September 30, 2004

Marine The Sea Bottom Boy

Yes, I know -- the fate of the free world was debated in Florida tonight, and I'm going to lead off writing about...cartoons.

He seems like a pretty well informed guy when it comes to this stuff, so maybe Blogfonte knows something about what the Germans would no doubt refer to as a specimen of Ur-Anime, a show I loved as a kid and am disappointed I can't find as an adult, namely Marine Boy.

Marine Boy.jpg

You can learn a heck of a lot more than I remember about the show (I think it went off the air when I was six or seven) by following the link, or this one, which offers a glowing tribute. What I do remember is Marine Boy's Oxygum (which allowed him to breathe underwater -- I confused with Aspirgum, which was aspirin you could blow bubbles with), that the soles of his boots had water jets in them (he'd click his heels together to activate them) and his boomerang. The boomerang was the coolest thing -- it folded into handy pocket size, it was electrified, and it always came back to him. How I envied him the boomerang.

I don't remember much else about the show (including, disturbingly, the music -- more on that later). I don't recall the plots of any of the episodes, or much about the other characters (the Mermaid, named "Neptina," I believe, doesn't ring a bell at all, although I do remember a scientist type and a pair of submariners -- Piper was the name that stuck in my head). The pictures on this site haven't done much to jog my memory, although apparently that the Japanese animators of Marine Boy...

YIKES.jpg

...were buying animated spider robots from Hanna Barbera's Jonny Quest prop department:

soldiers2.gif

What I do recall, rather distinctly, is that, of the various Japanese animated shows available in the U.S. during my youth (Kimba the Lion, Speed Racer, and of course, Astro Boy), Marine Boy seemed, to my then-six-year-old eyes, to be the most sophisticated of the lot -- the timeless classic with real staying power. It's odd that Warner Brothers, which apparently owns the rights to the series, hasn't issued it on DVD or video. Marine Boy was, after all, a very special boy -- as the cheesy theme song (click here, and scroll down to the bottom) makes clear. And this clarity is one of the disturbing elements that challenges my childhood memories. I remember the opening words of the song -- "It's Marine Boy! Brave and free" -- but I recall them sung to a kind of brassy fanfare that combined the majesty of the Star Wars theme with the urgency of the Beatles' "Got to Get Into My Life." Hearing the actual theme -- with its admitteldly charming but simultaneously cliched Japanese motifs and the goofy sound effects in the instrumental break -- I begin to think that, after all, it might be better that the cartoon hasn't been released on DVD, and perhaps some things were meant to be loved solely by children in the late 1960s...

SO, REGARDING THE debate, about all I have to say is that on the things by which we grade debates, it was a draw. And by this I mean, let's say one candidate says A=A, and the other, A=R. In the objective world, A does not equal R. But the candidate saying A=R is quite polished and likeable. The candidate saying A=A looks at his watch or applies extra rouge while saying it, or admits that he doesn't mind if Michael Dukakis's wife is sexually assaulted as long as the attacker agrees that A=A. Now, A will still equal A, but gee, he had a bright red face pointed at his watch while he was saying it, but A=R guy made great eye contact, and really connected with people who think that the government is hiding in Area 51 affordable prescription drugs acquired from the space craft that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico ... well, that's politics, and I admit I'm addicted to it in what I hope is a healthy way.

To get to my point though, there was no moment when either A=A guy or A=R guy, for that matter, made the big mistake. Both candidates did a fairly decent job of critiquing the other guy. I would have preferred it if Kerry had been more specific about his plans and about hypotheticals (I don't criticize Bush for this, because he's actually been President and has a record to run on).

I will say this much (which isn't much) -- I've pretty much made up my mind which candidate I'm going to vote for, and I hope he wins (and expect he will). But I also think the other candidate's ideas are worthy of respect and are not beyond the pale of reasonable discourse, or respectable American politics, and that in other circumstances, they might well be the preferable policies. And that's what I took from the debates -- a draw in the sense that neither candidate looked at his watch while wearing too much rouge, but one candidate being in sync with what (in my altogther inexpert opinion) the next four years demands and the other being several beats out of sync (but not hopelessly lost) with same. Ultimately, the debates didn't have nearly the same impact on my likely vote as, say, the theme song of Marine Boy had on my confidence in my childhood opinions.

Posted by Ideofact at 11:52 PM | Comments (3)

September 29, 2004

I want to believe

Last night, around 2 a.m., my wife woke my from a sound slumber. "Come here, look out the window, quickly!"

I got out of bed, found my glasses, stumbled to the window. "Look," she said, "look up."

Through the leaves of the trees, I could make out a vast blob of light floating in the air. I can't quite describe what I thought, except that it was very difficult to explain what it could be -- certainly not an airplane or a helicopter (the dimensions were far too big). I pulled on my pants, ran downstairs, grabbed the digital camera, and got this not very clear picture:

UFO.JPG

Yes, a cigar shaped, luminous craft hovering over the neighbor's backyard. Within minutes, I found myself inside the craft, where they gave me a complete medical check up...

Well, not exactly. It was a blimp. As there had been a football game Monday night in Washington, I assumed it most likely came to town to take pictures of the Cowboys-Redskins game, and was now en route to its next destination. My wife was as disappointed as I.

Today, I learned that the blimp wasn't here for the football game:

The Army has leased [the blimp] from the nation's only airship manufacturer and outfitted it with sensors and cameras.

