9/11

recommended reading: remembering 9/11

There has been a deluge of stories on 9/11 and its aftermath in the past week, ranging from the personal to political to polemic, some looking back on the past 10 years, some looking forward to what could come.  I’ve been trying to keep a close eye on who’s been writing what on the issue, and have generated a small list on some of the standouts.  See below for a few recommendations, and feel free to comment with your own – I’d like to keep this list growing with suggestions.

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from murder to congress?

It’s a little frightening when extrajudicial killings by a candidate – in wartime or not – are not considered a liability in an election.

Below are pieces of a Democracy Now! interview on Ilario Pantano, a candidate for a North Carolina House seat and an Iraq vet prosecuted for killing two unarmed Iraqis in 2004.  Full transcript is available here, and you can watch the interview above.

JUAN GONZALEZ: In North Carolina, a Tea Party-backed congressional candidate is facing scrutiny for having killed two unarmed Iraqis while serving in Iraq. The candidate, Ilario Pantano, has said he has no regrets about fatally shooting the two at point-blank range after detaining them near Fallujah in April 2004. Prosecutors later alleged that Pantano intended to make an example of the men by shooting them sixty times and hanging a sign over their corpses that read, “No better friend, no worse enemy.” Pantano did not deny hanging the sign or shooting the men repeatedly after stopping their vehicle at a checkpoint. He admitted to emptying one magazine of bullets into the Iraqis, then reloading and firing thirty more rounds.

AMY GOODMAN: Despite his admission, the military cleared Pantano of wrongdoing in 2005. He’s now in a tight race with incumbent Democrat Mike McIntyre in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. Pantano’s campaign has been endorsed by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin…

JUSTIN ELLIOTT: Fast-forwarding to the congressional race this year in the 7th District of North Carolina, you would possibly think that this would be a liability for his campaign, but actually, the Democratic incumbent and Democratic Party have not made an issue out of it. It’s been almost no one is talking about it…

JUAN GONZALEZ: And that’s because that district has a lot of military or ex-military who live there? What’s the district like?

JUSTIN ELLIOTT: Well, yeah, there are a lot of ex-military people in the district, and it’s a conservative district. The incumbent, Congressman Mike McIntyre, is a conservative Democrat. So, yeah, I talked to local political analysts, and they said, “Look, it’s far too delicate an issue for the Democrats to touch. A lot of people see Pantano as a hero.” To give you an example of how much this is not a liability, he was endorsed, as you mentioned, by Rudy Giuliani and also Sarah Palin, both of them in their endorsements touting his military record. He recently actually held a fundraiser at a gun range and said, you know, “You pay $25 and see if you can outshoot Ilario Pantano.” So it’s almost like he’s drawing attention to this. And the Democrats, again, have not—have been basically silent on it, so it’s not really an issue…

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, what’s very interesting is that he beat, in the GOP primary, a fellow Iraq war vet, Will Breazeale, who told the Daily Beast, as quoted by you, after his primary loss, that he considers Pantano “dangerous,” saying, “I’ve taken prisoners in Iraq and there’s no excuse for what he did.”

And these are the same candidates who argue that it will be gay marriage that will lead to the moral demise of the United States?

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the words we use: terrorist

By now, it’s all over the news: a group of Michigan-ites calling themselves “The Hutaree” was recently arrested on charges to use IEDs against local police officials in hopes of inciting an anti-government “uprising.”  In an article entitled “Militia Charged With Plotting to Murder Officers,” the New York Times reports:

CLAYTON, Mich. — David B. Stone Sr. and his wife, Tina, made no secret about the fact that they were part of a militia, neighbors say. The couple frequently let visitors in military fatigues erect tents in front of their trailer home at the intersection of rural dirt roads, and the sound of gunfire was routine…

In an indictment against the nine unsealed on Monday, the Justice Department said they were part of a group of apocalyptic Christian militants who were plotting to kill law enforcement officers in hopes of inciting an antigovernment uprising, the latest in a recent surge in right-wing militia activity.

Throughout the New York Times article, the Hutaree are referred to as right-wing militantsnot terrorists.  While there is one mention of terrorism in the article, in a reference to “the Department of Homeland Security produced a report warning of a rising threat of right-wing terrorism,” the individuals themselves are never referred to as terrorists.

Now, this wouldn’t be much news.  Except that the same exact thing happened in January, when a Texan man flew his plane into an IRS building in the lone state.  The February 18 headline read “Man Crashes Plane Into Texas I.R.S. Office,” and the article opened with:

Leaving behind a rant against the government, big business and particularly the tax system, a computer engineer smashed a small aircraft into an office building where nearly 200 employees of the Internal Revenue Service were starting their workday Thursday morning, the authorities said.

