Archive for the ‘9/11 News’ Category

The Fallout from 9/11

September 11th, 2011 Comments off

Ten years onward, and what can be said? It is a different world. But not in the ways people usually talk about. Not in airport security or the threat of future terror attacks.

There was a schism already deepening within American society before 9/11. There always has been something, ever since the beginning. We fought a horrifically bloody civil war over one such, and that was not the only one. North and south, rich and poor, white and black, young and old–many rifts over the years.

This one was already forming for some time. There has always been a break between conservative and liberal, but that was an ideological split that has been around for a long time. And while there have been conspiracy theories and acts of outrage rising from the rupture, such have been ones that lay on the fringe, engaged in by few. Perhaps the most popular conspiracy was the murder of JFK. This, however, has been brought down to earth by generations of debunking, and perhaps even by some of the wilder conspiracies, so that people shy away in order to avoid association.

People see patterns. I’ve seen my share. And sometimes, conspiracies are real. However, mostly, in reality, these patterns do not materialize from the events we see them in, but from what we want to see. We want to blame someone, we want to find meaning, we want to be in the know. But usually, there is the debunking. Usually people come out and provide reasonable doubt. I myself was very suspicious of Flight 93 and believed that it may have been shot down by the government, and then covered up so as to avoid the consequences of the action. I got talked down. Some people can’t be talked down. Okay, so be it. But how did we get to the point where, now, millions of people believe in theories far more ludicrous and bizarre than the grassy knoll?

The fact is, there have been conspiracies, or at least secrets which some attempted to hide. The Gulf of Tonkin, Watergate, and Iran-Contra, for example; serious government-led conspiracies to defraud the public and carry out secret agendas. There have been more personal affairs covered up, some better than others; there is good reason to believe that Reagan had Alzheimer’s and this was covered up. Few doubt that Clinton had many affairs beyond just Monica Lewinsky, or that George W. Bush used heavier drugs than just alcohol.

If one can believe in these, why not believe in the other conspiracies we hear about? Well, for one thing, some are simply too fantastic. 9/11 was orchestrated by the American government, for example. The terrorists were trained and planted by Bush administration conspirators, who also laced the World Trade Center with thermite explosives so they would collapse in a controlled manner, whilst a cruise missile was fired at the Pentagon to simulate a plane crash and Flight 93 was simply made up, the phone calls from passengers falsified.

True, not too many people buy into this. But a lot of people do. More than the number that believed in the claims that Bill Clinton ordered the political executions of dozens of people, but not nearly as many as the number that still believe that Obama is a Socialist Muslim intent on destroying America.

It’s all part of the same tapestry. The weaving began quite some time ago, and is often called the “narrative.” If you want to make the people do what you want, you have to create the narrative, a view of the world that will make them act the way that you want them to act. It’s not that people like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter are pawns or puppet masters. They are background noise. The truth is, there probably are no puppet masters. But there are opportunists. And 9/11 provided an opportunity like no other.

The thing that has really changed is that people in positions of authority have gone from debunking to demagoguery, as never before, and to extremes. Had everyone in respected positions, people like McCain or Boehner, debunked the idea that Obama was not born in the United States, or was secretly Muslim or socialist, the idea would not have caught on so much. Instead, these same people egged on such ideas, often even while pretending to scoff at them. Code language, such as McCain saying that Obama was some unknown mystery man, to outright statements by Palin that he “palled around with terrorists,” gave credence to the conspiracy theories.

Imagine, in 1980, Jimmy Carter or other high-level Democrats suggesting that Ronald Reagan was in cahoots with the Ayatollah, promising arms shipments in exchange for keeping the hostages throughout the election, and even wrecking the hostage rescue mission by sabotaging the helicopters. Such things were whispered on the fringe, but you never heard Mondale claiming that Reagan was “palling around with the Ayatollah” or Democratic House Representatives making outright accusations that the GOP was making deals to keep the hostages from coming home. Such would have been unthinkable.

What changed was 9/11. Many other things have come from it, but one of the most damaging was the politics of outrageous fear-mongering. 9/11 didn’t start it, but it gave cover to those who wanted to use it, and put the people in a state where they got used to it, and accepted it.

With Watergate, we became used to the idea of the media questioning the holder of the office of the presidency with any and all kinds of malfeasance, and we accepted it. With Oliver North and Iran-Contra, we got used to the idea of people getting away scot-free with bare-faced lying to Congress, and we accepted it. With Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal, we got used to the president lying under oath, and we accepted it. There are many more, but all work in the same direction: building up a tolerance to what we will accept.

9/11 allowed this to be taken to extremes. We got so, well, terrified that we accepted all manner of things, and got used to them. We saw the president and Congress unabashedly violate the Constitution, trashing the Fourth Amendment in warrantless wiretapping, bringing ruin to the Fifth through Eighth Amendments in Guantanamo and torture–and they got away with it. No penalty was paid, and we stopped being shocked when such things were done. We saw the president make bald-faced lies leading the nation to war in Iraq, statements we knew were lies at the time, many we could prove beyond any doubt were lies–but they were allowed to pass, and the figures who lied never truly paid for it. We’re now more inured to such acts, and will be less outraged the next time.

Much of this was due to the schism, which became wider than ever after 9/11, and was allowed to set these new standards by those on the left, out of respect and fear–respect for patriotism and the nation’s need for unity, fear of retribution should they challenge it. Those on the right discovered a powerful new weapon: never backing down, but doubling down, and backing it up with ferocious threats. If Obama or congressional Democrats dared try to prosecute anyone in the Bush administration, there would be a right-wing jihad called, they left no doubt about their intentions in that respect. And it worked.

This was not conspiracy, no more than 9/11 itself was a right-wing conspiracy. It was opportunism. It was a raw, destructive, searingly immoral form of power falling from the sky, and people in power found it could work for them, allowing them to do more than they could have previously dreamed.

This is the new movement of the right wing. The movement of opportunistic intimidation. They have learned that they can push us around, and we let them. Liberals with t-shirts along a presidential parade route are arrested, while right-wingers with fully-loaded semi-automatic weapons outside Obama rallies are allowed to walk unmolested.

And now we are used to it. It has become the standard. The Republican Party, for example, can hold the American and world economies hostage, making sincere threats to bring the whole game crashing down, and even causing a huge amount of damage–and they can get away with it. Oh, not entirely–they paid a price in the polls, and in other ways–but the thing is, all of the outrages of the past decade have had a price–just not a very big price, and each new outrage raised the bar for the next one. Such a ploy as Republicans carried out this year would not have been imaginable a few decades ago; it was the string of survived outrages since 9/11 that helped lead up to this.

Worse, now that we are past it, it has raised the bar still more–and what comes next will be even more outrageous.

This, and not actual terrorism, is the worst fallout from 9/11.

Categories: 9/11 News, Right-Wing Extremism Tags:

Merry Christmas, Heroes. We’ll Consider Pretending to Give You Some Crumbs When We Can Take Credit for It. Maybe.

December 28th, 2010 2 comments

59 Republicans voted against even scaled-back health care for 9/11 first responders. Among them, unsurprisingly, is Michele Bachman, who boasted about her “no” vote:

The last vote taken by this Congress offered a sad commentary on the abysmal lame duck session that was run by the Democrat[ic] majority. Almost 40 percent of House members were not even present for the vote on the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Additionally, Members of Congress have a responsibility to review bills before they vote, but Speaker Pelosi hurried this bill through, disregarding normal House procedure. The heroes who responded on 9/11 deserve to be made whole, but the measure which passed the House today falls short, and that’s why I voted against it. …

At a time when government spending is out-of-control this Congress should not have pushed a bill with more than $4 billion in new spending through this lame duck session.

