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September 29, 2002
Posting will be light over the next week or so, as Teresa and I are both on Martha’s Vineyard teaching at the Viable Paradise writers’ workshop.

[08:58 AM : 0 comments]

September 27, 2002
Government as Monty Python sketch. No, really. These lead paragraphs are from a story on the web site of noted Administration critics Fox News.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. 97 Accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui was inadvertently given classified FBI interview reports by the government, and authorities had to go into his cell and recover them, according to court papers released Thursday.

The government initially said two classified documents were in Moussaoui’s possession, then acknowledged there were seven before finally determining there were 48.

[10:00 AM : 8 comments]

Alex Frantz:
When Al Gore talks, conservatives listen. And then they lie. And they never, ever, apologize or retract. They just play up one lie until it’s discredited, or long after, and then go on to the next one. Conservatives pundits have been doing so for years. And their younger brethren in the blogosphere have learned the same rules.
More. Read it.

[12:19 AM : 18 comments]

September 26, 2002
Gregg Easterbrook, in an otherwise interesting New Republic article about how biological and chemical weapons are overrated as “weapons of mass destruction,” can’t resist offering futher proof of William Jefferson Clinton’s well-known intellectual laxity:
Richard Preston’s sci-fi thriller The Cobra Event depicted a biological weapon capable of killing everyone in New York City in 24 hours. Since Preston had previously written a more-or-less nonfiction best-seller, The Hot Zone, which claimed Ebola could kill millions unstoppably, his Cobra Event was said to have deeply disturbed President Clinton—even though it was a sci-fi novel.
Italics, needless to say, The New Republic’s.

Evidently, it’s not necessary to argue that The Cobra Event was intellectually or aesthetically flawed. It was a sci-fi novel. That’s all you need to know.

[10:06 PM : 14 comments]

Start by tweaking a famous blogger about Jesse James, wind up with 35 comments, mostly about booze. Thus the discourse of blogdom.

John M. Ford, on the other hand, appears to have gotten stuck on the idea of Jesse James as Defender of the People. Mr. No-Relation Ford writes:

Frank and Jesse understood that central government weren’t good,
And they knew just exactly what to do;
Down on the Kansas border were militiamen well-ordered
Who boldly did defend Amendment Two.

Jesse James was quite progressive, hardly ever felt possessive,
He never asked a Pinkerton for thanks;
Jesse and some other fellas started reading Marighella,
And liberated lots of stuff from banks.

Frank and Jesse were protective of the whole frontier collective,
Resisting banks’ attempt to globalize;
They thought about Frantz Fanon and they loaded up their cannon
And blew the U.P. trains into the skies.

Jesse came, there ain’t no doubt, to bring the eschaton about
He wasn’t for oppressiveness or pain;
And to prove he weren’t no loser was inspired by Marcuse,
And shot assorted people in the brain.

Jesse found he had no buddy at the end, which sure was cruddy,
Yet still his art collection eased his mind
While adjusting his Manet, mean Robert Ford he seized the day,
And plugged the noble Jesse from behind.

We are not worthy, but we knew that already.

[08:38 PM : 6 comments]

September 23, 2002
Glenn Reynolds says that Jesse James “stood up for ‘the people against the powerful.’”

I wonder how R. A. C. Martin, Frank MacMillian, Jr., or John B. Shaw would feel about that. Or Nicholas Gustavson.

[09:56 PM : 36 comments]

Regarding National Guard armories (see this post below), several commenters have pointed out that there are probably rules that prevent Guard outfits (or the state governments that oversee them) from politically discriminating among the organizations to whom they rent these spaces.

This makes sense. I was thinking of the way the national military works with the movie industry: sometimes proffering all kinds of cooperation for very little money, and sometimes refusing to cooperate at all, depending on whether they feel the movie at hand is something they wish to be associated with. But that clearly wasn’t the right model. (And the National Guard isn’t the same thing as the national military, as two dozen commenters are no doubt poised to point out.) I still question whether local, state, or federal facilities really ought to be rented out for something called “Rock Against Israel,” but I can see how such a thing might happen by the routine operation of good intentions.

