PLEASE SUPPORT THIS BLOG! CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION. Saturday, July 09, 2005 BRIT MUSLIM YOUTH RESPOND: More encouragement, as well as some cowering, and Blair-blaming. - 1:23:00 PM BENEDICT STRIKES AGAIN: One the great distinctions between Roman Catholicism and protestant fundamentalism in recent times has been Catholicism's respect for free scientific inquiry, specifically comfort with evolutionary biology. Reason and faith are not in conflict, the Second Council told us, and the Church has nothing to fear from open scientific inquiry, based on empirical research and peer-reviewed study. Not for us Catholics the know-nothingism of the literalist fundamentalists, who still hold that the world was made in seven literal days, or that Adam and Eve literally existed, or that God somehow directed the random process of natural selection. Well, now we have Benedict in charge and the rush back to the Middle Ages, already seen in fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Protestantism, looks as if it is going to be endorsed in the Vatican. I expected reactionary radicalism from Benedict. But this kind of stupidity? I fear there's much more to come. Remember that Ratzinger was an anti-intellectual intellectual. Free thought not controlled by Vatican diktat is anathema to him. And so we return to the nineteenth century. The thinking may also be nakedly political. Benedict - in order to pursue his secular war against freedom for gays, or reproductive freedom - needs an alliance with the Protestant right. This is exactly a way to bolster the new anti-modern Popular Front. It would be depressing if it weren't also infuriating.
IRSHAD: The Huffington Post is full of part-time bloggers calling for negotiating with al Qaeda, withdrawing from Iraq, and generally laying the blame for the mass murder of innocents on George Bush and Tony Blair. But as part of Arianna's attempt to credentialize her blog as something more than a collection of far left paranoids and Bush-haters, she does have a few non-Fiskies. Among them is my friend Irshad Manji. Here's her post demanding a stand from Muslims, and not just public rhetorical blather. It was written on the day of the massacres in London:
The preachers will express condolences for the victims and condemnations of the criminals. Then they'll add, "But Britain should have never invited this kind of response by joining America in the invasion of Iraq."
The trouble with this line of reasoning is that terrorists have never needed an Iraq debacle to justify their violent jihads. What exactly was the Iraq of 1993, when Islamic radicals tried to blow up the World Trade Center? Or of 2000, when the USS Cole was attacked? Hell, that assault took place after U.S. military intervention saved thousands of Muslims in Bosnia.
If staying out of Iraq protected anyone from terrorism, then why did "insurgents" last year kidnap two journalists from France -- the most anti-war, anti-Bush nation in the West? Even overt solidarity with the people of Iraq, demonstrated by CARE's top relief worker in the area, Margaret Hassan, didn't shield her from assassination.
These are the facts that ordinary Muslims must take to their preachers at Friday's sermons. A clear repudiation of the London bombings will not bring back the dead. What it can do is help the rest of the world differentiate between the moderates and the apologists.
You can find some encouraging responses here. One step, as Irshad implies, could be to abandon the noxious bill now before parliament making it a crime to "defame" Islam. In effect, the bill would make it a crime to abhor Islamist terror and to ascribe murderous intent it to a twisted, but still vibrant, part of modern Islam. In other words, the bill would make it much harder to make distinctions between legitimate Islam and murderous Islamism. Such a distinction is critical to winning this war. Making it legally perilous to speak out about this is a step quite firmly in the wrong direction.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The most dangerous of devotions, in my opinion, is the one endemic to Christianity: I was not born to be of this world. With a second life waiting, suffering can be endured- especially in other people. The natural environment can be used up. Enemies of the faith can be savaged and suicidal martyrdom praised." - E. O. Wilson, "Consilience." - 1:13:00 PM
Friday, July 08, 2005 WE'RE NOT AFRAID: Another wonderful collective blog of images - sending a message to the medievalist murderers of New York, Bali, Aldgate and Baghdad. Check it out. - 8:14:00 PM WHERE'S THE MUSLIM GANDHI? Charles Moore asks an important question. I have to say I'm disappointed by how weak the Muslim response seems to have been in Britain. Money quote:
It is only when you start thinking about what we are not getting from leaders of British Muslims, and indeed Muslim religious leadership throughout the world, that you start to see how much needs doing. The moderates are not pressed hard for anything more than a general condemnation of the extremists. When did you last hear criticisms of named extremist groups and organisations by Muslim leaders, or support for their expulsion, imprisonment or extradition? How often do you see fatwas issued against suicide bombers and other terrorists, or statements by learned men declaring that people who commit such deeds will go to hell? When do Muslim leaders and congregations insist that a particular imam leave his mosque because of the poison that he disseminates every Friday? When did a British Muslim last go after a Muslim who advocates or practises violence with anything like the zeal with which so many went after Salman Rushdie?
That last question is particularly acute, I think.
THAT BRITISH COP: You may have seen him on TV. Always calm, authoritative, he's Brian Paddick, London's Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, and the chief police spokesman in Britain's capital. And yes, he's openly gay. It really isn't an issue over there any more. One more reason to be proud of my homeland. - 7:55:00 PM QUOTE OF THE DAY: "JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Hitchens, is Senator Clinton correct?
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: I have no idea. My presumption would be that she's just fooling with the numbers. But that's just because I don't like her and can't stand the sight of her."
Give him points for honesty. (Hat tip: Crooks and Liars, who, of course, have no sense of humor.) - 5:01:00 PM DUMB MEDIA CRITICISM: Here's a piece of idiocy, approvingly quoted by Glenn Reynolds:
I bet if the media voluntarily stopped showing any pictures of all terror attacks, that the terror would stop. Thus ending the GWOT without a shot. This policy would be NO DIFFERENT than how they cover folks who run on to baseball fields: they do NOT show them on TV; they ignore them. Would the media ever put peace above their ratings/profits? Never.
