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9/20, 9PM





Tuesday, December 11, 2001
12:39 PM      

How poetic, that the three-month anniversary of the World Trade Center attack should fall so cleanly on Tuesday, the eleventh, exactly 12 weeks after the event. It's a kind of amazing mathematical alignment.

It's sixty years after Pearl Harbor, and the real estate types are champing at the bit. They want that land. But in this year of the Twin Towers Disaster, we value our monuments more and suddenly the frail survivors of one of the biggest debacles of our time are in the spotlight again.

News people are calling the veterans up, sticking microphones in their faces, asking them what it all means. These men might well see themselves as lucky survivors, but we now dub them sages.

I thought another valid comparison might be the destruction of the Hindenberg on May 6, 1937: in what should have been a routine mooring, the huge airship was struck by a bolt of lightning and destroyed, killing 33 people. The ship burned on the ground for 33 hours. The parallel? It was an unexpected, catastrophic event, involving the loss of innocent civilians. It was documented with remarkable media coverage and amazing photographs, and US policy was considered to be a factor.

The Hindenberg used Hydrogen to provide lift, because it was against US policy to sell helium to Germany. The US was, and essentially still is the sole source of Helium. Its utility as a lifting gas had begun to be developed by the US military during WWI -- of course, it made sense not to sell helium to the Germans.

In searching around for more information on the Hindenberg disaster, I ran across this:

Paul Von Hindenberg called Hitler to the chancellorship of Germany on January 20, 1933 in Potsdam, Germany. Within one month, the Reichstag (Germany's Parliament) building burned and Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to sign an emergency decree. This authorized Hitler to suspend all civil rights and arrest and execute any suspicious person.

Recently, the Attorney General was insinuating that anyone who questioned any of the extreme measures being taken by the administration, was effectively empowering the terrorists. Yet, the administration's constant references to the fascists and the Nazis makes the little snippet of history above that much more ironic.

I'd be the last to suggest that the US government or its leadership have intentions anything like those of the Nazi party or the German government of the '30s. Still, we're being asked to give blind faith to a single branch of the government; a branch that has had its failings in the past. [Remember the Clinton scandal, Iran/Contra, Watergate, the Kent State incident?] It's not a good idea to assume that the government will do the right thing. Checks and balances are important.


It's been a little tough to write these days. There is so much to think about and talk about, that the words are coming out in jumbled knots. It's taking a lot more work to write things that actually hang together. The escalating insanity in Israel; the White House canceling the Christmas tours, while exhorting people to go on with their lives as "normal". Everyone seems to be calling everyone else a "terrorist."

Right-wingers are making noises about torturing detainees. In interviews, government representatives coolly use phrases like "...dismember Al Quaeda..." and "...eviscerated their ability..." Blood-thirsty words from "innocents."

Are you wondering where it will end? Considering what we are becoming, the terrorists may have struck an even more effective blow than we know.

A slippery slope is greased with something fishy
It's pretty much common knowledge that we rounded up Japanese Americans and herded them into concentration camps on US soil during World War II. Against the backdrop of an ill-defined threat, the country that brought you the McCarthy Era may be on its way to writing an even darker chapter of its history now.

"They have a broader interest in asserting they have the constitutional authority to lock people up without showing them the evidence that supports their detention..."

- David Cole

Consider this case: the US locked up a non-citizen named Mazen Al-Najjar [a Palestinian Muslim] for three years, based on secret evidence it would not reveal, even to the man's lawyers. When a trial was finally conducted, the judge concluded that the government had no case, and ordered the him released. A year later, the government rearrested him, this time keeping him in solitary confinement. Now, for the kicker: Upon his rearrest, the government's charge is a claim of the same terrorist-related activity that the judge in the first case found to be baseless!

More on this:
May 2000 - Congressman David E. Bonior addresses a House committee on the matter of the man's first incarceration.

Court TV coverage

Findlaw on secret evidence

In These Times


From time to time, I'll post some of my favorite malapropisms that I find as I surf around the web. This new democratic world of global communication has allowed anyone with something to say, to say it, in whatever way they can, sometimes with entertaining results.

The great thing about the malapropisms I'm posting today, is that two of them would go undetected in a spelling check. These are phrases that are common in spoken language, and many people simply don't know what the phrases are supposed to look like in print.

pour when you mean pore, as in : "I pour over endless books..."
loose when you mean lose, as in : "then you loose your keys"
alot when you mean a lot, as in : "we have alot more"

Truthfully, some of these used to really bug me (especially for some reason, the improper use of "loose"). I have a really good education, and some things just look wrong to me... But then, Twain said "I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way."

Maybe more later...

[ link | e-me ]

4:09 PM      

More transit vignettes
I was on the train this morning, thinking about our latest milestone in time since September 11, when I looked up and saw the MS Bike tour poster. It was almost directly overhead, as if someone had gone out of their way to place it there: September 23, 2001 - Start and finish - World Trade Center Plaza. I would have thought the poster would have been replaced by attrition and expiration alone, but there it was - another silent reminder of all of those unfulfilled plans and dreams.

