RAINES WATCH

The New York Times’ campaign against the war to disarm Saddam has been stepped up this morning. The three lead stories hammer away at the case for war. The first heralds an alleged split between Blair and Bush about getting a second U.N. resolution for invasion. What split? The Times does its best to find one – but even in the story, no such split is substantiated. Both Bush and Blair would welcome a second U.N. resolution endorsing the use of force. Both would go to war without one. Blair wants to redouble the efforts to get one. Bush is happy to try but holds out little hope. According to the Guardian, the president has allowed for up to six weeks to gain maximum traction for a broader coalition. An administration official tells the Times: “”We’re certainly not going to stand in the way, and we may even help in seeking a second resolution. But it’s not going to be a process in which we get mired down.” In other words, there is a small difference in emphasis in the desire for a second resolution. That’s a “split”? It’s more like a split-hair.

IT NEVER RAINES BUT IT POURS: The second anti-war piece informs us that “In two days of interviews [in Saddam City], there was no outward suggestion x97 not the subtlest arch of an eyebrow x97 of anything other than complete unanimity in support of Mr. Hussein.” Hmmm. I wonder why. That still doesn’t stop the Times from leading the piece with this inflammatory quote: “We are ready to confront the United States,” said Halima Nebi, 57. “We will use stones, bricks, guns, our own hands.” Yes, the piece acknowledges the presence of a police state that makes any interviews with ordinary Iraqis a farce. So why run the piece at all? Stupid question, of course. Finally, the Times tries a third angle: how the absence of reservists is affecting businesses and life back home. Here’s the spin:

All across the United States, the call-up of reservists and National Guard members is carving big holes in the towns and cities they leave behind. The heartache of families separating, a familiar ritual of military service, is being compounded by the community upheaval associated with a second major mobilization of citizen soldiers in as many years. Doctors. Nurses. Police officers. Firefighters. Lawyers. Teachers. Clerks. Cashiers. Mechanics. Truck drivers. Even mayors and school board members. All going or gone.

This war is just terrible isn’t it? The leaders are split; the enemy is determined to destroy us; and the homeland is bereft. Keep it coming, Howell. Only six weeks left.

PRO-WAR EXTREMISM

I figured some of this might go on at CPAC. Demonizing the religion of Islam, making no distinction between the vast majority of its believers and the few fanatics, actually helps the enemy. Yes, we should call Muslims to account for the extremism and violence in their midst. Yes, we shouldn’t be blind to some of the violent imagery and and rhetoric in Islam. Yes, we shouldn’t buy the white-washing of dangerous trends in contemporary Islam that some peddle. Yes, we need to challenge the fusion of politics and religion in much of contemporary Islamic thought. But sheer religious bigotry needs to be condemned by those of us in favor of the war just as extremism needs to be condemned by those in the opposite camp.

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE

“I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup dx92etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka ‘Christians,’ and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or ‘PPs.'” – Kurt Vonnegut, In These Times. Via Bookslut.

THE SENTENCING OF RICHARD REID: Worth an honorary mention:

This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and a just sentence. It is a righteous sentence. Let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice. You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice… See that flag, Mr. Reid? That’s the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. You know it always will. Custody, Mr. Officer. Stand him down.

WHAT BIGOTRY ISN’T

National Review’s Rod Dreher is upset that a Catholic judge in the District of Columbia sympathized with some non-violent activists from the gay religious group, Soulforce. The three campaigners performed an act of civil disobedience at a recent gathering of Catholic bishops in a downtown hotel, by kneeling and asking for communion. The day before, all three had been denied communion at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception because the priests mistakenly believed they were members of the Sash movement, a group dedicated to the inclusion of gay people within the Catholic Church. The judge convicted the protestors of unlawful entry into the hotel but decided not to sentence them. In fact, as a Catholic, she sympathized with the protestors: “Tremendous violence was done to you … when the Body of Christ was denied to you,” she opined from the bench. “As a member of your church, I ask you to forgive the church.” For these reasons, Rod calls the judge “bigoted” and the decision “judicial Catholic-bashing.” I beg to differ. We’ve found in recent years that when the Church hierarchy covers up abuse, it is sometimes necessary for the laity to peacefully protest. And when the Church propagates doctrines that are cruel and discriminatory – such as the denial of communion to gay Catholics merely because they are openly gay – then it is also permissible for lay Catholics to express their sympathy for the victims of the Church’s actions. This is not bigotry. According to the Church itself, openly gay people are not to be denied communion. They are part of the body of Christ. And no-one is questioning the right of the Catholic hierarchy to enforce whatever doctrines they want. What the judge said merely amounted to bearing witness to what many perceive to be injustice. You may disagree and support the exclusion of openly gay Catholics from the sacraments, but it’s an over-reach to describe this conscientious objection as a form of bigotry.

THE KRUGMAN “PLUNGE”

I defer to a Wharton professor of statistics, who’s done the math on Bush’s poll ratings.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

“Caught up in the frenzy of noise and excitement, I didn’t run for cover. Instead, I kept shouting along with the others, “Down with Saddam!” Years of anger within me came pouring out. Even with its guns, the army was no match for us that day. The angry crowds surged toward the soldiers’ trucks and jeeps despite the rain of bullets. They swarmed en masse all over the military’s vehicles and forced the troops out of their cars so that the soldiers could not possibly shoot at all the waves of rebels. Many soldiers threw down their weapons and ran off down the street, chased by the crowd. Many were caught and some were beaten; most who were captured were taken to the Imam Hussein shrine, which became a makeshift headquarters for the rebels and a detention center for army troops. I saw one older soldier who escaped the crowds banging on my neighbor’s door, crying. He asked to be hidden or at least given some civilian clothes that might save him.” – from a riveting account of the last time Iraq’s tormented people had a few days of hope, before the last president Bush abandoned them to Saddam once again. Do the Iraqis want us to invade? It’s a stupid question. They’re human beings, aren’t they? All that stands between them and their freedom is our ambivalence.

KRUGMAN WATCH

In his most recent column, Paul Krugman wrote the following sentence: “Mr. Bush’s approval ratings have plunged over the last two months.” Krugman’s an economist; he knows numbers. Is this statement true? Here’s a collection of recent polls of Bush’s job approval rating, cited by Krugman himself on his own website (the one where he admits to errors in order to avoid fessing up to them in the Times itself.) The data? In the last two months, Bush’s approval rating has declined from 66 – 62 percent (ABC News, margin of error 3.5 percent); from 63 to 57 percent (Zogby, no margin of error cited); from 64 to 60 percent (Gallup); from 60 to 55 percent (Newsweek, margin of error 3 percent) … well, you get the picture. Some polls show a steeper decline – NBC News’ poll shows a slip from 62 to 54. But if you average it all out, the drop is probably around 3 – 4 percent from low 60s to high 50s – still in the region of an electoral landslide, and in line with the months before. The dictionary definition of a “plunge” is “to descend steeply; fall precipitously; to move forward and downward violently; to become suddenly lower; decrease dramatically.” The column headline? “Credibility Problems.” Yep. He got that right. (With thanks to Don Luskin.)