Glenn comments: "Sadly, that's probably right." I suppose I see the underlying point: that terror needs media oxygen to survive. But the notion that we should somehow not cover mass murder, or that it's equivalent to misbehavior at sporting events, or that the only reason for covering it is "ratings/profits" is nutty. People have a right to know what's going on in their own countries and around the world. If the MSM decided to stop reporting terror attacks, bloggers would fill the gap. Yesterday, for example, was remarkable for the first-hand accounts of terror we were able to read - within hours of the massacres - by citizen journalists. Would Glenn like to see them silenced? Yes, these events shouldn't be hyped; yes, they should be put in context. But this out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality is a form of denial. The same goes for abuse and torture accusations. Instapundit won't actually link to credible accounts. By ignoring them, he somehow thinks they don't exist or will go away. They won't. Similarly, exposing the violence perpetrated by the Islamists is simply what the media does. Moreoever, it doesn't always help the terrorists; it also hurts them. We need to see the atrocities these fanatics commit, however appalling, however vile. The job of the media, even in wartime, is to relay facts, not to skew coverage for purposes of morale. - 4:54:00 PM FIXING GITMO: What Washington needs to do. Jon Rauch brings his usual clarity to the legal question, although I'm not as sanguine as he is about what may have happened during Gitmo interrogations. - 4:35:00 PM GERMAN REAX TO LONDON: Some encouraging realism about the Jihadists in the German media are detailed here. - 4:24:00 PM THE T-WORD: The BBC's original references to "terrorist" bomb attacks seem to have now been removed from the news service's material. Harry's Place investigates. - 4:20:00 PM THE METH CRISIS: Some encouraging signs that the Bush administration may shift priorities in the drug war. - 12:49:00 PM QUOTE OF THE DAY: J.R.R. Tolkien's tribute to the stoicism of Little England:
"[Merry and Pippn] turned and walked side by side slowly along the line of the river. Behind them the light grew in the East. As they walked they compared notes, talking lightly in hobbit-fashion of the things that had happened since their capture. No listener would have guessed from their words that they had suffered cruelly, and been in dire peril, going without hope towards torment and death; or that even now, as they knew well, they had little chance of ever finding friend or safety again. "'You seem to have been doing well, Master Took,' said Merry. 'You will get almost a chapter in old Bilbo's book, if ever I get a chance to report to him. Good work . . . But I wonder if anyone will ever pick up your trail and find that brooch. I should hate to lose mine, but I am afraid yours is gone for good . . . '"
Very English chit-chat. From the "Two Towers." - 12:46:00 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I really appreciated what you wrote this morning regarding the nature of your blog. As a reader, I can say that it has been very refreshing to know that there is at least one political commentator who has not firmly and blindly allied himself to one of the two camps in our bipolar political climate. I absolutely love that you have shown, repeatedly over the years, an ability to actually change your mind, which again, is a precious commodity in the times in which we find ourselves.
That being said, I want to raise something regarding that quote from your blog from 2002:
"These terrorists are not soldiers. They are beneath such an honorific. They are not even criminals. In that respect, Dick Cheney's and Donald Rumsfeld's contempt for the whines of those complaining about poor treatment is fully justified."
Since you held this attitude then, is it not possible that the same kind of attitude animated the actions of those who committed or abetted the system of torture that eventually emerged? I must say, back in 2002 I held this attitude as well. I think at that time the anger over 9/11 was still very acute in my mind. But the passing of time brings a different perspective, doesn't it? Not that we all should forget about 9/11, but that in our anger we should never push aside the values that make our society unique. I fear that in our collective post 9-11 rage, most of us, including you, including myself, forgot this. And I think the timing of this discussion is important, coming as it does one day after the attacks in London. In the face of such violence, anger is acceptable. But I hope Londoners don't make the same mistake many of us did after 9/11, and allow their anger to overcome their principles. Given what little I know about the spirit of the British people, somehow I sense that they will pull this off better than we did.
This subject also reminds me of an article I read recently about Abraham Lincoln, which discussed his unique emotional intelligence, chief among which was his ability to empathize with his enemies. Near the conclusion of the Civil War, he told Sherman that he hoped that leaders of the Confederacy, such as Jefferson Davis, could somehow escape the country without his knowing it. Even after a long, tremendously bloody civil war, Lincoln still had the capacity to sympathize with those who had caused so much bloodshed. In fact, in one speech he indicated that if the situations had been reversed, and if Northerners had found themselves forced with the decision to either protect the slavery system or give it up, that Northerners probably would have come to the same conclusion Southerners did. Perhaps that spirit should reside in us during these difficult times as well. Like Lincoln, we need firm resolve, but we also need his essential humanity, and we need to recognize the essential humanity of those who would do us harm." - 12:33:00 PM APPEASEMENT ROUND-UP: Here's a selection from Britain; here's a three-part round-up of surrender-now pieces from the Guardian. Robert Fisk sinks to the occasion with this interesting formulation (for subscribers only):
'If you bomb our cities,' Osama bin Laden said in one of his recent video tapes, 'we will bomb yours.' There you go, as they say. It was crystal clear Britain would be a target ever since Tony Blair decided to join George Bush's 'war on terror' and his invasion of Iraq. We had, as they say, been warned.
It's Blair's fault. But notice one word that does not appear: Afghanistan. That's a war Fisk also opposed. The solution? Give them what they want. And hope they don't want more. - 12:29:00 PM EPIPHANY WATCH: Just as in the U.S. after 9/11, some who once dismissed terrorism as an over-rated threat have begun to change their minds a little. - 12:09:00 PM THE BBC AGAIN: Back to the old ways. According to the Beeb, the bombings were apparently a response to the re-election of Tony Blair. His support for the Iraq war is somehow responsible. Money quote about Britain's support for democratizing Iraq:
Britain therefore remains in the front line, and the option of withdrawing from Iraq and minimising the risk of further attacks is not presently open to British voters. They have taken their decision and must accept the consequences.
But didn't the al Qaeda group claiming responsibility also cite intervention in Afghanistan as a grievance? And does this BBC editorialist believe that somehow the Jihadists are interested in some kind of deal with Britain, rather than being fanatically opposed to all forms of government that allow for religious and political freedom? Here's his attempt to answer that question:
There are those who argue that it does not matter what Western governments do these days, that they are all under threat and some will come under attack. However, that discounts the level of political thinking which is evident among al-Qaeda groups. They certainly have their political strategy and judge governments accordingly. Al-Qaeda might not have a detailed political manifesto but it does have aims.
No space left for him to detail those aims. One of them is making sure that a writer for the BBC will never write freely again. You can, of course, infer some kind of political strategy behind this BBC argument: deflect the attacks to America or the Middle East; if we can keep our heads down, they won't target us first; if we withdraw from Iraq, they'll leave us alone. Sure, we can agree to disagree about the Iraq war. But the notion that al Qaeda needed such a war as a pretext for murdering Westerners is simply belied by history; and it represents a failure to understand even the basics of their ideology. - 12:03:00 PM RESPONDING TO CRITICS I: Nothing I'm not used to. Yesterday, James Taranto took yet another dig at my early attitude to reports of "poor treatment" of terrorist captives. In January 2002 and for a while thereafter, I somewhat summarily dismissed reports of mistreatment of detainees as probably enemy propaganda and certainly not something that should worry us too much:
These terrorists are not soldiers. They are beneath such an honorific. They are not even criminals. In that respect, Dick Cheney's and Donald Rumsfeld's contempt for the whines of those complaining about poor treatment is fully justified.
