If I Have Money If I Have Children

Last week, I read an article from 2003 that blew a hole in my ability to think things through:

The missing posters were still everywhere, but Cheney was able to focus on one that seemed to present itself to him – a poster portraying a man who worked at Windows as a pastry chef, who was dressed in a white tunic, who wore a goatee, who was Latino. His name was Norberto Hernandez. He lived in Queens. Cheney took the enhanced print of the Richard Drew photograph to the family, in particular to Norberto Hernandez’s brother Tino and sister Milagros. They said yes, that was Norberto. Milagros had watched footage of the people jumping on that terrible morning, before the television stations stopped showing it. She had seen one of the jumpers distinguished by the grace of his fall – by his resemblance to an Olympic diver – and surmised that he had to be her brother. Now she saw, and she knew. All that remained was for Peter Cheney to confirm the identification with Norberto’s wife and his three daughters. They did not want to talk to him, especially after Norberto’s remains were found and identified by the stamp of his DNA – a torso, an arm. So he went to the funeral. He brought his print of Drew’s photograph with him and showed it to Jacqueline Hernandez, the oldest of Norberto’s three daughters. She looked briefly at the picture, then at Cheney, and ordered him to leave.

What Cheney remembers her saying, in her anger, in her offended grief: “That piece of shit is not my father.”

I read and reread this, sure I’d missed words or whole phrases. And this:

And yet if one calls the New York Medical Examiner’s Office to learn its own estimate of how many people might have jumped, one does not get an answer but an admonition: “We don’t like to say they jumped. They didn’t jump. Nobody jumped. They were forced out, or blown out.” And if one Googles the words “how many jumped on 9/11,” one falls into some blogger’s trap, slugged “Go Away, No Jumpers Here,” where the bait is one’s own need to know: “I’ve got at least three entries in my referrer logs that show someone is doing a search on Google for ‘how many people jumped from WTC.’ My September 11 post had made mention of that terrible occurance [sic], so now any pervert looking for that will get my site’s URL. I’m disgusted. I tried, but cannot find any reason someone would want to know something like that…. Whatever. If that’s why you’re here – you’re busted. Now go away.”

Nobody jumped?

When she sees the twelve-frame sequence, she lets out a gasping, muted call for her mother, but Eulogia is already over her shoulder, reaching for the pictures. She looks at them one after another, and then her face fixes itself into an expression of triumph and scorn. “That is not my husband,” she says, handing the photographs back. “You see? Only I know Norberto.” She reaches for the photographs again, and then, after studying them, shakes her head with a vehement finality. “The man in this picture is a black man.” She asks for copies of the pictures so that she can show them to the people who believed that Norberto jumped out a window, while Catherine sits on the step with her palm spread over her heart. “They said my father was going to hell because he jumped,” she says. “On the Internet. They said my father was taken to hell with the devil. I don’t know what I would have done if it was him. I would have had a nervous breakdown, I guess. They would have found me in a mental ward somewhere….”

Her mother is standing at the front door, about to go back inside her house. Her face has already lost its belligerent pride and has turned once again into a mask of composed, almost wistful sadness. “Please,” she says as she closes the door in a stain of morning sunlight. “Please clear my husband’s name.”

Feelings are facts. That people feel ashamed their loved ones or fellow human beings might have jumped out of a burning building was a totally new idea for me. I stopped every stupid thing I was doing to think it over.

For me, this seems simple. Given a situation in which there’s a blast furnace at my back and a 100 story drop before me, I’d take the plunge. No rescue was coming. Death was imminent and certainly awful. There was no easy way out in which those who died and we who bore witness all went home with pure hearts. These people were murdered, every last one of them.

But what about this shame thing? Some religions teach that suicide is a big no-no, but what does that mean? The building you’re in goes up in flames and you dutifully roast? And if you don’t, you roast forever? I was not raised in a religious environment; in fact, I was raised by people who taught me not to lie, but if a crazy person with a gun told me his name was George Washington, I should address him as “Mr. President.” So I laid this article out for a practicing Catholic and asked about this shame thing. She found it puzzling, too. “I don’t think anyone was committing suicide. The only thing they could do was take a step out the window and trust in God.” A Jewish woman said, “Yes, and G-d’s answer was, ‘Come home.'” These seemed like comfortable fictions. Why would anyone need uncomfortable fictions?

