Fox's War on News

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

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Fox Broadcasting's "war on news" continues with sniper fire aimed at CNN's Anderson Cooper. One of their talking hairdos describes the newsman as a "fabricated" person like Paris Hilton. Apparently heightening Cooper's humiliation is that he losing the ratings war to a woman -- Greta Van Sustern. Well ratings are everything, after all, when your stock in trade is demagoguery.

Comical Cheney

Friday, January 26, 2007

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I love that guy! He can really see the silver lining in any gray cloud.

If [Saddam] were still there today, we'd have a terrible situation.

Today, instead...

BLITZER: But there is a terrible situation there.

CHENEY: No, there is not. There is not. There's problems -- ongoing problems -- but we have, in fact, accomplished our objectives of getting rid of the old regime...


CHENEY: ... and there is a new regime in place that's been there for less than a year, far too soon for you guys to write them off. They have got a democratically written constitution, the first ever in that part of the world. They've had three national elections. So there's been a lot of success.


And there's more. As he slaps down critics who can't appreciate the "enormous successes" in Iraq; pantywaists like Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel. "Hogwash," I tells ya.

Cheney's bravura performance on Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room" got me to thinking about another magnificent bastard: Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Saha. Or as he was better known, Comical Ali. Who could forget such classics as:

"There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"

"My feelings - as usual - we will slaughter them all"

"Our initial assessment is that they will all die"

"God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis."

"We are not afraid of the Americans. Allah has condemned them. They are stupid. They are stupid... [dramatic pause] and they are condemned."

Not many people can stare straight into the light of cold hard facts and still have the brass to say "No it isn't." It takes courage. It takes stunning bravado. It takes a glorious audacity with which God endows few men.

And I love the way he rocked Blitzer back on his heels when he tried to question him about White House allies Focus on the Family.

BLITZER: You know, we're out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you: your daughter, Mary. She's pregnant. All of us are happy she's going to have a baby. You're going to have another grandchild. Some of the -- some critics are suggesting -- for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, "Mary Cheney's pregnancy raises the question of what's best for children. Just because it's possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn't mean that it's best for the child." Do you want to respond to that?


BLITZER: She's, obviously, a good daughter --

CHENEY: I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf.

And obviously I think the world of both my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.

BLITZER: I think all of us appreciate --

CHENEY: I think you're out of line.

BLITZER: We like your daughters. Believe me, I'm very sympathetic to Liz and to Mary. I like them both. That was a question that's come up, and it's a responsible, fair question.

CHENEY: I just fundamentally disagree with you.

BLITZER: I want to congratulate you on having another grandchild.

So what did I miss? Mary Cheney's a komodo dragon?... Well, what's wrong with that? Who cares if she reproduces by parthenogenesis? What business is that of Wolf Blitzer's?! Thank god there are still men of steel who can look nosey parker reporters in the eye and say, "You're out of line!"

Jim Webb: The Anti-Bush

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

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Last night marked a unique event the history of the SOTU. The response was a real speech. Jim Webb spoke for the Democrats the way an opposition party should. But it was not just a counter-point to Bush's policies. He stood as a sharp contrast to the man himself. He was a kind of anti-Bush.

Whatever the spinmeisters are making of this speech, it was far more than a military man stating clear opposition to the debacle in Iraq. It was a refutation of the entire Bush Presidency; and of the direction the country has been moving in for some time with bipartisan complicity. What none of the pundits seem to want to talk about is Jim Webb's populism. He speaks like a man of the people and about the issues that effect all of us, with an empathy that comes from having lived the life of an average American.

When Jim Webb spoke about taking the picture of his active-duty father to bed with him every night, I don't think there was a parent listening who didn't feel a visceral pang. I know I did. I know my husband did. We thought of our own daughter staring mystified from her car seat as he boarded a plane to Iraq. Said Webb:

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

But in Bush's tiny little mind, Americans sacrifice when they see that icky, old war on television.