I'm not proud of those sentences, but they rested on a basic level of trust that of course enemy combatants might be treated roughly, but would not be subject to systematic abuse, torture or beatings. This was the American military. This was the Bush administration, people I trusted. I had no idea - and perhaps I should be held responsible for my naivete - that memos were being written allowing for torture and abuse to occur under the legal cover of a president's wartime authority. Abu Ghraib had not yet been exposed. The hundreds of incidents of abuse, the dozens of prisoners who died while in captivity, the smaller number who have indeed been confirmed as tortured to death: these facts I did not then know. But after Abu Ghraib, I obviously changed my tune. If that could happen, I worried about what else could have occurred. I read the record. I explored the evidence. I came to a different conclusion. The facts available to me changed; and so I changed my mind. Why is that open process to be mocked? When you blog half a million words a year, and you do so for five years, and you use the blog form as a way to think out loud, the notion that your views will remain identical throughout strikes me as preposterous. When the facts available to me change, I change my mind. But then I guess I'm not James Taranto.
RESPONDING TO CRITICS II: Now for some criticism from the left, i.e. from Atrios and Kos. (Atrios Dowdifies my quote, making it seem as if I wrote it, while in context I'm actually relating the arguments of someone in the Bush administration.) I've long written about the "flypaper theory," the idea that somehow it's a good thing to attract terrorists to Iraq to fight them there, rather than here, and to deploy an aggressive American force to counter Islamist terror in Iraq. From the beginning, I've written about the potential benefits and costs of such a strategy. And to be honest, I still don't know how to judge it. I'm not prepared to dismiss it out of hand; but the evidence against its efficacy also seems to me to have accumulated over the past couple of years. You can read my treatment of the issue over the years here, here and here. I'd say that the weight of the evidence now bears against this idea; but I don't think the debate is over, or that the concept was obviously nutty from the start. If you want to read a blog that will always take the position of the Bush administration on the war, there are plenty out there. Ditto if you want to read a relentlessly anti-Bush blog, like Kos. But this blog is a little different. It's an attempt to think out loud, which means there will be shifts over time in argument and emphasis. It may appear wishy-washy or excitable or whatever. But it's my best attempt to figure things out as I go along. If you don't like it, read someone else. If you have a point to make, please email me. I try and read as much criticism of my fallible work as I can.
QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "We are not legislating, honorable members, for people far away and not known by us. We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and, our families: at the same time we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members... Today, the Spanish society answers to a group of people who, during many years have, been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied, and their liberty oppressed. Today the Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their liberty. It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone's triumph. It is also the triumph of those who oppose this law, even though they do not know this yet: because it is the triumph of Liberty. Their victory makes all of us (even those who oppose the law) better people, it makes our society better. Honorable members, There is no damage to marriage or to the concept of family in allowing two people of the same sex to get married. To the contrary, what happens is this class of Spanish citizens get the potential to organize their lives with the rights and privileges of marriage and family. There is no danger to the institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law enhances and respects marriage." - Spanish prime minister Luis Zapatero, hailing the inclusion of homosexual couples in his country's marital laws. - 11:48:00 AM
Thursday, July 07, 2005 TEAM BRITAIN: Fuck yeah, they explained. Money quote:
Driving on the wrong side of the road! FUCK YEAH! Greasy fish dripping through a newspaper! FUCK YEAH! Page Three! FUCK YEAH! Alfred Hitchcock! FUCK YEAH! Eric Clapton! FUCK YEAH! Going to see Mark Knopfler Tonight in London! FUCK YEAH! Crabtree and Evelyn! FUCK YEAH! Shortbread from Marks and Spencer! FUCK YEAH! Rudyard Kipling! FUCK YEAH! Lord Stanley and his Cup given to Canada! FUCK YEAH! Tweed with patches on the elbows! FUCK YEAH! And The Magna Carta! BIG FUCK YEAH!
That's enough fuck yeahs - ed. - 8:45:00 PM A MUSLIM EMAILS: "Leading a sort of James-Bondy-but-'extremist muslim' lifestyle with lots of sneaking around and secret passwords and high explosives and Manichaean struggles between the collosal forces of Good and Evil is so much more fun than the actual process of creating goodness, justice and peace in the world, which lie in the small struggles of everyday life.
As a Muslim, I am horrified by these attacks in Britain." - 6:21:00 PM "LET ME COUNT THE WAYS": Pro-war British leftist, Norm Geras, details how terrorists kill. And yes, today, on the BBC, they're "terrorists". Yesterday they were "militants." I guess it's all part of a learning process. - 6:18:00 PM "THE JEWS KNEW": Yes, this hideous tired old canard pops up again. - 6:10:00 PM POEM OF THE DAY:
"London pride has been handed down to us, London pride is a flower that's free. London pride means our own dear town to us, And our pride it forever will be. Grey city Stubbornly implanted, Taken so for granted For a thousand years. Stay, city, Smokily enchanted, Cradle of our memories and hopes and fears. Every Blitz Your resistance Toughening, From the Ritz To the Anchor and Crown, Nothing ever could override The pride of London Town."
What the attacks also show, however, is that well co-ordinated though the four explosions were, they were not terribly effective. Chance plays a big role in such attacks. The bombs in Madrid last year which killed 191 people might have killed many more had the station roof collapsed. The September 11th hijackings might have killed fewer than the eventual 2,752 had the twin towers of the World Trade Centre not melted down and collapsed. As The Economist went to press, the toll in the four London bombs was not clear, but the estimate of at least 33 deaths was thankfully far smaller than in Madrid. By the terrible calculus of terrorism, the attacks should thus be counted as a failure - sign of weakness, not strength.
And no WMDs. For that, relief.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "You are right to point out the British stoicism in the face of the attacks; it's quite admirable. However, your expat Brit emailer from London stretches his comparison too far. Perhaps if Westminister Abbey had a plane rammed into its side and over 3,000 people died, the sports commentators might feel the need to make a mention of it. It's wonderful the Brits are going on with their lives as normal and the Americans might indeed do well to take note, but spare us comparisons between the attacks, because they aren't at all comparable." Point taken. I should add that celebrating British stoicism does not imply that somehow the American response is inferior. It isn't. Americans see a problem and want to fix it; Brits sometimes endure it. Some synthesis of these two approaches may be helpful in dealing with Islamo-fascist terror. I don't see either as somehow better than the other - just different. - 4:39:00 PM WHY CRICKET MATTERS TODAY: An emailer reminds me of another Englishman's commentary on seeking pleasure and diversion even in wartime, perhaps especially in wartime:
"I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun... The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward. Men are different. They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the latest new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache: it is our nature."
