Archive for September 11th, 2006

On 9/11

I’ve been thinking about how I feel about 9/11 all day, in part because I feel an unspoken expectation from my readers to say something about it. I may be wrong. I wanted to ignore it all day, and appreciated the bloggers that went on as if nothing were happening. You may, too. Of course ignoring 9/11 is like ignoring Christmas. Turn on the television, there it is, from ABC’s docu-drama to the “heartwarming” stories on the major news networks. Crack open a newspaper, and it’s “where were you on 9/11” stories, stories about sons who lost fathers, fathers sons, wives husbands, and husbands wives. Many of you probably stumbled on a political rally or two cloaked as a memorial – here in Missoula, the College Republicans rallied and promoted their agenda on the Oval in the name of 9/11.

I could write about the solidarity we all felt immediately after. I could write about my neighborhood cafe with a television mounted on the counter and all of us sitting next to complete strangers, avoiding eye contact, but sharing newspapers, rumors, earnest talk. I could talk about how that’s been squandered. I could tell you where I was when I heard (in bed: a friend called from NYC telling me she was all right. I thought it was a joke until I turned on the set.). I could swing political and decry the Bush administration for exploiting 9/11 and exacerbating the problem. (I’ll do that later.)

Instead, I’ll try something that you may find novel, especially after reading all the stories and followng all the links and seeing all the conservatives cheer their President and wave my flag over their war. I don’t know if anybody else has already covered this angle: I’m going to be honest.

I’m through with 9/11.

You got that? It’s behind me now. It was a terrible thing, and I almost joined the National Guard. (Praise be I didn’t! It’s hard to be a daddy stationed in Iraq.) But it’s over. I don’t want to dwell on it anymore. I don’t want to see the pictures of burning towers on your political website or at your booth at the fair, got that?

Life goes on.

Apologies to survivors who still mourn. Apologies to fathers who want to start world wars to avenge their sons. I didn’t lose my son. I don’t know what it feels like. But life goes on. We wake up in the morning and put on our pants and we eat breakfast and we go to work. We love, we laugh, we cry, we see dumb movies for the special effects.

Don’t try to scare me anymore. I’m scared enough already. I’m scared of balls rolling into the street or tipped tricycles or of leukemia or MS, skull fractures, pedophiliacs, and mountain lions. I don’t need your picture of burning towers. I’m scared. But I’m strong. I understand the threat and desperately want my government to actually do something about it. Don’t worry about me. Keep your own house in order.

I’ve been reading up on funeral rites. And you know something? There’s always a ritual. A celebration of the journey from life to death. And someday they’ll be singing for me, and for you. And we’ve played and replayed 9/11 for five years now. We’ve fought over the narrative. What does it mean? we argued. I’ll tell you what it means. It means people die. You can’t get away from it, you can’t run from it. There’s no pill for death, there’s no defibribulator, no cast, no procedure. So let’s just admit 9/11 was terrible, many people died, and we have a security problem, and let’s let the dead rest.

Let’s rest.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Let’s put aside your pet plans and fix the problem. I’m game. Are you? Are you courageous? Are you ready?

Let it go.

Let it go.

After a hard debate, a man likes to kick back with his loved ones where he feels comfortable.

Sen. Mike DeWine, who has been aggressively soaking up Washington lobbyist money for his uphill re-election campaign in Ohio, has added an unprecedented campaign finance twist: bringing in another endangered Republican senator for his fund-raiser.

During the August recess of Congress, lobbyists received an invitation for a $1,000-a-ticket ”sunrise breakfast” in Washington on Sept. 14 to ”honor” DeWine. Listed as a ”special guest” is Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana. DeWine and Burns are considered two of the Republican senators most likely to be defeated in November.

The breakfast will be held at Charlie Palmer’s in Washington, a favorite restaurant among lobbyists. The listed hosts are the political action committees of EarthLink, an Internet service provider, and the National Mining Association.

That’s nice to see that Conrad Burns is relaxing among people he can trust, not like the nasty, nasty reception he received in Hamilton from the riff-raff in the high school Performing Arts Center. Why, they just let anyone walk off the streets and attend those things!


Granny found a great comment posted on a Gazette story about the terrible trio of out-of-state initiatives. (Still waiting for Montana papers to cover the initiatives’ funding.)

