Be afraid, be very afraid (please) —

Tom Engelhardt doesn’t believe the administration can orchestrate an October Surprise, but he admits it’s hard not to be suspicious:

…take the most recent Orange Alert, which came just after the Democratic Convention as Kerry was setting out on the campaign trail and was based on a series of arrests of al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan, the first of which, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the FBI’s twenty-second “Most Wanted” terrorist, was announced on the day of Kerry’s acceptance speech. To be more precise, it was announced by Faisal Saleh Hayyat, Pakistan’s interior minister, at that top Pakistani hour for making crucial announcements – midnight (but acceptance speech day halfway across the world.). Actually, to be yet more accurate, the arrest itself had been made not that day but four days earlier. What’s surprising here is not the four-day lag, but the speed with which the announcement was made – a kind of unseemly tip-off to any al-Qaeda figures connected to Ghailani. As former CIA operative Robert Baer commented on the timing of the announcement: “It makes no sense to make the announcement then. Presumably, everything [Al Qaeda] does is compartmented. By announcing to everybody in the world that we have this guy, and he is talking, you have to assume that you shoot tactics. To keep these guys off-balance, a lot of this stuff should be kept in secret. You get no benefit from announcing an arrest like this.”

On the same topic, remember the TNR article I linked to a few weeks ago, predicting that Pakistani officials would announce the arrest of a high value Al Qaeda target during the Democratic National Convention? The same authors reflect on the implications of their prescience here. William Rivers Pitt also explores the curious timing of the terror alerts. Julius Civitatus provides a very handy graphic, correlating Bush’s poll numbers to terror alerts. And Ray McGovern thinks we should still be concerned about attempts to cancel or postpone the elections:

…if the president’s numbers look no better in October than they do now, there will be particularly strong personal incentive on the part of the president, Rumsfeld, and Vice President Cheney to pull out all the stops in order to make four more years a sure thing. What seems increasingly clear is that putting off the election is under active consideration—a course more likely to be chosen to the extent it achieves status as just another option.

When did Liberal become a bad word? —

Kathy Pollitt reclaims liberal values in her Nation column. I’m not sure her “enlightened borough of Brooklyn” comment (contrasting it to “rural conservative states”) is particularly helpful, but she nails it here:

We liberals and progressives and leftists have our own noble principles, our own beautiful abstract words. We should take our stand on them. Fairness is a liberal value. Equality is a liberal value. Education is a liberal value. Honesty in government, public service for modest remuneration, safeguarding public resources and the land–these are all values we share. Liberty is a liberal value, trusting people to make their own decisions, letting people speak their minds even if their views are unpopular. So is social solidarity, the belief that we should share the nation’s enormous wealth so that everyone can live decently. The truth is, most of the good things about this country have been fought for by liberals (indeed, by leftists and, dare one say it, Communists)–women’s rights, civil liberties, the end of legal segregation, freedom of religion, the social safety net, unions, workers’ rights, consumer protection, international cooperation, resistance to corporate domination–and resisted by conservatives. If conservatives had carried the day, blacks would still be in the back of the bus, women would be barefoot and pregnant, medical care would be on a cash-only basis, there’d be mouse feet in your breakfast cereal and workers would still be sleeping next to their machines.

In an essay in the August Harper’s (the essay is not available online), Marilynn Robinson writes about liberal fear of claiming the “liberal” label in “The Tyranny of Petty Coercion.” Among some of the many eloquent statements she makes, she argues that “the banishment of the word ‘liberal’ was simultaneous with the collapse of liberalism itself…”

…To be shamed out of the use of a word is to make a more profound concession to opinion than is consistent with personal integrity. What is at stake? Our hope for a good community. Liberalism saw to the well-being of the vulnerable. Now that it has ebbed, the ranks of the vulnerable continuously swell. If this seems too great a claim to make for it, pick up a newspaper. Trivial failures of courage may seem minor enough in any particular instance, and yet they change history and society. They also change culture.

Shameless plug —

If you want to nominate Left At The Altar for the Washington Post’s Best Blogs contest, go here ;-).

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