I don’t know. I may need a few years to think about it.

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I’ve Asked Myself How Much Do You

What the fuck is this?

Taliban to U.S.: End drone strikes in Pakistan, or no more polio vaccines

I’m an American woman in my forties. Thinking of the Taliban conjures mental movies of the brutal repression of women and endless tribal conflict and since there’s nothing I can do about any of this, I change the subject. If I can’t change the subject, I leave the room. Mere mention of the Taliban turns some normally rational Americans into frothing idiots, so I wasn’t going to read this article. CNN is like that friend you can’t talk to anymore because you can see the corporate crazy in his eyes, but we did have that one weekend in Rochester, so –

Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur made the decision on the vaccination ban after consulting with other Taliban leaders, according to the statement.

Bahadur commands the faction of the Taliban based in North Waziristan, the district Washington believes is the main safe haven for the Haqqani network and other militant groups fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan.

It’s not clear how Bahadur’s decree will impact the polio eradication campaign in North Waziristan or in nearby districts, where he doesn’t wield as much power.

It is widely believed that Bahadur is allied with the Haqqani network and provides shelter for the group in North Waziristan. The United States has pushed Pakistan to launch an offensive against the militant groups in North Waziristan, but Pakistani military officials have resisted, saying their troops are stretched too thin.

It’s not like we’re talking about real people or anything, right? What? We are talking about real people? That’s terrible!

In April, U.S. President Barack Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan acknowledged the use of U.S. drones.

“Yes, in full accordance with the law – and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives – the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones,” Brennan said.

Everyone knows heavily armed toys are dropping bombs on bad guys. And some other guys. And their wedding guests. And neighbors who happened to be out for a walk at the time. And lots and lots of children. Everyone knows this. But but but: Taliban! Our good intentions! Grrrrrr!

“On one hand, the U.S. spends millions of dollars to eliminate polio, while on the other hand it kills hundreds with the help of its slave, Pakistan.”

Pakistan remains one of only three countries that have yet to eradicate polio.

The country’s polio campaign made headlines last year when a Pakistani doctor was linked to a CIA operation to verify Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts with a door-to-door vaccination campaign in the town of Abbottabad, where the al Qaeda leader was hiding before he was killed.

U.S. officials have said the plan did not work, but aid groups and Pakistani health officials have said the CIA’s alleged meddling with a vaccination campaign undermined Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate polio.

Bin Laden’s dead. I don’t know why we’re still talking about him. He’s so 2011. And it’s hard to be scared of the CIA after Bob Novak made us feel so sorry for CIA agents we all took them a casserole. Did you get your correct Pyrex back? Mine has Liz Cheney etched in the bottom with battery acid, which I guess was just lying around at her house. Anyway, this whole Pakistan escapade doesn’t make any sense and no one knows why heavily armed toys are flying around anyway because when you go all I give up, what’s with the bombs? many normally rational people get wild-eyed and extra frothy and can’t believe you’re not shitting your pants over imaginary terrorism. There is no talking to these people. Also: they smell.

A Taliban commander in northwest Pakistan has announced a ban on polio vaccines for children as long as the United States continues its campaign of drone strikes in the region, according to a statement by the Taliban.

“Polio drops will be banned in North Waziristan until the drones strikes are stopped,” said the statement, released Saturday.

“Almost every resident of North Waziristan has become a mental patient because of the drone strikes, which are worse than polio.”

Let’s tally up the score, shall we? The American populace needs new pants, the Taliban sounds rational, bombs are falling on people you can call on your mobile if you have the right phone plan, the survivors are losing their minds, American soldiers are killing themselves at an unbelievable rate, the military is chewing up our federal budget and polio – of all things – wins.

Did I mention the Taliban sounds rational?

Me You Don’t Even Hear What I’m

In the context of the national healthcare and insurance debacle, some terrible truths about real life horror and love disappear into smoky political horsetrading and policy gaps. This video arrived in email today from my friend, poet and a photographer Dwyer Jones, whose personal story kicks the shit out of most people’s. Please watch this performance by Laurence Cantor of Dwyer’s Caregiver’s Resume. Please listen. Please overlook the filmmaker’s kind of adorable errors.