Throughout the week, the 178-foot-long lighter-than-air craft will conduct test runs over the Washington area designed to determine how effective electro-optical and infrared cameras aboard are at detecting potentially threatening movements on the ground.

The equipment already is used in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify enemy troop movement, but in combat zones it is attached to a static inflatable device that looks like a giant, blimp-shaped balloon.

I'm not particularly prone to imaginative worries (despite my rushing out of the house at 2 a.m. to get a photo of the little green men's flying saucer), but I'm not sure I'm all that comforted by the idea that the Army is testing out equipment -- used to identify enemy troop movements in Afghanistan and Iraq -- in the neighbor's backyard. By all means, I'm in favor of testing military equipment, and if the array of cameras limits the harm to our guys while maximizing the harm to theirs while preventing civilian casualties -- hey, I'm all for it, test away. Still, I can't shake the suspicion that this might be more than just a test....

And on that cheery note, let's change gears and note that Blogfonte has found a nasty jihadi site featuring beheadings hosted at some sort of anime site. Disgusting stuff -- I couldn't find an administrator contact on Whois, but maybe someone more adept at that kind of stuff than I am could. Related information here and here.

Bin Gregory, after a too lenghty (for my tastes) hiatus, is back, as is Macroscopic World.

Very belated thanks to H.D. Miller for the very kind endorsement of my efforts. And check out the others he linked there, as well as his own always engaging Travelling Shoes.

Mary of Exit Zero adds some information on the Wahabi connection to Chechen terrorism -- well worth reading.

Finally, to close on a happier note: Soon, Washington will have the distinction of being first in war, first in peace, and last in the National League East. I can hardly wait!

Posted by Ideofact at 10:24 PM | Comments (2)

September 28, 2004

Magic, Murder and the Weather

Last week, I titled a post "Victory of the Sadducees." In the context of the late 17th Century, the Sadducees (as Steve H. surmised in a comment to that post) were what we would call materialists or rationalists. They certainly wouldn't have thought much of scenes like this:

witchtrial.jpg

...which is a representation of the trial of George Jacobs for witchcraft. Interestingly, Magistrate John Hathorne (Nathaniel Hawthorne's ancestor) took spectral evidence -- that is, the "testimony" of the afflicted girls that Jacobs' spirit or apparition or specter was tormenting them -- as proof of his guilt during the preliminary investigation. Jacobs defended himself by arguing that God permitted the devil to take the form of an innocent man (something that no less an authority on the invisible world than Cotton Mather believed).

Mather believed that witchcraft -- not the Salem case, but rather an earlier episode, about which he wrote at lenght -- provided empirical evidence that the supernatural plane did intrude and act upon the natural world. His philosophical opponents, the Sadducees (perhaps best personified by Thomas Hobbes), would have none of it, of course.

I assumed in that earlier post that, for the most part, we've internalized the lessons of the Sadducees (optimist that I am, I'm not entirely prepared to give up that notion). When we see lightning, we understand it's an atmospheric discharge and not the wrath of the gods or God; when a loved one is afflicted, we look for the bacillus or virus at fault, and not the evil eye of a neighbor.

Reading the preliminary examinations and the trial transcripts from Salem (available online here, part of this excellent site), one is reminded that one is in a different world:

Magistrate: Look there, she accuseth you to your face, she chargeth you that you hurt her twise. Is it not true?

Jacobs: What would you have me say? I never wronged no man in word nor deed.

Magistrate: Here are 3 evidences.

Jacobs: You tax me for a wizard, you may as well tax me for a buzard I have done no harm.

Magistrate: Is it no harm to afflict these?

Jacobs: I never did it.

Magistrate: But how comes it to be in your appearance?

Jacobs: The Devil can taken any likeness.

Magistrate: Not without their consent.

Jacobs was one of 19 who were hung for witchcraft in 1692 -- interestingly, his protestations of innocence probably sealed his fate. Chadwick Hansen noted in Witchcraft in Salem:

Most seventeenth-century witchcraft courts executed everyone who confessed themselves a witch. But this court, good Puritans that they were, had apparently decided that confession was evidence of possible regeneration.

It's fairly easy to find places that have been immune to the Sadducees -- one need merely put the word witchcraft into Google News to see examples:

[India News] Patna, Sep 16 : A man in a Bihar village stabbed two women, including one who was pregnant, because he suspected them to be witches.

***

An Australian researcher has linked Papua New Guinea's burgeoning HIV/AIDS epidemic to the torture and murder of women accused of witchcraft.

It was revealed yesterday that one woman died after having her uterus ripped out with a steel hook and others were held down and burned with hot metal.

In one of the worst cases, witnesses say women were publicly tortured over almost two weeks to extract confessions they had killed people using sorcery.

Then, of course, there's these folk, harmless, perhaps a bit confused. I rather enjoyed this site, which is intelligent, engaging, and shows signs of a wicked impatience and exasperation.

Except for the Third World (and then only fractions of it), I tend to think that the Sadducees still provide the intellectual construct in which modern witches -- and Christians -- live. Occasionally we hear of the extremely devout who eschew bio-medicine for prayer, but I'd be willing to bet that most of our modern witches, on developing a fever, aren't above using aspirin or antibiotics, and do so without a second thought.