[10:22 AM : 0 comments]

The New York Times has more on the weblog beat, this time about journalists with weblogs and the issues raised thereby:
Journalists who keep Web logs on news sites say their blog writing tends to be looser than their other writing. But they say their Web work is usually edited to some extent.

Dan Gillmor, a technology columnist for The San Jose Mercury News, has published a blog on the newspaper’s site since 1999. He said his editor usually looks over his entries after they are online, although “if I’m going to post anything that I have even the slightest doubt about, I run it by her first.”

Here at Electrolite, of course, we’re proud to say that 100% of what we run is gone over by an editor in exacting detail.

[10:10 AM : 2 comments]

September 22, 2002
Creepily fascinating article in In These Times:
The racist National Alliance and other white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are piggybacking on anti-globalization and anti-Israeli occupation movements with a new enthusiasm by adopting anti-corporate and pro-Palestinian rhetoric, hoping to recruit young activists drawn to the post-Battle of Seattle political milieu.

Neo-Nazis 93are definitely gaining confidence,94 says Zein El-Amine, who helped recruit progressive Arabs to the rally92s counter-protest. 93They are getting more sophisticated with their organizing. 85 They had Arabic signs at this demo that said 91Zionism is terrorism.92 94

The confidence shows in numbers. The rally of more than 300 on August 24 was significantly larger than its counterpart on May 11, thanks to online organizing and a new tactic of holding a 93Rock Against Israel94 concert featuring hate rock acts Brutal Attack, Celtic Warrior and Intimidation One at a 93secret location94 after the protest. Only those who attended the rally were allowed entry to the show, which was held at a National Guard armory in White Marsh, Maryland.

What I want to know is, how the fuck is it that a National Guard armory—the property of the good people of Maryland—is being used for a “Rock Against Israel” concert featuring “hate rock” acts? You should pardon my French.

Sounds to me like somebody badly needs to lose their job over this, if it’s even remotely true. That’s entirely disgraceful.

[11:56 PM : 4 comments]

September 21, 2002
Max Sawicky expresses impatience with the who-knew-what-when pre-9/11 argument, but nonetheless points out that:
The President’s appeal for the elimination of civil service protection for security-related Federal jobs is debunked by his own failure, thus far, to dismiss or discipline even one Federal government manager for deficient performance pertaining to 9-11. There has to be at least one who has it coming.

[07:16 PM : 4 comments]

September 20, 2002
I suspect Jeff Cooper speaks for an increasing number of moderates when he says:
The vague hope I felt last week that, after the president’s speech to the U.N., we were finally on our way to a sensible approach toward Iraq has evaporate. The administration’s sullen response this week to Iraq’s acceptance of unconditional inspections (dubious though that acceptance was) suggested that the U.N. speech was not a culminating step in a master plan, as some commentators seem to suggest, but rather represented the latest in a series of improvised and fundamentally dishonest steps in support of a predetermined policy. […]

This approach to government97determine a policy, then offer a series of dishonest (or at best half-honest) rationales in support of the predetermined policy97is deeply corrosive in a democracy; it betrays utter disdain for the public. And, as others have observed, this approach has characterized the Bush administration from day one, from the tax cut on down.

There’s that honesty thing again, eating away at a lot of people’s ability to believe anything this Administration says.

[02:39 PM : 7 comments]

Quite a few people have been linking to this passage from Joshua Micah Marshall’s post this morning:
But let me discuss with you for a moment what I find the most difficult about this [Iraq] debate. The more ardent supporters of regime change lie a lot. I really don’t know how else to put it. I’m not talking about disagreements over interpretation. I mean people saying things they either know to be false or have no reason to believe are true. Perhaps the word ‘lie’ is a very slight exaggeration. Perhaps it’s better to say they have a marked propensity to assert as fact points for which there is virtually or absolutely no evidence.
Marshall goes on to provide a good example of exactly this kind of prevarication. Elton Beard offers more, here and here. And here’s another, pointed out by Tom Tomorrow with a little help from Zbigniew Brzezinski. (Tom Tomorrow and Zbigniew Brzezinski, together again for the first time!)