C.S. Lewis, of course, in a 1939 sermon at St Mary the Virgin in Oxford. Yes, England beat Australia today - by nine wickets. - 4:10:00 PM
- 3:43:00 PM OR CRICKET ...: Another compellingly British response to terror from an emailer in London:
I'm in London today... was on my way to Covent Garden from Paddington when they closed down the tube. I'm an ex-pat Brit (18 years in New York) who was in the Big Apple for the World Trade Center attacks. I've been alternating between home and down the pub since lunchtime, and in my local the BBC news coverage is on one channel, while the cricket is on another... England well on the way to beating the Aussies in a one-day match. Coming from America, where sports commentators felt compelled to litter their coverage of the most meaningless event with pious platitudes and references to the attacks, it's quite remarkable... every now and again Sky Sports runs a very subtle trailer on the screen advising people that there has been an attack and they can watch the coverage of Sky News, but the commentators have made almost no reference to the bombings. No one has suggested that we stop playing cricket because of events in London. No one has said, "Of course this game fades into insignificance compared to events in the real world." Nor has anyone offered up the inane idea that if we stop playing cricket the terrorists will have won. The idea of stopping the game appears not to have occurred to anyone, which I think is wonderful and yet another example of the British stoicism of which you write. It makes me realize how much I've missed London.
They will, of course, break for tea. - 3:36:00 PM DOWN TO THE PUB: More reax from Londoners, especially commuters:
Work's over but there's little chance of getting home right now. Most of us are just going to go to the pub until the traffic has died down. It's not callousness or indifference to carry on as normal, it's quiet defiance.
As in the olden days, as Churchill once said. - 3:33:00 PM ATTACKING BRITISH MUSLIMS: Johann Hari makes a good point, as so often:
In the scarred miles between each explosion – walking from Moorgate to Liverpool Street down to King's Cross – you could see several fights taking shape yesterday that will grip us for years. The fight against Islamic fundamentalism became clearer. Anybody who tells you these bombers are fighting for the rights of Muslims in Iraq, occupied Palestine or Chechnya should look at the places they chose to bomb. Aldgate? The poorest and most Muslim part of the country. Edgware Road? The centre of Muslim and Arab life in London and, arguably, Europe. Does anybody need greater evidence that these Islamic fundamentalists despise Muslims who choose to live in free societies, and they would enslave Muslims everywhere if they were given the opportunity? Nor is this tit-for-tat revenge for deaths in Iraq: very similar jihadist plots have been foiled in France and Germany, countries that opposed the invasion. Anybody who doubted that the fight against Islamic fundamentalism – a murderous totalitarian ideology – was always our fight should know better now.
I wonder if this attack will be in some ways a reverse Pearl Harbor, when Britain rouses itself to a fuller commitment to the war that was already underway elsewhere, the way America finally threw its full weight behind Britain in 1941. Britain, of course, has already been deeply involved, in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this war has now struck home - in one of the most diverse and liberal and dynamic cities in the world. May the lion roar back. - 3:25:00 PM
QUOTE FOR THE DAY II: "What the fuck do you think you're doing? This is London. We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us. Do you have any idea how many times our city has been attacked? Whatever you're trying to do, it's not going to work. All you've done is end some of our lives, and ruin some more. How is that going to help you? You don't get rewarded for this kind of crap. And if, as your MO indicates, you're an al-Qaeda group, then you're out of your tiny minds. Because if this is a message to Tony Blair, we've got news for you. We don't much like our government ourselves, or what they do in our name. But, listen very clearly. We'll deal with that ourselves. We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives. And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub. So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city." - London News Review. - 1:05:00 PM ANOTHER BRITISH RESPONSE: If not tea, beer:
14:05 - I tell you what, if this is an "Islamic" terrorist attack, they're doing a piss-poor job. The pubs are all packed out, people sipping their pints happily, all a tad pissed off, but basically fine with it. Nice one, Al Quaeda - you profess to be from a teetotal religion, and you've given the pub trade a massive mid-week boost.
Travelling just past Edgware Station the train entered a tunnel. We shook like any usual tube train as it rattled down the tracks. It was then I heard a loud bang.
The train left the tracks and started to rumble down the tunnel. It was incapable of stopping and just rolled on. A series of explosions followed as if tube electric motor after motor was exploding. Each explosion shook the train in the air and seems to make it land at a lower point.
I fell to the ground like most people, scrunched up in a ball in minimize injury. At this point I wondered if the train would ever stop, I thought "please make it stop", but it kept going. In the end I just wished that it didn't hit something and crush. It didn't.
When the train came to a standstill people were screaming, but mainly due to panic as the carriage was rapidly filling with smoke and the smell of burning motors was giving clear clues of fire.
As little as 5 seconds later we were unable to see and had all hit the ground for the precious air that remaining. We were all literally choking to death.
The carriage however was pretty sealed; no window could open, no door would slide and no hammers seemed to exist to grant exit. If there were instructions on how to act then they were impossible to see in the thick acrid black smoke.
In the end I opted to do something about the problem and began shouting to find out in which direction the fires were emanating from. I then tested with the inter-carriage door to see if venting the smoke caused fire to spread. It didn't so I held the door open trying to clear the carriage and look for escape routes.
The train was packed and so there was no escape to the other carriages. Through the gap between the carriages however I saw an escape route and it calmed me from panic; if things got bad I could see an exit along the tunnel wall.
The fire concerned me and the acrid smoke never seems to fully dissipate. I calmed passengers playing down the issue as a bad tube network and a network derailment. Naturally people were in a mixture of states from quiet to abject panic in all its colours.
People could be heard screaming from all around; people were trapped, yet no-one could move and do anything.
After an eternity a guard moved through the carriages and asked everyone to move in the opposite direction. No one however moved, I think they were all in shock.
May the murdered rest in peace. - 12:32:00 PM THE BRITS AND STOICISM: Here's one cultural difference between Brits and Americans. Brits regard the best response to outrage to carry on as if nothing has happened. Yes, they will fight back. But first, they will just carry on as normal. Right now, a million kettles are boiling. "Is that the best you can do?" will be a typical response. Stoicism is not an American virtue. Apart from a sense of humor, it is the ultimate British one. Neveratoss captures this perfectly today:
Went to the pub at lunchtime to see the latest new on events in London. Three young guys were sitting directly in front of the TV as details of a major terrorist attack on London were emerging – all three avidly reading the Sun's account of the Steven Gerard/Liverpool fiasco.
