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The first time [ profile] morgan1 and I ever set foot in Temple Israel was to see a talk by John Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword. After the presentation, which took place in the run-up to the Easter/Passover season, Morgan was buttonholed by an elderly man who had fled Poland in the wake of pogroms. Good Friday, for him, was the day the Christians would come out of the churches looking for Jews to beat up. And he had absorbed his share of beatings.

And so.

It is now 9/11.

I skim [ profile] chipuni's friends list, because it is a rich and diverse bouquet, where so many viewpoints can be found, and I notice that someone has goatsed the [ profile] muslimscommunity. There moderators act swiftly, but no sooner do they delete it than the same user posts an anti-Islamic Chick Tract rife with misinformation and fabrication regarding Islam. This is as close as you can get to mosque desecration on line. I wonder what we will see in the physical world as the day dawns.

The analogy is obvious. And it was the provincial and religious hatred that the Poles had for the Jews that built Auschwitz. A provincial and religious hatred not dissimilar than that which is growing bolder and bolder in the US.

If we allow such seeds to sprout, what vile fruit can we expect to harvest?
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Many years ago, I was working at Zeos computers, doing technical support. My co-worker, Lyle - a Lutheran minister who served as an Air Force chaplain, co-worker Colin - a recent grad from Saint Olaf's who is legally blind, and co-worker Bill - like Lyle, a USAF vet who also happened to be triumphing in his struggle with alcoholism, all carpooled together. Well not "carpooled" really, since Lyle was the only one of us with a car; it would perhaps be more accurate to say that Lyle, in an act of loving-kindness, chauffered us.

One day he came to pick me up, with Colin already in the car, and we headed over to the street corner where Bill would reliably be waiting with his morning coffee and his Pioneer Press.

He was not there.

So we traced the steps of what we knew to be his morning walk back to his home. There were fire-engines and first-responders all over the place. The building Bill lived in was being evacuated, and evacuees sent to the hospital because of a Carbon Monoxide. Lyle spoke to a fireman who was controlling access to the site. He gave Bill's full name to the fireman, told the fireman that Bill had not been where he was expected at an appointed time. He urged the firefighter to make sure that Bill was accounted for before they left the site. He even offered to go look himself. He was turned away with a cursory "Yeah, we'll get everyone out." We accepted that, trusted them to do their jobs, and went off to do ours. When, by 11:00am, we'd heard nothing from him, we went to HR and got his emergency contact. It was his girlfriend, an RN herself. I swapped contact info with her, and she assured me she'd look into it and call back.

She did. I came home to a very tearful message on my voicemail. Bill was dead. He'd been found by another tenant, in the communal bathroom on the first floor. Although the responders had emptied all the dwelling units, they had not checked the bathrooms (very possibly did not even know they were bathrooms. Bill liked a long morning soak, and the comfort he took in it was the reward of his own work. He had personally weatherproofed the bathroom, being faced with an apathetic landlord. The bathroom was directly over the boiler that was putting out the carbon monoxide. Bill was probably dead before we even got there.

At least that's what I tell myself. I have to believe it, because the alternative is that we stood by and LET Bill die. That our ovine acceptance of what the authorities told us killed him. It's what I told Lyle two years later in a server room at Eaton Hydraulics in Eden Prairie. I reminded him of his clear articulation, and of the Fireman's refusal to let us pass. I assured him that we had done what we could, and that if Bill WAS still alive then, it was a failure of communication that was beyond our control that killed him.

And I felt like a heel, doling out mealy mouthed rationalizations like some Nazi at Nuremberg professing ignorance and deference to authority to explain away his role in the Holocaust.

Lyle was never able to escape the feeling that we should have persisted until Bill was rescued (or recovered) or until we were arrested. Instead we turned away like meek lambs at the shepherds' urging. I, too, always wondered if we could have caused a difference for Bill with more persistence. Lyle lives with the guilt. I live in a house whose windows leak like sieves all through the Minnesota winter. So what if the heating bill exceeds the mortgage payment so I can shiver under two blankets in a 40 degree bedroom? At least I wake up in the morning and the cold winter's air slipping through the casements is the smell of life to me, the smell of NOT DYING LIKE BILL.

It weighs.

Then I see what's happening in New Orleans. So I donate, and my wife donates and a guy at our synagogue is running a truck down there so we plan to donate supplies. Tampons. A blanket. An air mattress. We hope it helps and can be used. But what's worse I hope it gets there.

FEMA has been turning away people bringing tools and skills to help while not doing much at all to lend help themselves. The Red Cross is not being let into New Orleans to give direct assistance. Mostly, it seems that it is at FEMA's request, but the Red Cross is doing a good job running interference for the feds in this link.

