Unlike a young child learning a new card game, there are no “do overs” when it comes to the moral decisions we make as a society. Once society has taken the step of condoning an immoral act the stain is there forever.
One of the signs I saw held by one of the regulars during numerous anti-war vigils stated “your silence means consent”. The original Latin saying, qui tacet consentire videtur, is attributed to Sir Thomas More.
Some are not remaining silent:
The Peninsula Gateway
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR – DEC. 26, 2007
Published: 12:47PM December 26th, 2007
Despite cover-up attempts, secrets explain U.S. torture
It was with sadness that I signed my name this grey morning to a letter resigning my commission in the U.S. Navy…
…The final straw for me was listening to General Hartmann, the highest-ranking military lawyer in charge of the military commissions, testify that he refused to say that waterboarding captured U.S. soldiers by Iranian operatives would be torture.
His testimony had just sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river. Indeed, he would not rule out waterboarding as torture when done by the United States and indeed felt evidence obtained by such methods could be used in future trials.
Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition….
…Andrew Williams, Gig Harbor
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
226 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Statement of Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann
Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority for the Office of Military Commissions
Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Kyl, thank you for inviting me to participate in this morning’s hearing. I am the Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority for the Military Commissions. In this role, I am responsible for providing legal advice to the Convening Authority, an independent quasi-judicial figure who administers the Office of Military Commissions. I also supervise the Chief Prosecutor’s Office…
And what did General Hartmann say, when asked a certain question?
GRAHAM: You mean you’re not equipped to give a legal opinion as to whether or not Iranian military waterboarding, secret security agents waterboarding downed airmen is a violation of the Geneva Convention?
HARTMANN: I am not prepared to answer that question, Senator.
Someone else also decided that he could not remain silent:
Los Angeles Times
AWOL military justice
Why the former chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions resigned his post.
By Morris D. Davis
December 10, 2007
I was the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until Oct. 4, the day I concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system. I resigned on that day because I felt that the system had become deeply politicized and that I could no longer do my job effectively or responsibly…
…I had instructed the prosecutors in September 2005 that we would not offer any evidence derived by waterboarding, one of the aggressive interrogation techniques the administration has sanctioned….
They know. They know the “Nüremberg Principles”:
The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him….
qui tacet consentire videtur
Term limits, as they are presently mandated, do as much harm as good. Certainly, the motivation for enacting them was understandable: citizens were fed up with a system where incumbents could scarcely be blasted out of office with anything short of an IED. But the eight-year term limit solution produced, at best, a situation where somewhat experienced lawmakers lead rank beginners through a complex process.
Uh-oh. Joint efforts of any kind do best with a mixture of newcomers with fresh ideas and people who’ve been around the block often enough to predict where the bumps and snarls will occur. Legislatures are no different. Let me invite any of our current legislators who read this posting–or anyone else, for that matter–to provide examples of problems that could have been avoided in recent sessions if a few old timers had been around.
And aside from creating glitches that should have been foreseen, the whole impermanency thing begets another problem: it contributes to the partisan fissures that cripple our state government. People who know what the lege used to be like say that reps could disagree on the floor and then go out for a brew together in the evening. Sure, I understand that part of the reason that no longer happens is the essential meanness of so many Republicans now. But part of the reason must also be that there’s little incentive to bridge the gaps when either you or the people you’re fighting with will be gone in a year or two.
Last spring, Senator Jolie Justus of Kansas City tried to overcome some of the sour aftermath of on floor bickering by arranging a weekly happy hour. That was a good idea, and perhaps she’ll follow through on it this January. It might help.
The problems that arise during legislative sessions because of term limits are only half the difficulty. The other half is what happens when people get termed out. The race in the fifth senatorial district is a perfect example: all four Democratic reps in Maida Coleman’s senatorial district (Robin Wright Jones, Rodney Coleman, Connie Johnson, and Tom Villa) are termed out–but not ready to leave state government. Two have announced for Coleman’s seat (she, too, is termed out), and the other two still might. It’s a mess.
Some legislators solve the termed out dilemma by turning to lobbying. Carl Bearden is the latest example. It’s good to let Dems have a shot at that yahoo’s seat, but when the short term limits were created, perhaps no one foresaw the unintended consequence that termed out reps would swell the ranks of lobbying leeches.
