Sept. 11, 2006 | 8:32 p.m. ET
This hole in the ground
Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.
All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.
And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.
I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.
And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft,"or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.
However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.
Five years later this space is still empty.
Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.
Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.
Five years later this country's wound is still open.
Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.
Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.
It is beyond shameful.
At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial -- barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field -- Mr. Lincoln said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.
Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." So we won't.
Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing instead of doing any job at all.
Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.
And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.
And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.
The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.
Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.
History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.
Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President -- and those around him -- did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."
They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.
The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."
The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."
Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.
Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.
Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.
Yet what is happening this very night?
A mini-series, created, influenced -- possibly financed by -- the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.
The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.
How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?
Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.
So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.
This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.
And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."
In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car -- and only his car -- starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot -- but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."
And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.
"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn."
When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:
Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
May this country forgive you. Keith Olbermann
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
General Janis Karpinski
Mary O. McCarthy
Valerie Plame lost her ability to perform her CIA job when the Administration blew her cover. Although the release of that information was in response to an article her husband had written, she was the one that lost her career.
Judith Miller learned about the Valerie Plame outing. She went to jail rather than reveal Scooter Libby as her story source. No member of the Executive Branch tried to help her--yet we now know that (supposedly) President Bush ‘declassified’ that information before it was leaked.
General Janis Karpinski was the highest ranking woman in Iraq. In charge of many prisons, including Abu Ghraib, she was the only high-ranking officer punished and demoted. Despite the complicity of her superiors with military intelligence and outside contractors (in the treatment of the prisoners), she was chosen to ‘take the fall’.
Last Friday, Mary O. McCarthy of the CIA was the latest woman to join the scapegoat club. She is purported to have revealed the information about our government’s secret prisons on foreign soil. Created to avoid our laws against torturing prisoners, these convenient locations allowed the Administration’s love of torture to continue without accountability.
After a lifetime of government service, Ms. McCarthy was fired one week before her day of retirement.
Senator John Kerry recognized the irony.
"Classification in Washington is a tool that is used to hide the truth from the American people." You have somebody being fired from the CIA for allegedly
telling the truth, and you have no one fired from the White House for revealing a CIA agent in order to support a lie. That underscores what's really wrong in
Washington.” (ABC This Week)
From scandals at Abu Ghraib to lies about WMD men and women have died due to this President’s (and his minions) manipulations and incompetence. Civilians died on 9/11, military and civilians suffered deaths and injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their malfeasance regarding Hurricane Katrina continues to reveal their uncaring attitude toward their fellow Americans.
Our international reputation has been shattered, our moral power in the world diminished. Who doesn’t laugh out loud today when someone in the Administration demands that some other country stop their human rights violations? Who doesn’t
cringe daily as more and more ismrevealed about our government spying on its own citizens without court orders? Who isn’t mortified that the Constitution is mocked every time a‘sneak and peek” search takes place?
They hide behind the skirts ofa ‘war on terror’. Yet it has been perpetuated and increased by our ownactions (invading Iraq and Afghanistan) and inactions (not catching Bin Laden). The President and his followers have encouraged crimes and misdemeanors that are ripping apart the foundations of our national identity.
Mr. Divider pretending to be a Uniter will go down in history as the worst President ever. [If we manage to survive enough to have a history based on any part of the truth.
Never mind that this Administration is famous for classifying everything, no matter how mundane. Or that the President ‘unclassified’ much more sensitive information for political purposes when he allowed Valerie Plame to be outed. (Remember he has now admitted using this false information about the attempted yellow-cake purchase to build a case forgoing to war in Iraq.) Never mind that the story of secret foreign prisons operated by the CIA was so important that its
author, Dana Priest, won a Pulitzer Prize. Never mind that there have been many other leaks and no arrests. Another woman becomes the scapegoat. After a lifetime of service to her country.
And the men? Their words, actions and behaviors all caused much more damage. Yet none have been held accountable. None have suffered the public humiliation that these women have endured.
JUST A FEW MEN THAT WERE NEVER PUNISHED
OR HELD ACCOUNTABLE
Osama Bin Laden (9/11, Al Qaidah)
Karl Bremer (Post-war Iraq malfeasance)
George W. Bush (WMD, NSA, FISA,Iraq War)
Richard Cheney (WMD, NSA, FISA, Iraq War)
Michael Chertoff (Hurricane Katrina)
Scooter Libby (Valerie Plame, Lied to Grand Jury)
Robert Novak (Wrote article outing Valerie Plame)
Colin Powell (Lied to the world at the U. N.)
