– Thanks to the wonderfully named Relapsed Catholic ‘log, I found a link to an odd Jonestown reenactment as we approach the Nov. 18 anniversary of that 1978 mass murder and suicide. Just as I happened to find myself too close to the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, I also happened to be too close to Jonestown as the Sunday editor of and then a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner at the time. Some great reporters there, led by Tim Reiterman and John Jacobs, investigated Jones and his purported church, causing a congressional investigation and the fateful trip to Jonestown that ended with the murder of a congressman and our photographer, among others, and then the mass suicide and murder of Jones’ followers: 913 dead in all. Soon after, in San Francisco, Supervisor Dan White went berserk and killed Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, whom I counted as friends — leading to a widely held belief that San Francisco was not only nuts but also jinxed, even dangerous. I bring this up not just because we’re awash in anniversaries right now — two months after 9/11, on Veteran’s Day, and approaching Jonetown’s 23rd — but because it’s instructional to remember the extraordinary power of a cult. This devil Jones got people to kill themselves and even their children, for Christ’s sake, and with time we have seen that there was no foundation for this horrid act in religion or politics or humanity. He was insane and he made the people around him perform the ultimate insanity. Bin Laden is insane and he manages to get the people around him to perform equally evil insanities; he runs a well-armed cult but a cult nonetheless. It is a mistake to lend him any credibility in terms of religion or politics or humanity to think that there is anything more to him. It’s not a movement — now, finally, Arab leaders are starting to say that — it’s just a bunch of lunatics. So let’s not waste breath and bits arguing about whether there is anything worth arguing about behind bin Laden’s evil insanity. And let’s also not start looking on New York or Washington or America as jinxed or crazy even if the danger is making us act understandably nutty at times. We are the sane ones. He is, to quote our President, the evil one. He is a dangerous cultist who must be stopped before he kills again. It’s as simple as that.
– Two months after: A photo gallery from Der Spiegel.
– Getting too wacky: Debka says there’s an anthrax connection to old Nazis.
– Powell: Palestine is no longer a dirty word.
– The smoking jet: Bin Laden admits the World Trade attack in a video, says the Sunday Telegraph.
– I hate to sound like the scrooge of charity after 9/11 and I kept my mouth shut at the time but as every good-hearted, red-blooded New Yorker ran to donate blood after the attacks, I whispered to myself, “If only there were any living victims who needed it.” Yet they kept lining up and the Red Cross kept taking — and even asking for — the blood. Now, the Red Cross is destroying who-knows-how-much blood because they don’t have the means to freeze it. This from the same charity that is being yelled at on Capitol Hill — quite rightly — because they held back money instead of giving every penny to the heroes of 9/11. We need our charity; we need it to be organized; we need it to be efficient; we need the people to have faith in the charities so they will give money and blood and time and valuables — all because there are people in need. But the big, bureacratic charities are squandering all this good will and it’s a crime.