Tag Archives: the Hague

…You might be a racist.

Rick Perry claims he’d painted over the “N#&*@$head scratched on the rock outside his ranch, and that weather wore away the paint to reveal the racist word there. I mean it isn’t like the ranch was referred to as…oh, it was. I guess we should be happy it wasn’t called the Triple K ranch as well.

Honestly, I don’t believe Rick Perry is overtly racist, just as America isn’t overtly racist. Passively racist? Perhaps. Systemically, latently, historically racist? Endemic, institutionalized, smoldering, simmering, unresolved, in denial? Slavery and apartheid -like racial oppression lasted in this country for the better part of two centuries. It is unreasonable to believe it would all be resolved in only generation or two. If you went on a two hundred year bender, how long do you suppose the hangover would last. I suspect you’d be bent over the toilet for the better part of a century, and then the headache! We’re still face down in the bowl on this one, folks.

That’s why the Tea Party’s sudden exaltation of Herman Cain wears so thin. He’s a safe sort of Black guy, kind of like the grandpa from the old Cosby show, who says all the things they want to hear in quick thoughtless, flimsy and folksy right-wing clichés like, if you mess with Israel, you mess with America, or Keep your hands off our Second amendment.

But here’s a hint for the Tea Party, when you say things like, How could we be racist we got a black guy for a candidate, that sounds a bit racist at a minimum, and might reveal some things you might find distasteful buried deep, but oozing out in odd ways.

But strictly in an effort to help Tea Partiers and the Right avoid the label of racism, or of supporting of  a racially imbalanced system, here are a few  potential minefields:

If you ask aloud why Blacks can use the “N” word, but you can’t…you might be a racist.

If you ask why there isn’t a White entertainment network…

If you use the term Post Racial…

If you break down incarceration rates by race…

If you begin a sentence with, “I’m not a racist, but…”

Or, “I don’t agree with White supremacists, but…”

“If you say, I don’t see color…

If you are waiting for Blacks to get over that whole slavery and civil rights thing…

If you think affirmative action is a conspiracy against White people…

If you think Obama is being racially divisive for advocating social justice…

If you use the term Racial Politics…

Here’s the deal, I’ll confess to my own latent racism. I’ll admit that I am a small person in a big world, struggling to make sense of a great many things. We boil the world down to easily digestible and understandable parts, but in doing so we trade details for shades, We trade individuals for groups and trade community for tribalism. In those margins racism grows from fear and ignorance and laziness. It is not evil and it is not a curse, but it is a Human quality that needs to be battled daily, like alcoholism or any other anti-social behavior. But first it must be confronted in each individual heart with n understanding it has always been there and will always be there, and not by painting over a rock.


Truth and Lies: Musings from the bike trail

Its forty-seven miles by bicycle from the Wisconsin border to my doorstep on the North side of Chicago. There’s a stunning bike path for a good stretch, more or less from the Great Lakes naval Air Station almost to Winnetka. It was a brisk Autumn day today. The leaves were just changing and a steady wind was coming off Lake Michigan, The wind and cool temperatures no doubt conspired to chase off the summer and fair-weather riders, leaving only hardcore adventurists.

On the trail near Fort Sheridan in Northern Illinois

That near solitude, the smell of wet leaves from the previous day’s rain and a mottled sky with patches of rich blue between fat grayish-white clouds lent itself perfectly to odd musings. Passing through North Chicago, a struggling town just outside the Naval Air Station, where unemployment is as problematic as the crime level, a town like so many others around the nation, in which the “American Dream” is fast becoming at best an illusion and at worst a hypocrisy, I had a thought.

It had to do with the truths and lies we tell ourselves, that the media fills the culture with and which our leaders recite almost mechanically and certainly in an obligatory reflex. The difficulty is in separating truth from lies and fact from fiction. That task, and responsibility as an American citizen and voter, becomes harder every day, more so as agenda driven information and propaganda makes it more difficult than ever to tell the difference. And that is very much by design.

This culture uses words like lies and facts and truth with careless disregard. But the truth is, lies and truths have something in common. They both rely upon facts. Both include and exclude facts to define their character. But while facts are bricks, a pile of bricks does not make a house. A set of facts may create some truth, but they may also reinforce a lie. By purposeful omission, or rearrangement facts become a lie. Indeed, a truth may also be a lie, as in a partial truth, or say, FOX News; the News part becoming at the very least a supreme exaggeration.

