Quotulatiousness

June 18, 2017

QotD: Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Because I’m both both a libertarian and famous for conducting a successful propaganda campaign, libertarian activists sometimes come to me for tactical advice. During a recent email exchange, one of these criticized me for wishing (as he thought) to “punish” the Islamist enemies of the U.S. and Western civilization.

I explained that I have no desire to punish the perpetrators of 9/11; what I want is vengeance and death. Vengeance for us, death for them. Whether they experience ‘punishment’ during the process is of little or no interest to me.

My correspondent was reflecting a common confusion about the distinctions among coercion, revenge, and punishment. Coercion is intended to make another do your will instead of their own; vengeance is intended to discharge your own anger and fear. Punishment is neither of these things.

Punishment is a form of respect you pay to someone who is at least potentially a member of the web of trust that defines your ethical community. We punish ordinary criminals to deter them from repeating criminal behavior, because we believe they know what ethical behavior is and that by deterring them from crime we help them re-integrate with an ethical community they have never in any fundamental sense departed.

By contrast, we do not punish the criminally insane. We confine them and sometimes kill them for our own safety, but we do not make them suffer in an effort to deter them from insanity. Just to state the aim is to make obvious how absurd it is. Hannibal Lecter, and his all-too-real prototypes, lack the capacity to respond to punishment by re-integrating with an ethical community.

In fact, criminal psychopaths are not even potentially members of an ethical community to begin with. There is something broken or missing in them that makes participation in the web of trust impossible; perhaps the capacity to emotionally identify with other human beings, perhaps conscience, perhaps something larger and harder to name. They have other behavioral deficits, including poor impulse control, associated with subtle neurological damage. By existing, they demonstrate something most of us would rather not know; which is that there are creatures who — though they speak, and reason, and feign humanity — have nothing but evil in them.

Eric S. Raymond, “Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-07-05.

September 13, 2016

The largely successful strategy of Al Qaeda

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren posted this as his September 11 retrospective:

As I suggested above, we are still too close to this event to grasp its full significance; but after fifteen years we in the West are in a much worse position than we were on the 10th of September, 2001. We showed, as the Islamists predicted, that we did not have the stamina to prevail, even against weak adversaries; that America and allies could only fight “Vietnams.” Our will is shaken, and to Salafist delight, we have by now expressed contrition for fourteen centuries of Christian defence against Islamic aggression. We bow respectfully, as our culture is insulted, and as versions of Shariah are imposed. In disregard of our own security, we have thrown our borders open to massive Muslim immigration. We follow, at every junction, the course of sentimentality, and adapt to the certainty of defeat. After each hit we call for grief counsellors.

It is instructive that, in the present circumstances, with Christians reduced to desperation through much of the Near East, we import Muslim refugees almost exclusively. The Christians flee to the protection of the Kurds; not to refugee camps in which they would risk massacre. Western governments take only from those camps; or in Europe, the flotillas launched from Turkey and Libya. The Islamists gloat at this demographic achievement; the Daesh now recruit from the disaffected young in the new Muslim ghettoes of Europe, radicalized in Saudi-built-and-financed mosques. Few directly engage in suicidal acts of terrorism; but those who do are lionized as heroes. Lesser, safer acts, such as rape of European women, and desecration of churches and synagogues, have become commonplace. We are, and we know that we are, as incapable of assimilating these migrants as the Romans were of assimilating the Vandals and Huns through their increasingly porous frontiers.

Crucially, in the mindless fantasy of “multiculturalism,” we refuse to recognize the contradictions between Islamic and Christian teaching, and look the other way, muttering fatuities about “the religion of peace” after each psychopathic explosion. This is just what Osama predicted: the harder the blows, the more docile we would become, and the more complacent in the face of the ancient Islamic demand for submission.

The genius of Osama bin-Laden, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, was to know that the de-Christianizing West would respond in this way. Their propaganda spelt out, from the beginning, the argument for their methods. They called us chestless wonders; they said we would fold under any sustained pressure; that we had lost the confidence of our Christian identity. We are an aging society now, vitiated by abortions, needing immigrants to pay our pensions; a people addicted to drugs, from opiates to iPhones; lapsed in creature comforts, and spineless in the face of adversity.