Looking some of this material over, it seems as if the feds WANT these people to die. It seems like a passive aggressive holocaust, like "oopsie, we've had a little hurricane thingy. Well we got the people able to transport themselves out, and if the others die, well it's a disaster, people die in those. Not our problem." It makes me want to hop on the truck headed down there and do something hands on. I both envy and admire [ profile] odanu who is headed down there.

It's bad enough when first responders make honest mistakes. Bill died in an understandable oversight, though I'll never understand why they didn't kick EVERY door in in that place. What I'm hearing from NOLA is far from understandable though, and if I can't shake some sense of culpability in Bill's death, how can we, as a nation, expect to live with ourselves in the aftermath of this?
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I was thinking about the searching of bags happening on the NYC Subway system, and the old canard that if you're doing nothing wrong then you've nothing to hide.

This is based on the false premise that only evidence of criminal activity demands to be hidden. Modesty, however, demands that we hide things that are not of a criminal nature.

It seems to me that sooner or later these bag searches will force some woman or other to disclose to some officious gubmint prick that she is either a) on the rag or b) on the pill. These searches do more to pull female sexuality into the public realm than they do for male sexuality. And in an environment in which the government seems entirely too concerned about what women do with their bodies, one is left wondering if this isn't a means of legitimizing state scrutiny of women's sexuality.
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Spent some more time reflecting on the book. I think that it is a truly wonderful thing that we have J.K. Rowling in the world right now, and that she is doing what she is doing. Reading the Half Blood Prince has made me feel a little bit of what it must have been like for people reading The Chronicles of Narnia during and after WWII.

A spoilery analysis that eschews discussion of the Big Thing, mostly )
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Howard Tomb writes in a letter to the New York Times that

Our current system of missile defense - known as "mutually assured destruction" - has worked flawlessly night and day for half a century. It promises nuclear annihilation for any country that attacks us with intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"Mutually Assured Destruction" was an effective deterrent against the Russians because the Russians didn't want to die. Communism lacks any eschatological narrative that would make death seem like a good thing.

It ceases to work when one of the parties comes to believe that the death of one's opponents is so great an end that if one's own people die as a result, they will receive a martyr's reward. This is precisely why nuclear arms in the hands of theocratic governments become quite frightening: they provide the potential to make eschatological prophecies self-fulfilling.
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Bob Herbert of the New York Times reported and commented on the seizure of reporters' recordings of a public address by Antonin Scalia. Now since he is an opinion columnist, and not to be trusted on that account, I looked for a more reliable source and found this article from the Hattiesburg American, the paper whose reporter's recorder was seized. )

Scalia is very possibly the most disturbing figure in the American political system. In 7/2 rulings favoring the side of the Light, it is always him and Thomas that form the dissent. The nepotism implicit in his long term friendship with Dick Cheney and his refusal to recuse himself from a case that touches someone that he calls a friend speaks poorly of his respect for the notion of a fair, unbiased judiciary. And here we see a resistance to transparency that is inimical to the most fundamental notions democracy.

And this is what our Commander-in-Thief, the Resident of the United States, the foul usurper who would not have commandeered the Whitehouse without Scalia's vote, holds up as his paragon of Justice and his ideal for a replacement to any just who grows to old, infirm, or dead to continue in his or her duties.

And that is why it is absolutely imperative that anyone who cherishes a free America vote for Kerry; because if the Fortunate Son of the Oil Oligarchy gets to appoint a supreme court justice, you can expect a level of Judicial Activism that would warm the heart of Stalin.
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Let's say your name is Osama Bin Laden. Your objective? A unified Arab world under Sharia Law and free of Jewish or Christian taint. You have a vast terrorist network at your disposal. Nothing organized enough to effect a coup, but certainly organized enough to execute a few operations that will piss people off and make them behave irrationally.

You look out upon the Arab World and see a secular despot. His face, not Mohammed's, is plastered in every schoolbook and hanging in every living room. His form, not Mohammed's is erected as statuary throughout the cities. And he holds good, Sharia loving Shiites bound in his iron grip.

You look at America. You see a president with a gray mandate and a visceral hatred of that Secular despot in Iraq. You know how to piss him off and make him behave irrationally. You know that any attack from the Arab world is ultimately going to be avenged upon Saddam Hussein. So you attack the US.

It takes its time. You probably weren't counting on the Taliban being scattered. But the payoff comes with the 2002 State of the Union address, when you hear your enemy enumerated among an "Axis of Evil." It's a pity virtuous Iran is on that list, and as for North Korea, who cares, really? You know Iraq is in the crosshairs.