LEHRER: Let me ask you a bottom-line question, Mr. President. If it is as important as you’ve just said - and you’ve said it many times - as all of this is, particularly the struggle in Iraq, if it’s that important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something? The people who are now sacrificing are, you know, the volunteer military - the Army and the U.S. Marines and their families. They’re the only people who are actually sacrificing anything at this point.

BUSH: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we’ve got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.

Now, here in Washington when I say, “What do you mean by that?,” they say, “Well, why don’t you raise their taxes; that’ll cause there to be a sacrifice.” I strongly oppose that. If that’s the kind of sacrifice people are talking about, I’m not for it because raising taxes will hurt this growing economy. And one thing we want during this war on terror is for people to feel like their life’s moving on, that they’re able to make a living and send their kids to college and put more money on the table. And you know, I am interested and open-minded to the suggestion, but this is going to be -

LEHRER: Well -

BUSH: — this is like saying why don’t you make sacrifices in the Cold War? I mean, Iraq is only a part of a larger ideological struggle. But it’s a totally different kind of war, than ones we’re used to.

No, Mr. Bush. Because in this particular "ideological struggle" men and women are being killed or maimed every day in open combat, while the majority of Americans shop, watch television, and demonstrate their patriotism by slapping yellow ribbons on their SUVs. This is what it looks like when a nation sacrifices for a war effort:
U.S. Food Administration, Ration Diet
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But it was not just the difference between a man who knows what it means to put your life on the line for your country and one who couldn't be bothered to show up to a "Champagne" unit stateside, while his countrymen were sinking in the big muddy. Where Webb has really distinguished himself, not only from all things Bush, but from the trend of American politics in general, is that he is a true economic populist. Last night he took on the modern-day robber barons who are transferring the nation's wealth into their pockets, with here-to-fore bipartisan support. Said Webb:

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy - that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

Later in his speech he said:

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it.

At some point, amidst the post SOTU blather, I heard Chris Matthews say something about how the three Presidents invoked by Webb were Republicans. I would point out that none of the three would likely have been comfortable in today's GOP. Not Ike who warned so presciently of the dangers of the military-industrial complex, and certainly not Roosevelt, who was first and foremost a member of the Progressive Movement. Webb, who has been both a Republican and Democrat, appears to be first and foremost a progressive populist.

Webb spoke boldly about an economy that is not serving the majority of Americans, and hinted at an agenda of bold reform, while a sitting President promised to do nothing more than rob Peter to pay Paul; offering schemes like a health care plan that will raise taxes on some working Americans and offer tax breaks to people who can't afford to take advantage of them.

Last night Jim Webb showed us the difference between a morally stunted elitist and a man who knows what life is like for people who work and serve and struggle. And he may just have shown us a glimpse of the way forward.

Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Harbingers of Watergate Redux

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

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Nixon Quits

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Is it just me or is it too eerie that E. Howard Hunt has died on the same day that Scooter Libby's trial kicked off. And adding insult to injury, Bush is right now delivering his SOTU speech with the lowest poll numbers since Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal.

As per the New York Times:

“This fellow Hunt,” President Richard M. Nixon muttered a few days after the June 1972 break-in, “he knows too damn much.”

That's the ultimate danger for administrations that avoid transparency at all costs and plot nefariously behind closed doors. Conspiracies eventually unwind; right down to the ugly knot. Then it's every man for himself. Today Scooter Libby threw the Bush Administration under a bus.

"They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb," attorney Theodore Wells said, recalling Libby's end of the conversation. "I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected."

Meanwhile Booman has written another lucid, compelling argument for the inescapable wisdom of impeachment. Maybe I'm superstitious, but I think it's inevitable.

Is Bush a Sociopath?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

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Buzzflash wants to know. To explore that question, they reference Martha Stout's "Sociopath Next Door" and note the following criteria.

As Martha Stout explains, a sociopath is defined as someone who displays at least three of seven distinguishing characteristics, such as deceitfulness, impulsivity and a lack of remorse. Such people often have a superficial charm, which they exercise ruthlessly in order to get what they want. Stout argues that the development of sociopathy is due half to genetics and half to nongenetic influences that have not been clearly identified.