Karl Rove (Everything nasty and wrong has his name on it)
Donald Rumsfeld (Terrible job on Iraq war)
George Tenet (Gave Bush the lie on WMD ("It's a slam dunk Mr. President)
Paul Wolfowitz (Convinced Bush to ignore the military on how to operate the war, one of those who helped create the war)
Bob Woodward (Sold out his journalistic integrity to Bush and operated as a media pundit trying to destroy Plame's reputation when she was outed.)
President George W. Bush likes to point to Karen Hughes and Condaleeza Rice to prove his love and respect for women. In truth, he is doing what he does best. Holding them up as a shield. While everyone is focused on his shiny examples, he is destroying the rest behind them.
New York Times
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, April 06, 2006
We don’t live in a vacuum. The ways we respond to the world are affected by where we were born, and where we reside today. Are you an outsider, different from most of the people around you? Have you chosen where you now live? Are you there from accident of birth? Or demands of employment?
I know that all sites occasionally have threads asking people to talk about themselves. This is different. Tell me about your community, your travels, and your exposure to the world. Even in the world’s largest cities, you live in a neighborhood. What kind of place is it? What kind of interaction do you have with your community? What places have you visited that influenced your perceptions? Where do you find off-line intellectual stimulation? What is in your village?
Although I am originally from the greater Chicago area, about eleven years ago I moved up here to one of my favorite vacation destinations. I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I am in the southeast area, in the straits of Mackinac where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. This Island is only accessible by boat or plane. For the past 150 years tourism has been the primary industry in the region. I enjoy the clean air and water and incredible beauty this area has to offer.
I’ve enjoyed traveling through the U. S. and Canada, especially the Western States. One of my favorite vacations was six weeks spent in Banff and Jasper Alberta, with some side trips to beautiful British Columbia. I moved North during my divorce and have never regretted the decision. However, decreased income has limited my travels. I haven’t been able to spend much time overseas. So far, my favorite vacation occurred a few years ago. I spent two weeks wandering Ireland with two friends.
For six months of the year hundreds of thousands of visitors come here to enjoy the natural beauty, historic sites, and novelty of a community that bans private motor vehicles. This prohibition has nothing to do with religious beliefs. It was originally initiated to protect the tour buggy drivers in the early twentieth century. Now that motor vehicles are so prevalent, the lack of them is also a tourist attraction.
Except for emergencies, every person, every object moves by foot, cart, bicycle or horse. (Emergency vehicles such as ambulance and fire truck are available.) The difficulty of attracting workers who are willing to relocate for six months of the year has been an ongoing problem. The current immigration debate is closely followed by employers here. I’m talking about legal immigrants of course.
From May through October the local community of about 550 year round residents expands as seasonal cottage and condominium dwellers increase the population by several thousand. Additionally, several thousand workers from North America and many other parts of the world move here to provide services in the shops, hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions.
Several million visitors arrive to enjoy the Island. Many of them also believe that we are part of Canada. As the crow flies, the border is less than twenty miles away so the confusion is somewhat understandable. Many businesses, the State Park, and government buildings fly large American flags. Yet every day a few people will ask, “Do you take American money here?”
The diversity allows for interesting discussions and opportunities for learning alternative social and political views. In any given summer, my co-workers will come from a wide variety of backgrounds and ethnicities. Imagine the lively debates when you combine folks from Michigan, Iowa, California, Montana, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Alabama, Florida, and Vermont with their counterparts from Bulgaria, Australia, Scotland, Russia, Japan, Jamaica, Canada, Austria, England, Mexico, India, and South Africa.
In the winter months, the year-round population averages about 550. Most locals are descended from original French and Native American fur traders, and they later inter-married with nineteenth century Irish immigrants. The ‘transplants’ moved here because they fell in love with the Island while working or visiting here. Most are vastly over-qualified and over-educated for the jobs they hold. The overall community is caring, creative, independent, and self-sufficient.
Alternative relationships are accepted with equanimity. The small school covers K-12, and the personalized attention allows them to boast a zero dropout rate. Almost every graduate for at least the past ten years has gone on to pursue additional education.
We love snow here. In the winter months the motor vehicle ban is relaxed enough to allow snowmobiles. The convenience of traveling more quickly is a welcome change. It also makes it easier to create social gatherings. Imagine walking or bicycling to visit a friend two miles away vs. snowmobiling there. Believe me, no matter how much you walk or bike up these hills, you never get used to them!
Although there are some fabulous Victorian mansions (cottages) here, most people live in the same types of housing you would find on the mainland. Small houses, apartments, condominiums, and duplexes are the norm. Since most of the Island is a Michigan State Park, land is at a premium. Every nail, washing machine, two by four and carton of milk must be shipped one extra step by boat or airplane. This adds to their cost. Few year round jobs are available, and all jobs pay less than their mainland counterparts. Not everyone would enjoy residing here. Those that do are willing to pay that price.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
The awesome variety of information available online can be overpowering. You can Google and Yahoo to find items, and then be overwhelmed by all the ads and sites to wade through.