July 16, 2014

Consistency in US foreign policy

Filed under: Government, Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:53

Nick Gillespie on why the shift from Bush-era policies in the Middle East and elsewhere to Obama-era policies wasn’t so much a shift as a continuation:

Obama’s foreign policy certainly hasn’t lacked for the use of force. It has, however, lacked for successes, as became clear during an unintentionally hilarious yet telling State Department press conference in May. State’s Jen Psaki said that, in her view, “the president doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he’s done around the world.”

“Credit for what?” one reporter interrupted. “I’m sorry, credit for what?” The others in the room started laughing.

Around the same time, NBC’s Richard Engel, who is not known as a staunch critic for the administration, was asked to name a few countries with which relations have improved under Obama. His reply? “I think you would be hard pressed to find that…I think the reason is our allies have become confused.”

First under Bush and now under Obama, the one constant in American foreign policy is a lack of any conceivable constraint on whatever the president deems expedient at any moment in time. This is disastrous, especially when it comes to military and covert actions, because it precludes any serious public discussion and prioritization.

That’s not just bad for the U.S. It’s also bad for our allies, who have no framework by which to structure their own actions and expectations. The president is allowed to both declare red lines and then to ignore them when they are crossed, to dispatch troops or planes or supplies according to whim. In all of this, Obama in no way represents a break from Bush, but perfect continuity.

As The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake wrote for Reason back in 2010, the roots of this particularly strident new sense of imperial power can be traced back to the authorization of use of military force (AUMF) signed into law just a few days after the 9/11 attacks.

“Just as President Bush said the 9/14 resolution gave him the wartime powers to detain, interrogate, capture, and kill terrorists all over the world,” wrote Lake, “so too does President Obama.” Until recently — and because of pushback from characters such as Rand Paul, his fellow Republican Sen. Mike Lee, and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden — Congress has been especially deferential to all aspects of executive power when it comes to foreign policy and war-making.

The results are plain to see in the still-smoldering battlefields across the globe and the rapidly deteriorating situations in places as different as Ukraine, Egypt, and even the U.S. border with Mexico. When the executive branch has carte blanche to act however it wants, it can’t act effectively.

September 12, 2013

QotD: The “never let a crisis go to waste” mentality

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 14:11

The lesson I remember best from my religious instruction as a youth in the Catholic church came from a nun who was explaining the ten commandments. She asked me to explain the prohibition of taking the Lord’s name in vain; I said it meant I should not curse using God’s name. She corrected me — ultimately the commandment means we should not invoke God’s name for our own power or glory or purposes rather than His own, she said.

9/11 — like every great and terrible thing and event that has ever come before it — is invoked to demand and justify a wide array of ends and prove a confusing jumble of conclusions. Many of those ends and conclusions were sought by their advocates well before 9/11. It has ever been so. People will seek power, seek prominence, seek money, seek their religious and ideological goals by invoking events — by trying, as I suggested in #4 above, to blur the line between the thing and our reaction to the thing. This has been a constant theme on this blog: the government has sought more and more power over us, and more and more limitations on our rights, by invoking 9/11, only to use those new powers to fight old fights unrelated to terrorism and to suppress things they didn’t like before 9/11. The PATRIOT ACT was an incoherent jumble of law enforcement wet dreams and wish lists, components of which had been floating about for decades. But though the government’s efforts to use 9/11 has carried the most weight, the invocations have not come only from the government — they’ve come from everywhere, left and right, seeking to use the tragedy to prove preconceptions about America and its foreign policy.

Ken White, “Ten Things I Want My Children To Learn From 9/11”, Popehat, 2011-09-11

July 26, 2013

Chris Christie goes full neocon – “You went full retard, man. Never go full retard.”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:36

Conor Friedersdorf on Chris Christie’s embrace of all things neocon:

Before today, I expected that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would position himself as a national security state moderate in the 2016 Republican primary, acknowledging that the Rand Paul wing of the party has legitimate concerns, picking a couple fights with the GOP’s John Bolton wing, and making it clear to establishment types that he wouldn’t radically challenge the status quo. That would be smart politics.

There are a lot of Republicans who think Rand Paul makes some good points, but aren’t yet ready to embrace his whole critique of the national security state. Who else is going after those votes? But now it seems clear that Gov. Christie will adopt the neoconservative line on national security, embracing the most radical actions of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Speaking at The Aspen Institute, Christie belittled the libertarian wing of his party for its take on NSA spying. “As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” he said.

