Saturday, December 04, 2004
The TIMES PROCLAIMED: "Documents Show That CIA Knew of a Coup Plot in Venezuela" but a few things got left out in the reporting
1) http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/03/international/americas/03venezuela.html?oref=login which is Juan Forero's "Documents Show That CIA Knew of a Coup Plot in Venezuela" article from the New York Times.
2) http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/29/1448220 which is a link to the video and audio interviews (as well as rush transcript) of Amy Goodman's interview with Eva Golinger and Peter Kornbluh on Democracy Now!
3) http://venezuelafoia.info/CIA/CIA-index.htm which is where Golinger has posted the seven documents referred to in the two items above.
In the New York Times, Juan Forero informs us (on December 3, 2004) that the CIA:
was aware that dissident military officers and opposition figures in Venezuela were planning a coup against President Hugo Chávez in 2002. But immediately after the overthrow, the Bush administration blamed Mr. Chávez, a left-leaning populist, for his own downfall and denied knowing about the threats.
Specifics were kept from the Venezuelan government, Forero states, but they were warned in "broad" terms.
The documents do not show that the United States backed the coup, as Mr. Chávez has charged. Instead, the documents show that American officials issued "repeated warnings that the United States will not support any extraconstitutional moves to oust Chávez."
No, the documents DON'T show that. One document has the quote Forero refers to (April 6, 2002, SEIB). There is no mention of US warnings in the March 5th SEIB of any warnings given by the U.S. Nor in the March 11th SEIB is there a mention. What about the April 1st or 8th SEIBs? Nada. Zilch. What about post-coup in the CIA's Spot Commentary, April 14th? Nothing about U.S. warnings. The seventh document, the April 17th SEIB, also mentions nothing on any warnings. One out of seven documents does not equal "documents."
Is this a comprehension error as someone rushes to meet a deadline? Ben e-mailed Friday (when this article ran) suggesting that Forero had "damaging documents, doesn't want to examine [them], just wants to grab the happy-face stamp, [and] use it." Is that true? I don't know. But these are serious documents and Forero comes off strongest in areas that could lead Ben and others to suspect that he has a need to stamp a happy-face on the story.
More mistakes occur when Forero then contrasts the view of "a senior American diplomat" with the view of "Venezuelan ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez." "SAD" says that the administration's blaming of Chavez for the violence was a logical conclusion from the apparently limited information the administration had access to. Alvarez maintains that the documents show that the administration "was not operating in an information vacuum."
Which is it? The documents indicate Alvarez is correct. Read through them yourself. What's the point of access to the documents if you're still going to play he-said/she-said?
Forero can inflate a document to "documents" and quote the only sentence to back up a claim that the U.S. gave "repeated warnings;" yet he's unable to determine from the documents whether or not the U.S. was "operating in an information vacuum?" (Hint, no, the administration was not "operating in a vacuum.")
From the same documents, Peter Kornbluh ("analyst at the National Security Archive") was able to report on Democracy Now! that:
They tell us more or less exactly what Eva has just stated, that the U.S. Intelligence community, it's not actually clear whether it was the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency or other members of the Pentagon, had contacts with civilian and military sectors in Caracas and were getting a steady stream of reports on planning for this coup. We know that from the documents. We also know from the documents as Eva pointed out, that this information was, you know, not stopped at some low-level, mid-level desk in the state department or in the CIA, but actually distributed through a very interesting committee called the strategic warning committee headed by the CIA to almost, to the very highest levels of the U.S. government.
Forero agrees that the SEIBs were widely distributed (both NY Times and Democracy Now! note that the SEIB would be distributed to 200 people in the Bush administration). The documents demonstrate that there was plenty of specific information, the SEIBs (which account for six of the seven documents) were widely distributed within the administration and Forero can't make a call on whether or not the admistration was "operating in a vacuum?"
This is an issue because of statements made by the administration after the coup when they expressed surprise, denied advance knowledge and quickly moved to align themselves with the Carmona regime. Here's a report from April 21, 2002:
The Bush administration has tried to distance itself from the coup. It immediately endorsed the new government under businessman Pedro Carmona. But the coup was sent dramatically into reverse after 48 hours.
Now officials at the Organisation of American States and other diplomatic sources, talking to The Observer, assert that the US administration was not only aware the coup was about to take place, but had sanctioned it, presuming it to be destined for success.
The visits by Venezuelans plotting a coup, including Carmona himself, began, say sources, 'several months ago', and continued until weeks before the putsch last weekend. The visitors were received at the White House by the man President George Bush tasked to be his key policy-maker for Latin America, Otto Reich.
("Venezuela coup linked to Bush team" by Ed Vulliamy
That's why this story is an issue.
Forero informs Times readers that:
With Brazil, Argentina and much of Latin America condemning the coup, and angry Chavez supporters streaming into the streets of Caracas, the Carmona government collapsed.
That's a superficial summary of the April 17th SEIB.
That SEIB states that Brazil is against a "U.S.-backed initiative to send an OAS democracy mission to Venezuela;" and that Brazil's been wary of U.S. involvement in the region for some time ("long has been suspicious"); and that Brazil opposes "outside interference in internal political affairs." The April 17th SEIB goes on to state that Argentina and Guatemala also oppose an OAS mission. (There are potential unnamed supporters. Read the document yourself to see if any of the countries that come after that statement should be read as examples of unnamed supporters or whether the writer of the document is just moving on to another topic.)
Summarizing that document, Forero isn't just glossing over Brazil being "suspicious" or leaving out the objections to an OAS mission, he's also not informing the reader that (we're still on the April 17th SEIB) "Latin governments voted overwhelmingly to invoke the OAS Democratic charter and levy economic sanctions against the Carmona government." Could that be part of the reason that, as Forero writes, "the Carmona government collapsed?" Possibly. Latin neighbors were more than just on the record as being against the coup.
The CIA Spot Commentary on April 14th, states that within Venezuela, it wasn't just Chavez supporters that were against the Carmona government: support for Carmona "unraveled quickly yesterday as political parites, labor unions, and the military sensed he was moving too quickly and without their consultation." Little things like "[d]isbanding Congress and scrapping the constitution" apparently caused doubt even among Carmona supporters.
Times readers aren't informed of that.
By the Friday this made the Times, the paper was four days behind Democracy Now! and yet the reporting printed is superficial.
Readers haven't even been informed that after being under house arrest, after moving on to Columbia, Pedro Carmona "now resides in Miami"
(http://www.chavezthefilm.com/html/backgrd/coup.htm; scroll down to "Sunday Afternoon from El Universal -- Mexico City") . That would be Miami, Florida.
With journalists being denied entry to the United States, were no flags raised over the arrival of Pedro Carmona? For journalists, entering the country to interview Olivia Newton-John is apparently now a suspect activity (perhaps John Ashcroft's never been mellow?). But someone known to have participated in an attempted coup, one we maintain we didn't support, is allowed to enter and reside in this country? What might the Times be able to tell readers about that interesting turn of events?
The Times loves local angles as an entry into a story. How did they miss that local angle?
