight a discretionary war in a far off land after drumming up popular support by fear mongering references to mushroom clouds and mendacious linking of 9/11 actors to Iraq, poor planning for the aftermath of that war resulting in an overextended National Guard, poor evacuation planning for this very hurricane disaster that has been predicted for decades, tax cuts during war which had a direct effect on federal spending on levees, and by the complete lack of leadership as evidenced by this President's need to keep a T-Time and make political stops in Arizona and California to raise partisan campaign money after the hurricane had hit. Oh, I would also recommend reading the EPA report on global warming, especially the part headed by "CLIMATE CHANGE EXPECTED to LEAD TO STRONGER HURRICANES." It was severely criticized and dismissed by the President, but you might find it a good read for an accountability article.

In passing, I see you have quoted Rush Limbaugh as a source of information for your article calling for an absence of partisan sniping and on the irrelevance of global warming. I thought he built his empire on those very things: partisan sniping and hot air.
Rich Brock

I am so relieved to read your commentary and see that not all members of the press corps have gone totally insane. I am sick to death of the typical, pseudo-intellectual but overly simplistic analysis that sensationalizes the news, exploits the victims, further polarizes an already divided public and assigns ridiculous blame to political enemies -- most often to the current President.

Thank you for your much-needed voice of reason. May your influence be felt and copied by your comrades and colleagues throughout the media.
Jane Day

I fully agree that partisan cheap-shots, left, right or center, are out of order in a time when we see so much death, so much suffering that it is impossible to absorb it all at once. But pragmatic criticism is another matter. If one life is spared because one FEMA official, or one politician works one minute more than she or he would have done in the absence of that criticism, then I say let us not withhold at least this measure of criticism. From Federal and State agencies to our politically elected leaders, the effort to save New Orleans and the Gulf Coast has been slower than it should have been, smaller than it needed to be, and as uncoordinated beyond what one familiar with the centralized nature of other governmental programs could ever have imagined. Despite the heartbreaking scenes, I did not expect the government to respond for 24 hours after the levees broke (i.e. until mid-day on Wednesday). But it is now very early Thursday evening and no one is even dropping water and MREs to thousands of people congregated in small spaces easily reached by helicopters for low-level dumps to the ground.

We should, indeed we have a moral obligation, to keep the people responsible for policy, administration and execution of life-saving services for those who are sick, starving and scared. I don't care about Rush Limbaugh, or Robert F. Kennedy Jr. right now. Neither should you. But I do care that people if those with responsibility are asleep at the switch. So should you.
Ira J. Cohen, Plainsboro, NJ

It's not partisan bickering when the evidence of GROSS INCOMPETENECE is so damned overwhelming. The policies of this administration, the lack of performance on the part of FEMA and the DOD, etc are a disgrace.
Joseph Plunkett

The article on CBS News' website regarding avoiding partisan politics in the N.O. mega-disaster is extremely lame.

I would like to indict CBS as one of the major media as guilty players in all of this. I am an independent voter who cares about people more than corporate profits, and all the networks are in a race down, down, down in terms of accountability to their viewers.

Not only do you not hold the elected officials who are guilty of massive corruption, fraud and lying to the world accountable for their incompetence, you had the audacity to run a piece on the Monday night news to the effect of "Camille -- there was a real storm."

If you truly think the disorganized bunglers who comprise the president's "Homeland Security" henchmen have not proven themselves to be completely incompetent, I sure hope the next catastrophe hits the town where you and the rest of CBS News' smug employees live. In the meantime, how about some real reporting instead of this apology for people who don't even slightly deserve it.

No wonder we have the worst president, ever.
David Brown, Renfrew, PA

Granted, perhaps now is not the time for a discussion about global warming as a possible contributing factor to Katrina.

Let us note, however, that in order to divert funding to a war in Iraq, the Bush administration repeatedly cut requested funding to repair the New Orleans levees that broke in the wake of Katrina, leaving an entire city half-submerged and evacuated. Let us note that over half of the National Guardsmen (and their equipment) needed to save desperate New Orleans residents in this time of catastrophe are in Iraq. And let us note that the war in Iraq was started by our administration for reasons that have been, one by one, been proved misleading.