What each of us is seeking(or seeking to obscure) are ultimate truths. That is truths that are well beyond mere facts, and absolutely not a lie.For example, there is an ultimate truth to whether or not God exists. For now, that ultimate truth is unknowable and untestable. since facts alone fail us here, we bridge that immense gap with faith-the polar opposite of fact.

It may be said that faith is the  acceptance in at least one possibility of an ultimate truth. But faith is not a fact, and faith alone is a choice. Reason dictates that our faith is potentially the belief in a falsehood. One who has faith has a responsibility to understand that alternate faiths are then equally valid.

In the end could it be that there may be no real truth, but only lies and shades of the truth, and faith? So where does that leave us? If truths and ultimate truths fail us, what is left?

The media is more and more under the control of corporations. More and more it plays a game between satiating its consumer audience, while steering the nation and government towards corporate governance and control. The Occupy Wall street protests, now catching on in cities around the nation are illustrative here. When they began two weeks ago, I had to look to news organizations outside the country for information. There was not a single story in MSNBC-owned by GE, a major weapons contractor, or FOX-News Corp and CNN-owned by Time Warner, who contributed the maximum allowable amount to George Bush in 2005.

The media, with so-called Liberal bias like MSNBC and Right-wing bias like FOX, dominate and steer the discourse  on topics of grave national interest through carefully channelled and scripted arguments, and in very much the same direction.

Take the Iraq invasion. In the weeks and months leading up there was ample evidence that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Evidence was forged, critics of the invasion were pilloried and discredited for daring to point out that even the most credible reports had come from highly unreliable and even corrupt sources. Chris Matthews, castigated by the Right, and held up on the Left for his insight never once debated before the invasion what should have been obvious questions to the rest of us. He finally did, several years, many thousands of lives and a trillion Dollars later. The media’s truth was a self-serving truth, but it revealed a truth beyond even ultimate truth.

The trail

It contributed to and created real human pain and suffering. Human pain might well prove the profoundest truth, and the only truth impervious to lies, distortions, facts and faith. For each of us, our own pain becomes the ultimate truth. At the end of all lies is human pain, which arises from the individual as a wall. Where your pain meets the pain of another becomes, in the absence of real truth, the point of negotiation. From each person’s perspective the other’s pain is hardly equal to their own, but there is ultimate equality in their opposing pain. It was, after all the true basis for the civil rights movement, and indeed all assertions of minorities for their rights. It is even at the heart of those sadly mislead and exploited folks that believe the Tea Party isn’t merely a populist front for predatory corporate greed.

So, at the end of all truth,  when truths are distorted or framed artfully to be just this side of a lie we are left to negotiate one another’s pain. It transcends media and propaganda and politics. It becomes the point in which each of us draws a line in the sand and forces us to face other human beings as equals. I think Jesus said it best…do onto others… 

And, oh, by the way. Just in case you were wondering, with a couple scenic detours, the ride from Wisconsin back to the city takes about 3 hours. Lots of time to chase errant thoughts.

Brushes with a Balkan warlord

By spring of 1994 I was back in the Balkans, my second trip to the war in Bosnia. Each time I went purposely to Serbia’s capital, Belgrade to challenge the Western media’s alleged bias against the Serbs. To be sure, and that was my assessment even then, the Serbian government, with both tacit and explicit support of the majority of Serbs, bore the lion’s share of responsibility for the violence and atrocities in the embattled former-Yugoslav republics. Not completely, but they controlled the vast majority of Yugoslav arms and had perpetrated the vast majority of the brutality against Croat and Bosniak former countrymen. Were there justifications? Sure.

But justifications are excuses and not at all consistent with morality and human rights. As a nation, the Serbs were wrong. A great many Serbs I met, however, did not support nor subscribe to their government and the nationalist fervor blinding Serbia’s national soul.

Arkan and his so-called Tigers

Few during the conflict embodied the genocide in Croatia and Bosnia like the Serbian warlord, Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic. I was well acquainted with his resume as an assassin for the pre-war Yugoslav government, and then a bank robber wanted by Interpol. When the war in Croatia began, Arkan’s militia, the so-called, “Tigers,” grown from Serbian special forces and hardened criminals, distinguished themselves against poorly armed and poorly trained Croats and against villagers and unarmed civilians. An agreement to split war booty with the Belgrade government opened the door for wholesale genocide in Croatia and Bosnia driven by sheer greed. Arkan seemed bigger than life. Belgrade friends were terrified even to whisper his name in public, a strayed from conversation even in private.