Actually one of the biggest indicators that Bush is a sociopath, incapable of empathy, was noted by Bob Cesca over at the Huffington Post. Cesca was disturbed by Bush's performance on "60 Minutes." I watched every moment of that interview and I actually thought it was his most life-like performance yet. Silhouetted as he was against a fireplace in an obvious nod to FDR, he came across as "warmer," if you will, than he usually does. But Cesca is right. For a man talking about death and mayhem, he was grinning and laughing way too much. It is what we call an "inappropriate affect." Cesca documents three instances, with still shots, of Bush grinning and laughing in conjunction with statements of grave seriousness. The observation is deeply disturbing. Bush seems incapable of grokking the horror of the reality he's created with his decisions.

The part of the "60 Minutes" segment I found most troubling was when he was interviewed after speaking to bereaved family members of the fallen. He was quite animated and a little melodramatic. It rang false to me, though I'm sure to those who want to be convinced of his sincerity, his hammed up performance was believable. Readers of Mark Crispin Miller's "Bush Dyslexicon" would recognize the most obvious indicator of his insincerity. It was his most linguistically compromised moment. He was completely incoherent. Miller's analysis led him to the conclusion that Bush's outrageous verbal gaffes correlate to those instances when he tries to convey empathy. It is these attempts to communicate that he understands the little people that give birth to iconic idiocy like, "You're working hard to put food on your family." When he is in an aggressive pose, talking about "evil-doers" and such, he is much, much clearer.

Bush does aggression well. He does anger well. Most sociopaths do. Marcia Stout claims that anger is the only real emotion sociopaths feel. Their only sense of suffering comes from feelings of frustration or boredom. Like many sociopaths he vented those feelings on helpless animals. As childhood friend Terry Throckmorton conveyed to the New York Times's Nicholas Kristof:

''We were terrible to animals,'' recalled Mr. Throckmorton, laughing. A dip behind the Bush home turned into a small lake after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out.

''Everybody would get BB guns and shoot them,'' Mr. Throckmorton said. ''Or we'd put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.''

Today he just blows up third world countries.

Lieberman to Whitewash New Orleans

Saturday, January 13, 2007

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I think it's time at long last for Holy Joe to retire his "I met Dr. King" speech, because the cynicism of his black church, stump classic has now been fully exposed. To paraphrase Kanye West, Joe Lieberman doesn't care about black people. How do I know? Because he's made it clear that he will be letting Bush's White House off the hook for their systematic failures during the Katrina disaster. Read it and weep.

But now that he chairs the homeland panel—and is in a position to subpoena the records—Lieberman has decided not to pursue the material, according to Leslie Phillips, the senator’s chief committee spokeswoman. “The senator now intends to focus his attention on the future security of the American people and other matters and does not expect to revisit the White House’s role in Katrina,” she told NEWSWEEK.

Daily Show's Drunkalogue

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Note to Jon Stewart: Life threatening diseases aren't funny. Mr. Stewart, whom I adore 99.9% of the time, made an embarrassing spectacle worse, when he interviewed Peter O'Toole. It was unclear whether the living legend was in the grip of senility or drink when he precariously perched his old bones in the guest seat of the Daily Show, to promote his new film "Venus." Either way it was sad and painful to watch. I don't know whether Mr. Stewart was at a total loss for words facing one of the greatest actors of all time, but he couldn't have chosen a worse focal point -- one quip after another about the famous actor's famous love of spirits.

Mr. O'Toole seemed all too happy to relive his reckless escapades with the fawning Stewart. In AA they call such anecdotes "drunkalogues." Yes, even his well-rehearsed and charming tale of tipping a white wine with the late, great Katherine Hepburn.

But Mr. O'Toole's alcoholism is not funny so much as it is tragic. In its throes he nearly tanked his acting career, and lost a chunk of his stomach and intestines. Though he famously gave up alcohol in 1975, he has appeared visably drunk on many occasions since. To all appearances, his performance on the Daily Show falls into that category. It is a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease, after all. But funny? Not so much.