I have found four websites that I think are useful for quickly obtaining information. These don’t blast you with ads and popups, animations, flashing banners, and other distractions.
The sites are:
DATA SOURCES: RefDesk
GENERAL: Find Articles
HOW TO: eHow
News. It’s everywhere nowadays. On twenty-four hour TV channels. On internet home pages, in news aggregators, ipods, radios, and more online sites than you can imagine.
Newsvine is a relatively new site. It allows individuals to contribute (seed) stories from around the world. Any topic from politics to health might include a combination of contributions from the Associated Press, the BBC, New York Times, and a tiny newspaper in Asia.
Readers can rate the stories, add comments, and suggest additional links to either debunk or reinforce the article’s premise. Each poster (seeder of the vine) can also be monitored. That way their individual authority and veracity can be evaluated over time.
If you aren’t sure about a particular article’s truth, a quick click on the contributor’s name will allow you to see you all the other items that person has submitted, and how others have rated their quality.
Each article also has a ‘chat’ button. If there are others currently online discussing that particular topic, with a click of a button you can join the group.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to Newsvine:
Click on the link: http://www.newsvine.com/
The home page offers the newest and most popular
stories in a variety of topics. You can click your way around those, or visit articles by topic. At the top of the page (below the green header) you will find a line of words:You can click any of those (not clickable through here) and find many articles on that topic.Top News
When items are posted onto the site, they are given ‘Tags’. These are key words or ideas in the article. They are a way to help others who are searching for certain topics. An article about George Bush would probably have tags such as: President, United States, Political Leaders, and others more specific
to the substance of the article. You can search Newsvine through:
- Tag (as described above)
- Full Text (like a Google search)
- Contributor’s name (to find articles by a certain person)
You can treat Newsvine as a 'snack' site for news. Enjoy bits and pieces here and there when you have the time. Or you can spend hours clicking your way to all kinds of fascinating information or chatting with others about your main topic of interest.
The Newsvine staff also has a blog (web log) that offers glimpses and insights behind the scenes.
This site is like having an enormous library at your fingertips. Here are just a few random examples of things you can find, and how to locate the link. Encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries, wire services, newspapers, and weather data are the basis of any library. Sometimes it is difficult to find a specific piece of data in those vast systems. At RefDesk you can try a smaller page for an answer.
Is a celebrity or political leader alive or dead?
Scroll the home page, near the bottom of the page, in the column on the far left you will see a listing for “Who’s Alive, Who’s Dead.”
Click on that link. You can search alphabetically or by category. (Actors, Politics, Athletes, etc.) I discovered that Maureen O’Hara is still alive, and in her eighties. Didn’t know that.
Need to translate a few words from English to Italian?
Scroll the home page. In the center section, about ¾ of the way down the page you will see a section called “Facts Search Desk.”
The second group down offers “Translation Dictionaries”. In the “English to Italian” box, I typed:
“Fight the good fight” and learned that in Italian it would be: “battersi per una causa legittima”
Finally have time to look at
the 9/11 Commission Report?
Scroll the home page about half way down. In the far right column, under “Misc. Resources” you can click the link.
Area code directories, ATM locaters, medical dictionaries, online calculators, currency converters, maps, and the names of world leaders are just a few more kinds of information you can find here.
Ready to begin a search but aren’t sure where to start?
I found it easier at first to access the “SiteMap”, and work from there.
Or you can click on: "First Things First” and/or "Quick Reference".
Links are very well organized into categories and groups. They are accessed several different ways to make it easier to locate specific information.
If you are looking for a more focused search, articles on any topic can be accessed here. You can choose to look for ‘free articles only’ or pay to access their entire database. I have had plenty of success using the free articles.
I typed in “Mackinac Island Michigan” and searched for free articles in all magazines.
After scrolling past the advertisements, I could access a list of 224 results. The variety included articles from now defunct publications such as the “Saturday Evening Post”, a variety of articles in travel magazines and Midwestern newspapers, and publications I might not automatically have considered to search such as “Golf Digest”, “Shape”, and Better Homes and Gardens”.
If you need background information and want to avoid being overwhelmed with advertising and promotions, these can provide real value with less headache.
We all have gaps in our knowledge base. This site offers clear instructions on how to do just about anything.
It contains a great variety of well-written and easy to read articles with additional links; as well as comments and suggestions from readers. It covers so many areas, from the more obvious of how to buy a car, to the more difficult to describe such as “How to know if you love him/her”.