“Carefree indifference to the truth,” Marshall calls it. More to the point, it’s just plain amateurish. These Administration hawks put on a lot of hard-nosed, practical-guy airs, but the actual effect of their constant rhetorical pratfalls is to make centrists like Marshall—who “came out in support of military action to remove Saddam from power” just a few months ago—suspect that this might not be such a good idea after all.

[01:37 PM : 6 comments]

Most of the questions that Eric Alterman asks here also remain to be answered, and they’re good ones.

[12:47 PM : 7 comments]

Charles Dodgson is weighing in to the multi-blog argument about this essay by Steven den Beste, but what he says could apply just as well to a lot of people’s arguments for immediate war with Iraq:
The striking thing […] is the lack of connection between the ends, elimination of the terrorist threat from Islamist radicals, and the means, a military attack on, and defeat of, the secular Baathist regime in Iraq—a regime which the Wahhabi-inspired religious fanatics who drive al-Qaeda view as an ally of convenience at best. (If at all; Dubya’s crowd is soft-pedaling the argument that Hussein has something to do with al-Qaeda, because they haven’t been able to show convincing evidence).

So, suppose we fight what den Beste views as the battle of Iraq in the War on Islamia, or something like that, and suppose we win. Will that, in fact, refute any of the arguments of the Islamists? No. It will play into their hands. We will show them an Arab country which has adopted a secular regime, with no religious trappings, getting the pants beat off of it in a conflict with the actual West, which will only reinforce their argument that religious revival is a road to glory.

Just as a reminder for those keeping score: I’m not a pacifist; I’m not even an isolationist. But I keep seeing questions like Dodgson’s go unanswered.

[11:44 AM : 4 comments]

September 19, 2002
Yo ho ho and a, never mind In honor of September 19, National Talk Like a Pirate Day, Andrew Northrup documents the correlations between gangstah rap talk and pirate-speak:
Yo = Avast
Word = Arrrr
Homey = Matey
Beat down = Keel haul
Playah = Swashbuckler
And so forth. Adds Andrew:
It has been a life-long dream to start the first Pirate Rap band, which would take advantage of the combined bad-assitude, homocidal mania, and parent-annoyingness of inner city hoodlums and 18th-century privateers.
We can thank the blogging hobby for keeping this dangerous man indoors.

[04:15 PM : 5 comments]

September 17, 2002
America the city Tapped postulates the existence of “Guilty Coastal Cityslicker Elitist” syndrome:
The “G.C.C.E.” is the opposite of Mickey Kaus’s G.S.W.B. (Guilty Southern White Boy). Whereas the G.S.W.B. overcompensates for being from the South by being excessively liberal on race, the G.C.C.E. overcompensates for not being a Southern country boy by being excessively solicitous of Bubba culture, even though there’s no earthly reason why Bubba culture is more virtuous or authentic than coastal urban culture. For instance, even though he’s a Brit, Andrew Sullivan is a born G.C.C.E., yammering on in his blog about the decadent coatal elites and extolling the virtues of the heartland while summering in Provincetown and displaying not the slightest urge to actually live in, say, Laramie, Wyoming. Tapped believes G.C.C.E. are actually far more condescending to the Bubbas than any Upper West Sider, since the latter are at least honest about their preference for Zabar’s and the U.S. Open.
This is on the money, particularly the observation that there’s nothing more particularly “virtuous or authentic” about life in Cedar Rapids or Knoxville than on Central Park West. In fact, this particular Midwesterner (b. Lansing, MI, 1959) has been increasingly creeped out by the spread of the term “heartland” to mean a vague-defined stretch of the continental interior, explicitly exclusive of the coasts and sometimes exclusive of the Rocky Mountain West as well. Wilkes-Barre (PA), Colorado Springs (CO), and Tulsa (OK) are “heartland”; Nogales (AZ), Mountain View (CA), and Canal Street (NYC) are, somehow, not. Remember, it’s people who would figure in John Mellencamp videos who have “heart.”

