Thursday, November 27, 2008

9/11 Is Over

It just occurred to me: 9/11 is over. I don't mean that it is no longer September 11, 2001, the day terrorists crashed jets into the World Trade Center in New York. It stopped being that on September 12. And I also certainly don't mean that the significance and pain of that day are now a mere page of history. In many ways, that day lives with us, and will continue to do so, for a long time. But 9/11 is over in a very real sense. So many things about that day, and about many Americans' reactions to it, have indeed now become notes from the past. It is no longer OK, for one thing, for America to go it alone and tell the world what we are going to do and where we are going to do it. The sneering at the United Nations, the attitude that we don't need Old Europe, the cocky belief that American might makes right -- all of that becomes more antiquated by the minute. It is even more emphatically not OK, anymore, to treat people like dogs, or worse. Americans have elected a visionary, and that says a lot about their state of mind now. It's not just hope they want. They want to shift back to idealism and high purpose. Abridgement of freedoms and disregard for human rights is not cool anymore, not even when it is practiced on non-citizens, not even in the name of national security. People have begun to form, and act on, the belief that this nation's distinctive mark on history should be as much spiritual as material -- that we do, and should, stand for something. 9/11 came near the start of the Bush presidency, and the present degree of national closure on 9/11 suitably marks its end. We missed out on the era that could have been, the Al Gore era in which a global outpouring of sympathy on behalf of the World Trade Center victims could have been translated into a tremendous worldwide consensus against extremism -- an era in which American values could have become highly and widely prized. In the nutty alternative given us by the Supreme Court following the 2000 elections -- and, let it be said, by unbelievable numbers of votes for Bush -- we got an Iraq war and, now, a risk of fiscal meltdown. Goodbye, let us hope, to all that. Obama and his people will have to unwind from Iraq, pull back from the financial abyss, win over an alienated generation of young people throughout the Islamic world, and so much more. They may not succeed. But in any case, let us hope that we have turned a page on silliness: that the idea of God standing behind a presidential candidate makes no more sense now, in this country, than it has ever made, for all the dictators and clerics who have solemnly asserted it, down through history. These dreadful mistakes were not God's doing. The memory of the World Trade Center will always be with us. But 9/11 is over. It is an uncertain new time, but it is ours.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Three Years Ago: Best of 2005: November

