The story [in today's LA Times] notes in passing that Charles "Timm-AY!" Krauthammer helped write Bush's inauguration speech - and didn't mention
it when he went on TV to praise it:
As they drafted the speech this month, White House political aide Karl Rove
and chief speechwriter Michael Gerson held a two-hour seminar with a panel of foreign policy scholars, including several leading
neocons — newspaper columnist Charles Krauthammer, Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University and Victor Davis Hanson of Stanford's
Hoover Institution — according to a person who was present.
So where does the "punditrocracy" end and the Bush Administration
begin? If anyplace?
I just got the February 7 issue of The Nation, and lo! A feature
article on abortions and Mississippi, by Sharon Lerner. Some Nation content is not available online to non-subscribers, so I hope you can read it. Absolutely
Mississippi has gone further in its hostility to abortion even than other
Bible Belt states. A small, mostly rural population and the absence of local prochoice organizations have helped turn Mississippi
into the perfect laboratory for antiabortion strategists.
Virtually every possible restriction on the procedure exists here, from a mandatory twenty-four-hour waiting period after
counseling, to a requirement that minors obtain the consent of both parents to have an abortion, to thirty-five pages of regulations
dealing with such physical characteristics as the width of a clinic's hallways and the size of its parking lot. The mounting
restrictions (Mississippi passed six antiabortion laws last year alone) have delighted antiabortion activists all over the
country, who have hailed--and copied--the state's innovations.
I've written about Mississippi abortion laws recently, here and here, as well as Mississippi's (and America's) shockingly high infant mortality rates, here and here. These topics are not unrelated. As Lerner wrote,
Mississippi's infant mortality rate--a good indication of the health
of both women and children--is the highest in the country. For every 1,000 live births, 10.5 infants under age 1 die in Mississippi.
In parts of the impoverished Delta region, that number ranges up to 18. (The national infant mortality rate, by comparison,
is 6.8.) Interestingly, a postelection comparison found that "red" states had higher infant mortality rates than "blue" ones.
I am more and more convinced that progressives should be using infant mortality rates
as their own values issue. A nation's infant mortality rate indicates many things, including the status of women, the rate
of poverty, and access to health care. And the antidote to high infant mortality rates is, simply put, progressivism.
Lowering the rates in states like Mississippi would require application of many progressive remedies, including nutritional
support programs, health care programs, and anti-poverty programs. The stuff dreams are made of, if you're a liberal policy
When the anti-choice activists march about with photos of dead fetuses, pro-choice
forces should counter with photos of dead infants. We should be in their faces about the number of babies who die
in America every year who'd be alive if they'd been born in western Europe, or Australia, or Hong Kong.
In fact, babies born in the Mississippi delta would have a better chance of
survival if they'd been born in Bolivia. Mississippians should be called to account for this.
Mississippi politicians have made ending abortion a holy crusade. The Lerner article
begins by describing little white crosses placed on the state capitol grounds "in memory of the unborn children who die each
day in America." Progressives should be installing similar public commemorations for the born children
who die each day in America.
This really pissed me off:
The poverty of women in Mississippi both increases their need for abortions
and their difficulty in obtaining them. In the poorest state in the country, where more than one in five women lack health
insurance and live below the poverty line, girls and women are often unable to get birth control. Only about two in five women
and teens in Mississippi who need publicly financed contraception receive it, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute,
which does research on reproductive issues. Though the inability to prevent unwanted pregnancies makes women only more likely
to want abortions, many of the forces behind the anti-abortion movement here also oppose contraception. Pro-Life Mississippi,
for instance, regularly protests the only Planned Parenthood office in Mississippi, which is in Hattiesburg, even though it
provides only birth control, not abortion.
And this is just plain outrageous:
Mississippi forbids facilities that receive public money from performing abortions
and bans Medicaid funding for them. Though the law officially makes exceptions for cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly and
danger to the woman's life, clinic staff say they have not once succeeded in collecting Medicaid reimbursement in these cases.