Meanwhile, in many districts, one or both parties are having trouble building farm teams good enough to keep supplying strong candidates to fill the frequent openings. Let’s see: how long has Albert Pujols been in the majors now–five years or six? I’d hate to see him shoved out of the sport in 2009. If baseball had term limits, it would hurt the quality of play. Few rookies can arrive from the minors and make an immediate impact on a team. Winning teams need a combination of seasoned veterans and up and comers.
The answer isn’t deep sixing term limits but lengthening the time allowed in office. And, in fact, the rumor is that a Republican, no less, plans to bring up the possibility this session of changing the limit for reps from eight years to eighteen. I’d cheer for that.
Over the years I’ve spent a fair amount of time driving across Iowa to get someplace else and then home again. At least once a year, sometimes twice. Sometimes I actually travel to Iowa for something. This morning we started on U.S. 151 from Dubuque to Cedar Rapids, driving through freezing fog which cast a fairy tale frosting on all of the trees and grasses poking out through the snow. We saw a 4 x 8 Hillary sign on someone’s roadside property.
Traveling west on I-80 toward Des Moines we were confronted with Ron Paul signs placed on the slopes of overpass right of ways. Approximately every ten miles. They were less “slick” than the usual campaign signs – these appeared to be 2 x 6 or 4 x 6 with the exact same pseudo-homemade look. You’ve just got to love that affected “grassroots” patina.
I always keep on eye on the passing traffic when I drive. I look for license plates and bumper stickers. A significant chunk of the early morning traffic had Iowa plates. There were almost no bumper stickers. It served to remind me that most Iowans who are registered to vote don’t participate in caucuses. We did see one Romney 4 x 8 and one Huckabee 4 x 8 at different places on I-80.
We stopped for gas at a truck stop in Altoona. As we were pulling in a campaign bus emblazoned with “Huckabeast” was pulling out. I don’t believe one iota of the irony in the vehicle name has occurred to its occupants, considering the content of their web site. Right wingnut republican shills have always been irony challenged. I was disappointed that we hadn’t driven into the truck stop a few minutes earlier – I would have liked to ask them their opinion of Wayne Dumond.
I had the opportunity to read the Kansas City Star‘s resident political stenographer’s Sunday report from Iowa:
…Just a thought, but why hasn’t Hillary Clinton racked up more than nine endorsements from her fellow Democratic U.S. senators…?
Umm. Maybe because there are other senators running. You know, like Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and John McCain. Okay, he sort of said that:
…we’ll give her a pass on Barack Obama, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden…
So, I thought I’d take a look at the various campaign websites to see which senators have endorsed which candidates.
Gee, Steverino, here’s a really big list:
Or from here:
…endorsing Hillary Clinton
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Or from here:
I couldn’t find a centralized endorsement list on Obama’s web site. It’s probably there somewhere…
Or from here:
Okay, let’s go to a “neutral” centralized source:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii)
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
Sen. Barack Obama
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.)
Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney
Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.)
Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Sen. John McCain
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)
Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
Sen. John Warner (R-Va.)
Former New York City Mayor
Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.)
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)
Former Sen. Fred Thompson
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)
The Hill can’t seem to find Kent Conrad.
Gee, John McCain “only” has endorsements from ten senators (Joementum!).
Rudy gets an idiot’s and an adulterer’s endorsements! republicans really are irony impaired…
As for Hillary Clinton – there are 49 United States Senators who are Democrats – and three others of those are also running for president. 10 out of those 49 is quite good, considering everyone else’s list.
The stenographer ends his useless little piece with:
…Still, you wonder.
Only if you’re a lazy and an idiot.
Oy! The stories we had to endure this year! From Watching Brittany lose it – uh, then gain it back! only to lose it again. Who cares? Someone must. The old Drew Peterson story was dredged up again – or rather another girlfriend was dredged up. Do these people actually, like, have lives? Ok. Rhetorical.
In KC – we spent time ad nauseam on the Semler appointment
of which I was on the wrong side, according to my liberal friends. But I said hey – freedom of association and freedom of speech must include those we do not like or understand. And of course, the brouhaha has calmed down and she hasn’t shot one undocumented worker since being on the Parks board.
Our Governor, however, has thumped his chest by saying – you – you guys who make fraudulent documents that get used by undocumented people – you are in trouble.
So Blunt is making us safe from the undocumented people, and shredding the public documents to keep the other people in the dark. ‘We’re in the dark here!” – ok –bad imitation of Al but you get my meaning!
Our mayor will try to start anew in 08 and I will send him all the karma I’m not using – if he promises to send Gloria home!
