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Olbermann Delivers Anti-Bush Diatribe Pegged to Chertoff Slip --9/7/2005


1. Olbermann Delivers Anti-Bush Diatribe Pegged to Chertoff Slip
Olbermann's arrogant hypocrisy. On Tuesday's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann misidentified Tom DeLay as the House "Minority" Leader, an error for which he soon conceded that "I'd like to give you a good explanation for it, but there wasn't one. I just kicked it." But the night before, Olbermann had launched a five-minute diatribe which pegged great meaning to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff's miscue that "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater." Olbermann thundered: "Well, there's your problem right there. If ever a slip of the tongue defined a government's response to a crisis." Olbermann soon provided ridicule: "Anybody seen the Vice President lately, the man whose message this time last year was 'I will protect you, the other guy might let you die'? I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant. For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been, as we were taught in social studies it should always be, whether or not I voted for this President, he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week." Olbermann also suggested Bush looked "like a 21st century Marie Antoinette."

2. ABC Reporter Pushes Jackson to Say Racism Behind Stranding People
Another instance Tuesday morning of a mainstream media journalist getting ahead the race-hustlers, prodding a reluctant interviewee to blame racism for the delayed rescues in New Orleans. During a "town meeting" on ABC's Good Morning America, Ron Claiborne reminded Jesse Jackson of how he was quoted "as saying the image that's coming out of New Orleans resembled 'the hull of a slave ship.' That is very vivid and charged language. What were you saying, what were you implying?" Claiborne pressed Jackson: "Do you believe the response was slow and or inadequate because, because the overwhelming majority of those people inside New Orleans were stranded are African-American?" Jackson pushed back: "I really would not want to make that case."

3. Newsweek Reporter: "Just as We Saw Bush Flitting Around" on 9/11
An example of the editing process masking the hard-edged agenda of a reporter? Live on MSNBC on Monday afternoon, Newsweek reporter Joseph Contreras resurrected the 9/11 shots at Bush as he rued how "President Bush, for yet another time, once again showed a lack of instant immediate leadership. Just as we saw him flitting around the country during those initial eleven hours after the attacks on the Twin Towers, we saw him once again at his ranch in Crawford." But the Newsweek magazine story by Evan Thomas, on which Contreras is listed as a reporter, managed to avoid such incendiary verbiage even as it made the same basic charge about Bush: "He is sometimes slow to react, and he may have been lulled by early reports that New Orleans had been spared the worst of the storm. These are all legitimate excuses. Still, we expect more from a President."

4. Expanding Blame, NBC & ABC Look at Local Government Culpability
Some early signs on Tuesday that the media may expand the scope of blame beyond President Bush and FEMA. Lisa Myers, in a story on "missed opportunities," gave broadcast network air time to showing some of the hundreds of flooded school buses the city government abandoned: "Some two hundred New Orleans school buses sit underwater, unused, enough to have evacuated 13,000 people. Why weren't those buses sent street by street to pick up people before the storm?" Over on ABC Tuesday night, Dan Harris centered a story around how "experts say when natural disasters hit, it is the primary responsibility of state and local governments, not the federal government, to respond."

5. Jon Stewart: "Hurricane Katrina is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky"
After a week off, Jon Stewart opened his Daily Show on Comedy Central Tuesday night with a very serious lecture about the federal government's failures in the hurricane disaster. Without addressing the bias point that the media framework has held Bush and FEMA accountable to the exclusion of local officials, he scolded those who claim the "left-wing media is being too hard" on Bush: "No. Shut up. No. This is inarguably, inarguably a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government." Stewart's presentation culminated with a laugh line, "Hurricane Katrina is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. One difference, and I'll say this, the only difference is this: That tens of thousands of people weren't stranded in Monica Lewinsky's vagina. That is the only difference."


Olbermann Delivers Anti-Bush Diatribe
Pegged to Chertoff Slip

Olbermann's arrogant hypocrisy. On Tuesday's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann misidentified Tom DeLay as the House "Minority" Leader, an error for which he soon conceded that "I'd like to give you a good explanation for it, but there wasn't one. I just kicked it." But the night before, Olbermann had launched a five-minute diatribe which pegged great meaning to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff's miscue that "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater." Olbermann thundered: "Well, there's your problem right there. If ever a slip of the tongue defined a government's response to a crisis." Olbermann soon provided ridicule: "Anybody seen the Vice President lately, the man whose message this time last year was 'I will protect you, the other guy might let you die'? I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant. For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been, as we were taught in social studies it should always be, whether or not I voted for this President, he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week." Olbermann also suggested Bush looked "like a 21st century Marie Antoinette."