To many e-mailers, the whole thing reminds them of how the Times ignored the documents Naomi Klein unearthed on the Iraqi debt forgiveness story and the conflict of appearence issue for James Baker III. The paper never referred to them -- even though both The Guardian & The Nation posted the documents online. But still silence from the Times?
Naomi Klein writing in The Guardian:
The New York Times has not printed a word about Baker's conflict, despite the fact that when Baker was first appointed envoy, it called on him to resign from Carlyle in order to "perform honourably in his new public job". The Kerry campaign has been equally silent, apparently for fear that any criticism would boomerang onto the Democrats because of [Madeline] Albright. This was Carlyle's stroke of genius: when Baker was appointed, the consortium recruited Albright to front the deal; when they got caught, Carlyle denied all involvement and left a prominent Democrat holding the bag. As the story disappeared under Carlyle's spell, it was as if the entire US media had been implanted with Manchurian memory chips. Here was hard evidence that the Carlyle Group - the "ex-presidents' club", run like a secret society - had participated in a scheme to use Baker to undermine US policy, possibly in violation of conflict-of-interest regulations, including criminal statutes. Yet Carlyle was slipping out of reach once again.
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1341239,00.html, "The Manchurian Cover-Up.")
[Naomi Klein's story in The Nation -- as well as links to the posted memos -- can be found at http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20041101&s=klein&c=1; Amy Goodman interviewed Klein for Democracy Now! on this topic, October 13th -- video, audio and rush transcript can be found at http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/10/13/144220&mode=thread&tid=25 .]
Why the silence on James Baker from the Times? As Marci notes, the paper must find him newsworthy -- they just ran a guest op-ed by him Thursday. ("Talking Our Way to Peace"
SAFIRE WANTS OUT, THE TIMES WANTS A PHOTOSTAT COPY OF SAFIRE, WHY IS THAT?
Media Matters has been following the story on William Safire's impending departure from the op-ed (opinion-editorial, for those who asked) pages of the New York Times. They link to an article from New York magazine (by Kate Pickert) that apparently has kicked off the discussion regarding whom should replace Safire (http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/news/people/columns/intelligencer/10567/index2.html). (Media Matters' web site is http://mediamatters.org/ and their postings on this topic include
http://mediamatters.org/items/200411290010, http://mediamatters.org/items/200412030002 and http://mediamatters.org/items/200412030008.)
Media Matters has done a great job outlining problems with possible replacements such as Christopher Caldwell, Robert Kagan, David Frum, Fred Barnes, the Times' own John Tierney,
Charles Krauthammer and Richard Brookhiser. For information on why these choices are questionable please refer to links above and continue to visit Media Matters because this is a story they'll continue to cover.
But they're covering the media and covering the printed speculation. I want us to step back a moment. We're talking about the op-ed pages, so let's hear from a voice on the op-ed pages.
Maureen Dowd on Brian Williams replacing Tom Brokaw in "It's Still a Man's World on the Idiot Box" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/02/opinion/02dowd.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fOp%2dEd%2fColumnists) :
"I honestly thought, eight or nine years ago, that when we left," Mr. Brokaw said, referring to himself, Peter [Jennings] and Dan Rather, "that it would be the end of white male anchor time."
Nah. Those guys are hard to kill off. Indeed, white men are ascendant in Red State America.
As my mom said, discussing her belief that Martha Stewart had been railroaded by jealous men, "If men could figure out how to have babies, they'd get rid of us altogether."
The networks don't even give lip service to looking for women and blacks for anchor jobs - they just put pretty-boy clones in the pipeline.
Apparently "those guys are hard to kill off" on the op-ed pages of the New York Times as well.
Why aren't any women mentioned? Why aren't any people of color mentioned?
Maureen Dowd replaced Anna Quindlen. Is there room for only one woman as a regular columnist on the paper's op-ed pages? Is African-American Bob Herbert the only "dash of color" the Times feels the need to offer?
Am I hallucinating or didn't the Times use front page space, editorial space and op-ed space to argue that the Augusta National Golf Club should be opened to all? Am I remembering wrongly, or didn't the Times editorialize on whether Tiger Woods should participate in the Masters?
The New York Times suggested in an editorial Monday that Tiger Woods skip the Masters next year because of the all-male membership at Augusta National Golf Club.
"A tournament without Mr. Woods would send a powerful message that discrimination isn't good for the golfing business," the editorial said.
What was all that about? I kind of thought it was about the need to be inclusive. Was it all just to get one female golfer into a tournament? I don't think Martha Burk was arguing that it began and ended with one female golfer being admitted to Augusta.
But here we are, over thirty years after Safire began as a columnist for the Times, debating his replacement and we're only being offered white males. From the New York magazine article:
“I’ve gotten much advice from people who aren’t columnists about who would be good,” says editorial-page editor Gail Collins.
Has she? Has she really? Maybe she has. If so, it's not reflected in New York magazine. But if Collins has received "much advice" has no one raised the issue that women and people of color are people too?
Is this news to the Times?
Let's give credit to Collins for bringing two white women and one African-American male onto the op-ed pages during Maureen Dowd's vacation this year. Judging strictly by their rankings on the Times' most e-mailed countdown, Barbara Ehrenreich was the most popular of the three. Not only that, she rivaled the regular op-ed columnists.
But her name isn't being mentioned? One would think when a guest op-ed writer regularly cracks the top ten of the most e-mailed pieces in that day's paper, someone would say, "Hey, too bad we don't have a permanent slot we can offer her?" Or that when Safire's departure is known, Ehrenreich's name doesn't pop into anyone's head.
Ehrenreich may not want to be a regular columnist for the Times. She already writes a regular column for The Progressive (http://www.progressive.org/). And, in fact, Matthew Rothschild noted during this period that her column was absent due to her subbing for Dowd in the Times.
Ehrenreich worked hard and she might not even want the job.
That's not the point in mentioning her. The point is, did anyone consider her? She proved she could do that job, she was popular with readers and here's an opening so why isn't her name
Or the name of anyone who's not WHITE or MALE. And let's note too the age factor in the nominees. So more op-eds from the Times written by people basically in their forties? Guess there's no real concern over reaching out to younger readers?
It's really interesting the way this is unfolding. And that's not a criticism of Media Matters. They are dealing with the possibilities being mentioned. They cover the way the press reports things. But I want to move away from that to ask why are the nominees so non-inclusive? Why are they all basically the same race, the same generation, the same gender? Or for that matter, presumably the same sexuality?
What do these GUYS offer the Times?
Apparently that they'll churn out columns similar to what Safire wrote.
But Sally e-mails that she was told David Brooks was brought on as Safire's replacement. "They knew Safire would be stepping down in the near future and they wanted to grab someone who could write well then and not hustle once Safire made his departure official."
If Sally's correct, then why the hustle now? Only a sense of panic could lead to these names being tossed around. Serious thinking would result in asking questions. Not just of where are the people of color, where are the women, etc. But also a really basic question of why does the person replacing Safire HAVE TO BE A CONSERVATIVE.
