Friday, September 29, 2006

what about Bob?

A dozen nominal Democrats shamed us yesterday. They voted for the court-stripping, torture-embracing, morally repugnant legitimating of the Bush administration’s politically motivated bullshit excuse for an anti-terrorist policy.

Now, I am a fairly loyal Democrat, but I am loyal to principles, not to people—and a “yea” vote on S.3930 was unprincipled. As for the people—the specific Senators that sided with Republicans—well, we are fighting to retake control of the Senate, and several of these Senators are up for reelection.

In the case of Joe Lieberman, it was unprincipled votes just like his “yes” on torture that cost him the Connecticut Democratic primary last month. In his case, the choice is simple: Loser Joe is no longer a Democrat—he now belongs to his very own party of one—but he insists on damaging his former Democratic brethren by mounting an independent run. If you live in Connecticut, it is easy to tell Joe that he lacks the moral fiber required of a US Senator—vote for Democratic nominee Ned Lamont.

In the case of Bill Nelson, “Democrat” of Florida, he is running far ahead of the plastic surgery disaster known as Republican Katherine Harris. No one wants to vote for Harris—a shameful character herself—but I would not want to vote for Nelson, either. Because Nelson has this one in the bag, I would encourage a protest. Not knowing what third party candidates are on the Florida ballot, might I suggest a write-in vote: my choice would be Yaser Hamdi.

I would suggest a similar write-in strategy for Senate races in Nebraska, Michigan, and Delaware.

But what about Bob Menendez—what do we do with him? Menendez was appointed by New Jersey Governor John Corzine to fill the remainder of Corzine’s Senate term; now, Menendez is fighting for reelection against Republican Tom Keane, Jr., the son of the former governor and 9/11 Commission chair. Menendez is seen as the only Senate Democrat who is in trouble this November—something in itself hard to understand in increasingly blue New Jersey—and I can’t imagine his vote for the Bush is God bill will help energize his base.

If the Democrats are going to retake the Senate, they cannot lose New Jersey. With Menendez reelected, he will vote with the Democratic leadership most of the time, and most importantly, he will vote for Democratic leadership all of the time. In a race as close as this one, a protest vote is just not rational—it’s nose-to-spite-face territory. Still, his pro-torture vote has to be noted, remembered, and acted upon. We can start grooming a primary challenge for six years from now, but what can we do about this in the interim? How do loyal, principled Democrats let Senator Menendez know votes like the one on detainee tribunals are never acceptable?

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid can take away torture-lovin’ Bob’s plum committee assignments, but what can the voters—the principled people of the United States—do to let Menendez and those that think like him know that he has shamed the Democratic Party and the democracy?

I’m asking—I really don’t know.

(cross-posted over at DailyKos)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

put down the phone

Thanks to all of you who heeded my call to call Capitol Hill over the last couple of weeks, but this morning will see the Senate vote to approve the Bush torture bill. Democrats negotiated away their right to filibuster the bill in exchange for votes on a handful of amendments—all of which will fail.

I guess the Democratic leadership thought this kind of posturing-as-votes was a great tactic or something. I (along with a couple of big deal papers) think otherwise.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

give harry hell

Read this story in today’s Washington Post.

Then go read my post over at capitoilette

Then call Senator Reid.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

the article speaks for itself, now will your senators speak for you?

The Washington Post has a front page article that, in part, says the following:

Republican lawmakers and the White House agreed over the weekend to alter new legislation on military commissions to allow the United States to detain and try a wider range of foreign nationals than an earlier version of the bill permitted, according to government sources.

Lawmakers and administration officials announced last week that they had reached accord on the plan for the detention and military trials of suspected terrorists, and it is scheduled for a vote this week. But in recent days the Bush administration and its House allies successfully pressed for a less restrictive description of how the government could designate civilians as "unlawful enemy combatants," the sources said yesterday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of negotiations over the bill.

The government has maintained since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that, based on its reading of the laws of war, anyone it labels an unlawful enemy combatant can be held indefinitely at military or CIA prisons. But Congress has not yet expressed its view on who is an unlawful combatant, and the Supreme Court has not ruled directly on the matter.

As a result, human rights experts expressed concern yesterday that the language in the new provision would be a precedent-setting congressional endorsement for the indefinite detention of anyone who, as the bill states, "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" or its military allies.

The definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant. It is broader than that in last week's version of the bill, which resulted from lengthy, closed-door negotiations between senior administration officials and dissident Republican senators. That version incorporated a definition backed by the Senate dissidents: those "engaged in hostilities against the United States."

Go ahead and read the entire article—it is mind-boggling.

Let me amend that: It is not really that mind-boggling that this White House would be seeking such sweeping and unilateral powers, but it is still mind-boggling that any Senator, especially the Democratic ones, would allow this to pass.

And yet, as I write this, that is exactly what seems likely. Why is this new language not the top story on the broadcast news? Why is this not the stuff that causes every patriotic American to howl? Why is this not the place where Democrats in the leadership like Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, or presidential hopefuls like Hillary Clinton and Evan Bayh say, "enough is enough"?

Perhaps they need reminding that American voters have morals and standards. Perhaps they need reminding that if they want your vote in 2008, they need to take a stand in 2006. . . right now. . . with meaningful votes, not just nice words.

A “no” vote on the detainee detention and tribunals bill is nice, but it won’t butter the biscuit in a Republican dominated Senate. This bill demands a loud and principled filibuster.

To reiterate: this language allows the President to designate anyone he chooses, even a US citizen, as an unlawful enemy combatant, and it allows that person to be picked up and detained indefinitely without any right to challenge the detention in court. I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic, but it seems to me that this is by definition a law that creates a totalitarian state.

If Democrats cannot stand in unity against this bill, then I honestly have to wonder what they stand for.

Call Harry Reid and your Senators and any others you feel like giving a piece of your mind, and tell them how you expect them to stand up for our Democracy and the Constitution of the United States.

In this case, that means a filibuster.

Monday, September 25, 2006

fan appreciation day

If one is of the left and is looking for camaraderie of the political kind, one should probably not go looking in the stands of a professional sporting event. Or so experience had taught me.

I love baseball, but I have always felt a little ill-at-ease amongst the cheering throngs, even in this bluest of blue baseball towns. My discomfort is especially palpable during the national anthem—a song, I contend, that has no place at a sporting event, 88 years of tradition be damned (it’s a baseball game; not a nationalist pep-rally—or, to put it less subtly: it’s Flushing; not Nuremberg). I used to sit during the star-spangled rah-rah—out of protest—but got tired of the derisive stares and catcalls.

Lately, I have solved this problem, in my way, by simply arriving late. (Not intentionally, really—let’s call it a semi-happy accident.) Well, I have sort of solved it.

You see, at Shea Stadium, in Flushing, New York, ever since baseball resumed a couple of weeks after 9/11/01, this mere pastime (national though it may be) has been infused with a second call to arms (or to feet, as is this case). Ever since that September, the seventh inning stretch, traditionally home to rousing renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” a song I happily stand for (that’s why it’s a stretch, dontcha know), has begun with a “ladies and gentlemen, please rise.” And the song for which us ladies and gents are rising? Why, it’s possibly Irving Berlin’s worst song ever: “God Bless America.”

Again, the fans dutifully stand and the hats come off—a few even sing along, dewy-eyed. And, again, I’d like to be sitting in protest, but—and this has been especially true since the invasion of Iraq—that baseball-loving, phony patriotism-hating behavior gets me something less than adoring support from my comrades in section 21, loge level.

All of this is my rather long-winded way of saying: so, imagine my surprise, when on this Sunday, the last regular Sunday home game of the season, “fan appreciation day,” whatever that means, when, come middle of the seventh, we ladies and gentleman are asked to rise for the singing of “God Bless America,” someone in my section yells out, “Bring ‘em home!”

And the “’em” isn’t baserunners, and the “home” ain’t home plate, either. Nope. On this late September day—some five late Septembers after the questionable introduction of this artificial and purely promotional nod to a Hallmark card version of national unity—no one needed explain beyond those three words, nor did I fail to appreciate the difference between real and fabricated patriotism.

It makes you proud to be. . . a baseball fan.

Friday, September 22, 2006

yup, John McCain. . . still an asshole

Oh, what a big show the Senator from Arizona made this week. McCain used his “special status” to draw a line in the sand about what would and would not be permissible when it came to detainees in the “war on terror.” Forget the fact that by denying captives habeas rights, any restrictions on “rough interrogation” were meaningless grandstanding, John McCain, a victim of torture, himself, would not let the Bush Administration get away with this.

What a lot of crap.

With a “compromise” now reached between the White House and the three “renegade” Senators, everybody is on the same page: Republicans stand firmly behind torture.