Today I Weep for Journalism

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

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Coliseum with Row of Columns

Last night I watched "Scarborough Country." I don't expect anything like unbiased reporting from the former Congressman turned "news man." Sad enough that he is featured prominently on a "news" network. Sadder still to hear him lament the sad demise of esteemed broadcast journalist Barbara Walters's reputation. Saddest of all to acknowledge that he is right.

SCARBOROUGH: Matthew, explain to people, if you will, that only know her through “The View” and through those interviews that she does on ABC—I guess “20/20” she‘s been doing for years—explain to people what a trailblazer Barbara Walters was and how hard she worked for her reputation, that Rosie O‘Donnell tatters every time she does something like this.

FELLING: Absolutely. It has been a shock to me that she‘s been putting up with this for this long. She is the patron saint. She is the woman that all female journalists since the ‘70s looked up to and said, “You know what? She can do it; I‘m going to do, too.”

She was perfection. She was the gold standard with regards to female journalists through the ‘80s, into the ‘90s. And now she‘s doing this Faustian bargain, where she‘s willing to put up with it, but only so far. And I do really think that Rosie‘s days are numbered.

I hate "The View." I've never understood what the seasoned news woman thought she was doing when she launched this show. For the trail-blazer who broke through the glass ceiling and proved that a woman could deliver news with the same sense of gravitas and dignity of her male counterparts, to be associated with a format that sounds more like a coffee-clatch than a news show, has always struck me as the ultimate come-down. "The View" seems almost designed to prove that women are biologically determined to be gossipy, shallow, and unserious. And now the show has reached a new low. Rosie O'Donnell's public feud with Donald Trump is playing out with all the dignity of professional wrestling.

Sadly this makes Rosie only slightly more ridiculous than the crop of talking heads scattered across the cable dial. Anchors no longer deliver news. They bloviate. From Bill O'Reilly's projection about everyone else's bias, to Tim Russert's pandering/badgering intensity, to Chris Matthews bullying and obsequious "I agree with you" brown-nosing. And while the left has its intellectually satisfying Keith Olbermann diatribes, one could hardly confuse his pontificating with objectivity. Wisdom and surprising literacy, but not objectivity.

The whole of broadcast news, which once held promise as a medium for disseminating information, has devolved into self-parody. It's a cheap carney side show which I half expect to start featuring geeks biting the heads off live chickens.

Fox News has gone through the looking glass with grammatically challenged spokesmodels, spouting McCarthyesque agitprop:

GRETCHEN CARLSON: You talk about the hostile enemy, obviously being Iraq, but hostile enemies right here on the home front. Yesterday Senator Ted Kennedy, proposing that any kind of a troop surge should mean there should be congressional approval of that. A lot of democrats not coming to his side on this. But obviously this is not going to be an easy sell on Capitol Hill, even if it’s not an easy sell to the American Public.

But tragically the rest of the industry has followed it through to the Red Queen's court.

None of this is news to blogosphere, I'm sure; which functions as one of the few watchdog venues for an industry which seems to have no adequate check or balance. But lately I find myself thinking back to the early days when a much missed Media Whores Online began its crusade to remind the Fourth Estate of its proud heritage. Watching Scarborough last night I came to the sad realization that the wreckage of Benjamin Franklin's legacy has declined still further and shows little hope of regaining the high ground.

Americans across the political spectrum confuse what can only be described as self-righteous indignation with refreshing honesty. Who wants the dry, impartial reporting of a Walter Cronkite or a young Barbara Walters, when they can get their factoids from carnival barkers and blond chippies in push-up bras? I'm left waxing nostalgic for a time when the empty-headed Bill Boggs and the crass Morton Downey Jr. represented the lunatic fringe of a profession yearning to be taken seriously. Today their antics seem tame by comparison.