The attack comes. Hussein is removed from power and eventually removed from the country. The Crusaders have done their job, and now, with a combination of insurgency and well timed attacks, it is time to get rid of them. They have done your bidding. Hence Spain, where an anti-war zeitgeist is easily leveraged to ensure a change in leadership (it might have even happened without you). Bush himself, you can't decide about. Do you want to rotate him out, or do you want to manipulate him into fighting another battle for you, perhaps in the too-secular-for-comfort Syria?
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When the Oklahoma City Federal Building was blown up, the first suspects pursued were "middle eastern men seen driving away from the scene." I suppose it was unfortunate that they happened to be driving there and middle eastern.

Turned out the terrorist responsible was just a good ol' American boy, from a good ol' American town. He was executed a few months before 9/11. I can't help but think it must have been a great relief to the Bush administration for this white, American face of terrorism to have been scrubbed from the planet, in time for him to hang an Arab face on terrorism.

I can't help but think that had Oklahoma City happened on Bush's watch, those two middle-eastern men would have found themselves whisked away to a place from which they would never be heard again, while McVeigh remained free to attack again.
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It's become a new holiday tradition. Every year the terror alert goes from yellow to orange right after the last weekend of Christmas shopping (wouldn't want to spook consumers) and the President and Security Czar come on the radio to let us know that we are free to go about our daily business, shop, party etc, whilst they, our lords and protectors, defend us from unimaginable horrors hinted at in "chatter" they are apparently constantly monitoring.

I don't know about you, but I'm just a little spooked by the annual construction of a threat against which our administration, playing the role of the good father, assures us it is protecting us. What is the purpose of this new ritual? To send us the message that if George, John, and Tom weren't there to protect us we would all be killed by terrorists while we open our presents? And that if we aren't we owe it to the vigilance of Our Great Leader? That this Terrorist Attack Free Christmas is brought to you by your friends at the Department of Homeland Security?

Forgive me, but it seems to me that when we allow our Government's vigilance to supplant our own, the terrorists have won.
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Stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.
--George W. Bush

So any day now, he's going to go before congress and demand the repeal of the USA Patriot Act, right?
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Who'd have guessed it? The feds are abusing the Patriot Act. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that Osama Bin Laden must be taking his ease in Kennebunkport, this has just worked out so WELL for the Bushies.
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About 2/3rds of the way through my afternoon I received a call from one of the many programmers of middle eastern descent that I support. He was in an upper midwestern airport and was calling to notify me that his notebook (a company asset) was confiscated during security screening. They claimed it might contain explosives.

Now in a previous assignment, my caucasian colleagues were flying all over the country doing an XP rollout. One of them got home to discover that his leatherman tool (which has a blade) was in his notebook bag the whole time. He had passed through 3 or 4 security checkpoints like that. He didn't know whether to be more scared that he might have been flagged, or that he wasn't.

So clearly, the case here is one of racial profiling. Understandable, one might argue, all things considered. But anti-Arab prejudice proved a red herring in the Oklahoma City case, and my second point above illustrates just how easy it would be for another McVeigh type to hijack a plane.

But Tom Ridge is sure keeping us safe from those evil programmers.
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It is generally well known that yesterday Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem. Sharon is considering how to respond. I think it best if he doesn't, because to do so relieves Abbas of responsibility for dealing with his terrorism problem. After all, if Sharon is willing to look the part of the bad guy, why shouldn't Abbas let him?

What is not so generally well known, however, is something I learned from Pacifica Networks "Free Speech Radio News" yesterday. It seems the US deported a bunch of Middle Eastern men, most of whom committed the crime of not having their papers in order while being Middle Eastern men. Among these were a number of Palestinian men. One was a father of nine, happy, i'm sure to be away from the fighting, arbitrarily separated from his family to be returned to the war-zone he fled. Another was a middle aged diabetic who went untreated while in our custody and is now blind as a result.

Now while the "Free Speech Radio" agenda of portraying Palestinian Terrorists as noble freedom fighters fighting evil Jews offends me (I prefer to couch this conflict as a war among intransigent idiots all around), I found this tidbit to be an interesting reflection on our so called "war on terrorism." We have basically held people without due process, cared for them so badly that one went blind, and then sent them back to the very place they fled.

Now not only is such cruelty inhumane, but, as is always the case with cruelty, it is bad strategy as well. These deportees will be very well received by terrorist organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah. Their stories will be canonized in their terrorist curricula and they will themselves be living proof of every anti-American sentiment. It is almost as if the administration wants to foster terrorism rather than fight it. If we do these things in the green wood, what will happen in the dry?

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