That's a reference to a soccer story. Do not mistake this attitude for indifference. It's a very English form of determination. - 12:13:00 PM QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I have a prediction to make, that tomorrow we'll find out whether Britons are, still, in fact, Britons. Many years ago I was working in The City and there were two events that made travel into work almost impossible. The first was a series of storms that brought down power lines, blocked train routes and so on. Not surprisingly, the place was empty the next day. Why bother to struggle through? The other event was an IRA bomb which caused massive damage and loss of life. Trains were disrupted, travel to work the next day was horribly difficult and yet there were more people at work than on a normal day. There was no co-ordination to this, no instructions went out, but it appeared that people were crawling off their sick beds in order to be there at work the next day, thrusting their mewling and pewling infants into the arms of anyone at all so that they could be there.
Yes, we'll take an excuse for a day off, throw a sickie. But you threaten us, try to kill us? Kill and injure some of us?
Fuck you, sunshine.
We'll not be having that.
No grand demonstrations, few warlike chants, a desire for revenge, of course, but the reaction of the average man and woman in the street? Yes, you’ve tried it now bugger off. We’re not scared, no, you won’t change us. Even if we are scared, you can still bugger off." - Tim Worstall, Brit blogger. Priceless. I love my homeland. - 11:58:00 AM ANOTHER CLASSIC BRIT: Here's a great one from a blogger:
I just rang up Lord Coe to be the first to congratulate him and to nominate a new, typically British, Olympic Sport – War! We're very good at it and the French are, quite frankly, merde! Germany are pretty good but lack a decent finish, the Italians don't quite get the "half time no changing sides" rule and Argentinians are rubbish even when playing at home. Did I miss anyone out?
He wrote that yesterday. Now we know who he missed out. - 11:47:00 AM LIVINGSTONE RESPLENDENT: Yes, it's old Red Ken himself, the famously left-wing mayor of London. Here's what he just said:
"This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful; it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers; it was aimed at ordinary working class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christians, Hindu and Jew, young and old, indiscriminate attempt at slaughter irrespective of any considerations, of age, of class, of religion, whatever, that isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it's just indiscriminate attempt at mass murder, and we know what the objective is, they seek to divide London. They seek to turn Londoners against each other and Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack... I wish to speak through you directly, to those who came to London to claim lives, nothing you do, how many of us you kill will stop that flight to our cities where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another, whatever you do, how many you kill, you will fail."
Amen a million times. How dumb are these fascists to take on the Brits and the Americans? Sure, we fight with each other; but up against this kind of evil, our divisions are petty. I also admire Livingstone's ability to see how liberal and left-wing Londoners who have helped build an amazingly vibrant, diverse and tolerant city are particularly affronted by these medieval monsters. Maybe this will help build support for a war that is as unavoidable as it is unlosable. I don't mean we won't continue to differ over means and methods and tactics and strategy. We will. That's our strength. But right and left, we are in this together. - 11:19:00 AM ONE BRIT RESPONDS: I liked this email from one of the Brits:
Londoners (Brits) will fight back. That is obvious. Always have always will. One thing I've got to disagree with you on is that there will be a push for policy change but not for the reason Galloway and others suggest. Brits will demand that we hand over the calm south to Iraqis and move troops (in particular SAS) to Afghanistan. There are some people in the mountains that we need to settle a score with.
That's the spirit. - 11:13:00 AM SUICIDE BOMBERS? Scuttlebutt from friends in London. Just passing along: cell-phones don't work on the tube, so the likelihood of suicide bombers is that much higher; ditto the bus. The bus behind the one attacked was packed with school-kids. "There's a surprising lack of panic," my sister tells me. When it's really serious, Londoners calm down. On the bright side, seniors are reminding the young that this is nothing compared to the Blitz. It's the anniversary of victory in World War II, so the memories are particularly fresh. My sister is taking care of a neighbor's child whose mother is stranded in London (but ok). What's she doing? Making him tea. - 11:04:00 AM THE VOICE OF APPEASEMENT: Of course, George Galloway had to offer the following statement:
The loss of innocent lives, whether in this country or Iraq, is precisely the result of a world that has become a less safe and peaceful place in recent years. We have worked without rest to remove the causes of such violence from our world. We argued, as did the Security Services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain. Tragically Londoners have now paid the price of the government ignoring such warnings. We urge the government to remove people in this country from harms way, as the Spanish government acted to remove its people from harm, by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East. Only then will the innocents here and abroad be able to enjoy a life free of the threat of needless violence.
The opposite, of course, is true. If we give in to these forces of murder in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, their determination to attack us will only grow. While Brits may well have strong disagreements about the war and the conduct of the war, as Americans do, I do not believe that they are in any doubt as to who is responsible for these barbaric acts; and will not flinch from fighting the real enemy. That enemy is not our own flawed, fallible but elected governments. It is the people who would remove our ability to elect anyone. - 10:59:00 AM NOW, LONDON: I guess this was inevitable at some point; but, of course, it is still horrifying and barbaric and a reminder of the terrible danger we still live under. My brother, who works in London, is fine. I found these images, taken by ordinary people and posted by them, to be among the most distressing and necessary. This one reminds me, as it must, of the blitz. Londoners, unlike New Yorkers on that September morning, have dealt with this kind of violence before and have endured. My father's response will perhaps be typical of many, as it often is. He told me not to worry, that this was "not nice," and that "we're too bloody p.c. over here." From one blog, an eye-witness account:
I'm fine, but I was in a tube at King's Cross when when one of the explosions happened. I was stuck in a smoke-filled, blackened tube that reeked of burning for over 30 minutes. So many people were hysterical. I truly thought I was going to die and was just hoping it would be from smoke inhalation and not fire. I felt genuine fear but kept calm (and quite proud of myself for that). Eventually people smashed through the windows and we were lifted out all walked up the tunnel to the station. There was chaos outside and I started to walk down Euston Road (my face and clothes were black) towards work and all of a sudden there was another huge bang and people started running up the road in the opposite direction to where I was walking and screaming and crying. I now realise this must have been one of the buses exploding.
The coordination is like Madrid. But Britons will not respond by blaming their government. They will respond by stiffening their will to fight back.