Posted by Ideofact at 11:56 PM | Comments (2)

September 22, 2004

Mary Warren

Here is how I picture her:

A teenaged girl in a simple frock of homespun wool, standing in the yard of the farmhouse and wincing in pain from the welts covering her back whenever she stoops to lift something, a painful reminder of the thrashing her employer gave her to cure what ailed her.

Flashing eyes amid girlish giggles as she looked eagerly to her friends Mercy and Ann and the other Mary just before they dropped the egg white into the glass, to divine what sort of man each might marry.

A moment of all too terrible lucidity, when she has at last understood that her fits and visions were madness, and heard the others afflicted say that Mary Warren's name -- her name -- was written in the Black Book by her master. And in that moment of lucidity, she perhaps understood for an instant that her only refuge is madness, into which she would soon sink.

Mary Warren was one of the afflicted in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692; a servant girl who worked for John Proctor (who, along with his wife Elizabeth, was tried and convicted of witchcraft), she also had the distinction of being the sole sufferer to also be accused of and examined for witchcraft.

Another thing that distinguished Warren from the other accusers of Salem is that, of the afflicted, she was the only one who recovered for a time from the fits. She regained her senses. Perhaps it was because her master believed that the proper cure for torment by witches was to be tied to the whipping post -- as inhumane as it sounds (and bear in mind that at the time, a good daily beating was the prescription for any number of mental illnesses), it might actually have worked. Either the threat of beating or the beating itself might have shocked Mary Warren out of her hysteria; she might also have believed that the devil could indeed be thrashed out of her body.

Whatever the case, in her lucidity, she claimed that the accusations she had made during her fits were not to be believed. In the cool light of sanity, she recognized that the apparitions of the likes of Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Good and Martha Corey that she had believed were tormenting her were in fact just hallucinations. As word of her changed testimony spread through the town, she was soon accused, along with her master John Proctor, of being in the devil's book -- of belonging to the coven.

The magistrates examined her for three weeks, Chadwick Hansen tells us, sometimes in open court, sometimes in jail. "By the time she gave up her denials [of the witchcraft of others] she was having fits so violent that ther legs could not be uncrossed without breaking them," he writes.

Mary Beth Norton, author of the excellent In the Devil's Snare, tried to find out what happened to all the major participants in the aftermath of the trials. Of Mary Warren, not a trace could be found. Perhaps she died a mad woman. Or perhaps, as Hawthorne wrote of Young Goodman Brown, her dying hour was gloom.

Posted by Ideofact at 09:52 PM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2004

Victory of the Sadducees

I started working on something rather lengthy, trying to recreate with my meager writing talent a view of the Salem witch trials from the perspective of one who a) sincerely believed in the power of witchcraft and b) believed that such witches were attacking his loved ones. It all fell apart, though, in part because, while I can sometimes imagine such an outlook, it becomes very difficult to draw someone else into one's ruminations on the topic. (And, note well, I can best imagine such a world under the influence of a high fever...)

Cotton Mather, who wrote extensively on witches and witchcraft, was fascinated by the subject because, it seemed to him, here was empirical evidence that, contra the materialists (called Sadducees after the Jewish rabbis who denied the existence of angels) the "invisible world" of angels and demons did indeed exist, and did exercise influence on the physical world. And, as Chadwick Hansen notes, absent the force of the invisible world, "We shall come to have no Christ but a light within, and no Heaven but a frame of mind," Mather fretted. And that is, by and large, what we ended up with. While I can read Hansen, see his rather detailed disquisition on clinical hysteria, and believe that, contra many of the historians of Salem, that the girls were tormented by witchcraft, I understand the term as a Sadducee. It was not the action of magic, but rather, a hyesterical and psychosomatic reaction to the fear of magic being used against them that caused the girls to suffer, and suffer they did.

Still, something worth pondering -- something I otherwise would discount out of hand. When our old friend Sayyid Qutb rails against Western materialism, should we put him in the same class as, say, a Hollywood philosophe arguing that money can't buy me love, or is he something else -- a Mather-esque figure who'd drag the world back into superstition?

Notes: Added Fightin' with Grabes to the favorites list, and fooled around with the font color at the request of a reader to make it easier to see. I found it works on Safari but not on I.E. -- I'll keep trying.

Posted by Ideofact at 11:40 PM | Comments (6)

September 19, 2004

Everything but the (Bond) girl

Miscellaneous comments on things I've been getting caught up with...

Brian Ulrich noted last Monday the intolerable situation of the Iranian Baha'is. It reminded me that, according to mullahcracy enthusiast Hamid Algar, what first brought Ayatollah Khomeini into a confrontation with the Shah's government was a 1960s reform of election laws that would have allowed Baha'is to serve openly on local and provincial councils. This, apparently, was intolerable to Khomeini. (Mentioned on page 55 of the above linked book).

Ghost of a Flea, in introducing his excellent Winston Review, notes some inconsistencies in Russian leader Vladimir Putin's charges of inconsistencies in approaching the War on Terror. Urban Empire notes the expanding bootacracy in Putin's Russia -- apparently Putin has decided that among the enemies in the war on terror is the Russian voter. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Meanwhile, in the good old US of A, a company called LG Electronics has been advertising what appears to be a refrigerator with a plasma television mounted on the door (sorry no luck finding the ad online). I can't decide if George Costanza or Homer Simpson would be the first fictional customer. I'd never buy one (our kitchen is comfortable enough, but I much prefer listening to music when I cook...).

Zack of Procrastination dissects, from multiple angles, the recent Muslim Youth Day at a New Jersey Six Flags Day. Everyone comes in for some criticism -- Zack at his evenhanded best.