Joe e-mails that his understanding was David Brooks came in to fill Bill Keller's spot (when Keller got promoted to executive editor of the paper). Good point. When Keller left the op-ed pages, there was no need to replace him with a fellow moderate. Now Safire's leaving and we're under some impression that only a conservative can replace him?
How did that happen?
Don't offer up "balance" because balance goes beyond ideology. Balance includes perspective and people from different ages, different genders, different races, different everything -- all of which can bring a different perspective to the op-ed pages.
The Times is supposedly a "leftist" paper. You hear that Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof and Bob Herbert are all of the "left."
Maureen Dowd is a professional contrarian. It doesn't matter who's in office, the role she's assigned herself is to debunk the hoopla surrounding them. (Which is why many on the right loved her columns in the nineties when Clinton was in office. And why they hate her columns now that Bush is in office.) At her best, she brings a critical eye to bear on "conventional wisdom" and puts it into a pop-culture brew that's easily understood.
Thomas Friedman? He may claim the left (or he may not) but does the left claim him? The last word on the wonders of outsourcing, a war cheerleader (though he's had reservations since he returned from his vacation) and he's somehow speaking for the left?
Bob Herbert? Here is the perfect example of where someone can bring a different perspective.
Minority issues (not just regarding African-Americans) are regularly dealt with in Herbert's op-eds. There are times when he's the only columnist addressing them. Herbert's interest is in what's not being covered -- whether it has to do with a race or not. He's the one holding the flashlight, shining it under the bed and asking, "Who slid that there?"
Nicholas Kristof. What we can say about Nicky K that he couldn't say himself at much greater length? Kristof has an eye for international issues. It would be nice if he was aware
that just because he makes one of his "feminists have ignored this problem!" statements doesn't make it true.
After detailing a large number of feminist organizations (and female desks and chairs at other ogranizations) alerting her to global issues, Katha Pollitt writes in The Nation (http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040301&s=pollitt):
I'm reminded of these good people because the New York Times's Nicholas Kristof is once again accusing American feminists of ignoring Third World women and girls. Last spring, he discovered obstetric fistula in Africa--the tear between the birth canal and the lower intestine that can happen during protracted labor and that, unless corrected, condemns a woman to a lifetime of physical misery and social ostracism. Kristof profiled Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia and wondered why "most feminist organizations in the West have never shown interest in these women." Perhaps, he wrote, "the issue doesn't galvanize women's groups because fistulas relate to a traditional child-bearing role." Right, we all know that feminists only care about aborting babies, not delivering them safely. The Times got a lot of letters (and published some, including one from me) pointing out that feminists, in fact, were behind numerous efforts to combat fistula and other maternity-related health problems in Africa, including the work of the UNFPA, praised by Kristof, whose funding was eliminated by the White House to please its right-wing Christian base.
You'd think he'd learn. But no. Now Kristof is complaining that American women's groups such as NOW and Feminist Majority don't care about sexual slavery and the trafficking of women and children for commercial sex. In a series of columns, he describes his efforts to "buy the freedom" of two Cambodian teenage prostitutes living in a sleazy brothel in Poipet and to get them home to their families. Evangelical Christians, he argues, care about girls like these; feminists are too busy "saving Title IX and electing more women to the Senate," he observed in a Times online forum. Right, why should American women care about equal opportunities and electing to office people who think contraception is as important as Viagra? Never mind that putting more feminists in the Senate--not more "women"--would mean more help for the very causes Kristof supports!
Pollitt's right (and the column's worth reading so, please, check it out). Kristof is our voice from the "left?"
Paul Krugman has done a wonderful job detailing problems with our current administration and he is left or left-leaning (as he himself admits). But Krugman's also made comments indicating that when he returns from his vacation, he'll be focusing on economic policy.
Where's that vast left wing of the Times? The one that poor Davey Brooks can't take on with just his column and, therefore, needs a Safire substitute to stand by his side?
I'm not seeing it and, judging from your e-mails, you aren't either.
"Maureen Dowd has never written about abortion!" exclaims Maggie. "If Dowd self-identifies 'feminist' more power to her but I haven't seen anything in her writing to suggest that she's a feminist."
"Anna [Quindlen] addressed abortion, pregnancy, wage discrimination based on gender and other issues that apply to my life," offers Abhilasha. "Dowd's slamming Judy Dean for the way she dresses or taking a 'so what, that's the way it is' attitude to the backlash. If I ever met her, I'd tell her she writes like a man and, sadly, she'd probably be flattered."
I don't know whether Dowd would be flattered or not. I do know that with the absence of a feminist voice (and feminist jabs via Nicky K), a spotlight's shined on Dowd since she's the op-ed pages' only female columnist. She can represent her gender or her not, it's her choice. But feminists aren't represented in a regular column.
Shouldn't that be an issue? As opposed to chasing after some middle-aged, white, male conservative, shouldn't the Times be asking itself what's missing from the op-ed pages?
A feminist voice is missing. How about a column dealing with working class issues? Papers used to have reporters assigned to the "labor beat" but these days the business section usually focuses on investors, managers, CEOs, etc. Could the paper use someone who would devote columns to labor issues?
The Times is obsessed with the "red" states myth. (See earlier blogs on this post. Or, for that matter, Bob Somerby's The Daily Howler at www.dailyhowler.com) And with "values."
Maybe it's time to find a columnist who could provide a spiritual perspective in each column? (That's not to suggest that any of the columnists at the Times lack spirituality, just that their "beat" isn't spirituality.)
Readers of this blog are familiar with Robert Kagan (one of the names offered to replace Safire). So the Times is comfortable considering a man whose wife (Victoria Nuland) works for the administration? That's interesting. Some readers suggest that Elisabeth Bumiller's "White House Letter" already provides "a pipeline" for the administration.
With Abu Ghraib, a war waging and a host of other issues, might it not be time for the paper
to provide a columnist who knows Constitutional law?
During the boom-boom-stock-market-nineties, Krugman was hired to offer an economic view. Perhaps in this decade we need someone writing on civil liberties? David Cole? Nancy Chang?
The New York Times isn't Charlie's Angels. By that I mean, there's no need to search for a blond with a great deal of teeth to replace Farrah Fawcett. The Times shouldn't be looking for someone who's like Safire. They already have David Brooks to represent the conservative viewpoint.
Yet they seem to think that they just need some man with the same positions as Safire, with the same race as Safire and just a few decades younger -- then suddenly we'll all be rushing out to buy Davey Frum's bikini poster and saying, "I like that his hair is similar to Safire but without the feathering!"
On this basis a decision will be made?
Who's making the decision? I doubt it's Collins. Gail Collins will have a say. She will make recommendations. But I doubt the decision will be made by her. (I could be wrong.)
Who is Gail Collins?
She's one of "50 Women Who Made a Difference" according to Ms. magazine's Winter 2003/2004 issue. Fifth listed of fifty, in fact.
On page 54, we learn that she went from political columnist (regional, not national, she focused on New York) on the pages of the Times to "the editorial page's first female editor."