During an interview of former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerick on the September 6 Countdown, Olbermann queried: "I have to ask you, before we go, a big picture question on the overall emergency response. The House Minority Leader, Mr. DeLay, said today that disaster response is, quote here, 'designed from the ground up,' the implication of that being that whatever the shortcomings of the last week have been, the responsibility began in New Orleans. Do you, with your expertise in this area, agree with that?"

Returning from a subsequent ad break, Olbermann acknowledged his error: "Let me correct and apologize for the verbal typo in the last segment. Tom DeLay is, of course, the House Majority Leader, not the Minority Leader. I'd like to give you a good explanation for it, but there wasn't one. I just kicked it."

He wasn't so forgiving with Chertoff on Monday night. He teased his September 5 program: "And what did the administration know, and when did it know it? The Director of the National Hurricane Center says he warned them -- the head of FEMA, the head of Homeland Security -- that the levees could break. And that head of Homeland Security, did he sum up how well the government handled the crisis with eight words?"
Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary, at a press briefing: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater."
Olbermann: "'Louisiana is a city.' This is Countdown. Good evening. The Director of the National Hurricane Center has told the newspaper 'The New Orleans Times-Picayune' that FEMA director Michael Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff both listened to electronic briefings before Hurricane Katrina, during which the Hurricane Center warned that the storm could overtop the levees or even breach them. 'It's not,' said Dr. Max Mayfield, 'like this was a surprise.' Secretary Chertoff and President Bush both continue to insist it was."

At about 8:40pm EDT, Olbermann unleashed his vitriol, as checked against the video by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:

Olbermann undermined himself by beginning with the claim that he normally avoids commentary: "This is not typically a newscast of commentary. I can recall only twice previously offering such perspectives. But something that Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff said at his news conference Saturday made this necessary."
Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater."
Olbermann: "Well, there's your problem right there. If ever a slip of the tongue defined a government's response to a crisis. Forget the history of slashed federal budgets for projects that might have saved the levees. Drop the imagery of the government watching 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' while New Orleans drowned. Ignore the symbol of bureaucrats like Mr. Chertoff using only the future tense in terms of relief that they could have supplied last Monday and Tuesday. We no longer need the President sounding like he's on some sort of five-day tape delay to summarize this debacle. We now have Mr. Chertoff's indelible announcement that Louisiana is a city.
"Politician after politician, Republican and Democrat alike, has paraded before us, unwilling or unable to shut off the I/me switch in their heads, condescendingly telling us about how moved they were or how devastated they were, congenitally incapable of telling the difference between the destruction of a city and the opening of a new supermarket somewhere. And as that sorry recital of self-absorption dragged on, I have resisted editorial comment. The focus needed to be on the efforts to save the stranded. Even television's meager powers were correctly devoted to telling the stories of the twin disasters, natural and government-made. But now, at last, it has stopped getting exponentially worse in Mississippi and Alabama and New Orleans and Louisiana -- the state, not the city. And having given our leaders what we now know is the week or so they need to get their acts together, that period of editorial silence I mentioned should come to an end. No one is suggesting that mayors or governors in the afflicted areas, nor the federal government, should be able to stop hurricanes. Lord knows, no one is suggesting that we should ever prioritize levee improvement for a below-sea-level city ahead of $454 million worth of trophy bridges for the politicians of Alaska.
"But, nationally, these are leaders who won reelection last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping this country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq and which regularly defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer when something like that is accomplished. Yet, they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans, even though the government had heard all the chatter from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern, a group called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"Most chillingly of all, this is the 'law-and-order-and-terror government.' It promised protection, or at least amelioration, against all threats -- conventional, radiological or biological. It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called 'standing water.' Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that, quote, 'We are not satisfied,' unquote, with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which 'we' he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the Vice President lately, the man whose message this time last year was 'I will protect you, the other guy might let you die'?
"I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant. For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been, as we were taught in social studies it should always be, whether or not I voted for this President, he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week. I suspect, also, a lot of his supporters, looking ahead to '08, are wondering how they can distance themselves from the two words which will define his government, our government: New Orleans. For him, it is a shame, in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there and he might not have looked so much like a 21st century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick 'I'm not satisfied with my government's response,' instead of hiding behind phrases like 'No one could have foreseen.' Had he only remembered Churchill's quote from the 1930s. 'The responsibility of government for the public safety,' Churchill said, 'is absolute and requires no mandate. It is, in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence.' In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself. It damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.
"As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found or the last artifact of the levee break dug up. Could be next March. Could be the year 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility somewhere in the 'city' of Louisiana."