David Crisp has an excellent point about conservatives and taxes: “What I’m waiting for is some genuine conservative to explain to me how it is fiscally responsible for a senator to support, say, a war that costs a billion or so bucks a day and then not only refuse to levy the taxes to pay for it but actually support tax cuts that dig the hole even deeper.” Expect to hear some trickle-down economics replies.

ID 01: the latest poll shows Grant ahead! It also shows 61% undecided! A bizarre result, indeed.

Jeff Mangan finds a WaPo article that claims the GOP is going to go negative this election. (See “Debate, Montana Senate” for more.)

Nazi terrorists? Yawn. Throws a monkey wrench into the Missoulian’s racial profiling.

I wonder why we’re losing in Iraq? Is it because Rumsfeld refused to consider using a plan for the post-combat period?

Jonathan Chait on the Bush administration campaigning on the War on Terror: “…the Bush administration has decided to stake the 2006 elections on Bush’s record of fighting terrorism. It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. He let our worst enemies escape; he is on the verge of creating a terrorist haven in Iraq where none existed before; and this is the issue he picks to highlight. Why not run on his record of evacuating New Orleans? Maybe Bill Clinton can run on his record of chastity!”

For example, where’s Osama?

Debate links

Intelligent Discontent has the audio of the debate for your listening pleasure.

Justin has all the links to the mainstream coverage of the debate. Warning: journalists are put off by people caring about politics.

Check out Cece’s blow-by-blow account. I like her “BLINK” moments describing Burns outrageous statements.

Shane comments on the energy in the room, which Matt found a little distasteful.

Check out the analysis of the debate from the ID gang. Part one corrects Burns on Iraq, North Korea/Iran, energy, and health care. Part two corrects Burns on the federal debt, immigration, and No Child Left Behind. Part three examines Burns’ misstatements on stem cell research and veterans. Nice work, gentlemen!

Matt singles out one of Burns’ lines as proof the man is drunk with power. It’s not “your” money, Senator!

9/11 links

I understand if you want to skip this section and remember the day in your own way. (Like, can’t we move on?)

Roger Angell on how 9/11 changed us.

Hendrick Hertzberg’s moving piece on how the sense of solidarity after 9/11 was squandered.

World opinion mirrors Hertzberg’s lament.

Britain’s Independent: “How moving but dated [the images of support after 9/11] seem today, when international Muslim public opinion (for this phenomenon does now exist) and the United States and its allies seem to stare at one another across an abyss of incomprehension and hostility.”

Britain’s Financial Times: “Whether that monstrous master-stroke of jihadi terrorism ‘changed the world’ still depends on the sort of response that the many in the world who stand by tolerance and the rule of law make to the few who wish to trigger a clash of civilisations separating Muslim from Christian and Jew.”

Former Bush official outlines the administration’s attacks on our civil liberties, using 9/11 as a pretext.

Bush memorializes 9/11 in a not-so “nonpartisan” manner. Kevin Drum’s take. (A closer look at the photo-op.)

The New York Times reports on the strategizing surrounding Bush’s appearance.

Of course this is nothing compared to how Karl Rove intends to exploit 9/11 starting this week.

Greetings, 4&20 b’birds fans. I had every intention today of posting live from Hamilton’s Performing Arts Center during today’s Senate debate. I brought my computer, I had a cozy front-row seat in the corner, a great view, a wireless connection.

Only…my site was blocked by the network. Actually, so were all blogs. Whaddya know. No reading or posting to blogs from the Hamilton high school. Am I surprised? No. Do I approve? I’d say no, if I believed that high school students actually read political or literary blogs instead of their friends’ MySpace pages.

And then WordPress changed their controls around, and at midnight last night I couldn’t figure out how the h*ll to get this posted. (The block party last night was amazing! Great fun!)

Anyhow. I kept a running log of my thoughts during the debate on a word-processing document, so I’ll post the general gist here, ‘tho heavily edited. It’s fun reading live posts as it’s happening, but not so much serveral hours later. So…anyhoo…


Performing Arts Center, Hamilton High school, the place is packed. Wall-to-wall people. Noisy, anticipatory. To be honest, the GOP dominated the entry-way, loads of tee-shirts and signs. I can’t say what the mood of the crowd is, who they’re pulling for, tho’ I suspect – as Hamilton is the center of some *ahem* interesting conservative groups, a good chunk may be pulling for Burns.