More to the point, as census data shows more and more clearly, America is urban. This cult of “heartlandism” is an emotional response to the fact that most Americans live in big metropolises. It’s the modern American equivalent of the German sentimental attachment to lederhosen and dirndls.

That said, Zabar’s is overrated, and I couldn’t be less interested in the U.S. Open. I’m not arguing for the superiority of “coastal elite” culture, just observing that there’s nothing less “authentic” about it than there is about anyone else’s complicated, compromised, and probably fast-changing life here in 2002. And if you look beyond the stereotypes of yuppies and Bubbas, most of us turn out to live in urban conglomerations of one sort or another.

[09:06 AM : 24 comments]

September 16, 2002
Then sink it Still on the Florida beat, Kos also points to this Orlando Sentinel story about the investigation now commencing into exactly what kind of preferential treatment Noelle Bush was getting at her drug-rehab center.
In a call to police dispatchers, an unidentified woman said: “One of the women here was caught buying crack cocaine tonight. And a lot of the women are upset because she’s been caught about five times.”

Later in the call, she said: “She does this all the time and she gets out of it because she’s the governor’s daughter. But we’re sick of it here ‘cause we have to do what’s right, but she gets treated like some kind of princess.” […]

When Orlando police officers arrived at the west Orlando women’s drug-treatment residence, a worker told officers she found a “small, white rocklike substance” in Bush’s shoe. Police said it was 0.2 gram of crack cocaine.

Julia Elias, the employee who discovered the drug, completed a written statement but later tore it up and threw it away after her supervisor, Vilma Accison, told her to stop talking to investigators, according to a police report. […]

According to a police report, Williams told officers on Monday “that the treatment center’s policy is to turn these types of matters over to the police.”

However, Bruton, who arrived later, told police that the center’s policy is “to handle these types of situations in-house, rather than involving the authorities.”

Strange that their policy should change so abruptly. Don’t you think?

Evidently, this is the Jeb Bush drug policy: Mandatory sentencing for you and yours; cushy rehab for me and mine.

There’s been an outburst of discussion of whether it’s appropriate to make note of the misdeeds of politicians’ relatives. But this isn’t about Noelle Bush’s misdeeds. It’s about Jeb’s.

[08:05 PM : 2 comments]

Saw it off and push it out to sea Comprehensive Miami Herald overview of live TV-news coverage of the Florida terrorists who weren’t:
Among the inaccurate reports:

• Several stations reported that a woman in Georgia told police three Middle Easterners were coming to Miami to blow something up. (That’s not what she said.)

• Several also said cops spotted the men after they roared past a tollbooth on I-75. (One car rolled by at a normal rate of speed; the other stopped and paid the tolls for both.)

• The cops used explosives to detonate a suspicious knapsack found in one car. (They didn’t.) Channel 7 reported that explosive ”triggers” were found in one of the cars. (There were no ”triggers” or anything else to do with explosives.)

• Channel 7 also reported that cops were searching for a third car. (They weren’t.)

[…] The most egregious offender was WSVN 7, where it sounded like the staff had to hold anchors Christine Cruz and Tom Haynes back from storming onto the causeway and personally administering lethal injections to the three detained men they’d already tried and convicted.

(Via the always-worthwhile Daily Kos.)

[07:47 PM : 7 comments]

Check it out Outstanding new politics-and-current-events weblog: William Burton. No illustrative quotations—it’s all good.

[03:36 PM : 0 comments]

Le mot juste For sale on eBay, a “mosaic” image of George W. Bush made up of thousands of little pictures of Jesus.

Writes Teresa:

The caption, “Our Christian President”, clocks in with an impressive error rate of one error per word.

