Ten Years Ago, on a Warm September Morning

I still lived in Los Angeles in 2001.   Tina and I were spending hours each day talking on the phone.

I used to get up early every morning for about a mile and a half walk to one of the stores where I would pick up a bagel or muffin for breakfast.

September 11, though I had a different route because it was the Los Angeles city primary and I was supporting Antonio Villagairosa, who would eventually be elected the first Latino mayor of LA in 2005 .

I had my list of candidates, knew who I was going to vote for.

At the polling place I heard people talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. The first thought I had was that small private plane flown by an amateur had hit it, the way one had hit the Empire State Building many years ago.

I voted and then looked at the small television the voting officials were watching.  I learned that it was a passenger plane and that the other tower had been struck by a second passenger plane.

I left the polling place and called Tina on my cell phone.  She had just learned the news from a man delivering a washer and  dryer.  I went on to the store and got my bagel.

When I got back to my apartment I turned on my TV and booted up my computer in time to hear the panic as the buildings collapsed.  I listened as another plane crashed in Pennsylvania and another hit the Pentagon.

My memory of that day is a collage of horror and anger.  I was caught up in the sea of outrage that anyone would have the audacity to do this to my country.

The images of people in various Arab cities celebrating by dancing in the streets made me want to turn those cities into glass.

Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell pulled out their tired gay bashing, feminist witch burning, hippie punching routine.

From Paul Krugman:  What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

After a life time on the left, a lifetime of dissent from US military engagements around the world, after a lifetime of skepticism regarding government infringement on the peoples rights, those guaranteed in the Constitution and those that should be guaranteed in the Constitution but aren’t I let the rage I was feeling sweep me up.

Like the vast majority of American people in the days after 9/11 I wanted revenge.  Kill not only those behind the attacks but to wage war on the country that sent them.

The right wing media which is the entire mainstream media encouraged this.  The so called liberal press nearly as much as the rabid right wing press.

I ignored how stupid I thought the maudlin suggestions on the part of President Chimpy to, “Go shopping, otherwise the terrorists would win.”

I was bothered by the rush to give up freedoms that had always lived on constantly challenged ground, such as the freedom to criticize the government.

As early as the week after I found the annoying thought entering my mind, “What if this were another Reichstag Fire?”

But, I was early on in my sobriety and I wanted to be like other people, to not swim against the current. A life time as an outsider and now in this moment of emotional crisis I wanted desperately to be part of the herd.

I’ve never been a pacifist.  I’ve tended to view pacifists as those unwilling to actually fight for anything, no matter how important.

When I went to New York to meet Tina, who I had been in a year long phone/computer/long distance relationship we avoided ground zero.  I couldn’t miss the twin towers because I had never actually seen them.  This was my first visit to New York City since 1967.

When we went into the city we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.  We went to the Village, I took the obligatory photograph of the Stonewall Inn.  We avoided the site of the Twin Towers.

On my way back to LA I was patiently waiting to check in, to have my bags screened and then go through the metal detectors and have my carry-on bag and camera bag x-rayed.  I was there at the ticket counter when a wild eyed, long haired unshaven middle eastern man in a black leather jacket crashed the line and demanded to buy a ticket.  He didn’t have a reservation and carried no luggage.  I decided.  If he is on the same flight I am on, I won’t get on the plane.

I checked in and went to screening leaving him still arguing with the ticket people.

Conspiracy theories were already out there about the towers being blown up and how the planes couldn’t have brought them down.  But as I sat in the plane on y flight back to LA a different question arose.  “How the fuck did all those people get knives (box cutters which are knives) passed all those screening processes?”  It is still the question that bothers me, as is the following.  who let the knives through or hid them after the screening point so that they could be retrieved.

In late April 2002 I moved to Long Island to be with Tina.  I gave away or mailed most of my possessions and left a lifetime behind.

I was in New York, home of the Abstract Expressionist Art Movement, home of the Village, a place I had loved as a teenager and young adult.

I started exploring the city, taking pictures, studying art at NYU and the Art Students League.

I avoided the financial district, Wall Street because I knew it was where the WTC had stood.