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post offers an account of what came next:

    Asked whether he includes Paul — a fellow potential 2016 presidential candidate — in his criticism, Christie didn’t back down. “You can name any one of them that’s engaged in this,” he said. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. … I’m very nervous about the direction this is moving in.” Christie acknowledged that there will always be mistakes when it comes to national security and protecting privacy, but said Americans need to stay focused on what’s at stake.

    He dismissed some of the current privacy/national security debates as “esoteric.”

    “I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don’t,” he said. “And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.” Christie also praised the national security strategies of both President Obama and George W. Bush. “I want to say that I think both the way President Bush conducted himself and the way President Obama has conducted himself in the main on those types of decisions hasn’t been different because they were right and because we haven’t had another one of those attacks that cost thousands and thousands of lives,” Christie said.

Personally, I’d strongly prefer to leave the widows and orphans of all atrocities out of politics, because it is so unseemly when politicians opportunistically exploit them to compensate for the power their positions lack on the merits. But if a demagogue forced me to argue in front of them?

July 17, 2013

Nonsense on stilts – Civil libertarians “caused” 9/11, so we have to curtail civil liberties

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:02

While some pro-surveillance folks may be content to hint that the world is a far more dangerous place if we don’t let the NSA have access to everyone’s electronic communications, there are others willing to go a lot further:

    And so, when a law enforcement task force of the FBI found out in August of 2001 that al Qaeda had sent two dangerous operatives to the United States, it did … nothing. It was told to stand down; it could not go looking for the two al Qaeda operatives because it was on the wrong side of the wall. I believe that FBI task force would have found the hijackers — who weren’t hiding — and that the attacks could have been stopped if not for a combination of bad judgment by the FISA court (whose minimization rules were later thrown out on appeal) and a climate in which national security concerns were discounted by civil liberties advocates on both sides of the aisle.

Got that? Anyone advocating for basic civil liberties is to blame for 9/11. Holy fuck. This kind of thinking is about as anti-American as I can think of. As we’ve discussed, protecting civil liberties is at the core of the American way of life. “Give me liberty or give me death” is the phrase that Patrick Henry chose, and apparently Stewart Baker believes the American motto should be “you’re all going to die if you fight for civil liberties!” Shameful.

[…]

    Forty years later, though, we’re still finding problems with this experiment. One of them is that law changes slowly while technology changes quickly. That usually means Congress has to change the law frequently to keep up. But in the context of intelligence, it’s often hard to explain why the law needs to be changed, let alone to write meaningful limits on collection without telling our intelligence targets a lot about our collection techniques. A freewheeling and prolonged debate — and does Congress have any other kind? — will give them enough time and knowledge to move their communications away from technologies we’ve mastered and into technologies that thwart us. The result won’t be intelligence under law; it will be law without intelligence.

Basically, shut up with the debate, just let us go back to spying on fucking everyone. If we actually have to “debate” and “protect the Constitution,” some “bad guys” might talk without us knowing about it. And then we’ll all die.

[…]

He then tries to flip the whole thing around and argue that supporters of civil liberties are actually anti-technology, because they’re trying to limit the government’s use of technology. That’s ridiculous, since many of the loudest supporters of civil liberties come from the tech and innovation communities. No one thinks the government shouldn’t make efficient use of technology — but that’s very different from saying it’s okay for the government to either convince or force companies to cough up all sorts of private data on everyone or risk the wrath of the US government. That’s not a fair fight. The government has the power to compel people and companies to do things that they would not do otherwise, though I guess an extreme authoritarian like Baker either doesn’t realize this or doesn’t see it as a problem.

At the end, he makes a bunch of claims about how it’s the US government’s job to “protect” everyone — though I’d like to see where that’s laid out in the Constitution. As mentioned above, he makes some valid points that other countries are just as bad, if not worse, but that’s hardly a compelling argument, because that just allows others to flip it around, and claim that the US has no moral high ground, since it’s ignoring the civil liberties of the public — something that Baker notes he directly supports in this testimony — for some vague and impossible promises of “safety.”