[03:02 PM : 0 comments]

You don’t say Discussing the Chechnyan rebels, Matthew Yglesias wins today’s blogosphere award for dry understatement:
The rebels’ efforts to kill me played a major role in causing me to look more closely at the legitimacy of their cause.

[02:49 PM : 0 comments]

The right questions Avedon Carol writes a long, excellent post about the media’s preference for polarizing views, whether we’re really “at war,” and the urgent necessity of actually preventing terrorism. Avedon is an American who’s lived in London since 1985, a co-founder of the UK group Feminists Against Censorship, and appears on radio and TV often enough to have a good sense of how the media’s institutional needs distort any discussion:
[…T]he discussion is far more nuanced and complicated than pro-war v. anti-war. I suspect that the problem is less one of the debate within the left itself as the preference of so many editors to resort to simplicity and polarized questions rather than to examine the complexities of people’s responses. I have no doubt that it’s much the same with this issue as it is with the ones I deal with as a sometimes talking head and quotomatic source: The less polarizing, the more complex and nuanced my answers to a journalist or television researcher are, the less likely I am to be invited onto a show or quoted in an article. […]

I’ve mentioned before that I live in shaking distance of the Docklands—that is, when the bomb went off there, we not only heard it, but felt it. I’ve worked in that neighborhood, and I have friends who work there, and I know how close it was. On a previous occasion, it was only by accident that I wasn’t in the John Lewis store the night I’d planned to go there to buy a coat—the night another bomb went off there. And the people who set those bombs off were not dark people, did not wear turbans, did not use alien words or read Arabic. They could not be identified by unusual clothing, swarthy complexion, foreign-language books; they looked like everyone else: white English-speakers in a white, English-speaking country. (Their funding, it is well known, has come in large part from Americans.)

So I want to know how you fight terrorism and win, how you make your people safe while keeping to the highest moral and ethical standards possible, yet still securing your nation, your neighborhood, your future. I’m not interested in figuring out who gets to go to Hell as a result of each terrorist act; that’s not my call. While it’s true that I have the deep-down feeling that you damn yourself when you choose to commit such acts, the immortal souls of terrorists are just not a question for me; I am more concerned with my own responsibility to affect the decisions that will make further such acts less likely. I know that no one individual is responsible for the fact that the war in Northern Ireland has gone on for hundreds of years, but many people bear the burden of responsibility for that fact, and those people aren’t necessarily all career terrorists. What an awful lot of them are is politicians whose decisions have more to do with retaining their seats in office or consolidating their own wealth and power than they do with actually eliminating the causes of terrorism.

That’s just a sample. Read the whole thing.

[02:03 PM : 0 comments]

New package, old baloney A newish blog called Whigging Out suggests, in a post and several increasingly defensive followups, that Democratic leaders are raising doubts about attacking Iraq in order to cater to “Muslim and black” voters who form a “significant block” within the Democratic party.

As Atrios points out,

Every major Arab-American organization I can find endorsed Bush in the election. One estimate has him garnering 72% of the Arab-American vote. Grover Norquist’s attempts to court this group are well documented.
One would think these facts obviated Whigging Out’s picture of a Democratic Party uniquely in thrall to the Muslim vote. But after a break to insult Oliver Willis, Whigging Out continues its contributions to dialogue thus:
Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are important, not because they are black, but because they are virulent haters of US history who hold sway over a significant block of voters, when broken down by district—those Cynthia McKinney types who agree with their sentiments and wait hungrily for their brand of demagogic rhetoric. Why not face it, the Democratic party IS the home of anti-Americanism. Whether it is the likes of Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, or Farrakhan, Jackson and Sharpton, you will never find these people but in one place. There are plenty of proud and pro Americans in the Democratic party of all colors, but they are usually overshadowed and outgunned by the activists therein. It is a party generally comprised people who are ashamed, bitter or guilty about one thing or another and looking to assuage their consciences with a ballot. If you are pleased to be affiliated politically with that then hey, keep on rockin’ in the free world baby. But don’t do the denial thing.
Admittedly, I wondered for the moment if the entirety of Whigging Out wasn’t the work of Neal Pollack. But this sort of thing isn’t so much funny as it is sad.