AN EMAIL FROM IRAQ: This is as good a time as any to print an encouraging email from a military medic in the field. Some excerpts:
We are riding out the ninth month in country and it seems like I have been here for half of my life. I have even started to recognize the faces of ordinary Iraqi citizens when we pass through the local villages. I have watched this country change over the last few months. When we first arrived, the main mission was to gain control over the area. Terror was rampant and gunfights, ambushes and IED's were all we seemed to deal with. The unit we replaced had not done as good a job as they could have (or maybe we are just better trained for it), and as a result, we got the impression that we were in for a rough ride. My battalion commander is an awesome leader, though, and we quickly started to gain control. As an example of this, when we first arrived, the newly formed Iraqi units were afraid to even show their faces while in uniform. In November, when threatened by the insurgents, they all left their posts and hid. Since then, we have trained three new battalions of soldiers. We have run four basic training classes and are on our fourth NCO course. We used to have to practically drag the IA (Iraqi Army) soldiers along on missions. Now it is hard to keep up with them.
For my medics and me, the daily mission was usually at night and was to root out and capture the bad guy. Now, it is daytime MEDCAP's (medical civil action program) where I usually spend an hour or two playing football with the kids out on their front lawn after seeing to a few cases of arthritis in the elderly. We have set up and supplied each of the three IA battalions with the same supplies I run my aid station with and have started training their medics to take care of their own. One of my proudest moments was recently when, in the middle of the night, an IA team brought in a terrorist (yes, we still treat them) who had multiple gun shot wounds to the leg and arm. I started the routine of assigning my medics the tasks of vitals, IV, airway and such. The IA medic grabbed me by the arm and asked why I didn't give him a position. I showed him a particularly nasty wound on the leg and told him to go to town. He cleaned, wrapped and splinted it as good as any of my medics could have done. When we were done, I told him he did an awesome job and asked him why he even bothered to bring the guy to me instead of taking care of him himself. He told me that he has such respect for us that he thought he would let us get in on the action because he knows we like doing our job so m uch. It was then that I reminded him that the more he shows his country that he can fend for himself, the sooner it will be that we can get back to our own families.
This past Saturday, an event took place that could be remembered as another milestone in the history of the new Iraq. In Quyarrah, over a thousand citizens and police held the first "march against terrorism". It was led by sheiks, mukhtars, and imams. They are the mayors and religious leaders from the local areas. The crowd was composed of people from all over the Ninewah Province. That is the whole area my battalion covers (basically all land south of Mosul for about 60 miles). Although we had Special Forces in and around the area, the only other US presence was my medics. Even then, we were well out of sight on the edge of town. The people have said they are tired of the terrorism and are not afraid any more. Kudos to them. There was not a single casualty at the event. If you are interested, there should be a ton of press coverage floating about. I hear there were over 10 different news crews on site.
My emailer tells me this guy is not a dreamer; that his previous emails have been pretty gloomy. He sees progress. If he does, so should we. The war in London will be won in part in Iraq. Resolve in one place is indistinguishable from resolve in the other. - 10:42:00 AM
Wednesday, July 06, 2005 ARE BLOGS THE NEW SHIELDS? Jeff Jarvis poses an interesting question. - 6:21:00 PM FITZGERALD IS (LARGELY) RIGHT: My readers are better than Google. Here's a handy explanation:
The logic of Fitzgerald has sound basis in the American legal system. Despite the noble work journalists sometimes do, reporters, much like any other citizen/resident, do not have carte blanche to aid in the concealment of a criminal act simply on the basis of their profession. In a case based on federal law (such as the law at issue for Fitzgerald, Cooper and Miller, one making it a crime to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert agent of the United States), the Federal Rules of Evidence hold that the privileges against compulsory testimony that apply are the privileges that arise under the Common Law. Examples of these are the attorney-client privilege, the privilege against self-incrimination, the priest-penitent privilege, and the marital communications privilege. The courts have refused to recognize new privileges, such as an accountant-client or reporter-source privilege, which have never been recognized under the Common Law. For historical reasons, the ultimate value to society in ferreting out the truth in a case or controversy (here, a criminal case) through the obtainment of evidence has been ajudged paramount. Note that Judge Hogan's ruling here is based on Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that "the First Amendment interest asserted by the newsperson was outweighed by the general obligation of a citizen to appear before a grand jury or at trial, pursuant to a subpoena, and give what information he or she possesses." For more information on privileges, try the handy run-down here.
Thanks. Still, it seems to me that Fitzgerald's bald statement that no one in America can rely on confidentiality is excessive. - 5:40:00 PM WHY POT AND NOT METH? A reader provides an obvious answer:
There is a drug problem. The police will be judged by how many arrests they make, and how many tons of drugs they confiscate. It is easier and safer to arrest a bunch of hippies and college kids then it is a bunch of crazed meth producers who operate out of the trunks of cars, one of which killed an Oklahoma police officer a year or so ago. The way the police are rewarded is based on the wrong measurement. Thus the result is not ideal. The same holds true on DUI offenses. DUI is a problem, people die from it. Most DUI fatalities are caused by people driving with a blood alcohol level of .18 or above. So what is the answer? The police are judged not by DUI fatalities, but by the number of arrests they make. So the governments lower the acceptable BAC limit from .10 to .08. Now, the cops arrest a bunch of regular guys who had two beers after work, most of whom they stopped for reasons like speeding. They get to up their DUI arrest rates, simply by changing the law to ensnare more people. However, it does nothing to reduce the damage. Changing the law is easier than having more shifts out at midnight following people home from bars. People will always respond to the benchmarks by which they are judged, and governments in conjunction with the media and the public are usually focused on the wrong benchmarks.
That's why the legalization of marijuana makes so much sense. It can help law enforcement concentrate on the real drug problems, not the phony ones. - 5:28:00 PM RE-THINKING CIRCUMCISION: The data seems clear enough to me; and certainly clear enough for there to be a push for widespread circumcision of males in those parts of Africa where the procedure is rare. Some skepticism is in order, however:
Although the apparent protective effect of circumcision has been noted for more than 20 years, doubts linger as to whether circumcision itself is protective, or whether the lower risk may be the result of cultural practices among those who circumcise. HIV rates are low in Muslim communities, for example, which practice male circumcision but also engage in ritual washing before sex and frown on promiscuity.