It isn't partisan sniping to write articles that explicate how the means for preventing the catastrophe in New Orleans were diverted for an unnecessary war: it's holding the current administration accountable for its disastrous actions. That's what the media should be doing right now -- I wish you would put aside your partisan politics to do that, instead of using column space for frivolity.
Maya Gurantz

Once again, a moronic, simple minded editorial from Dick Meyer. He actually quotes one of the most vile and hypocritical people in America -- Rush Limbaugh to attack Robert Kennedy (a passionate defender of the environment).

Rush Limbaugh for years has ignored real scientist on Global warming and its impact including extreme hurricanes -- the Bush administration has ignored plans for fixing New Orleans levy system and deferred the money for the war in Iraq -- both deserve blame in this mess and NO it should not wait for pathetic shills like Dick Meyers to sweep their culpability under the carpet.

What actual purpose does Dick Meyer serve other than to play toady to Bush and Limbaugh? Quit wasting my time and others on crap like Dick Meyers and his moron personnel opinions!
W.R. White

'Save Gas: Liberate the Left Lane'
In response to my proposal to liberate the left lane from slow-moving left lane hogs, some readers fired back with complaints about the dangers of aggressive left lane bullies. Some goodie-goodies complained about anyone who would exceed the speed limit. But this time, most readers agreed with me; that won't happen again soon, I promise.

I get the distinct impression that you are one of those people who think the speed limit signs along our highways and byways have a disclaimer that says the speed limit only applies to everyone else.

Using the left lane for passing only is a good idea, except that some morons think it is carte blanche to use the left lane for Grand Prix racing. This is America, where we have more cars than people -- not Europe, where you do not need a car to travel across the continent and a driver's license costs $1,200.

In actuality, it is the speed differential that causes the most serious accidents. If only one person in the right-hand lane is doing 45 m.p.h. in a 65 m.p.h. zone, it does slow everyone down. But it is when some idiot in the left lane is doing 100 m.p.h. that unexpected and fatal accidents are likely to happen. By your logic, and I have heard it from others, those people who are stuck behind the person doing 45 have no right to pass unless they can go faster than everyone else on the road.

And exactly how do you apply the left lane rule in metropolitan areas?

The real answer is to start driving sensibly and realize that we all have a tax stake in the roads of this country and have a right to go from point A to point B without some steroid-crazed, Earnhardt-wannabe driving up our tailpipe -- right lane or left.
Doug Williamson

So, let me get this straight -- us mere mortals are supposed to cower in the right-hand "stop 'n go" lanes, dodging traffic entering and leaving the highway, so the chosen ones can sail majestically by? That's OK with me when traffic is light, but when it gets busy, all bets are off. Every lane is public property so the left lane is available to all -- even us troglodytes who insist on keeping our speed within the same neighborhood as the posted limit.

Most cars get their best mileage at about 40 to 55 m.p.h., so having the freedom to go faster won't save gas at all.

As for your admiration for the European way of doing things, well, if the grass is greener ...
Mike Graham

Dick Meyer completely ignores what AAA and the National Transportation Safety Board include among the most deadly causes of highway accidents: speed and aggressive driving. While all motorists would do well to heed the rules of the road and keep to the right, except for passing other vehicles, Mr. Meyer appears to sanction aggressive techniques in an effort to "push" the offending motorist into the right lane.

There is absolutely no room on our highways for an ego, Mr. Meyer. Perhaps Mr. Meyer would get better mileage and feel safer if he were to move to Europe where speed and aggression are not only tolerated, but encouraged. Hey Mr. Meyer ... I'd be glad to help you pack.
S.M. Eliopoulos

Cute column, but Mr. Meyer missed the point. Unfortunately, most of the freeways/expressways are beyond capacity. My late father, then a surveyor with the city of Los Angeles, was informed by a highway engineer that the design capacity of Los Angeles freeways was 3,500 cars per hour at 35 m.p.h. past a given point. Add to that the various sizes and capabilities of vehicles, plus the training and experience of the vehicle operators, and it all adds up to a can of worms. Don't drive if you don't have to--walk, bicycle, carpool, shuttle, public transit – lots of options. Consolidate your errands. It can be done. Since fuel is a market-driven commodity, the less that is used, the cheaper it will be. When we make water (hydrogen) a viable fuel source, demand for oil will be cut in half.
Jim Emanuel

Hallelujah! Amen! And every other exclamation one can think of regarding Dick Meyer's article on Left Lane Hogs. Can't tell exactly how much of the piece was intended as tongue-in-cheek (if any), but no matter; I wholeheartedly agree and was happy to see my views reflected so nicely.

