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. . . 2001-09-12

There's no hiding place down here
There's no hiding place down here
I ran to the rocks to hide my face
The rocks cried out no hiding place
There's no hiding place down here
Oh, the Devil wears a hypocrite's shoe
The Devil wears a hypocrite's shoe
The Devil wears a hypocrite's shoe
If you don't watch out he'll slip it on you
There's no hiding place down here
+ + +

Pearl Harbor was mentioned often, but from here it looked more like the Blitz. Workers, shopkeepers, fire and police departments, Mayor Giuliani a sharp contrast to our venal national leaders: New Yorkers' courage and humanity could almost renew one's faith in the species.

+ + +

Our Education President

"In Florida, Bush was reading to children in a classroom at 9:05 a.m. when his chief of staff, Andrew Card, whispered into his ear. The president briefly turned somber before he resumed reading. He addressed the tragedy about a half-hour later."
(More substantial slices of soon-to-be-erased history are collected at Ethel.)

+ + +

With their insanely intrusive branding, their terror-mongering "headlines" (I finally had to go to the web to find the basic facts), their tightly looped explosions, their parade of right-wing Republican talking hairpieces, and the exclusive interview with Tom Clancy ("Would you say this is life imitating art?"), national news networks presented almost as dispiriting a spectacle as the Commander in Chief they'd helped put in place. Mercifully, BBC America sacrificed its undemanding lineup of commercials and sit-coms for a direct feed of BBC news, straightforward and informative. If you have access to that channel when things heat up, try it first.

. . . 2001-09-15

The latest issue of Tom Parmenter's email zine, Desperado, posted with Tom's permission:

Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2001 03:03:23 -0400 (EDT)
From: Tom Parmenter
Subject: desperado 2053:


 DESPERADO,   Still There


 If 24 terrorists went to certain death to make a point, 500
 firefighters and police officers went to certain death because it was
 their job to be unbelievably brave and strong.


 Everyone is trying to think right about Islamic Americans.  There
 will be incidents and ugly acts and uglier sentiments, but there will
 be no camps for Muslims.  Everyone rembembers how we betrayed the
 Japanese-Americans and the unfailing loyalty that they returned to

 We should think each of each Islamic American as a window into this
 world we must suddenly understand.  The very first thing we will
 learn is that they hate the Talilban and bin Laden too.  The Islamic
 fundamentalists are not simply attacking Western civilization, they
 are attacking Islamic civilization as well.

 If we will soon be infiltrating terrorist cells, many of these
 Islamic Americans may be called for undercover work that no blackshoe
 FBI man or whiteshoe CIA man could possibly handle.


 However we feel about Bush, we do not need any histrionic gestures
 from the president.  Bush isn't giving us any and we aren't going to
 get any from him.  One of Bush's best qualities is the total
 unlikelihood that he would dash off to NYC and rub ashes on his
 weeping brow or stand barechested and defiant in the rubble of the


 We are depending on President Bush to be much much better than we
 think he might be.  So far so good.  That much-satirized "Council of
 Elders surrounding the President" looks pretty good.  Whatever your
 politics in the long term, for the short run we aren't bad off with
 Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell.  If Bush is weak, then he appears all
 the stronger for having surrounded himself thus.

 Here are President Bush's very first words after the attack:

 "Freedom itself was attacked this morning and I assure you freedom
 will be defended," he told the nation in a brief statement. "Make no
 mistake. The United States will hunt down and pursue those
 responsible for these cowardly actions."

 He has said nothing but the right things and he hasn't said more than
 he should.  And it is in no way to his discredit that he took a
 circuitous route back to the White House.  You may think everything
 Bush does in Florida is to his discredit, but two-hopping his way
 back to Washington via secure airbases on a day filled with unknowns
 carries no shame with it.


 But that doesn't mean we should give him a blank check.  We know this
 struggle is going to be long, hard, and complicated.  We should take
 him at his word that freedom is under attack and combat this threat
 with all the strengths of an open society, including some form of
 clear declaration of just exactly who or what we are at war against
 and what we aim to accomplish by that war.  Because this struggle is
 going to be long, hard, and complicated, we have plenty of time to
 plan it and get it right.