Does all this prompt me to reverse my view that the circumcision of infants is a violation of every man's right not to have his body mutilated without his consent? In principle, no. The studies involved adult men who agreed to be circumcised; and my position was always primarily about consent, not the procedure itself. But in practice, in Africa, obviously yes: for convenience's sake. The key thing here is reverse transmission, i.e. from women to men. If you can stop or slow the process of infection both ways, you can make a real dent in the epidemic. So as Keynes once said, when the facts change, I change my mind. - 5:01:00 PM THE LOGIC OF FITZGERALD: I'm as intrigued as anybody by the identity of the person who called Matt Cooper today to release him from the pledge of confidentiality he gave as a journalist to a source. The suspicion, obviously, is that Cooper's source is not the same as Miller's. I'm in awe of Miller's courage as she faces jail; and equally dumbfounded by the zeal of the prosecutor. This quote from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald struck me: "Journalists are not entitled to promise complete confidentiality — no one in America is." Does that mean, for example, that the doctor-patient and priest-confessee confidentiality pacts are now up for grabs by zealous prosecutors? Or that between two spouses? Just asking. - 4:51:00 PM ON THE OTHER HAND ... The Schadenfreude is irresistible. I hope they serve Chirac a nice, steaming slice of black pudding at Gleneagles. - 1:56:00 PM THE OLYMPICS: I'd comment but I find the entire event a crashing bore. I'm glad that Britain beat France. But I'd be glad if Britain beat France in a turtle race. I just hope London isn't crippled by the wrong kind of development. But if they survived the Millennium Dome, I guess they can survive anything. Even the tedium and cant of the "Olympic Spirit." Grouchy enough for ya? Bah: humbug. - 1:37:00 PM O'DONNELL AND ROVE: The questions multiply. The semantics remain. I'd almost be enjoying this, if two good people weren't facing jail-time for doing their jobs with integrity and class. - 1:15:00 PM TRADE, NOT AID: I'm relatively dismayed by the way in which some of the most paleo-liberal notions of aid to developing countries have gained traction with the antics of Live-8 and other lame pop-star posturing. There's something actually racist, I think, in arguing that Africans somehow cannot work and trade their own way to prosperity. And there's something truly dumb in not focusing on one area where the wealthy continue to punish the poor. Anne Applebaum puts it well:
[A]mong those who work seriously on Africa, it has long been clear that what Africans need isn't only cash, which can be stolen or wasted, but the opportunity to trade their way out of poverty, just as Asians did over the past several decades. Yet the current regime of agricultural tariffs, quotas and export subsidies, whether for American cotton or European sugar, so reduces the price of African agricultural products that African farmers cannot compete. Each European cow costs taxpayers $2.20 a day, while half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. Withdraw the subsidies for the cows, and Africans might even be able to make competitive cheese.
I hope the president is not too defensive at Gleneagles and points out the cheap sanctimony of the Live-8 mentality. I hope also that he revamps his own views on agricultural subsidies, which he has expanded dramatically. Charity for others often begins at home. Let's cut off wealthy agri-business first, shall we, and then talk about targeted, effective aid.
ZARQAWI ATTACKS MUSLIMS: It strikes me as actually a helpful, if of course also awful, development that the Jihadists in Iraq are now targeting diplomats from other Arab and Muslim countries. The Jihadists are not just fighting us - they're fighting any Muslims who do not hew to their murderous, medieval ideology. Jeff Jarvis makes the point with his usual eloquence and concision.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I hope when your time comes - I pray for you to die a slow, agonizingly painful, and lonely death due to complications from your HIV. Be sure to thank your pal Ronnie R. for his part in allowing AIDS to become what it did - when you see him in HELL. You are a dangerous AIDS - ridden maggot. - An HIV Negative Guy who is proud to be that way and stay that way - safely." It's worth saying that I get my fair share of homophobic emails from the right. Whatever. But many of the most vicious and personal and hateful come from the gay far left. They suffer from what many other parts (but not all) of the left wallows in: an addiction to bad news, a loathing for success, a bitterness that corrodes any ability to talk positively to people who disagree with you. Most depressing. And the intolerance! It's not like the brutal attacks I endured in the early 1990s - when my espousal of gay marriage earned the ire of the hard left. But it's still around. And they hate me and other non-left-wing gays with an intensity that is so often the hallmark of those who have lost the argument. - 12:42:00 PM METH OR POT?: For some unaccountable reason, the vast majority of resources in the "drug war" have recently been focused on the least harmful herb, marijuana, even while the meth epidemic continues to explode - across poor communities in the heartland and urban enclaves on the coasts. Crystal meth is light-years more destructive, more addictive and more socially corrosive than pot will ever be. Here's the reality:
The problem is seen as particularly bad in the Southwest, where 76 percent of counties surveyed said methamphetamine was their largest drug problem; in the Pacific Northwest, where 75 percent of those surveyed said it was; and in the Upper Midwest, where 67 percent of county officials declared methamphetamine their worst drug problem. Seventy percent of counties reported increases in robberies and burglaries because of methamphetamine; 62 percent reported increases in domestic violence; 53 percent reported an increase in assaults; and 27 reported an increase in identity theft. Half the counties surveyed said one in five inmates were in jail because of methamphetamine crimes. Many counties reported that half their jail populations were incarcerated because of methamphetamine.
This actually is a crisis. So why the misplaced emphasis on marijuana? Even opponents of the drug war, like yours truly, would make an exception for the instantly addictive, body-destroying, mind-frying chemical cocktail called meth. Why not drop the war on largely harmless pot and fight the real menace? - 12:01:00 PM PALESTINIAN FREE SPEECH: Be careful what you say, as one academic found out. - 11:49:00 AM
Tuesday, July 05, 2005 THE BRITS IN IRAQ: A British reservist differs with Juan Cole on the role of his forces in Southern Iraq. Good for Cole for posting the email. Cole also notices the hopeful Jihadist-Sunni clashes on the Syrian border, reported in greater detail in the Telegraph. - 5:22:00 PM ON SANTORUM: Another emailer reaches that asymptotic bloggy synthesis:
I agree with your last emailer that Santorum's comments aren't exactly a harbinger of the apocalypse (which seems an apt analogy when dealing with the good senator), but, like you, I found his commentary on the role of women and the importance of education highly troubling. The reactions that neocons like you and I are feeling probably have less to do with the factual accuracy of what Santorum said (of course kids would be better off with stay-at-home moms) and have more to do with our ability to view his attitudes against the backdrop of what we know Santorum believes about society. Santorum is a paleocon in the truest sense. He's the latest incarnation of Pat Buchanan. In fact, he may be more accurately described as a paleoliberal of the pre-1960s variety. The man reminds me of many older folks back in the small midwestern town in which I grew up. He thinks that gender roles should have greater societal definition. He scoffs at the need for the universality of higher education, even in this post-industrial age. He considers the pursuit of happiness to be ultimately selfish. Santorum is the opposite of a forward-thinking conservative. To the contrary, he is perpetually rooted in a time gone by, convinced that if we just bring back antequated mores and close the doors to trade and feed organized labor, the desolate factory-towns and emptying churches of Catholic Pennsylvania will boom once again and the age of innocence will return. Rooted in 1930s economics and 1950s social norms, Santorum is the past, not the future of the conservative movement.