ABC Reporter Pushes Jackson to Say Racism
Behind Stranding People

Another instance Tuesday morning of a mainstream media journalist getting ahead the race-hustlers, prodding a reluctant interviewee to blame racism for the delayed rescues in New Orleans. During a "town meeting" on ABC's Good Morning America, Ron Claiborne reminded Jesse Jackson of how he was quoted "as saying the image that's coming out of New Orleans resembled 'the hull of a slave ship.' That is very vivid and charged language. What were you saying, what were you implying?" Claiborne pressed Jackson: "Do you believe the response was slow and or inadequate because, because the overwhelming majority of those people inside New Orleans were stranded are African-American?" Jackson pushed back: "I really would not want to make that case."

The September 6 CyberAlert had recounted: CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Friday afternoon repeatedly prodded reluctant Congressional Black Caucus member Elijah Cummings to blame racism for delays in rescuing hurricane victims in New Orleans. When Cummings demurred from such a blanket accusation, Blitzer wouldn't give up: "There are some critics who are saying, and I don't know if you're among those, but people have said to me, had this happened in a predominantly white community, the federal government would have responded much more quickly. Do you believe that?" Later, on CNN's NewsNight, Aaron Brown took up the same agenda with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, lecturing her: "Now, look, here's the question, okay? And then we'll end this. Do you think the reason that they're not there or the food is not there or the cruise ships aren't there or all this stuff that you believe should be there, isn't this a matter of race and/or class?" See: www.mediaresearch.org

The MRC's Brian Boyd caught Claiborne's prodding of Jackson, which took place during the last half hour of GMA's town meeting held under a big tent in Donaldsonville, Louisiana.

Diane Sawyer set up the segment: "As we said earlier, questions about the role of poverty and even race in what happened down here have arisen. And they have provoked a range of responses from fair, unfair, provocative to absolutely ridiculous. But we thought we'd explore some of these sides of the issue. And Ron Claiborne has some guests. Ron."

Claiborne introduced a taped piece: "That's right, Diane. Anyone watching the images, watching the television coverage of the crisis there in New Orleans can not help but notice that of the people stranded in New Orleans after the hurricane struck, the overwhelming percentage of them were African-American. We talked to some people all around the country and in this area, black and white, and asked them if they believe there is in fact a racial aspect to this crisis."
Woman: "Come get us, cause we're not leaving yet."
Man: "This is a racial story. It's very difficult to imagine this happening to folks who are not poor, to folks who are not African-American. We knew this was going to happen, yet it was allowed to occur."
People at the convention center: "We want help. We want help."
Man, pointing at a white woman: "This is not an African-American. Look at this, this is a Caucasian."
Woman: "We are Americans. This is terrible."
Jesse Jackson: "As the waters subside the death toll could be astronomical and of a frightening dimension because we've been so slow on the rescue."
Man: "When you're looking at those people in eastern New Orleans, it is a story about class, it's a story about poverty."
Congressman Lewis at the Congressional Black Caucus press conference Friday : "We cannot allow it to be said by history that the difference between those who lived and those who died was nothing more than poverty, age or skin color."

Back live, Claiborne segued to Jackson standing beside him: "Joining me right now is Reverend Jesse Jackson. Can I get you to stand, Reverend Jackson? You were quoted, perhaps misquoted, as saying the image that's coming out of New Orleans resembled 'the hull of a slave ship.' That is very vivid and charged language. What were you saying, what were you implying?"
Jackson answered that I-10 was full of people with babies dying in their mother's arms and that the least able were left behind.
Claiborne: "Reverend Jackson, let me ask you directly: Do you believe the response was slow and or inadequate because, because the overwhelming majority of those people inside New Orleans were stranded are African-American?"
Jackson: "I really would not want to make that case." He went on to say that Katrina hit everybody, but the least able were not able to get out and he saw it more as an issue of incompetence than race.

Newsweek Reporter: "Just as We Saw Bush
Flitting Around" on 9/11

An example of the editing process masking the hard-edged agenda of a reporter? Live on MSNBC on Monday afternoon, Newsweek reporter Joseph Contreras resurrected the 9/11 shots at Bush as he rued how "President Bush, for yet another time, once again showed a lack of instant immediate leadership. Just as we saw him flitting around the country during those initial eleven hours after the attacks on the Twin Towers, we saw him once again at his ranch in Crawford." But the Newsweek magazine story by Evan Thomas, on which Contreras is listed as a reporter, managed to avoid such incendiary verbiage even as it made the same basic charge about Bush: "He is sometimes slow to react, and he may have been lulled by early reports that New Orleans had been spared the worst of the storm. These are all legitimate excuses. Still, we expect more from a President."