Here’s to a new year of media mediocrity! I would like to challenge you all to count the number of car crashes, house burnings, shootings and other crimes covered by your local noise machine. Let me know how many you have in a week versus an actual – you know – news story.
Remember: I. F. Stone said “News is something someone wants to suppress. The rest is advertising.” Let’s stop the advertising on our news shows!
Happy New Year to us all!
During an interview with Craig Unger about his new book “The Fall Of The House Of Bush”, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now (transcript here) refers to comments made by Dick Cheney in September 1992 after the first Gulf War, in a speech at the Economic Club of Detroit explaining why the George H. W. Bush administration did not go on to Baghdad after Saddam then.
Cheney’s comments in the speech show clearly that they knew irrefutably in 2003 before the invasion, not only that Saddam Hussein was no threat militarily to any country, much less to the United States, but that they also knew exactly what the conditions in Iraq likely to be produced by an invasion would be, and that they did it with eyes wide open, with conscious and full intention of producing the humanitarian crisis and chaos and death that has followed.
And knew that the responsibility for it would be theirs.
Cheney’s speech begins at about 3 min 50 sec into this Democracy Now Craig Unger interview video:
Parts two and three of the Democracy Now Craig Unger interview follow here:
Some of you may remember reading my September 24th posting “A Summary for Dummies of Missouri Health Care for the Poor”. Bet you don’t remember what it said, though. I wrote it, and I didn’t remember until I reread it. But since I’ll have things to say soon about MO HealthNet and Insure Missouri, I’m reposting that September 24th explanation. You know how it is with us retired teachers: we never quite cure ourselves of “review day”.
You say you can’t keep track of all the health care plans for the poor popping up in Missouri lately? You say that a news article about the pros and cons of them causes your eyes to cross? You ought to be ashamed to find yourself in the lower … what? 98 percent? … of the citizenry. That makes you–and me, until tonva brought me up to speed–dummies.
But now that she’s educated me, I’m here to do the same for you. Succinctly. Before your eyes glaze over.
When it was just Medicaid, we dummies could grasp the situation. Essentially, the state paid 40 percent of medical bills for uninsured people below a given income, and the feds paid 60 percent. Then a couple of years ago, Republicans knocked more than 100,000 poor Missourians off the Medicaid rolls. Ah, but they promised to come up with something better than Medicaid in a year or so.
Now–with an election looming and Matt Blunt polling under 50 percent–they’re offering two new programs to replace Medicaid. And these programs would restore health care to many, though by no means all, of those who lost it in 2005. Between the two programs, it turns out that some poor people who used to qualify for Medicaid will still be denied care, while others, who didn’t have it before, may get care.
The two programs are MO HealthNet and Insure Missouri. Here’s the difference between them in a nutshell:
MO HealthNet is just Medicaid by a jazzy new name, and it still doesn’t restore those 100,000 people to the rolls. The only important difference is that MO HealthNet will be administered through insurance companies.
Insure Missouri is for the working poor. It will be funded partly by the state, partly by an existing tax on hospitals, and partly (it is hoped) by the federal government. It too will be administered through private health insurance companies.
One good part of Insure Missouri is that some of those 100,000–if they’re working–will be covered again, but seniors and disabled people are out of luck.
A second good aspect of Insure Missouri is that it covers people with a higher income than Medicaid ever did. Medicaid was for people who lived below the federal poverty level. This program covers working people up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). (But if they earn more than 150 percent of FPL, they must pay premiums–which they’d have trouble affording.)
Now for the glitches with Insure Missouri.
Since it’s partly a Medicaid program (covering people below FPL), Blunt is hoping for federal funds. Those are by no means certain.
Many of those who qualify live in rural areas where there are no HMOs to administer the plan. Perhaps HMOs will spring up there if doing so looks profitable enough.
And the big one: the plan is administered through private health insurance companies. Question: WHY? (Answer: Insurance companies contribute to Republican campaigns.)
Both MO HealthNet and Insure Missouri could probably cover the same number of people for one third less money if they were simply administered through one of the state’s social agencies, such as the Department of Social Services.
Jack Cardetti, a Democratic spokesman, commented: “‘Only Matt Blunt would call lining the pockets of the Missouri health insurance industry health care reform.'”