September 11, 2012

Jonathan Kay: How Canada has changed since 9/11

Filed under: Cancon, History, Politics — Tags: — Nicholas @ 10:55

I’m not sure many people will recognize the Canada Kay portrays before 9/11, and many will take strong issue with his view of Canada today, but I think everyone would agree we’re not the country we were 11 years ago:

How much has Canada changed in the last eleven years? Consider this: As the World Trade Center rubble was still smoldering, the then-leader of Canada’s left-wing NDP party, Alexa McDonough, declared: “As responsible international citizens, it is important to reaffirm our commitment to pursuing peaceful solutions to the tensions and hostilities that breed such mindless violence.” A year later, in a CBC interview broadcast on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, then-prime minister Jean Chrétien suggested the 9/11 attacks might have been a reaction to Western greed and arrogance: “You cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation for the others.”

Such remarks would be unthinkable now. Canada is a place where even most mainstream leftists recognize the need for military intervention as a means of disrupting terrorism and protecting local populations.

[. . .]

In short, the last 11 years have fundamentally transformed Canada’s attitude toward foreign policy, and the use of force more generally. After a quarter-century pacifist interregnum, we once again became comfortable with our proper historical role as an active military ally to the United States and Britain. Canadians now stand up and salute their soldiers at NHL hockey games. A major part of Ontario’s Highway 401 — the road travelled by fallen soldiers from CFB Trenton to the coroner’s office in Toronto — has been renamed the Highway of Heroes. These are small, symbolic gestures that any American would see as entirely normal. But they would have been unthinkable in the pre-9/11 era, when our Liberal leaders still entertained gauzy visions of a world without war.

March 1, 2012

American involvement in Afghanistan: the pessimistic view

Filed under: Asia, Military, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:07

Steve Chapman recounts the arguments against staying the course in Afghanistan:

When Afghans erupted in rage over the careless burning of Korans at Bagram Airbase, the upheaval was not just about Muslim holy books. It was also about the grossly dysfunctional relationship between us and them — a product of the huge cultural gulf, our outsized ambitions and the irritant of our presence.

Afghanistan is a medieval country that we can barely begin to understand. Yet we presume that with all our money, technology, weaponry and wisdom, we can mold it like soft clay.

Things don’t work so well in practice. Only one out of every 10 Afghans who sign up to join the army or national police can read and write. The military’s desertion rate, an American general acknowledged last year, approaches a staggering 30 percent.

Many if not most Afghans have never heard of the 9/11 attacks. Even the deputy chairman of the government’s High Peace Council told The Wall Street Journal he doesn’t believe al-Qaida destroyed the World Trade Center.

So what can we expect ordinary people to think when they see the country overrun with armed foreigners who sometimes kill and injure innocent civilians? Or when they hear that those infidels are burning Korans?

The war in Afghanistan is now the longest in American history, and if hawks have their way, we’ll be there for years to come. Alas, we have demonstrated the force of two things we already knew: Some mistakes can’t be undone no matter how you try, and every guest eventually wears out his welcome.

In Afghanistan, we originally failed to make the needed commitment to destroy the enemy, because President George W. Bush was distracted by his eagerness to invade Iraq. As a result, the Taliban survived and eventually mounted a major comeback. Barack Obama decided to pour in troops and funds, but by that time, Afghan patience was nearing exhaustion.

October 27, 2011

Ten years of Patriot Act intrusions into civil liberties

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation marks the tenth anniversary of the awful Patriot Act:

Ten years ago today, in the name of protecting national security and guarding against terrorism, President George W. Bush signed into law some of the most sweeping changes to search and surveillance law in modern American history. Unfortunately known as the USA PATRIOT Act, many of its provisions incorporate decidedly unpatriotic principles barred by the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. Provisions of the PATRIOT Act have been used to target innocent Americans and are widely used in investigations that have nothing to do with national security.

Much of the PATRIOT Act was a wish list of changes to surveillance law that Congress had previously rejected because of civil liberties concerns. When reintroduced as the PATRIOT Act after September 11th, those changes — and others — passed with only limited congressional debate.