The pro-Burns crowd outside were mostly kids. Teen-agers. Seems awful young to give up all semblance of a moral code. I mean…how could you support this guy if you’re idealistic? And what are you doing at 18 years tossing aside your idealism?

As I sit here, I can only think of the myriad ethical and judgement lapses of our junior Senator, and it seems to me the choice is clear. Burns has overstayed his time in DC, and a vote for is vote of approval for his conduct with Jack Abramoff, for lobbyist money controlling federal policy, a vote for the rudderless war policy of an incompetent and lame-duck President, and a further endangering of American security.

Trust me, if a Democrat were as incompetent and corrupt as Burns, I would at the very worst simply not cast my vote in that particular election. What we need in office are competent and honest representatives who will actually represent us, Montanans, and not big-money business, which already has too many advantages.


NOW is here. I got to do the “perp” walk down the hall with a camera in my face to my seat here in the front row, right by the stage. There’s a block of “Fire Burns” shirts just a few rows behind me, center seats. Bright yellow. Can’t miss ’em if you’re sitting on stage.

The traditional journalists are stacked against the far wall. The lights on their cameras gleam like insect eyes from the shadows. You can only imagine what cr*p they’ll write and air about this debate. Ugh. My stomach hurts thinking of these people obscuring the facts and issues with their quaint notions of “objectivity.”

2:07 pm

The candidates enter. The crowd goes bonkers. Standing ovation, Cheering. Raucous. Goose bumps. Both candidates get a loud ovation. Tester’s was louder…tho’ he was introduced second. Still, it’s loud.

Enter the boy scouts with the flags. We all do the Pledge of Allegiance. Cute. I haven’t said it since…when? High school? I nailed it, though. I’m just glad that NOW camera isn’t in my face. The produce is spider-crawling throughout the auditorium. Hope he gets some of this excitement into the show.


Burns opens. Man, that’s some twang! He gits folksy and sucks up to Hamilton, remembering auctioneering swine or something here. It should be swine. Introduces his wife, and looks d*mn old. Starts touting his appropriations for the state, reeling off a list of things we should be grateful for. (Tester’s granddaughter sits a row behind me and heckles the Senator throughout. She’s two. Go, girl.) Burns brags up his energy plan but forgets to mention all those subsidies to Big Oil.

Wait…it’s getting surreal. Burns just claimed this election was all about “vision,” about thinking up innovative ways for forming the future. This old crank? How odd. Is letting big corporations write legislation “visionary”?

\Tester follows. He plunges right in, talking about the myriad problems – energy, health, education costs – that afflict everyday Montanans. Then he makes a powerful statement saying DC has a corrupt culture…it’s actually quite moving and honest-sounding. In a way, he’s calling Burns a liar, corrupted by Washington. Moving, though he appears a little nervous and is speaking, perhaps, a little too softly.


The first question is about the war. Timetable, or stay the course? And what’s “victory” for Iraq?

Burns gets a chukle when he asks, rhetorically, “what are we doing there?” Indeed, Senator. What are we doing there? The crowd is rowdy, for sure. Then he evokes Somalia, calling our exit there a victory for…?…didn’t quite catch that. “Them.” Somalia? Not that Burns admires consistency or accuracy…but…did he support Somalia? Gotta look that up.

We shift gears. Apparently we’re losing in Iraq because “some” are dividing the nation. We’ve got to be unified, so we’ll win. Apparently what Burns doesn’t know is that we are unified, it’s the government that’s dividing the nation by continuing a war we don’t like. In any case, I don’t like being called a traitor, and he’s just p*ssed me off.

Tester quickly notes that Iraq has nothing to do with 9/11, says we need a plan and we should bring the troops home. Iraq is diverting from the war on terror. “Let’s go after the terrorists,” he says.

\Burns’ rebuttal. Says Tester has had four plans. What are the consequences for losing? Calls opponents of the war “out of touch with reality.” (Goodness, he sure knows how to rile up Touchstone! Unfortunately for Burns, and for his constituents, reality is not what he thinks it is.)