Again, throughout the article the assailant, Mr. Stack, is referred to as various things: an amateur musician, a husband, a software engineer.  But never a terrorist.  The article even explicitly states:

Within hours of the crash, before the death or even the identity of the pilot had been confirmed, officials ruled out any connection to terrorist groups or causes…As the Department of Homeland Security opened an investigation and President Obama received a briefing from his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, federal officials emphasized the same message, describing the case as a criminal inquiry.

It was indeed a miracle that in a building where 190 federal employees worked, no one died.  But no was injured when a man tried to ignite chemicals hidden in his pants while on an American flight in December.  This story, which made news only a few weeks before, was reported on quite differently.  A December 26 article, “Terror Attempt Seen as Man Tries to Ignite Device on Jet,”  reads:

A Nigerian man tried to ignite an explosive device aboard a trans-Atlantic Northwest Airlines flight as the plane prepared to land in Detroit on Friday, in an incident the United States believes was ”an attempted act of terrorism,” according to a White House official who declined to be identified.

The device, described by officials as a mixture of powder and liquid, failed to fully detonate. Passengers on the plane described a series of pops that sounded like firecrackers.

Federal officials said the man wanted to bring the plane down.

”This was the real deal,” said Representative Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, who was briefed on the incident and said something had gone wrong with the explosive device, which he described as somewhat sophisticated. ”This could have been devastating,” Mr. King said.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect, now has an entire NY Times Topics page devoted to him.  The anti-IRS guy?  No such page.  Even though he caused significant damage to a government building.  Abdulmutallab did little more damage than to himself.

Undoubtably, if Abdulmutallab’s plan had gone as he might have liked it to, it could have indeed been devastating.   But such is the case with the Hutarees’s plot.

Of course, we’re only in the first few days of watching this story unfold, and it’ll be interesting to see the words chosen to describe it as it does.  It’s my own belief that we shouldn’t use words like terrorist or terrorism at all – they do little more than incite fear and lead to broad generalizations.  But if such a word is going to be used, it needs to be applied consistently – across the board – to all those who use or threaten to use violence or terror to achieve political ends.  As Mr. Abdulmutallab did.  As Mr. Stone did.  As the Hutaree threatened to do.

A quick note – I specifically choose the New York Times over another news source for this analysis, as the NYTimes is often deemed as a highly legitimate and reliable source to turn to.  Yet, the language bias that one might expect to see in the other agency appears quite strongly, as I tried to illustrate above, in the NYTimes.  But just in case you’re curious as to how that other site detailed the three incidents?  The Hutaree’s plan is described as an alleged militia plot to kill cops.  The disgruntled Texan’s deliberate plane crash is an apparent anti-IRS suicide. The attempted airline bomber?  The Christmas Day Terror Suspect.

Big deadline tomorrow, so this one was a little shorter than I’d have liked it to be.  These are thoughts that are just forming, and I welcome feedback and criticisms.  Things that you think I should restate.  That is, afterall, what this is all about!

Also – there are many others who have thought and written on this issue, too – a few links below.

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the mental tipping point

The media’s abuzz with talk of climate change this week – the G8 leaders met and agreed to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2° Celsius, and a climate and energy bill that squeaked through the House is now on its way to the Senate.

Climate change activists, however, aren’t exactly jumping with joy.  With talk of a tipping point sometime in the next 5-7 years, wherein so much pollution will have been pumped into our planet’s soil, water, and air that we can no longer reverse the damage, what we need now are concrete actions to prevent further degredation.

To get that?  A major mentality shift has to happen.  Action to prevent climate change is not long a should, but a must.

Luckily, such a shift comes in all shapes and colors.  Supporting positive steps to reduce our impact can be done for any number of reasons – it’s economically smart, as countless businesses will fail as the earth starts to; it’s morally sound, as climate change will undeniably affect the world’s poorest first and worst; it’s asthetically pleasing to have a green and blue planet rather than a soot-colored one.  Take your pick.  And then push for real change.

The climate bill that’s heading on to the Senate right now, while heartening, is truly disappointing; yes, it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s been overrun by political pandering, with 85% of the permits given away to the politically favored.

Thus, while the environmental tipping point may be fast approach, we, the human race, have still have not hit that mental tipping point.  A friend recently sent me the commencement address delivered by Paul Hawken, renowned entrepreneur and environmental activist, at the University of Portland this year.  Here’s a particularly spectacular portion.

We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

One can only hope that we have enough foresight and willpower to identify at least a few of the right solutions and enact them quickly, so we don’t end up on the other side with too little too late.

I’ll be posting later with a list of things to do to counter climate change, both in the Boston area and beyond.  Thanks for reading!

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safe seafood on “the end of the line”

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My senior year in high school, my marine biology teacher gave us a ‘safe seafood’ card – those you can eat, and those you should avoid for the species’ well-being. I’ve since lost it, and have been on the hunt for a replacement. Finally found it on the website for “End of the Line,” a new documentary about overfishing. It’s screening this Friday in Woods Hole for all interested!

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