Some of this sounds far-fetched (particularly the secret performance at the Paris Opera) but it's a follow-up on the cataphiles I mentioned here.

And finally...

I'd noted a while back that I'd started reading Ian Fleming's Bond novels -- I've always been a huge fan of the films (I remember sitting through a triple feature of Dr. No, Goldfinger and Thunderball as a nine year old) -- but I'd never read the books. I've been enjoying them incredibly, in part because one sees what the film producers chose to keep and what they chose to abandon from the books, in part because of Fleming's writing -- which is a joy -- and finally, for the way in which the Bond of the books differs from the spy of the films. From Moonraker (one of the worst films, but among the best of the books I've read so far):

'James.'

It was a clear, high, rather nervous voice. Not the voice he had expected.

He looked up. She was standing a few feet away from him. He noticed that she was wearing a black beret at a rakish angle and that she looked exciting and mysterious like someone you see driving by abroad, alone in an open car, someone unattainable and more desirable than anyone you have ever known. Someone who is on her way to make love to somebody else. Someone who is not for you.

Bond noticed correctly. After saving the day, he doesn't get the girl.

Posted by Ideofact at 11:34 PM | Comments (3)

September 18, 2004

Antecedents?

Juan A. Hervada of Netwar has a lengthy piece on World War Two era collaboration of European Muslims with the Nazis, suggesting that these collaborations may be antecedents for episodes like the attack in Beslan. I think he's a little off base on this one. (Note: I'm assuming here that the Caucasus are part of Europe -- always hard to tell, it's west of the Urals but East of Asia Minor...in any case, perhaps that should be amended to European and Soviet-subject Muslim collaborators...). I do think there was a good deal of Nazi influence on Muslim politics and beliefs, but I don't think that it occurred in Europe, but rather the Middle East. To cite one example, I quoted a piece from Bernard Lewis (which doesn't seem to be online anymore) that noted:

In 1940, the French government accepted defeat and signed a separate peace with the Third Reich. The French colonies in Syria and Lebanon remained under Vichy control, and were therefore open to the Nazis to do what they wished. They became major bases for Nazi propaganda and activity in the Middle East. The Nazis extended their operations from Syria and Lebanon, with some success, to Iraq and other places. That was the time when the Baath Party was founded, as a kind of clone of the Nazi and Fascist parties, using very similar methods and adapting a very similar ideology, and operating in the same way -- as part of an apparatus of surveillance that exists under a one-party state, where a party is not a party in the Western democratic sense, but part of the apparatus of a government. That was the origin of the Baath Party.

The influence goes beyond that, obviously, and the rabid anti-Semitism among Arab Muslims seems to be expressed as often as not in terms and images that come straight from Nazi Germany (which would be the subject of a much longer and much more depressing and stomach churning post).

That being said, I discount the Nazi influence among European Muslims for several reasons. First, those Muslim S.S. divisions were not exactly the equivalent of a true German S.S. division. Take the S.S. Handschar division in Bosnia, and consider this discussion of it:

In May 1944 the division was renamed as the "13. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS "Handschar" (Kroatische Nr. 1)." The division was composed of Croatians, ethnic Germans and Moslem recruits from Bosnia. The first commander was Standartenführer Herbert von Obwurzer from March 9 till August 1, 1943. The last comander of the division was Oberführer later Brigadeführer Desiderius Hampel. The division departed for training in occupied France. It was at Villefranche, during this period of training that certain members of the division mutiny and a number of German cadre personnel were killed during the mutiny. The fault in the uprising implicated three Communist that infiltrated into the ranks of the division. About 14 soldiers were executed as mutineers. By mid-February 1944, the division completed its training in Neuhammer and was sent back to Bosnia to combat Partisans. The division participated in several anti-Partisan operations around northeastern Bosnia, western Serbia and southern Sirmium.

By late 1944, the Soviets were penetrating the Croatian borders. In October, the division as such no longer existed because of the high numbers of desertions. It was of regimental strength and made up of its German and ethnic German personnel.

So the unit was operational less than eight months, was used to fight Tito's communist partisans and the Chetniks, and in the end all that was left of it were its German members. The unit, incidentally, was not used to participate in the slaughter of Yugoslavia's Jewish population -- that task had largely been finished by the Ustase. (Aside: And if we're worried about Nazi sympathies among Bosnian Muslims surviving into the present day, shouldn't we be far more worried about the Croatians? The Ustase were nastier than even the Nazis.) (Aside two: There's a more detailed history of Muslim participation in the Handschar unit in Noel Malcolm's excellent Bosnia: A Short History, which explores, among other topics, why Muslims joined the unit -- and it wasn't so they could imbibe Nazi doctrine or massacre Jews. It had a lot more to do with reasons of self-defense.)

Incidentally, the Nazis set up volunteer S.S. divisions pretty much wherever they could -- there were French and Dutch and Flemish and Walloon and so on so forth S.S. divisions -- a shameful history indeed, that citizens of democracies would join the fascists. Compare that to the situation of the Chechens, Crimean Tatars, Ingush, and so on -- it's not at all clear to me that being loyal to the Soviets (who were, after all, mass murderers too) offered much of an improvement over taking a shot with the Nazis. From their perspective, the Nazis were fighting the same Soviets who'd had their boot on the Soviet Muslim's (and every other Soviet citizen's) face since 1917. How could the Germans be any worse?