The New York Times has published an editorial that is almost as disdainful of this phony compromise as I am. Read it—it makes up for a lot of the breathless reporting that appeared on the more frontward pages of the Times.

Then, knowing that this legislation is an affront to all we hold dear as a nation, contact your Senators and tell them you expect them to oppose this bill—not just by voting against it, but by preventing it from coming to a vote.

If the Democrats aren’t going use the filibuster to thwart this sinister piece of garbage (and the sinister asshole that brokered it), then what was the sense in backing down earlier in the session to preserve the filibuster?

putting the “lie” back in Liasson

On Thursday’s All Things Considered, NPR’s Mara Liasson asserted that when it comes to torturing detainees, “I think that public opinion, in general, from what we can tell from the polls, is with the White House on this.”

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. What is so striking about Liasson’s lie is that it came only a day after a major New York Times/CBS poll found that 63% of Americans do not believe torture is ever acceptable, and a substantial majority believe the US should honor its obligations under the Geneva Conventions. Neither Liasson nor ATC host Robert Siegel acknowledged this poll, nor did Siegel challenge the unsubstantiated assertion about where Americans stood on this issue.

Prior to Liasson’s “analysis,” NPR correspondent Brian Naylor laid out what he said were the central demands the White House was making of Congress regarding the torture and tribunals statute—permission to use secret evidence to convict suspects and an allowance for “coercive tactics” during interrogation of prisoners. What somehow escaped Naylor’s rundown were two of the most important points: The administration is seeking retroactive cover for transgressions of guidelines for the treatment of prisoners, and, as I have previously described, Bush wants the courts stripped of any authority to hear habeas challenges from off-shore detainees.

Habeas corpus is so integral to US-style justice that I find it hard to understand why most of the establishment media still fails to acknowledge the Bush Administration’s assault on these rights. Do reporters think it’s boring? Do they find it too complicated? Is it possible that they have missed this part of the story?

To the last point, maybe I would have—sadly—thought that possible a week ago. But, now that much of the blogosphere and the New York Times have picked up the story, I find it hard to believe seasoned journalists like Naylor and Liasson are still ignorant of the threat.

Let NPR know that you are not ignorant. Tell them that if reporters are going to assert where the American people stand, you want facts to back it up. Tell them that, in this case, you know the facts, and you know that the American people stand firmly against the president’s desire to torture. Ask them to air a clarification. And ask them why they haven’t covered the Republican desire to rip up the Great Writ.

(I will borrow this bit of advice from Media Matters:

When contacting the media, please be polite and professional. Express your specific concerns regarding that particular news report or commentary, and be sure to indicate exactly what you would like the media outlet to do differently in the future.

By the way, Media Matters might also want to hear from you on these issues.)

Correction: I flipped the numbers from two separate questions in the NYT/CBS poll. 63% of Americans believe the US should “follow international agreements” and 56% say torture is never acceptable (compared with 35% who say it is sometimes justified).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

poll: a third of Americans are supercilious, sadistic freaks

Or, a new New York Times/CBS News poll finds that Americans by a wide margin oppose all torture. . . that’s another way of looking at it.

Yes, sometimes: 35%
No, never: 56%

The poll also has Americans standing by our international treaty obligations:

Follow international agreements: 63%
Do what it thinks right, regardless of what other nations think: 32%

Now, technically, those in question are not POWs, but something we have taken to calling “detainees”—it’s hard to know whether the pollsters understood that—but the result still stands.

Still, both questions—or their answers, really—beg this question: Who are these roughly one-third of Americans who think it’s OK to torture or do whatever the fuck else we want, regardless of law or treaty?

Oh, yeah.

But besides them?

For more about our tortured times (and our tortured Times) see today’s capitoilette.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

who needs Democrats?

Over the past week, I have been exhorting all who read this to call or write their Senators—especially the Democratic ones—and insist that they stop the Republican Tribunal and Torture bills (both of them) by whatever means necessary, even filibuster.

I don’t know if that strategy is working—not only because very few of you have written in to tell me of your actions, but because it seems the Democrats would rather think it is politically smart to sit this one out.

Well, I still don’t think it is, but the Democrats, and the country, might just luck out. . . that is, if Bill Frist gets his way.

