[NOTE: I also posted this article on www.dailykos.com. If you like it, please go to it here and recommend it, comment on it, etc. Thanks.]
One of CNN's lead stories this morning featured President George W. Bush in the White House. This should not be the least bit surprising, given that news broke yesterday on three key issues facing the country: global warming, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and air travel delays.
But, then again, this is CNN, the network way more interested in Britney's driving record than Bush's war record, so it should come as no surprise that the story the "news" network was leading with was about the Christmas experience of Bush's two Scottish Terriers (you can watch the piece here, just in case you think I'm making this up, although if I wanted to be inventive, I would have chosen something more plausible).
On Monday, I wrote about how Bush was out of touch on global warming and torture, putting the U.S. in a precarious position. And yet, in the last 48 hours, he has made things worse, even if CNN would have you believe that his biggest move during that time was lecturing one of his dogs about sibling rivalry.
On the global warming front, scientists revealed this week that the rate at which the Arctic ice is melting is far worse than even their worst-case estimates had predicted. And we're not talking about some fringe crackpot scientists here. The concerns are coming from U.S. government experts at NASA. An AP article quoted Mark Serreze, a "senior scientist," as saying that "[t]he Arctic is screaming," and NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally as noting, "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions." Zwally went on to say: "The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming. Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines."
Maybe. But what are the odds of getting out of the coal mine when CNN can't even get out of the White House?
You would think that a dire report like this would cause a stir in the mainstream media, and that there would be a rush to action on the part of the U.S. government? You, of course, would be wrong. The story was barely picked up (as you can tell from the fact that my link is to the Seattle Times). I mean, seriously, how will we be judged as a culture if future generations (assuming any survive) look back and see that CNN didn't cover this frightening report about the future of our planet, but the network was all over the play habits of two dogs in the White House? Won't Bush have to go down as the most foolish leader in the history of mankind, making Nero look like a policy wonk?
There was also news on the war front that seems to have slipped by CNN's notice. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said something that should be shocking to the American people. He casually asserted that Iraq is a higher priority than Afghanistan, noting: "In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must." Have we, as a country, become so amnesic that we no longer remember the last six years and three months of our history? Have we so accepted the Bush administration's explanations of things that we have lost all ability to think for ourselves?
It seems shocking to me that I should have to write this history, but let's review: On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 terrorists hijacked four planes, crashing two of them into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. More than 3,000 Americans were killed. Ring a bell? If not, download any Rudy Giuliani campaign speech from YouTube and wait for no more than five seconds. He'll tell you about it. Now, the organization that did that to us, Al Qaeda, was based in Afghanistan, where they trained terrorists, and Afghanistan was also where the organization's leader, Osama bin Laden, was based. Bin Laden, is, you may recall, the guy Bush promised we were going to get, dead or alive? (For now, we'll put aside the fact that a majority of the attackers were Saudi, because that would really make the Bush administration squirm.)
So, we went into Afghanistan and cleared out the radical Islamic Taliban that supported Al Qaeda. But before we could finish the job or catch bin Laden, we invaded Iraq. Why? Well, it depends on the calendar, since the explanations changed with the seasons, but it had to do with weapons of mass destruction (that didn't exist), or getting rid of a dictator (we weren't, as promised, welcomed as liberators), or helping a democracy form and flourish (instead we are propping up a government that is unwilling to do the slightest thing to reconcile the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds into any kind of unified country).
To review, Afghanistan supported the organization that attacked us, and Iraq was in no way involved in the 9/11 attacks or giving support to Al Qaeda.
And yet, now, even as a majority of Americans view Iraq as a mistake and the invasion of Afghanistan as proper, the administration is prioritizing Iraq over Afghanistan. This is myopic mania run amok. (I won't even go into the history of the U.S. using Afghanistan for its purposes during the Soviet occupation and then hanging the country out to dry after the Russians retreated.) It's not bad enough that Bush's Iraq obsession will cost the U.S. dearly for years to come, but now he's going to flush the victories in Afghanistan down the toilet, too, in service to his Iraq addiction? I'll bet you W is the worst Risk player ever.
And, again, CNN has passed over this major policy decision for a discussion of Christmas at the White House.
Finally, the New York Times, buried in the Metro section, reported yesterday that in an effort to ease the delays and congestion in the New York airports, the Bush administration has decided to try and limit the number of flights allowed into and out of John F. Kennedy International Airport each day. On the surface, this would appear to be an ideology-free decision, with the White House actually trying to address a more mundane problem ("governing" is another way to put it, something that Bush has demonstrated he likes less than members of Congress who don't do exactly what he demands). But, if you read the fine print, you see that Bush's plan for JFK is an example of same, uh, stuff, different day.
How would you know this? Well, it's the job of journalists to dig deeper into these things. While the Times journalists did their jobs, the newspaper's editors, unfortunately, saw fit to limit the exposure of the story to the Metro section. And CNN? Again, you cannot cover boring stories about airport policies when there are dogs running around the White House! Cute dogs! Jeez, what is wrong with me? I really don't get it, do I? They're dogs. In the White House. With gifts! Doesn't that say it all?
So what's the airport story? Well, in a nutshell, the delays in the three New York airports are the cause of most of the airline delays in the U.S. Your first reaction might be, "Okay, then limit the number of flights." Ah, but if it was only that simple. Last month, New York magazine ran an eye-opening piece about the air congestion problem in New York, complete with detailed analyses of the causes and possible solutions (along with a cheat sheet for consumers on how to limit delays, including a list of the best and worst flights on 10 routes). Suffice to say that the "limit the flights" solution would give rise to a load of other problems and fail to address the true underlying causes of the delays.
Clearly, the writer of the article, Michael Idov, did a lot more research than the Bush administration. Why do I say this? Easy, because the Bush administration looked at the congestion problem and did what it always does. Instead of asking, "How can we fix this problem?", it said, "How can we use this problem as an excuse to impose reactionary privatization policies on an industry while giving as much aid as possible to big corporations." (On October 15, I wrote in more detail about how Bush's policies are revolutionary in their single-minded desire to serve corporations.)
According to the Times article, Bush's solution to the air mess in New York is to limit the flights, and then auction off the routes to the highest bidder. In other words, the White House is putting its purported "free market" economics into practice, while also serving the biggest corporations, since, clearly, the big boys are the ones who will have the resources to secure the routes. (And yet, even the larger airlines are against the plan, taking the position that making them bid on routes they already have amounts to taking their property away.) The article notes that smaller carriers would be effectively driven from the market. The limitation would also lead to higher fares, as competition is decreased (much like on the shuttle routes between New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.; so much for the "free market" Bush pretends to care so much about) and airlines try to recoup the money paid for the rights to the routes.
The article also notes that the what Bush is proposing is untested and ridiculously risky. Or, as Robert Mann, president of R. W. Mann & Company, an airline industry consultant is quoted as saying, "This suggestion that auctions could be used at the New York airports is lunacy,” with the administration relying "on economic and game theory that has no basis in reality, including the actual starting conditions and real world constraints."
In other words, again, Bush is more interested in imposing his ideologies on an industry than governing and solving problems. How has that worked out so far? In Louisiana? The toy industry? Mining safety? Iraq?
You think maybe CNN should have given this issue a little air time, instead of two Scottish Terriers checking out gifts by a Christmas tree? I know, I know. They're dogs. In the White House. With gifts. I understand. Is there a way we can get two Scottish Terriers to express concern about global warming, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the air congestion problems in New York? Because if we could pull that off, CNN would be all over it.