A couple of bus trips now, I've heard this automated announcement/unintentional entertainment: "Attention, please! Attention, please!" [I'm listening now] "This is a test of the public address system... Please disregard this message." [Thanks for waking me from my daydream!] Were they testing whether we'd look up?

[ link | e-me ]

Monday, December 10, 2001
4:40 PM      

Wow! I've started writing three posts since the last one, and never managed to publish any of them! Maybe I'll finish them tonight and put them up tomorrow. Of course, between then and now are picking up cat litter, dinner, and buying some milk, among other things, like Ben Stein's Money...


"...Just don't cross me"
The crossing guard sat in her official uniform, hat in hand. She had a bright yellow reflective mesh vest over her Navy blue coat and trosers. Black nubuck boots were well-maintained. Brass pins reading "SCG" and "81" adorned each of her lapels. Her hair was an elaborate crown of carefully processed and shaped curls.

She was clearly not interested, but the man continued to speak. He was trying his best to be cute: "You can cross me any time, just don't cross me," he said. At times she flashed a polite smile, being careful not to seem too encouraging. A single gold tooth shown when she smiled.

"I took a sick day today...I don't know if I have issues, or problems..." He kept fishing for conversation. "You probably cross some of my kids... They move you around?" [in other words, how can I "accidentally" run into you again?]

Now, he went for the emotional close: "...It made me cry. They say a man's not supposed to cry?! That's bullshit. A man cry too..." There was an uncomfortable silence. She wasn't even nibbling at the sympathy bait. He rallied anyway:

"What's your name?" he asked.

"Crossing Guard" she said.


All the passengers in the vicinity of this exchange were wearing masks of either quiet amusement or discomfort by this point. The rapper, realizing that his hand has been peeped, begins to backpedal: "I ain't tryin' to rap... I just thought you look like a nice person. I like to talk to nice people... That's why I'm in trouble now; messin' with women... I'm never gettin' married again..."

Funny, he went to marriage, when he was probably just trying to get laid. In my dating days, I slipped into fantasies about marriage with some of the women I went out with. There were even a few women whose looks were enough to trigger instant ideas of trophy wife-ism, but that's just my lizard brain talking. I even had thoughts of how horrible it would be to be stuck in a marriage with some of the others. I guess it's not just women, who find themselves considering the proposition of marriage early in the mating ritual.

The conversation died after that. He'd shot his best shot, and came up short. A stop or two later, he said goodbye, and exited the bus. A faint whiff of liquor was on his breath.


What does the word "Kamikaze" actually translate to? I don't think it means suicide. Why do I care? Because there's something out of sync about calling these attackers "suicide bombers." Suicide means killing oneself. It implies some sort of inner turmoil, a solitary implosion of self-worth that results in a self-inflicted wound, a fatal leap, or a poisoning. Losing one's life as collateral damage in the murder of other people isn't the same thing. It's not taking your own life; it's not killing yourself. It's making yourself part of the delivery system. I think we need a new term.

That's why I wonder about the term kamikaze: now that the Japanese are our economic and military partners, we can't very well go around waving reminders of WWII in their faces with that word. Maybe the translation of the term holds the key to a new, more appropriate term for the sociopaths that are out there on these missions of death.


What's that I hear?
I heard Sting say "In these times, 'I love you' is the most political statement you can make." I'm sure it won't be the last time I hear a musician making political statements. Music and Politics make passionate bedfellows. Part of the power of John Lennon's "Imagine" is its clear political and philosophical stance, and the way the lyrics force you to confront your own cynicism: "You may say I'm a dreamer / Well I'm not the only one / I hope some day you'll join us..." Now, people are starting to refer to Sting's "Fragile" as a new anthem of humanity.

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the colour of the evening sun
Tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay

Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime's argument
That nothing comes from violence
and nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star
Like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are
How fragile we are...

I read in the New York Times this weekend, about how a number of religions view music as an evil force. The Muslims don't even consider the musical-sounding chanting that they use to call people to worship, to be a form of music. If it were music, that would be a problem, since the prophet Muhammed himself said that music should not be listened-to. To be a Musician in the time of the Taliban, was a deadly profession.

A lot of religions have a problem with music. Some seem to proscribe only certain music as "devil music." Others ban all music outright. But you can't take music away from people. I remember seeing a news piece shot while the Taliban were still in power, showing people singing songs from memory, in places where it was unlikely that they'd be heard. Banning something only drives it underground. Makes it more resiliant. The steel drum was invented in Trinidad in 1946, in part because the British had outlawed other forms of drumming. [read more]

But, religions seem even more conflicted about sexuality. We've all heard songs that could alter our mood, or trigger an emotion. Sex is so potent, that fortunes have been affected, and the economy of the "oldest profession" has been built to harness and package it. I think it's because sex and music both have a quality that bypasses the rational mind, and goes right to the bones; or is that the soul? And then there's the rub. We know who lays claim to the exclusive province of the "soul business"...

[ link | e-me ]
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