Monday, September 18, 2006

bad bill week

As the 109th Congress winds its way towards the session’s end and the midterm elections, Bush and his rubberstamp Republicans will continue to attempt to overwhelm us with a barrage of bilious bills. While trying to protect our right to privacy will we slip up on protecting our habeas rights? While fretting over the Specter Bill on NSA spying, will we stupidly accept the DeWine version? While rubbing our hands together with glee at the prospect of another staring match between the President and Senator McCain, will we fail to note that the McCain/Warner/Graham tribunals bill is just as fatal to Habeas Corpus as the Bush/Frist offering?

I hope not. . . but I fear the worst. It seems that the Democrats are far too content to read rather minor Republican schisms as signs of some earth-shaking sea change (if you are going to mix metaphors, go big!), when they should be taking the lead on the high road—standing up for civil rights at home, and human rights all over the world (including Guantanamo).

As I noted last week, Democrats (and smart, moral Republicans) need to be urged to stop these burnt offerings cold. You can read my post from last week (which includes some numbers and links for action), or you can check out the CCR’s Shane Kadidal’s excellent rundown over at HufPo (which also includes phone numbers for crucial Senators).

This is a big deal—a really big deal. What some assume to be a best-case scenario—passage of the DeWine and McCain versions of their respective bills—should be completely unacceptable to any moral American. Please take a few minutes to let your elected representative know what they represent.

Thank you.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

progress, W style

When he came into office, George W. Bush’s big military idea was to abrogate the ABM treaty and deploy some form of strategic missile defense (AKA “Star Wars”). Five-and-a-half years later, we’ve been reduced to digging trenches.

BAGHDAD, Sept. 15 — The Iraqi government plans to seal off Baghdad within weeks by ringing it with a series of trenches and setting up dozens of traffic checkpoints to control movement in and out of the violent city of seven million people, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Friday.

. . . .

“We’re going to build a trench around Baghdad so we can control the exits and entrances so people will be searched properly,” [Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf] said in a telephone interview.

. . . .

American officials said the military had approved of the plan, which has been in the works for weeks. General Khalaf said he did not know how much the construction would cost or how many laborers would be employed.

I really don’t see why they’re stopping at trenches. Why not a moat with alligators?

Does Halliburton do alligators?

Friday, September 15, 2006

the good, the bad, and the ugly

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

OK, so I thought I’d get the ugly out of the way first. As for the good and the bad. . . .

(For some #$*%!@! reason, capitoilette is down this morning. Until it's back up, you can read today's good/bad post over at DKos. Thanks.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

vote no evil

Jamie Rose for The New York Times

Look at these guys! What’s going on here? Is Senator Graham trying to do his best impersonation of the “speak no evil” monkey? And what is McCain up to? It looks to me like he’s measuring something. . . .

And what’s with the comfy chairs? It’s not Passover. Maybe it’s naptime on the Hill. . . .

Or maybe it’s just that none of these guys can look the American people in the eye as they try to decide whether to stand with their President and defend torture.

What do you think?

Here’s what I think.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

keeping my record intact

If you ever want to know who’s going to win an election, ask me whom I’m voting for. . . and then pick someone else.

It’s not like I expected some freakish upset where Jonathan Tasini stunned the universe and sent Hillary Clinton and her triangulating pals packing, but it would have been nice to see Tasini get 20 percent (he didn’t). Or it might have been nice to see some other wheezing incumbents forced into early retirement (few were). Or it might have been nice to see the only solidly anti-Ratner/Atlantic Yards project candidate win in the four-way race for NY-11 (Chris Owens came in last).

Eliot Spitzer is a solid candidate for governor, but with positions like being pro-death penalty, and vaguely pro-Yards development, he is hardly a flaming lefty.

All in all, not really a red-letter day for progressives. Not here in New York, anyway.

(I know it’s naïve, but I am still amazed that in a state like Vermont, they can send an independent former socialist well on his way to a Senate seat, while in this bluest of blue states, we have to tolerate “moderates” like Clinton and Schumer—and don’t even get me started on NYC, where we are in year 13 of Republican mayoral rule.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

five years of mornings after

President Bush’s speech last night—coming almost five years to the minute after his original 9/11 ovaler—had to be one of the worst of his administration, and yes, I know, that’s saying a lot.

As badly delivered as it was badly written—the tired rhetoric mirroring the tired man (he’d had a long day, and we all know he doesn’t travel well)—the speech not only failed to rise above the politics-as-usual quality that all of Bush’s “important” addresses have, it failed to provide even his staunchest supporters with anything fresh to use in the run-up to the November midterms.

