Really [do] mind if you sit this one out ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new "Think Again" column here, called "Oversight, Overload?"

Bloomberg came out for Gore, here. Since Gore is pretty much not running, I can't tell if that makes it more or less likely that Bloomberg will waste half-a-billion dollars in a chimerical campaign that I think, but the polls don't, will elect a Republican. Anyway, I spoke to Gore last night at the opening of the Tribeca Film Festival, where he was hosting a series of shorts that were commissioned by SOS for the 7/7/07 concerts for climate change. (The highlight, by a mile, was Rob Reiner's Spinal Tap reunion, though I have to say, surprising myself, Jon Bon Jovi was really good singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," that one good song of his, and "Here Comes the Sun.") Anyway, Gore and I talked about his forthcoming book a bit, the Moyers program last night and some other stuff, but there is just no "I'm running" vibe coming from this guy. Sure he could announce if he wins the Nobel, which looks to be a pretty good bet right now, but I don't think he will. He can't, as some have suggested, announce on 7/7. That's a global event, and it would look awful. And he can't announce if no clear winner emerges after New Hampshire, because the calendar won't allow it. And he can't announce if "the front-runner" stumbles because there's no real front-runner anymore. Obama is winning the money contest and nearly tied in the polls; Edwards is a strong and credible third, is doing really well in the early states, and could easily win a general election. So there's no need to ride to the rescue of his party. Nope, the only reason for Gore to run is that he really wants to -- and thinks he should be -- president. And so far, I'm sorry to say, he really doesn't.

Meanwhile, Bush is at 28 percent. Just saying ...

Send your condolence cards to: David Broder, The Washington Post; Chris Matthews, MSNBC; James Pinkerton, Newsday; John McCain, "Straight-Talk Express" (haha) ...

Did you see that report earlier this week about increasing infant mortality in the southeast United States, particularly among blacks? It's here, and it led me to muse for a book-to-be-named-later as follows:

And remember the Finns? Not surprisingly, perhaps, they devote less than half of what we do to medical care, as a percentage of GDP, and yet their infant mortality rate is half of that of the United States -- and one-sixth that of African-American babies -- and their life expectancy rate is greater. Perhaps all that education has made them smart enough to invest in preventative care and universal coverage. Then again, improving on U.S. infant mortality rates is a bit like besting a vegan in a burger-eating contest. Even China's infant mortality rate is less than half of that of the Southeast United States, as well as that of our national capital.

And the Supreme Court decision on abortion, coupled with the Harvard Medical School study again dismissing any link between abortion and breast cancer led me to muse further on the reality of "choice" in much of America.

The state of Mississippi, for instance, home to nearly three million people, is also home to a single abortion clinic. It also boasts the highest infant-mortality rate in the nation and ranks 43rd among the 50 states in the number of women who have health insurance. In 2004, Mississippi failed to meet national standards on the length of time it took to restore foster children to their birth families and to place a child for adoption. Meanwhile, the counseling provisions also require that patients in Mississippi be told that abortion may increase the risk of breast cancer, despite the fact that the National Cancer Institute reported no scientific evidence exists to support this contention, a view supported when the British medical journal The Lancet examined dozens of studies of the same issue. (Yet another study, released in 2007 by members of Harvard Medical School examining data from data from 105,716 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study, which was established in 1976 to study a wide range of health issues affecting women, also found no such link.) Mississippi is also one of only two states that require a minor to get the consent of both parents to have an abortion, (though if the minor has been impregnated by her father, she needs only the consent of her mother). Not surprisingly, Mississippi can boast the highest teen birthrate in America. While this unhappy trend has declined nationally in recent years, in Mississippi it continues to increase, including particularly girls under the age of 15. Mississippi may appear to be an extreme example, but, in fact, it is not all that unusual. In fact, at the end of 2005, it earned a measly eighth place on the honor roll of states that "defend life" according to the rankings of the pro-life organization, Americans United for Life.

Reading Around:

Art Winslow on the disappearance of book review sections, here.

The Times buries the Moyers show.

O'Reilly is right, says my man, Tommy T.

"The War Party," from The American Conservative.

Work and literature.

Naomi Wolf writes a strong and provocative piece but sadly, and perhaps fatally, profoundly misuses the term "fascism," here.

On a lighter note, sort of, see Sad Kermit yet? Actually I stayed with the tribute longer (sorry, Petey) because it's one of the great songs of the past 20 years. Here it is in 1993 on TV, here it is live in 1994, and here it is last year once all the kids have learned the words.

From Campus Progress:

As the Iraq war rages into its fifth year, more than 3,300 American soldiers are dead and more than 24,000 are wounded. While the American public overwhelmingly supports bringing the troops home, many in Congress refuse to hear this message. In response, Campus Progress Action and MoveOn Civic Action are sponsoring Iraq Action Camp, an opportunity for students from across the country to travel to Washington DC, discuss the issues with activists and experts, learn valuable organizing skills, and work to bring the troops home.

Students: Do you want to tell your Congressperson face to face that it's time to end the war? Do you want to prepare for an exciting semester of action on your campus? Do you want to meet students from all across the country who are working for a change of course in Iraq? At Iraq Action Camp, you can.

Join us this summer for an intense week of training, campfires, lobbying, s'mores, and connections in Washington, DC, from either May 20-24 or June 10-14 (with, possibly, more dates to be added). Get trained by experienced organizers from MoveOn, Democracy Matters, United States Student Association, Campus Progress Action, and elsewhere. Learn what a strategic campaign looks like and how to work with the media to get your message out, then qualify for grant money to turn your vision into reality. Attendance is free of charge, there are a limited number of spots, and they're going fast, so apply today here.