What accounts for broadcast journalism doesn't belong on a "news" channel. It should be fought out in the Roman Coliseum, awaiting the thumbs up or thumbs down from Emperor Bush. Entertainment for the hoi poloi to distract them from our crumbling empire.

Once Again, It's the Oil Stupid

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

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A tip of the hat to Chris Floyd for making my point and providing the proof. Anyone who thinks we are in Iraq for reasons other than oil isn't paying attention. While pundits scratch their heads; baffled by a President unconcerned with public opinion, rebellious generals, and defections in his own party, Bush and puppet-master Cheney just keep marching forward with their agenda. It's a kind of anti-politics, which must sound to seasoned politicos like a whistle only dogs can hear.

It looks like political suicide but it's simply the Bush Administration fulfilling the purpose for which it was installed, no matter what the peasantry thinks. Bush will have his "surge." Tony Snow has made very clear that no political process can prevent him.

Snow held out hope that the Democrats would come to their senses about opposing this but admitted it could even be a battle royal. But what about calls for the Democrats to halt the build up by denying funding? Snow admitted congress had funding control but also pointed out that the president could ultimately do what he wants. "You know, Congress has the power of the purse," Snow said, then added: "The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way."

The reason is not mysterious. It's not just political tone-deafness, delusional thinking, or unbridled arrogance. It's that America's will is not invested in the ambitions of the oil barons at the helm. Floyd puts it into perspective.

The reason that George W. Bush insists that "victory" is achievable in Iraq is not because he is deluded or isolated or ignorant or detached from reality or ill-advised. No, it's that his definition of "victory" is different from those bruited about in his own rhetoric and in the ever-earnest disquisitions of the chattering classes in print and on-line. For Bush, victory is indeed at hand. It could come at any moment now, could already have been achieved by the time you read this. And the driving force behind his planned "surge" of American troops is the need to preserve those fruits of victory that are now ripening in his hand.

At any time within the next few days, the Iraqi Council of Ministers is expected to approve a new "hydrocarbon law" essentially drawn up by the Bush Administration and its UK lackey, the Independent on Sunday reports.

As per the Independent, big oil, whose front men are still squatting in the White House, is about to achieve the objective for which this war was launched.

Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

The Independent takes pains to point out that the warmongers have claimed from the beginning that this war was not being fought over oil.

Proposing the parliamentary motion for war in 2003, Tony Blair denied the "false claim" that "we want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues. He said the money should be put into a trust fund, run by the UN, for the Iraqis, but the idea came to nothing. The same year Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, said: "It cost a great deal of money to prosecute this war. But the oil of the Iraqi people belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil."

Supporters say the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq. But that is twice the industry average for such deals. [emphases added]

So now that the country lies prostrate -- war-torn, factionalized, economically crippled, with shattered infrastructure -- it's big oil to the rescue. They will help the fragile Iraqi government to harvest their oil, and for the favor they will take 3 quarters of the profit until they say they have recouped their costs. Such a deal!

I'm reminded of Tony Soprano explaining to his childhood friend why he's gutted his business in order to extract payment for gambling debts. Like the scorpion who's convinced the frog to take him across the river, he's stung him to death before ever reaching the shore. "It's my nature," he explains. The fictive version of the Ramsey Outdoor Store is lost and so it appears is the real-world Iraq. But not without providing enrichment for a criminal enterprise.

A Tale of Two Epidemics

Monday, January 08, 2007

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The irony of two recent New York Times stories, running two days apart, was not lost on me. Today I learned that chunky, and even not so chunky, children are being tormented by weight report cards from their schools. Only Saturday I read that the fashion industry is struggling over the concept of weight requirements for their increasingly cadaverous models. Two sides of the same coin really; these twin epidemics of obesity and anorexia. And lost in the divide between them, any real concept of health.

