We come not to bury the New York Times columnists but to praise them. Well, some of them.

But though we praise we also bid a fond farewell. The Times columnists are disappearing as we speak behind the veil of a $49.95 a year subscription fee ($39.95 if you act today! And I do mean today!)

The Captain considered coughing up the dough. But the price is high, and seems even higher when it includes paying for celebrated columnist you don’t want. It’s too much like cable TV. Since health insurance is unaffordable, and gasoline is getting there, this seems not a hard decision. If a sad one.

Final quotes and more laments below.

more or less crossposted at kos and the ever-lovely

I might even pay something if there was some choice– a menu system, for instance. Paul Krugman is the closest to being essential. It’s nice to read Frank Rich summing things up on Sunday. I’d be happy to select Bob Herbert, Nicholas Kristof and John Tierney.

But I refuse to pay for the easy arrogance of Thomas Friedman; I’ll contentedly skim David Brooks for free but exercise my right under capitalism to refuse to pay for it, and even though I might agree fairly often with Maureen Dowd’s politics, I can’t stand the idea of reading her column, and I have not done so for years. So contributing to her upkeep with additional funds is out of the question.

So I bid farewell, at least until this particular experiment in cable net journalism fails, with a few excerpts from the Last Free Columns we poor folks will see.

From Frank Rich (I’ll provide the link, but hurry!), writing about Bush and the week in Katrina zone:

Like his father before him, Mr. Bush has squandered the huge store of political capital he won in a war. His Thursday-night invocation of “armies of compassion” will prove as worthless as the “thousand points of light” that the first President Bush bestowed upon the poor from on high in New Orleans (at the Superdome, during the 1988 G.O.P. convention). It will be up to other Republicans in Washington to cut through the empty words and image-mongering to demand effective action from Mr. Bush on the Gulf Coast and in Iraq, if only because their own political lives are at stake.

It’s up to Democrats, though they show scant signs of realizing it, to step into the vacuum and propose an alternative to a fiscally disastrous conservatism that prizes pork over compassion. If the era of Great Society big government is over, the era of big government for special interests is proving a fiasco. Especially when it’s presided over by a self-styled C.E.O. with a consistent three-decade record of running private and public enterprises alike into a ditch.

What comes next? Having turned the page on Mr. Bush, the country hungers for a vision that is something other than either liberal boilerplate or Rovian stagecraft. At this point, merely plain old competence, integrity and heart might do.

And here is Nicholas Kristof doing what these columnists do best: highlighting an outrage that got by everybody else. In this case, Bushcorps adding to its astonishing record of denying global warming (and forcing others to do so), refusing to sign a nuclear proliferation treaty (and destroying this year’s conference), and refusing to be subject to the International Court and other tribunals, effectively shortcircuiting the international rule of law.

This time they’ve almost outdone themselves. They’ve refused to condemn genocide.

Here’s Kristof:

President Bush doesn’t often find common cause with Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iran, Syria and Venezuela. But this month the Bush administration joined with those countries and others to eviscerate a forthright U.N. statement that nations have an obligation to respond to genocide.

It was our own Axis of Medieval, and it reflected the feckless response of President Bush to genocide in Darfur. It’s not that he favors children being tossed onto bonfires or teenage girls being gang-raped and mutilated, but he can’t bother himself to try very hard to stop these horrors, either.

It’s been a year since Mr. Bush – ahead of other world leaders, and to his credit – acknowledged that genocide was unfolding in Darfur. But since then he has used that finding of genocide not to spur action but to substitute for it.

Mr. Bush’s position in the U.N. negotiations got little attention. But in effect the United States successfully blocked language in the declaration saying that countries have an “obligation” to respond to genocide. In the end the declaration was diluted to say that “We are prepared to take collective action … on a case by case basis” to prevent genocide.

That was still an immensely important statement. But it’s embarrassing that in the 21st century, we can’t even accept a vague obligation to fight genocide as we did in the Genocide Convention of 1948. If the Genocide Convention were proposed today, President Bush apparently would fight to kill it.

Too bad.  It’s back to scrounging tattered pages from the recycling pile at the old cafe.  Until we forget them entirely.

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