Dwyer’s wife, a painter and poet in her own right, is notably absent here in story form. We who have the accidental privilege of good health and relative stability can imagine a sudden bad break for ourselves – a car accident, a shadow on the X-ray – but we can’t follow a chain of events starting with someone else’s misfortune that ends with the loss of everything we have and are. As long as health care is a shell game with clear financial winners and broken losers, catastrophic illness or injury anywhere around us threatens each of us and there’s no protecting ourselves from it. We think we can by tut-tutting when our cousin smokes or when Uncle orders a steak or when Mama pours herself a scotch, but clucking doesn’t help. Clicking your seat belt won’t prevent the semi from missing the exit ramp. Some suffering is random; it is without meaning and that’s all there is to it. The best we can do is provide health care for all people so the suffering doesn’t spread.

And when suffering does spread, it is the duty of an enlightened society to refuse to make it worse.

Crossposted at Brilliant@Breakfast.

Of Anything At All

Milbank:

William “Jim” Haynes II, the man who blessed the use of dogs, hoods and nudity to pry information out of recalcitrant detainees, proved to be a model of evasion himself as he resisted all attempts at inquiry by the Armed Services Committee.

Did he ask a subordinate to get information about harsh questioning techniques?

“My memory is not perfect.”

Did he see a memo about the effects of these techniques?

“I don’t specifically remember when I saw this.”

Did he remember doing something with the information he got?

“I don’t remember doing something with this information.”

When did he discuss these methods with other Bush administration officials?

“I don’t know precisely when, and I cannot discuss it further without getting into classified information.”

“I don’t recall seeing this memorandum before and I’m not even sure this is one I’ve seen before. . . . I don’t recall seeing this memorandum and I don’t recall specific objections of this nature. . . . Well, I don’t recall seeing this document, either. . . . I don’t recall specific concerns. . . . I don’t recall these and I don’t recall seeing these memoranda. . . . I can’t even read this document, but I don’t remember seeing it. . . . I don’t recall that specifically. . . . I don’t remember doing that. . . . I don’t recall seeing these things.”

In two hours of testimony, Haynes managed to get off no fewer than 23 don’t recalls, 22 don’t remembers, 16 don’t knows, and various other protestations of memory loss.

Our Watergate hearing nightmares have become the horror of our waking life.

The Story Of How We Begin To Remember

Tristero at Hullabaloo published a blog post the other day that made me frown.

Al-Qaeda As Catch-All Term

by tristero

Glenn Greenwald rightly takes Kenneth Pollack to task for this idiocy from the NY Times:

Some other analysts do not object to Mr. McCain’s portraying the insurgency (or multiple insurgencies) in Iraq as that of Al Qaeda. They say he is using a “perfectly reasonable catchall phrase” that, although it may be out of place in an academic setting, is acceptable on the campaign trail, [emphasis: Greenwald’s] a place that “does not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

What Glenn doesn’t realize is something that Pollack surely knows, which is that Philip Bobbitt is trying to make the catch-all “al Qaeda” academically acceptable as well. From a review of Bobbitt’s latest:

Bobbitt’s central premise is that today’s Islamic terrorist network, which he calls Al Qaeda for short…

I frowned because a few weeks ago in conversation I heard two adults discussing how sane and level-headed John McCain was and I said, “No, no. He’s batshit crazy, which will be unmistakable at some point soon.” MaCain had already begun conflating Sunni and Shi’ite, Madhi Army and al-Qaeda, which is inexcusable but sounded like a mistake the first time, the second time, even the third. Twice, Joe Lieberman whispered in McCain’s ear and McCain corrected himself. The sixth and seventh time the candidate misspoke, it was apparent to keen observers a pattern had developed. Hopefully, I thought, a good night’s sleep and a little gingko biloba might fix up the old coot. He’s disqualified himself from serious consideration for the office in question by virtue of being unable to state who’s the actual enemy we’re pretending to fight, but maybe he’ll be okay at dinner parties. Except, that’s not what’s happening here.