Leaving aside the question of whether all those individuals are in fact “anti-American” (or even Democrats), Whigging Out is essentially arguing that there is an “anti-American” portion of the electorate, and that it lives inside the Democratic party and sways mainstream Democratic views on issues of war and peace.

This libel founders on several points, most obviously this: for every nitwit on the American left whose views actually live up to the “anti-American” stereotype being paraded here, there are at least two Americans who think the Federal Government is a tool of the Z.O.G.; that Christianity should be the state religion; or (and this one’s very common) that the defeat of the Confederacy was a tragic blow to freedom. All of these positions are fundamentally “anti-American”. And the overwhelming majority of these people vote Republican. So which party is the “home of anti-Americanism”?

Most of the time I’m inclined to think it’s not even worth arguing with nonsense like Whigging Out. The guy can’t even marshal his own arguments coherently: in successive sentences, he asserts that “There are plenty of proud and pro Americans in the Democratic party” and that “It is a party generally comprised [of] people who are ashamed, bitter or guilty about one thing or another”. Which to believe? Who cares, really. But I’m tired of the sheer counterfactual bullshit. Criticizing American foreign policy isn’t “anti-American,” now or in the late 1990s when Republican leaders were falling over themselves to criticize Clinton’s Balkan war or his Administration’s moves against al-Qaeda. Whigging Out isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box—criticized for his earlier posts, his idea of a witty comeback is “methinks I smell smoke”—but he’s enough of a grownup to grasp this elementary principle. I don’t think he wants to grasp it.

[01:04 PM : 3 comments]

September 15, 2002
I’ll sleep when I’m dead It was 1979. We’d been married just weeks before in our San Francisco back yard. We loaded a drive-away car with our worldly possessions and drove from San Francisco to Seattle. The car was equipped with (1) 8-track tape player and (1 each) 8-track copies of Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits and Warren Zevon’s Warren Zevon.

It’s about 20 hours by car from San Francisco to Seattle. Guess which tape got played the most.

You know, the sheriff’s got his problems too
And he will surely take them out on you
In walks the village idiot—his face is all aglow
He’s been up all night listening to Mohammed’s Radio

Don’t it make you want to rock and roll
All night long
Mohammed’s Radio
I heard somebody singing sweet and soulful on the radio
Mohammed’s Radio

In some of the most fucked-up news of the week, Warren Zevon has inoperable lung cancer.

I don’t know what to do except play my Warren Zevon records really, really loud.

Send lawyers, guns, and money. The shit has hit the fan.

[11:01 PM : 3 comments]

Lapse of faith I’m struck by a comment by Demosthenes, who quotes a comment posted to MaxSpeak:
I’ve brought this up a few times in the blogosphere recently but no one seems to get it’s relevance - a picture is worth 1000 words - wish I still had a copy! In this case it’s an old Fred Wright cartoon of cops billyclubbing pickets carrying signs reading “anti-communist union”, with the police saying “we don’t care what kind of Communist you are.”
Demosthenes comments:
No matter how nice a moderate liberal plays, he’s never going to win winger friends by bashing leftists. They’ll just smile, and nod, and either wait for you to join them completely (like Kaus) or tar you as a member of the “loony left” the nanosecond you diverge from them.
I respect a lot of individuals who are well to the right of me, and I have plenty of opinions that depart from left/liberal orthodoxy (such as it it is) but I’m beginning to suspect that, on balance, Demosthenes nails it.

[10:30 PM : 2 comments]

Wake-up call Nick Denton pricks the complacent:
The US needs a reality check. America’s view of world public opinion is about as realistic as was its vision of happy anti-communist villagers in the strategic hamlets of the Vietnam. The suspicion of American militarism runs deep; and with the exception of Iraq, Iran, and the UK, runs deeper among the people than the elites. Populist policies and democratic reform — whether in Venezuela, Egypt or Germany — are often going to run counter to America’s immediate interests.
Or, as the great Belfast fanzine writer Walter A. Willis observed, Americans are “just like people everywhere else, except that they’re not terrified of American foreign policy.”