A little past noon EDT on Monday, mostly over live helicopter video of the flooding (but with some brief shots of Contreras in a TV studio), Contreras appeared on MSNBC to discuss Newsweek's cover story on the disaster.

Host Natalie Allen asked him: "You know, everyone is talking about the disaster relief and why it came so slow. This is an agency that, you know, we think it's going to be able to respond to a possible major terrorist attack. What is your take on the federal response?"
Contreras replied: "The federal response has been lamentable. I have covered Ebola outbreak in Zaire, the earthquake in Mexico City in 1985, I've covered civil wars in Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Columbia, and, frankly, the response of the government of the most powerful economically advanced, technologically sophisticated country paled alongside the relief efforts that I've seen Third World governments mount under similar situations. No wonder that the mayor of New Orleans had that now-celebrated outburst where he urged people in Baton Rouge, the state capital, and in Washington, to get off their derrieres and stop holding press conferences."
Allen: "And what in the world, in your opinion, explains it, Joe?"
Contreras contended: "Well, I think for one thing, the federal government since 9/11 has been too fixated on the terrorist threat. I think also that President Bush, for yet another time, once again showed a lack of instant immediate leadership. Just as we saw him flitting around the country during those initial eleven hours after the attacks on the Twin Towers, we saw him once again at his ranch in Crawford. I don't think his strength is to grab a situation by the neck and really deal with it in the immediate aftermath. He may be better in the medium and long-term response, but he just doesn't seem to have an ability to think very fast on his feet in the initial 36 or 48 hours aftermath of a disaster."

In the September 12 cover story, "The Lost City; What Went Wrong: Devastating a swath of the South, Katrina plunged New Orleans into agony. The story of a storm -- and a disastrously slow rescue," delivered a milder version of the rebuke:
"Bush's many critics will say that the president was disengaged, on vacation, distracted by Iraq and insensitive to the needs of poor black people. The White House blames the magnitude of the storm itself, patchy information on the ground and a confused chain of command, according to a senior Bush aide who requests anonymity in order to speak freely about internal administration discussions. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Bush is fighting a war, and he is sometimes slow to react, and he may have been lulled by early reports that New Orleans had been spared the worst of the storm. These are all legitimate excuses. Still, we expect more from a president."

The "byline" for the lengthy article: "This story was written by Evan Thomas with reporting from T. Trent Gegax in Baton Rouge; Jonathan Darman with the National Guard; Catharine Skipp and Joseph Contreras in New Orleans; John Barry, Pat Wingert, Martha Brant, Daniel Klaidman, Mark Hosenball, Michael Isikoff, Holly Bailey, Susannah Meadows and Steve Tuttle in Washington; Carol Rust and Staci Semrad in Texas, and Andrew Murr and Jessica Silver-Greenberg."

The above-quoted portion of the article is posted at: www.msnbc.msn.com

Expanding Blame, NBC & ABC Look at Local
Government Culpability

Some early signs on Tuesday that the media may expand the scope of blame beyond President Bush and FEMA. Lisa Myers, in a story on "missed opportunities," gave broadcast network air time to showing some of the hundreds of flooded school buses the city government abandoned: "Some two hundred New Orleans school buses sit underwater, unused, enough to have evacuated 13,000 people. Why weren't those buses sent street by street to pick up people before the storm?" Over on ABC Tuesday night, Dan Harris centered a story around how "experts say when natural disasters hit, it is the primary responsibility of state and local governments, not the federal government, to respond."

Earlier, on Sunday's Today, Campbell Brown had hit New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin: "Mr. Mayor, you must know that there are people in this city who would not have had the means to evacuate for a hurricane like this. It is a poor city in many ways, what was your plan for getting people like that out before Katrina?"

Myers, in a story which also aired on MSNBC's Countdown, began her "missed opportunities" story, on the September 6 NBC Nightly News, with a local government fiasco: "Some 200 New Orleans school buses sit underwater, unused, enough to have evacuated 13,000 people. Why weren't those buses sent street by street to pick up people before the storm?"
Man: "We stranded! Where we going to go? They ain't letting us, we ain't got no ride!"
Myers: "This draft emergency plan, obtained by NBC News, calls for 400 buses to be prepared to evacuate victims, yet some 200 buses were left abandoned in Katrina's path."
Greg Shaw, disaster management expert: "That's a real tragedy, that these resources weren't employed, because it would have been good to get those people out of the city."
Myers: "Today, the Mayor would not comment."

Myers didn't address the lack of use of the city's regular transit buses before she moved on to looking at what caused delays in the arrival of the armed forces.