"We've filed for it and we've never been paid for them, and so we don't even file anymore," says Susan Hill, the Jackson Women's
Health Organization's president. Hill, who was a social worker before Roe, says, "Mississippi is like the rest of the
country was before 1973." Women who arrive at her clinic "have that same look in the eye now," she explains. "They have to
go through the same kind of struggles."
The Christian Taliban types think they're
the only people in America with "values." They've even sold this nonsense to our "news media" and the meathead "pundits" who
call the righties "values voters." Instead of trying to explain it away, we should be challenging this fiction head on. And
we should be doing it with simple slogans and simple graphics and repetitive talking points, the way righties do.
Of course, reducing infant mortality is not
a simple job, but neither is lowering abortion rates. The righties pretend that all they have to do is make abortion
illegal, and abortion would go away. But as I wrote here, varying abortion rates around the world reveal that those rates do not depend on whether abortion is legal or
illegal. Making abortion illegal just drives it underground, or into other jurisdictions. The righties will never admit this
-- being a rightie means maintaining a remarkably high level of cognitive dissonance -- but it's a fact. And we should
start getting real loud about that fact, also.
We all have values. To be a liberal, or a
progressive, is to have human values. The Mississippi Taliban has inhuman values. That's
what makes us different.
A recent CBS/New York Times poll shows that President Bush has the
lowest approval rating at the start of a second term since Richard Nixon. Bush’s 49 percent approval is below Nixon’s 51 percent
rating in January in 1973. [Link]
This is not the only comparison to Nixon's second term I ran
into today. David Ignatius writes in today's Washington Post:
A Republican who has served in three GOP administrations remarked
that the mood in Washington this inauguration week reminded him a bit of the second Nixon administration. There is a smugness
and insularity among senior officials -- a feeling that because the president has won reelection, his aides don't have to
explain themselves or their policies to the nation.
There are differences between January 2005 and January
1973. Nixon won by a landslide -- the electoral vote was 521 to 17. I would say that support for Nixon was broader
than for Bush, but not as deep. Nixon was never the cult figure that Bush is. In spite of Vietnam (and that's a
big "in spite of," I know), Nixon was not a total disaster in the foreign policy department. He'd made the famous trip to
China in 1972. He'd also been to Moscow and signed an antiballistic missile treaty with Premiere Brezhnev. The Strategic Arms
Limitation Treaty (SALT I) was signed and ratified on Nixon's watch.
His domestic policy was a mixed bag. I remember much anguish
over intrusions into civil liberty in the name of "law and order." And Nixon was not much interested in minority rights. But
his administration created the Environmental Protection Agency and expanded the Social Security system.
I remember that I loathed Nixon, but I never thought he would destroy
America. Those were the days ...
In 1973 the Vietnam War had been dragging on for eight years. The antiwar
movement, IMO, had peaked with the Mayday protests in 1971. Although the war was unpopular, much of "middle America" continued
to support it because, after all, it was against Communism, and because people who had lived through World War II
wanted to believe their government was doing the right thing, even if they couldn't quite articulate what that was. (My father,
an intelligent man, told me many times that we had to fight in Vietnam to prevent another Pearl Harbor.)
Still, the last U.S. ground combat forces were withdrawn in August 1972,
right before the Republican National Convention that re-nominated the Nixon-Agnew ticket. And just before the election
in November 1972, Henry Kissinger promised that "peace is at hand."
Full-scale bombing of North Vietnam resumed in December 1972.
The Watergate break-in was in June 1972, before the election.
Clearly, Watergate wasn't hurting Dick Nixon in the 1972 elections. The story was barely on the radar for most voters, even
though White House aides Liddy and Hunt were indicted by a grand jury in September 1972.
But in 1973 Watergate became The Little Scandal That Could, so to speak.
The occasional back-page stories turned into more frequent front-page stories, then into televised hearings, and it grew and
it grew until it ate the Nixon Administration.
In January 1973, no one could have imagined that Nixon would resign in August
I bring this up just to remind us all that we can't know what's going to
happen over the next four years. On the one hand, the recent election was very close, not a landslide. On the other hand,
today the Washington "press corps" is a joke.