In the end, Insure Missouri may just be pie in the sky. It might never happen. Here’s why: it will come in three phases, starting in February and at that time covering only working parents below FPL. That money is already in the state budget. But the other two, more expensive, phases will have to be voted on by the legislature, and quite a few Republicans are looking on it with a jaundiced eye. They see budget shortfalls looming in 2010–as a result of their policies–and they’re already protesting that the state cannot afford those two phases of Insure Missouri.
Look for a lot of intra-party conflict. But even if Blunt loses the battle for the expensive two-thirds of Insure Missouri, he’ll claim loudly that he fought the good fight to get health insurance for the poor in this state. (Well, not for poor disabled people and poor seniors, but you can’t have everything, right?)
And most citizens won’t be able to make heads or tails of it all. It’s too confusing. Deliberately so. Insurance companies and the politicians who cater to them like it that way. They want our eyes to glaze over. That makes it so much easier for them to hoodwink us.
“Ding-dong! The witch is dead.” Okay, technically he’d be a warlock and he isn’t dead, but Carl Bearden isn’t running for re-election in district 16 in St. Charles. If any politician deserves for a tornado to drop a house on him, it’s Bearden. First of all, he’s just flat mean. If he doesn’t agree with your policies, he looks for ways to make your life miserable and to humiliate you in public.
Maybe that’s why, when Chuck Gross resigned his senate seat in St. Charles last May, the Senate leadership gave Tom Dempsey instead of Bearden the nod to run in September’s special election. And when that happened, Bearden looked at his options: He’d be termed out after next November, and he had a good lobbying job offer on the table now–from, in effect, Rex Sinquefield, who will be the number one customer at the new lobbying firm paying Bearden multiple times his former State Representative salary.
Be glad Bearden’s gone. He’s not as nutso on crotch issues as Cynthia Davis, but he’s in that direction, not to mention being very fond of handing out public money to developer friends, including Paul McKee.
What Jake Zimmerman recently said about Jim Lembke applies equally well to Bearden and the Republican who’ll run in his place:
And suddenly you don’t have the hard-working creature of Satan, who’s been there for, like, six years, you’ll have some new creature of Satan, who nobody really knows who they are yet.
Indeed, nobody really knows who the Republican candidate, Mark Parkinson, is yet. He has no community service on his resume and only one job in politics: he worked for Kit Bond. He’s thirty-five and recently married–not much of a family man and his only work experience is in politics. Those kinds of credentials aren’t what voters are looking for in their local state rep. Voters prefer to elect family men with more at stake in their neighborhoods and community.
They’ll get those kinds of credentials in the Democratic candidate. Tom Fann, who has his own business as an Allstate insurance representative and is a family man with three small children, one in elementary school and two in preschool. His wife, Jennifer, works for AT&T and is a union member. Tom himself, when he worked at a Dodge dealership, was also a union member. He has lived in St. Charles County for twenty years.
Those are all pluses on his side. But, like Parkinson, Fann has not held elective office. He ran for an aldermanic seat in St. Peters in 2004 and lost to an incumbent. On the score of previous elective office, then, they’re even.
It was Fann’s failed run for aldermanic office that brought him to mind when the local Dems were casting about for a candidate to run in the special election for Bearden’s seat. He wasn’t the only person they considered, but he was eager to do it when they gave him a shot at it, and he’s been working hard. He’s raised more money so far than any Democratic candidate in that part of the state has raised in several years.
Fann’s campaign literature stresses restoring health care to poor children and seniors, fair funding for schools instead of excessive property taxes, economic policies that will create quality jobs, and penalizing employers who hire individuals illegally.
There’s nary a word about abortion in his literature, but he won’t come out as a pro-choice candidate. His unwillingness to step up on that issue will cost him the support of Pro-Vote, and that could hurt him.
Still, he’s got a real shot at winning. He’s been provided with a full time campaign manager and received lots of support and manpower from Democratic reps and from the state party. The campaign’s been up against the weather and the busyness of the holiday season, but the for the next 5 1/2 weeks, they will be hitting the streets in the 16th to excite the voters and to send a message that Democrats CAN win in St. Charles County.
Jake Zimmerman recently pointed out: “And if Fann wins, whammo, we have the power of incumbency in that district.” That would be good news. If you live anywhere near St. Charles and you’re willing to pound the pavement to get our guys elected, you could get warmed up for the year by helping out Tom Fann.
Preparing tonight’s little pamphlet (that’s what blogs like mine are, really-throwbacks to anonymous pamphleteering-just call me Silence Dogood) was really, really interesting. I was going to talk about “peer-review” and some truly delusional creeps who don’t understand the meaning of the phrase but apply it to themselves to the detriment of everyone around them. I was also going to talk about the abuse of the phrase skepticism.