So, she’s proud to vote against health care for 9/11 heroes because…

  1. Almost 40 percent of House members were not even present for the vote. Why is this? It’s because Republicans stopped the bill from being voted on earlier, and have been obstructing it for a few years. It had to be handled now because it is unlikely the next House, run by Republicans, would pass the bill at all. Not the Democrats’ or the legislation’s fault that so many Congresspeople left town before business was finished, nor is it material in any way otherwise–about the same number of Democrats left as Republicans, and their being present would not have changed the outcome. So this point is totally irrelevant.
  2. Members of Congress have a responsibility to review bills before they vote, but Speaker Pelosi hurried this bill through, disregarding normal House procedure. Considering that the bill was introduced almost two years ago and was voted on in the House in September, one would think Bachmann and everyone else would be familiar with the bill by now. The Senate amended it–but these amendments were proposed by Republicans, not Democrats. If Bachmann doesn’t know what her own party is doing, then she can only blame herself. But we can be certain that (a) she (and all other Republicans in the House) knew damn well exactly what was in the bill, and (b) are demanding something that would simply kill the bill–which is what they want.
  3. At a time when government spending is out-of-control… …because of the GOP’s wars and massive tax cuts for the rich…
  4. This Congress should not have pushed a bill with more than $4 billion in new spending. Um… this bill’s costs are paid for [PDF]–plus several tens of millions of dollars to boot–by a 2% excise tax on foreign manufacturers selling to the U.S. government. Bachmann was perfectly fine with hundreds of billions of dollars, unpaid for, spent on tax cuts for rich people who don’t need them, but health care for 9/11 first responders which is paid for is “out of control spending.”

Bachmann even claimed she voted no on the bill, cut by 40% by her party, because it “falls short.” I suppose that by “falls short,” she meant that the bill should have been cut down to zero instead of just down to $4.2 billion. She certainly could not mean that she herself wanted more to be spent, as she clearly pointed out that even $4.2 billion is too much spending.

Either that or she’s just throwing together a heap of nonsensical B.S. to explain off why she is being a heartless ass, especially right before Christmas. But that couldn’t be.

Heartsong: Here’s How to Commemorate 9/11

September 11th, 2010 5 comments

For all of our talk about and taking pride in our tolerance, diversity, and freedom, we are quite often intolerant, not welcoming of those different from us, and less enthusiastic about freedom when we don’t like those whose freedom is being exercised.

Islam has never been especially welcome in the United States. After 9/11, many got the message and, at least publicly, made gestures of acceptance toward American Muslims. Most recently, however, the climate against Islam in America has reached a level of hatred and fear as can only be generated by politicians trying to win a political campaign.

In the Bible Belt state of Tennessee, we see several examples of this. In Murfreesboro, about 40 miles southeast of Nashville, an Islamic Center under construction has been the site of unusually strong opposition by its community. The site was set afire and vandalized amid sounds of gunshots in the vicinity. A sign announcing the center was defaced while a large billboard not far away advocated stopping the mosque from being built. Pat Robertson made things worse by insinuating that money from Saudi Arabia would be used to essentially take over the city.

Closer to Nashville, a proposal to build a mosque in Brentwood was shut down after a campaign by locals to smear the builders as having terrorist ties, fueling a letter-writing campaign that ultimately derailed the project.

However, among all of the lies, distortions, defiling, protests, and even violent attacks, there is at least one example of what people of faith should be acting like. A few hundred miles to the west, in Cordova, on the outskirts of Memphis, a Muslim group bought 31 acres of land to build the Memphis Islamic Center, a sprawling center built around a mosque. What’s more, it was right across the street from the Heartsong Church.

When the church’s pastor, Steve Stone, first heard of this, he was nervous, admitting to a “tightness in my stomach” at the news. “But then,” he said, “I realized that was fear and I realized that was ignorance.” He and his congregation decided to do something all too uncommon among American Christians: they heeded the words of Jesus. “They’re our neighbors across the street and we follow Jesus, who teaches us to love our neighbors,” Stone explained.

HeartsongsignSo the small congregation laid out the welcome mat, in more than one way. They erected a large sign in front of their church, reading “Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center to the neighborhood.”

The Muslims planning the center were “overwhelmed with emotion” when they saw the sign, and thus began a warm and close relationship between the two religious groups.

When Ramadan came and the Islamic center was not yet finished, its leaders asked the Heartsong church if they could hold their Ramadan prayers at the church. Instead of being offended, Pastor Stone accepted the proposal as “a high compliment,” and welcomed the Muslims in. People in both congregations may have been a bit nervous that something might go wrong, but nothing did–and the groups moved that much closer.

This is the America we claim exists. This is the tolerance, acceptance, and diversity we celebrate. This is, furthermore, what Christianity is supposed to be all about. So the question becomes, why can’t more American Christians act like these people? We’d all be better for it.

And after all, what better way to commemorate 9/11 than to show what is best about America?

Categories: 9/11 News, Religion Tags:

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

September 10th, 2010 2 comments

Terry Jones, the guy in Florida who plans to burn Korans, said that he’s calling off the burning event because he has been assured by a Florida Imam, Muhammad Musri, that in exchange for the Koran burning being called off, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf will move the planned Community Center near Ground Zero to a different location, something which Jones called “a sign from God.”

When I read this, I thought, “that sounds crazy, maybe even stupid.” I mean, really–if Rauf were to agree to move because some nutjob in Florida announces he’s burning Korans, that’s kind of like giving in to terrorist demands–you give him a cookie, he’s gonna want a glass of milk. before you know it, fundie pastors from across the nation will hold Koran burnings unless Muslims do this or that. I thought, maybe Rauf is taking one for the team–but it still sounded wrong.

And indeed it was: Musri stated that there was no deal in place, but instead that the deal was to have a three-way meeting between Rauf, Musri, and Jones in New York to discuss the issue.

Okay, so maybe Jones was just playing things up, and got ahead of himself, or else was desperately looking for a face-saving way out and exaggerated a bit.

Rauf, however, claims that he wasn’t contacted by either Jones or Musri, and has no plans to move the planned project, and would not barter over the site.

Looking back, Musri had not said he talked to Rauf, but to Rauf’s “office.” That makes some sense–it could have been a miscommunication or something. Musri calls Rauf’s office to set up a deal; maybe Rauf’s people say the Imam is willing to talk to anyone as a statement of general policy. Musri perhaps tells Jones they can have talks, and maybe in that discussion tries to beef up the possibility of a deal to sway Jones, and Jones takes that as an assurance there will be a deal, and so announces he’s the NYC Mosque hero. Something along those lines. Then Rauf comes back to his office, and asks, “so what happened while I was away?” And then has to deny everything.

It wasn’t hard to predict how Jones would react to that. Claiming that Musri had “clearly” lied to him, Jones said that the Koran burning was not being canceled. However, some reports have him going forward with the burning, while others say that Jones has cryptically characterized the burning as being “suspended,” whatever that means.

All this happened, as far as I can tell, within the span of a few hours.

So, what’s next?

Categories: 9/11 News, Religion Tags:

Support the Troops and Honor the Victims? Not Really. But It Sounds Good.

September 8th, 2010 17 comments

In Gainesville, Florida, there is a group called the “Dove World Outreach Center.” From the name of it, you would think that it is an organization seeking peace by reaching out to the world.

So naturally, they want to hold a high-publicized event where they burn copies of the Koran.

Actually, the “Dove” part of the title is probably more a reference to the Holy Spirit rather than to peace in general, and the “World Outreach” part is more about proselytization, about domination Dominion theology, not reaching out in respect and tolerance. They’re really a fundamentalist group with strong anti-Islamic tendencies who apparently think that burning the Koran is a peachy idea to show their dedication to “love, healing and prosperity” by going “outside the walls” of their church and “marching for righteousness.” Among their reasons for burning the Koran: Muslims don’t believe Christ is the Son of God, the Koran is of human origin (unlike the Bible), it includes Arabian idolatry, paganism, rites and rituals, it was written after Mohammad’s death and is confused, contradictory and inconsistent, it’s totalitarian, etc. etc. (Funny, I have heard most of these used by atheists to criticize Christianity….)