And in 1973 we didn't have Faux News and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the
right-wing echo chamber feeding lies to a gullible public. If we had, possibly Nixon wouldn't have been cornered.
There had already been violence in the streets and on campuses, including
the infamous Kent State massacre, during Nixon's first term. This violence did nothing to weaken Nixon or change his
policies. Indeed, much of his support came from people who were upset by the protests.
What finally brought Nixon down was the truth. As the facts of Watergate
trickled out, Nixon's own party decided to throw him overboard before he sank the boat. Today Bushies so thoroughly permeate
the GOP it's hard to imagine that happening again.
The poll also indicates that the majority of Americans do not believe the
economy will improve or that U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of Mr. Bush’s second term. Roughly two-thirds
of Americans believe that Bush’s second term will leave the country even deeper in the hole with a larger deficit. Most of
those surveyed said that they do not expect Bush to improve on health care, education, or the cost of prescription drugs for
the elderly. [Link]
Are we seeing some buyer's remorse? If support for Bush continues
to erode, he may find he doesn't have the political capital to enact his agenda, after all. And that may be the best we can
hope for. But ya never know.
I've been cruising blogs and newspapers for commentary on the inauguration
and the speech. The speech was absolutely astonishing. Bob Herbert compared it to the climax of The Godfather, which interspersed scenes of the baptism of Connie's baby with
the slaughter of Michael's enemies. Just so, Bush's soaring rhetoric about freedom should have been interspersed with
scenes showing the real consequences of his policies. It would have been great television.
I plan to write something more substantive later today. But in the meantime ... what
did you think was the most jaw-dropping, mind-boggling, I-can't-believe-he-said-that part of the speech for you? There's
a transcript here.
Just as the President hit the point in his second inaugural address where
he declared to the dissidents of the world that "when you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you," authorities were
removing peaceful protesters from the regal one's line of sight. -- John Nichols
And by the way, aren’t we a terrific country to have witnessed a transfer
of power from George W. Bush to George W. Bush without the spectacle of tanks in the streets? Oh wait…. -- Eric Alterman
"Bush Threatens: Even More Freedom!" -- Die Tageszeitung,
via Spiegal Online
Good analysis at Liberal Oasis. And next time you bump into a rightie, throw this quote at them --
"Bush is stealing liberal rhetoric and grafting liberal ideals on a dangerous right-wing foreign policy."
It's true, but I'll bet no rightie in the world would be able to admit it.
Richard Cohen is on a roll. His column today is a good antidote to the inauguration.
Alchemy is the purported science of turning base metals into gold. It does
not exist. Political alchemy is the ability to turn hard failures into gossamer triumphs. It does exist. The inauguration
of George W. Bush for a second term proves it....
...Bush's unsurpassed achievement has been in turning fantasy into reality,
failure into success. He strides the world stage, a smile on his face and a mandate in his pocket. Behold the gold! What,
you don't see it? No matter. Washington does.
Also in WaPo, Jeanne McManus writes about the widening gulf between We, the People and the powerful few in Washington.
George Bush will be sworn in as president of the United States for a second
term today in a lavish Washington ceremony, amid mounting international concern that his new administration will make the
world a more dangerous place.
A poll of 21 countries published yesterday - reflecting opinion in Africa,
Latin America, North America, Asia and Europe - showed that a clear majority have grave fears about the next four years.
Fifty-eight per cent of the 22,000 who took part in the poll, commissioned
by the BBC World Service, said they expected Mr Bush to have a negative impact on peace and security, compared with only 26%
who considered him a positive force.
The survey also indicated for the first time that dislike of Mr Bush is translating
into a dislike of Americans in general.
Thanks loads, righties.
The rightie excuse for global loathing of America is, of course, that they never
liked us, anyway. But those of us old enough to remember John Kennedy's tour of Europe (see photo) in 1964
1963 know that's not so.
It's only natural that the good will our nation earned by the Truman Doctrine, the
Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, etc., would fade in time. But until Bush we were at least respectable.