 Bush had been warned by a bipartisan commission on terrorism, but
 substituted an ineffective plan of his own.


 If the religion that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell say they believe
 is actually true, then those two are both going to hell where they
 will be tormented forever for their sins.


  Is there no credible public figure fulminating and threatening
 bloody hell and terror against all Muslims?  We hear about marginal
 stuff, ranting on the Internet (now there's something new) and
 harassing convenience-store owners, but is there no senator,
 governor, elder statesman or other big shot calling for drastic
 action?  Or are we simply not being shown anyone fulminating and
 threatening bloody hell?


 Television crisis coverage is serving as our national church, but I
 am getting much more useful information from print media, web sites,
 and e-mail.  It seems that no one in television news looks at any
 print media, web sites, or e-mail.

 Or other TV stations apparently.  Hours after the attack there were
 stunning shots on BBCAmerica, a relative closeup of the impact of the
 second plane and a long shot of the whole waterfront with the second
 plane coming in.  I never saw either of these on any other broadcast.

 The newly popular cluttered screen is not a success.  A big box with
 smoking rubble, a little box with a talking head, a banner with
 headlines capsulized into incoherence and a crawl across the bottom
 of the screen that never changes for hours, plus the broadcaster's
 bug in the corner, do not make for more information transferred.
 Neither viewer nor broadcaster have yet understood the grammar of the
 cluttered screen.




 The most touching memorial I have seen was sent to me privately.  A
 smiling souvenir photo of the sender atop the World Trade Center with
 perhaps his wife and sister, labelled, in German and English, "Da
 werden uns nie wiedersehen, We will not pass this way again".


 The worst expert of the day was a professor from Northeastern
 University "explaining" the differences between the Twin Towers and
 Pearl Harbor:  "The technology was different.  I'm pretty sure they
 didn't have jets at Pearl Harbor."


 Hollywood is planning to make no more movies about anonymous eastern
 terrorists or exploding buildings.  Uh huh.


 On the other hand, Le Monde of Paris, said "We are all Americans.  We
 all our freedom to the Americans."  And the president of the American
 Trial Lawyers Association called for a moratorium on lawsuits from
 these attacks.




 Maybe this is the chance to end the Olympics as a 20th-century relic
 that serves the interests of the outmoded competition between
 nation-states and which presents no opportunities for athletic
 excellence that are not available elsewhere without the jingoism.  We
 are really not that interested in long jumping, high jumping, and
 pole vaulting, not to mention synchronized swimming and ribbon
 twirling.  Eliminate the flag waving.  Let the athletes dope
 themselves into excellence elsewhere.  Return these athletes to the
 obscure fields and fieldhouses they occupy three years out of four
 and eliminate one more venue where terrorists and nationalists fight
 it out.


 It may be that we can even eliminate the politicians from the staff
 of Massport and Logan Airport and replace them with people who know
 their jobs.  It is beyond amazing that within 12 hours of having sent
 two flights on their way to the World Trade Center Massport was
 refusing to take guidance from federal authorities on airport
 security until forced by high levels of the federal government.

 The current executive director of Massport is a political coatholder
 to two former Republican governors who says she was hired "for
 communications skills and ability to build political consensus".

 The current public safety director is a former state trooper who
 served as a Republican governor's driver.  He replaced another former
 state trooper who had been driver for a Democratic governor's wife.




 One analyst, whose name I misplaced, says "The Taliban are hoping
 that once the West realizes that it is not possible to oust them from
 Afghanistan, they are going to let them rule this remote Muslim
 country which has little significance in international affairs."