Anyway, these peace-loving righteous folk have now been officially warned by our military leaders in the Middle East: what you’re doing could get our troops killed and can endanger our whole mission. Burning the Koran “could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort,” said General Petraeus; “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.” His deputy added that “their very actions will in fact jeopardize the safety of the young men and women who are serving in uniform over here and also undermine the very mission that we’re trying to accomplish.”

So, will the Dove World Outreach Center reconsider its plans? They say “no,” although they’re “praying” about it real hard. But their plans remain in place.

Now, they certainly have the right to burn the Koran, no question there. But these people are just the kind of folk who often claim to honor the troops and drape themselves in patriotism, and yet they knowingly, even brashly put the soldiers in danger. For what reason?

He says the goal of burning Korans is to send a message to al-Qaida, the violent Islamic group that carried out the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington nine years ago.

“That led us to International Burn a Koran Day, to honor those who were murdered at that time [September 11th]. And to put a real clear message out to Islam that we will not tolerate, we do not want them trying to push their agenda on us, in other words Sharia law,” he said.

Shows what a fool this guy is–al Qaeda, while probably not enjoying the Koran being defiled in any way, is almost certainly gleeful that this is happening; this is exactly the kind of animosity they have been trying to build, exactly the image of the West they hope to propagate amongst Muslims. As for “honoring” those murdered on 9/11,“ I will wager good money that this guy has not spoken to a single family member who lost someone on that day, and probably has no actual clue how most of them would in fact feel about something like this.

In New York, Pamela Geller, the woman who has been leading the wingnut charge to demonize Islam and take down the Park51 project, plans a protest rally in front of the proposed site on September 11. However, a coalition of 9/11 families’ groups as well as many of the family members individually have respectfully asked they hold the rally on a different day:

The proposed mosque has caused tremendous pain and great concern to many within the 9/11 community. Our desire, which we hope you share, is simply to preserve 9/11 for appropriate remembrance and reflection – we do not believe that protest rallies of this nature should take place on such a sacred day and in such close proximity to Ground Zero.

Geller claims that because there are some families who support her, and because she has not received a direct request (registered mail required, I’m guessing) from a majority of the families of the victims, she feels fully justified and will ignore those she is offending.

Which goes to show that she doesn’t give a shit about the families of the victims. After all, the mosque doesn’t offend all the families of the victims, and yet Geller feels passionate supposedly about the possibility of offending even some of the families. However, she could care less about doing the exact same thing herself.

In both cases, we have people whose actions betray their claims: they are not doing this for the victims of 9/11, or for peace, or for battered women, or for America, or for whatever excuse sounds best–but the fact is, they are doing it for themselves, for their own base and selfish reasons. Fact is, they don’t like the victims’ families (right wingers like Geller, for example, hated them when they protested Bush), they just like the victims’ families who will stand behind them and give credence to their twisted little campaigns. What they do and especially the manner in which they do it, in the face of potentially hurting many of those they would claim to support, exemplifies that they don’t give a rat’s ass about them, but use them as a convenient excuse to pretty up their motives.

An Example

September 1st, 2010 16 comments

Re: my point last week that in some ways, anti-Muslim sentiments are worse now than they were after 9/11, in particular the open expression by the public as opposed to only private, back-alley-at-night outbursts. Take this excerpt from an article on the Tennessee mosque which has found sudden, forceful rejection from their community:

The mosque — which is still two years away from being completed — has sparked protests in the city of Murfreesboro. There have also been other acts of vandalism: A sign marking the site of the future building was spray-painted with “Not welcome,” and then later broken in half.

Sbenaty expressed shock over the atmosphere in a town he’s lived in for 30 years. For most of that time, he said, the community has been extremely supportive and welcoming. Even after Sept. 11, 2001, he said, neighbors came up to him and said, “Please do not feel scared. We know your religion has nothing to do with this.”

“It’s a wide shift, and a shock,” he told TPM. “It’s just mind-boggling.”

Sbenaty, who is also a member of the Middle East Center at Middle Tennessee State, pinpointed the shift to the 2008 elections and allegations that President Obama is a Muslim.

Interesting that the major shift was not the NYC mosque but the whole movement that preceded it; not too much difference, as the Obama Muslim thing and the NYC mosque Muslim thing are artifacts of the same political campaign and mindset. Of course, despite the shift happening with 2008, the anti-Muslim sentiments have exploded with the NYC mosque outrage, thus we got the arson and vandalism spree at the mosque site and against the company doing construction for it in Tennessee. And the NYC cab driver stabbing, and the turban-wearing man being punched out, and so on.

But hey, right wing, if it helps get votes this November, by all means, keep spewing rabid hate. Maybe you’ll get lucky and lynchings will start up again. Can’t make an omelette and all that, right?

Categories: 9/11 News, Right-Wing Extremism Tags:

Why Not Both?

August 25th, 2010 Comments off

This segment from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show is simply too good to pass up posting here. After having shredded Fox’s tissue-thin logic in their smears against the New York Sufi community center / mosque, Stewart & Co. today caught them in an act of hypocrisy of the worst kind: accusing the mosque of taking money from a Saudi they claimed had terror connections … but they “neglected” to mention that this same Saudi is part-owner of Fox News itself. In fact, they “neglected” to mention the guy’s name, so it would be harder for viewers to look it up and discover the link back to Fox. In classic Daily Show form, they then proceed to hilariously rip Fox a new one. Enjoy:

Me, I vote for equal measure of both Evil and Stupid. There’s room enough for everyone here.

So, then, what does that make their viewers? Not good at fact-checking, to be sure. But probably, more likely, simply people who want to believe a certain set of things and so look for a news source they can fool themselves into thinking is credible so they can tune in and hear their worst suspicions not only vindicated but actually evolved to even further levels of paranoid delusion. These are millions of Americans who boast of knowing “facts” but really just are intellectually whacking off to the hardcore stuff. They believe the dialog to be realistic and letters to the magazine “forum” to be real-life true stories. Oh yeah, baby!

No, the viewers aren’t necessarily evil–they’re just intellectually lazy and/or dishonest in the pursuit of a nightly ideological climax.

But Fox? Evil and stupid. And crazy. Ergo, high ratings. It follows.

The 8th #3 Man, or the 9th? Or Is This the 10th? Will #11 Step Into the Line of Fire Please.

February 1st, 2008 2 comments

I’m losing track. Six months back, we had captured or killed the #3 man in al Qaeda for the sixth time. But now word is out that not only is the 7th #3 man down, but at least one, and maybe as many as three more of “Al Qaeda’s #3 man” is pushing up daisies. My prior list had: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Abu Hamza Rabia, Abu Zubaydah, Abdul Hadi Al-Iraqi, and Mohammad Atef; and, at that time, Saif al-Adel was still at large.

But now, Steve Benen at Political Animal says that Saif al-Adel is one of the ex-#3 men, and adds two more names–Mohammed Sheikh Mohammed and someone code-named “C-2” to the list–along with a brand-new #3 man, Abu Laith al-Libi, who is now also dead.

I count ten so far, not counting whoever just inherited the #3 parking space. Benen says it best: “You’d think, after a while, al Qaeda’s #4 guys would stop seeking promotions.” Indeed.