It seems to me that the radical influence on the Chechens -- their turning from what had been a struggle for autonomy and self-determination to becoming part of the global Jihad -- came not from any indiginous Nazi history, but rather from the Arab Mujahadeen. See, for example, this old post from paleo ideofact.

Posted by Ideofact at 09:54 PM | Comments (7)

September 17, 2004

Notes from the fever swamp

No, I didn't mean the title of the previous post literally. I must have misunderstood something, but I thought I CBS reported you could do perfectly formatted blog posts with an old 1970s IBM Selectric, and I've been working at it for the last week without success. Like I said, I probably missed a detail or two somewhere in there...

Actually, I spent the last week with a nasty, end up going to the doctor for antibiotics, something or other that started with a low grade fever as I got into bed Sunday night, and just kept getting worse. Even today I don't quite feel myself.

Mentally, it probably didn't help that I'd been reading Witchcraft at Salem -- the Chadwick Hansen book which argues that there were indeed witches at Salem. I'll write more about the book a bit later; I only mention it now because, as my temperature steadily rose Monday and Tuesday my dreams centered more and more on the images and impressions from the book, making for an altogether unpleasant sensation.

It's nice to be back from the fever swamps. More soon...

Posted by Ideofact at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2004

One last word

Lynn B. of In Context writes a postscript to the 9/11 memorials:

Just when I'm starting to think "enough, already," I'm reminded again of why (and how) we need to keep being reminded.

Last night, I watched this slideshow -- it's a big file (7 megs), so readers on dial-up may not be able to load it, but it's worth watching if you can. I had to turn off the music after a while, but the pictures themselves are deeply, deeply disturbing -- photos from that day and a few days after, photos of the destruction, of the ruined buildings, of shattered fire trucks, of the faces of those who died and the reaction and horror of those who lived. There's one photo of Rudy Giuliani, collapsed on the steps in front of a building, a look of despair on his face, that finally overwhelmed me. Watch the pictures. See if the wounds aren't as fresh as they were on that terrible day. (I had seen the slideshow before, but was reminded of it by the indispensible Instapundit.

I'm slowly updating the favorites list -- Stygius has moved, and I've added a link to NetWar, which states, "We are living in the world's first true world war. Let's think and talk about it." I agree with the second half of the sentiment, but it seems to me that both the First and Second World Wars qualify as true world wars. What distinguishes this one is that anyone, anywhere -- going to work or taking a flight or bringing your child to school for the first day -- is a potential target. So by all means, let's think and talk.

A blogger wrote to me asking for a source on an old Qutb post on paleo ideofact, which reminded me of how our enemies' ideological father viewed themselves and us. Here's the full quote, from page 202 of Social Justice in Islam:

Islam has always represented the highest achievements in universal and comprehensive social justice; European civilization has never reached the same level, nor ever will. For it is a civilization founded on pure materialism, a civilization of murder and war, of conquest and subjugation.

To prove this, those who take their inspiration from Sayyid Qutb will indiscriminately slaughter Jew, Christian, secularist, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan, Rosicrucian and, yes, Muslim. Take a look at the slideshow, if you're able, and remember.

Posted by Ideofact at 11:38 PM | Comments (1)

September 11, 2004

Something about Americans

I listened to the radio, watched a little (but not much) TV, read the papers this morning, and while 9/11 memorials were obviously the story, very little was said about the very ordinary Americans who did something extraordinary that day -- who chose to storm the cockpit of the hijacked Flight 93 and, in the first hours of the War on Terror, strike the first avenging blow against Islamist terror.

Joe Katzman of Winds of Change has written one of the most thorough and moving accounts of what those individuals did -- You can find it here, here, here and here.

I don't think I there's much to add to what Joe wrote, except to say that in the dark days after 9/11, the story of Flight 93, of how these people sacrificied their lives that others might live -- unlike the monsters they struck back at, who wanted to give their lives so others might die -- assured me that we would fight back, that we would persevere, and we would -- we will -- prevail.

I wish it was still online (I like the piece so much I downloaded it years ago -- it's been on three different Macs); in 1994, to commemorate D-Day, the American Spectator ran a piece by Yale Kramer, a professor of clinical psychology, on the U.S. landing at Omaha Beach. Kramer wrote,

It was individuals, not divisions, who determined the outcome that day. Disciplined training and experience are enormously helpful to the combat soldier in overcoming his terror in battle. When these are absent or minimal, as they were that morning, the fighting man must depend on his own personal motivations--his sense of honor, of duty, of loyalty to his comrades--and the leadership of those around him.

Among the tired, wet, scared groups of men huddled behind the sea wall waiting to be bombarded to death piecemeal by the enemies' mortars and artillery, a small number of leaders--officers, noncoms, and privates--began to emerge, and by example, exhortation, and bullying began to move the men up that slope, strewn with barbed wire and sown with mines, inch by inch. They were men like Staff Sergeant William Courtney and Private First Class William Braher of A Company's Fifth Ranger Battalion, who were probably the first Americans to reach the top of the cliff on the extreme western flank, around 8:30 a.m. When they gained the summit, they sent word to a company of the 116th Infantry below to follow them up, and a handful of men did so. ...

The 116th was new to combat, and having mislanded in front of a very heavily defended section of the beach, it lost most of its officers and so had become confused and dangerously demoralized. That is until General Norman Cota arrived at the western end of the beach and began prodding and rousing his men, leading from the front--a posture he was famous for--and exposing himself to enemy fire.