Tester rebuts, saying the Iraqis should be doing all the things we’re doing, but there are no plans for withdrawal. “We need to fight the war on terror – for real.”

Rebuttal time is up, but Burns gets a jab in “under his breath” and after the alloted time, asking – sarcastically – what Tester’s plan is. Tester looks a little surprised at the out-of-bounds play.

Montana, meet your *sshole – er, junior Senator. This is not the same dowdy old guy we saw in Whitefish. This is your drunk brother-in-law who mistakes stares of incredulity for wonder.

2:26Question about North Korea, Iran getting nukes.

Tester says the war in Iraq is diverting resources and tools to deal with these states. Our armed forces are tied down. We need to use diplomacy to curb the programs.

Burns: “Here we go again!” Claims we can’t negotiate with Iran, North Korea, implying they’re madmen. “You can’t deal with these people!” Burns plays to the lowest common denominator, allowing them to ignore the subtlies of history, culture, and current events across the globe. Good versus evil. We’ve already seen this ideology is worthless, only it plays well to the Eagle and Flag crowd.

Tester: If we don’t communicate, there’s no upside. We need to apply pressure diplomatically. Why are we relying on “Red China” for diplomatic negotiations? “We’re the leader of the free world,” he says, let’s use that power.

Burns: “We’re communicating, they’re listening, and we’re hearing them. There’s only one way to protect the free world: be strong.” Quotes Reagan. (Some applause from the Burnsian side. “Let’s take a look at the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.” (Derisive laughter.)

Tester asks the moderator if he can respond, she says no. Everybody laughs.

(Little worried about Tester here. Burns had some good one-liners they’ll no doubt play on televison tonight and every night for the next two months. Plus Tester looked a little taken aback by Burns’ sudden aggression. He – we all – thought this might be a congenial affair like the Whitefish debate. Guess not. Let’s see if Tester gets off his heels.)


Energy question.

Burns points out that most our energy – oil, gas, coal – comes from the Western hemisphere, not the Middle East. Talks about upping development of oil and coal here, especially in Montana. Then he starts in on that tract of coal in Southeast Montana, the infamous Davison tracts full of sodium and too dirty to burn with current technology. “We got to sell that coal.” (“Because my pals need the money!”)

Tester: “We’re more dependent on foreign oil than we were in 1970.” Talks about coal to disel, using Montana coal, agreeing we can use Montana resources. Touts wind here in Montana. Talks about the resources here in Montana, biodisel fuels, etc. Montana can be a “key role player.”

Burns: “Skirted the question! Skirted the question!” (Wow, what a jerk!) Takes credit for Judith Gap, says it was him that enabled it. Meanwhile, Burns stalks right over the stage to about the halfway line and starts in directly on Jon. Agressive. Jerk. Apparently getting “tough” is on Burns’ agenda tonight.

Tester: Calls Burns a “Johnny-come-lately.” Raises his voice and stalks to stage center and addresses the crowd. He’s done more for energy independence during his brief tenure in the state Senate than Burns has done in 18 years in the federal body. Persuasive. He’s off his heels and fighting again. Burns stepped on his toes in a policy Tester’s actually far superior in.


Health care reform question.

Tester: Touts state legislative agenda. (Burns scowling, crossing arms.) Tester talks policy, still notes there’s troube. We need affordable health care, with prevention a critical component. “We’re driving families into poverty.” Says health care is maybe the number one priority for Montana. (Amen!)

Burns: Centralized medical records. Touts the “small business” health plan, that cr*p Burns/Enzi bill that lowers costs for healthy single people and guts state regulatory power. I.e., the boot for people who need insurance the most. “Guess who’s blocking this bill?” Burns asks the crowd.

A voice rises up from the crowd, “Abramoff?”

Uproarious laughter.

I can’t believe it! Perfect timing! The crowd is ugly! It wants Burns’ head!

Burns looks a little embarassed, smiles awkwardly. Waits for the laughter to die down.

Starts again, “Guess who’s blocking it? The Democrats!” More hissing and mumbling. You’d have to be an idiot to believe this. Who controls Congess? Touts his health care “record.” Brings up Medicare Part B, the piece of cr*p legislation that sent governors across the country in crisis mode, because few seniors understood what the h*ll that was all about. Brings up the insurance bill again.