As I pointed out last July, this whole “We Got al Qaeda’s #3 Man” game is wearing thin. Al Qaeda apparently has an inexhaustible supply of #3 men. The farce is in the fact that the whole thing is repeated again and again–which only shows that either the U.S. government is exaggerating the importance of the people they’re taking out, or that terror organizations are not hurt by the loss of “important” leaders. And the continuing line of #3 men walking into the grinder just emphasizes that the #1 man–bin Laden–is still evading capture.

But hey, John McCain has a secret plan to capture bin Laden. It’s one of those things that he can’t tell us about or else bin Laden will get wise. But apparently he’s also willing to keep it a secret from the U.S. government, and–as the Carpetbagger points out–seems willing to allow bin Laden to stay free for another year until McCain takes power, and then he’ll unleash his secret plan.

How very Nixonesque of him.

Categories: 9/11 News, Political Ranting Tags:

The “War on Terror” is a Brazen, Bald-faced Lie

December 2nd, 2007 4 comments

Put these two stories together. Boldface is mine, to emphasize the primary contrast. First from the Associated Press via MSNBC:

The Bush administration intends to slash counterterrorism funding for police, firefighters and rescue departments across the country by more than half next year, according to budget documents obtained by The Associated Press. …

The [Homeland Security Department] wanted to provide $3.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks in 2009, but the White House said it would ask Congress for less than half — $1.4 billion, according to a Nov. 26 document.

And then this, from Voice of America News:

But the president’s top priority is to win congressional approval of his $196 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The money is for the 2008 fiscal year, which began October 1. The president and the Pentagon argue that further delays in approving these funds would force cuts in military operations across the United States and ultimately compromise the war on terror.

The administration’s stated reason for slashing counterterrorism funds domestically: he doesn’t think that the money was “well spent.” Because, after all, the trillion and a half dollars the Iraq War has and will cost has been spent very wisely.

Pay careful attention to the last sentence in the second quote: “The president and the Pentagon argue that further delays in approving these funds would force cuts in military operations across the United States and ultimately compromise the war on terror.” Ah. Massively underfunding counterterrorism at home somehow bolsters the “War on Terror,” while not spending 140 times more on a failed war in a country with zero relevance to terrorism would “ultimately compromise” the “War on Terror.” Gotcha.

Just more proof that the Bush administration doesn’t give a rat’s ass about fighting terrorism; it is a pure and flagrant front for massive new military spending, engorging fatcat contributors and cronies, and imposing a neocon agenda on the Middle East (in a remarkably idiotic and incompetent manner).

In other words, money “well spent.”

Categories: 9/11 News, Iraq News Tags:

What Does It Take to Be a Hero?

November 11th, 2007 2 comments

According to the Oxford Dictionary:

hero |ˈhi(ə)rō| noun ( pl. -roes) a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities : a war hero.

Fox Noise recently put up this graphic:


Now, one would normally simply grunt or something at such a characterization–of a former Giuliani crony and scumbag lawbreaker being lionized on Fox as a “9/11 Hero.” But this does bring up an interesting right-wing paradigm: all you had to do on 9/11 was to be in charge of something and you were a one-hundred-percent, god-blessed, red-blooded American “hero.”

Bush was a “hero”; he stood a hundred feet tall, by god, and stirred the nation by standing on rubble and shouting out over a bullhorn, that the people who did this would “hear from us.” (Have they yet? Doesn’t seem like it. Bin Laden sure hasn’t, though we’ve captured seven or eight of his “number-three men.” Al Qaeda is stronger than ever, and the people who have heard from us most–the Iraqis–were completely uninvolved in 9/11.)

Giuliani was a “hero” because he was mayor and stood in front of cameras on 9/11. And Kerik is a “hero” because he was the New York police commissioner at the time.

Never mind that Bush had ample advance warning of 9/11 and jerked off instead.

No matter that Giuliani was responsible for the broken comm system on 9/11 that got lots of firefighters and police officers killed, nor that Giuliani chose the stupid placement of the Office of Emergency Management HQ within the primary terrorist attack target.

And never mind that Kerik is a well-known criminal and crony extraordinaire.

Never mind that it’s pretty much impossible to point to anything concrete that any one of them did to save a life that day. They just happened to be in charge, and were all corrupt and incompetent. Far from doing anything heroic or life-saving, all are known to have done things that probably cost lives on 9/11.

But to right-wingers, they’re “heroes.” For no better reason than that (1) they are Republicans, and (2) they happened to be in a position of authority when disaster struck. All else is forgiven and forgotten, or would preferably be so.

You ask me, someone who runs up the stairs of a burning building to rescue people, that’s a hero. Someone who puts their life, their fortune, their sacred honor on the line for the sake of others, that person could be called a hero. But someone who just happens to be in charge?

Right-wingers need a new set of heroes.

Categories: 9/11 News, Political Ranting Tags:

Ghosts of 9/11 Past

September 11th, 2007 4 comments

I am taking this opportunity to look back at my 9/11 comments from years past in this blog. It is not surprising that the same ideas still apply, more than ever before. It is depressing that things have only gotten worse, that we have not learned, that we have embraced the authoritarian rule that has brought us only poverty and self-ruin. Had we simply been brave, bold, and determined after 9/11, had we scoffed at the terrorists instead of accepting the official instigation to cower in fear, then we could still be strong today, still be standing tall, the stoic and admired leader of the world, not the bully who would be pariah if his power ebbed.

Terrorists are not the threat we are told they are; they have no new powers they did not have in the past; we are in no more danger from terrorism than we were before, in fact we are probably safer than before. You are in greater danger from traffic than from terrorists. Fear is the enemy, and fear is now used by the politicians to make us cowed and pliable. Our Constitution, the very core of America, is being whittled down to make way for a new order, a perfect world by the lights of conservative and neo-conservative dreamers, who in the past could never have made these dreams real because the Constitution prevented them.

The threat is not from without, it is from within. Fight against fear, fight for your rights and freedoms. Be an American: fear not, accept risk, and hold liberty as more dear than life itself.

Over the past six years, we have done the exact opposite. We have trembled in fear, bought wholesale the lies of those who want us to fear, and applaud when they remove more and more liberties, foolishly believing that we are “safer,” meekly believing that such imagined safety is worth losing our liberty over. We have been addled cowards, undeserving of the proud name “Americans.” We have let manipulative fascists control us.

Yes, fascists, and do not dare suggest that the use of that word is ridiculous or makes the one who points to it a conspiracy nut, as if fascism could not possibly exist today.

Do you really believe that Americans are not living in a fascist state today? Consider the dictionary definition of fascism: “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.” How could that possibly not apply to the past six years?

Fascism is when individual and societal interests are considered less important than the needs of the state. How could that possibly not apply to the past six years?

The Anatomy of Fascism” describes what we are experiencing to a T; fascism flourishes with and is marked by:

  1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions;
  2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits;
  3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts;
  4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint;
  5. fear of foreign “contamination.”

Look at that list. Every one of these is true today in the U.S. We feel a sense of crisis (terrorism) beyond traditional solutions, hence the policy of pre-emptive war and the abrogation of civil rights and liberties.

We believe we are victims of 9/11, victims of terrorism; this on top of the long-held and long-cherished right-wing tradition of being the ultimate victim despite having the greatest privilege and power. White males are victims. Christians are victims. Right-wingers are victims of the “liberal media” and vicious left-wing conspiracists attacking from dark corners and even coffee cups.

Bush has been considered by the fearful as a natural leader, allowed to lead by instinct instead of fact or reason.

We consider ourselves a chosen people, above all others in the world: note our insistence that other countries join our military ventures under our command, but that it would be unthinkable that any of our forces fall under the command of anyone else; note the dismissal of the Geneva Convention and the easy acceptance of torturing and imprisoning people of other countries without a thought; note our willingness to kill hundreds of thousands in other lands, and then either pretend they love us for it, or wonder incredulously why they do not.