They dislike us most in western Europe, the poll revealed. Of the 21
nations surveyed, only the Philippines, Poland, and India still thought we were OK.
Also in the Guardian, the US National Intelligence Council has issued a report projecting what the world will be like in 2020. They offer four
possible scenarios, explained briefly --
Davos World, in which the free market reigns.
Pax Americana, in which the U.S. manages everybody else.
The New Caliphate, in which a radical Islamic wave sweeps across a big chunk
of the world and puts the brakes on the first two scenarios.
Cycle of Fear, in which we're all just hiding out from terrorists.
The article probably explains these scenarios better than I just did,
so you might want to read it. But are these the only possible scenarios? What
about, say, Pax Europa or Pax Asia or Pax European-Asian Axis or some such? Or Pax Dear Leader,
in which we're all slaves to North Korea because they will have enough nuclear weapons to fry the solar system and Dear
Leader is crazy enough to use them? Or Post Pax Dear Leader, in which the globe is a nuclear wasteland ruled
by cockroaches and Keith Richards?
Today Democrats in the Senate denied Condi Rice an inauguration day confirmation as Secretary of State. The word from Harry Reid's office is that some Senators not on the
Foreign Relations Committee want to get their licks in before the actual vote.
Also today, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee forced a one-week delay
on the vote to confirm Alberto "Rah Rah" Gonzales as Attorney General. Apparently, the senators didn't like Rah Rah's written answers to some follow-up questions.
"These are very arrogant answers," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said
at a Judiciary Committee meeting, where Democrats used a procedural device to postpone a discussion of the nomination for
one week. Kennedy said Gonzales had engaged in "gross non-responsiveness."
Kennedy said he was troubled by Gonzales'
failure to provide additional documents shedding light on his thinking about administration legal positions
on torture and the treatment of military detainees in Iraq and Cuba. Critics say the policies led to widely reported abuses
by U.S. military personnel and others.
Want to bet there's somethin' really nasty in those documents?
She notes that Ali Fadhil, one of the three brothers, has begun his own website, "Free Iraqi where he expresses some doubts about Bush administration policy, unlike his
I became suspicious of the original site when they mysteriously attacked Rashid
Khalidi and me for simply pointing out that Fallujah had had a long history of anti-British political agitation during the
1920s and the monarchy, something which is well known in Iraqi history and about which there is famous nationalist poetry.
They depended on a secondary source by a sociologist to question something that shows up in numerous historical sources. Being
dentists, of course, they don't know their way around the British archives and don't realize that secondary works aren't exhaustive.
So it was strange that they were questioning something that every informed Iraqi knows, and which is attested in British sources.
And it was strange that they went after Khalidi, a Palestinian- American and an eminent historian who opposed the Iraq war.
What really seems to bother the Right bloggers is that the defection of Ali
Fadhil introduced doubt and ambiguity into their closed little world in which American Iraq is a virtual paradise and real
Iraqis are all tickled pink to have been occupied by a Western army. There has been excellent professional opinion polling
in Iraq by Gallup and the State Department that demonstrates that the original IraqTheModel site's views were far out of the
For American observers concerned with Iraq not to realize how truly awful
the situation is, and to fail to understand that the US faces a grave crisis if key policies are not changed, makes them poor
Americans. The United States is a democracy and a democracy only works if the citizens are informed and exercise their faculties
of critical reason. Looking for token pro-American Iraqis to say nice things while ignoring all the evidence of US failure
is pitiful. I sometimes get messages from readers who are excited by all the rebuilding work the US has done in Iraq and think
it is unfair for it to be overlooked. This way of thinking is just wrong. The British in India built railroads and lots of
infrastructure. By the 1940s, no Indians were grateful, and they just wanted the British out so that they could have their
independent country. The railroads, they said, were after all mainly built to transport British troops and merchandise. When
you mess with a people's independence, they stop being grateful for infrastructure. Ask King George III.
SEN. BOXER: ...Here's the point. You and I could sit here and go back and
forth and present our arguments, and maybe somebody watching a debate would pick one or the other, depending on their own
views. But I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in the facts. So when I ask you these questions, I'm going to show you
your words, not my words.
