Tag Archives: 9/11

The 11th Day of September

11 Sep

On this September 11th, let’s remember the dead, but also re-examine how we responded to the one that took place a decade ago. Perhaps we should heed the words of this famous New Yorker: 

Chris Lee & the Zadroga 9/11 Health Care Bill

29 Sep

Today, the House passed the Zadroga 9/11 Health Care Bill 268 – 160. Named for a New York City police officer who responded on 9/11 and died in 2006 from a respiratory illness that’s been causally linked to exposure to chemicals in the air on that day, the bill provides a $7.4 billion fund for the medical expenses and other compensation to those whose health is similarly affected.

To pay for it, Congress closed a loophole exploited by many nominally American, and multinational corporations whose headquarters are removed to foreign tax havens in an effort to avoid or minimize exposure to US corporate income taxes. The Zadroga bill closes that loophole and requires those companies to pay taxes on income earned from business in the US.

The sole member of the New York State congressional delegation to vote against guaranteeing health care and monitoring for the heroes of 9/11 was Chris Lee from NY-26. Lee’s objection? He can’t STAND the government having the job-killing audacity to expect companies making a profit in the United States to actually pay income taxes on those profits. Only the little people pay taxes.

So, there you have it.

When given a choice to stand with the heroes of 9/11, or to stand with tax-avoiding multinational corporations, Chris Lee stands with big business.

On September 11th

11 Sep

Because today is September 11, 2001, I’m not going to go into a maudlin recitation of anger or sadness.  Instead, I’m going to keep calm and carry on, to evoke the WWII-era British response to the German invasion that never came.  One of the many ways to defeat terror is to not live your life in fear.  We remember the dead and remember the horror, but life in America, as Americans, goes on.

So instead, I’ll say that if you haven’t seen the 9/11 exhibit at Washington DC’s Newseum, please do yourself a favor and do so next time you’re down there.

A New Voice on Cordoba House

5 Aug

Last week, Alan and I had a spirited discussion on the construction of a mosque/Islamic center near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.

Alan’s position, if I may mischaracterize it, was that it is legal to build it, the government should not stop any religious institution from building on private property, and in any case, the Muslims who would worship and study at Cordoba House should not be tarred with the same brush of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. 

My position is that while the government should not stop the construction, and it should be legal for the construction to continue, out of a sense of decency, sensitivity, taste and respect, one should not place a symbol of terrible violence at the scene of that violence. Symbols are complicated, and just as a Christian church now means love, child abuse, salvation, and the Crusades, all in one, so does a mosque (or Islamic prayer center) now mean terrorism and 9/11, in addition to charity, prayer, and peace.

Mayor Bloomberg has had his say on the project moving forward. I’d like to add another voice: Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, who spoke on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday. I agree with just about everything he says here, and he says it perhaps better than I. The transcript is below, or listen to the interview at the link.

INSKEEP: How has the ADL’s position evolved on this issue?

Mr. ABRAHAM FOXMAN (National Director, Anti-Defamation League): I’m not aware that it’s involved. The ADL opposes bigotry, prejudice, Islamophobia. We continue to do so.

INSKEEP: I guess what I mean is that initially the ADL was expressing concern about the critics of this Islamic center and now the ADL has said that you wish that the Islamic center should be moved somewhere else.

Mr. FOXMAN: Well, no. Again, we will still continue to be critical about critics of the center who are critics from a perspective of bigotry and racism and Islamophobia. The position that we’ve articulated last week was one that deals with location and sensitivity.

We didn’t even say you must, you should, you have to. We basically said that we believe that in this place of tragedy and pain and anguish maybe the best thing would be is if people would step back and consider that if you want to heal, the best way to heal is not to do it in your face. And if the people who you reach out to, those who had suffered the most say please don’t do it in our cemetery, not to do it.

INSKEEP: What about this specific building or its specific location or its specific design makes it seem a little too in your face?

Mr. FOXMAN: Well, it I don’t know about the design. I don’t know about the for me it’s similar to a position that the Jewish community took, oh, about 15, 20 years ago when there was an effort by the Carmelite nuns to build a convent in or around Auschwitz. And we then said we welcome your love, we welcome your prayers, but please don’t do it on this site. This was a controversy for eight years.

We in the Jewish community, we in the ADL got accused of being bigots, that we are opposed to Christianity or the Catholic Church. And eventually the pope understood and said, OK, build it a mile away.

I know this imam and I agree with all those who have said he’s moderate. Well, part of the moderation, if you want to show the moderation, is being sensitive to the people you want to reach out to, to heal.