Here are a few others I found while haphazardly clicking the site:
How to check your dog's heart rate:
How to ask someone on a date
How to decide whether to keep or replace your car
How to stop a toilet from running
How to comfort a grieving person
How to grip a baseball bat:
How to deal with a stuck wine cork
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Your lunch date with the college roommate you haven’t seen in ten years has turned awkward. She has become rigid and inflexible with a harsh divisive intolerant worldview. Even worse, she is using half-baked truths and phony facts to reinforce her points. You are both too intense to ignore the topic now. What do you do?
It seems impossible to have a rational discussion when your views are so far apart. Although you enjoy a healthy debate, this seems more likely to become an uncomfortable conflict. You are too mature to sling insults at the other person’s beliefs or intellect. Your beliefs are too important; the stakes too high to ignore the other person’s point of view. And deep down you know the truth in
Hubert H. Humphrey’s statement: “Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.”
Our noble experiment as a Democratic Republic was created to be of the people, by the people, for the people. For over two centuries we have discussed, debated, disputed, and questioned as we tried to make the right choices. We collectively agree that we want to finely hone our ideals to reflect our advancements as a society.
Our methods for obtaining information have been transformed. We don’t wait months for the pony express to bring our news and letters. Walter Cronkite We don’t listen to the same radio programs, or watch the same nightly newscasts. First, cable and satellite offered an enormous variety of sources. Then the internet multiplied that array to a diversity of online resources that easily boggle the mind.
News and political junkies might spend hours combing various sites to form their own conclusions. The average person is juggling daily work and family obligations. In the midst of trying to relax, they peruse the news to see what local and world events require their attention. They tend to pick one or two resources that they trust, and that reflect their own worldview, and allow them to be the basis of their information.
Another problem is that we focus so much attention on our differences that we often forget that most of us share the same basic values. Few Americans disagree about:
- Equal rights and opportunities for individuals.
- Respect for personal and private property.
- The right of a person to think differently from ourselves.
- Three branches of elected government that actually work for the people.
- A system of laws and taxation that apply to everyone.
- Treating people as we would like to be treated.
- Freedom, independence and individual liberty.
Our disagreement is with the practical route necessary to accomplish those values. What is the best way to generate jobs? How can we improve our educational system? Should government ensure medical care? Does the death penalty represent justice? We agree on the big picture but are bogged down in the fine print.
It is wonderfully inspiring when a healthy exchange of ideas motivates a person to vote, or to become more involved in the process. It is the essence of our system when such exchanges help to create new concepts that become better solutions to a problem.
However, they are not easy to create when emotions are involved. Or when we believe that the stakes are so high that there is little time for dissent. The only way to resolve the conflict is to change the framework. You need to step back from the intensity, from the deadline pressure, from the personal frustration and try a different tactic. Transform the discourse one conversation at a time.
You must also remember that debates, arguments, and discussions do not actually solve problems. Change requires action. I like to ask a person if they vote regularly before engaging in a discussion. If they don’t vote or participate in the process, their opinions are irrelevant. They will have no real effect on our world. Except to move air around when they talk.
What about that uncomfortable conversation?
...............Back to that awkward distressful meal.
In a voice that is simply inquisitive, ask about something that has personally touched them. One example: How has your job been affected by recent changes in the economy?
Let them talk. Ask simple, leading questions. Never let them feel you are waiting to trump their argument. You are not. You are trying to teach them to consider a different assessment of the issues at hand.
As Dale Carnegie once said: “The best argument is that which seems merely an explanation.”
It will take time, and countless conversations. The key is to take every broad generalized statement, every flaunting of stereotypes and every insult towards individuals or ideas and calmly break them down.
For example, if they state that:
How do you define American values?
Do you think they have changed over the last one-hundred years?
How have they changed over the last twenty-five years?
How is it possible for one person to destroy them if they are so essential to our system?
If Bill Clinton had never been President, would American values be the same today? Why or why not?
Why do you think Presidents such as Roosevelt and Kennedy were able to be unfaithful to their wives while in office without destroying American values?
In what ways would are world be different if their behaviors had been exposed at the time?
Remain sincerely interested in their responses. Refuse to engage them in an argument. When they try to turn it back to you---say something non-committal like “I’m not sure, that is why I am interested in hearing your views.”
Once you have removed them from the ‘we are all right and they are all wrong’ mindset, you can help them to discover that they do have mixed feelings on the big issues. That everything we face in our world of massive choices and information is more complex than slogans or antagonism can address.
Change is a long process. It is a waste of time to think you will enlighten a hardened Limbaugh or O’Reilly fan in time for them to vote differently in the next election. Your current goal is to teach them to question their rigid line of reasoning. To raise their consciousness from a black and white world to one with shades of gray.
As Samuel Adams once said: "It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather a tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.”