Here are the best items from my personal newsletter for November 2005: * * * * * Miscellaneous Comments from Me At Some Point, It Will Be Too Late to Sell Your Home (my title for a post on November 1, 2005) If it comes to a choice between Hillary Clinton and John McCain, I will find that a tough call. I imagine I might choose McCain. But I suspect the country will be so disgusted with Republican leadership by then that Clinton will win. * * * * * Late-Night Political News from "Cheney said he accepted Scooter Libby's resignation with a heavy heart that was also clogged and defective." --Jay Leno "What did Scooter Libby say when he bumped into President Bush at the White House? ...Pardon me." --Jay Leno "The White House, for the first time, didn't open the door for trick-or-treaters last night. It's not terrorism, they're just worried that someone will come to the door with a subpoena." --Jay Leno "Three kids came to my house dressed as Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice. I gave them some candy and they just kept standing there. I said, 'Okay, you can go,' and they said 'Oh, we can't, we don't have an exit strategy,' so they're still there at the house." --Jay Leno "President Bush was asked how he came up with a conservative like Alito [as Supreme Court nominee], and he said he got the idea over the weekend while turning the clocks back." --Jay Leno "A new poll shows that 66% of Americans think President Bush is doing a poor job on the war in Iraq. And the remaining 34% think Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church." --Tina Fey "Not looking good for President Bush's popularity. He's now at 35%. If he drops just three more points, he becomes a Democrat." --Jay Leno "Iraq is now planning to be a five-star hotel and a theme park for what they're expecting to be a future tourist boom, boom being the operative word there." --Jay Leno "President Bush is in South America. When he landed, he said 'Oh my god, John Edwards was right, there ARE two Americas!'" --Jay Leno "Senator Chuck Grassley has written to the oil companies asking them to donate a portion of their nearly hundred billion dollar oil profits to help low income people buy heat this winter. The oil companies responded by offering millions of dollars to someone to run against Grassley in the next primary." --Jay Leno "Jeb Bush now says he would like to be president, and I think I speak for all Americans when I say, 'When can you start, Jeb?'" --David Letterman "Bill Clinton and Hillary in Israel tonight. That's what the Mideast needs, two more people who are fighting over there." --Jay Leno "The price of gas is down for the 5th straight week. President Bush has called an emergency cabinet meeting to find out what the hell went wrong." --Jay Leno "When these oil company executives walked into the Capitol building, all these senators and congressmen were scared and nervous. It's always a little nerve-wracking when the real owners of the place show up." --Jay Leno "New Yorkers voted on Proposition 8, do you know what that is? Proposition 8 makes it illegal to shoot someone in a library without a silencer." --David Letterman "Every night people go out and go crazy all over France. Last night over 600 cars were set on fire, 600 cars! But the good news is that the rioters saved over 15% by switching to Geico." --David Letterman "The election for governor of New Jersey is taking place today, and, as we speak, it is way too close. I don't mean the race, I'm talking about New Jersey." --Conan O'Brien "Sen. John McCain has introduced a bill in the Senate that would ban torture by U.S. citizens. McCain decided to introduce the bill after listening to the new rap album by Kevin Federline." --Conan O'Brien "President Bush is following Arnold Schwarzenegger into China. When Bush landed on Saturday, Arnold had just left. Boy, the Chinese thought they had trouble understanding Arnold. They go from Arnold Schwarzenegger to President Bush. Who are we sending them next? Bob Dylan? Ozzie Osbourne?" --Jay Leno "Bush's overall approval ratings have hit an all-time low ... If Bush's numbers don't improve, he could become the first president held back and forced to repeat his presidency." --Tina Fey "For the first time ever, Republicans in Congress -- Republicans! -- are demanding to know the president's exit strategy from Iraq. Yeah, in response the president said I have an exit strategy, I'm leaving office in 2008." --Conan O'Brien "Yesterday, a group of scientists warned that because of global warming, sea levels will rise so much that parts of New Jersey will be under water. The bad news? Parts of New Jersey won't be under water." --Conan O'Brien * * * * * Steven Wright Thoughts I went to a general store. They wouldn't let me buy anything specifically. I wrote a few children's books, but not on purpose. The other day I... no wait, that wasn't me. I have the world's largest collection of seashells. I keep it on all the beaches of the world. Perhaps you've seen it. I have a microwave fireplace in my house. The other night I laid down in front of the fire for the evening in two minutes. Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song? For a while I didn't have a car. I had a helicopter, but no place to park it, so I just tied it to a lamp post and left it running. Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time. My friend has a baby. I'm recording all the noises he makes so later I can ask him what he meant. I watched the Indy 500, and I was thinking that if they left earlier they wouldn't have to go so fast. I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, "Hey, the sign says you're open 24-hours." He said, "Yeah, but not in a row." I saw a subliminal advertising executive, but only for a second. I bought a self-learning record to learn Spanish, I turned it on and went to sleep, the record got stuck, the next day I could only stutter in Spanish. My girlfriend asked me how long I was going to be gone on this tour. I said the whole time. A friend of mine is into Voodoo Acupuncture. You don't have to go. You'll just be walking down the street, and "Ooooohhhhhh, that's much better." Ever notice how irons have a setting for PERMANENT press? I don't get it. I saw a want ad; "light housekeeping." They said "Here, change this bulb." I said "I'll need some friends." On the other hand, you have different fingers. * * * * * New Rule Rant New Rule: Stop giving me that pop-up ad for! There's a reason you don't talk to people for 25 years. Because you don't particularly like them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days: mowing my lawn. New Rule: Don't eat anything that's served to you out a window unless you're a seagull. People are acting all shocked that a human finger was found in a bowl of Wendy's chili. Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect it to contain? Trout? Luckily, it was only a finger! If it was a whole hand, Congress would have voted to keep it alive. New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to "beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high. New Rule: and this one is long overdue: No more bathroom attendants. After I zip up, some guy is offering me a towel and a mint like I just had sex with George Michael. I can't even tell if he's supposed to be there, or just some freak with a fetish. I don't want to be on your web cam, dude. I just want to wash my hands. * * * * * Clippings Anthony A. Diotaiuto, 23, was sitting in his Sunrise, Fla., home when suddenly someone broke down the door without any warning and rushed in. Diotaiuto, who has a gun permit, grabbed his gun to defend himself -- and was shot about 10 times by police doing a drug raid. He was killed. Friends say Diotaiuto was a "casual" pot smoker who did not sell drugs. A search of the home found just two ounces of marijuana. Officers identified themselves as police when they "walked" into the home and ordered him to "freeze," said police spokesman Lt. Robert Voss. "It was his choice not to follow orders." (Miami Herald) Songbirds may be the Sinatras of the animal world, but male mice can carry a tune too, say Washington University researchers who were surprised by what they heard. Scientists have known for decades that male lab mice produce high-frequency sounds -- undetectable by human ears -- when they pick up the scent of a female mouse. Tasha Henderson got tired of her 14-year-old daughter's poor grades, her chronic lateness to class and her talking back to her teachers, so she decided to teach the girl a lesson. She made Coretha stand at a busy Oklahoma City intersection with a cardboard sign that read: "I don't do my homework and I act up in school, so my parents are preparing me for my future. Will work for food." "This may not work. I'm not a professional," said Henderson, a 34-year-old mother of three. "But I felt I owed it to my child to at least try." In fact, Henderson has seen a turnaround in her daughter's behavior in the past week and a half. But the punishment prompted letters and calls to talk radio from people either praising the woman or blasting her for publicly humiliating her daughter. Brain imaging of regular working folks who meditate regularly revealed increased thickness in cortical regions related to sensory, auditory and visual perception .... The study also indicates that regular meditation may slow age-related thinning of the frontal cortex. ... In 2003, researchers learned that children with music training had significantly better verbal memory than other kids. Dogs are better at relaxing heart-failure patients than people, a new study found. "Dogs are a great comfort," says study leader Kathie Cole of the UCLA Medical Center. "They make people happier, calmer and feel more loved. That is huge when you are scared and not feeling well." Thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents will receive discounted home heating oil this winter under an agreement signed Tuesday with Venezuela, whose government is a political adversary of the Bush administration. ... The agreement gives President Hugo Chavez's government standing as a provider of heating assistance to poor U.S. residents at a time when U.S. oil companies have been reluctant to do so and Congress has failed to expand aid in response to rising oil prices.