It was a warm spring that year in Belgrade. Exploring the city and countryside by day, I would retire to a cafe at the Hotel Slavija, overlooking a bustling park and roundabout,  with food kiosks to one side and the unending theater of an amazing and vibrant city. Catching up in my journal, I’d have a beer or two before returning to my room at the Park Hotel. The war in Bosnia was heating up. A few weeks earlier a Serb shell killed scored is a Sarajevo market. I was anxious about venturing into the war zone again.

This time I was travelling with a heavy Kevlar police vest, considered contraband in Serbia and Bosnian Serb territory, just as my cameras and film were as a foreigner. For a couple of weeks prior to the trip I’d taken the advice of a cop friend back in Chicago. To acclimate to the weight and heat I started jogging in the vest. To acclimate myself to fear, I jogged through the Cabrini Green house project, then won of the worst crime-ridden neighborhoods in the country.. I was well acquainted with gangs and knew gang members. It all seemed good preparation for the Balkans.

One evening at the cafe in Belgrade several armed bodyguards in track suits appeared, carefully casing the place as they scowl and circulated through the tables. A moment later Arkan arrived, with some over-made debutante on his arm and yet another weasle-y looking bodyguard, in the ubiquitous track suit that was about a size and a half too big. They decided on a nearby table, the previous patrons scurrying away to another table.

I was stunned. Here was a man rendered bigger than life. painted as a legend in Serbia, and a monster elsewhere, his face plastered across city walls as part of a parliamentary bid, I expected, well, something more. Instead, I found a man exceedingly average in every respect. He wore a big cross around his neck, which he’d famously bragged once about how he was a great Christian. I think he believed it. I recall a vacuous nature to the man when our eyes met briefly. Morality was obviously an unnatural concept to him. Self-serving pragmatism was his singular motivation. I couldn’t help  a smile at the thought that his bodyguards, one of whom I recognized from war images, appeared so little and inconsequential.

Ron Haviv's photo of Arkan's men murdering Muslim civilians in Bosnia, 1992

Placed in any tough neighborhood back home, these men would be eaten alive and spit out without any more consideration. They weren’t a militia. They were a gang, and Raznatovic their pallid sovereign. The reputation came in the unblinking brutality of their actions; heavily armed thieves and bullies and thugs. There wasn’t the slightest remorse when I learned in January 2000 he’d been assassinated, shot in the eye, likely to keep him from testifying against President Milosevic. He might have stood trial for the thousands he butchered, but then again fate and justice rarely write the world we wish to see, but only the world that is.

Warning: Harsh language. A response to Breitbart’s “We have the guns…” comment

For context, a courtesy Breitbart does not extend to his victims, here is the entire statement, made before another massive Tea party gathering of 60(?) people:

“I must say, in my non-strategic… ‘cuz I’m under attack all the time, if you see it on Twitter. The (unclear) call me gay, it’s just, they’re vicious, there are death threats, and everything. And so, there are times where I’m not thinking as clearly as I should, and in those unclear moments, I always think to myself, ‘Fire the first shot.’

Bring it on. Because I know who’s on our side. They can only win a rhetorical and propaganda war. They cannot win. We outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns. (laughter) I’m not kidding. They talk a mean game, but they will not cross that line because they know what they’re dealing with.

And I have people who come up to me in the military, major named people in the military, who grab me and they go, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing, we’ve got your back.’

They understand that. These are the unspoken things we know, they know. They know who’s on their side, they’ve got Janeane Garofalo, we are freaked out by that. When push comes to shove, they know who’s on our side. They are the bullies on the playground, and they’re starting to realize, what if we were to fight back, what if we were to slap back?”

He’s not a Conservative, a Republican or even a member of the so-called moral majority. He’s a dick. In fact, the Tea party is exactly that, just a rabble of dicks that have seized control of the Republican party like some South American Junta. Wrapped in a flag they really don’t believe in, waving Constitution in one hand and a Bible in the other, both of which they pick and choose from for their own needs, they have  finally sailed past obnoxious and insipid to outright absurdity bordering on the psychotic.