This morning, Pete turned on CNN while we did that daily How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up? ritual. While I was in the “Three – no, two!” phase, our blond newscaster talked and talked and talked. Each story seemed unbelievable to her. The sound of her voice reminded me of Drew Barrymore’s Jillian on Family Guy, which is already annoying before coffee. Then our story turned to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – that’s who we were looking at – but the broadcaster talked about “al-Qaeda in Iraq.” I sat up straight and growled. She went on to say al-Sadr had indeed warned the Iraqi government to cut out what it’s doing. I have no opinion about who is good or bad in this situation, and I won’t be drawn into discussion of it.

No.

What pissed me off beyond the ability to speak was the presumption that I, CNN viewer coming to on Sunday morning, don’t know that al-Sadr is Shi’ite, allied with Iran and al-Qaeda is profoundly, deeply Sunni, allied with Saudi Arabia, and these two groups are not fucking conspiring. They hate each other so much, so thoroughly and for so many hundreds of years they haven’t joined up to destroy the occupation.

Sure, it’s all about me, and by me, I mean news-watching registered voters. Here is a related CNN story that is more clear about who’s who, but not by much.

CNN has some explaining to do. Care to ask them to try?

Update: Crooks and Liars takes up Intellectual laziness and the ‘al Qaeda’ shorthand as our chief diplomat calls al-Sadr “coward.”

Like A Record, Baby

Let’s talk about focus. Here are 41 seconds of the tightest focus you may ever see.

On Monday, I got into it with the emotionally charged commenters at Shakespeare’s Sister, which has happened before. This morning, I found I’d written about it several years ago.

Siobhan: You’re talking about Shakespeare’s Sister?
Tata: Yeah, how’d you know?
Siobhan: That’s the expression your face gets everytime.
Tata: What? I have a look just for a person I’ve never met?
Siobhan: At least she makes you think!

Life is short, unless you’re in prison. A gal’s got to pick her battles and fewer of them as age creeps up and metabolism slows. For instance: that I get to work in the morning is a daily miracle; there’s no way I’d have the time or energy to pick a fight with a bigtime blogger and pin him to the mat. So I’m watching the fracas with the expression on my face that says, “Look at that girl go! She’s gonna run out of stomach lining before she runs out of opponents.”

Except in this case, I’d said to Melissa, “Let’s make some noise,” and the ensuing ruckus turned out to be just another pointless argument with misogynist trolls. It was disappointing, but I remember a time when I thought it was simply peachy to vent my frustrations in bar fights. Nothing changes when energy is dispersed this way. I don’t have the strength anymore to argue, let alone to no result, and Shakespeare’s Sister is not my blog. In my vast middle age, I prefer direct action to simmering in my emotions: I gather information, then write letters or phone. Here, Digby lays out the facts.

As you well informed blog readers all know by now, last week ABC broke an interesting little story. It was about how Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, Colin Powell, George Tenent, John Ashcroft and other Bush “Principals” all gathered in regular meetings in the White House to discuss and approve of the various torture methods being used against prisoners held by the United States in the War On Terror. ABC interviewed the president a couple of days later and asked him if he was aware of these meetings and he said he was not only aware of them, but that he’d approved of them. Moreover, he specifically said he had no regrets about what was done to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who we know was tortured with simulated drowning — also known as “waterboarding” — which is considered by the entire civilized world to be torture.

As I said, we know all this. The blogs have been writing about it non-stop since last week, stunned and appalled at the picture of these high level public officials sitting around watching power point presentations about the efficacy of sexual humiliation and CIA operatives “acting out” various torture techniques for their approval. (According to ABC’s source, they went farther than the Yoo memos and mandated that certain techniques could be used in tandem to make the “enhanced interrogations” even more painful.) At the CIA’s request, they explicitly signed off unanimously on each instance of torture — torture which included many of the techniques described here by former POWs of North Vietnam. POW’s like John McCain.

Please read the rest. It’s concise and effective, leading to a plan at Firedoglake.

Bush Approves of Torture. We Don’t.

In a stunning admission on April 10, George Bush admitted that he approved of torturing detainees in U.S. custody.

Write to the editors of local and national newspapers to help get the word out that while Bush approves of the U.S. torture, we – the American people – do not.

Individual effort. Focus. A tidal wave of voices. I like it. I’m going to write, and I hope you will too, wherever you are. And for the time being, I’ll avoid comments threads steered to time-wasting nowhere by the whims of trolls.