Then one October Day I went to an Adobe seminar that turned out to be a couple of blocks from where the World Trade Center had stood.  I had a camera so I went and looked.  I tool some pictures and the sorrow, the anger in me stirred a fresh.

There were already anti-Bush and anti-war with Iraq demonstrations going on but none of the media covered those voices of dissent.

I was part of the majority anyhow and wouldn’t have listened anyway.

We cheered “Shock and Awe” even though it was really “Shuck and Jive”.

But by the time 2004 rolled around with Bush’s appeals to the ultra right wing homophobes, the war that was starting to look like Vietnam in the sand, the kidnappings (rendition) the stories of torture.  One crack in the propaganda wall after another.

I got my feet back under me I read the writings of people I had trusted in the past and I was filled with a new anger.

If almost all of the terrorists on those planes were Saudis why did we invade Iraq?  If they were Saudis only using Afghanistan because Afghanistan was in a state of lawless chaos, why did we invade Afghanistan.

If these terrorists were extra-nationals rather than Saudis why didn’t we use our CIA/NSA/Special forces to deal with them the way Israel used the Mossad to deal with Black September, i.e. hunt them down and kill them rather than going to war with people who may well have had nothing to do with this.

How come the President said “They hate us for our freedoms.” and then started eroding the freedoms for which we are supposedly hated?

Ten years ago…

Ten years and a couple of trillion unfunded dollars pissed down a rat hole and the right wing are talking about austerity programs for the working people and the poor, the senior citizens and the disabled.

Ten years on and it seems to me that the “War on Terror” has destroyed far more than those 18 terrorists destroyed.

The war on terror has destroyed not only many of our freedoms but our economy.

Time to give us back the rights we surrendered under the  PATRIOT ACT.

Time to get past this terrible moment, time to get back to our ideals…

Tar Sands Protest: ‘When Ordinary People do Extraordinary Things’

From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/10-4

by Eric Hansen
Published on Saturday, September 10, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

Crisis clarifies our deepest beliefs and affections, our spirituality. In turn, these moments of great clarity prompt ordinary people to do extraordinary things — and historic changes happen.

Fifty-some years ago the Freedom Riders defied Klu Klux Klan church bombings and bus burnings to end racial segregation in the Jim Crow South.

Today, the crisis is catastrophic climate change — carbon pollution that threatens all life on our planet — and a new generation of Freedom Riders is returning home from peaceful protests, and mass arrests, at the White House.

The sheer dignity and poise of the demonstrators is stunning as you view the photographs – wave after wave — day after day for two weeks — more than twelve hundred people stepped forward, peacefully sat down in front of the White House fence and were arrested. This was the largest act of civil disobedience on this continent during this century.

They are asking President Obama to deny a permit for one of the oil industry’s pet projects – the Keystone XL Pipeline – a project that noted NASA climate scientist James Hansen says is literally the fuse on North America’s largest carbon bomb: the massive Tar Sands oil extraction project in Alberta, Canada. The decision is Obama’s alone, not Congress’.

The oil industry wants a pipeline from the Tar Sands to a deepwater port, enabling them to pump oil to the global market. Opposition from Canadian citizens has discouraged them from proposing a pipeline west from Alberta to the Pacific coast. Now, the oil developers want to run a pipeline through the Plains States to the Gulf Coast in Texas.

Local resistance is ferocious. Nebraska’s governor and both U.S. Senators that represent that state have come out against the project. Bloomberg News put it like this: “The bottom line: A $7 billion pipeline from Canada has angered Nebraska farmers and ranchers who value the state’s precious water over oil.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/10-4

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The $16 trillion bailout

From Socialist Worker: http://socialistworker.org/2011/09/07/the-16-trillion-bailout

Petrino DiLeo explains how Wall Street banks are still raking in taxpayer dollars.

September 7, 2011

WHILE THE media focused on the Washington charade over raising the federal debt ceiling and cutting the estimated budget deficit, a a one-time audit of the Federal Reserve released in late July showed that the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank have doled out an incredible $16 trillion in assistance to financial institutions and corporations in the U.S. and around the world.

The audit, conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), was mandated as part of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act sponsored by Democratic lawmakers Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank.