Instead, I want to take you on a trip back to September 10th, 2001, which was a longer day than most. I think that it can be convincingly argued that September 10th was the longest day in most Americans’ lives by several hours. Let me illustrate this point by showing you a few of the stories that were on Morning Edition on the second morning of September 10 (even if most calendars read differently). I remember the first one specifically, and I know the stoplight I was at when I heard it. It was a story about an opposition leader in Afghanistan who was blown up by a fake news crew who detonated explosives in their camera:
National Public Radio (NPR)
September 11, 2001 Tuesday
Fate uncertain of Afghan opposition leader
There is a creepy line in this story:
SULLIVAN: Opposition spokesmen have accused the Taliban of being behind the suicide bombing and hint that Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden may also be involved. The assassins, they say, were Arabs who’d come to northern Afghanistan from the Taliban-controlled capital, Kabul.
Now look at these headlines:
National Public Radio (NPR)
September 11, 2001 Tuesday
President pushes education reform package during Florida visit
Defense secretary declares war on waste and inefficiency at the Pentagon
Likelihood of a Michael Jordan comeback
I don’t care what the datelines say, those are not headlines from September 11th, 2001.
Do you remember where you were when the World Trade Center was attacked? I had gotten into work early and must have just missed the first announcement on NPR about a fire at the WTC site-I couldn’t have missed it by more than a few minutes, the first tower was probably burning by the time I sat down outside of the Archives where I was curating one of our collections.
My boss came in and opened up the Archives. What we talked about was unimportant–he didn’t mention that there had been a crash at the WTC. I heard about it from another staff member who came in and asked us if we had heard. “Yeah,” said my boss, whom I shall call Norbert, “A plane hit the WTC.”
My first thought was that a Cessna or propeller-driven plane of some sort had crashed into the WTC. It had happened before in that town-during the Second World War, a bomber crashed into the Empire State Building, which was a minor affair and killed a bout a dozen people. (Fun fact: An elevator operator survived a plunge in her car of over 70 stories in the accident-a world record for a survivor of a falling elevator car.)
Well, this staff member, Queen Elizabeth I, corrected Norbert: another plane had hit the other tower. I was still able to get on Yahoo at that point, but soon the web jammed–that was, in my experience, utterly unheard of. We had some media equipment up at the Archives to play old video and the like, but we didn’t have any working TVs. I was able to find a radio and turn on NPR. I was listening to Bob Edwards on Morning Edition when the first tower collapsed:
One of the towers of the World Trade Center appears to have completely collapsed. I am obviously watching television pictures. At least a good part of one tower has fallen to the ground. This is 110-story building. Each of the two towers is 110 stories high. NPR’s Jacki Lyden is in Brooklyn, New York, and she can see the World Trade Center from where she is. Jacki.
JACKI LYDEN reporting:
Well, I think it’s fair to say that at this grave hour, I can see the enormous columns of smoke where one of the trade towers used to be. Obviously we don’t know the extent of the horrendous damage at the time and it’ll be some hours before we do.
I hadn’t looked up the transcripts before, but this is precisely what I remember, an image in my head of a skyscraper with the top half shorn off, the rest shrouded in smoke. It’s now clear why that image was burned into my head and will forever characterize for me the confusion of the collapse and how we didn’t really know what was happening. Edwards suggested it and seconds later Jacki Lyden confirmed it.
Looking at this transcript does clear one thing up for me: I clearly remember leaving the archives when there were only two other people there, but I had forgotten exactly how I heard that the Pentagon was attacked, but I knew I knew about it by the time I left work, which a few moments after that exchange with Jacki Lyden. I was under the impression that the image of the half-fallen tower had overwhelmed my capacity to understand or visualize it. I needed to get to a television. But this transcript makes it clear how I learned about the Pentagon. Immediately after Lyden’s report, I heard this:
EDWARDS: And not to raise alarm, but there have been reports that this could be a wider thing; reports of a plane crash at the Pentagon. The West Wing of the White House has been evacuated as a precaution. The Treasury building, the United States Capitol building.
That is how I knew there was a war on. Within less than a minute, we had gone from a collapsed skyscraper to an attack on the Pentagon. That’s why I had to get to a TV.