INSKEEP: You said you met the imam, Faisel Abdul Rauf.

Mr. FOXMAN: Correct.

INSKEEP: Have you had a chance to tell him your concerns?

Mr. FOXMAN: No. I met the imam several years ago. We worked with him. More recently he reached out to me and asked for support of the mosque. He basically said to me, Abe, I’m being attacked, my character is being attacked, I’m being called an extremist, and you know me – will you stand up? And I said absolutely. And I – we have, we’ve stood up as an agency to counter the attacks on his persona, on his character, on him being characterized an extremist. You know, that’s the extent of the conversations we’ve had.

INSKEEP: I wonder if a Muslim who professes to be a moderate Muslim might turn to you and say, why should this cause anybody pain? I may be a Muslim, but I am not the person who flew a plane into the Trade Center. I had nothing to do with it.

Mr. FOXMAN: Well, again, I would say to them neither were the Carmelite nuns. They had nothing to do 50 years earlier with Auschwitz. Again, everything that I know is he’s a moderate. Part of moderation is to be sensitive to those around you who are responding to you out of pain and anguish.

And so, you know, I thought it would have been wonderful – who am I to tell him, but you know, I guess I tell him through this, you know, if he would say, you know what, I do want to heal, I do want to reconcile, I do want to show the American public that there is an American Muslim tradition, that would be a wonderful, dramatic beginning rather than insisting this is where we want to heal, this is where we want to reconcile, in your cemetery.

Feelings.

20 Jul

Brian responds disapprovingly to my post about the anti-Muslim bigotry that seems to be more important to Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino than the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. He says that the Cordoba House “can” be built, but disagrees over whether it “should”.

Pundit starts with a fabulous quote from lightning rod Sarah Palin, and continues with a list of “bigot” politicians. Choosing to start a discussion with a list of the hot-button politicians who support (or refudiate) something is an excellent tactic for missing the point. It gets everyone riled up (39 comments and counting), instantly dividing everyone into camps who can safely retreat to their talking points and name calling, but never gets to the heart of issue. Lazio! Palin! Paladino! Horse Sex! Please. Labeling everyone who opposes the building a Islamic prayer center at that site a bigot or hater of the Constitution is just lazy. Let’s see if we can all take a breath for a second.

Commenting about politics and politicians is what I do. I don’t really care if Joey the longshoreman shows up to the public hearing to rail against Muslims. I do care when people angling to be the leader of all New Yorkers do so. The heart of the issue is the fact that there are, in this day and age, politicians who still feel comfortable exploiting ethnic, racial, or religious differences for political gain. I call it bigotry because if not that, it’s just opportunistic cynicism. Finally, I didn’t mention horse sex, and I didn’t “label everyone who opposes the building … a bigot or hater of the Constitution.” So, who’s calling whom lazy?

Can Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and his Sufi organization (a very very different form of Islam from even mainstream Islam, much less the hate-filled brand practiced by Al Qaeda and jihadist groups in Pakistan) build a mosque/cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero? Of course it can. But should it? That’s a different question.

In America we focus on the Can and not the Should. The Constitution and (specifically) the Bill of Rights provide us a sturdy six sided box of protections. Within the box, you are free to do as you choose. You can say what you want, be what religion you want, get what job you want, and build what you want, on your own land, within building codes. But why must we thrash about in the box, with no regard for others, as violently as possible? Some say we are our most American when we constantly test the limits of the box. Perhaps, but not the parts we should be most proud of. Let me argue for a bit of temperance, empathy, and taste.

Realizing that Brian isn’t your typical mouth-breathing right-winger, I’ll exclude him from my observation that right-wingers are the first to mock political correctness as bleeding heart liberalism run amok. I don’t understand the objection to what amounts to an Islamic YMCA. As I pointed out in my post, there are myriad religious structures and organizations within a few blocks of what used to be the World Trade Center site. Manhattan isn’t a place that enjoys Buffalo’s sprawl – where you can just get Benderson to cut down some cornfields and build you a brand-new plaza.

If the organization wanted a location in lower Manhattan, which is shaped like an arrowhead, it’s somewhat unavoidable that it will be near the World Trade Center. How many blocks would be acceptable, Brian? If two blocks is too much, would four blocks do? Five? Six? What arbitrary and capricious line shall we draw in terms of not trampling on people’s feelings?