This mob of know-nothings are leading decent Republicans and Conservatives through a  field full of shit and then walking that stink all around the rest of us. And it might all make some sort of sense if it served a purpose for the country. But spend a day listening to advertisements on Right-wing radio, all the dumbass books these goofs write, with simple words, simple sentences, big fonts, the cross-promotional trash from trashy people getting wealthy off those led astray by fear or paranoia or severely limited life experiences to create markets to enrich themselves. It isn’t about politics for the Breitbarts and Coulters, it is about the political and nationalistic porn they peddle!

Breitbart is making threats that his 60 semi-retired, semi-literate, marginally socialized mooks most of us wouldn’t want to sit in a diner near will go home and no doubt masterbate to, which is really what this is all about. They all laughed and cheered at the comment.  Is it me, or did this all begin when the Weekly World News went out of business? And now people who normally believed that Michael Jackson was the spawn of Alien insemination with Roseanne Barr suddenly had too much time on their hands. Mix in a little 9-11, add some economic refugees and plenty of echo-chamber Right-wing affirmations of those anti-social over-generalizations and ignorances the rest of us realize are counter to a functional society and there’s your Tea Party.

Funny, on the way to the office this morning, until I saw Breitbart’s video, I was mulling a piece about how democrats and Republicans really want the best for the country. Reasonable folks realize that compromise is the rule not the  exception in the world. We all realize this brinksmanship, winner take all bullshit wouldn’t work in marriages, in families or between neighbors. Hell, it doesn’t work at a four-way stop sign!

I’d just read an article on research into the “Conservative brain,” and thought that was every bit as dangerous and counter-productive as Michael Savage proclaiming Liberalism is a menatal disorder. So I’m a bit pissed off that I started the day with a communal thought for my Democrat and Republican friends alike and had to respond to a dick like Breitbart. Maybe tomorrow, if the Republicans can toss the Tea party schlubs out on their ass before they same or do something equally stupid. Seems unlikely though. When you follow someone through a field of shit the stink stays with you for a while.

Poverty in America: More puppetry of the Poor

Julius Caesar called it “divide and conquer,” and he deployed the strategy as effectively against domestic and political adversaries as he did against so-called barbarian tribes as he expanded and consolidated the boundaries of Rome. It worked well enough for a while, right up until the moment his adversaries murdered him in the Senate.

Pro-labor rallies in Madison this year were unifying events

Divide and conquer was the favored tactic by wealthy businessmen and companies against the labor movement in the early part of the 20th Century. In this country blacks and newly arrived immigrants were brought to the gates of companies, often with their families and in camps, where they served as examples to employees who sought to organize against abusive or unsafe working conditions.  In post-World War One Yugoslavia, Italian refugees or poor Bosnian peasants were camped at the gates, the message that these squatters would gladly take the jobs from anyone attempting to Unionize.

For the better part of a century the Unions prevailed. They fought for and set humane working conditions, such as meal breaks, safer working conditions, reasonable working hours, fair living wages, quality of life advantages for their families and themselves and, after a lifetime of work, the right of a dignified retirement and old age.

Unions fought for and won benefits that resonated throughout the industrial world, lifting millions more from poverty through labor laws extending far beyond the Union ranks. Unions literally created the middle class in this country and in Western  Germany after the Second World War. At the height of Unions in the United States the output of the nation skyrocketed, but as Corporations exercised greater and greater influence over government an interesting thing occurred. Assaults upon organized labor increased. Not because GDP suffered. It continued its rapid and unprecedented rise. But because business was so powerful in the government that it could now move to eradicate Unions altogether. In the last 20 years Republican efforts, financed and organized by big business masters have steadily degraded the influence of Unions, to the obvious and apparent detriment to the middle class. 

Through media consolidation, big business has taken control of the national dialogue and narrative. By infiltrating the FCC they have degraded the level of discourse, skewing it fully to one side of the argument. Accurate, unfiltered and unbiased information has become more difficult to access. Despite the internet, media consolidations to a smaller and smaller number of media and corporate giants has made accurate information more difficult to come by.  Media giants like FOX news, with agenda driven programming are unabashed in demonizing Unions and the poor alike. They play on the fears of the middle class, who at the end of the day, are their true target for subversion.

Immigrants and the poor have become those modern-day squatters once encamped as implicit and explicit threats to middle class workers against asserting their rights through organization. But is the problem of immigration any different today than it was during the last great wave of immigration in 1910?

Union thug or communist?