Tester: “Let’s start with Medicare Part B.” Goes into the plan…which quickly gets complicated. He’s losing us, but catches us again by saying, “see? It’s too complex!” Seniors aren’t signing up. The drug companies drafted the legislation!

Burns: With your plan, you’d have nothing! (Loud catcalls and boos from the audience.) Goes into an anecdote to defend his bill. A senior who needs an expiramental drug saves money. A confusing example, and I admit I don’t understand what the h*ll he’s talking about. Says Tester’s “friend” helped write it. (He means Baucus. I hate it when people bring up Baucus as an example of why a Democrat is bad. That’s like using Burns as an example of a Republican, only too many are like him. At least according to the DoJ.)

The moderator chides the audience for the outbursts. She looks annoyed. Must be a journalist. They hate when people actually believe in something strongly.

2:44Question about deficit.

Burns: It’s a concern. (Groans from the audience.) Our debt-to-asset ratio is smaller than under Reagan. (Uh…I’m getting lost. So he means we’re overspending less than we were last year? Is that a good thing?) Claims the economy is growing and working to help the deficit. (The economy is growing?) We have always operated within the budget… (?)

Tester: Brings up the Medicare info again for more clarification and urges Burns to support Baucus’ bill that would simplify the plan. (Hm…a good idea? It’s obvious that Tester knows and cares about this issue, but this is a bad time to give folks PSAs.)

Then quickly moves on to the debt. what Burns is saying “is like me saying I’m maintaining my weight gain.” Says Burns increases the debt, except during election years. (Murmur from the Burns gang.) Talks about running his farm and how you can’t get into serious debt on a farm. Bad business.

Burns: “Your farm didn’t get hit by Katrina, didn’t get hurt by terrorists.” (Some grumbling from the crowd.) Says he wrote checks that Jon cashed. Farm subsidies, I assume.

Tester interrupts before his time is up! He’s genuinely angry! Burns…out of sorts…gropes around the stage for where he’s supposed to be standing to look tough, while Tester, nearly yelling, talks about some real problems family farms are experience, thanks in part to Burns support of large multinational agribusiness corporations, and then there’s a six-year drought in Eastern Montana, Burns gropes, smiles…looks around…he’s got a rattlesnake in his boot, a bear in his bedroom.

I can only think what farmers must think of Burns after this. Tester obviously knows their problems. Burns looks chagrined.

2:49 How to end corruption in DC? Tester: “Be honest.” “We have the best government can buy.” (Laughter.) Talks about lobbyists, Abramoff. Says Montana values should be represented in Montana. Burns relationship with lobbyists is well documented. “Senator Burns has changed.”

Burns: “Washington hasn’t changed me.” Wonders why Tester didn’t fill out the Vote Smart quesitonaire? Accuses Jon of not reporting slush funds, foreign trips. “I believe in light bulbs and sunshine.” Talks about slush funds again, claims his own website reveals everything. (Much muttering in the crowd.) “Maybe I’m the only one here that’s not the lawbreaker.” (Much groaning, booing.)

Tester: Asked as part of his duty to the legislature to go on a trade mission to Taiwan. He didn’t want to leave the farm, but he was obligated. There’s nothing secret about that trip. “Let’s talk about Senator Burns’ trips:” lists a long long long list of places, funded by lobbyists.

Truly spectacular moment. So true. Perfect delivery. Outrage. Plus the list…it’s long…so long…and so many lobbyists! A great moment. Wish I had film. Must find some…

\Burns: Claims he’s not under investigation…his trips and campaign funds are up for everybody to see! (Not.) Brings up the robo-calls he and the Montana GOP birng up as Tester’s ethical “entanglements.”

Tester: Explains the calls, that he stopped them as soon as he realized they were illegal. About Burns’ trips being open for everyone to see, quotes from a Great Falls Tribune story in which the report asked about those trips, and Burns replied, “None of your damn business.”


Quesiton about road access to Bitterroot dams.

Burns: Says the people should decide, the water is critical to this valley.

Tester: Why isn’t the forest service doing this? Why does this have to be a Congressional law? Says the dams have to maintained, but public access to hunting has to be maintained.

