Wilgoren Watches the Democrats - July 8, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for July 8, 2004

Wilgoren Watches the Democrats

Jodi Wilgoren, one of the paper's more balanced political reporters (she was criticized by Deaniacs for her coverage of the Vermont governor's candidacy), nabs the front page with her story on the new Kerry-Edwards ticket.

The headline sounds as if it was DNC-approved: "New Team Blends Messages for a United Vision." But Wilgoren's actual story at least gives Republicans room to frame the ticket's liberal bent: "Republicans seized on voting record ratings by the left-leaning Americans for Democratic Action to declare the Kerry-Edwards ticket more liberal than the 1984 nominees, Walter F. Mondale and Geraldine A. Ferraro, and circulated quotations by the liberal stalwart Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts saying he 'couldn't be happier' with the choice. John Kerry's choice of John Edwards as his running mate cements their position as the most out of the mainstream ticket in the history of the Democrat Party,' Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for Mr. Bush's re-election team, said in a statement. 'The most liberal senator and the fourth most liberal senator are out of step on the kitchen-table issues that matter to Americans.'"

For the rest of Wilgoren's story on the new Kerry-Edwards ticket, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Sen. John Edwards | Headlines | Labeling Bias | Jodi Wilgoren

"Sensual" Stalinist Poet Neruda Embraced "Social Justice"

Clinton speechwriter turned Times editorial board member Carolyn Curiel pens a tribute to the deceased Communist poet Pablo Neruda, "An Overdue Ode to Neruda: Chile Tries to Reconcile Love and Politics."

Curiel writes: "Devotees from New Delhi to Santiago, in his native Chile, are gathering for breathless readings and deeper discussions of this complicated man, a sensual communist who loved nature almost as much as he loved women, food and wine."for Neruda, love and beauty vied for attention with social justice."

She doesn't mention Neruda's greatest love: Stalin.

Neruda was a die-hard Stalinist, even after the regime's crimes were well-known. Upon Stalin's death wrote a eulogy glorifying the mass murderer, including this sick-making excerpt:

"We must learn from Stalin his sincere intensity his concrete clarity ...Stalin is the moon, the maturity of man and the peoples. Stalinists, Let us bear this title with pride."

For the rest of Curiel's unfortunate editorial, click here.

" Arts | Carolyn Curiel | Editorial | Pablo Neruda | Poetry | Josef Stalin

Dem Ticket Focuses on "Economic Anxiety" - As Does the Times

The gloomy tone of Edmund Andrews' Thursday piece, "Revived Focus on Anxiety Over Economic Conditions," plays into the Kerry-Edwards theme of economic anxiety.

"Although Mr. Kerry's attack was blunted by a surge in job creation from March through May, his theme of a 'middle-class squeeze' and Mr. Edwards's theme of 'two Americas' may resonate with underlying economic conditions," Andrews notes. "Unemployment, the gravest single threat to Mr. Bush's re-election prospects, has been declining for the last several months, and the nation has added 1.3 million jobs since January. Other indicators suggest that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards have ample opportunities to tap into popular discouragement and insecurity. Adjusted for inflation, hourly wages have slightly declined in the last year, and corporate profits have surged. Job creation, which slowed markedly last month, has been more anemic than in any previous recovery, a phenomenon that economists said may well reflect a permanent change in the operation of the economy. Of the 2.7 million manufacturing jobs that have disappeared since 2001, about 100,000 have been recovered. The dislocation in many industrial states, including crucial swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, remains high, even as manufacturers ramp up production. The median length of unemployment last month was 10.8 weeks, higher than at any time in the 'jobless recovery'' of the early 90's."

Andrews helpfully suggests there's bad news for Bush: "A particularly ominous indicator for Mr. Bush is the apparently high number of people who have stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. The level of workforce participation peaked at 64.4 percent in April 2000, in the waning months of the economic boom, and plunged to 62 percent when the recession took hold in 2001."

His story concludes with the views of a liberal economist (to Andrews' credit, he labels him as such): "Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal group in Washington, said Mr. Bush could not be faulted for all the job losses but had left himself vulnerable to criticism. 'Bush had an ambitious economic agenda in terms of his tax cuts,'' Mr. Baker said. 'You can't blame all the problems on tax cuts. But you can say it was not the correct medicine.'"

For the rest of Andrews on the grim economic outlook, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Edmund Andrews | Economy

"America's Longest, Deadliest Sustained Conflict Since Vietnam"

Monica Davey on Wednesday files "With a Fort's Death Toll Rising, Its Next-Door Neighbor Shares the Suffering" from the military town of Junction City, KS, near the Fort Riley army base.

Her first sentence sets the baleful tone: "This town's central park, the front door to its brief downtown, looks more like a graveyard now."

No Times story on war dead is complete without a Vietnam reference: "As America's longest, deadliest sustained conflict since Vietnam has rolled on, Junction City and the other small towns tethered to military bases across the nation have felt the effects of war in a way most places cannot. While violence has escalated in Iraq through days of uncertainty, the mood here is edgy and watchful, and word of each soldier's death is met with an unspoken plea: let this one not be from Fort Riley."

That last sentence is dramatic but misleading; military deaths are actually in decline since peaking in April. A Scripps-Howard story notes: "According to the latest Pentagon statistics, 41 American troops perished in the war in June. That is about half of May's toll-80-and a fraction of the 134 fatalities in April, by far the deadliest period since the war began 15 months ago."

For the rest of Davey's report from Kansas, click here.

" Casualties | Monica Davey | Iraq War | Kansas

An Age of Limits in Wait for Booming China?

Put on a sweater before reading Tuesday's story from Howard French. "China's Boom Brings Fear of an Electricity Breakdown" is reminiscent of Jimmy Carter and the age of limits.

"The worry, put bluntly, is that the world simply may not have enough energy and other resources for China to continue developing along present lines, especially at its present rate. Furthermore, sharply increased environmental damage might make the country unlivable, even if such growth could be sustained."[Shanghai energy official Chen Jinhai] is far from a lone voice speaking about the severe environmental and resource limitations that will challenge this country's seemingly irresistible rise of late."The toll on China's environment from this growth-at-any-cost strategy has been truly alarming. China's official development goal is to build what the government calls a well-off society by the year 2020, yet today the very growth that makes such dreams permissible has left China with 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities, according to the World Bank. The government also says that 90 percent of urban residents face serious water pollution problems. By another estimate, 700 million Chinese must make do with contaminated drinking water. Even the country's seas are increasingly under siege from industrial pollution and are regularly choked by red tide infestations. If the country's galloping energy needs have caught people's attention throughout China, mobilizing resources to protect the environment has been far more difficult."

Actually, if China continues on a free-market path, it's likely that it will become more environmentally conscious, as America did (and as the Soviet Union manifestly failed to do).

For the rest of French from China, click here.

" China | Environment | Howard French