The numbers are staggering, at first glance. in 2010 there were 35.2 million legal and illegal immigrants to the United States, nearly triple the 13.5 million reaching our shores in 1910. However, comparing the populations shows a much different picture, and reveals the dangerous anti-American agenda of these media conglomerates. There were 92 million Americans in 1910, and 310 million now, meaning the immigration wave of 1910, in todays terms would be more than 42 million, or much higher than the actual 35 million today.

And America not only survived the 1910 wave, but it prospered. Many of those immigrants were the first to organize and fight(and sometimes die) for better working conditions, and better lives through Unionization. They arrived in a nation still largely agricultural with a Gross domestic Product of $33.4 million annually, and built a nation with a GDP of $14.7 trillion-that’s trillion today. Indeed, by the onset of World War One, as Unions began to gain a foothold  the GDP double in only a few short years. Within 10 years GDP had tripled.

The numbers are clear. All that has really changed is the assault on the Unions in part by using immigrants and the poor to threaten and terrorize the disappearing middle class. And it has worked, when working people turn and accuse Union members who have given them much that is taken for granted. Overheard during the pro-Union protests in Madison Wisconsin earlier this year, a man struggling in a low-paying job without healthcare asked why Unions should have those benefits when he had none.  Divide and conquer.  It worked for Caesar, but only for a time.

Protesters in the Madison Statehouse. Fewer than 300 Tea Party members counterprotested. The people spoke.

Poverty in America: Puppetry of the Poor

Limbaugh calls them spoiled. Savage calls the poor lazy while Hannity and Beck accuse them of leaching off the wealthy, whom they call job creators. The Left describes them as victims of the bad economy, cruel Republican policies, poor education and lack of decent housing and healthcare reforms. The Right says they should pull up their boot straps and make it on their own rather than steal the money from the wealth earners of the nation in the form of taxes for social programs.

In the next couple articles I’ll attempt to bring a bit of clarity to the issue now that the national poverty rate has topped the 15% mark. Is it an indication that Obama is indeed inept as a President, and that Democratic social policies have failed, or if the current Administration inherited a historic, and perhaps purposeful economic disaster by the Bush administration.

When we discuss poverty in America, who exactly are we talking about. Nicholas cage declared bankruptcy and had to sell homes and assets worth millions at a loss. Can we consider Nicholas cage impoverished? In order to have a constructive view of the issue it is critical to be speaking to the same definition of American poverty, which is fundamentally different from poverty elsewhere around the planet. It is in coming to a proper definition that allows for constructive dialogue among rational and intelligent people from both parties. Ambiguity is the fertile ground for manipulators like the Becks and Limbaughs and Savages to create propaganda that only solidifies division in this nation and costs lives. They have no interest in a better nation, only a better nation for them and their friends.

We’ve all heard the propaganda. America’s poor are so much better off than the poor in Bangladesh or Somalia, as if those are the standards America’s poor should be measured against. They cite obesity, owning a television or having cable TV as evidence that the poor in this country have nothing to complain about. Again, are they demanding that our poor should be shivering in an empty apartment, bloated and covered with flies before we pay attention? 

The Health and Human services Administration sets the poverty level for a single adult at $11,ooo per year in income. For a family of 4 that number is $22,350, or roughly an additional $3000 annually for each additional person in the household. Working a minimum wage job full-time with no vacation brings a pre-tax amount of $17,680 in income yearly, or $340 a week. Federal income tax, state tax and SSI reduce those amounts to roughly $12,000 annual or about$240 weekly. Qquickly run through a basic list of costs, bus or train or driving costs(which brings upkeep, fuel and insurance costs) rent, food, electricity, gas and basic incidentals and that income is quickly used up. Some of that might-might- come back in a tax return, but not much. Perhaps a thousand bucks. Consider a break job for a car costs$4-600 bucks. A monthly bus pass in Chicago is $85, or almost a thousnad per year. What about healthcare? Minimum wage jobs don’t come with healthcare. The wife and I, through our well-paying jobs still pay 500 per month into our premiums. Basic car insurance in a decent neighborhood…$4-800 annually.

But we can narrow the argument to a greater degree of reality. Are we discussing Relative Poverty , episodic poverty or absolute poverty?

Relative poverty is what the Propagandists most commonly use. That is poverty in relation to the median income in a given location. The median income in rural Idaho who likely be  far lower than the median income of , say, Manhattan where there are far more at the top end of the income scale pulling the income average higher. The cost of basic existence in either place would be dramatically different. It is a ruse.