And, if I might say, again you said you're aware of the stakes in Iraq; we sent our beautiful
people -- and thank you, thank you so much for your comments about them -- to defend freedom. You sent them in there because
of weapons of mass destruction. Later, the mission changed when there were none. I have your quotes on it. I have the president's
quotes on it.
And everybody admits it but you that that was the reason for the war. And then, once we're in there,
now it moves to a different mission, which is great. We all want to give democracy and freedom everywhere we can possibly
do it. But let's not rewrite history. It's too soon to do that.
MS. RICE: Senator Boxer, I would refer you to the president's
speech before the American Enterprise Institute in February, prior to the war, in which he talked about the fact that, yes,
there was the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but he also talked to the strategic threat that Saddam Hussein was to
Saddam Hussein was a threat, yes, because he was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. And, yes,
we thought that he had stockpiles which he did not have. We had problems with the intelligence. We are all, as a collective
polity of the United States, trying to deal with ways to get better intelligence.
But it wasn't just weapons of mass
destruction. He was also a place -- his territory was a place where terrorists were welcomed, where he paid suicide bombers
to bomb Israel, where he had used Scuds against Israel in the past.
And so we knew what his intentions were in the
region; where he had attacked his neighbors before and, in fact, tried to annex Kuwait; where we had gone to war against him
twice in the past. It was the total picture, Senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that caused us to decide that,
post-September 11th, it was finally time to deal with Saddam Hussein.
SEN. BOXER: Well, you should read what we voted
on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason
and the causation for that, you know, particular vote.
But, again, I just feel you quote President Bush when it suits
you but you contradicted him when he said, "Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." You go on television
nine months later and said, "Nobody ever said it was" --
MS. RICE: Senator, that was just a question of pointing out
to people that there was an uncertainty. No one was saying that he would have to have a weapon within a year for it to be
worth it to go to war.
SEN. BOXER: Well, if you can't admit to this mistake, I hope that you'll --
Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning
my integrity. Thank you very much.
SEN. BOXER: I'm not. I'm just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president
and you contradicted yourself.
MS. RICE: Senator, I'm happy to continue the discussion, but I really hope that you
will not imply that I take the truth lightly.
Condi said that with a straight face, too. Remarkable.
This page is an invaluable reference to who said what, when, about WMDs before the invasion. And somebody forgot to delete this from the White House web site.
Sarah Boxer writes about the blog site Iraq the Model in today's New York Times. Boxer's article is lame. Mostly, it's just a description of some standard blogosphere
snark. Several paragraphs down there's a tantalizing bit of information that might be a real story, had Boxer dug
further, but she didn't. Not exactly cutting-edge investigative journalism, in other words. But, as it was written for the
Arts section, it probably wasn't meant to be.
But this article, lame as it is, has caused some rightie bloggers to go ballistic. Check
out some adjectives from Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine:
Sarah Boxer's story on IraqTheModel in today's New York Times Arts section is irresponsible, sloppy, lazy, inaccurate,
incomplete, exploitive, biased, and -- worst of all -- dangerous, putting the lives of its subjects at risk.
I agree with sloppy, lazy, and incomplete.
The biased part comes from Boxer's use of a technique not unknown to Faux News -- kicking off a story with leading
or suggestive questions. Boxer's first paragraph:
When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered
who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the
war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was
just a ghost on the Internet.
To which Mr. Jarvis responds,
So here is a reporter from The New York Times -- let's repeat that, The
New York Times -- speculating in print on whether an Iraqi citizen, whose only apparent weirdness and sin in her eyes is (a)
publishing and (b) supporting America, is a CIA or Defense Department plant or an American.
Ms. Boxer, don't you think you could be putting the life of that person at
risk with that kind of speculation? In your own story, you quote Ali -- one of the three blogging brothers who started IraqTheModel
-- saying that "here some people would kill you for just writing to an American." And yet you go so much farther -- blithely,
glibly speculating about this same man working for the CIA or the DoD -- to sex up your lead and get your story atop the front
of the Arts section (I'm in the biz, Boxer, I know how the game is played).