This was the situation everywhere along Omaha that morning, especially among the men who had never been in combat before. Every instinct told them to stay put and keep under cover. ...

Individual men--a succession of individual men, on their own, or leading small groups of ten or twenty, not under orders or according to some master plan, but out of a sense of desperation, or responsibility to their comrades, or honor, or pride, or all of them mixed together--began driving vital wedges into the German defenses all along the Omaha front. By mid-afternoon the Americans had overrun even the strongest of the German positions on Omaha.

I can't imagine what it must have been like to be on that plane, but like the noncoms and privates on Omaha Beach, like countless other Americans before them, they found it within themselves to overcome whatever fears they had, and to storm the enemy.

I remember the victims of September 11, and I mourn the dead, but it should not be forgotten that some of them, having discovered what was happening, struck the first blow in the War on Terror. In David Hackett Fischer's excellent Paul Revere's Ride, he tells of an aging Minuteman who was asked why it was that he fought the British regulars, a vastly superior army, all those years ago in Lexington and Concord. He explained:

"Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we had always governed ourselves and we always meant to. They didn't mean we should."

The Islamofascists on Flight 93, with their utopian, impossible dream of a pan-Caliphate run on their twisted view of Islam, were planning to hit either the Capitol or White House or some other symbol of our intention to govern ourselves. The passengers on Flight 93 went after them. That's what I would most like to remember about 9/11, and to never forget about Americans.


Posted by Ideofact at 11:56 PM | Comments (1)

September 10, 2004

My town on Sept. 11

I can't remember what I was thinking about when I went to bed three years ago tonight, here in stately ideofact manor, in Arlington, Va. I was working on a writing project, and probably went to bed fairly late, because I remember I didn't wake up until about 8:30 the next morning (in those days, I could cruise into work at 10 a.m.).

It's silly to say that I'll never forget that day as long as I live -- none of us will, I imagine. But I got curious about what that morning was like in my hometown of Lancaster, Pa. Through the miracle of Nexis, I took a look at the stories that ran on page one of the morning newspaper, the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal on Sept. 11:

Maxwell films 2d part of his Civil War trilogy

Hollywood at war: Local re-enactors help director refight Bull Run

Dead bird found in city has West Nile; First time virus has been detected here

Lancaster, Pa., is also blessed with an evening paper, the Lancaster New Era. There are plenty of stories in it from the world of Sept. 10, but they managed to get some stories from that day into the paper. Here's one from page A4:

HEADLINE: Local doctor's brother was pilot

BODY: A founding surgeon of the only open-heart surgery group in Lancaster has lost his brother in the waves of terrorism that have hit the country.

Dr. Mark Burlingame's brother, Capt. Charles Burlingame, was the pilot of the American Airlines flight that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

The local surgeon said today, "I am sure my brother died a hero. He was a man of tremendous integrity and patriotism. He loved his country. We grieve his loss and grieve for all of the families who lost loved ones today."

Mark Burlingame is one of four surgeons with Cardiothoracic Surgeons of Lancaster, which has offices on College Avenue and Duke Street.

Charles Burlingame, the pilot, lived in Herndon, Va., and is survived by his wife, Sheri, a daughter and a grandson.

He had been a U.S. Navy pilot and had been with American Airlines for nearly 20 years.

Here's another story, this one from page A5:

HEADLINE: Local workers stop, watch, worry

BYLINE: Tim Mekeel;Ad Crable

BODY:

Work came to a halt in offices across Lancaster County this morning, as employees stopped to watch television newscasts of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

The enormity and viciousness of the attacks left workers at Armstrong World Industries's headquarters "crying, in shock," said company spokesman Tom Burlington.

"Everyone is gathered around the TVs," he said.

Two planes crashed into New York City's World Trade Center, one hitting shortly before 9 a.m. and the other right around 9 a.m., causing the twin towers to collapse.

Explosions also rocked the Pentagon and State Department in Washington D.C., the Associated Press reported late this morning.

Recognizing that all of its employees would want to know about the attacks, Armstrong put news bulletins on its internal company Web site, Burlington said.

"We're doing our best to keep people updated. People need to know, and we want to get that information to them as soon as possible," he said.

At The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry, news of the disaster quickly drew workers to the chamber's breakroom, where they turned on the organization's small TV.

"It's one of those moments that puts the daily grind in perspective," said chamber president Tom Baldrige, who said that about a dozen workers at any given time were gathered in front of the 11-inch screen.

Employees of Fulton Bank this morning turned on TVs and radios and scanned the Internet for the latest news on the attacks, said bank spokeswoman Laura Wakeley.

"People are concerned about what the heck is going on, and they're concerned about friends and family that may be in the (New York City) area," she said. "People are searching for information."

Customers continued to be served today, and employees continued to do their jobs, Wakeley noted, "but it's definitely not the same as usual."

Boy, is that ever an understatement. The paper's editorial board weren't asleep at the switch either: they show up on page A10:

HEADLINE: Find terrorists responsible for attacking our country

BODY:

Terrorists today declared war on the United States. As of this writing, the full extent of the attacks on New York and Washington is not known, but this much is clear: something horrible has happened and someone must be held accountable for the horror.