Burns: Claims he didn’t understand Jon’s answer. “Someone has to make the call.” (This whole issue was manufactured by Conrad Burns. It’s definitely a softball question he controls. There’s really no answer to this. It ain’t the best policy, but who wants to create a hubub over this? That’s what Burns wants, to depict the left as allied with environmentalists who would stand between Bitterrootians and their water.)

Tester: The Forest Service should be in charge.


Immigration question.

Tester: Quotes 9/11 commission, says we need to secure our borders. “No amnesty.” Enforcing the laws on the books: crack down on businesses hiring illegal aliens. Trade agreements don’t force our trading partners into poverty.

Burns: Secure the border first. Then deal with the domestic issues. Guarantee no amnesty. “None. (Should Tester mention Burns’ record on this?) Says he voted against the recent Senate bill in immigration. “This is where I part with my President.” (Funny, it’s the only issue where I agree with Bush.)

Tester: Both borders are a concern. Talks about working with Canada. Brings up Marianas Islands, voted to loosen immigration standards there, a conduit for illegal immigration. (But…where’s the mention of Burns’ flip-flopping like a fish out of water on the issue?)

Burns: It’s not the US. It’s a protectorate. Smirks. (“Gotcha!” Does he think we’re that dumb?)

Tester: It is a protectorate, which means they get to apply the “made in the USA” label, with different labor laws…seems stunned at this twist in Burns’ argument, which defies reason.


No Child Left Behind Act.

Burns: Supports it, says it creates accountibility for schools. What’s wrong with defending accountibility?

Tester: “We have accountibility: it’s called the local school board. Local school boards know best how to educate their kids.” We’re sending the power to Washington DC. The act punishes rural schools, they can’t get certified teachers.

Burns: Says he’s visited middle and grade schools across the country – mumbling from Burns own supporters! — says accountibility is important!

Tester: Making teachers teach to standards, not education. Real accountibility exists with the local school boards. (Positive mumbling from Burns’ supporters. Wow. Burns was very weak on this question, and it seemed his own people were a little unnerved by Burns’ devotion to DC oversight of their local schools. That’s not a Montana value.)

3:11 Do you support stem cell research?

Tester: (Looks tired.) I support it.

Burns: I support it, too. Adult stem cell. It’s continuing in private research. Don’t support federal funding, but supports it. (Seems like he really likes stem cell, with a passing nod to pro-lifers.)


Veterans’ question

Burns: Touts his own appropriations for veterans’ services. Here in Montana. New bill on training. We’re spending more money than ever in veterans’ health care. (Why are the benefits being cut?) Mentions he’s a former Marine, etc…

Tester: Talks about the Iraqi war veterans coming back injured. A cost we should bear first. We need to assure them they get benefits. Brings up an anecdote about a footless Missoula vet.

Burns: Have him give me a call! Talks about more and more and more appropriations for veterans. It’s got to take a guy with a little more seniority to get it done…

Tester: There’s too many people who aren’t getting the benefits. It’s too big an issue to be playing politics with. (Probably should have mentioned the debt question, Burns record with Disabled American Veterans. There are concrete instances of Burns’ malfeasance towards vets.) “One other thing, Senator, the money you spend is not your money, it’s our money.”

Burns: You should know…you should know…(cackling like an old woman)…taxes! Taxes!

Tester: Touts balancing the budget, good spending. Not no-bid contracts for Iraq! (Wild cheering!)

Burns: “Why don’t he! Why don’t he! Why don’t he lower cost of school? Why don’t he turn coal to oil? Why don’t he! Why don’t he!” (Not verbatim, but you get the gist. And, yes, he kept saying, “why don’t he,” over and over.

Tester: We balanced the budget, reduced taxes for small businesses. You voted against Pell Grants. We need more money for education!

Burns: Blames the Democrats for blocking education bill. (Democrats are the majority party in Congress?)

Tester: I know how important higher education is. You’ve had 18 years. It’s time to quit talking on the issues and start doing something about it.


Closing statements

Tester: Very inspiring speech…about ending divisiviness, partisanship, we should work together.

Burns: Quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson? Attacks Tester as a liar. Talks about vision. Talks about fighting for our kids and grandkids. Smears Tester’s ethics. Smear, divides, angers, quotes the forefathers, touts freedom, claims to be honest. Election is about the “man who has seniority…”

Wow. Conrad sure knows how to p*ss people off.

Impressions later.

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