Just what sort of powers does the PATRIOT Act grant law enforcement when it comes to surveillance and sidestepping due process? Here are three provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were sold to the American public as necessary anti-terrorism measures, but are now used in ways that infringe on ordinary citizens’ rights

September 12, 2011

9/11 aftermath: “No matter how long I looked, some part of my brain never stopped waiting for the credits to roll”

Filed under: History, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 17:06

Megan McArdle tries to put into words what it felt like to be in New York in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks:

At ground level, there was the tangible reminder — that multistory shard jutting out of the smoking rubble that became one of the iconic images of 9/11. But somehow, that didn’t make the absence any more real. I worked down at Ground Zero for a year, from shortly after the attack, to just after the first annual memorial. I stood right next to that monumental fragment when the ground was still smoking and firefighters were spraying it with hoses to keep the smoke and ash at bay. I smelled the odor that pervaded Ground Zero for weeks, maybe months — burning office fixtures and damp embers. And yet in my deepest mind I never connected any of it with the buildings where I had worked on and off throughout the 1990s — even though I stood looking at it from the very familiar streets where I’d eaten lunch so many times. It didn’t look like a building, or even the ruins of a building. It looked like a scene from a movie about the destruction of the World Trade Center. No matter how long I looked, some part of my brain never stopped waiting for the credits to roll.

As the rubble was cleared away, and all that was left was two concrete-lined holes in the ground, I spent a lot of time walking around the site trying to come to grips with what happened. I was waiting for that moment that always happens in the movies — the one where the music swells and the main character, silhouetted against a rolling sky, finally grasps everything that has been lost.

It never happened, maybe because I was not the main character. I am one of, I think, a relative few — the perhaps tens of thousands of Americans who can plausibly claim that 9/11 utterly changed their life. Without 9/11, I would not have worked at the World Trade Center’s disaster recovery effort; I would not have started blogging; I would not now be a journalist. I would not have had most of the relationships I had in the past ten years, be married to my current husband, or live in the city I now call home. I would be in all visible ways a completely different person if those towers had not come down. But in the story of 9/11, I am not even a bit player. I’m maybe an extra.

The increasing militarization of the police

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:50

Radley Balko shows how the tools given to the authorities to fight the war on terror have instead been used to further expand the war on drugs:

New York magazine reported some telling figures last month on how delayed-notice search warrants — also known as “sneak-and-peek” warrants — have been used in recent years. Though passed with the PATRIOT Act and justified as a much-needed weapon in the war on terrorism, the sneak-and-peek was used in a terror investigation just 15 times between 2006 and 2009. In drug investigations, however, it was used more than 1,600 times during the same period.

It’s a familiar storyline. In the 10 years since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the government has claimed a number of new policing powers in the name of protecting the country from terrorism, often at the expense of civil liberties. But once claimed, those powers are overwhelmingly used in the war on drugs. Nowhere is this more clear than in the continuing militarization of America’s police departments.

The trend toward a more militarized domestic police force began well before 9/11. It in fact began in the early 1980s, as the Regan administration added a new dimension of literalness to Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “war on drugs.” Reagan declared illicit drugs a threat to national security, and once likened America’s drug fight to the World War I battle of Verdun. But Reagan was more than just rhetoric. In 1981 he and a compliant Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which allowed and encouraged the military to give local, state, and federal police access to military bases, research, and equipment. It authorized the military to train civilian police officers to use the newly available equipment, instructed the military to share drug-war–related information with civilian police and authorized the military to take an active role in preventing drugs from entering the country.

[. . .]

The problem with this mingling of domestic policing with military operations is that the two institutions have starkly different missions. The military’s job is to annihilate a foreign enemy. Cops are charged with keeping the peace, and with protecting the constitutional rights of American citizens and residents. It’s dangerous to conflate the two. As former Reagan administration official Lawrence Korb once put it, “Soldiers are trained to vaporize, not Mirandize.” That distinction is why the U.S. passed the Posse Comitatus Act more than 130 years ago, a law that explicitly forbids the use of military troops in domestic policing.

Update: Also from Radley, a look inside the SWAT team leader’s world.

[. . .] note the complete disregard for the rights of the people being raided in the excerpt above. The author is actually suggesting SWAT commanders lobby to have their teams deployed in situations for which they normally wouldn’t be to ensure they’re in good practice. Put another way, he suggests they practice their door smashing, room-clearing, flash-grenade deploying, and other paramilitary tactics on less-than-violent people, so they’re in better form when a real threat arises. Never mind that there are going to be living, breathing, probably bleeding people on the receiving end of these “practice” raids. There’s officer safety and “SWAT team profile” to think about. It’s just an appalling mindset.

