Posts from March 2002

Easter: I had a bad

Easter
: I had a bad moment at church this morning, Easter morning. I choked for a moment in the middle of singing the Hallelujah Chorus as I thought of the families of the victims of 9.11 at the same time that I was suffering my every-Easter doubts about resurrection and life everlasting and the very foundations of this day and this faith.

I’ve learned to live with these doubts. I measure the gap between doubt and certainty and call that faith. I’m not sure about this mystery, never have been, never will be (until I die). I choose to accept it, on faith.

But today, it hurt again to think about those people who fell and burned and crashed on 9.11 — for my doubts, my failure of faith, meant that I was not sure whether there was any comfort for them and their families in an afterlife, in meaning. I felt as if I failed them.

And as I kept thinking about this and about all the victims in this war — the innocents in the Middle East who have been blown up merely for the sin of living — I realized, as I often do, that if it were not for the resurrection and a belief in the afterlife and a few other fine points of theology, I might as well be Jewish (and this is why I have always wondered why Christianity separated itself so far from Judaism and its traditions; why do we not celebrate Passover together?). 9.11 made me feel closer to them.

Part of me wishes that we could send everyone in the Middle East to their rooms together until they can get along together — and leave us in peace. But, of course, the rest of me, the sane part, realizes that they can no longer be left to their own devices and that the time has come to take action and take sides. I choose to get past history — for it’s hard to decide how far back one has to go to decide who started this fight: to 1948 or to the pharoahs? I choose to judge the players on their actions today. I choose to ally myself with other victims of terrorism against terrorism.

The Passover murders are Easter murders as well. That is a lesson for today.

: David Warren arrives at the same place — namely, Jerusalem — from a different route.

My mind cannot wander to Jerusalem this year, without feeling a deep solidarity with my Jewish brothers and sisters, in Israel, under daily assault from suicide bombers, and in the shadow cast by a horrible war — the backward shadow of a war that is approaching. I pray for the Muslims, too, with all who stand at Heaven’s Gate, who must walk through “the valley of the shadow of death.”

But for the Jews I pray in solidarity, for they are once again under attack, not because there is a war, but because they are Jews.

After the Holocaust we vowed, Never again. Have we already forgotten?

It is time for all Christendom to remember, Never again. That we will not stand by, as Jewish people — as pregnant mothers, children, teenagers, old women and old men — are selected for extermination. That we are not indifferent in this matter, that we are not neutrals as between the victim and the murderer. That as Christians, and in the name of Christ, we stand by our brother and sister Jews.

Amen.

Jonestown: Jerusalem
: Arafat is looking like a cult leader, pure and simple. He reminds me of Jim Jones in the days before Jonestown, all paranoia and wishful martyrdom. Listen to Arafat on Arab TV:

…we ask Allah to grant us martyrdom, to grant us martyrdom. To Jerusalem we march

Hell is getting crowded: Israel

Hell is getting crowded
: Israel is not the only place being terrorized by suicide bombers of the Islamic stripe. Ten people at a Hindu temple in India were just murdered by a Muslim suicide bomber.

You won’t like what comes next
: Inspired by Victor Davis Hanson‘s line, “There will be no second Holocaust,” Will Warren pens a few right-on lines of his own:

Not concerned with what Allah wants or doesn

Dead letter box: Penthouse’s parent

Dead letter box
: Penthouse‘s parent company is in danger of folding.

Arafat’s Panic Room
: Question: What happens if Israel does kill Arafat? They say they’re not trying to, but they’re attacking his headquarters, as he cowers in one room. A stray bullet or missile or angry soldier could take him out. What then? War tonight?

: Dear Mrs. Arafat, says Tres Producers.

Sorry we blew your husband up. We were trying to “isolate” him from the rest of his terrorist leadership, and we ended up

Cool is dead: Many will

Cool is dead
: Many will have pointed to the NY Times declaration today that the Web, like an old girlfriend, is just no fun anymore.

I welcome this.

The Web became too cool, too cute, too soon.

The Web became useless.

Yes, I do worry that has Internet companies go out of the business and real companies reduce their Internet investments, there will be less on the Internet to engage the audience and the audience could shrink.

But the truth is that people are spending less time on the Web today because they’re wasting less time.

They’re not surfing; we see that in every focus group we do. People know what they want; they get it; they get off.

This is not a problem isolated to the Web. Other media can get useless, too. When I was Sunday editor of the NY Daily News, I started a new section with only one mission: Every story in it had to be useful. No thumbsuckers about city hall. No days with bag ladies. No cries of injustice. Useful. For too many newspapers, I said, had started to become useless.

TV regularly becomes useless and then reforms itself when it discovers that that’s a way to lose money. Ditto movies and books.

The Web was cool when it was new and then cool wasn’t such a bad thing. I started a bunch of sites that were Cool Sites of the Day and I was proud of that… then.

But now the Web is about getting information, about buying things, about communicating (and weblogs do help with two of three of those things).

So I welcome the Web’s new dullness. Let’s hear it for dull!

Ha!
: A FoxNews anchor asks Binyamin Netanyahu whether he believes Arafat’s offer of a complete ceasefire. Netanyahu seems genuinely surprised at the question and replies: “Are you joking?”

He says Israel must do to Arafat what America did to the Taliban.

This is going to get even uglier.


: To the death…

: You’ve been waiting for the TV trend in reality shows and extreme game shows to go too far, haven’t you? Been wondering when we’d see the first serious injury or death, right? The start:

A contestant on the US version of Dog Eat Dog ended up in hospital after taking part in one of the show’s stunts.

The 26-year-old man had held his breath underwater for two minutes.

He was taken to hospital by paramedics as a precaution after an emergency call was made to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

US TV network NBC identified the man only as a Los Angeles personal trainer.

Scum spam: Osama bin Laden

Scum spam
: Osama bin Laden allegedly sent email to an Arab paper in London.

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of al-Quds al-Arabi, said last night that the message, headed “A Bin Laden Communique”, denounced Saudi Arabia’s Middle East peace initiative and praised Palestinian suicide attacks….

The message also praised Palestinian suicide attacks on Israelis and urged Muslims to launch jihad, or holy struggle, against the Jewish state.

“The Jews try in vain to flee, finding no refuge and becoming exposed to exploding bodies that make them taste death and chased by horror,” it said. It described suicide bombings in Israel and the September 11 attacks as “the great events” and “the blessed jihad”.

There has been no proven communication from Bin Laden since the height of the Afghan war. It was unclear last night whether the message was genuine, but if so it would be the first evidence that he has survived the bombing.

If anything will bring him out of hiding, it will be his ego.

Uncle Miltie
: Milton Berle died. Of course, I’m sorry to hear that. On his last appearance on Howard Stern’s show, he proved to be a wry and funny and up to any comic challenge.

I know I’ll be accused of being cruel and heartless and nasty for saying this, but I dread the nostalgia that will come from this. People will be wailing about how he represented the “golden age” of TV. But that’s bull. Early television was bad vaudeville; it was tinny, not golden: silly, slapstick, obvious, easy. The truth is that the golden age of TV is now; television today is filled with far greater talent and imagination and artistry. I don’t mean to detract from Miltie’s pioneering in a new medium; can’t take that away from him. But I just have to say that young people should ignore all the nostaglic claptrap they are about to hear; things weren’t always better in the old days; sometimes, things actually get better over time and TV is one of those things.

: Mac Thomason is crueler than I am.

Bastards
: Big suicide bombing in Israel, killing 19 people and injuring more than 100 (at latest count).

: And we should listen to Arafat… why?

: And we should give a shit about the Palestinians… why?

Sympathy is dying fast. Oops, it just died.

Victimology
: So now a class-action suit on behalf of all black Americans has been filed against three companies that allegedly profited from slavery well more than a century ago under the doctrine that if the Jews can do it (for genocide in their lifetime) then shy shouldn’t the next guy?

Where the hell does this end, this exploitation of victimhood?

By this logic…

: The Jews should certainly sue Egypt for their time in slavery under the Pharaohs. Let’s get it filed in time for Passover, eh?

: Native Americans should sue England, France, and Spain for taking their land.

: Native Canadians should sue the Hudson’s Bay Company for taking their land and furs (and then PETA should sue them, too).

: Muslims should Christians for the Crusades (hey, it sure would beat murdering us en masse).

Where the hell does it end, this idiocy?

When do people stop being victims? When do people stop being perpetrators? Where does guilt end? Where does entitlement end?

My ancestors were dirt-poor hillbillies in Appalachia who couldn’t afford shoes let alone slaves. Yet this suit would have me pay for the sins of others’ ancestors because, just for instance, I happen to be a customer of Fleet bank, one of the defendants in the suit. So what moral code says I should pay higher checking fees because somebody 200 years ago did something wrong? And what moral code says that the next generation should carry guilt for the sins of not just our fathers but our father’s father’s father’s father’s fathers?

Idiocy. Offensive idiocy.

If the courts do not throw this out immediately, the courts are a jackass.

The cure for blogstipation
: Some folks just disappear from blogdom for awhile (Thomas Nephew, phone home!). Some store up their posts and then eat a good, big bowl of prunes and out it comes. Nick Denton is of the latter variety and he’s posting like mad from PC Forum. Good stuff.

Denton is also assuring himself new nicknames as he tweaks the Sergeants (who just dubbed him a “prissy airheaded blonde”). The other day, another blogger — I apologize for not remembering which one — dubbed Denton a “schoolmarm” and that reputation will only be amplified with Denton’s posts yesterday on proper blog etiquette.

: Update. Daypop is wonderful. I find that Reid Stott created the schoolmarm moniker for Nick.

The dreaded Afghan spring II
: If you’re keeping score for the future, note that the NY Times joins the chorus warning of a rough spring (coming after the rough winter that wasn’t rough) in Afghanistan. The Guardian started the spring quagmire whining on March 21.

WYSIWYG blog editing … within

WYSIWYG blog editing … within the blog page
: Follow Me Here discovers a very cool-looking tool that allows you to edit your blog on the blog itself, in the plain old browser (just IE… take that, you Netscape liberals). The Blog “Adminimizer” is explained here. This is more than just a cool blog toy. This is about the wonders of XML: displaying and editing content in any form. We’ve had a drought of cool on the Internet lately. This is cool.

Wages of sin
: A topnotch Ken Layne column at FoxNews today on Saddam’s payments to suicide bombers‘ famlies.

Anthrax culprits
: It’s not every day that I say “amen” to a Wall Street Journal editorial, but I do today. They say that the administration’s domestic team is too quick to assume that the source of the anthrax murders is domestic. They point to the evidence I pointed to in recent days: an apparent anthrax lesion on one of the hijackers and the discovery of more biological warfare labs in Afghanistan.

…the FBI persists in asserting that the anthrax letter writer was probably a domestic nut with no ties to al Qaeda. Maybe so. But it’s also true that U.S. law-enforcement experts have been wrong about the sources of terror in the recent past, and are capable of becoming fixated on one theory of a case, which they then set out to prove. The first World Trade Center bombing, of course, turned out to be the culmination of a coordinated project carried out by a broad radical-Islamic network, not just a few disaffected crackpots living in the U.S.

The FBI, like the CIA and the other government intelligence-gathering agencies chasing terrorists, is a bureaucracy, and bureaucracies tend to operate under their own imperatives. In that context, it’s not reassuring that two senior law-enforcement officials involved in the anthrax investigation are quoted in yesterday’s Journal as saying that much of their work is aimed at ensuring that any evidence they bring forth will survive challenge in a courtroom. Well, we’d all like to arrest, convict and put away the individuals who dropped the anthrax letters in the mail, but the real national priority has to be forestalling more such attacks against the American people.

That means that we must be prepared to pursue the anthrax trail wherever it leads, even if it takes us to places, such as Iraq, that complicate choices about foreign policy for U.S. leadership.

Amen again. [via Instapundit]

Tragedy nuggets
: I get mail from James Archer reacting to my whining about the Oscars turning the Twin Towers into a politically incorrect image we shouldn’t see (below). He writes:

Why is it that every article, every news segment, every documentary, every essay, every song, every event, everything must mention “9-11!” every two minutes or be branded unamerican?

The events of that day have been transformed into a meme, a little postmodern nugget of political correctness that can be passed around like a pet rock, adored and petted and passed on to someone else. It’s no longer a historic event, it’s just an abstract concept. 9-11. Ground Zero. WTC. Firefighters. Flags. Giuliani. Images. Concepts.

Lit
: Will Warren at Unremitting Verse takes on Jonathan Franzen‘s hyper-hyped The Corrections.

Airport insecurity: Frightening stats from

Airport insecurity
: Frightening stats from USA Today on the still-miserable state of airport security. Read it and shiver:

In the months after Sept. 11, airport screeners confiscated record numbers of nail clippers and scissors. But nearly half the time, they failed to stop the guns, knives or simulated explosives carried past checkpoints by undercover investigators with the Transportation Department’s inspector general.

In fact, even as the Federal Aviation Administration evacuated terminals and pulled passengers from more than 600 planes because of security breaches, a confidential memo obtained by USA TODAY shows investigators noticed no discernable improvements by screeners in the period from November through early February, when the tests were conducted.

At screening checkpoints, the memo reads, “only the opaque object (such as a film bag) were routinely caught.” Guns passed through in 30% of tests, knives went unnoticed 70% of the time, and screeners failed to detect simulated explosives in 60% of tests.

Perhaps just as troubling, investigators “were successful in boarding 58 aircraft” at 17 of the 32 airports tested. “In 158 tests,” the memo says, “we got access to either the aircraft (58) or the tarmac (18) 48 percent of our tries.”…

“We still have the same people doing the same jobs they did before Sept. 11,” says Reynold Hoover, an expert on counterterrorism who conducts screening seminars.

Towers? What towers?
: I’ll tell you what pissed me off about the Academy Awards last night: The movie industry has suddenly decided that the World Trade Center towers are politically incorrect. They think we shouldn’t show the towers; we shouldn’t talk about them; it would be wrong.

They have Woody Allen come to show how Hollywood loves New York and give us clip after clip of New York from many great movies but what’s most noticable is what they do not show: The World Trade towers.

And we constantly hear Hollywood fret about whether they should edit movies to edit out the towers.

Stop. The Towers were part of the life of New York; they defined our skyline; they now define our history. We are not ashamed of the towers. We are not so tender that we want to act as if they were never there. We are proud of our towers as a symbol of New York’s greatness.

If they had shown the towers last night, I guarantee that the audience would have given them a bigger ovation than Woody got.

But Hollywood has no good sense. Hollywood has a tin heart.

A watched blog never boils
: First Will Vehrs threw in the blogwatch towel; he was doing a great job but he needed to pay attention to his real job. Then Tim Blair — who started this, didn’t he? — quietly abandoned blogwatching. Now Kathy Kinsley has run out of NoDoz and is claiming exhaustion (too bad on two counts: she was a great blogwatcher … and she was watching me). Blogwatching was a good idea but, like the Internet, it had one problem: there’s no money in it. I know somebody who may be working on a solution but I can’t talk about that now….

Tom Ridge is a dork:

Tom Ridge is a dork
: How many ways can we call the guy a dysfunctional idiot? His continuing refusal to testify before Congress is a mark of stupidity, cowardice, and bureaucracy.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge stood firm Sunday in his refusal to testify before Congress about the White House’s anti-terrorism budget, saying his appearance would violate the constitution’s separation of powers.

Dork.

Speaking of dorks
: Tom Cruise is one, too.

Fly Naked
: Daniel Taylor resurrects my Fly Naked campaign — it being preferable to flying clothed but being exposed in those new X-ray machines that should have been invented by a teenage Woody Allen.

The sound of silence
: I think I’ve been quite tasteful avoiding punchlines about Lady Thatcher being forbidden to speak in public anymore because of her health. I’ll continue my stretch of virtue if for no other reason than that the punchlines are all so obvious.

And this week, David Warren writes:

Baroness Thatcher was taken ill this past week, and I’ve been asked to write her obituary as a precaution. (This isn’t it.) I happily agree to most such assignments, for when I write an advance obituary, the subject invariably survives; lives so many years that my essay is eventually lost in the files. I attribute the longevity of Ronald Reagan, the Pope, and the Queen Mother, to the obituaries I wrote of them back in the ‘nineties. On the other hand, I now deeply regret having written an obituary of Osama bin Laden.

Tacky tourism II
: Below, I lampoon Californians for turning Ground Zero into a tourist attraction. But it turns out New York is not above the sin, witness this NY Times story:

he destruction of the World Trade Center has emerged as a powerful selling point for New York City, invoked again and again over the last six months to make the case that big events like the Super Bowl, the Grammy Awards ceremony and a proposed joint meeting of Congress all belong in New York….

The argument goes like this: Bringing an event like the Super Bowl to New York City will stimulate tourism and help the city and the country recover; it will be an expression of solidarity with New Yorkers; it will strike a blow against terrorism; it will enable visitors to share in the New York spirit.

The case being made is striking in its appeal, in part, to sympathy for the purpose of drumming up tourist business. It appears to link notions of patriotism and civic duty to things like hotel bookings. It centers for once not on the glamour of New York, but on its most tragic moment.

Supporting New York is good. Exploiting this tragedy is not.

An improper memorial
: I agree with the NY Times editorial yesterday that came out against a New York State holiday on Sept. 11:

Relieving people of work does not necessarily move their thoughts in a desired direction…. Few people caught up in Memorial Day traffic bestir themselves to remember the Union’s Civil War dead.”

I cannot stand the idea of workers and schoolchildren thinking, “Oh, good, it’s Sept. 11: That means a day off!”

That date should not mean a day off or anything happy. That date should mean solemn remembrance.

The towers
: Paul Morris at Killing the Buddha writes a striking essay on the towers-of-light memorial at the World Trade Center. [via wood s lot]

He doesn’t like the memorial; he says the lights that matter are the flood lights shining “down to the scorched earth, where heads bow in prayer and bend in toil.” He adds:

Don’t be fooled; nothing has been restored. What you see is what you get, a skyline without substance, a tribute that lacks soul. You can find better replicas of the towers from any vendor on the street.

Even so, Morris has many poetic and memorable visions of the towers of light:

You’d be forgiven if, after 9/11, you thought you’d never crane your neck to look that high up again, because there it is, against all gods, a great Babel tower siphoning the light of stars barely visible above lower Manhattan. It’s as though the flood lamps huddling around ground zero suddenly looked up one by one to create an ethereal halo in the sky….

When dust from the debris removal drifts west and enters the columns, the heat from the bulbs forces it to rise and the towers become a swirl of particles. The effect of watching their ascension is dizzying. At a certain spot in the sky difficult to determine, the columns of light begin to destabilize. They seem almost to be tipping, leaning into each other for support while simultaneously buckling outward….

Nearing midnight, Con Edison cuts the juice and the towers collapse. This time they fall in reverse, as the lights that created them shoot like twin rockets reaching escape velocity. And then they’re gone. Again.

Night after night, the towers are extinguished this way, over and over as midnight approaches. And day after day, they are rebuilt anew, photon by photon — today, tomorrow, and the next after that in a series of power surges embraced by a city impatient to heal.

I like the towers of light. But he’s right: It’s because I’m part of a city impatient to heal. Well said.

Terror tourism
: The LA Times runs a tourism guide to Ground Zero. Tasteless Californians. [via Victory Coffee]