Just How Bad Is Our National Discourse?

by tristero

This is the week Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize. This is also the week where plausible allegations surfaced that the Bush administration had sought illegal wiretapping within at least 5 weeks of Bush's installation in the White House. So what is the lead article in the print edition of the NY Times Week in Review (the Sunday editorial/op-ed section)? Are you stting down? Believe me you need to.

Reporters and their cats:
IT was a bitterly cold night in the Baghdad winter of 2005, somewhere in the predawn hours before the staccato of suicide bombs and mortars and gunfire that are the daily orchestration of the war. Alone in my office in The Times’s compound beside the Tigris River, I was awaiting the telephoned “goodnight” from The Times foreign desk, eight time zones west, signaling that my work for the next day’s paper was done.

Iraq’s strays inherit land said to have given rise to all domestic cats.
That is when I heard it: the cry of an abandoned kitten, somewhere out in the darkness, calling for its mother somewhere inside the compound. By an animal lover’s anthropomorphic logic, those desperate calls, three nights running, had come to seem more than the appeal of a tiny creature doomed to a cold and lonely death. Deep in the winter night, they seemed like a dismal tocsin for all who suffer in a time of war.

With others working for The Times in Baghdad, I took solace in the battalion of cats that had found their way past the 12-foot-high concrete blast walls that guard our compound. With their survival instincts, the cats of our neighborhood learned in the first winter of the war that food and shelter and human kindness lay within the walls. Outside, among the garbage heaps and sinuous alleyways, human beings were struggling for their own survival, and a cat’s life was likely to be meager, embattled and short.
And then the writing gets maudlin (sarcasm).

As it happens, Frank Rich's column today is a rant about America's "whatever" attitude towards Bush's torture policies. Normally, I would agree with him, this country is indeed far too complacent. But when Rich's employer, and the paper of record, leads off its Sunday editorial section with a long article about reporters and their cats, blaming the public for not taking the news seriously strikes me as grotesquely misplaced.

Cats, for crissakes.

Update by Digby: I don't normally intrude on tristero's posts, but this just seems so necessary. From Ken Silverstein at Harper's, discussing the Howie Kurtz interview on The Daily Show last week:

Kurtz related that Lara Logan’s bosses at CBS had once asked her “to do the lighter side of Baghdad–let’s do a story about female soldiers who are keeping cyberpets online.” I guess if Kurtz had received that request, he would have jumped from his desk and begun preparing a long segment on G.I. Jane and “Barky” the Cyberdog. Logan, because she has self-respect, refused. Indeed, as Kurtz related, she emailed back, “I would rather stick needles in my eyes than spend one second of my time on that story.” Kurtz seemed appalled by this, but Stewart clearly sided with Logan. His reply to Kurtz: “Good for her.”

I also have to confess that I quite liked the cat article. What can I say? --- D