Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Times is a grab bag (some items worth reading) this morning

Somini Sengupta has a story worth reading in this morning's New York Times. "Baby no. 81" is in a pediatric ward in Sri Lanka and nine couples are claiming the child is their child:

Could it possibly be that nine couples honestly believe Baby No. 81 to be their flesh and blood? Could it be that childless parents are looking for a boon amid the disaster? Could it be that a photogenic baby boy has inspired a craving that a girl would not have? All these theories circulate on the streets of Kalmunai.
Dr. K. Muhunthan, the hospital gynecologist who has taken on Baby No. 81's case, finds himself puzzled. The couples he has met seem so utterly traumatized that it is hard to know what they think. "Most of them believe this is their baby," Dr. Muhunthan said. "Maybe all children they look at, they think it's their baby. I'm not angry at them really."

James Barron traces the history of the checks to families of fallen soldiers (and the debate in Congress to raise the amount from $12,000 to $100,000).

Dexter Filkins appears to be doing less reporting and more p.r. advancing for the administration:

"To those of you who think you can vote and then run away," the leaflet warned, "we will shadow you and catch you, and we will cut off your heads and the heads of your children."
The effect of such intimidation across the country will not be known until Sunday. Estimates vary, but Iraqi officials say they will be pleased if the nationwide turnout reaches 50 percent of the 14 million eligible voters. In some areas, like the Sunni-dominant cities of Ramadi and Falluja, even a meager turnout would be welcomed.

The only Iraqi quoted is one saying, "I want to vote."

That's an interesting take on what's going on in Baghdad. And completely fits John Negroponte's
claim that regardless of turnout, it's a success just that elections are held.

There's another take on it, in Baghdad, one that the paper ignores: people not wanting to vote.
People not trusting the process. There voices haven't made the paper and their view hasn't been represented unless they can be labeled as Sunnis (religious faction).

People on the ground (and out of the Green Zone) in Baghdad speak of the large amount of citizens who don't trust the process. But to read the Times, you'd think that the only thing that might stop voting would be either belonging to a religious minority (who feels they'll be outvoted by a religious majority) or being afraid that voting will result in a loss of life.

But there's a significant number who just don't trust the process, who just don't believe this occupation is ending anytime soon and who just don't see the point.

We'll cite Baghdad Burning again both because what she says is important and also because she's representative of the Iraqis that the paper renders faceless day after day:

There hasn’t been a drop of water in the faucets for six days. six days. Even at the beginning of the occupation, when the water would disappear in the summer, there was always a trickle that would come from one of the pipes in the garden. Now, even that is gone. We’ve been purchasing bottles of water (the price has gone up) to use for cooking and drinking. Forget about cleaning. It’s really frustrating because everyone cleans house during Eid. It’s like a part of the tradition. The days leading up to Eid are a frenzy of mops, brooms, dusting rags and disinfectant. The cleaning makes one feel like there's room for a fresh start. It's almost as if the house and its inhabitants are being reborn. Not this year. We’re managing just enough water to rinse dishes with. To bathe, we have to try to make-do with a few liters of water heated in pots on kerosene heaters.
Water is like peace- you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away. It’s maddening to walk up to the sink, turn one of the faucets and hear the pipes groan with nothing. The toilets don’t function… the dishes sit piled up until two of us can manage to do them- one scrubbing and rinsing and the other pouring the water.
Why is this happening? Is it because of the electricity? If it is, we should at least be getting water a couple of hours a day- like before. Is it some sort of collective punishment leading up to the elections? It’s unbelievable. At first, I thought it was just our area but I’ve been asking around and apparently, almost all of the areas (if not all) are suffering this drought. I’m sure people outside of the country are shaking their heads at the words ‘collective punishment’. “No, Riverbend,” they are saying, “That’s impossible.” But anything is possible these days. People in many areas are being told that if they don’t vote- Sunnis and Shia alike- the food and supply rations we are supposed to get monthly will be cut off. We’ve been getting these rations since the beginning of the nineties and for many families, it’s their main source of sustenance. What sort of democracy is it when you FORCE people to go vote for someone or another they don’t want?
Allawi’s people were passing out pamphlets a few days ago. I went out to the garden to check the low faucet, hoping to find a trickle of water and instead, I found some paper crushed under the garden gate. Upon studying it, it turned out to be some sort of “Elect Allawi” pamphlet promising security and prosperity, amongst other things, for occupied Iraq. I'd say it was a completely useless pamphlet but that isn't completely true. It fit nicely on the bottom of the cage of E.'s newly acquired pet parakeet.