And finally, we fear foreign contamination: we “suffer” from a “crisis” of illegal immigrants, we have to accept the idea of English-first and English-only or be labeled un-American; and many right wingers dread the fact that within the next half-century, Hispanics will form the majority, and whites will lose their privileged status.

It is hard to not see fascism, not creeping in, but flowing in freely through the gaps in our core principles that have been gouged out by our fear.

The following are excerpts from my comments on 9/11 from 2003, from the now-defunct

Two important truths after 9/11 are still not widely accepted by Americans: first, we are no more likely to be the targets of terrorism today than we were before 9/11, and second, the “War on Terror” has been abused to rework the political landscape and take actions that Americans would never have approved of in times of peace and calm.

The terrorists have not magically acquired new powers, and now that we are aware of the possible threat, our security is tighter than before (although far too much has been spent in foreign ventures which could much more productively have been spent on security at home). The likelihood of something as spectacular or widely devastating as 9/11 happening again is less than it was two years ago. Instead of feeling less secure, we should feel more secure.

Bush did not squander the reflexive, fear-based popularity 9/11 gave him, and immediately found it reason, as well as a smokescreen, to launch every conservative motion that could be rammed through Congress. What is telling is that almost all of what has been accomplished is pretty much identical to what conservatives have wanted all along: greater police powers and diminishment of civil rights in criminal investigations, growing the military, taking on foreign ventures in oil-rich countries, and pronouncing the protection of America and the safety of its people a Republican domain. All of these have been installed under the guise of “national security,” and Democrats have felt enormous pressure to go along: the Bush administration has made it very clear that dissenters will be labeled enemies of the homeland; Anyone who dissents is depriving us of security and giving aid and comfort to our enemies. Hermann Goering would have been proud:

“Why of course the people don’t want war … But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

Our liberties were among the first to suffer. “Homeland” security (a name eerily evocative of mid-twentieth century European fascism), with provisions to violate personal freedoms to an extent never dreamed of a few years ago, was passed almost without question. All Bush had to do was to proclaim, “An Evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland.” Sounds reasonable, right? The only problem is, those words were spoken by Adolf Hitler. Bush simply paraphrases.

This is not to say that Bush is Hitler. It is, however, to point out that the formula for using fear to control a populace and lead them into war has not changed.

Three years later I wrote the following, in 2006:

The damage done to our country over the past five years has been immeasurable. Our economy has been gutted where it once stood on the edge of hope, and now may never recover as it could have only a few years ago. We are now mired in a meaningless war that has so drained and torn apart our military that it is questionable as to whether we could sustain ourselves in a serious conflict. Our freedoms and civil liberties are endangered as never before. What once was a news media that worked to a degree has now been subverted and dragged down into a mud that makes anything that comes from it suspect. The arena of politics, in even worse shape when this started, is now so degenerate that it is hard to see anything constructive coming from it again.

It is easy to lose hope. But there is a way out. And one prerequisite of finding the way out is that we recognize the source of the problem. And the source is not the terrorists.

The terrorists were a spark. They are still a danger, but not the greater danger, to be certain. The majority of plagues that we now suffer were created by those who hijacked the power created by the fear the terrorists instilled in us. So let me suggest some tools that could be used to fight the real danger:

  1. Resolve not to fear. Our present leader tells us to be afraid, where past leaders taught us to avoid fear. We have terror alerts, terror arrests, we are told that enemies abound in the world and unless we do as we are told by the government, they will slaughter us. Criticize the government, we are told, and you embolden the enemy.

    Do not be afraid of terrorists. They are not that great of a threat, not enough to allow what has been done to us in the name of fear. There will always be attacks. We simply have to live with that, just as we live with the possibility of traffic accidents, natural disasters, and crime. 50 times more people have died in traffic accidents in American since 9/11 than died in terror attacks. Be vigilant, have good investigative police work, have good international cohesion and support, and we can deal with terrorism as well as it can be dealt with. Terrorists were here before, and they will always be here. We must protect against terrorism just like the other threats, but it should not control us or allow others to control us.

  2. Fight for liberty. By “liberty” I do not mean “against terrorists”; such a mindset empowers those who truly threaten us now. By “liberty” I mean the principles that our country was founded upon, the principles so threatened at this time. The principles that so many conservatives hate so fiercely and would wish to destroy. The principle of separation of church and state. The principle of individual rights. The principle of limited governmental power. It is not our personal safety which is at stake here, it is our liberty. And it is not terrorists who threaten us, it is our own current government and those who support it.

  3. Appeal to reason and fact. Do not allow others to think for you, and truly study and understand what is happening. Almost all the conservatives I have observed visit this site have come armed with nothing more than arguments they heard others make, their arguments as shallow as the punditry they absorbed. It is usually easy to shatter the arguments simply by digging just a little bit past the copied-and-pasted propaganda; what is harder is to shatter the presumption of righteousness that goes beyond facts, information, and truth. These are the extreme examples of people who have surrendered their ability to rationally observe a set of facts in order to instead appease their desired perception of reality. If you surrender your reason to sate your desire, you are terribly easy to control, like a cigarette smoker instantly believing a study that says smoking is not harmful, disregarding the fact that the study is a fraud paid for by the tobacco companies.

    Most people are not yet too deep in that abyss yet. To keep from being dragged in, you must never allow your desire for a thing allow you to believe it. I believed in the Killian National Guard memos too easily and for far too long, only because I wanted to; that caused a weakness in my ability to argue and debate, and probably caused those who read what I wrote to believe my words less. Don’t be afraid to question what you want to hear. Study the information. Reason for yourself instead of simply following the crowd you have chosen. Don’t be afraid to come to a conclusion, but allow the facts, and not your fears or desires, to inform that conclusion.

    A tangent to this is the need to keep the media honest. Do not accept the words of those whose bias overrides their dedication to the facts and honest appraisals of a situation; do not accept the idea that opinion rates as strongly as fact. The truth does not compromise; if a contention or representation is not supported by fact, then it is not acceptable. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth should be the standard, and if a media entity giving the impression that it relays facts does not live up to this standard, it should be duly and strongly scorned and disrespected. Somehow, along the way, too much opinion crept into factual reporting. There is a place for reporting, but the core of a healthy news media is stark, bare fact.

  4. Be willing to sacrifice. Desire can be all too compelling a weakness for others to control you with. You want money too much, and so others use that desire to rob you. You want safety too much, so others use that to steal your freedom. We are far too easily manipulated because we crave more than we think. We crave tax cuts and so vote for them, only to find we’ve been shaken down and tossed aside. We think we can get things without paying for them, so we end up with education and health care in a shambles, and still believe the impostors who tell us that “throwing money at the problem won’t fix anything,” even as they throw trillions of dollars at rich people because that will “fix” the economy.

    As Robert Heinlein said, TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Don’t vote for a tax cut because you’d like an extra few bills in your pocket; be willing to sacrifice for better schools and hospitals. And instead of whining about how politicians can’t be trusted to spend, try to actually monitor how your representatives vote and control their actions like you should be doing. In a democracy, the citizen is supposed to be the boss. So act like one. Be informed, responsible, and manage. Surrender that control, and expect to be cleaned out by con men.

    And one more thing: if you think a war is necessary, be prepared to enlist and fight. If even half the conservatives of fighting age who spend their days vehemently arguing the ‘rightness’ of the war in Iraq were to actually enlist and serve, there would be no problems with the shortage of troops.

And then there is this, from September 1, 2002, almost one year after 9/11, and before I started the blog in earnest:

Perhaps the reason why [we accept the erosion of liberties] has to do with that confidence that it “won’t happen to me.” After all, I’m not a terrorist. I will never even be accused of being so much as a suspect (or, more insidiously, a “person of interest”). And the people they take away, they will certainly be bad people; we don’t arrest and detain innocent people, after all. And it will make me safer.