The audit revealed that the various emergency lending facilities, guarantee programs and bailouts for Wall Street–a project wholeheartedly supported by both major parties–was in itself far larger than the deficit that now has the same parties gunning for deep cuts to critical social programs.

A table–buried on page 131 of the audit–shows the staggering figures. Of the $16.1 trillion in bailout money overall, most went to a handful of U.S. and international financial institutions. Through the various mechanisms, Citigroup borrowed $2.5 trillion, Morgan Stanley took $2 trillion, Merrill Lynch received $1.9 trillion, and Bank of America got $1.3 trillion. With a total of $8.8 trillion among them, the four banks account for more than half of the total bailout.

Other recipients that received loans worth $500 billion or more included the British banks Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, as well as Wall Street colossus Goldman Sachs and the defunct investment bank Bear Stearns.

The Bloomberg news service made a big deal of the results of its own audit, which showed that Wall Street banks received $1.2 trillion in secret loans. That number has been widely reported, and a number of politicians postured over the findings.

But the $16.1 trillion bailout money trail turned up by the GAO audit has been met with silence.

Continue reading at:  http://socialistworker.org/2011/09/07/the-16-trillion-bailout

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Greece on verge of default as doubt grows over €8bn bailout

From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/10/greece-verge-default-bailout-doubt

Greek prime minister George Papandreou under fire amid rumours that creditors are about to pull the plug

and guardian.co.uk, Saturday 10 September 2011

Greece‘s embattled prime minister, George Papandreou, has moved to counter growing fears that Athens is about to default on its debts, saying there was a clear route back to economic health.

Speaking amid high security as protesters converged on the northern city of Thessaloniki for its annual international trade fair on Saturday, the socialist leader said: “There are two paths. One is the path of major change that will lead to a productive and creative Greece.

“The other path, the supposedly easier one, does not look problems straight in the eye and leads to disaster. We insist on the path of change.”

Despite strong denials that the country is heading for a default, rumours have grown that the end game is approaching. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, has insisted that a sixth, €8bn (£6.8bn) instalment of aid will not be released unless Greece enacts corrective measures to kickstart its economy and improve competitiveness. Experts from Washington and Brussels will fly into Athens this week to assess whether Greece is sticking to its programme of drastic spending cuts and tax rises, amid fears that its creditors could be ready to pull the plug.

Share prices plunged on both sides of the Atlantic on Friday, as Athens was forced to deny that it would default, perhaps as soon as this week. The Dow Jones closed more than 300 points down, while in London the FTSE100 lost more than 2% of its value.

A team from the so-called “troika” of the IMF, the European commission and the European Central Bank, which bankrolled the Greek rescue deal last May, are due to rule by the end of the month whether it should receive the latest €8bn tranche of the bailout.

The troika left Athens at the start of this month after talks with the government broke down. Papandreou has faced down riots on the streets to pass a series of austerity bills, but the country’s creditors accuse him of dragging his feet over job cuts in the civil service and the privatisation of €50bn-worth of state assets. Greece’s plans have also been blown off course by the worse-than-expected performance of its recession-hit economy, which is now expected to shrink by up to 7% this year.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/10/greece-verge-default-bailout-doubt

U.S. endures second-hottest summer on record

From The Los Angeles Times: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/09/second-hottest-summer-record-drought.html

September 8, 2011

The National Climatic Data Center announced Thursday what most Americans had been feeling all summer: It’s been a scorcher across the country, the second-hottest since 1895.

But not by much. The warmest national average for June, July and  August was  74.6 in 1936. This summer’s average was 74.5.

The temperature average has to be considered in context. Some regions experienced unseasonably cool weather, and California and New Jersey had their wettest summers ever.

As has been previously reported, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana had their warmest summers on record. Average summer temperatures in Texas and Oklahoma exceeded the previous seasonal statewide average temperature record for any state during any season.

Texas had its driest summer on record, with a statewide average of 2.44 inches of rain, more than five inches below the long-term average, and one inch less than the previous driest summer in 1956. New Mexico had its second-driest summer, and Oklahoma its third-driest.

Complete article at:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/09/second-hottest-summer-record-drought.html

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