Lollygagging in the left lane does not just inspire road rage in males – it tends to infuriate this particular female as well. People who are moseying need to be in the right lane (or, preferably, at home) not impeding the flow of traffic by tying up the passing lane. To them I say – stop being so selfish. You're in someone's way – and that someone is going to try a stupid maneuver to get around you. Yes, it is not legal to drive too fast. Yes, it is not legal to cut in front of cars to pass someone. But, you in your piety are blocking the way, leaving those of us in a hurry no other choice.

However, I don't think passing lane laws will solve the problem. This country needs to see a culture change. Like smoking, Left Lane Hogging should be frowned upon, ridiculed and made unacceptable by every driver. Then, and only then, will the lollygaggers get the heck out of the way.
Karol Olson

Your suggestion about getting slow drivers out of the left lanes on multi-lane highways is fine, but there's an idea that would save a lot more fuel and frustration. At long last, why don't businesses that employ knowledge workers get serious about telecommuting? There are many millions of people clogging up the highways and burning up gasoline commuting every day to jobs that they could do at home just as easily and effectively. I'll bet most of these workers already have their own computers and high speed Internet connections, not to mention fax machines and cell phones and just about everything else they would need. If every knowledge worker in America would work at home just two or three days a week out of five, what a difference it could make on the roads.
Steven Randolph

This was a great article and I loved the idea of liberating the left lane and doing away with tolls.

However, banning SUVs is not the answer. If you live in the country and have to maneuver back-road conditions in the winter, they are a must. Many people who work for themselves depend on these types of vehicles as a safe and comfortable transportation for them and their tools.

My Jeep Cherokee gets about 17-18 miles per gallon, which I believe is the equivalent to the Subaru Outback station wagon. The Outback is a smaller, disguised gas guzzler. And what about the large vans that people own? They also block your view and guzzle gas. Stop singling out the SUVs and get down to alternative methods of fuel, hybrid cars and safer driving rules such as staying left.

Quite frankly, I am tired of people singling out SUVs as the cause of all these problems. In the city, that may be true, but try living in Vermont where they are not a luxury, but a much needed mode of transportation when you have to drive 30-60 miles to work in a snowstorm to make a living. We are not sitting at any toll booths, idling in traffic or at stop lights while trying to get to work. I live eight miles from work and can get there in 12 minutes after navigating a section of steep, dirt mountain road.
Fran Rhynhart

Your piece on LLLs was great. This is a worldwide problem. We in the U.K. have a similar, but slightly different problem. Here we have middle-lane hoggers.

They sit in the middle lane at 65 m.p.h. (speed limit on U.K. motorways is 70 m.p.h.) refusing to budge. At least you have the right lane (we drive on the other side, don't forget) to pass them, but it's still a pain.

I don't even bother flashing my lights now, I just overtake on the inside lane making sure the shoulder is empty, should they decide to move over without looking.
Richard Bacon

Left lane hogs are definitely a problem. Worse are the people who think you should abandon the left lane immediately and remain five feet from your bumper, blinking their lights and snarling even though you are moving 10 m.p.h. over the posted speed limit and passing center-lane cars. They usually have their driving gloves on and are drinking coffee and juggling a cell phone. These bullies should be dealt with more severely than the hogs. I know that this will touch a sore point with these "experts" who will not recognize themselves as being part of the problem.

I got caught up in one of these freight trains on Interstate 75, driving north through Tennessee. I attempted to pass slower moving cars in the center lane and within 15 seconds a group caught up with me before I could safely get out of the left lane. I sped up so the Chevy truck with his high beams glaring in my rear window would not be unconvinced. Before I could get out of this bully's way, I had driven at least 10 miles at 85 m.p.h. and when I finally got an opening, they passed me like I was sitting still. Behind him was a solid line of 10-15 vehicles. I pulled over at the next exit to calm my nerves.

I've got this off of my chest and believe left lane bullies are a worse problem than left lane hogs.
Mary Hedrick

Here in Kentucky, it makes me furious every morning on the way to work. It's amazing how rude people are. There needs to be some change in thinking. We need lots of signs that say "slower drivers keep right," and perhaps tickets for blocking the left lane. Many lane blockers, I think, do it intentionally. They are the control "parent" types or they are brain dead or talking on cell phones oblivious to everything going on around them. Good article!
James Ewen

'Hell Is Other People'
After looking into a modern social disease, I found readers were either bothered by cell phones or bothered by those who complain about cell phones.