She's "committed to truth and substance." (Please no e-mails on that, I'm quoting Ms.) She's written books including America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines -- a book that "includes the feminist insights -- and minority women -- that most text books leave out." And what of what is left off the Times' op-ed pages?
The blurb on Collins ends with this note: "In her work at the Times, Collins continues to bring her extraordinary sensibilities to an important page."
Let's hope so. Let's hope the names being offered by the press don't represent a comprehensive list. Let's hope that Collins, at least, is arguing the points raised here -- asking how offering yet another conservative voice to the op-ed pages is needed for the paper or for the nation?
David Brock (of Media Matters) notes inThe Republican Noise Machine (p. 139):
Of the top ten columnists, carried in papers with a combined circulation of over ten million, six were conservatives, three were liberals, and one was a centrist. The top two columnists, James Dobson of the right-wing group Focus on the Family, and Cal Thomas, a former official of the Moral Majority, present Christian Right views in more than five hundred newspapers each, while the Christian Left has virtually no voice in American media. Robert Novak and George Will came next, followed by Ellen Goodman, the sole liberal in the top five.
Do we really need another William Safire? Is that sort of "insight" missing from the national discussion? Is Brooks unable to hold his own next to Krugman and, possibly, Herbert?
That's what the list being bandied about suggests. And if the Times want to try arguing that they hire the 'best person' for the job, then why isn't that reflected with the list?
Why is it okay to challenge sexism, racial discrimination and other social ills that damage our country's very fabric on the editorial pages but, when selecting the person to replace Safire, we're focused on a group of middle-aged, white, apparently straight males who all share similar views to Safire?
I believe Collins will make recommendations. I hope she will make wise ones. Otherwise, what's the point of being a "first" ("the editorial page's first female editor")?
Collins will be criticized for whomever gets selected. That comes with job and I won't shed tears for her. But I would hope that she'd argue for someone who could bring a voice that's not heard on the Times op-ed pages currently.
I'd hope that, knowing she'll be criticized regardless, she'd advocate someone who wouldn't have been suggested by the many males who preceeded her. Otherwise, what's so great about being the "first?" If you're going to do same things the same way they were done before you, what's the point? Invent a computer program already, one based on past decisions, to do the task because, otherwise, you're not making a difference.
And all the books she might write about voices lost to/in history don't help a great deal with giving voice to those living persons who are not heard currently.
Collins can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I'd also suggest you e-mail Arthur Sulzberger Jr. since, as publisher, he will probably be the deciding factor on this decision. Sulzberger can be contacted at email@example.com.
The New York Times Loves to Cover Steroid Abuse
Robert Pear does write on Tommy Thompson departure as Secretary of Health & Human Services. In "U.S. Health Chief, Stepping Down, Issues Warning," Pear notes that Thompson is worried about a "global flu epidemic." Seems if someone was very worried, they'd want to maintain a position that has some impact on health. (Though there seems to be some frustration in Thompson's statements and he may feel he's done all he can do.) Maybe Thompson feels he can do that in the private sector? That's not a slam over the monies he can easily now make; however, this revolving door issue does need to be dealt with. It's not just this administration and it's not just the executive branch. We see too many people trading elected or appointed office to turn around and become lobbyists.
As the system currently exists, Thompson can grab all the money that's going to be thrown at him. (That doesn't mean he should.) He offers the standard spend-more-time-with-my-family excuse. (Maybe someone could note all the people saying this and then check back in a year or two to find out how many kept that stated intent?) Thompson mentions possibly running for public office in the future, for governor or senator. I'm not sure how either would provide him with more time for his family (espcially since 2006 is a potential target date) but if he does do so, at least it's one less official trading on their former post to enrich their own pockets.
Here are some issues Thompson raised:
* "the threat of a human flu pandemic caused by mutations in a strain of avian influenza virus"
* "threats to the food supply"
* That "he wished Congress has given him the power to negotiate with drug manufacturers to secure lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries."
Searching for the web link to the story (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/04/politics/04health.html?oref=login), I see that Robert Pear has filed another story that will presumably appear in tomorrow's Times. I'll read it then but for anyone who can't wait (or wants a head start on Sunday's Times) it's entitled "Experts Fear Medicare Won't Work For Nursing Home Patients" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/05/health/05nursing.html?hp&ex=1102222800&en=1db401a693f76ceb&ei=5094&partner=homepage).
Robert F. Worth and Richard A. Oppel, Jr. provide an article worth reading (and worthy of the front page) with "27 Civilians Die in New Attacks By Iraq Rebels" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/04/international/middleeast/04iraq.html). Steven Lee Myers covers "Ukranian Court Orders New Vote For Presidency." This is an important issue and one of the reasons to read the New York Times is that it provides strong international coverage. It may not always get the story right, but it does have an interest in the world. But this election coverage begs the question of whether or not the Times will cover the rally in Columbus, Ohio today?
Or whether they'll cover the upcoming hearings of the House Judiciary Democrats? Miss that story in the Times? It didn't run yet.
You can read about it on The Brad Blog (http://www.bradblog.com/archives/00001018.htm):
As reported exclusively last night on The BRAD BLOG, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Democrats have minutes ago officially issued a press release announcing public hearings will be held on the Hill next week in regards to Voting Irregularities in Ohio.Witness to testify (detailed below) include the three names mentioned in our report last evening, along with many other notable players in this saga.The full text of the "Press Advisory" is at the bottom of this item.As well, The BRAD BLOG can further report that Judiciary Committee staffers are working on additional investigation concerning matters in Ohio and other states. Details will be forthcoming, including additional supplemental material added to the thorough 15-page letter sent yesterday to Ohio Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell requesting explanations for the many troubling reports of voting irregularities and tabulation in the Buckeye State. (See this previous BRAD BLOG article for detailed excerpts of that original letter.)
The Ukrainian story has been covered (and should be). It's a story. Covering Ohio doesn't mean that the Times has to take the position that there was voter fraud. But there are things happening that are news. Rallies, grass roots action, third party candidates involved, John Kerry involved, etc. I will applaud the Times for devoting attention to the Ukraine, but I do wonder where that seem thirst for news is when it comes to Ohio?
"Dollar's Fall Texts Nerve of Asia's Central Bankers" by James Brooke and Keith Bradsher (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/04/business/worldbusiness/04banker.html) is worth reading. Though regional, John M. Broder's "California Diocese Settles Abuse Cases; Record Sum Is Seen" is possibly worthy of the front page. But yet another story on steroid abuse in sports? "Newest Reports Place Bonds Back at Center of Steroid Case" by Lee Jenkins doesn't add a great deal to the story. (Allegations are front page news here, just not in Ohio.)
And is it front page news? "Newest Report Place Love Back at Center of Drug Case" wouldn't be front page news either. The "news" that Courtney Love might or might not do drugs would hardly be worthy of a front page, so why is this allegation based story?
I've gotten ten e-mails complaining about this story and everyone's asking the same thing -- why is this on the front page?