Episodic poverty would refer to those, for example, seasonally unemployed. Both Episodic and Relative poverty are argumentative and open to all sorts of manipulation. Absolute poverty, however, is not.

Absolute poverty  refers to specific criteria needed for basic survival. It sets standards for a basic healthy diet needed to sustain a basic body mass index, access to safe water, a toilet in or near the home, basic medical accessibility for  serious illness and pregnancy, minimal shelter with less that four living to a room and a floor made of something other than dirt or mud. It prescribes access to basic education and the ability to read, access to basic information and emergency information such as a television, and for a telephone. Finally, it requires access to simple legal, social and financial services..

15.3% of Americans live below the Absolute poverty line. Which means that, 37 million Americans, or nearly a million in every state of the Union cannot rely on  basic housing, services, food, healthcare, sanitation, education or clean water. According to the USDA 15% of Americans cannot rely on having enough nutritious food to sustain adequate health, which seems a crime in the wealthiest nation on the planet.

September 11 Recollections #3

It was the following March, a little more than 6 months after the attacks. I was a crisp but clear day I was at the airport, planeside for a trip to Portland, Oregon. Word came over the radio that there was a security issue on the jetbridge that would result in a delay.

Upstairs on the jetbridge I found the flight crew trying to calm a near hysterical woman. She was demanding that something be done about a suspicious character she’d spied at the gate who was now seated at the back of the plane. Corporate security and the police arrived a moment later. The woman was adamant.

“He was chanting something,” she said, ‘rocking back and forth, and then he folded up something and stuffed it into his pocket. I couldn’t tell what he was chanting exactly, but it sound like a Muslim prayer.”

The decision was made to hold the plane, while the crew went back and asked the suspicious chanting character to step out of the plane.

About a minute later a small balding man, who reminded me of the George character from Seinfeld, appeared in the door, taken aback by all the commotion. As he passed the woman she glared at him with all the disdain and accusation she could muster, sneering that “yep, he’s the one.”

Quickly surrounded by security, the police and crew the sheepish and thoroughly embarrassed little man scratched his bald head and stammered out a quick explanation.

“I wasn’t chanting,” he said, opening some rolled up pages. “I’m a music teacher at the university of Portland. I was going over a lesson plan; Mozart.” 

“We have a report that you folded up something and stuffed it into your pocket?” asked the security person. “What was that?”

His face flushing bright red, he drew a small cap from his pocket and unfolded it, running a hand across his forehead. “I, I have a window seat and I sunburn easily.”

As he returned to his seat the poor fellow offered heartfelt apologies to every person on that plane. The woman, undaunted, sneered and told the crew before returning to her seat, “Well he ought to know what he was doing looked suspicious. next time maybe he’ll think about it. Just can’t be too careful.”

The crew, cops, security and I all exchanged obvious looks that bespoke the character of the nation post-September 11. Between a hand full of hysterics and a number of opportunists, the rest of us were robbed of a rational non-dysfunctional response to the attacks and the course the nation might have taken afterwards. Worse, the opportunists used the hysterics like puppets to foment chaos and confusion while they ransacked the country. Dissent was met with derision,accusations of being anti-American or worse. When dissent drew support a new terror threat seemed conveniently to arise. The dead from that terrible September day were all but dragged from their graves and used to confuse us all the more, just as the wounded and dead troops were used.

To be sure there were threats, but in being that hysterical person on the plane while not securing the country from lunacy and opportunists, did we cause greater damage to our national soul than the September attacks could ever have hoped to accomplish on their own?  The answer and true damge to the nation still remain to be seen and sorted out.

September 11 Recollections #2

History is about people. It is the avalanche of moments and experiences and decisions. History does not charge or race in times of crisis. History is everything. It is the world moving unstoppable to the future a moment, an hour, a day, and epoch at a time. Only perception and emotion defines the importance of that unending march. It is the emotion and the impact events have upon individual souls that brings humanity to the cold analysis of our shared past. It was those moments and individual faces that defined the true impact of September 11, at least for me. One particular face stands out from all others.

I went upstairs into the terminal, into the chaos and stunned silence after the announcement that flights nationwide had come to a complete stop.. There was a crowd around the customer service desk at the gate. Folks were struggling to get their minds around the incredible concept that nothing was moving anywhere in the United States. One young woman pressed through to the counter. She had long straight hair, her crisp blue eyes were distraught, bordering on panicked.