Furthermore, while Brian admits that the Islamic group that wants to build this project isn’t even remotely close to the ideology of the expansionist al Qaeda terrorists who committed 9/11, he backhandedly equates them by stating that it would be better to succumb to ignorance, and choose a different spot out of a concern for others’ feelings. Since when did people’s feelings trump Constitutional freedoms, anyway? Apart from the fact that these people pray to a different God, in a different way, in a different direction, read a different book, and follow different religious rules, what possible objection is there to this?

If we’re talking about showing due respect to 9/11, then I answer (1) Muslims died in 9/11 – why is their faith excluded from any discussion of that tragedy, except as scapegoats? (2) There are several strip clubs within a couple of blocks of 9/11. Shall we close those, too? Is the World Trade Center site to become a downtown Vatican City? Purity cleansing New York’s density and diversity?

What is in bad taste about just another building in a city full of buildings? An Islamic cultural center in a city full of Muslims?

Simply because it is legal and allowable to do something, doesn’t mean it is sensitive to do so. In a civilized society we should be able to empathize with the whole and not just concentrate on what I am able to do now. Placing a symbol of the motivating force behind a terrible act of violence at the scene of that violence is legal, but distasteful. Protestants should not build a new church (even a Unitarian Universalist one) at the site of the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Northern Ireland, or on top of the ex-home of a killed abortion provider. The Japanese should not put it’s consulate near Pearl Harbor. Confederate flags should not be flown near sites of lynchings of African-Americans in the South. This project’s organizer’s tin ear is Constitutional, but unfortunate. Someday it would be wonderful if the Carnegie Center for Peace wanted to establish a center for communion and understanding in Baghdad . . . but maybe it shouldn’t be in Abu Ghraib. Such decisions, while not legally binding, show a sensitivity this project lacks.

You see this as a religious provocation. In all of your examples, it represents rubbing one’s nose in. Why didn’t you include a neo-Nazi rally at Auschwitz, or al Qaeda opening up a murder stand in Battery Park City?

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that there are probably tens of thousands of Muslims who live or work within walking distance of this Cordoba House – the group that is proposing to build a cultural center / YMCA two blocks from what used to be the World Trade Center. Do they insult the sanctity of the World Trade Center site by having the constitutional audacity of living their lives nearby? You treat this as if al Qaeda was proposing to build a monument of grenades in the shape of an extended middle finger on the site of the World Trade Center mass murder. Yet you already acknowledged that this group is nothing at all like al Qaeda, except that they all call themselves Muslims.

I protest this development not out of bigotry, and the whole Islamic faith is not a scapegoat here. The 19 hijackers were Arab, but this is not a protest against an Arab cultural center. The 19 hijackers were men, but there is not a protest against the men’s portion of the health club. This is not the cudgel of ignorance seeking a target. Let’s be honest here – could President Bush even spell “jihad” before 9/11? The Islamic faith is the sticking point because the 19 hijackers not only self-identified as Muslim, but they used that faith as sole justification of their horrific actions. They did not attack for money, race, or politics, particularly (though the line between faith and politics is not at all clear in orthodox Islam). Simply calling all terrorists crazy, or extremists, and sticking one’s head in the sand, out of a misguided sense of acceptance or understanding, to ignore that basic truth does a disservice to our understanding of history, and removes a key relevant fact from the story of what happened at Ground Zero to all victims of all faiths. The brand of Islam that motivated the hijackers may bear little resemblance to the Sufi version of the Cordoba House organizers. But a whitewash serves no one. This is why an Islamic Cultural Center stirs such emotion, when other projects would not.

One could argue that the 19 hijackers attacked out of a retarded bastardization of the Muslim faith – one where all Jews and Christians must be eliminated to make way for the next Caliphate. That’s not religion, that’s political. And protest as much as you want, but by making this plea for “empathy” you do equate the Cordoba House with al Qaeda solely because the former is a Muslim human enrichment organization, and the latter is a Muslim terrorist organization.

You don’t link the thread between:

I protest this development not out of bigotry, and the whole Islamic faith is not a scapegoat here … The brand of Islam that motivated the hijackers may bear little resemblance to the Sufi version of the Cordoba House organizers. But a whitewash serves no one. This is why an Islamic Cultural Center stirs such emotion, when other projects would not.

and this:

The Islamic faith is the sticking point because the 19 hijackers not only self-identified as Muslim, but they used that faith as sole justification of their horrific actions.

In other words, even though you’re enlightened enough to realize that the Cordoba House isn’t even remotely the same thing as al Qaeda, and even though all Muslims shouldn’t be relegated to second-class citizen status thanks to al Qaeda, in this particular instance you’re going to lump them all together and make them second-class citizens because people more ignorant than you will be offended, their feelings hurt.

