Ruth: Thursday started with my granddaughter Tracey and I taking my grandson for his checkup. We'd been making sure we had everything and it was a very rushed morning. On the car ride, Tracey was listening to the Get Behind Me Satan by the White Stripes, which is nothing like the title and which will no doubt make Kat proud. So we'd heard no news that morning and were shocked to learn in the waiting room about the bombs in London.
The Diane Rehm Show was playing on the receptionist's radio and this is the segment we heard:
10:00 Attacks in London
An update on breaking news related to synchronized terrorist attacks on London's transportation system earlier today.
P.J. Crowley, director of national defense and homeland security at the Center for American Progress, retired Air Force colonel, and former special assistant to former President Clinton for national security affairs
Michele Flournoy, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
Matt Frey, senior correspondent, BBC
Lionel Barber, U.S. managing editor of "Financial Times"
Michael Scheuer, former CIA analyst who served as chief of the Bin Laden Counter Terrorist Center from 1996 to 1999 and author of two books on the threat of terrorism under the name of Anonymous
While a few small children played, all the adults were listening to the radio broadcast.
A twenty-three year-old woman named Christy had a son who will be two in October. She whispered to Tracey and I that she had voted for the Bully Boy in November and it was because she believed that we needed to "stay the course" and that invading Iraq had made the world safer. Now, as she hears Donald Rumsfeld saying that we may be occupying Iraq for twelve more years, as the body count continues to mount and as London is bombed, she feels she made a huge mistake in her vote.
She told us she'd been feeling that way since March. What we call Operation Happy Talk no longer works on her. The news of the elections gave her hope and she wanted to believe the statements that the elections would result in peace and stability but that didn't end up being the case. She said when people were speaking of purple fingers she felt some doubts but silenced them. When the violence continued after the elections, she stopped silencing the doubts. Now when she hears people talk up Iraq, she just feels sick to her stomach.
We had been whispering so as not to interfere with anyone's hearing of The Diane Rehm Show but some in the waiting room had been listening. Bill, who gave his age as twenty-six, was there with his wife Miranda and their six-month-old daughter. He offered the opinion that "staying the course" was going to destroy us all. He voted for John Kerry but doesn't think his vote counted because he was told he wasn't on the rolls. This despite the fact that he registered in August. He was offered a provisional ballot and though he did utilize it, he's convinced that it didn't count. Miranda voted for Senator Kerry. She was around Bill's age but Tracey forgot to ask and I don't make a point to ask people's age.
Miranda said she voted for Senator Kerry because she thought the situation in Iraq would improve under his leadership. But she felt he didn't draw enough of a line between himself and the Bully Boy. "I'll do it differently" was how she interpreted Senator Kerry's campaign slogan but she didn't feel he made the case for a huge difference.
"With the war," she explained, "but with everything. Take the judge's retirement" she said referring to Sandra Day O'Connor's announcement. "I knew he was pro-choice but he always seemed defensive about it. I felt like he was saying 'Don't hold it against me.' It wasn't a strong campaign that clearly . . ."
"Drew a line," Bill said finishing her sentence when their daughter began crying.
As Michele Flournoy began telling Diane about a test excercise that had been run to prepare for anticipate the use of nukes in a terrorist attack, we all fell silent.
When Ms. Flournoy finished speaking, Christy offered that she couldn't believe what she was hearing because there were so many promises made by the Bully Boy, "He kept talking national security and saying we'd be safer. But we aren't."
I asked how many had heard of the Downing Street Memo and only Miranda had, though she swore she'd told Bill who never listens to her. This brought Angela who was thirty-one into the conversation. She'd heard about the Downing Street Memo mainly due to the reluctance of the press to cover the issue which "got a lot of attention online."
As she paused, Ms. Flournoy again caught our attention:
In the case of nuclear terrorism . . . we know where they are, we know where the materials are . . . We are not approaching this with sufficient urgency. . . Three years later, yes, there's been some progress made but the initiative isn't even on the radar at Gleneagles.
As we shook our heads, Angela continued that she didn't vote. She was confined on bed rest due to issues with blood pressure and a history of miscarriages. If she had voted, she stated she would have voted for Senator Kerry.
"For someone like me, the process is too confusing. I think we should have long ago moved to voting by mail. They do that in Oregon, where I grew up. I tried to find out what I needed to do vote absentee and the woman on the other end of the phone kept saying, 'But you'll be in the area?' I could feel myself getting angry and I just had to hang up. I promised myself I'd call back but it just didn't seem worth it so I didn't."
To which Christy added that she wished she hadn't now since she voted for the Bully Boy.
So what do you think, I asked, when you think of Iraq now?
Christy said "stay the course" was hurting us and our allies. Bill agreed and said it was only going to get worse but Bully Boy was "too proud to do the right thing and bring the troops home. It's not his butt that's on the line and he doesn't care."
"But he never did," Angela said. "The Downing Street Memo proves that."
Diane introduced Michael Scheuer and we all stopped speaking to listen to that.
Diane: Michael is there any indication that the Brits did have some . . . intelligence before the attack actually took place?
Mr. Scheuer responded that he didn't know if bin Laden had "specific information" but that there was always information that bin Laden wanted to attack because of England's alliance with the United States.
Michele Flournoy: I personally believe that we have a body of international law that is quite robust with regard to fighting terrorism. I think what's lacking is a comprehensive strategy that uses all of instruments including foreign assistance to address the underlying conditions that give rise to terrorism, uhm, public diplomacy, uhm, spreading democracy in other parts of the world not by force but from the bottom up and so forth so I think a broader strategy is what is required. Whether we need some tweaks in our international law, yes, perhaps. But I think that's not, should not be the main thrust.