Jarvis would have a point, except that Mr. Fadhil plainly said in the interview
that the brothers had already been outed. And that outing was by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post.
On December 20, Kurtz began his Media Notes column, headlined "Iraqi Bloggers, In the News and Critiquing It," by naming the brothers, identifying them as the authors of Iraq the Model, and revealing that two of them met
with President Bush in the Oval Office.
Omar Fadhil says the media are painting far too dark a portrait of Iraq.
Fadhil, 24, is a dentist in Baghdad. He and his two brothers are doing more
than just griping about the coverage; they are at the forefront of the first wave of Iraqi Internet bloggers, engaging in
a form of expression that was impossible under Saddam Hussein.
On a visit to Washington earlier this month, Omar and his sibling Mohammed,
35, who is also a dentist, found themselves ushered into the Oval Office for a meeting with President Bush after a last-minute
invitation. The president asked their views on Iraqi politics and assured them that the United States will not leave until
the job is done. ...
In an interview, Omar and Mohammed described their excitement at being
able to say what they think and reach about 7,000 people each day. Their English-language blog, IraqtheModel, is part journal,
part travelogue and part political soapbox.
Oopsie-doodles! And I suspect more people read Howard Kurtz than
A question from this
column has prompted one of three Baghdad brothers to leave the blog they had launched to support Iraqi democracy.
Omar and Mohammed Fadhil, who are both dentists, stopped by for an interview
last month during a visit to the United States. They said Ali, their brother and co-author of their site, IraqtheModel, couldn't
make the trip.
Now Ali has declared in an online posting: "I had some serious doubts
about that trip to the U.S. and did express them to my brothers. I saw that it was an unnecessary risk."
After Omar and Mohammed were ushered into a hastily scheduled
meeting with President Bush, the trip's coordinator provided an e-mail address to ask the brothers about their reaction to
the Oval Office session. This reporter's message apparently went to Ali.
"I got a mail from a journalist in the Washington Post asking about
the meeting with (POTUS). After that mail, I decided to quit," he writes. Concerned that the Arabic media picked up news of
the Bush sitdown from this column, Ali says: "It's one thing to risk your life for doing what you believe in and serving your
country and humanity and it's totally another thing to risk your life just to meet (POTUS)."
Omar and Mohammed said last month that they refused to be afraid
about speaking out. Ali, meanwhile, apologized for suggesting in his farewell posting that some Americans had been engaging
in unspecified bad conduct and he would "expose these people in public very soon." That declaration, he writes, "was probably
the most stupid thing I've ever done in my life."
I couldn't find Ali's farewell post on Iraq the Model, but he's moved to a new blog, Free Iraq. And in the post linked, dated January 3, he says the news of the Oval Office meeting had been picked
up by a widely read Arabic newspaper.
Much of Sarah Boxer's article in today's NY Times was a padded re-hash of what Howard Kurtz had already
written. However, she did speak to Ali Fadhil on the phone:
He was surprisingly frank. The blog had changed him. When the blog began,
he said, "People surprised me with their warmth and how much they cared about us." But as time passed, he said, "I felt that
this is not just goodwill, giving so much credit to Iraq the Model. We haven't accomplished anything, really."
His views took a sharp turn when his two brothers met with the president.
There wasn't supposed to be any press coverage about their trip to the United States, he said. But The Washington Post wrote
about the meeting, and the Arabic press ended up translating the story, which, Ali felt, put his family in real danger.
Anyway, he said, he didn't see any sense in his brothers' meeting with President
Bush. "My brothers say it happened accidentally, that it was not planned." But why, he asked, take such an "unnecessary risk"?
He explained his worries: "Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American."
Ali never did expose the people who made him feel that he was on the wrong
side, and in fact conceded that he couldn't. As he confided on the phone, "I didn't know who the people were." Instead, he
started his own blog. He said he had always wanted to do that anyway.
"Me and my brothers," he said, "we generally agree on Iraq and the future."