[10:28 PM : 1 comments]

September 12, 2002
Florida, and other global trouble spots Max Sawicky with the weblog post of the day:
EU DEBATES MEASURES TO RESTORE ORDER AND DEMOCRACY IN FLORIDA. [From Le Monde et La Merde, September 12, 2002] BRUXELLE — The storied war cabinet of the European Union continued to meet today, deep in deliberations on restoring order to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Florida, U.S.A. Sources said debate bogged down initially over disagreements over whether order had actually prevailed in the first place.

EU Minister of Information & Household Appliances Bo Husqvarnaquistholm from Sweden reported to the group on the present situation: “We have an across the board breakdown of the state’s social and public services. The Child Welfare Department has been taken over by people who believe in flogging disobedient minors. Law enforcement agencies let perpetrators of drug offenses walk away from arrest. They prefer to focus on conducting surveillance on houses of prostitution. Election officials are ignorant of election laws. Election workers are ignorant of how to administer elections. Governor Jeb Bush is ignorant of the fact that elections are a state government responsibility. Dogs and cats have begun to try to eat each other, while alligators are eating them both. Janet Reno evades apprehension and is liable to eat anything.”

[05:01 PM : 19 comments]

September 11, 2002
On the day I always felt it was our true national anthem.
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
“Every flaw”? Is someone suggesting America may have had anything to apologize for? Typical “blame-America-first” liberal! Andrew Sullivan would have made short work of her.
O beautiful for pilgrims’ feet,
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
“Pilgrims”? Sternly “beating” paths “across the wilderness”? Now we see the violence inherent in the system. Patriarchal fundamentalists enacting their masculinist anger against the aboriginal state of nature do not constitute a system of governance! Help, help, I’m being repressed!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!
You’re saying there’s something wrong with “selfish gain”? What are you, some kind of Communist or Democrat or something?
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
“One reason it is so hard to describe the ‘character’ that September 11 revealed is that it involves us in paradox. There was spontaneous patriotism — the flags, the ‘United We Stand’ posters, the widespread support for the war in Afghanistan. There was spontaneous compassion — the flowers around firehouses, the donations of money and blood, the concern for the victims as individuals. If you try to link these responses in a formula, you get something like: Americans are willing to fight, and even die, for the belief that no one should be made to die for a belief. And: Americans hold it to be a transcendent truth that it is possible to live a good life without loyalty to a transcendent cause. The formulations are fuzzy because ‘a way of life’ has many aspects. There is no perfect clarity: Let us be clear about that.” —Louis Menand, The New Yorker, September 16, 2002

Have a good 11th. Turn off your television. Light a candle. Be kind.

[12:00 AM : 15 comments]

September 10, 2002
As I was trying to say, about grief This will be linked all over the blogosphere. Rightly so. Dave Barry.
“In the beginning, everyone asked, ‘Aren’t you proud of him? Aren’t you happy that he’s a hero?’ I thought, my goodness, the first thing you have to understand is, I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other. For my husband to be anyone’s hero … I’d much prefer him to be here with me.”

[10:19 PM : 1 comments]

All grief is local A year ago this evening, just about exactly now, at dusk, I came home from the corner store. I put the key in our front door, and for some reason I turned around and looked northwest. You can’t quite see downtown Manhattan from the front of our building. But I noticed then, for the first time, that you could indeed see the top of the World Trade Center from directly on our front step.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been exasperated by the 9/11 anniversary media thrash. And, conversely, I’ve been exasperated by some people who seem to be copping above-it-all attitudes about it. It’s news that human beings deal with anxiety and shock by making a fuss about it? Perhaps sentient entities operate differently on your planet.