Diane Rehm: P.J. Crowley?
P.J. Crowley: These are not mutually exclusive options. Prior to 9-11 we actually had success bringing to justic, trying and convicting, at least in one case, executing a terrorist for attacks here in the United States. So to the extent that we can employ law enforcement and civilian juridisction on these cases we should. There will be times when military action is of course necessary. Part of the problem to pick up on what Michele just said is that to this year we'll spend roughly 590 billion dollars on national security, 88% of that goes to the military and intelligence. So where do you go when you need something done? You go to where the money is. So if we expect to be able to not only get at military causes where we need to but also broaden this because much of this will require political action to resolve. We have to be able to invest some of that money over time in diplomatic means, development means, more tolerant education systems around the world so that we can help these young people decide there's another route here to pull themselves up.
Bill found the discussion more "in depth" than what he's used to hearing from news programs but wondered how all these guests could be talking about the attacks on London and not one could bring up "the pink elephant dancing in the living room" of Iraq and how we needed to pull out?
This led to a discussion of the news and where each got their news. No one subscribed to a paper and except for Angela who will pick up USA Today if something catches her attention, a photo, on the front page. Christy's prime news source had been Fox News until after the elections in Iraq after which she began looking elsewhere but felt that "they're not much better."
Tracey asked her if she had watched or listened to Democracy Now! and Christy replied that she wasn't aware of it. Which led to Bill explaining the show but admitting that he doesn't have the time to tune in now.
"I'm working two jobs and my wife is using flex time to put in some hours on the weekend," he explained. I get home and try to spend time with them."
"And we don't have the TV on," Miranda explained, "because it would be so easy for Bill to zone out in front of it or for me to as soon as he walks in the door. We're tired all of the time. This is Bill's first day off in months other than a holiday and he had to use sick time to get that. We'll usually visit BuzzFlash a few times a week but even then we don't have the time to go through every link or even half of them."
Christy said her brother had recommended BuzzFlash to her and that's where she'd started going for her news "and it just gathers together all these things that maybe you'd notice or maybe you wouldn't but all together you start to realize that the news on your TV set is not the news at all. The other good thing, for me anyway, is that I don't have to hear the smiling couple on TV make jokes to each other."
Angela offered online sources and Democracy Now! as her main sources for the news.
"I used to trust NPR but not really much now," she said. "This show," she said referring to The Diane Rehm Show, "is still a conversation. But most of it is just quick sound bytes that lack depth and sound more and more like Headlines News. I'm very disappointed in Fresh Air and can't even listen to it anymore because I find the topics and the guests so frivolous lately. Maybe it's me because maybe I've changed but I'm not seeing the point . . . February 13th we lost a lot of troops. It's my sister's birthday and the day before Valentine's Day, so I remember the date. I'm listening to Fresh Air the next day and the topics are some blow hard going on about his latest book with Miss Piggy in the title and Pamela Anderson discussed inside, then it was two music stories. I remember listening and thinking what is the point of this show anymore? It was a gussied up Entertainment Tonight."
The Fresh Air episode Angela was referring to is this one:
Authors: 'Fresh Air' Critic Ken Tucker: Loving and Hating TV
Ken Tucker's new book is Kissing Bill O'Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy, a look at television
Composer Pierre Boulez: New Recordings
French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. He turns 80 years old next month. In celebration of his birthday next month, the record label Deutsche Grammophon is issuing five new recordings of Boulez's work. Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz has a review.
A Love Song from Grammy Winner Ray Charles
The late singer and composer Ray Charles was known for his lively, soulful voice and his skills in both writing for and playing the piano. On Valentine's Day, we listen to a love song by Charles.
The troops she was referring to that died on February 13th were:
Staff Sergeant Ray Rangel
Non-hostile - vehicle accident (drowning)
Sergeant Chad W. Lake
Non-hostile - vehicle accident (drowning)
Sergeant Rene Knox Jr.
Non-hostile - vehicle accident (drowning)
Private 1st Class David J. Brangman
Patrol Base Uvanni, Samarra
Hostile - hostile fire - mortar attack
Specialist Dakotah L. Gooding
Non-hostile - vehicle accident (drowning)
How do you feel about the press over all?
Bill felt it had gotten very lazy and "really amused with itself and all these smirking newscasters." He feels that "garbarage is all they give you on TV and there's this attitude behind that of garbage is all you're good enough for." Angela said that the failure to cover the Downing Street Memo had shown how "useless they are to anyone. How can you be informed if they won't even discuss the things that matter so much to the country." Christy spoke of having spent hours watching Fox News and realizing that she had "gotten a lot of attitude and not any real news. Since I quit watching, I can think about how it was 'who do we attack today' and that was the 'news.' Someone's said something truthful and embarrassing about Bush and so Fox News has to make it about trashing that person."
Bill and Miranda were being called by the receptionist and as they stood up, Miranda offered that she quit going to her local grocery store and now drives elsewhere because it was obvious that they just didn't care about her. "The news people better realize that a lot of us are starting to feel that way about them."
As Christy continued about the media, she offered that, on Fox News, the bombing would play as something going on over there, an isolated incident that had no impact on us. When we finally saw the doctor, he apologized for the delay but explained his daughter was in England and he'd been on the phone between each patient calling up family members to see if anyone had heard from her. (They hadn't.)
What happened today in London didn't happen "over there." It's not something that we can feel removed from. As long as Operation Enduring Falsehood, to steal Ava and C.I.'s term, continues we will all suffer. It's time for the media to begin serious, extended conversations about that issue. Until that happens, for Rebecca who misses the Yiddish, they are just shtunks trying to be machers.