But optics sharp it needs, I ween, To see what is not to be seen. — John Trumbull, McFingal (1782)
What does George Bush have in common with prostitutes? For the answer see the end of the next paragraph.
As was observed in last week's column, photographs of French president FranÃƒÂ§ois Mitterand's funeral, showed his widow, mistress and their daughter, all gazing sadly at the casket. Had Eliot Spitzer died while consorting with prostitutes there would have been no photographs of the prostitutes standing sadly by the coffin with Mr. Spitzer's wife and daughters. That's because prostitutes don't do funerals. Here is the answer to the riddle. Neither does George Bush.
George Bush doesn't even like to be in the presence of coffins even though it is thanks to him that the sad remains of more than 4000 service personnel have found resting places in coffins.
Unlike other presidents who in time of war have shared the grief of families of fallen soldiers by attending funeral or memorial services as time and location permit, Mr. Bush has avoided such displays of respect for the fallen and has barred the media from photographing the coffins of fallen service people returning from Iraq lest the sad sights create hostility towards Mr. Bush's legacy war. What the American public doesn't see or recall, Mr. Bush believes, probably hasn't happened. That explains the most recent events involving Johns Hopkins University.
The Johns Hopkins episode involves "abortion" something George Bush opposes. That is why, for most of the years of the Bush reign, funding from the United States for family planning clinics in Africa that provided abortion counseling was reduced or eliminated even though the reduction in funding meant the clinics would be unable to distribute condoms, devices that are intended to reduce the need for abortion or provide protection against AIDS. Mr. Bush's most recent attack on abortion was an attempt to remove information about abortion from a prominent Internet site.
Johns Hopkins manages POPLINE, the world's largest database on reproductive health. According to Robert Pear of the New York Times, it has more than 360,000 records and articles "on family planning, fertility and sexually transmitted diseases. The database is funded by USAID, an agency that imposes severe restrictions on funds being given to any NGO that performs abortions or actively promotes it in foreign countries as a means of family planning.
As a result of brilliant and thorough research, out of the 360,000 articles in the data base, Sandy Jordan, director of communications in USAID's Office of Population and Reproductive Health, discovered two articles that, said she, "were one-sided in favor of abortion." As a result, the organization asked that the articles be removed from the database. Explaining what might otherwise seem like the mindless act of another Bush "You're doing a great job Brownie", she said: "We are part of the Bush administration, so we have to make sure that all parts of the story are told. The administration's policy is definitely anti-abortion and the administration does not see abortion as a part of family planning policy.
Because of Ms. Jordan's concern, beginning in February, Johns Hopkins programmed its computers' search engines so that they would treat the word "abortion" the same way they treat the words "a", "the", "an" etc. People using that word in searches would get no results. By taking steps that resulted in the removal of the word "abortion" from the POPLINE data base, the Bush administration accomplished the same thing Mr. Bush has accomplished by not publicly acknowledging the deaths of American service personnel in Iraq except on very rare and carefully controlled occasions. The deaths do not go away. Public awareness of them does. By causing "abortion" to be removed from the POPLINE search engine, girls and women could still get abortions. What they couldn't get, at least from the Johns Hopkins site, was information about abortions. The school told those inquiring about the change in policy that "abortion" was not a valid search term.
Johns Hopkins being an institution of higher education run by people with brains and common sense rather than ideology, is more enlightened than the Bush administration. When the Dean of the Public Health School, Dr. Michael J. Klag, learned of the restrictions in early April, he ordered the restrictions lifted saying: "I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and 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 answer is not hard to come by. It changed because the country is run by Orwellian ideologues who believe that the way to control the country is to control the minds of its citizens by limiting information available to them. It has been stunningly successful. One can only hope that in January 2008, the minds of the citizens are restored to their rightful owners.