But she and others like her are left invisible by the Times. In what Brian argues is the paper's desire "to court the powerful," the fact that this is very much her story too is forgotten by the paper.

The deficit is on the front page again:

The Congressional Budget Office noted that if Mr. Bush wins Congressional approval to make his tax cuts permanent, a top priority for the administration, the deficit would grow by $2 trillion over the next 10 years. If war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan taper off gradually, the agency estimated that price tag over the next 10 years could total nearly $600 billion.

Richard W. Stevenson reports on a tactic the Bully Boy is using to push privatization of social security:

Instead, Mr. Bush is taking cover under the reputation of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York Democrat who died nearly two years ago. Mr. Moynihan served as co-chairman of the commission Mr. Bush established in 2001 to recommend ways of establishing personal accounts, a fact the president and his aides mention almost every time they discuss the issue publicly.
"Much of my thinking has been colored by the work of the late Senator Moynihan and other members of the commission, who took a lot of time to take a look at this problem and who came up with some creative suggestions," Mr. Bush said to reporters last month in the Oval Office.

Moynihan's remarks on this subject were addressed by Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler on Monday:

In a ludicrous page-one piece in the New York Times, James Dao quoted Moynihan complaining about the naughty way Gore had criticized Bush’s proposal for Social Security:
DAO (5/5/00): Even some Democrats seem to think that Mr. Gore's attacks [on Bush] occasionally go over the top. On Wednesday, Mr. Gore accused Mr. Bush of devising a "secret" Social Security "privatization" plan that would bankrupt the system. Today Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat who supports investing some of the Social Security trust fund in private markets, took issue with the word "privatization."
"That's a scare word," said Mr. Moynihan, who supported Mr. Bradley in the primaries but has since endorsed the vice president. May God have spared Gore such “endorsements!” Indeed, a few weeks later, Moynihan penned an op-ed piece in the Times, described the plan for partial privatization which he and Senator Bob Kerrey had authored. Once again, he made his fatuous claim about what such plans should be called:
MOYNIHAN (5/30/00): It would be unforgivable to label this "privatization." But it has already begun. These savings accounts are being referred to in New York Times reporting as "partial privatization."But duh! Such plans were being referred to as “partial privatization" because proponents of such plans had used the term “privatization” for years! (See link below.) But by the time of Campaign 2000, political hacks had learned from focus groups that such plans fared better with the public if more pleasing terms were used. In recent weeks, Marshall has instructively described the way Republicans have played the fatuous “change-the-name” game. You also should know that one cranky old Democrat played this stupid game as well—and that he even played the game against his party’s candidate.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Joel Brinkley (less clowning from Stolberg when she has a co-writer)
cover the Senate discussions of Rice's nomination yesterday. There are many things worthy of note but we're going to touch on two. John McCain mistakenly believes that using the public record is challenging Condi Rice's "integrity." McCain, no matter how the press portrays him, is not the great non-partisan. Remember his attitude here because if you pay attention you'll realize this hardly out of character. The other thing we'll note is John Cornyn because In Dallas asked us to. In Dallas: "Whenever he speaks, many Texans groan. He's not making as many huge mistakes now because he's talking about his opinion but for two years we had to hear him tell us what the 'facts' were and when he tries to deals with 'facts,' he just exposes how uninformed he is. When Cornyn speaks, his string is being pulled by Orrin Hatch."

The Times reports Cornyn saying, in defense of Rice, "The truth is we were all misled by erroneous intelligence." In Dallas argues that's a sound argument to explain Cornyn's voting record.

Reality check for Cornyn, we weren't all misled. Many of us knew we were hearing distortions and, yes, LIES at the time. If Rice wasn't lying, then she wasn't doing her job (which isn't really about being the Bully Boy's traniner). She wasn't reading her PDBs ("I believe it was called . . .") and she wasn't paying attention when the CIA asked that something be removed from the speech.

If she was misled, that's only an argument that goes against her. She was heading the NSA. Either she was up to the job or she wasn't. If she wasn't incompentent in her job, then that pretty much just leaves the lie argument.

Either way, she has no history in diplomacy and she lacks the skills to do the job. And Cornyn would better serve the county by being less blase about "erroneous intelligence" and more concerned with how it got out there.