You can never be too rich...
We have for too long equated "thin" with "healthy." I know far too many ideally thin girls who start their day with coffee and a cigarette, to buy into that notion. I've also known many heavy women who are far more healthy and energetic than their skinny counterparts. Such simplistic shorthand is based far more in lookism than in any real indicators of health and wellness. It does not address the prevalence of say, fitness freaks I've known who stopped menstruating in their twenties because of their lack of body fat. Some of them looked great, though.

This is certainly not to say that obesity is healthy; only that the issue is far more complex and subjective than can be addressed in standardized "report card." Such an approach can only exacerbate the self esteem issues that most girls and an increasing number of boys experience over body image. Just ask the mother of six-year-old Karlind Dunbar, profiled in the New York Times story.

The problem was the letter Karlind discovered, tucked inside her report card, saying that she had a body mass index in the 80th percentile. The first grader did not know what “index” or “percentile” meant, or that children scoring in the 5th through 85th percentiles are considered normal, while those scoring higher are at risk of being or already overweight.

Yet she became convinced that her teachers were chastising her for overeating.

Since the letter arrived, “my 2-year-old eats more than she does,” said Georgeanna Dunbar, Karlind’s mother, who complained to the school and is trying to help her confused child. “She’s afraid she’s going to get in trouble,” Ms. Dunbar said.

Mrs. Dunbar should be concerned as more and more girls succumb to a life-threatening body dysmorphia. The obsession with "thin" has spawned a generation of acolytes of "Ana."

They call her “Ana.” She is a role model to some, a goddess to others — the subject of drawings, prayers and even a creed.

She tells them what to eat and mocks them when they don’t lose weight. And yet, while she is a very real presence in the lives of many of her followers, she exists only in their minds.

Ana is short for anorexia, and — to the alarm of experts — many who suffer from the potentially fatal eating disorder are part of an underground movement that promotes self-starvation and, in some cases, has an almost cult-like appeal.

Followers include young women and teens who wear red Ana bracelets and offer one another encouraging words of “thinspiration” on Web pages and blogs.

Or too thin.
Then, as if conjured by the hallucinations of a thousand starving girls, a real-life Ana died of complications of anorexia. Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, died of self-imposed starvation, sending a chill through a fashion industry already under scrutiny for parading skeletons down runways from New York to Milan.

The response from the fashion industry has been unsurprisingly superficial.

According to participants at the meeting, the recommendations are likely to include scheduling fashion-show fittings with younger models during daylight hours, rather than late at night, to help them get more sleep; urging designers to identify models with eating disorders; and introducing more nutritious backstage catering, where a diet of Champagne and cigarettes is the norm.

There are no plans to require models to achieve an objective measure of health like a height-to-weight ratio, which was imposed by Madrid in September, a move that brought much public attention to the issue.

I can't help but wonder if models were packing on the pounds like those at-risk school children around the country, if the response would be as blase. Methinks that in a an industry by whose contemporary standards modeling greats of time of yore -- such as Cindy Crawford -- would be considered real chunkos, the response would be far more draconian than the report cards embraced by public schools.

But here is the real tragedy. At both extremes of this weight dichotomy is the same problem: malnutrition.

Here, in the rural Southern Tioga School District, the schools distribute the state-mandated reports even as they continue to serve funnel cakes and pizza for breakfast. Some students have physical education for only half the school year, even though 34 percent of kindergartners were overweight or at risk for it, according to 2003-4 reports.

Even health authorities who support distributing students’ scores worry about these inconsistent messages, saying they could result in eating disorders and social stigma, misinterpretation of numbers that experts say are confusing, and a sense of helplessness about high scores.

“It would be the height of irony if we successfully identified overweight kids through B.M.I. screening and notification while continuing to feed them atrocious quality meals and snacks, with limited if any opportunities for phys ed in school,” said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston.

So let me see if I understand the formula. Evaluate kids and be sure to tell them when they fail to meet the bar, then provide no real means for support or improvement. That sounds about right for the public school system.

None of this even addresses the problems of depleted soil and pesticide laden food that is poisoning overfed Americans and tearing apart our immune systems. We are a nation literally growing fat on deprivation; starving to death in the land of plenty.