Will either error or corruption ever reach you? Does it matter? Should you allow this even if you are guaranteed that you, personally, will never fall to such a fate? Are you willing to sacrifice the freedom, liberty, and even lives of innocent people so long as your hide is a bit safer?

There’s a word for people who act in that manner: cowards.

This is George W. Bush’s legacy: he turned the United States into a nation of cowards, trembling fearfully at shadows, so that we could become more pliable and easily manipulated.

America as a set of core principles still exists; it cannot, in fact, be destroyed. But more and more each day, the United States ceases to be that country.

I await the day when America returns.

Categories: 9/11 News, Political Ranting Tags:

…Or Maybe There Will Be an Attack

October 30th, 2004 Comments off

In my last post, I suggested that the bin Laden tape might be his way of mucking with our elections in lieu of an attack, but then my father reminded me that people have said that bin Laden sometimes uses video announcements as signals to sleeper cells to activate.


Categories: 9/11 News, Political Ranting Tags:

Fahrenheit 9/11 in Japan: Sold Out

August 14th, 2004 Comments off

The day’s tickets, sold out by noon.

Well, I wanted to see F-9/11 again today, and planned to go with a colleague from school. It was playing today at the Ebisu Garden Cinemas, on both screens. My colleague and I agreed to meet at the theater at 2:30 so we could see the 3:10 show. But when I went, I figured I would be smart: I would get there at 2:00, a half hour early, so I could be sure to get a ticket.

Well, you can guess what happened. I was too late. By about four hours. Apparently, when the tickets went on sale at 9:30 am, there was already a big line, which eventually stretched out to longer than a city block. The whole day’s tickets were already sold out before noon, and the tickets to the 3:10 show were gone well before that. Lauren Shannon, who went very early to get tickets for the 11:30 show, couldn’t get anything before the 3:10 show, and eventually wound up giving her tickets to a couple who came all the way from Chiba and found the day sold out.

It may be the first day, a special showing and all–but the fact that so many people came, so early, and some from so far away, are all suggestions that this film will be a very big hit in Japan. Already this film has grossed $114 million in the U.S. and $32 million overseas as of a week ago–with Japan it will without doubt break the $150 million mark–and it still hasn’t been released in Russia, Italy, Greece, Scandinavia, and a dozen other countries; receipts from Mexico, Egypt, Switzerland and a dozen more have still not been tabulated into that total. And then there will be DVD sales, often matching or exceeding domestic ticket sales. For a documentary, this is beyond extraordinary.

And the audiences are… sometimes interesting, as evidenced below. As many of us sat outside (having arrived early, I was waiting for my colleague, and others were taking care of a get-out-the-vote drive), we noticed two gentlemen in robes–clearly monks–talking to reporters outside the entrance. I would’ve loved to know what they were saying about the film…

Categories: 9/11 News, Media & Reviews Tags:


July 25th, 2004 2 comments

It looks like all the news broadcasts of the DAJ press screening for Fahrenheit 9/11 have aired. You can find the CNN and NTV broadcasts hosted here, in Quicktime MOV format (thanks to Mark for the larger version of the CNN segment). The TBS broadcast is available only via their web site, on streaming video, in Real Player or WMP formats.

Darn CNN, they didn’t show a moment of the 4 or 5 minutes they spent interviewing me! I did get on screen for a moment, though, signing the donation form for the event as I arrived (I think I was the first one to do that, I got ticket #110 of 110). But the interviews they did show were good, and I would have probably looked like a goofball anyway.

The CNN report also talked the the Republicans Abroad person, who just smugly announced they were already uncorking champagne for their November 3rd celebrations. Republicans Abroad, by the way, is only a fundraising and voter registration organization–unlike Democrats Abroad, the GOP does not recognize Republicans living outside the U.S. except by absentee ballot only.

Categories: 9/11 News, Political Ranting Tags:

Fahrenheit 9/11: Review, Part I

July 23rd, 2004 2 comments

So I saw the film on Tuesday at the Democrats Abroad Japan-sponsored press screening at the Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills, with a crowd of about 150, 110 of them guests of the DAJ. It was enjoyable just to be going to an event like that, but I appreciated much more being able to see the film before mid-August. And to see the film without commercials was even better.

Like most people, I had preconceptions about what the film was going to be like. We’ve seen the trailers and commercials showing some of Dubya’s less-than-elegant moments. I expected a lot of funny moments, many I’ve which I’d already seen elsewhere, and a lot of biting, humorous commentary. I’d heard the reviews which talked about Lila Lipscomb, and her being the emotional heart of the film. But just by hearing about these things, you can’t really even begin to get a sense of what you’ll experience when watching this film.

Moore begins with the 2000 election in Florida. Even with a two-hour-long film, he has to gloss over quite a but: he doesn’t explain that the angry mobs of “Floridians” at the recount are really Washington D.C. staffers for the GOP bussed in to shut down the vote count. He doesn’t have time to cover the absentee-ballot fraud in Seminole and Broward counties, or how African-Americans were intimidated by the police presence on election day. He does mention how Harris got tend of thousands of legitimate voters, mostly Democrats, kicked off the voter rolls as “felons,” and quickly mentions how the Supreme Court got Bush into office.

But he doesn’t have to cover these too much in detail; he knows that many Americans are familiar with that territory, and wanted to show us some things most of us did not know–a style that he follows for the rest of the film. Much of what we see in Fahrenheit are things we never saw or heard or read about before, and that’s a big part of what makes the film important. There are things the media doesn’t tell us. Whether you agree with Moore’s conclusions or not, it is fully worth seeing this movie just to see all the things that have been happening which you were not aware of.

For example, he shows us the joint session of the House and Senate meeting, and African-American House members, one after the other, raising objections to the certification of the election results. Each one calls into question the validity of the election–and each one is told to sit down, by none other than Al Gore (as President of the Senate), because none of the objections has been signed by the single required Senator in order to make the objection valid. The entire proceeding reeks of irony–the winner of the election certifying the loser as president, the Bush victory declared valid while the objections of those who represent the unjustly disenfranchised being told they had no voice. “The Senate is missing.”

Moore continues the prologue with Bush’s swearing in an subsequent fall in the polls, and then his long vacations–42% of his first nine months. The credits roll as Bush and his staff are dolled up for the cameras: it’s showtime. And then he comes to 9/11. Artfully, he never shows us a plane hitting a building or a tower collapsing. He blacks out the film and gives us audio only, making the experience far more intense–and when he does show us the aftermath, he shows us only the faces of the witnesses, and the paper and other debris roiling in the clouds of smoke.

I was hoping to see the entire 7 minutes of video showing Bush sitting in the Florida classroom, having the minutes tick by as Moore commented on what was going on, perhaps even split-screen. Moore was much more merciful than that, instead flashing through the time with a clock showing at the bottom of the screen, then launching into how the Saudis–among them the bin Ladens, who despite their claims did indeed still have ties with their errant sibling.

Moore brings their departure–without the kind of interviews and screening that would have been mandatory in a case of far lesser impact–and uses it to introduce the Bush family history: Bush’s ties with James R. Bath, a connection to the Saudis and bin Ladens, who financed Bush’s early companies, which led to the Carlyle Group, which had strong ties with Bush Sr. and the Saudis, and so forth and so on. The ties are labyrinthine and damning, and you wonder how people could excuse the obvious influence. During the Clinton-Gore years, the GOP railed about the administration ties to the Chinese, which were almost completely fictional–and yet here we are in a War on Terror™, covering for the Saudis who finance and support those out to kill us, and no one has a problem with the president having the Saudis, and even the bin Ladens, as his financial backers throughout his career?