To comment on the Myers story, and for a picture of the flooded buses, check this node on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog: newsbusters.org

World News Tonight anchor Bob Woodruff in New Orleans set up the Dan Harris story, which the MRC's Brad Wilmouth brought to my attention.

Woodruff: "Here in New Orleans today, the Mayor said he's starting to see rays of light. The water is receding, but the Army Corps of Engineers said today that it will take between 24 and 80 days before the city is completely drained. Hurricane Katrina was the first real test since 9/11 of this nation's ability to respond to catastrophes like this. But no one in this town needs reminding that it just didn't work out the way it was supposed to. And there's plenty of blame to go around. ABC's Dan Harris tonight takes 'A Closer Look.'"

Unidentified man walking in the flood: "Where's George Bush?"
Harris: "In New Orleans, both those in peril and those in power have pointed the finger squarely at the federal government."
Mayor C. Ray Nagin (D-New Orleans) on WWL Radio last week: "And I don't know whose problem it is. I don't know whether it's the governor's problem. I don't know whether it's the President's problem."
Harris: "But experts say when natural disasters hit, it is the primary responsibility of state and local governments, not the federal government, to respond. New Orleans' own comprehensive emergency plan raises the specter of, quote, 'having large numbers of people stranded,' and promises 'the city will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas.' Special arrangements will be made,' the plan promises, 'to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves.' When Katrina hit, however, instead of being evacuated, people were told to go to the Superdome or the Convention Center, where no one provided sufficient sustenance or security."
Nagin, on Monday: "We evacuated in unprecedented numbers. Normally, if you get 60 percent of the people out of this city, it's a grand success. We got 80 percent out."
Harris: "Bob Williams says that is not good enough. He dealt with emergency response issues after the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state."
Bob Williams, former Washington State Representative: "If the plan had been implemented, particularly the earlier evacuation plan, thousands of lives would have been saved."
Harris: "There's no question the federal government has a major role in disaster relief, but before federal officials can get involved, they have to be asked to do so by state officials. FEMA says Governor Kathleen Blanco 'failed to ask for help in a timely manner.' Shortly before Katrina hit, the governor sent the President requests for food and provision, but made no specific request for help with evacuations. One aide to the governor told us today she thought city officials were taking care of the evacuation. Nonetheless, the federal government might have been more pro-active."
Jerry Hauer, former emergency management official: "If the city and the state are stumbling, or in over their head, then it's FEMA's responsibility to show some leadership."
Harris concluded: "While Congress will soon investigate all of this, it may already be safe to conclude that there will be plenty of blame to go around. Dan Harris, ABC News, New Orleans."

Jon Stewart: "Hurricane Katrina is George
Bush's Monica Lewinsky"

After a week off, Jon Stewart opened his Daily Show on Comedy Central Tuesday night with a very serious lecture about the federal government's failures in the hurricane disaster. Without addressing the bias point that the media framework has held Bush and FEMA accountable to the exclusion of local officials, he scolded those who claim the "left-wing media is being too hard" on Bush: "No. Shut up. No. This is inarguably, inarguably a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government." Stewart's presentation culminated with a laugh line, "Hurricane Katrina is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. One difference, and I'll say this, the only difference is this: That tens of thousands of people weren't stranded in Monica Lewinsky's vagina. That is the only difference."

The MRC's Brian Boyd transcribed for me a portion of Stewart's opening remarks at the start of his September 6 show:
"The real question is, in the four years since 9/11, you have to ask yourself: Has the government's advancements, procedures, etc. made us safer, given us more comfort that they will have an effective, or more effective, response to catastrophic events? And I think it's very clear that the answer is 'Oh sh[bleep]t, we're in trouble.'
"Now, for people who are saying, 'Well, stop pointing fingers at the President. Left-wing media is being too hard.' No. Shut up. No. This is inarguably, inarguably a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government.
"Now, now, this is [audience applause], remember when Bill Clinton, I don't know if you remember this, when Bill Clinton went out with Monica Lewinsky? That was inarguably a failure of judgment at the top. Democrats had to come out and risk losing credibility if they did not condemn Bill Clinton for this behavior. I believe Republicans are in the same position right now. And I will say this, Hurricane Katrina is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. One difference, and I'll say this, the only difference is this: That tens of thousands of people weren't stranded in Monica Lewinsky's vagina. That is the only difference."

Comedy Central's page for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: www.comedycentral.com



# Check the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org, for fresh postings throughout the day with the latest documentation of liberal bias -- and a place for you to comment on it: newsbusters.org

-- Brent Baker