 While it may be true that housing Bin Laden is not worth national
 destruction to the Afghans, it is utterly ignorant to say that
 Afghanistan has little significance in world affairs. Afghanistan
 itself may be worth little, but as a pathway of conquest and commerce
 it may be the most important patch of godforsaken country in the

 No one has ever conquered Afghanistan in all of known history, from
 Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union.  They're all gone, but
 Afghanistan remains.  Even when the country was at its most peaceful,
 however, the government of Afghanistan never claimed control over
 more than 80 per cent of the main roads, and that in daylight hours
 only.  And it has been a long time since Afghanistan has been
 peaceful.  It almost never happens.

 Afghanistan is landlocked.  Afghanistan is landlocked by some of the
 largest mountains in the world and occupied by some of the toughest
 people in the world.  The Khyber Pass leads from Afghanistan to
 Pakistan.  The best defensive positions in the Khyber have been
 staked out for thousands of years.  Afghans are great smugglers.
 With a charcoal fire and a file, they can make an AK47.  No one will
 conquer Afghanistan, not even the Taliban.

 Geopolitically, the Khyber Pass leads south from the Eurasian land
 mass to a warm-water port and access to the Persian Gulf.  Conversely
 it leads north to domination and control of the central heartland now
 controlled by the Russians.  Once the British held the south end of
 the pass, now we hold it by means of our peculiar and ill-sorted
 relationships with India and Pakistan.

 It is not going to be easy to "do something about Afghanistan".
 Doing something about Afghanistan is also known in world history as
 "the Great Game".  The Great Game has been played for a long time by
 experts, but no one has ever won it.

 The Taliban will never be left alone, whether they give up Bin Laden
 or not.  The Afghanis won't leave him in peace and there's always
 going to block that that tempting pathway between the mountains.




 Internet time: The first Nostradamus hoax arrived within 24 hours,
 beating the spamscammers by at least 20 minutes.  This one, it turns
 out, was a parody of Nostradamus, cooked up to show how easy it was
 to create Nostradamitic predictions.

>	If I make say a thousand prophecies that are fairly abstract for example:
> 	In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
> 	Two brothers torn apart by Chaos, while the fortress endures,
> 	the great leader will succumb, the third big war will begin when the
> 	big city is burning.
>	- Nostradamus 1654
>	- Neil Marshal 1999

 If that's not creepy enough, the Aun Shinrikyo cult, the poisoners of
 the Tokyo subway, were inspired by their reading of Nostradamus and
 their fears of Freemasonry.

 The Aun Shinrikyo poisoned far fewer people than they had hoped.  It
 is evident, however, that hatred for civilization is widespread.
 Timothy McVeigh and Aun Shinrikyo share more with bin Laden than the
 average Muslim does.

 I recently read "Underground:  The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese
 Psyche" by Haruki Murakami (Vintage).  The book has almost nothing to
 say about the Aun Shinrikyo and their ridiculous beliefs, and very
 little to say about the mechanics of the attacks or other
 journalistic detail.  The first part is devoted to stories of the
 victims of the attack, both the dead and survivors.  Many of those
 who died were subway workers simply cleaning up a sticky mess.

 Unlike New York this week, many victims escaped the Aum Shinrikya.
 Murakami tells the stories of these victims, their bemusement,
 sorrow,and anger at having suffered so from the crazy rage of
 strangers.  These Japanese voices seem in some horrible way to speak
 for the mute thousands who died in New York.  In the second half of
 his book, Murakami recounts the bemusement, betrayal, and loss felt
 by members of the Aun Shinrikya when they learned of the attacks
 planned and executed by their leaders without their knowledge.




 The most reliable, sane, informed source on terrorism that I have
 come across:

 Journalists and journalism:

 More than 300 front pages.  Many inside stories of coverage.


 Associated Press feed, updated once per minute:


The Associated Press
Friday, September 14, 2001; 11:40 PM

WASHINGTON ญญ The government's investigation into the terrorist
attacks is called PENTTBOM, incorporating both sites that were struck.

"Pent" is short for Pentagon, and the two "t's" stand for the World
Trade Center twin towers. "Bom" stands for bomb, even though both
buildings were hit by hijacked jetliners.


