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
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
"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
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
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
said "I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell
a word one way."
Maybe more later...
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?
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
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
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
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"...