Leigh points out that when Howell Raines ran "the Britney Spears story on the front page of the Sunday Times, people howled. What's the difference?"
There is none in terms of news. There apparently is in terms of attitude. We saw Daniel Okrent criticize the Times for their coverage of Tony nominations earlier this year. He's never written a word about sports on the front page. Why? Apparently "sports" is manly. Manly belongs on the front page.
Entertainment = soft. Sports = news.
The Times is fooling themselves if they think large numbers of people subscribe for their sports coverage. That's not meant to insult their editors or their writers. They do a pretty good job of covering sports, on the sport's pages. But the e-mails I get, and the reason I subscribe to the Times, aren't suggesting anyone made the choice to read the Times because of their sport's coverage. I'm sure some exist, law of averages. But that's not the primary reason for most people to pick up the paper. (Or the secondary reason.)
Yet when sports makes the front page (even with an allegation based story) no one at the Times appears to scratch their heads. (Leigh suggests they're scratching other things.) Sports isn't news, it's entertainment. And allegations of Bonds using steroids belongs on the front page about as often as allegations of a rock star using drugs. It's a story (and some of you agreed it's an issue) but it doesn't belong on the front page.
Did you know that there were "Some Officials Seeking Shift From Pensions?" Mary Williams Walsh writes about that on page B1. Or that "Far Fewer Jobs Were Added In November Than Forecast?" Edmund L. Andrews informs of us this, also on B1. Possibly the front page story on the dollar's drop jangling the nerves of bankers was seen as "just a business story" and, therefore, the other two weren't seen as worthy. The front page story is dealing with international impacting on domestic, the two stories cited earlier in the paragraph are domestic stories. One would hope that the inclusion of one truly news story with a business backing didn't preclude two other worthy real news stories (that effect readers lives) from front page consideration.
Speculation stories on Bernard B. Kerik run on A13: "Big Changes Seen in Choice for Homeland Security" by Eric Lichtblau & Richard W. Stevenson and "Kerik's Move to Washington Could Benefit, and Test, Giuliani's Consulting Firm" by Eric Lipton. But speculation about a baseball player is front page news on the same edition of the Times? Maybe the e-mailers and I have lost a sense of perspective? Or maybe the Times has?
But here are two more stories you didn't see on the front page:
On A6, the Times runs Clifford Krauss' "Bush Visit Leaves Canada's Leader With Missile Defense Dilemma" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/04/international/americas/04canada.html).
On A8, the Times runs Eric Schmitt's "Abuse Inquiry Says Officials Exercised Little Oversight"
But allegations about Barry Bonds are front page news?
"A Pentagon investigation of interrogation techniques at military detention centers in Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq, concludes that senior defense officials excercised little or no oversight of interrogation policies outside of Guantanamo Bay, leaving field commanders to develop some practices that were unauthorized, according to a draft summary of the classified report."
That's the opening paragraph of Schmitt's story. But it's not "news" enough for the front page?
Allegations about Barry Bonds are news? Okay.
Moving on. Marty Kaplin had a great opening (and a good show thus far including an interview with Barbara Boxer) that I'll attempt to put on this blog at some point. (It addresses Ohio and the media.) A lot of you were happy to read Lizz Winstead's "tribute" to Tom Ridge and/or the excerpt of the interview Rachel Maddow & Winstead conducted with Senator Barbara Boxer.
I enjoy Unfiltered. Mentioning that radio show or The Laura Flanders Show or Marty Kaplin's So What Else Is News? or anything else is an attempt to make sure we all know the various resources that are out there. A number of you picked up Clamor magazine and three of you said you found it very informative. It's important that we know what resources are out there and The Common Ills should attempt to highlight those resources.
If something's not for you, that's fine. But there are many voices out there, many sources. With the mainstream media obsessed with Kobe-Michael-Lacy, et al, there are places where you can find information. Ms. Musing was added as a link on this page and some of you have e-mailed to say how much you enjoy that blog. Other links will be added. It's partly a matter of finding the time and also an attempt to make sure that they're added slowly so that you can sample and get to know the site, if you're interested.
I'm working on the DNC head entry and hopefully will have it up by Sunday. In addition, Juan
Forero's reporting of prior knowledge of the attempted coup in Venezuela will be contrasted with an independent media account of the same story. And a number of you are forwarding Media Matters' (http://mediamatters.org/) story on the potential replacement for William Safire as NY Times op-ed columnist (http://mediamatters.org/items/200411290010 primarily). While the op-eds is something this site attempts to avoid dwelling on a great deal, I actually think we should weigh in because there's a point that's not yet been addressed. (That's not a slam at Media Matters. They're reporting on what's happening. That's what Media Matters does and they do that very well. Our comments will be on what's not happening.) If you've got a comment on any of the above (or anything else) the e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above (with the exception of DNC head) will be up tonight. However, warning, "tonight" ends for me when I finally go to sleep. If it ends up being an all nighter (and I've got several errands to warn and a group of people coming over tonight so that's very possible), my concept of "tonight" translates as "before I finally go to bed."
Lastly, I want to provide a link to a story http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20041204/wl_mideast_afp/us_iraq_abuse_041204194108 which is about prison abuse in Iraq.
The US military is investigating photographs of apparent Iraqi prisoner abuse snapped earlier than those showing abuse by US troops of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison which sparked a major scandal, the Navy confirmed.
The 40-some images are of smiling Navy Seals with shackled prisoners, some with their heads in bags, reminiscent of some of the photos from the Abu Ghraib case. In others an automatic weapon appears pointed at the heads of inmates.
For more information, click on the link above. (I'd credit the author but there's no author given for this AFP wire story.)
Friday, December 03, 2004
Senator Barbara Boxer speaking on the intelligence reform bill on Unfiltered
Boxer: I would just put it to you this way because I don't like to accuse unless I know for sure.
Boxer: But if you look at all the clues, one would think that this president if he truly wanted this bill could get it. I mean he announced he had political capital. He announced he was going to use it. He owns the Congress, you know, and there are the votes there. The votes are there for the bill. And Denny Hastert the Speaker, Republican, has done something no other Speaker, honestly, I've ever known did. Which is to stop this important necessary bill because he wants more Republican votes. When you count votes in the House, you stop at 218. If you've got 218 go. This is really important, the intelligence community has to start talking to each other. They have to change the way they do this. They've had fifteen agencies that never talk to each other and that's the reason the 9-11 Commission said we didn't get the clues before 9-11. So I just think there's a dance going on here. I raised the issue on CNN where I was on there with Pat Roberts, Republican Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, that it seems amazing to me that this thing would come to a halt and I challenge the president to just show us what he's got. I mean, he, it can't be possible that he can't get Hastert to call a vote, that's all it would take.
Maddow: Now when you were on CNN with Senator Roberts, one of the things that he said is that he doesn't really buy the argument that's been advanced by [Republican House member] Duncan Hunter that there's something wrong with the intelligence proposal, that it would somehow hurt the military chain of command, and endanger our troops. What, I mean, if Senator Roberts doesn't buy that and I know that you don't buy that, is that argument actually carrying any weight in this dispute?