From our sponsors:

Fox's Gibson: U.S. invasion "unmasked" Iraqis as "knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th century"

On the April 23 broadcast of his Fox News Radio show, John Gibson argued that the Iraqi people -- whom he described as "knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th century" -- are at "fault" for the situation in Iraq. While discussing Iraq, Gibson said: "The one thing that drives me up the wall is [people] saying, 'Look at all the deaths you Americans have caused in Iraq.' No! 'Scuse me? We invaded the place, we knocked over Saddam, and then Iraqis began killing each other." Later in the show, Gibson agreed with a caller that the Coalition Provisional Authority's 2003 decision to purge the civil service of all former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and disband the Iraqi army "was a mistake." Gibson then stated: "[B]ut who is doing this killing? Give me a break. These are Iraqis killing each other. So what did we do? If you're saying it's our fault that we unmasked them as knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th century -- fine! I'll take credit."

Savage called Clinton's Rutgers speech "Hitler dialogue," added, "Goebbels would be proud of you"

On the April 23 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage played an audio clip of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) April 20 speech at Rutgers University in which Clinton commented on the April 18 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. In the clip, Clinton asked, "What message does it send when the Supreme Court decides that women's health doesn't matter?" In response, Savage stated: "That's rubbish. That's Hitler dialogue. [Joseph] Goebbels [information minister in Nazi Germany] would be proud of you, Hillary Clinton. I know [former Chinese communist leader] Mao Zedong would have been proud of you." Savage also referred to Clinton as a "liar" and a "sickening person," and added, "[T]his is life and death you are talking about. It's not about women's health."

From TomDispatch:

We are only now emerging from more than a week in the nearly 24/7 bubble world the American media creates for all-American versions of gothic horror, elevating them to heights of visibility that no one on Earth can avoid contemplating. Really, we have no sense of how strange these media moments of collective, penny-ante therapy are, moments when, as Todd Gitlin wrote recently, killers turn "into broadcasters," going like Cho Seung-Hui, into "the communication business.

Sometimes, in moments like this, it's useful to take a step or two out of the American biosphere and try to imagine these all-day-across-every-channel obsessional events of ours as others might see them; to consider how we, who are so used to being the eyes of the world, might actually look to others. John Brown, a former U.S. diplomat trained to look at us through the eyes of others, does just that in a striking TomDispatch post. One of three State Department employees to resign in protest against the onrushing war in Iraq in 2003, Brown considers some of the eerie parallels between Cho Seung-hui's world and George W. Bush's as if through foreign eyes.

He suggests a series of eerie parallels between the two -- and between Cho's slaughter at Virginia Tech and our President's larger scale version of this in Iraq. His first parallel begins this way:

Cho felt unloved. A thread running through his psychological profile is that he believed the world was after him. Many abroad will remember how, in the wake of the Twin Towers tragedy, the Bush administration immediately began obsessing about 'why they hate us' (whoever 'they' might specifically be). Despite the sympathy the President, as the representative of the American people, received from every corner of the Earth -- similar in some ways to the fruitless support efforts teachers and doctors gave Cho for his mental problems -- Bush, responding only to the hate he saw under every nook and cranny, chose to react with what many overseas considered disproportionate violence.

He concludes: "Regrettably, I fear that, after more than six years of George W. Bush, Baghdad and Blacksburg are, to many on our planet, not that far apart. Woe to the diplomat who has to explain us to the world today."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Tom M
Hometown: Worcester

My son, who is serving with the Air Force in Iraq, forwarded me an email circulating through the troops with the following link. It is a Stars and Stripes article that says that the Pentagon is planning to move money from the AF and Navy to the Army for operational expenses, and that this could effect the ability of those services to pay their servicemembers. There is a line about half way down that sums it all up:

"Bottom line: we need the bill to be passed quickly to avoid any further impacts to readiness" ...

So, it appears that King George has determined that the troops will suffer since Congress insists on complying with the will of the peasants and not his will. Normally, shifting funds designated for pay into operational budgets is extremely difficult, I'm sure the DoD has been given all the authority it needs from the King to do whatever it takes to force Congress to relent. Criminal - pure and simple!

Name: Ken
Hometown: New Jersey

I noticed an interesting thing this morning while reading the morning news regarding the recent back-and-forth sniping between Dick Cheney and Harry Reid concerning the language in the latest emergency funding bill for the Iraq war. The basics of what happened are quite clear: Cheney made some typically hawkish and disparaging comments about Reid, and Reid responded in kind.

However, in reporting the details, there seem to be some discrepancies. One "mainstream" news site stated the following concerning Reid's response to Cheney's comments (see here):

Reid dismissed Cheney's remarks later to reporters, but not before getting in his own dig at the vice president. "I'm not going to get into a name calling match with the administration's chief attack dog," Reid said.

Meanwhile, at Salon.com, Tim Grieve reported apparently the same exchange thusly: "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating."

Since I have no information to the contrary, I presume Reid said both things so I do not claim an error in reporting. However, while the MSM considers Reid's "attack dog" comment as a "dig," I can't help but think that Cheney considers it to be complimentary or, at least, in line with the persona he has chosen as Vice President. On the other hand, pointing out Cheney's 9% approval rating is, in my mind, most definitely a "dig."

At minimum, it seems like the MSM decided to go with a "nice" version rather than detail the real character of the exchange and, thus, remind the public of the astounding unpopularity of the Vice President, which, if nothing else, renders his thoughts on the subject rather meaningless.

I guess the American public is just not mature enough to handle the truth.<sigh>

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