(He is helping his brother Mohammed, who is running on the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party ticket in the Jan. 30 election.) But
there is one important difference: "My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions."
Blogger Jarvis picked up the quote, "Here some people would kill you for
just writing to an American." But he missed the context -- the Fadhil brothers had already been outed as coalition supporters
in the Arabic press.
I've been picking on Jeff Jarvis, but several other rightie bloggers ranted the same rant about Sarah Boxer. I've
yet to see one of 'em pissed at Howard Kurtz, however. Very odd.
Here's where I wish Boxer had gone -- several paragraphs in, she says,
Martini Republic pointed out that the pro-war blog was getting lots
of attention from papers like The Wall Street Journal and USA Today while antiwar bloggers like Riverbend, who writes Baghdad Burning, had gone unsung.
Yeah, isn't it funny how that works? And what else I want to know is ...
if these brothers are so anonymous and independent, how did they get invited to the Oval Office? That's where
there might be a story, if someone wants to investigate.
The old joke was that America is the home of the brave, because you gotta
be brave to live here. But this Guardian article reveals we've become a nation of weenies.
The panic that is gripping American TV bosses facing a puritanical backlash
or exorbitant government fines has today extended to a cartoon series and a BBC drama.
Fox TV has decided to pixelate a bare derriere in a cartoon series, The Family
Guy, which was originally broadcast five years ago with no complaints.
Yes, America; we are terrified of a bare cartoon
butt. However, later in the article we learn that Fox rejected a cold remedy ad that showed Mickey Rooney's bare butt.
I forgive them for that.
And American public television network PBS is censoring BBC drama documentary
Dirty War, wary of attracting a public backlash and fines from the federal watchdog.
The drama portrays London in the aftermath of
a dirty bomb. A scene showing a nude woman being decontaminated in a shower was deleted by PBS. PBS says it wants to protect
local stations from potential FCC fines.
And, of course, 2003 was the Year of the Wardrobe Malfunction, and the year
several network stations refused to broadcast Saving Private Ryan out of fear of being fined for something.
But a bare cartoon butt? We've got to be protected from seeing a bare
In the current New Yorker, Seymour Hersh writes that the Bush Administration has been conducting "secret reconnaissance missions in Iran at least since last summer."
Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information
on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen,
and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids. “The civilians
in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible,” the government consultant
with close ties to the Pentagon told me.
According to Hersh, U.S. special forces have been penetrating
eastern Iran from Afghanistan. Contingency plans for a full-scale invasion
of the country are being updated.
A White House spokesman has denied Hersh's allegations, of course. But one of Hersh's sources says that the Bushies have already made up their minds. "It’s
not if we’re going to do anything against Iran," the source said. "They’re doing it.”
In his article, Hersh says the immediate goal of an attack would be to disable
Iran's nuclear weapons. But the real goal perking in the neocons' little minds is to topple Iran's religious leadership.
“Within the soul of Iran there is a struggle between secular nationalists
and reformers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the fundamentalist Islamic movement,” the consultant told me. “The
minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian
regime will collapse”—like the former Communist regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz
share that belief, he said.
In other words, the neocons think if the U.S. attacks Iran's nuclear
sites, this would trigger a popular uprising against the mullahs, a.k.a. moo-laws.
In other words, the neocons are to rational foreign policy what
a black hole is to matter.
There's an awesome grandeur to the neocons' obliviousness. Many have noted
that the neocons are repeating the mistakes of Vietnam. These were mistakes made by other people some years ago, of course. But if Hersh is right -- even as the ashes of Fallujah
smolder, and the insurgency grows hotter, and Iraq itself totters on the edge of becoming an Islamic theocracy -- the
neocons gamely march ahead to repeat the mistakes of Iraq. Mistakes they just made themselves.
And I struggle to come up with a word that might describe neocon thought
processes. Stupid, although applicable, doesn't reach it. Same with foolish. The massive
preposterousness of whatever it is neocons substitute for thinking is both awesome and terrible, like the tsunami.