As I keep trying to say, 9/11 wasn’t a symbol for me, or a national turning point, or proof of the superiority of my political views. The World Trade Center was my local mall. It’s where I bought my jeans. The Borders bookshop kept my Starlight anthologies in stock. That underground mall had one of Manhattan’s more tolerable public restrooms. (Believe me, New Yorkers keep track of these details.)

When I cycle to work—about five miles door to door, from Park Slope to the Flatiron Building—the WTC is just a few blocks off my route, if I take the Brooklyn instead of the Manhattan bridge.

They attacked my neighborhood. They blew up my mall. They killed my neighbors.

Some bloggers have decided to lecture us about “perspective.” After all, why all the fuss? 9/11’s body count is nothing compared to AIDS in Africa, or name your genocide. Well, of course we should care about the woes of the world, and you know something? Often we do. Does that mean we have to shut up about our own lives, because people are suffering somewhere else? Obviously nobody would put it like that, because then it would sound as silly as it is. But more than a few bloggers aren’t above copping a little morally-superior attitude, if they can get away with it.

Here in New York, watching the towers burn, and hearing them fall, wasn’t an argument about moral perspective. It was loud, overwhelming, and horribly immediate. We had all kinds of emotions, many of them simultaneously. We were angry, and scared, and resolute, and depressed. We had our moments of crystalline “moral clarity” and, less often admitted to, our days and weeks of doubt. As you may have heard on your planet, human beings frequently deal with this sort of thing by talking about it a lot. I’m interested to hear that some people of my acquaintance are above that sort of thing. Well, no, actually I’m telling a lie. I’m not interested at all.

I don’t know why Electrolite consistently gets more hits than Making Light, except that maybe the range of subjects here tends to be closer to the core interests of politics-and-current-events blogdom. But that Teresa Nielsen Hayden person can be a dead sharp political writer. She’s got a new post saying all this, except more gracefully, more vigorously, and without the stupid bits. Here’s a taste. Go read it all.

Here’s the public stuff: Tomorrow the fife & drum corps of the departments that lost people will march in from the outer boroughs, a long march starting very early for some of them, and there’ll be a service at the site. Nobody’s giving any new speeches, just reading a couple of old ones we’re all fond of. There’ll be uncountably many other memorial services in the city, with a whole second wave of them towards nightfall. About a zillion candles will be lit. I’ll be out there with my neighbors, not because the media is making a big fuss about it, but because we need to do it, and want to be there. […]

I have not the slightest doubt that some of tomorrow’s observances will be overdone, by some people’s tastes. We do that here. I also have not the slightest doubt that the news media will say some stupid things about it. Repeat after me: What the news media does is not my problem. This is not about them.

[07:01 PM : 8 comments]

September 08, 2002
I have no scream and I… Writing in this weekend’s New York Times Book Review, Walter Kirn reviews a pile of 9/11 books, including several collections of essays. Not surprisingly, a lot of this writing has what Kirn calls a “strained, hurry-up-and-say-something-memorable feeling.” On the other hand:
Baudrillard and his ilk make one grateful for Harlan Ellison, the science-fiction novelist, who tells a story in September 11: West Coast Writers Approach Ground Zero (Hawthorne, paper, $16.95) of being invited to appear on the TV show ”Politically Incorrect” just weeks after the attacks. Ellison accepts, eager to promote his name, but then realizes shortly before the taping that he has nothing to say, and begs off. The producers go ape, but Ellison stands fast. There is such a thing as heroic modesty.
This may well be the first time Harlan Ellison has been praised for “heroic modesty,” by the New York Times no less. Still, if Harlan really did that, props to him, and no blame for writing about it later. May we all have the wit, once in a while, to just shut up.

[09:39 AM : 6 comments]

September 06, 2002
If I were any closer, I’d be in back of you Jeanne D’Arc: She shoots, she scores.
You’ve got to hand it to Norah Vincent. She managed to say two utterly contradictory and irreconcilable things and both of them were stupid.

[12:06 AM : 0 comments]

September 04, 2002
Back Home, and exhausted. Back at work tomorrow. Posting will recommence in not terribly long.

[03:59 PM : 7 comments]