“Nothing is moving anywhere?” she asked.

“I’m sorry,” I replied, sympathetic.

“For how long?”

“Indefinitely, they’re telling us.”

“I have to get to Hartford(Connecticut) by tomorrow for my father’s funeral.”

“The best advice I can give you is to get down stairs as fast as you can and rent a car before they’re all…”

She cut me off, her eyes threatening tears. “All I have is this ticket and ten Dollars. I don’t have a credit card.”

She looked at me for the longest time before turning and disappearing into the crowd.

Steadily the terminal emptied. I was wandering, soaking up conversations and moments. A middle-aged business woman rushed up to me and, with a look of utter terror in her eyes said that she’d heard another hijacked plane was headed for the terminal.

“Haven’t heard that,” I told her, though at that moment most anything seemed possible.

“Then why is everyone leaving the airport?” her voice rose almost to hysteria.

“Because there is no reason to be here any more,” I replied, feeling fully the implication inherent in the words.

By noon the terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, then the busiest airport in the world, was a ghost town. The silence was unnerving. The lights had been turned off and all the vendors had gone home, the  shadows and darkness adding a gloom to this wholly unnatural scene.  I was walking through the terminal with a buddy when a Mexican woman appeared with a small child. She spoke no English, but with my simple understanding of Spanish, she revealed she had no money and no means of feeding her child. Her return flight to Mexico was obviously cancelled. In a scene no doubt repeated thousands of times throughout the nation and world, she was trapped. 

She sort of followed us through the terminal for a while until we found a manager who held some vouchers for  a local hotel, offering to take the woman there, as she obviously could not afford a taxi, if she could have found one. We gave her what money we had, hoping that the flights would begin before the vouchers and that meager bit of cash ran out.

I left work early that day. There was no reason to remain. The airline had hired a lot of good people that summer. A number fit in quickly, proving themselves as reliable and hardworking. It had been a dream job. Despite the dangers, the pay was excellent, with great benefits, the travel benefit notwithstanding. One of the new guys I found in the employee parking lot. He was looking back across the empty runway at the silent terminal with a hopeless and far away look.

“Everything okay?” I asked.

He sighed and shook his head, forcing an ironic grin. “Lost my job today. Now I’m just waiting until they make it official.”

By October he was gone, with hundreds of others. It is these faces that define September 11th to me.

Darn the luck: FOX News’ sad campaign to discredit Obama’s Terror record

No one serious would give Rudi dekker the time of day.  Indeed, after the September 11, 2001 attacks he should have been in jail, or at the very least forever banned from his chosen profession. Instead, hard to believe, FOX loves the guy. Surprise, Rudi is selling a book, and FOX is only to happy to spin this schlock into an indictment of Obama’s fight against terrorism in the days leading up to the 10th anniversary of that terrible day.

Who is Rudi Dekker? Truly he should have been forgotten by history. I think in the “olden” days they called it “shunned.” But Mister Dekker owned the flight school where Mohammad Atta trained to leaned how to crash a plane into the World Trade center that sunny September day. Mister Dekker, now considered by FOX to be a terrorism expert-the same way the guy who teaches a car full of armed men in ski masks how to drive a car can then call himself an expert in preventing bank robberies-is making the rounds on Right-wing radio and FOX.

He isn’t alone. Dick Cheney, part of the Administration that missed such veiled and ambiguous warnings the summer of 2001 as “Bin Laden determined to strike within the US,” is also making the rounds, curiously as the current crop of Republican Presidential wanna-bes are desperate to undermine any success by the current administration.

And there are many successes. The killing of bin Laden himself, something Bush and Cheney couldn’t accomplish, was only topping on a greater anti-terrorism cake. Obama’s strategy hasn’t been merely to make war. rather, by improving views of the United States around the world and in the Middle East, by being tougher on Israel, he was ratcheted down the international war tempo and emotion so prevalent during the Bush and Cheney years. He has actively pursued and killed far more terrorist leaders than Bush and Cheney did in 8 years, without the chest thumping and in-your-face cowboy rhetoric. Quietly he has worked to stabilize Somalia, and when was the last time you heard of Somali pirates?  Had Bush and Cheney undertaken Libya there would have been an emphasis on “America boys beatin’ back terrorism,” instead of America taking a subtler role that lead in 6 months to the toppling of Gaddafi’s regime(Recall Pan Am 103?). That softer approach robbed terrorist antagonists from fresh anti-American propaganda and recruiting material. Iran and Hamas were all but silent.