It's more unimaginable than ten-dimensional hyperspace. If we ever flush these specimens out of the Pentagon, we should ship
'em to Stephen Hawkings.
There's a Japanese folk tale about a lazy student (college age)
who fell in love with a beautiful lady. The lady told the student she thought smart men were hot. The besotted student
was determined to win her love, so he applied himself to his studies. He worked day and night to impess her,
and along the way he sharpened his intellect and deepened his learning. And then the lady revealed to him that she was no
lady. Instead, she was a benevolent spirit sent to inspire him to fulfill his destiny as a great scholar, which he did.
With that story in mind, let's look again at Mississippi. A few days ago I wrote that, of all the 50 states, Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate and the highest rate of child poverty.
It's also number one among the states for teenage girls (age 15-19) who give birth. But the politicians who run the state
seem unconcerned about these issues.
Instead, they've put their energy into restricting abortions. Today, Mississippi
is the most populous of a handful of states with only one abortion clinic. Over the past decade the Mississippi legislature
passed the most restrictive abortion laws in America. Mississippi has cut its abortion rate in half, although Mississippians
aren't counting the many Mississippi women who cross state lines to get abortions.
I have a proposal. For a lot of reasons this proposal could not be carried out, but
let's pretend ... what if we told Mississippi it could outlaw abortions altogether, including the infamous partial-birth abortions,
once it got its infant mortality rate down to under 5 deaths per 1,000 infants?
Right now, the infant mortality rate in Mississippi is 10.5. Massachusetts,
which has the lowest rate of all states, is at 4.8.
It shouldn't be difficult for Mississippi to get that number down. A number
of nations have even lower infant mortality rates than Massachusetts. Iceland, for example, got its rate down to 2.4. If our all-American health-care system is so all-fired
superior, you'd think we could beat Iceland.
For that matter, according to the Population Reference Bureau the infant mortality rate in France is 4.1! France, mind you. Surely we can do as well as France!
The challenge issued, the people who run Mississippi will be inspired
to find ways to lower infant mortality so that they can eliminate legal abortions from Mississippi soil. They'll soon learn
that they have to address the shocking rate of poverty in Mississippi. They'll have to be sure women of child-bearing age
have good health care. They'll have to be sure women of child-bearing age are well nourished and not living on fast
food, or beans and fatback. And because babies born to young teenagers tend to be high risk, they're going to have to
get the teenagers to use birth control.
In other words, they're going to have to start thinking like liberals.
In my version of this folk tale, as Mississippians finally confront issues
they've been ignoring for so long, they'll experience a gradual awakening. And when that infant mortality number is finally
under 5, they'll understand why banning all abortions isn't a great idea -- because driving a problem underground, or across
state lines, isn't solving it. And maybe they'll also realize that women who choose to terminate pregnancies
aren't all selfish, stupid cows, but human beings with complex human lives to deal with.
President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification
of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or
misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.
"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections,"
Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what
was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."
Now, go take your heart pills and lie down for a while. Or make yourself
a stiff drink. Or paint yourself orange and dance around a flaming box of oatmeal. Whatever helps.
Several other bloggers got to this story before I did. I appreciate their efforts,
because I find myself thinking of Walt Whitman in a very different context:
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots, My breath will not be obedient
to its organs, I become a dumb man.
Over on the Right, bloggers quickly shifted into cognitive dissonance mode. No, not
quite right. They're stuck in cogntive dissonance mode. Mark Kilmer writes:
The press is grumbling that the President think the voters ratified his Iraq
policy with his reelection. That’s not exactly what he said. He did not insist that his reelection was a show of blanket support
for his policies – He’d be hard pressed to get that from anyone.—rather, he said that his Administration was held accountable
for his policies.
There can be no doubt that he personally was held accountable, and he was
reelected with a majority of the vote, the first time that had happened in a dozen years.
I will be charitable and assume Mr. Kilmer lives in an alternate time-space continuum.
I liked this part of the WaPo story, too:
As for perhaps the most notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden, the administration
has so far been unsuccessful in its attempt to locate the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Asked why, Bush said,
"Because he's hiding."
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.