Anyway, I made it to a TV and not long after I sat down, the second tower collapsed. When I arrived at the student convenience store on campus, where there was a public TV, nobody was there. I looked up from the screen a few hours later, and the place was packed. I hadn’t even noticed that anyone else was there. And you know the strange thing? I turned around and instantly fixed eyes with my (now) roommate Animala, who was sitting behind me and hadn’t noticed that I was in front of her. It was as if I had turned to look at her. The bobbleheads on TV were saying that 100,000 people a day went through the WTC on a given day. For me, this translated into 100,000 casualties, over 30 Pearl Harbors.
I did not know anyone who was killed in the attacks, but I think that the chances are good that you know someone who knows someone who was affected. My father’s college roommate’s neighbor was on the phone with his wife in one of the towers when it went dead in the collapse. The mother of a grad student in my department worked at the WTC and her father worked at the Pentagon (both were OK). There was a lot of suffering. I was completely safe from the attack and even I had nightmares about it. I cannot imagine the horror of people who lost loved ones or who lived in the shadow of the towers. But there are people out there for whom this deeply traumatic event is a story designed to satisfy their unreasonable paranoia. I am talking about 9/11 conspiracy theorists.
I never understood why 9/11 needed a conspiracy theory. It seems to me that it was a pretty fucking good one all by itself. I remember in the weeks after 9/11 there was a report on NPR about how government security officials were working with Hollywood writers to try and come up with plausible worst-case scenarios. 9/11 was Ocean’s 19, but had more realistic explosions than anything that ever came out of Hollywood.
So much behavior that requires skepticism is in some way rooted in paranoia. And it’s funny how often paranoia seems to be at the root of what we ought to be skeptical about. Paranoia can actually be healthy: if you are just a little ahead of the curve when you react to a threat (even if it is usually a perceived one instead of a real one) you might be just that little tiny bit more likely to pass on your skittishness to another generation. These folks embrace it. I try to moderate my response to it. I have only one real paranoid obsession, and it is bird flu. Man, I’m buying a can of food a day to store, just in case. Scares the shit out of me, if for no other reason than I become a baby-man when I am sick, and can’t imagine what type of baby-man I’d be while coughing up blood. I may be equivocating on what paranoia means, I understand, but what I am trying to say is that uncomfortable feelings of dread can be a practical survival advantage (even if it does result in me stockpiling SPAM.
This is where I call it quits tonight. I leave for Chicago the day after tomorrow and will need to get ready tomorrow night (job interview at the Modern Language Association convention), but I will certainly try to get in some commentary on 9/11 conspiracy theorists.
Extra bonus NPR quotes from 9/11:
Later in the day:
Here was something really creepy from that morning, something that seems to have gotten buried during the day (go figure). NPR broke the story about the National Security Estimate first, within an hour of Congress being evacuated:
DAVID WELNA reporting:
Bob, the Capitol, as you said, was evacuated almost an hour ago. […]
I just spoke with several members of Congress–House members. One of them said he had an intelligence report that there were two planes spotted in the sky that were considered potential aggressors. That is one of the reasons why members of Congress were told to get as far away as possible from the Capitol. I spoke with Congressman Ike Skelton, a Democrat from Missouri, and a member of the Armed Services Committee, who said that just recently the director of the CIA warned that there could be an attack–an imminent attack on the United States of this nature. So this was not entirely unexpected.
Crazy. I saw Skelton once in his office. I was meeting with one of his aides at the time, lobbying for a higher education bill. He waved to his staff and visitors in the front of his office, grinned and disappeared into his office.
Then there was this, which without the inflections of the original audio can be taken in a few ways. I’ve included my little italics and bold:
CONAN: And that is a question–all of these questions are going to become clearer. But as we look for answers today, I think at this point all we can tell people to do is just to wait, which is so difficult.
KENYON: This is the stage in any kind of disaster area where there is the greatest potential for overreaction and inaccurate statements made in the heat of the moment. One senator, in fact, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, just said, quote, “This is the second Pearl Harbor.” Now some people, you may or may not agree with that. I think what he was referring to was the fact that this seemed so totally unexpected; that the US intelligence community gave no warning. There was no sign anyway of any preparation for a terrorist attack.
In the newest book about I.F. Stone, All Governments Lie! The life and times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone, by Myra MacPherson, I read his definition of news and have decided to adopt it as my own – since I do a media watch show on KKFI 90.1 FM and have been trying to come up with a good def of WHAT constitutes ‘news.’
“News is what someone wants to suppress. Everything else – is advertising.” I.F. Stone