Boxer: Well 92 Senators didn't buy it from both parties. The fact is that Duncan says that there will be confusion on the battlefield and the information may not get to our troops. Well that is just insane. There is nothing in this bill, and I could go through it, I don't know if it would interest you or not, but essentially two defense department agencies, one that deals with, it's called the National Geospacial intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency they are the combat support agencies and they don't see a problem here. They have said that nothing in this bill changes what they have to do to support the war fighter.
Boxer: And Senator [Susan] Collins, who as you know is Senator [Joe] Lieberman's partner in this, she is a Republican and he is a Democrat. They've written this bill. She says, and I am quoting her, she's a Republican, Representative Hunter's argument "is utterly without merit."
[. . . .]
Maddow: Senator, if that's not the issue, if it's not the substance of the bill that is objectionable to Republicans, if that argument isn't standing up, and it really sounds like it's not, even if Representative Hunter honestly holds that belief . . .
Maddow: It sounds like that's not a strong enough argument to stop this thing dead in its tracks. And you can count votes as well anybody, I mean, you're a parliamentarian of great esteem, I mean what is Hastert thinking? What is, what could Dennis Hastert be thinking that he doesn't want to pass this because it didn't have enough Republican votes? Doesn't a majority just count as a majority no matter who voted for it?
Boxer: Well exactly. As I say, when I was in the House, the Democrats controlled it. When we got to 218, we didn't care who got us there.
Boxer: If it was important for the country, we did it. So this is the first time I've seen a Speaker be so blatantly partisan as this and I would hope the American people, but one can only hope, would notice this: For all the talk about reaching across the aisle, we have a bill here that has done that, has brought us together, as a Congress and now it's being held up. Now I think the real reason behind this, you can get to it if you go back to Rumsfeld. He was never happy with this because it does take away his budget authority.
[. . .]
Boxer: What I see happening is an attack on minority rights. And the fact is when our Founders wrote the rules they made sure that there was a strong minority voice particularly, you know, in the United States Senate and it's just a disastorous thing. You know you hear the president, he won by three million votes and he says he has a mandate. Well John Kerry got 57 million the last I looked, Bush got 60. I mean, I won by almost three million votes, I won by 2.7 million votes just in my state. I don't run around saying I have a mandate. What I do say is, "I want to get things done for the people." And I'll do it anyway I have to do it meaning crossing across party lines or fighting the other side if it's a matter of principal.
[. . .]
Boxer: There's a dance that goes on in Washington when people want to kill things but they don't want their finger prints on it. And it's hard to discern when that's happening. But let me just say this, if we're not called back into session, the United States Senate, next week to vote on this, this is a deliberate deal going on. Because there's no one could convince me that if the president wanted this he couldn't get it.
That was a sample. The interview is much longer and doesn't end where I chose to end it. This is to give you a taste. (And Lizz does speak in the interview. I just highlighted this part because I'd already quoted from Lizz's "tribute" to Tom Ridge earlier this week.)
The House has to pass this Monday or Tuesday of next week when they are in session. Otherwise, in January, it will mean starting all over from scratch. (Which is a summary of Rachel Maddow's remarks.)
You can find the text of the bill here http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2004/09/s2845.html. Some amendments can be found here http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2000_cr/s100200a.html. If you'd like to contact your House members (Senate has already voted, 96 in favor with 2 opposed; but if you think your Senator or Senators might be able to prod House members, contact them as well) you can search them by name or you can use http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/ to contact them.
To hear the segments from the show (as well as the rest, it was a really strong show today) for yourself (Senator Boxer is in the last hour), go to http://airamericaplace.com/ and click on archives. Then select Unfiltered, then select December 2, 2004.
HEADS UP ONLINE LISTENERS, OHIO ELECTIONS FORUM WILL BE BROADCAST BY PACIFICA
Just like this train
-- "Just Like This Train" words & music by Joni Mitchell
Finally checking e-mail other than site e-mail. I think this is alert will be important to a lot of people so I'm pasting it in full:
Pacifica to Webcast Ohio Elections Forum On Saturday December 4 Pacifica Radio will Webcast a community forum from Columbus, Ohio focusing on gross irregularities and improprieties which occurred in that state during the November 2 presidential election. Featured speakers include Rev. Jesse Jackson, journalist Greg Palast, Ohio elected officials and attorneys who have filed suit charging voter fraud in Ohio. The Internet broadcast will be from 6--9 pm (Eastern time) and will be streamed on Pacifica's Internet station at www.wbai.org/tuner/html
Dan Coughlin, Pacifica's Executive Director
So from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm Saturday, Pacifica will be broadcasting the Ohio Elections Forum via the web at www.wbai.org/tuner/html and Jesse Jackson & Greg Palast will be two among many featured speakers.
JOE TRIPPI & BARBARA BOXER ON UNFILTERED; OHIO & UN DEBATE ON DEMOCRACY NOW!
- Claudia Rosett, journalist-in-Residence at The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
- Joy Gordon, professor of philosophy at Fairfield University. She is currently working on a book on the Iraq sanctions to be published by Harvard University Press.
I'll also add that Joy Gordon's article for The Nation on this subject can be found here http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20041206&s=gordon and also here http://www.alternet.org/story/20642/ . The comments coming into this site regarding Judith Miller's UN "coverage" indicates there's interest in this topic so if you're interested in the topic, please check out the debate from Democracy Now! (there's no fee or membership needed to watch, listen or read at Democracy Now!).
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NEW YORK TIMES FINDS THE OHIO VOTING STORY!
It has been an arduous path to power, pockmarked by constant reversals of fortune, for a man who was instrumental in selling the White House on a costly war here. Mr. Chalabi fell from favor during the occupation and has since been castigated by the Americans and the interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, his longtime archrival. They have accused him of spying for Iran, trading in counterfeit currency and overzealously purging the interim government of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, leading to profound feelings of disenfranchisement among the Sunni Arab minority and fueling the insurgency. More broadly, his critics say that Mr. Chalabi, a former mathematics professor, remains a slippery charlatan, unabashedly throwing off his secular persona when it became inconvenient and packaging himself in a tidy new wrapping of Shiite nationalism and fundamentalism. Mr. Chalabi's father, Abdul Hadi Chalabi, once one of the wealthiest men in the country, had close ties to the clerics of Najaf and served as president of the Senate under the monarchy that was overthrown in 1958. The younger Mr. Chalabi spent 45 years outside Iraq, mostly in
Carl jokes via e-mail that if read backward, the entire profile says, "Forgive me Judy, I still love you."
And on the subject of Judith Miller, as Janeane notes in an e-mail, she's back. Page A6 contains "Swiss Firm Suspected of Fraud Paid U.N. Chief's Son $50,000" which Janeane argues is yet another in the "Judy Bashes the UN series."