Rather than take a stab at a new approach to the challenges presented five years ago, Bush used most of his fifteen minutes to rehash his latest defense of his Iraqi debacle with language so close to the stump speeches of last week that even the usually deferential local TV reporters called the speech “political.”

The fact is that after so many soldiers have been killed and so many pre-war rationales have been exposed as lies, no one really believes the President when he repeats that the Iraq war was “necessary” because Saddam Hussein was a “clear threat,” or claims yet again that we have to fight the terrorists over there or they will “follow us home,” or even when he attempts to re-recast his middle eastern misadventures as the fight “for civilization.” After five years of this administration’s “war on terror,” a majority of Americans have finally come to understand that Iraq is not part of that “war” at all, and, after countless color-coded alerts, failing grades from the 9/11 commission, and the graphic catastrophe of last year’s emergency response in New Orleans, most have lost faith that Bush can handle the parts that just maybe really are.

(photo by me, 9/11/06)

want more of the same? vote republican

Democratic candidates need look no further than Dick Cheney to find a great campaign stump speech for the fall cycle. Appearing on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, Vice President Cankles volunteered that if the administration had Iraq to do over again, it would do “exactly the same thing.”

(I can’t stomach Timmeh! and the thought of spending part of my weekend with him and Deadeye Dick makes my stomach hurt, so a hat tip to this New York Times editorial for alerting me to the veep’s idiocy.)

Speaking of elections, it’s primary day here in New York, and in Maryland and Rhode Island, too. Don’t forget to vote!

Monday, September 11, 2006

september 11: an anniversary

"Up to the year 1906 I simply relied on appeal to reason. I was a very industrious reformer … But I found that reason failed to produce an impression when the critical moment arrived in South Africa. My people were excited – even a worm can and does turn – and there was talk of wreaking vengeance. I had then to choose between allying myself to violence or finding out some other method of meeting the crisis and stopping the rot, and it came to me that we should refuse to obey legislation that was degrading and let them put us in jail if they liked. Thus came into being the moral equivalent of war."

M.K. Gandhi

On September 11, 1906, Mohandas Gandhi chaired a meeting of approximately 3,000 residents of Johannesburg, South Africa, seeking to find an effective way to protest a new set of discriminatory laws. One resolution that emerged was that Indians vowed to go to prison rather than comply with the new restrictions. This is recognized as the birth of modern nonviolent protest, passive resistance, or Satyagraha.

(A hat tip to a radio report on the BBC that clued me in to this event—alas, no link.)

Five years ago, I was awakened by the sound of American Airlines flight 11 as it screamed over my apartment and slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center some dozen blocks further south. The sound and the vibration sent me quickly to the street, where I stood for the next several hours in the bright, late summer sun and witnessed all of the day’s horrors.

As soon as the second plane, United flight 175, hit the south tower, everyone on the street realized that this was obviously no accident or horrible coincidence. Soon after, it occurred to me that our President was George W. Bush, our Vice President was Dick Cheney, and our Attorney General was John Ashcroft, and that those were about the worst three men I could imagine being in those positions at that moment.

Nothing in the last five years has made me reassess that conclusion.

Would that someone more familiar with Satyagraha—or even someone that could just pronounce it—were in a position of power that day. If that had been so, how different would this year’s September 11 be?

PT911: balls good, laws bad

That’s what I learned watching part one of ABC’s far-right-developed prop-u-drama, The Path to 9/11, earlier tonight. I’m not sure who eventually won (you know, besides the terrorists), but the whole tedious two hours and 40 minutes was a battle between scenes that actually said things like “there are laws against domestic spying in America/What about a law against terrorists?!?” and scenes where they drank toasts “to cajones” (I swear it).

I also learned that without one-time ABC reporter John Miller, American intelligence would’ve known little about Osama bin Laden.

I also think I learned that somebody in the editing suite over at Disney still remembers his or her lesson on the Kuleshov effect. You can claim that you didn’t draw conclusions in the script, but when you cut together a montage that includes Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton saying “I did not have sex with that woman,” Harvey Keitel smirking while saying advisors were told not to let the scandal affect policy, and fruitless powwows amongst cabinet officials, well. . . .