Maybe – just maybe – it’s time for people who aren’t ignorant to stand up for not being ignorant. Maybe it’s time to explain to our less informed brethren that no, not all Muslims are terrorists and Islam didn’t attack the US on 9/11 (neither did Saddam Hussein), but al Qaeda did. And al Qaeda isn’t Cordoba House, regardless of which direction they pray in, or how many times per day.

I protest this development out of a sense of the liberal (small “l”) ideals of tolerance, empathy to the victims and families, decency, and taste. I’m sure there are many Muslims in downtown Manhattan in need of this center. Those Muslims are not to blame, from their faith alone, for 9/11. They did nothing wrong. But that doesn’t mean the new center has to be two blocks from Ground Zero. Build it somewhere else.

There is nothing indecent or distasteful about a religious organization in a dense and diverse city choosing a location for a non-confrontational, non-terroristic cultural/sports facility in that city’s financial district. Part of the beauty of New York and New Yorkers is that they all live side-by-side, not really giving a crap whether so-and-so is Muslim or Jewish or Christian, because the city welcomes everyone from everywhere.

To oppose this project because of the organizers’ faith is to equate them with al Qaeda, your protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. When ignorant politicians rile up the ignorant to score political points, I’m not being lazy. What’s lazy is to argue that we should succumb to the prejudices of the ignorant, rather than making the effort to educate and inform them.

Here’s a video that was produced to inflame the passions and feelings of the ignorant. It includes the line that this “13-story mosque” “on Ground Zero” and that “that mosque is a monument to their victory, and an invitation to war”. It’s got 244 thousand views, and was featured by Andrew Breitbart.

[HTML1]

Now tell me that this isn’t about ignorance and bigotry.

A Bearded Jim Jones

19 Nov

Via Andrew Sullivan, Spencer Ackerman on a Khalid Sheik Mohammed trial in New York City, and the possibility that KSM will grandstand or make idiotic pronouncements somehow.

My hope for the KSM trial is that it does more than all this. It should forever shatter the pernicious myth that al-Qaeda is composed of supermen — supermen against whom America has no choice but to alter its character and most precious laws in order to confront. I suspect we’ll have an Eichmann-in-Jerusalem moment — and sorry for the unfortunate Nazi/al-Qaeda analogy; al-Qaeda are not the Nazis; but I couldn’t really think of any other parallel — except instead of the banality of evil, we’ll see the lunacy and vanity and self-absorption of it. That’s because al-Qaeda’s weltanshauung depends on a myth that holds America to be implacably determined to snuff out the glory of Islam. In reality, most Americans couldn’t give a fuck about Islam and only started to know the first thing about it because of 9/11. But that America — an America bearing no resemblance to the actual America — will be what KSM seeks to counter-indict. It’s farcical, and farcical in ways that can only benefit the real America.

But what grandstanding?

How is KSM going to grandstand?

Federal criminal trials are not state criminal trials like the OJ Simpson case.  There won’t be cameras in the courtroom, and there won’t be audio recordings, either.  He probably won’t do a perp walk, and he’ll certainly be held without bail, thus eliminating the possibility that he could hold impromptu press conferences on the courthouse steps every day.

The feds don’t put up with the kind of BS that state criminal courts let happen.  The most you’ll get is a dull recitation of the day’s events from some well-coiffed network talking head, or from some airheaded dullard on the Insider or Extra, and some courtroom sketches.  We won’t have, for instance, Nancy Grace picking video nits from the trial on a daily basis.  There won’t be OJ Simpson trying on a glove.  This will not be the media circus everyone’s assuming it will be.

But to Ackerman’s underlying point, echoing that of AG Holder – really, who cares what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has to say?  He’s a former, indicted board member of a morally bereft, financially troubled, ideologically unpopular terrorist death-cult.  Who gives a shit what he says or thinks?

"Patriots"

12 Sep

A tea party was held today in Washington to protest the dictatorial regime of President Kenya Muslim Commie B. Hitler. This is the same crowd that informed everyone that disagreement with George W. Bush was equal to treason. This is the same crowd that had no problem spending a trillion or so to invade a sovereign country on false pretenses. This is the same crowd that looked the other way when the government wiretapped them, didn’t care when the government committed torture, and had no problems when the government manipulated the terror threat levels to help them electorally.

This is the same crowd that ridiculed people who protested war. This is the same crowd that ridicules people who protest poverty and social injustice.

Fascinating that consumer protection for health insurance and a public option bring out the Hitler comparos. For them.

And that’s not all.