Also on A6 is Warren Hoge's "Diplomats at U.N. Surprised by Danforth's Resignation" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/03/international/03nations.html) which discusses John C. Danforth stepping down as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Note the last two paragraphs which may provide more insight into why Danforth stepped down then "conventional wisdom" or his desire to spend time with his wife (Sally Danforth):
. . . a nickname that paid tribute to his unassailable rectitude while also hinting at occasional annoyance over his bent for moralizing piety. At the United Nations, that translated into disarmingly frank comments about relief crises around the world and seldom, if ever, into political statements. In a speech last month in St. Louis, according to Reuters, Mr. Danforth said that as a former senator, he was not accustomed to having a policy statement vetted by State Department bureaucrats and transformed into "mush" before he could issue it. "It creates some practical problems," he said.
[Please note "At the United Nations . . . into political statements" is from the print version. This paragraph is missing online.]
From World Briefing on A16, we'll note this paragraph by Heather Timmons:
BRITAIN: ANTI-WAR LAWMAKER WINS LIBEL CASE George Galloway, a Labor member of Parliament who was expelled from the party last year after telling an Arab television interviewer that Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush attacked Iraq "like Wolves," won a libel suit against The Daily Telegraph, which accused him of receiving secret payments from Saddam Hussein and which dubbed him "Saddam's little helper." The allegations were "seriously defamatory, "High Court Justice David Eady ruled. He ordered the newspaper to pay Mr. Galloway $290,000.
The adminstration starts the rumbles for war on Social Security via comments to Edmund L. Andrews in "Bush Advisor Warns of Social Security Cuts" on page A17 (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/03/politics/03social.html):
Mr. Mankiw's remarks suggested that President Bush's plan to let people put some of their Social Security taxes into "personal savings accounts" would have to be accompanied by changes in the current system of benefits. Throughout the presidential campaign and in remarks after he was re-elected, Mr. Bush focused almost exclusively on these accounts as a crucial way to shore up Social Security. Most experts have said that the accounts must be accompanied by other belt-tightening measures. When asked about cuts in future benefits, Mr. Bush, however, has said only that any overhaul should make no changes in the benefits for people in retirement or near retirement. The president has said that overhauling the Social Security system would involve "costs," but so far he has not indicated what those might be.
Speaking of "costs" what about all that money going into abstinence only education? Brian Wingfield has a short article (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/03/politics/03abstinence.html) on page A16 entitled "Study Faults Abstinence Courses":
Some federally financed sex education programs that teach an abstinence-only approach have factual errors and are ineffective, a Congressional report says. [. . . .] The report, by the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee for Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of
Hopefully, this weekend there will be time to address "Both Parties Say Fund-Raising Was Big and Nearly Equal" by Glen Justice on page A15 (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/03/politics/03donate.html) but please check it out if you're wondering how the Democratic Party did on raising funds.
Juan Foreno's article on A12 is typical Foreno but has already resulted in e-mails to the site."Documents Show C.I.A. Knew of a Coup Plot in Venezueala" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/03/international/americas/03venezuela.html) will be dealt with in another entry.
Not much discussion of the front page, is there? No. Not really impressed with it. I mean the news that Senator Jon S. Corzine has announced he'll run for governor of New Jersey "next year" may excite some but I'm not sure it's front page news. Or a look at colleges and the companies that insure them passing for reporting on college suicide? Is it news? Jason Giambi and steroids are on the front page. Yawn. IBM's out of the home computer business. Blah, blah, blah. That's all it was to me.
I wasn't seeing a lot of important news on the front page, not real news.
There wasn't time to mention it yesterday but Senator Barbara Boxer was on Unfiltered with Lizz Winstead & Rachel Maddow yesterday and this was a really informative interview. I'll do a link to the archives later today (probably around midnight). This morning, Joe Trippi will be a guest on Unfiltered. So to everyone who's been e-mailing Trippi's op-ed this week, if you're able to, try to catch him on Air America Radio's Unfiltered today.
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Thursday, December 02, 2004
SHOULD THIS MARRIAGE BE SAVED?
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and choosers
Okay everybody, I've got a problem. Let me just walk you through it.
See, I'm married to Sandy.
I'm still not really sure how that happened.
A lot of people were saying that "Sandy needs saving." Or "Sandy really needs you." Some even suggested that if I didn't marry Sandy, something really awful could happen.
Well normally, I like to think I'm pretty objective. But everyone was saying, "Marry Sandy!"
I swear, I was so out of it, it seemed like people on TV were even telling me this -- talking through the tube to me! And, I'm sure I'm dreaming this part, after this wedding of . . . What's the word here? I don't know, but after, and this is the part I'm sure I must be dreaming, it was like people on TV were cheering me on. I swear I heard Katie Couric say, "You rock!" on The Today Show.
I'd blame it all on a LSD flashback if I'd dropped acid, you know?
So I feel like I went in with the best of intentions, maybe I'm wrong. I don't know why others were urging me on. Sometimes I think it was because they just wanted to see Sandy married, other times I wonder if they were just thinking about their own interests? Who knows, maybe they all just wanted to attend a big celebration they could yell and scream at? Or maybe they owned stock in some place we registered at?
But this marriage is coming up on an anniversary, our second. No need to send a gift. We need more than anyone could give! Seriously. The other day, I thought maybe things would be better or who knows, maybe I just thought things would calm down, if I got rid of the china, so I smashed every plate, every bowl, everything. All of it.
Seems like Sandy's even more upset now. Nothing I do is right. And I'm starting to say that to Sandy. Things like, "Sandy, you always . . ." Statements that I know better to make because they're counterproductive and, were we in couple's counseling, statements that are only causing further hurt.
I don't know what the deal is with Sandy. I thought Sandy wanted one thing, then I do it only to find out something else was wanted. I'm not making any headway, people.
In fact, more and more it seems like we only hurt each other. We're both bleeding from mutual wounds we've inflicted. But I did have good intentions. I really, really did.
And now I've got this one friend who's in the minority. This friend is telling me that all I've thought I could do, all of it, are things that I can't in fact do. Telling me that I'm doing more and more harm every day. Now this friend cares for me so I get a lot of, "I'm not saying it's all you"s mixed in. But the point is pretty clear to me, intentional or not, I'm hurting more than I could ever help.
Now I can see that point. I mean my idea of rescuing or saving Sandy was my concept of what was best for Sandy based on what I was told. It wasn't necessarily Sandy's idea. Let's be really honest for a moment, I don't know anything about Sandy. The only things I thought I knew about Sandy were just things that were passed on to me. It's not like we spent a great deal of time together before entering into this marriage.
And for the first month or so, we could both focus on the good things. There probably were some good things. And maybe had I then said, "Hey, Sandy, you need to do the things that are best for you, the things that are going to make you happy. . . ." Maybe then things would be different?
But I listened to what people told me going in. I mean Sandy was supposed to be "grateful." And initially, early on, I thought I saw an embrace, you know? Maybe, at that moment, if I'd known Sandy better or known what Sandy wanted or needed, maybe then things would be different?
But everyone, except this one friend, is telling me basically that "You made this bed, now you have to lie in it." Like even though this was obviously a mistake and we both want out, there's no out. There can be no out, that's what I keep hearing.