The other thing I’ve learned is that ABC has made one bloated and convoluted piece of crap that couldn’t find itself one single sponsor to help break up the tedium with a commercial. The whole thing is shot like a brokerage commercial from the early 1990’s—lots of extreme close-ups and faky-shaky handheld camera. As unimaginative and dated as it was insufferable. I can’t wait to see the ratings. I have a hard time believing most viewers were as stupidly committed as I was to bearing witness to every “dramatized” (read: “made up”) moment.

Given that PT911 ran opposite the battle of the Mannings on the east coast, and the season premier of the Simpsons in most markets, we can only hope the American TV viewer had more sense than I did.

Friday, September 08, 2006

it’s fashion week!

The Spring ’07 collections hit the New York runways starting today, and here’s what our elected officials won’t be wearing when the 110th Congress convenes in January. . .

. . . because both will be losers this November.

Beautify America for spring. Vote for a Democrat this fall.

(hat tips: Santorum; Harris)

(and here’s who will beat Rick; and here’s who will beat Katherine)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

let the show trials begin!

President Bush made another of his fear-mongering speeches today, and in this one he, for the first time, admitted to the existence of secret CIA prisons—or at least admitted to having some 14 men in secret detention. The president admitted this because these 14—including Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and Ramzi Binalshibh—are being transferred to Guantanamo Bay and DoD custody.

Why is Bush blabbing about something previously so secret that the Attorney General threatened to use a 90-year-old sedition law against the reporters who uncovered it?

Election year politics, of course.

It is likely that these captives have been in custody so long that they have little value as intelligence assets—but they have (or so the White House is betting) great value as political assets. In today’s speech, the president—speaking to an invited audience that included family members of those who died in the 9/11 attacks five years ago—asked Congress to pass the White House version of a law to allow special tribunals to “try” these alleged terrorists (no, Bush didn’t say “alleged”) so that they can be “brought to justice” (yes, he did say that).

If Congress acts to rubberstamp the administration’s request during the 18 days left in this session, it will not only serve in large part to countermand the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hamdan case (and theoretically put a layer of concealer over one of Bush’s largest legal black eyes), it will provide the legal frame work for what White House strategists hope will be a powerful political tool leading up to the November elections.

Imagine the headline-grabbing impact of having the “masterminds” of 9/11 paraded before handpicked judges, of having administration lawyers trot out their “evidence” of what the “evil-doers” had in store for the “American homeland,” and imagine what Rove, Bush, and Cheney will do with that “evidence” in this political season.

In the end, there is only one thing that trumps this administration’s cynical attempt to concentrate power in the “unitary executive,” and that’s the cynical need to hold on to that power. For that is a war—the war to win elections, to create a one party state, to remake America in their own image—in which this administration will truly do “whatever it takes.”

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Happy Birthday

No. . . not to you, asshole. To me!

(sigh. . . I suppose you want some
real political commentary, too. So be it. Here’s something on the latest Atlantic Yards “rumor.”)

Friday, September 01, 2006

could “sign of the times” be a sign of the times?

You’ve suffered my rants before—the new Nightline is a tale told by idiots, signifying nothing. Especially noisome has been the recurring segment called “Sign of the Times,” which is almost never ever about anything that anyone who understands the meaning of the term would call a “sign of the times.”

And, on Thursday night, that still held true. . . except in a meta sense.

The sign of the times—according to Nightline—was that President Bush has come up with yet another word/phrase/term for whomever it is he thinks we should be fighting. You know, the “Islamofascists.” Or something even newer, I think—it seems to change almost daily. And that was kind of the point of the piece.

Now, while pointing out that the Bush White House tries to spin the news with little focus group-tested catchphrases is not news, and not much of a sign of the times. . . not in 2006. . . but. . . . But, the tone of the Thursday piece, well. . . .

You see, the whole segment was enhanced by graphics and sound effects that made it something like a game show. That the parade of epithets—the terrorists, the suiciders, the jihadists, the 21st Century fascists (sounds like a punk show I saw back in ’79)—was relayed as an incongruous list of meaningless slogans (all concocted, it was pointed out by the reporter, in an effort to avoid using the term “insurgents”) makes me wonder: has something changed?

Could it be that the establishment media finally “gets it,” or, if not gets it, finally thinks it’s ratings savvy to treat the Orwellian Bush/Rove neologicon as something just a bit absurd? Ridiculous? Phony? Funny? And, by extension, is it now OK to show the president, and his attempts to frame Iraq as a) the equivalent of WWII, b) part of the war on terror, and c) successful as equally absurd and ridiculous?

If yes, well, now, that’s a sign of the times.