Yesterday was 9/11. The first tweet I read yesterday was this, from a person who purports to be a leader in the new media conservative movement:

Even the locals were all “Obama’s going to ask ACORN to invite al Qaeda to re-attack America”.

Of course, the Canadian Twitter friend he was responding to was a bit more, shall we say, pointed.

The irony of course is that they fundamentally misunderstand and forget what the world was like in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. George W. Bush’s election in 2000 and the subsequent legal battle over Florida left a bad taste in many mouths, given the almost 50/50 split in the popular vote. But in mid-September of 2001, practically the entire nation was dead-set on exacting revenge on those who attacked us, and many differences were set aside in order to get that accomplished. When the teabag crowd gathers in Washington to celebrate 9/12, they’re celebrating fear and anger. Not unity or patriotism. Or taxes. The Cheneyesque fetishism of fear and anger is something that apparently lurks deeply in the hearts of people like Matt Margolis and whoever “Right Girl” is, but that is not an American value.

When I posted a picture of the World Trade Center yesterday, I posted what affected me the most about 9/11. I was born in New York City. I grew up not far from there. It’s my city. Those towers were built as I grew up, and I still remember visiting them about once a year, but most especially the first year they were open to visitors sometime in the late 70s. To remember 9/11 for me isn’t to recall that I was safely ensconced in an office in Buffalo when I first heard about it. It’s to remember the fact that almost 3,000 were murdered, and a scar burned out of the city of my birth.

To suggest that George Bush wanted 9/11 to happen is wrong. I didn’t raise anything political about 9/11 at all. But for Republicans, it’s a political issue. After all, Bush and Cheney went to great lengths to make it so after 2002. That’s why they feel comfortable saying that our current elected President – a native of the United States who prays to Jesus, raises two kids, and has a funny, foreign-sounding name – hates America and wants to keep it unsafe.

Anyone who suggests that Barack Obama wants Americans to die, or that he hates America, is a detestable excuse for humanity, and frankly I don’t know how someone with so much misguided hate sleeps at night.

Our greatest accomplishments as a country didn’t arise out of fear or anger. They arose out of hope, hard work, opportunity, and freedom. And when the country shook itself back to some semblance of normal after the attacks of 9/11, we didn’t demonize each other. Yet that’s what the people quoted above (just a tiny sampling of mouth-shits I saw on the internet yesterday) feel comfortable doing. And that’s a great deal of what went on in Washington today.

Reading things like the snippets above, I realize that some people have no concept of humanity or politics or fairness or what it means to be American. Seeing how easily some throw around pictures of Hitler and Lenin, hammers and sickles, and swastikas as comparisons with President Obama, my expectations of right-wing hysterics have been fully realized, in spades. I am ashamed to share a citizenship with these so-called “patriots”, because they. have. no. idea.

[HTML1]

Photos via ninetwelve photos at Flickr

Maybe after 9/11/08, Everything Changes

11 Sep

A new local blog I stumbled upon today is called “Be the Change“, which offers some sentiments that I’ve been contemplating throughout the last couple of days:

I think my instincts were right…

Those that threw the most mud are going home.

Hmmm…maybe we are on to something here? What do you think?

and

I believe, as I have said before, that Obama has shown that you can stay positive, you can keep to the high road, and not come across as weak. You can counter attacks without attacking candidates personally and remain strong.

So when the local politicians don’t follow that model, the voters are pushing back. They are saying – we have had enough. It doesn’t have to be like that.

I can’t tell you how many people over the past two days have said to me “if I hear from this campaign again, I am not going to vote for your candidates”. And these are identified prime voter, supporters. You expect to hear it once or twice – but not again and again.

It’s a lesson folks – people are pushing back. They want politicians who will take the high road. They are done with the personal negative attacks. They are not going to take it anymore.

I think there’s negative and there’s negative.

And some people just deserve it, as I think Jack Davis did during the primary. I told someone today that although Jon Powers not getting the nomination was a loss, the fact that Davis’ political career is over means I’m batting .500. But I’m not a candidate. I’m a commentator.

Today, to commemorate 9/11, the McCain and Obama campaigns called a truce, and the two men vying to be President prayed together at Ground Zero.

I wonder if they had a friendly conversation, Senator to Senator, and pledged to tone down the nonsense and compete on issues. I wonder if they pledged to criticize each other’s policies and voting records, but to keep the extraneous noise to a minimum? They are both running to change Washington. They are both running on a platform of change. A campaign worthy of them, and of us, would be a great start towards change, indeed.

We may differ on taxation, the wars, spending, trade, and other issues. But we’re all Americans – and not just on 9/11.

Image via NYT