 The Smoking Gun presents an alleged terrorist manual, "Military
 Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants,":


 The very best depictions of the collapse of the twin towers that I
 have seen are in animated graphics from El Pais, a paper in Madrid.

 Note particularly "estructura de las torres gemelas", that is,
 "structure of the twin towers".  This is Flash at its best.  Text is
 in Spanish but you should be able to work it out.


 Pakistan's first independent weekly paper, Friday Times.  See the
 editorial, "Time to change tack".


 CNN faked footage of celebrating Palestinians, but there hasn't been
 any coverage of the candlelight vigil for the victims by Palestinans
 in Jerusalem, apparently not even by middle eastern media.  See
 Middle East Online News, "Are we going to lose our nation?"


 Voice of Kurdish moderation, also from Middle East Online News.


 An optimistic look at living without privacy, David Brin, "The
 Transparent Society":




 This is our opportunity to show our courage and tolerance and love of
 liberty.  This is also our opportunity to change and grow.  We are
 fighting ignorance and cruelty, so we must be wiser and better, not
 just stronger.

 Yr bdy,
 Tom Parmenter

		     Se non e vero, e ben trovato
	  Still mad about Waco, and yet not a right-wing nut
		    Journal of the Apocryphalypse
Digital technology is the universal solvent of intellectual property rights
                  Forward  with  daring  and  whimsy
                    Copyright 2001, Tom Parmenter


. . . 2001-09-16

Phil Agre:

The call to war is not legitimate: it is not capable of delivering what it claims to deliver. Should we go out and get the people who blew up our buildings? Of course we should. If we can't get them nonviolently by law, should we start dropping bombs on impoverished countries? Maybe we should, if it will actually achieve the stated goal. A world that has graduated beyond the traditional conceptions of war may not be able to avoid military action, regrettable as it always is. Evil is real, whatever excuse it might present. The important thing is to draw a distinction between military action, as the exercise within a framework of international law of the power of a legitimate democratic state, and war, as the imposition of a total social order that is the antithesis of democracy, and that, in the current technological conditions of war, has no end in sight.

+ + +

Need To Know:

After those first few hours of awful shocked silence - what a relief to be interrupted by the CEO of CoffeeCup Software, producers of an innocuous Windows HTML editor, e-mailing his 1.2 million customer base to "call for [the responsible] country's complete destruction and annihilation".

. . . 2001-09-17

On the calls to (any, don't matter which or where) arms: "It's like attacking Pat Buchanan by bombing the United States." -- Juliet Clark

+ + +

Ross Nelson forwards "one of the better descriptions of Afghanistan that I've seen recently. It's a bit long and rambling, but interesting nonetheless. It is also very sad. It is an account of Afghanistan written by a [successful conservative Muslim] Iranian filmmaker for an Iranian newspaper back in June of this year."

Not that surprisingly, "" is not always reachable. Ross was kind enough to retrieve the full essay from his cache and I'm temporarily mirroring it locally.

+ + +

"Fundamentalists without a common cause" from Le Monde diplomatique, 1998 (via dangerousmeta):

Against this background, Osama bin Laden does not appear as the "mastermind" behind radical Islamist movements throughout the world. He should rather be seen as a trainer of militants who subsequently choose their own fields of action or mount spectacular symbolic operations within the framework of his organisation Al Qaida. These militants are connected by networks of personal relations....

+ + +

After reading the explanation (via Media News), I'm still unable to understand how a newspaper editor (or two, if you count the Village Voice) decided that the most appropriate headline for a story about hijackings, the murder of thousands, a successful attack on the Pentagon, and the destruction of the World Trade Center would be the single word "BASTARDS!". Maybe I'm just not big-paper material, but on Tuesday night my mood would've been better expressed as "HELP!"

When the front page was unfolded, it looked like the burning towers were the targets of the slur. Folded, whenever it startled me from a vending machine, I felt exhorted towards a rally for us born-out-of-wedlocks -- or like I was being pointed out to an angry mob. (I assure you that my people are a peaceful people, and many of us are even American citizens.)