"You've got to make it work!" that's what I get told. And like last Sunday my friend Tommy, well he's not really my friend. I don't even care for him. I don't know why he's always showing up telling me what I need to do. I'm not so sure he even knows what he should do himself. But he always issues these proclamations like some coach from Hoosiers morphed into Dr. Phil with a dash of Sally Jessy Raphael. Or something.
So Tommy's blustering to me, "Improv time is over. This is crunch time. This marriage will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won't be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile." I don't even know what that means! I don't think he knows either. I would've asked him but I was afraid that he'd babble on some more, you know?
I mean, I just wanted to get away from Tommy. Trust me, a lot of people feel that way. It's not just me. I was all, "Uh huh, later Tommy."
Then I bump into Nick. Now Nick seems like a good guy. I don't doubt that he cares, but we're always getting into disagreements because Nick is the type who makes these "universal truth" statements but often doesn't have all the facts. I'm sure you know someone like that. (Hopefully, you aren't someone like that!) He's the type who'll say, "No one ever cared about foreign athletes until the missionaries went ___" wherever. And you can say, "Woah, Nicky! That's not true. The Olympics have been going on for decades! Longer even!" But he's just read something about some missionary and he's convinced that history has just begun or something. He means well. That's what I try to remember, that he means well.
So Nick weighs in with, "If you leave too soon, Sandy will fall apart. There are areas that aren't strong enough to take this, areas in Sandy." Or like, "Sandy could sink into this really dark period and do you know about mortality rates in a situation like this, because I do!!!!" And then he's giving these examples that he just read and I'm already tuning him out.
I pay attention when I hear him say something like, "Granted, my argument for staying the course is a difficult one to make to you when your immediate concern is your own life. There's no getting around the fact that if you stay, you will be unhappy at best. And at worst, who knows . . ."
I think he's going back into morality rates. I don't know. I nod and stand there thinking about what I need to pick up at the grocery store.
"I also have to concede," he begins and that gets my attention because I always forget he uses that language not to make a real concession, but as a debating ploy, "that this friend of yours who's saying you should just end it may in the end be proven right: perhaps you and Sandy will stick it out and even so end up divorcing? After squandering both of your lives, both of your dreams."
Nick means well, but he really loves the sound of his own voice, so I hurry away while he's still yammering on about how the marriage has left Sandy "desperately vulnerable and it would be inhumane to abandon . . ."
I'm just trying to get back home, you know? Wow! That works on so many levels. Talk about insight. Anyway, so then I bump into the Billy Goat Gruff, you know the type. I'm sure there's at least one who lives in your neighborhood. Willie's always screaming, "Turn down that music!"
And you can't explain to him that it's not music, it's the birds in the trees chirping. Or he's ranting about how the trash hasn't been picked up because of some liberal, left-wing cabal that no doubt can be traced back to Hillary Clinton. Every neighborhood has an irritating old coot. And you don't have to be old to be an "old coot." I mean, Willie's old. I don't know how old or what he does, I think maybe he teaches grammar or something. But I do know, that he's going to be retiring soon. I'm hoping that will mean he might move. I mean, I wish him no ill will, my days would just be a lot simpler if he wasn't always hollering something from his front yard.
"For one awful moment last week, it seemed the foot-draggers might succeed!" he hollered, apparently to me because I was the only one not lucky enough to avoid him that day.
He continued, "The most important element in the next two months of this marriage is a sense of inexorability." Like I said, I think he teaches grammar. Inexorability? But while I'm trying to figure out the root of that word, he's adding, "Marriage delayed is marriage denied! The best answer to that question," apparently my marriage, I don't know, "I think, is that your mistaken coupling has left Sandy desperately vulnerable, and it would be inhumane to abandon now. If you stay with Sandy, there is still some hope that Sandy will come to enjoy security and a better life, but if you pull out you will be condemning Sandy to anarchy, terrorism and starvation, costing a life, the life you placed at risk by marrying. These are the reasons you should remain with Sandy, until Sandy's in a secure place. Saving Sandy is a worthy cause to risk your life for, even to die for. "
Woah old coot Willie! Nobody ever said anything about risking my life. People said this would be a wonderful marriage, roses strewn in my path or at least on the bed or something. I mean, I was sold on this with this talk of what a good thing I'd be doing and how easy it would be.
But it's like the friend I told you about earlier is saying, "You're not helping Sandy."
And I'm not. Every other day, if not every day, something flares up. I mean, I still see people grinning and giving me thumbs up and all I can think is, "You are so under-informed. You just don't know what is really going on."
I don't blame them, I mean the same matchmakers that got us together have taken it upon themselves to be cheerleaders for our marriage. Commentators even! That's why people come up saying, "Hey, I heard you put in running water." Yeah, in the kitchen sink. We still don't have running water anywhere else in the house. I mean, come on, it's a kitchen sink. I guess it's nice enough but I'm not doing cart wheels.
But this friend who seems like she's on to something is saying that Sandy's either going to fix herself or she's not. "You can't fix Sandy for Sandy. Only Sandy can fix Sandy. You're not helping. Staying in this arrangement is destructive to both of you."
I say to my friend, "Yeah, but, I mean, people are saying I can't leave Sandy until something's been set up." And my friend stops me and says, "Hold it right there! Sandy has to take care of Sandy. You can't set something up for Sandy. If something is going to matter, Sandy needs to set it up. And because it's what Sandy wants and needs, not what Sandy thinks you want to be done."
But I mean, sometimes I'm thinking Sandy needs me and feeling like, what's that saying? You broke it, you bought it? I know it's not really a Pottery Barn policy, but what about the people saying that?
My friend shushes me. And I hate it when someone does that! But I do get her point. Sandy's not Humpty Dumpty. And I'm not God. And right or wrong, I've tried. If Sandy needs help now, it's outside help. We've fallen into this warring pattern that is just not going to go away.
So I'm thinking my friend's right, that for the health of Sandy and myself, it's time for me to be an adult, look at reality and realize it's time to end it. That's the healthy thing to do, that's the mature thing to do. But I'm wondering if I'm mature enough to do the mature thing, you know?
I'm also wondering what you think? Oh, I'm sorry, I should have opened by introducing myself because I might look familiar but who knows? My name's United States of America. My friends call me "U.S." and my rowdier friends like to call me "USA!" It doesn't matter to me. And Sandy's just a nickname I gave my spouse. Most people know Sandy's given name: Iraq.
These are the days of the empty hand
Oh you hold on to what you can
And charity is a coat you wear twice a year
This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here . . .
-- "Praying For Time" words & music by George Michael
"Tommy" is Thomas Friedman and the New York Times column that his comments were "based" on is entitled "The Last Mile" and ran on November 28, 2004.
"Nick" is Nicholas Kristof (Nicky K!) and the New York Times column that his comments were "based" on is entitled "Saving the Iraqi Children" and ran on November 27, 2004.
"Willie" is William Safire and the New York Times column that his comments were "based" on is entitled "The Fourth Election" and ran December 1, 2004.
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