My favorite thing to do when someone is talking on a cell phone near me in a store is to join in the conversation. This inevitably leads to the ill-mannered person exclaiming, "this is a private conversation", whereby I tell them they are in public. Priceless!
Mary Catherine Headley

I am in 100 percent agreement that cell phone users are extremely annoying -- except, of course, when I'm the one using the cell phone.
Al McClain

Thank you for your forthright and correct observation of the cell phone trend. Personally I have banned them from my lifestyle. In general terms, they were once a useful tool, but in my opinion have become a nuisance and even so much as a handheld weapon.

From the young woman in tight jeans with a cell phone pasted to her ear running out in front of commuter traffic as a light turns green at a major intersection, to the suburbanite woman in the black SUV that rear ended my car while dialing a number and the truck driver turning left pulling a double trailer in the middle of a major freeway interchange with one hand on the wheel and the other holding his cell phone, I can only describe the cell phone as a handheld weapon.

I know everybody's business: who their associations are, and who just slept with whom. It does not matter where I go, I still know everybody's business. I know what people's kids are up to, and I know their deepest secrets. Yet I have no idea who these people are next to me in the mall, restaurant, grocery store, and gas station.

So what makes it so important that we carry one of these overpriced and expensive toys? I can only attribute it to a lack of self esteem.
Randall Graff

Thank you for speaking out for me and countless others. I personally find these loud louts on cell phones as annoying as second-hand cigarette smoke. But, alas, I have little faith for a true cure-all for this public malady.

However, if you should actually come across a source for that "remote control device" that you mention, well...please don't keep it to yourself.
Mary Norcross

You're right that other people can make your life hell. But, you are not right to say hell is created by bad cell phone manners. Actually, I'm tired of the media making such a big deal about this subject. People talk about everything, mundane or personal, in public with their friends. This has occurred since the first restaurant or pub was invented.

People will discuss how often their baby poops to the last time they had sex. These conversations occur on a bus, in a car, in a train, or in a restaurant, with or without cell phones. For some reason a bunch of busybodies think they have the right to complain when these conversations occur over a cell phone.

In public you learn to tune-out people's conversations and to give them privacy by not paying attention to what their saying. It's a common courtesy that some people have forgotten in regards to cell phone users. So you busybodies can start minding your own business and stop writing these stupid reports about bad cell phone manners. Better yet, why don't you write a report on how rude it is to eavesdrop on other peoples conversations?
April Clanton

Most of us seldom do anything really important. Most of us seldom have anything really important that we have to receive information about. None of us ever does anything so important that others have to hear about it.

Cell phones used to be a sign of some level of prestige. That one could afford to spend the money on a cell phone call was a sign of some level of wealth. Many cannot avoid trying to pretend to have more wealth and to be entitled to more prestige than they really have or really are. Now that just about anyone can afford a cell phone, there can't be anything prestigious about them, but I'm not sure that that message has gotten through. I'd be interested in a serious sociological study. My guess is that truly wealthy people or those who might really be entitled to prestige are not as boorish or frequent in there use of cell phones as those whose who are "nouveau riche" in a cell-phone sense.

The fundamental problem is an inflated sense of one's own importance. As a result of that inflated sense of importance, one forgets that there are other people around and that those other people matter. One also forgets that anything that seems momentarily important to you doesn't really matter very much at all.
Steve Carlson

I personally can't see the problem. We think we should be able to control everyone else's life and hold people to a standard that is completely outdated.

It almost seems that you are trying to say that people should not be
allowed to talk to each other in public places. I was at the post office recently and was offended by a sign that said I should refrain from using my cell phone in the facility. At the time, a woman had her crying, screaming and unruly kids there, and no one was telling her she couldn't have them in the place. Also, there were several people having conversations with each other, and no one was offended by that.

Is it the use of a cell phone that gets under your skin or is it the fact that you can't hear both sides of the conversation? Maybe I should turn on the speakerphone function while in public places so as not to offend those who can't hear the entire conversation.
Richard Padgett

If you still want to send in an e-mail, you'll have to read a real column to find the address.

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