I have a new "Think Again" column here called "Liberals and Veterans: Welcome Back."
I'm going to do my Nation column this week about last night's debate, but one thing I found particularly offensive, aside from the atrocious questioning, was, from the standpoint of sitting in the audience, the way CNN producers purposely ginned up the crowd to cheer over and over, as if they were pom-pommed cheerleaders at a high school pep rally. This is a ridiculously immature manner in which to conduct an alleged debate on the nation's future, but it also interfered with the debate itself, as a bunch of rowdies in the crowd felt empowered to shout over the candidates' answers. Overall, it was an abysmal performance, but I'll have more ordered thoughts later in the week. I thought Joe Biden "won" the debate by the way, not that it matters... The loser was Wolf Blitzer.
Oh and I withdraw my congratulations to Newsweek for its new columnist hires. Mike Gerson already has a gig there. How many enablers of an administration that purposely misleads the country and attacks the fundamental building blocks of democracy, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press is too many? I would have said one, but two, fer sure...
Tom Engelhardt is no expert on drought, but a question's been nagging at him ever since, in early October, he first discovered that sometime in the next year, if the extreme southeastern drought doesn't abate, Atlanta, a metropolis of five million (and still growing), might run out of water. An immediate question came to mind: What in the world would that mean? And then what? He waited curiously until recently for someone in the mainstream media to take those questions under serious consideration. What does it even mean for a major city on the planet to lose its water? Are we talking about a Katrina without a storm? A new trail of tears?
When just about every mainstream piece Engelhardt saw or read essentially ended on the fact that Atlanta might lose its water -- just where his questions began -- as if hitting a brick wall, he began to wonder. It was, as he writes, "as if, in each piece, the reporter had reached the edge of some precipice down which no one cares to look, lest we all go over."
Engelhardt continued: "Based on the record of the last seven years, we can take it for granted that the Bush administration hasn't the slightest desire to glance down; that no one in FEMA who matters has given the situation the thought it deserves; and that, on this subject, as on so many others, top administration officials are just hoping to make it to January 2009 without too many more scar marks. But, if not the federal government, shouldn't somebody be asking? Shouldn't somebody check out what's actually down there?"
As a result, he's taken an amateur's trip through national and global drought -- at an extreme this year on relatively large swaths of the planet -- and he's invited the reader to travel along with him, admitting his own ignorance and yet trying to ask the questions that he wished reporters were asking for him.
Engelhardt concludes that, while there may be no trail of tears out of Atlanta -- for all any of us know, rain lies in the city's near future -- it's clear enough that, globally and possibly nationally, tragedy awaits and we're not prepared for it. "It's time," he suggests, "to call in the first team to ask some questions."
"Honestly," he concludes, "I don't demand answers. Just a little investigation, some thought, and a glimpse or two over that precipice as the world turns.... and bakes and burns."
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
"Corn in the fields/ Listen to the rice when the wind blows 'cross the water..."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Blues From Louisiana" (Illinois Jacquet) -- Once again, I neglected to place a brace of woodpeckers outside the Oval Office so that they could tap out in Morse Code, over and over again, how much I love New Orleans.
One hopes Dana Milbank is man enough to do the decent thing and simply go home and vomit every night. The other night, talking with my man Olbermann, greasily hiding behind what was the living definition of a s**t-eating grin, Milbank explained his take on the "How do we beat the bitch?" controversy currently plaguing John McCain, who is not, Milbank was quick to point out, running for "knighthood in some order of chivalry." He further explained that McCain was smart enough to realize that it would "be suicide to quarrel with this phraseology." So now it is not only politically permissible -- but the very essence of shrewd politics -- to go along with calling Senator Hillary Clinton almost anything. Why stop here? Why not just call her a "c**t"? That'd be a brilliant tactical maneuver, wouldn't it, Dana? Go for the gold, boys. Between that nonsense, and Maureen Dowd's nearly incoherent prattling about stewardesses, and the revelation that Camille Paglia has returned to Salon with at least 200 new voices rattling around up there in the ol' attic, you just know that this isn't anywhere near as weird as it's going to get.
There was a brief dust-up this week when an administration official told Congress that we all should adjust to a new concept of "privacy" -- which is, as near as I can tell, very similar to the new concept Pompeii once embraced toward beachfront property. Where in the hell has everyone been? The assault on a right to privacy has been central to the anti-choice movement -- and the politics that movement has helped propel -- for almost 40 years. It has been a central tenet of movement conservatism that the Supreme Court overreached not only in allowing a right to choose under Roe, but also in deciding the earlier cases that established a right to privacy in the first place. That's the real prize. Once, everybody knew that. It was a big part of the reason that we've lived lo these many years without an angry crank like Robert Bork on the Court. (Once, on Law & Order, the notion that the right doesn't truly exist got put in the mouth of Fred Dalton Thompson hisse'f. Of course, he was still alive then.) Democrats knew it. Republicans used to brag about how much they hated it. It is still the huge, honking reason why we should run -- RUN! -- away from any notion that Democrats have to reach some "common ground" on the "abortion question." There simply is no good faith on the other side. They do not believe in a right to privacy -- either in the uterus, over the telephone, at the mailbox, or on the Internet -- and they are on a very long march to eliminate the notion entirely. They already are halfway there. They don't need any help.
And Keith? You know I love you, and I loved the way you stuck up for the "We didn't vote for Bush" bridge players on Wednesday night. But if you're going to argue -- and brilliantly, I should say -- that private organizations ought to be more respectful of the First Amendment than the bridge authorities are being, then you're going to have to explain to me why the private organizations known as professional baseball teams shouldn't be more respectful of Amendments IV and V as regards drug testing without probable cause.
As you know, I am not one to scream about the "Decline and Fall of Western Civilization" and all that, but if there are warning signs, perhaps one of them is that President Bush has given National Humanities Medals to -- I am not making this up -- Victor Davis Hanson, Richard Pipes, and Stephen Balch, who is the president of the National Association of (grumpy) Scholars. The link is here.
I look forward to the day that Lt. Col. Bateman gets such a medal from a far better president.
Eric replies: Ruth Wisse, too. Oy.
Ewww! The headline was just the beginning; then I read the article. I thought it had to be a play on words, but no. Now I have to gouge out my eyes and fill the sockets with bleach. Thanks.