But back to Dekker and Cheney, and their diatribes, which amount to little more than a hoodlums effort to divert attention from their own failures and, dare I opine, crimes?

Reminds me of a story about Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy. At Sirhan’s parole hearing he said that if Robert F’ Kennedy were still alive he would want him to go free. Wow! the one guy who would speak on his behalf, and Sirhan killed him. The one guy who could speak to Dekker’s ability to spot terrorists, and that guy flew into the World Trade tower. Mister Cheney, any idea what those who died on 9-11 would view your record on terrorism? No doubt they give it a big thumbs up, or maybe they’d opt for an alternate finger.   

To Obama’s

Right to life, Death penalty: The power to choose who lives and who dies

This piece began as another rail against Rick Perry and the sad tale of Cameron Willingham. Accused of murdering his three children in a fire, Willingham was wrongly convicted through a combination of flawed evidence, incompetent counsel, witness bias and the arguable corruption of investigators. He was subsequently sentenced to death, an innocent man thrust into a process which, contrary to public perception, favors the process of execution over the spectre of putting to death an innocent man.

Suddenly the burden of proof is on the condemned, rather than the necessity of the State to prove its case for fear of rendering the ultimate punishment against the innocent. It creates an almost insurmountable obstacle. Given the revolutionary advances in criminal forensics in the last 20 years, from DNA analysis to precise crime scene investigative techniques, failure in death penalty cases to be absolutely sure of guilt or innocence becomes tantamount to a crime.

Cameron Willingham was wrongly executed for the deaths of his three daughters in Texas, 2009

 Conclusive evidence emerged showing that the original forensic evidence was deeply flawed and, “hardly consistent with a scientific mindset and is more characteristic of mystics and psychics,” according to a Texas Forensic Science Commission investigator. The evidence was not only rebuffed by Perry, but the investigating committee was purposelly stopped in its tracks before it could hear testimony by the investigator. Right up to the day of Willingham’s execution by lethal injection, Perry refused to consider this new evidence, embarking on a campaign to discredit the commission and perpetuating falsehoods about the condemned man.  Odd for a man who backs an anti-abortion amendment to the Constitution. 

Perry’s hypocritical views on life issues are consistent with his anti-science views, which is why choice-individual choice- is far more consistent with the Constitution, and indeed, the Bible, than the current ideology he currently panders to. The problem is that the Evangelically-hijacked Right views the Bible as law rather than faith. The ultimate flaw in that argument is that it leaves no choice but to accept all of the Bible, mandating such extremist views that a person be stoned for eating shellfish or adultery just as they would for murder. As faith the Bible becomes a guide to higher principles, ethics and morality, while understanding that it is a historical document, not a history document. As law the Bible paints a person into indefensible corners, as it has for Perry in the Willingham case. If, indeed, the Bible is law, it all must be followed. There is no room for  disagreement. As faith it becomes a guide with flexibility enough for mercy and forgiveness.

It is an absolute hypocrisy to act as a self-appointed advocate for the unborn and not advocate fully to protect any possibility of innocence for the condemned. Not only is it a hypocrisy, but it becomes a complete abrogation of their assumed responsibility by those who view the Bible as law. That assumption comes with an implicit power over life and death, which, by any moral standard, Perry abused fully in the Willingham case. In the view of the Bible-as law- what does that say for Perry, and for those who believe as strident and uncompromising as he?

The death penalty is arguable. What is not is the calculated abandonment of an innocent man on death row. Perry not only abandoned this man to unjust death for a crime that legitimate and legally sanctioned investigators proved he did not commit, but he deliberately interfered with a commission’s report that would have proved Willingham’s innocence.

That begs the question for men like Perry, as to whether or not they truly believe in  the Right to Life, or if it isn’t a political tactic. If he is true to his faith, has Perry ever once paused to consider his crime and ask forgiveness for the death of this young man? The problem with hypocrites who hide behind religion is that they tend to ask forgiveness in order to keep perpetrating the same sins, instead of seeking true forgiveness and finding greater wisdom from the inherent human weaknesses that we all suffer. Doubtful whether Perry is interested in either, and is more interested in the power and wealth that comes along with wrapping himself in the Bible in order to appear faithful.

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