September 11, 2011

QotD: Comparing September 11, 2001 to December 7, 1941

Filed under: History, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:52

On Dec. 8, 1951, the day after the 10th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, The New York Times‘ front page made a one-paragraph mention of commemorations the day before, when the paper’s page had not mentioned the anniversary. The Dec. 8 Washington Post‘s front page noted no commemorations the previous day. On Dec. 7, the page had featured a familiar 10-year old photograph of the burning battleships. It seems to have been published because a new process made possible printing it for the first time in color. At the bottom of the page, a six-paragraph story began: “Greater Washington today will mark the tenth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack by testing its air raid defenses.” The story explained that “the sirens are part of a ‘paper bombing’ of Washington” that would include “mock attacks by atom bombs and high explosives.”

The most interesting question is not how America in 2011 is unlike America in 2001, but how it is unlike it was in 1951. The intensity of today’s focus on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 testifies to more than the multiplication of media ravenous for content, and to more than today’s unhistorical and self-dramatizing tendency to think that eruptions of evil are violations of a natural entitlement to happiness. It also represents the search for refuge from a decade defined by unsatisfactory responses to 9/11.

George F. Will, “Commemorating the past to forget the present”, National Post, 2011-09-11

March 8, 2011

Helicopter footage of 9/11 just released

Filed under: History, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:21

The Guardian explains:

Previously unseen footage of the 9/11 attacks, filmed from a police helicopter hovering above the burning World Trade Centre, has emerged almost a decade after the terrorist atrocity.

The New York Police Department air and sea rescue helicopter was dispatched to the scene of the attack to see whether any survivors could be rescued from the rooftops.

[. . .]

The video is part of a cache of information about the attack handed over by city agencies to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal agency that investigated the collapse.

It was released by NIST on 3 March under a Freedom of Information Act request, but it remains unclear who published the footage online.

September 11, 2010

Nine years on

Filed under: History, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:04

Video by James Lileks.

But every so often — every week, really — I remember the event in some odd echo of the emotions I felt on September 11. It might be the closing credit music of a BBC comedy, or an old movie about New York, or driving past a building designed by the architect of the WTC, or just standing in the spot where I stood when I saw the towers fall. Or more: for God’s sake, the Gallery of Regrettable Food’s publication date was 9/11; half the time I look at the book on the shelf I recall being in the shower, thinking of the interviews I had lined up, turning off the water and hearing Peter Jennings on the radio, wondering why they were replaying tape of the 91 attack on the towers. I remember what Natalie was doing — a happy toddler, she was digging through her box of toys and handing me a phone with a smile as bright as the best tomorrow you could imagine. I remember Jasper on his back, whining, unsure. I remember these things because I picked up my camera and filmed them, because this was a day unlike any other. Today I answered the phone in the same spot where I stood when I called my Washington bureau, told them I’d be rewriting the column — obviously — and wished them well. They were four blocks from the White House. Impossible not to imagine the Fail-Safe squeal on the other end of the line.

On the Hewitt show tonight I started talking about 9/11, and my mouth overran my head, because somewhere down there is a core of anger that hasn’t diminished a joule. This doesn’t mean anything, by itself — anger is an emotion that believes its justification is self-evident by its very existence. Passion is not an argument; rage is not a plan. But as the years go by I find myself as furious now as I was furious then — and no less unmanned by the sight of the planes and the plumes. Once a year I watch the thing I cobbled together from the footage I Tivo’d, and the day is bright and real and true again.

Update: How Twitter can be almost poetry. Disturbing, yet moving.

September 7, 2010

A different kind of “outreach”

Filed under: Asia, Military, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:42

Looks like Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center got exactly the level of attention he was looking for:

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said the planned burning of Qurans on Sept. 11 by a small Florida church could put the lives of American troops in danger and damage the war effort.

Gen. David Petraeus said the Taliban would exploit the demonstration for propaganda purposes, drumming up anger toward the U.S. and making it harder for allied troops to carry out their mission of protecting Afghan civilians.

“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort,” Gen. Petraeus said in an interview. “It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”

Over at Fark.com, they have a highly appropriate term for people like Mr. Jones: they call them “attention whores”. Seems to fit.

On the other hand, wouldn’t an appropriate counter-protest involve a small mosque in Kabul burning some Christian bibles? I wonder why nobody’s doing that instead of the mass protests being threatened? It should probably be noted that this church has fifty members: hardly the mainstream of American religious belief.

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