Surprising also is what you hear from Bush’s own mouth: “When you’re the president’s son, and you got unlimited access, combined with some credentials from a prior campaign, in Washington D.C., people tend to respect that. Access is power. And I can find my dad and talk to him any time of the day.” There he is, talking about abusing his family position to buy influence and power, as if this were appropriate.

You have to pay close attention during this sequence, because Moore moves back and forth between the pre- and post-9/11 days–perhaps intentionally blurring the lines to show us the relationships. Whether that was intentional, it works; we see the ties with Saudis and the censored 28 pages of the report; we see “Bandar Bush” and we see the secret service guarding the Saudi embassy. The 15 Saudi hijackers and Bush and Bandar dining as the Pentagon burned in the distance. Even without the juxtaposition, it would be hard to miss the connections, reeking of corruption.

And despite the necessity of going to war with Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda, Moore makes clear the ulterior motives behind the war there–Bush’s prior meetings with Taliban officials and Unocal to build a pipeline through the country–and point out that the legitimate goals were never achieved while Bush’s backdoor dealings were. This is perhaps the weakest assertion in the film, and yet it is still strongly supported, albeit circumstantially. After taking over Afghanistan, Bush put into power Hamid Karzai–a former Unocal advisor–as president, and appointed Zalmay Khalilzad, former chief consultant to Unocal, as the United State’s special envoy to Afghanistan.

Within a few months of the invasion, Karzai signed an agreement to build the pipeline that Unocal wanted. Bush achieved that much. But the Taliban mostly got away (they are presently fighting back and taking territory) and Osama bin Laden and most of al Qaeda, its ranks swelling with new volunteers, also slipped the dragnet (Bush: “I don’t know where [bin Laden] is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.”). So why did we invade Afghanistan? If it was to disable the Taliban and capture Osama and al Qaeda, Bush failed miserably. If it was to take effective control of the country, secure a military presence and build a pipeline, then mission accomplished. But that’s not supposed to be why we went.

Moore also spends time on how the Bush administration uses the War on Terror™to frighten the public–something that most Americans discount or refuse to believe. After all, who would want to say that they could be frightened into toeing the line? But it is a strongly valid point, a technique used by oppressive governments throughout history, and Moore does an excellent job of showing how Bush gets the job done.

End of Part I of the review. Part II coming soon.

On Camera

July 22nd, 2004 2 comments

While watching the press screening of Fahrenheit 9/11, we were being filmed–a lot of photographers and camerapeople, interviewers with big ol’ microphones (macrophones?), and even filming done during the screening–which is how I got on NTV yesterday, at least for a moment, as they showed the crowd watching the film (I’m just left of center, in black with glasses, in the photo at right). I didn’t get interviewed by them, mostly because by the time I got to their position, they had Dave Spector, a long-time foreign “talento” in Japan and commentator on just about everything, and they stayed with him for quite a while.

I did, however, get nabbed by CNN and got interviewed by the Tokyo Bureau Chief Atika Schubert. I forgot to ask at the time when the segment might be filmed, but later contacted the CNN office, who said that the press screening story would be edited early Friday (Japan time), and if it gets aired, might be on American Morning, on Friday evening in Japan, Friday morning in the U.S., and possibly the rest of the day as a filler piece for the straight news shows on CNN. No guarantee I’ll be in it, but if you see an overweight, long-haired goofball dressed in black, you’ll know who it is.

By the way, F-9/11 is set to break the $100 million mark by Friday….

Categories: 9/11 News Tags:

Fahrenheit 9/11: Press Screening (First Impressions)

July 21st, 2004 Comments off

I’m on the subway now, heading back home just a little after midnight. I just got out from seeing a special press screening of Michael Moore’s movie at the Roppongi Hills cinema complex. That’s the event that I’ve been hinting about for the past week or so, one that’s been in the works a while at Democrats Abroad Japan. After attending the Democratic caucus earlier this year, I paid more attention to the DAJ, getting on the mailing list and sometimes contributing to the blog. That’s how I found out that they were sponsoring a special press screening of the film tonight.

The film was more than I thought it was going to be. I had expected really not much more than a funny, biting polemic with a point of view, and certainly it was that. But it was more than I’d expected. Though I’d heard people talk about the film’s emotional impact, I wasn’t ready for what hit me. Yes, there are a lot of funny, sometimes hilarious bits with Bush and his staff, along with a variety of other politicians from both parties. There is irony and juxtaposition and a few good laughs. There are moments when you just roll your eyes or shake your head in exasperation at the outrageousness of what’s being laid out in front of you.

But this film, while funny, biting, and full of information, has an intensely stirring force to it, a jolt to the system that can be as hard to take as it is intensely necessary to receive. There is a great deal about this film that deals with the high and mighty, the forces and nations, the numbers and statistics, but where Moore is most effective is at the individual level, where you see the impact that the past four years has had on the lives of so many. Moore knows that to express the pain and devastation of so many people, it’s best to focus on one individual and see the full force of trauma on that person, at a level you can understand and empathize with. And then you realize that you have to amplify that feeling a thousand times and more, and then you get close to understanding what has been happening here.

Reading about all those people who had seen the film before as it opened in other countries, I’d heard of the standing ovations the film had gotten. And here we had this one viewing, filled with members and associates of Democrats Abroad. But this was no war-whooping crowd, and there was no standing ovation at the end. And it didn’t seem strange. Not because the film was not appreciated–it was, more than you could know from reading this. And maybe it was not even because the film ended just shy of midnight, after a full work day on the hottest, most oppressive day of the year so far. It was partially because this particular crowd was so jaded, so familiar with the territory–and it had just been presented to us in a new way, one that made the entire thing so much more human, so much more frightening and so much more real. It was not a moment where anyone felt like cheering, it was a sobering feeling, like waking up even more. We weren’t a crowd of film enthusiasts cheering the art, and we weren’t a bunch of rabble rousers cheering a hatchet job. We were a group of serious people who just got the emotional wind knocked out of us, and felt more than ever the motivation to fight this fight, to change this unreal reality.

More later. I’m going to have to review the film’s content more, explain a lot about what I’ve seen. More tomorrow, it’s late.

But not too late.

Playing Politics with Terror

July 9th, 2004 1 comment

This is reprehensible.

The Bush administration sees Kerry get a bounce from his announcement of Edwards and his newfound equal footing in the media, so what does he do? He fucks with our national security so that he can steal the news cycle away. I am listening to Tom Ridge, after repeating the old news that al Qaeda is up to something but we have no information–exactly the same as he and Ashcroft announced before–and now he’s droning on about how cool their new communications equipment is. There is nothing new, no new data, and absolutely no reason for the announcement except as a political dirty trick.

The announcement was even scheduled to take place exactly as Kerry and Edwards appeared at a rally in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where the networks and news shows would have covered them; additionally, the conference was made early in the day, the better to control the news cycle.

This is blatantly political, there is no getting around that. He even began the broadcast with a rehash of the right-wing fiction that Spain’s election was turned by the al Qaeda attack. That, however, is bullshit, had Aznar’s government handled the investigation competently then he probably would have won the election–it was his skewing the reports of the investigation to his political advantage that angered the Spanish people and tipped the scales to lose him the election.

But Ridge, like so many other right-wingers, are deliberately skewing that fact for the dual purpose of attacking their political enemies overseas (i.e., the Spanish opposition which pulled their troops from Iraq), and of laying down the foundation of the belief that if al Qaeda attacks, it will be to throw the election to Kerry–which again, is complete bullshit, as an al Qaeda attack, most analysts believe, would rally support for Bush and cinch the election to him.

