Highs and Lows

The mass media are chock-full of pretty faces and stylish coifs covering empty heads. Still, not all reporters are vacuous inanities. A few are hard-working, enterprising, and direct. They even write well. Two of my favorites are Nir Rosen and Dana Milbank.

This week, Rosen testified at a Senate hearing about the future of Iraq. Senator Joe Biden asked what advice Rosen had for going forward in Iraq. Rosen didn’t want to answer.

BIDEN: Based on what you’ve said, there’s really no hope — we really should get the hell out of there right now. I mean, there’s nothing to do. Nothing.

ROSEN: As a journalist, I’m uncomfortable advising an imperialist power about how to be a more efficient imperialist power. And I don’t think that we’re there for the interest of the Iraqi people. I don’t think that’s ever been a motivation. […]

BIDEN: [If we withdraw], the good news is we wouldn’t be imperialists in Iraq, from your perspective.

ROSEN: Only elsewhere in the region. (laughter). … There’s no positive scenario in Iraq these days. Not every situation has a solution.

No positive scenario. In essence, there is no solution. Especially for an imperialist power. And like it or not, we are an imperialist power. If you need convincing, take a look at Howard Zinn’s new book, A People’s History of American Empire. Here’s a brief animated version of the first section.

More about Zinn and his book — including an extended version of that introductory essay, at TomGram.

Yesterday, Dana Milbank attended a hearing as the Senate Banking Committee questioned poor old Alan Schwartz about the spectacularly expensive demise of his firm, Bear Stearns. Schwartz’ apparent innocence and ignorance seemed strange for a man pulling in twenty or thirty million dollars a year.

And the Senators questioning him seemed, for the most part, remarkably gentle and sympathetic to a man whose sinking ship is getting about thirty billion dollars from the government in an effort to keep it afloat.

In Milbank’s report, however, the paired innocence and sympathy suddenly made sense. To establish context,
Milbank, in noting each Senator’s comments, included the amount donated to that Senator by the securities and investment industry. Some of the lowlights.

Buddy, Can You Spare a Billion?

“I want the witnesses to know, and others, that as a bottom-line consideration, I happen to believe that this was the right decision,” Chairman Chris Dodd (D-$5,796,000) said before hearing a single word of testimony.

“You made the right decision,” Sen. Evan Bayh (D-$1,582,000) told the regulators who worked out the loan guarantee.

“The actions had to be done,” agreed Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-$6,162,000).

Still, it’s possible to find positive notes regarding the federal government. Here are two such — one about a man willing to defy the federal government in the interest of truth, the other about an arm of the federal government willing to report the news, even when it’s bad.


Popline is supposed to be the most complete Internet source of leads to reproductive health literature. It’s run by Johns Hopkins University, and funded by the federal government.

Recently, librarians complained that Popnet was blocking searches for information about abortion. The manager of the database at JHU wrote one of the librarians with an explanation.

Debbie Dixon

We recently made all abortion terms stop words. As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now.

That was Tuesday. A couple days later, the Dean of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health issued a countermanding press release. The last two lines say it all.

Michael J. Klag

I have directed that the POPLINE administrators restore “abortion” as a search term immediately. I will also launch an inquiry to determine why this change occurred.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and not its restriction.


Given a choice between supportable truth and political accommodation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unlike certain other organs of the federal government, addresses itself to truth. That, anyway, is my conclusion after glancing at employment figures for March.

In brief, the BLS says that 434,000 people lost their jobs in March. That brings the total US unemployment total to 7.8 million, which is 5.1 percent. The Bush Administration, whose package of actions and inactions may legitimately be charged with blame for many of the nearly-eight-million unemployed, had a characteristic reaction.

White House

While these numbers are disappointing, they are not entirely unexpected.

It’s called Dispassionate Conservatism.

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