Pretty good that -- but the last paragraph is at odds with the first, showing a Sept. 10 mentality:

But the primary response of the American people must be to urge our government to swiftly find and surely bring to justice the terrorists responsible for this outrage. This country must clean out their vile nests of intrigue and try the vermin in them for crimes against humanity.

I don't mean to criticize the editorialists -- they were working on deadline on an extraordinary day, and they probably were bumping West Nile virus and Civil War reenactment editorials to respond to the events of Sept. 11. Still, I don't recall Roosevelt suggesting that our goal was to try the perpetrators of Pearl Harbor in a court of law; the first paragraph is at odds with the last (and I'm far more sympathetic to the view expressed at the top than the bottom).

On page A5, we find,

HEADLINE: Prayer service set at 7 in Hempfield

BODY:

In the wake of today's terrorist attacks, Hempfield United Methodist Church will hold a special prayer service tonight.

The prayer service will be held at 7 p.m. at the church, 3050 Marietta Ave., west of Lancaster.

It will be open to "anyone who's dealing with the tragedy, and wants to just come and pray," said the Rev. David Woolverton, a Hempfield UMC pastor.

The lead local story (which ran on A1 along the then-current AP story -- and note that there's still word of a bomb outside the State Department) focused on Lancaster County's response:

HEADLINE: Planes, trains halted here; schools closed

BYLINE: Cindy Stauffer

BODY:

Planes were grounded. The county courthouse and city hall both closed early.

Just before midday, the county's emergency agency began calling all of the county's schools and recommending they close early.

The agency also called in extra staff.

Lancaster County put itself on alert today after two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, another aircraft crashed near the Pentagon and a car bomb exploded outside the State Department in Washington D.C.

"We've never had a day like this in this nation's history," said Lancaster County Commissioner Paul Thibault.

A spokesman at the Lancaster Airport Control Tower said all planes in the nation were grounded as of 10 a.m., according to instructions from the Federal Aviation Administration.

When was the last time national air traffic was shut down? "Never," the spokesman said grimly, adding he did not know when planes would begin flying again.

In the county's emergency management office, officials were busy late this morning notifying schools, advising them to dismiss their students early.

Some districts said they would close. Others were not sure that was the best option for their students.

In the meantime, several districts already had gone on "lock-down," a state of heightened security. Also, worried parents were showing up at schools to pull out their children and take them home.

Red Rose Transit Authority buses and Amtrak trains were still running as of late this morning in Lancaster. However, a man who answered the telephone at the Amtrak station said he did not know what to expect as the day went on.

James Lutz, RRTA executive director, said, "We will continue to operate and provide services as long as customers need us. ... As long as stores and employers are open and we have customers who may need us, we will continue to operate."

People were on alert across the midstate region.

At the nearby Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Middletown, a vehicle barrier was erected in front of the main entrance and state police were posted outside.

Schools, airports, the courthouse closing, guards posted at TMI...the story goes on to note businesses that had closed, others that stayed open, dismissal times from county schools. My own alma mater refused to be intimidated:

At Hempfield, Superintendent Robert Wildasin said, "We have some parents who are requesting to come to school and pick up their children. We are honoring their request. We are not considering closing early. I'm not taking this at all lightly, but we feel we are safe here in school. We've practiced all these things and pray that we never have to use them."

Yes, except for gym, those junior high anti-terrorist commando training classes were the biggest sources of adolescent anxiety...

And that was it for the Sept. 11, 2001 edition of one of my two hometown newspapers. I wasn't there. I was here, and my perspective, I suppose, was a little different. I heard the roar of the engines of American Airlines Flight 77 as it passed over my roof, and moments later the explosion, which rattled our back windows. I went outside and saw black smoke curling up from the Pentagon, then walked back home, got out our flag, and flew it.

Posted by Ideofact at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2004

Just already

The five year old entered the gaping maw of the state this week -- that is, he made his first trip to Kindergarten in a public school. One minute, he was standing beside my wife and I, the next he had bounded up the steps onto the bus with one of his pals from preschool.

My wife and I will occasionally gently rebuke one another in what I think is a fairly typical way -- I sometimes think she errs on the side of coddling our son too much, and she thinks I push him too hard. These are fairly minor disputes -- gentle reminders that he's "already five" or "just five" years old. It's all in the eye of the beholder.

But seeing him scamper onto the bus, entering the world of all day school, buying his milk in the cafeteria, negotiating recess and gym class, having the first entries made on his "permanent record," I couldn't help but feel that he's too little for all this, that he's "just five," after all.

I called him in the afternoon to see how he made out. "How was school?" I asked. "Oh, it's great!" he said, with real enthusiasm.

He's already five, after all...

Posted by Ideofact at 11:58 PM | Comments (2)

September 08, 2004

Going underground

"You guys have no idea what's down there."

And therein lies the intrigue. According to the Guardian, police found, in a large, previously unknown part of the catacombs under Paris, a room decked out like a movie theater, complete with screen and a projector, a wet bar, and other assorted amenities. Underground. In a section of the catacombs that is closed to the public.

Members of the force's sports squad, responsible - among other tasks - for policing the 170 miles of tunnels, caves, galleries and catacombs that underlie large parts of Paris, stumbled on the complex while on a training exercise beneath the Palais de Chaillot, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.

After entering the network through a drain next to the Trocadero, the officers came across a tarpaulin marked: Building site, No access.

Behind that, a tunnel held a desk and a closed-circuit TV camera set to automatically record images of anyone passing. The mechanism also triggered a tape of dogs barking, "clearly designed to frighten people off," the spokesman said.