Here's hoping. - 5:12:00 PM NOT SO FAST: David Corn examines the evidence allegedly fingering Karl Rove as Matt Cooper's source for outing Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative. He's underwhelmed. - 3:53:00 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Calm down, there, tiger. I'm no fan of Santorum, but what exactly is so wrong with those excerpts you linked to? They are certainly not worthy of the mullah comparison. Are children better off when one parent stays home to raise them, as opposed to a daycare provider? I'd be surprised if you believed that they are not. Is the feminist movement partly to blame for more mothers leaving the home to pursue professional careers at the expense of their children? Of course. Even if you disagree, is that such a radical or nonsensical position to hold? On number three, Is college the right path for everyone? I know many people who have been pushed needlessly into college only to end up with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and a tough job market to deal with. Of course, one will have more opportunities with a college education, but do you really think the solution to every single mother's woes is to pack up and go to school? Seriously, I think you are overreacting here. Just remember to take a deep breath and count to ten from now on whenever you see Santorum's name." - 3:46:00 PM THE GOOD NEWS: I'd say that this piece of news from Iraq is encouraging. Perhaps the real news from that country is that the insurgency is very slowly being divided between nationalist Sunnis and the Jihadists from abroad. I certainly hope so. We'll see as the constitutional process continues. - 3:42:00 PM SANTORUM UNPLUGGED: The Senator from Pennsylvania explains his views on the role of women. Benedict XVI - and a few mullahs in Iran - would approve. - 2:03:00 PM "KNOWINGLY": Lawrence O'Donnell parses Karl Rove's lawyer. - 1:25:00 PM THE STILL-NUTTY LEFT: The new claim is that the United States' occupation of Iraq has led to 300,000 Iraqi deaths. Tom Elia elaborates. - 1:18:00 PM WHO CHANGED MARRIAGE?: The heterosexuals, of course! Stephanie Coontz will find few dissenters on the social right. The revolution in civil marriage - in which it became about love, not property, in which women and men were equal, in which children were not necessary - all occurred before the gay revolution. Since marriage has already been redefined to make the exclusion of gays logically absurd, the campaign against letting gays into the human family necessarily raises the suspicion of mere animus. It's not bigotry to say that these are the rules that govern civil marriage and too bad if you can't live up to them (i.e. procreation, or traditional gender roles). But it is suspicious when you abolish all those rules for straights and then use the old rules to bar gays. I don't see how gay marriage opponents manage to get round the logic of this - except by resorting to purely religious arguments (which would invalidate most heterosexual marriages today as well), or simply reiterating the definitional case that marriage is for straights, dammit. This glaring hole on the argument must have something to do with the fact that an idea that was novel in the 1980s is now the law in several civilized countries and one state in America. Reason eventually finds a way.
FRUM ON MIERS: Another cold day in hell, but I think David Frum has a point on Harriet Miers. In my occasional interactions with the Bush brigade, I have discovered she is revered as well as feared. Not much of a paper trail; but hard as nails. - 1:14:00 PM QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I stand up and challenge them when they say things that are anti-gay. I haven't given up on them yet," - Luis Ibarcena, a 32-year-old Spanish security guard, on why he still attends mass, despite now being married to his husband.
JOHNNY APPLE DOES MY HOME COUNTY: I grew up in the rural idyll of West Sussex. Gardening was the religion. The NYT's Johnny Apple regularly eats and drinks his way through much of it each summer. Enjoy. He sure does. - 1:10:00 PM THE TERROR-MASTER: More information on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new president of Iran and a theocratic criminal of epic proportions. - 12:26:00 PM HOW GREED SAVES: Another case for the miraculous work of profit-seeking pharmaceutical companies. - 12:15:00 PM THE CANCER AT GITMO: It's extremely frustrating that the New Yorker hasn't made Jane Mayer's superb reporting on the use of medical doctors to facilitate and monitor abuse of detainees at Gitmo avilable online. But the detail and scope and meticulousness of the piece make it must-reading for those concerned about what is going on in U.S. military detention centers across the world. Gitmo, however disturbing its methods, is almost certainly the best run and least abusive of such centers. Mayer's key point is that the military has redeployed its own training for resistance to enemy torture into a blue-print for inflicting torture on "illegal combatants" at Gitmo and elsewhere. The cooperation of military doctors, monitoring exactly how far a detainee can be physically and psychologically pushed until he dies, is about as unethical a process as can be imagined. But it's yet another one of George W. Bush's innovations in American warfare. What I also found fascinating was Mayer's account of some of the techniques U.S. troops are trained to withstand - a program known as SERE: "Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape." One of them was trashing of the Bible, as a way to unsettle and destabilize the psyches of prisoners. Sound familiar? One graduate recalled:
"One of the most memorable parts of the camp experience was when one of the camp leaders trashed a Bible on the ground, kicking it around etc. It was a crushing blow, even though this was just a school... [T]he Bible trashing happened when this guy had us all in the courtyard sitting for one of his speeches. They were tempting us with a big pot of soup that was boiling - we were all starving from a few days of chow deprivation. He brought out the Bible and started going off on it verbally - how it was worthless, we were forsaken by this God, etc. Then he threw it on the ground and kicked it around. It was definitely the climax of his speech..."
Gee, I wonder why there was an alleged mass suicide attempt by Muslim prisoners at Gitmo in August 2003 to protest systematic abuse of the Koran in interrogation techniques. One such incident, denied by the Pentagon, was one in which the text was "allegedly wrapped inside an Israeli flag and stomped on." I wonder where on earth one American trainer of prison guards gave an affidavit where s/he informed an interrogator at Abu Ghraib: "I told him of a story of an interrogator using and Pride and Ego Down approach. The interrogator took a copy of the Koran and threw it on the ground and stepped on the Koran, which resulted in a detainee riot." I guess that since the Koran is treated with the utmost respect at Gitmo, all these things are simply invented by enemy propaganda and stab-in-the-back lefties. Just a few bad apples - with meticulous, and completely coincidental, legal cover from the White House memos. - 12:03:00 PM
Monday, July 04, 2005 THIS I BELIEVE: It's July Fourth, a day to reaffirm life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. My NPR essay can be read here.
Sunday, July 03, 2005 HAPPY FOURTH: Just walking through Provincetown this glorious afternoon, I came across a small house festooned with flags. The pic here is just of a flower box on the picket fence. As I was leaving, a woman came home and thanked me for photographing her house. We talked briefly. Her son has been in Iraq, and is now stateside training more soldiers for their tour of duty before returning himself. He was home last July Fourth; and his mom told me that yesterday as the ferry came in, she momentarily hoped he might be on it. He wasn't.
Here's to all like him, serving us right now, enabling the freedom we celebrate, the flags we fly.