Even on what I presume were its own terms of impotent bluster, the headline was misleading, since, as it turned out, the reporters had no idea just who the bastards were. It's like headlining your post-election paper with "PRESIDENT!" and never mentioning the winner's name on the pages within.

. . . 2001-09-18

There's some truth in saying that religion was responsible for last week's hijackings.

Certainly more than in saying that they were caused by feminists, the ACLU, or the election, long ago, of some liberals. (If anything, the timing would indicate that God's wrath was tripped by Republicans' gaining control of all three branches of the federal government.)

Probably about as much truth as saying that idealism or courage was responsible.

Or that late twentieth century technology was responsible.

Perhaps less true than saying that nation-sized concentrations of wealth into a few individual hands were responsible.

And probably much less true than saying that vengeance and intolerance were responsible.

My sister-in-law, who's Catholic and worked as a nurse in Libya during the previous Bush's administration, wasn't calling for a holy war when I spoke with her on Sunday; neither, she told me, was her priest. I doubt that many Quakers or Buddhists are emptying their shotguns at gas station attendants.

Religious social structures, like political and economic social structures, can be used to increase the power of the selfish and intolerant. It's the nature of commercial media to pay special attention to the powerful, it's human nature to parrot what's heard (particularly when it provides a pleasure as overwhelming as self-righteousness), and so, if our source of "religion" is the mass media, we're likely to hear the worst possible voices as "religion's" representatives.

That should instill some healthy doubts about the workings of religion. Just as the voices of Orrin Hatch and Strom Thurmond should instill some healthy doubts about the workings of democracy.

+ + +

Since the first Gulf war, our national news medium has based its ratings strategy on a hyperfocused compulsively repetitive approach that's successfully addictive but makes it absolutely impossible to think things through to balanced decisions. Talking heads weary and fray with boredom until they turn a real emergency into a need for new (and thus more interesting) real emergencies caused by idiotic plunges into action. We saw this at work during the presidential election fiasco, with pundits all over the ideological map crumbling before the desire to settle this thing, weighing the question of four years of governmental control as somehow less important than two weeks of tedious uncertainty.

Vague quickly-concocted miniseries headlines like "ATTACK ON AMERICA" and "AMERICA UNDER ATTACK" and the looped-unto-wallpaper horrors could, even for an experienced TV viewer, forestall for a surprisingly long time the essential information that the events being described were confined to two locations and two hours. (Which is why I turned to the web last Tuesday morning.)

But they are especially damaging to those who don't read newspapers and who are unfamiliar with the rhetoric of commercial America. Elementary schoolteachers say that the children of recent immigrants -- many of whom are refugees from war-destroyed countries -- often get the impression that these attacks are continuous and ongoing, that each replayed explosion has stuck a new building. Being more comfortable with English than their elders, their misinterpretations are then passed on. On Sunday, we heard about a grandmother from Cambodia who immediately directed the family to pack its belongings and move again in search of a land safe enough for children.

. . . 2001-09-20

Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?

That's one of the things about New York City. Sometimes it's impossible, intractable, insanely frustrating, running counter to the grain of anything you try to do. Other times it's full of light and grace, magical coincidences happen, and marvels pop up unexpectedly all over the place.
-- Making Light on the Winter Garden, September 19, 2001

+ + +

"The city redefined becomes a church." - Jack Spicer
  Built of solid glass. The temple out there in the weeds and California wildflowers. Out of position. A place where we worship words.

See through into like it is not possible with flesh only by beginning not to be a human being. Only by beginning not to be a soul.

A sole worshipper. And the flesh is important as it rubs into itself your soleness. Or California. A division of where one is.

Where one is is in a temple that sometimes makes us forget that we are in it. Where we are is in a sentence.

Where we are this is idiocy. Where we are a block of solid glass blocks us from all we have dreamed of. But this place is not where we are we are to meet them.


. . . before . . .. . . after . . .

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 2001 Ray Davis.