Further along, the tunnel opened into a vast 400 sq metre cave some 18m underground, "like an underground amphitheatre, with terraces cut into the rock and chairs".

Who is it down there? Who knows? Rosicrucians? Templars? Nazis, neo or paleo?

"We have no idea whatsoever," a police spokesman said.

"There were two swastikas painted on the ceiling, but also celtic crosses and several stars of David, so we don't think it's extremists. Some sect or secret society, maybe. There are any number of possibilities."

And finding out who they are will be difficult.

Three days later, when the police returned accompanied by experts from the French electricity board to see where the power was coming from, the phone and electricity lines had been cut and a note was lying in the middle of the floor: "Do not," it said, "try to find us."

Hm. Perhaps this is the secret hiding place of the notorious band of Parisian criminals that Louis Feuillade warned us about...

Les Vampires.jpg

Posted by Ideofact at 11:39 PM | Comments (4)

September 06, 2004

Sorry

Began writing what I thought was a fairly simple observation about Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz and the recent terrorist attack in Russia, took a detour into Swedenborg and Oscar V. de L. Milsoz, Romanticism and the tripartite kingdom of the glorious past, the evil here and now, and the utopia to come, then detoured over to some World War II reflections, and ended up with a mess. Which I still may post tomorrow, but may just say the hell with it all -- depends largely on how much I can cut and still feel like I have a point..

In the meantime, I've added a useful link to CESLIT.org, which tracks Central and Eastern Slavic Literature in Translation, in the favorites list. It's a fun site worth reading.

Posted by Ideofact at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2004

Stuff & nonsense

On purely selfish grounds, I'm relieved that the conventions are over, and I can, except for the debates, get back to my normal schedule. I watched, as I did last July, and as usual, I will keep my own conscience.

It's amazing, though, what a rohrshach test politics is. Let me say this: I think the candidate who's stressing a difficult war and his role in it will win, while the candidate stressing a difficult war and his role in it will lose. How's that for instant reflection? (And yes, I can be far more nuanced than that, and I do actually have opinions about these things, but that's not the purpose of this blog, and I have no intention of saying more.)

Before the politics started, I sat down with the five year old and, instead of the usual Spongebob Squarepants (which, I think, is a fantastic cartoon -- as entertaining for adults as it is for children, and as inspired at times as the classic Warner Brothers cartoons), I put Buster Keaton's The General in the DVD player. I was amazed at how much he laughed, and how much I laughed as well. Yes, Keaton's character is a confederate, and at a few moments I couldn't help thinking that Keaton's screen bravery and antics were in the fictional service of a horrendous cause, but it's still a tremendously funny film.

Can't remember where I came across this, about conspiracy theories in the Arab world, but there's a point I wish the author had made, but didn't, but that's really the key to the whole thing. It's not that basic logic, analytical skills, or skepticism is somehow alien to Arabs, it's the utter lack of freedom that's to blame. The power of progaganda in a closed society is tremendous -- look no further than the Ukraine in the 1930s, where neighbors were turned one against another through the invocation of kulaks, who, some were told, were vermin. A free press, coupled with loud, frequent criticism of the more retrograde trends (the anti-Semitism, in particular) from the West, would go a long way toward breaking the loop of conspiracy theories.

Books and now DVDs and videocassettes are piling up at stately ideofact manor at an alarming rate. On the plus side, I've got a long weekend coming -- perhaps I can finally get to see Sunset Boulevard again (and without the five year old). For my money, it's one of the most disturbing films ever made. And speaking of movies, Ghost of a Flea is well on his way to convincing me that Italian cinema didn't die with Fellini.

Update: Fixed the link to the conspiracy theory essay. Thanks, Camassia!

Posted by Ideofact at 11:39 PM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2004

Inversion

The great and indefatigable Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis put together a post that got me thinking in a slightly different direction than he did (being a far more practical fellow, he thought in terms of practical implications; I'm thinking in terms of symbolic ones).

In a lengthy post on some of the recent terrorist episodes in Russia, particularly the twin downings of a pair of passenger aircraft, Dan asks,

One thing I'm hearing that I found interesting is the theory that it might be possible for female suicide bombers to conceal explosives in their vagina. Now I'm not trying to be crude here, but anybody know whether or not this is a feasible way of bringing in explosives for use in a terrorist attack? I know that the PKK and the Tamil Tigers have made extensive use of female suicide bombers, but I never recalled reading anything about this. Anybody want to weigh in on this one?

As I said, the technical aspects of this aren't my primary concern (although, if the more graphic of the spam emails I used to get before I turned on the spam blockers are any indication, it does seem entirely possible). But what does it say about the handlers -- the people who choose the bombers, equip them, prepare them for their missions -- that they turn a woman's genitals into a weapon of mass destruction? Again, as Dan indicates, this is speculation, and I imagine, contra Dan, that security in Russia's airports is probably sloppy, and perhaps reliance on this expedient was unnecessary, but still -- if what he's hearing is accurate, then this inversion -- this perversion -- of the "holy" warriors has sunk even further into depravity.

After giving her the rigged Walkman and explaining how to connect the wires to the explosive, the bombmaker shaped the plastique with his hands to the proper dimensions. He wrapped it with cellophane, then explained to her how to ...

I can't go on in this vein. This depravity knows no bounds, giving birth to a bomb.

Posted by Ideofact at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)