This is politics, and not just your standard vindictive, nasty, underhanded spit-in-your-eye dirty-tricks politics–this is far worse. This is the Bush administration taking advantage of our security apparatus to frighten the American people and derail a political opponent. National security is a sacred cow, you don’t fuck with it–but to them, it’s just another tool for party hacks.

Sorry for all the language, but I am seriously pissed off right now.

Update: the White House is reporting that they have no choice about this, that they are “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” make these announcements–which is more bullshit. That’s a classic either-or fallacy: they have other choices, like reporting this at the end of the week rather than the middle, or making the announcements only when there is new information, not just when they feel like it.

Don’t believe a word. At best, this is cover-your-ass, making the announcement so they can say “we warned you” later on, but I would put every cent I have on the take that this is just as I have outlined before. Bush may have misstepped, as the news services are highlighting the political aspect of the story, but that notwithstanding, they are still talking 90% about terror now, and will be all day, instead of reporting on Kerry and Edwards–so that’s a big “Mission Accomplished” for Bush and Cheney today.

Categories: 9/11 News, Political Ranting Tags:

July Surprise

July 8th, 2004 1 comment

New reports are suggesting that Bush administration officials are pressuring Pakistan to make significant al Qaeda captures or killings before the election this year, and to announce these “high value target” deliveries on the first three days of the Democratic convention at the end of July. According to The New Republic:

This spring, the administration significantly increased its pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban’s Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed to be hiding in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan. A succession of high-level American officials–from outgoing CIA Director George Tenet to Secretary of State Colin Powell to Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca to State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black to a top CIA South Asia official–have visited Pakistan in recent months to urge General Pervez Musharraf’s government to do more in the war on terrorism. In April, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, publicly chided the Pakistanis for providing a “sanctuary” for Al Qaeda and Taliban forces crossing the Afghan border. “The problem has not been solved and needs to be solved, the sooner the better,” he said.

This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November. The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism to the electoral calendar. “Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street, and that doesn’t change because of an election,” says National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election. According to one source in Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), “The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections.” Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations–according to a recently departed intelligence official, “no timetable[s]” were discussed in 2002 or 2003–but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt. Another official, this one from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, which is responsible for internal security, explains, “The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections.” (These sources insisted on remaining anonymous. Under Pakistan’s Official Secrets Act, an official leaking information to the press can be imprisoned for up to ten years.)

A third source, an official who works under ISI’s director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis “have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must.” What’s more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: “The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq’s] meetings in Washington.” Says McCormack: “I’m aware of no such comment.” But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that “it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July”–the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

This is rather scandalous, even though completely expected. There was a great deal of suspicion and some circumstantial evidence that in 1980, Reagan’s people visited Iran made deals that the hostages would not be released until Reagan took office, and lo, the hostages were released practically the very moment Reagan took the oath; a release before the election might have won the election for Carter, and a release before Reagan took office would have robbed him of a glowing start to his tenure. That Reagan was found to have been involved over many years in shady dealings with Iran was also supportive of this idea.

And now we see Bush doing something very similar: making deals with shady governments in the region to sway the election at home. While Bush says that he is promoting democracy in the region, it cannot be ignored that his biggest new ally, Pakistan, is a military dictatorship that gained power in a coup d’état over a democratically elected government, was developing weapons of mass destruction, and had practically invented the Taliban. That they agreed to help us in Afghanistan is less a measure of their friendship to us and more a sign that they saw an unstoppable military force coming their way and wisely decided not to get in its way; their alliance with us is questionable in light of massive internal support for al Qaeda and their reluctance to truly go after him, and Bush’s weakness in dealing with them is apparent in how his administration did nothing whatsoever when they found Pakistan was giving nuclear secrets to other countries in the region–they allowed Pakistan to blame the whole operation on one man, who was then pardoned. (“It’s a quid pro quo: we’re going to get our troops inside Pakistan in return for not forcing Musharraf to deal with Khan.”)

Let us not forget that Reagan oversaw Saddam’s rise and gave him massive support as a perceived necessity in dealing with Iran. Bush has not learned the lesson of history, and now cuddles up with Musharraf, letting him spread nuclear technology (while claiming to invade Iraq because it had nukes, when it did not) and give safe harbor to al Qaeda (while claiming to be going after that organization full boar).

But now Bush, after years of letting Pakistan host the al Qaeda “high-value targets,” is getting “tough” with Pakistan: fork over some al Qaeda VIPs as sacrificial lambs during the Democratic convention, or the election might be lost–and then Kerry might not let you sell nukes to Iran and others, and might actually demand you fight al Qaeda for real.

Who’d like to place a bet that in 10-15 years Pakistan won’t be the new Iraq, and that a Republican president won’t be trying to scare us over the madman of Karachi?

Categories: 9/11 News, Political Ranting Tags:

Fahrenheit with Legs? (Also: Japan Release Date News)

July 7th, 2004 Comments off

Fahrenheit 9/11 is doing very well, even better than expected, and this film might have a good set of legs, possibly generating million-dollar-plus daily grosses for weeks to come.

The film opened in 868 theaters as the highest-grossing film, beating out the opening weekend of the Wayans Brothers’ film, White Chicks and the second weekend for DodgeBall and the Spielberg/Hanks film, The Terminal. In the first four days of its wide release, F-9/11 grossed $28 million, easily breaking the record for highest-grossing documentary that had been held by the nine-month release of Bowling for Columbine. The new film also broke record for per-screen grosses, pulling in about $9,000 per screen, even better than Spiderman 2 did on its opening weekend.

Even better news followed: F-9/11 held up well in the weekdays after the opening. Most films lose a huge chunk in those days, but Fahrenheit fell less than most films do, continuing to bring in between $3 million and $5 million per day during the week.

And more good news: Fahrenheit got a wider release, now in 1,725 theaters, and again, held up well for its second weekend, often a sign that the film will do well over time. It broke $50 million last Saturday, on its 8th day of wide release, and its second 4-day weekend gross was $22 million, just a 23% drop from the first. Compare that, for example, to the 50% drop for White Chicks.

The holiday weekend also helped F-9/11, with the revised Monday grosses ($5.75 million) besting Sunday’s, for a grand total of $61 million so far. Excellent news. The third and fourth weeks will be more telling as to this film’s longevity, though–and it may well have a good run, as there is great word-of-mouth, continuing controversy, and a lot of people who will be watching this film two, three, or even more times.

All of this is even despite the fact that the film faces a widely-reported (though not official) September DVD release, and is already available on the Internet for download. What’s more remarkable is that Michael Moore has stated publicly that he is perfectly fine with people downloading the film: “I don’t agree with the copyright laws and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it with people as long as they’re not trying to make a profit off my labour. I would oppose that.” Even more remarkable is that lion’s Gate has also given a public-but-not-official OK for people to download the movie. That is unprecedented!

For those who want to see the online version, it can be found on Torrent (I recommend Shareaza for PC users, Limewire for Mac); the valid files are just over one gigabyte in size, in “.cue” format (you have to download a special program called VCD Gear to decompress), and it unzips into a folder containing two half-gigabyte MPEG files. The quality is fair, but too much of the sides are cropped out. Speaking for myself, I want to see it on the big screen first, and would use the downloaded version for reference after that while I see the film a second and third time at the cinema.

And now for the news the Japan crowd has been waiting for: I can’t tell you a release date for F-9/11 in Japan yet, but I can tell you that Gaga Communications will be announcing its Japan release date this weekend–I just called them to find out. I will be calling them again the day they make the announcement, and will post it here immediately, so stay tuned. If you want immediate news, get an RSS feed program (for Macs, NetNewsWire Lite is the best, IMHO); just enter “,” or the Feed Address, or just look this site up under the program’s “Site Drawer” (I’m listed under “Weblogs A-F”).

The release date should be mid-August, perhaps around the 13th.

Categories: 9/11 News, Media & Reviews Tags: