Praise God and pass your

Praise God and pass your headsets to the aisle
– Airport chapels are seeing a boom: “Business travelers in the habit of making a beeline for the cocktail bar closest to their departure gate now may be more likely to seek spiritual refreshment in the airport chapel. Stressed-out, often sleep-deprived travelers are generally more vulnerable to ‘anticipatory anxiety’ in the times after September 11 that psychologists have labeled ‘the new normalcy.’ Indeed, since the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center claimed victims from 86 nations around the world, a new lexicon of psych-speak has intruded into our daily lives. Another term gaining currency, they say, is ‘the God factor.’ ‘I’ve noticed a considerable increase in the number of people looking for the chapel and coming in to say a prayer. I’d say it’s almost double,’ said Father James Devine, of Our Lady of the Skies, the Catholic chapel inside New York JFK International Airport’s Terminal 4. ‘I’ve seen business travelers here. I’ve talked to them after the service and they’ve appreciated the opportunity to say a prayer before they fly out.’ ” [Reuters via Orbitz [via Holy Web Log via Relapsed Catholic]

Tabloid heaven
– New York Post headline today on the Superdoofus, traitor John Walker: ” ‘ Poor Fellow’ or traitor? Looks like a rat. Talks like a rat. Smells like a rat. Hides like a rat. IT IS A RAT”

Nuke 101
The ABCs of building a dirty radioactive bomb, from the Washington Post.

He’s our dork-in-chief, damnit
– Grumpster Michael Wolff in New York takes on his own gut reaction to Bush: “To get the willies from George W. Bush, to distrust the man, to have your stomach roll a bit when you hear him speak, is to feel like the most churlish and sullen of adolescents. He’s the unappealing uncle — with his cold eye on you — whose house you’re stuck at this holiday season. While you’re trying to shut out his existence, everybody else is sucking up to him. If you knew it was just pretend, just a holiday bit — everybody being phony and polite — you could handle it; the problem is in thinking that all this affability, this undisaffected appreciation for the guy, is honest feeling on everyone else’s part. What if 85 percent of the American people actually, deep in their hearts, approve of him — dig him? What does that say about you and where you fit in?” OK, I don’t disagree. Bush is a dork. He’s a dork who grins inappropriately and repeats himself too much. But he’s our dork, damnit. He is the dork-in-chief. I amaze myself with my ability to ignore his dorkiness. That is wartime; he’s the boss. The truth is that I’m refreshed with the relative lack of politics and personality in war; we have a goal and we’re going to get there together. America today feels like an Internet startup back in the go-go days: all teamwork and goal-orientation and oomph. It’s about winning, no matter who’s in charge.

Bigger than IT
– This may seem off-topic but it really is an illustration of what makes America great. The other day, I ended up wandering in the Newport Mall in Jersey City (aka Terror Town!), NJ, a lower demographic shopping experience, and I came across a new operation that makes me want to give up my dreams of getting a Jerky Hut franchise. It’s called Aqua Massage and it looks like a cross between a tanning bed and an iron lung: You lie down, face down, clothed, and water jets massage you through a thick plastic that covers you and keeps you dry and all the while, people stand there in the mall gawking at you — $7 for 5 minutes and the units are working full time. Two people are making a decent living off this; the people in the machines are enjoying some sort of bliss; the mall rats are entertained; America is great. This is capitalism; this is choice; this is about creating good fortune out of mere inventiveness; this is what makes us great. Meanwhile, the Taliban sits in caves.

Kinda evil
– Franklin Graham backpedals on his assertion that Islam is evil.

The eternal flame- The fire

The eternal flame
– The fire at the World Trade Center is still burning almost three months after the attack, reports New Scientist. Before it is finally extinguished, I humbly suggest that the city capture it for an eternal flame in the memorial.

Nuclear mules
– Debka says there’s further evidence that bin Laden is smuggling radioactive materials into the U.S. It says that the Pakistani who died in U.S. custody in Hudson County, NJ — my backyard — had the symptoms of radiation poisoning, leading them to theorize that he was bringing nukes into the U.S.:

In the first week of October, a Pakistani arrested on immigration charges in the course of the FBI investigation into the September 11 suicide attacks, complained of bleeding gums and pain, symptoms of gingivitis. He was treated with antibiotics, but was found dead in his cell in Hudson Count jail in Kearny, New Jersey, three weeks later.

The cause of death was not released, any more than the dead manís identity.

DEBKA-Net-Weeklyís medical experts note that the bleeding gums the anonymous Pakistani was treated for are a symptom of radiation poisoning, suggesting he might have been a ìmuleî transporting nuclear materials or devices into America. (A subsequent investigation revealed that he had contracted gingivitis as a result of radiation-induced leukemia.)

This explanation would imply that more than one such carrier is employed by al Qaeda to smuggle nuclear materials or devices into the United States, Western Europe and the Middle East, their mission being to plant their deadly burdens in pre-arranged secret locations, ready for activation.

Whatever happened to that dork in high school
– The tale the American-turned-Taliban is just too amazing. Superdoofus. The Newsweek story … NY Times: “John Walker Lindh’s parents knew he was a different sort of boy” … SF Chronicle (boy, is this a San Francisco kinda story) … The father is on Today this morning. “I saw John as having opinions I didn’ t agree with but I never saw John as being a terrorist…. John is a very good-natured kid… John’s a very peaceful boy….” …who should have been in therapy long ago.

Three traitors so far.

– More scary pictures of the Superdoofus from the Sun.

High, higher, highest
– So Ridge puts us on high alert. Weren’t we already there? Or did we need to be reminded to be scared again? Want more motivation? The Washington Post says bin Laden made greater strides in getting nukes than previously thought…. And the U.S. now admits that thousands of letters may be tinged with anthrax.

– More smart words from Andrew Sullivan: “Iím grateful to the Post for this story not least because I notice in myself ñ and all around me ñ an unnerving sense that the war is somehow over. People arenít talking about it in the same earnest and desperate way they were before. I guess we knew this would happen ñ but itís surely a mistake. Weíre barely three months away from the massacre, and growing psychologically complacent. Iím not say we should stay afraid indefinitely ñ just that itís good to have a reminder that we still have something to be very afraid of.”

– The Times of London says Blair is softening his opposition to attacking Iraq.

Life returns to normal
– And there are reports this morning that police raided O.J. Simpson’s home. Howard Stern is in heaven. Later news: part of an investigation into ecstasy sales, theft of satellite TV service, and money laundering. Superduperdoofus.

Who wants to be an

Who wants to be an Afghan murderer?
The tale of the Canadian programmer-turned-would-be-journalist captured by the Taliban: “The Taliban commander put several names on scraps of paper and dropped them into a hat. ‘Pick one’, he told Ken Hechtman, a Canadian journalist who had just been detained inside Afghanistan as a suspected spy. ‘What’s the prize?’ the journalist asked. ‘The winner gets to shoot you. Let’s get started’, the commander replied.”

War of terror
Sharon’s statement to the Israeli people:

Citizens of Israel, we have fought many wars – and we have won them all. We have defeated our enemies, and we have made peace. We have held the sword, and made the wilderness and desert bloom. We have built cities, developed industry, and cultivated agriculture; we have transformed the State of Israel into an example and symbol for many other countries in the world.

We continue this enterprise every day, we will not cease – never! A war has been forced upon us. A war of terror. A war that claims innocent victims daily. A war of terror being conducted systematically, in an organized fashion, and with methodical direction.

If you ask what the aim of this war is, I will tell you. The aim of this war of terror, the aim of the terrorists, their aides and dispatchers, the aim of those who enable them to perpetrate their acts quietly without disturbance, is to expel us from here. Their aim is to bring us to total despair, a loss of hope, and a loss of the national vision which leads us – “a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Citizens of Israel, this will not happen!… Just as the United States is conducting its war against international terror, using all its might against terror, so too will we.

It is what makes America great. We create.

– I have been reading the instant AOL book Because We Are Americans, with quotes taken from AOL message boards following the attacks of 9/11. There’s something new and important about this book: It is not written by an author, pundit, journalist, columnist, editor, publisher, or even weblogger. It is written by the people. These are the postings of citizens online. And, of course, there are some inspid ones: “I propose that each of us commit to doing one random act of kindness each day in honor of someone who died on September 11.” That is the price of populism. But that is far outweighed by the sincere, often smart sentiments — yes, shamelessly, sentiments — of we the people. A post from a daughter about her father:

Eight years ago, I was faced with a tragedy I thought for sure I would never see again. My father, a fireman, was at the first WTC bombing doing what he loved, saving peoples lives. He came home about 20 pounds lighter but in one piece.

On Tuesday morning it started all over. My father — still a fireman — and my brother, an EMT, were some of the first on the scene.

Daddy pulled a woman out of a burning car, turned around to his truck, and the WTC fell on his head. I am a lucky one. He is alive, and will heal.

My father fought in war, saved a man from an explosion some 30 years ago (suffering severe burns), and did countless other heroic things just by being a fireman. My father will take a long time to heal, but he has no plans of retirement.

I am my father’s princess, and he will always be my hero — and now he is yours, too.

Whither Arafat
– This morning Andrew Sullivan has, as usual, a cogent analysis of the situation in the Middle East:

THE END OF ARAFAT?: Weíre in an end-game here, arenít we? However you feel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it seems clear to me that Yassir Arafat is perilously close to being irrelevant. He canít deliver peace, as we found out at Camp David. He canít deliver even a semblance of order in the Palestinian territories, let alone Israel. So what use is he as an interlocutor or even protagonist in the bloody conflict? This piece in the Washington Post is as gloomy as it is hard-headed. Even Colin Powell is apparently refusing to lecture the Israelis on what they should do next. Hereís my prediction: a brutal finale that re-establishes some semblance of order in Israel and on the West Bank at the cost of even greater Palestinian bitterness and further conflict. Whoís responsible? Ultimately the majority of Palestinians who still cannot reconcile themselves to a viable Zionist entity in Palestine. Theyíd rather suffer and die and be pummeled than concede Israelís right to exist. The tragedy is ultimately theirsí.

‘News’- I don’t believe it

– I don’t believe it — given the third-hand source of the story — but the Frontier Post in Pakistan says 65 U.S. Marines have been killed by Taliban suicide bombers.

– Reported breakthrough in Bonn talks: An aide to the king as prime minister.

– Scumsucking loon: Bobby Fischer, chess nerd, applauds 9/11 attacks on us. [via Rotten]

Bleep of the year
– In our little meaningless poll (to the right), Rudy Guiliani is winning as person of the year. The Guardian reports on the deliberation going on inside Time and the story argues it will be as hard not to pick bin Laden as it is hard to pick him. “But a Time reporter put the magazine’s dilemma starkly: ‘To call bin Laden Person of the Year devalues the word “person”. We would need to have a separate “m*****f***** of the year” category – I think the staff would buy into that.’ ”

Civilian rights
– The Guardian has started a special section — Libertywatch — worrying about the civil rights they fear are being trampled, squashed, pancaked, and stomped upon in this war. In a long and thoughtful piece, Columbia Prof. Patricia Williams catalogues the concerns:

…the disregard for international treaties and conventions; strict controls on media reports about the war; secret surveillance and searches of citizens* computers; widespread ethnic profiling; indefinite detention of non-citizens; offers of expedited American citizenship to those who provide evidence about terrorists; and military tribunals with the power to try enemies in secret, without application of the usual laws of evidence, without right of appeal, yet with the ability to impose the death penalty. Opportunity for legislative or other public discussion of these measures has been largely eclipsed by the rapidity with which most of them have been pushed into effect.

She proceeds to call this “one of the more dramatic Constitutional crises in United States history.” But we also face one of the more dramatic military threats on our homefront in United States history. I am sure I will regret not being more worried about what’s happening to civil rights now — but I know that it is because I am much more worried about the military threat. The professor goes on to caution:

It is worrisome, too, when the highest prosecutor in the land declares that war criminals do not “deserve” basic constitutional protections. We confer due process not because putative criminals are “deserving” recipients of rights-as-reward. Rights are not “earned” in this way. What makes rights rights is that they ritualize the importance of solid, impartial and public consensus before we take life or liberty from anyone, particularly those whom we fear. We ritualize this process to make sure we don’t allow the grief of great tragedies to blind us with mob fury, inflamed judgments and uninformed reasoning.

When it comes to permanently changing our deliberative, ritualized way of civil rights, she is quite right. That should not be done hastily. But at the same time, when it comes to protecting us from obvious threat, this must be done with haste. So where is the balance? In timing. The answer, I believe, is to make sure that these changes are temporary, exercisable in a state of war and to counter acts of war. The test is to make sure that we do what we do not out of revenge but out of protection. I headlined an earlier post on this topic, “Civil rights? Maybe later.” And Thomas Nephew quite properly scolded me for including the word “maybe.” He’s right. There’s no maybe about our precious civil rights; I concede that to the libertywatchers. But right now, there has to be a later.

– The NY Times’ take:

The inconvenient thing about the American system of justice is that we are usually challenged to protect it at the most inopportune moments. Right now the country wants very much to be supportive of the war on terrorism, and is finding it hard to summon up much outrage over military tribunals, secret detentions or the possible mistreatment of immigrants from the Mideast. There is a strong temptation not to notice. That makes it even more important to speak up.

Terror in Israel
– The Independent: “Even by the calculatedly bloodsoaked standards of the Middle East, last night’s attacks in Jerusalem were callously planned to cause maximum loss of life.”

Remote-control war
– The Washington Post argues that we’re fighting a new kind of war — with drone spies, precision bombs and missiles, remote control, and the ability to fight at long-range: war fought with a mouse. And that this alters the equation when calculating whether to go to war:

In terms of foreign policy, the shift could have a subtly belligerent effect. Some analysts worry that the new American capabilities, by minimizing the casualties suffered not only by the U.S. military but also by civilians in the war zone, have lowered the bar for the use of force, making the military option seductively easy for policymakers to select.

But those conclusions are hugely controversial. In a unusual joint interview, the chiefs of the Air Force and Navy rejected the notion that the apparent success of the Afghan war amounted to a prescription for military reform, arguing that every conflict is different.

True enough. But I do not think this leads to an era of Easy War. War is still war. It is not something a civilized society (as opposed to a bin Laden) ever enters into willingly. And that factor is amplifed with the new world order. Now we are the only superpower and that brings not only obligations, as supercop, it also puts a target right onto us — each of us — and with all that it brings new diplomatic and public-relations and thus strategic complications. In that sense, war is more difficult. Remote-control war looks easy. But politically correct war is hard.

The Muslim revolt that never came: The Muslim Times argues that support for bin Laden and the Taleban was minimal in the Muslim world. I’m not sure how cynical I should be: Was this the opinion before the Taliban’s defeat as well? The Times argues: “The reasons are that, in effect, most Arab and Muslim governments ñ with the possible exception of Sudan – would very much like to see the Islamist threat disappear, just as much as the West would, because it threatens their security as much as anyone else’s. The reason much of the Islamic and Arab world remained so quiet in the weeks of intense bombing of Taliban and Al Qaeda positions in Afghanistan is because not only the leadership, but the vast majority of the people in those countries realize that the extremism of the Taliban is not for them, no matter how corrupt their own leaders might be.”

Evil stinks- They’re going to

Evil stinks
– They’re going to use a special sensor that can smell bin Laden in his cave, says the Times of London:

The sensor is said to be so sensitive that it can ìdistinguish between the smells of different ethnic groups caused by the different foods they eatî, according to John Shroder, a professor of geology at Nebraska University and a leading expert on the Afghan mountains.

Shroder has advised the Americans on Bin Ladenís likely location, judging by the mountain background to one of the Al-Qaeda leaderís propaganda videos.

The remote-sensing gas detection device is part of the array of technology being employed in the hunt for Bin Laden. Other equipment includes airborne gravimeters that can locate tunnels by small variations in the Earthís gravitational pull around them, and infrared heat sensors that pick up movement around the entrances of caves.

Once a target area has been identified by air reconnaissance, ground troops can plant microphones to detect noises below. They can also push miniature cameras into ventilation shafts to watch the insides of caves before mounting an attack; or they can lower foot-high remote-controlled buggies with searchlights and cameras into tunnels.

– At least six dead, 160 wounded in suicide bombing in Israeli pedestrian mall. Enough, damnit, enough.

– Brit SAS troops to lead assault on Tora Bora.

Waging politically correct war
David Aaronovitch illustrates the difficulty of waging the politically correct war, following the ruckus over the prison battle: “So, as of this week, we have become war criminals. Events at the Qalai Janghi fort, in northern Afghanistan, are to be set alongside the Srebrenica massacre or My Lai. And those in any way implicated ñ the Northern Alliance, the SAS, the United States Air Force ñ are to be compared with Ratko Mladic and Lieutenant Calley. All this without an enquiry. Some people emit outrage like elephants’ piss. The sheer quantity of it soon covers the psychological landscape.” There are complaints that the other side was outgunned — as if war is fair. “The ex-prisoners had the fort and a lot of weapons, their enemies had tanks, American planes and SAS spotters. As a reporter in [one] paper commented: ‘The fighters had wanted martyrdom, and, after a four-day battle, almost all of them had got it.’ At which point, allow me to void my own elephant’s bladder a little by pointing out that their choice was far greater than that of the victims of 11 September, who looked back at the flames in the World Trade Centre, and then decided to fall to their deaths.” Amen. And then he plays the WWII card effectively: “Even so what, so far, we know of Qalai Janghi does not sound like a war crime. Had, in 1944, a chateau full of captured SS men killed their captors and then holed up inside shooting at anything that moved, I doubt whether anyone now would have called their extinction a ‘war crime.’ ” [via Time’s weblog]

– Time’s hour-by-hour version of events at the prison.

– The Washington Post says it: Gunga Dan is back. Rather has returned to Afghanistan. Rather’s report.

Ken Layne votes in the unscientific, meaningless Person of the Year poll: “I voted for filthy bin Laden, because he started all this horror (Sontag, start your engines). Rudy is great, Bush has done all right, and the people who stormed the cockpit of Flight 93 were True Heroes — as were the firefighters, cops, paramedics, military, rescue teams and random volunteers who either died or risked their lives at the WTC and Pentagon. But Sammy bin Laden, he’s the man. He’s the Target. Why? Because he was the Very Annoying Alarm Clock. We learned some rotten stuff on Sept. 11. Those nuts were serious….”

– And Layne, again, on the UN Afghan talks: “Don’t want to be rude, but can the United Nations solve anything? I mean, I’m glad the body exists, but what exactly can it do? I would be far happier with a U.S./U.K. handling of this meeting. Would like to see a Rumsfeld saying: ‘Get it together, and remember why you have the chance.’ ” Couldn’t’ve said it better myself.

Times of London: “Talks in jeopardy as goodwill evaporates”