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    9/11 plus 5

    September 10th, 2006

    Just over five years ago, I began Semi Truths as a venue for my political satire. Tuesday nights were my night for writing, so I would spend much of the day in my pointless job thinking about what I would craft that evening. On Tuesday morning, September 11 2001, I met some co-workers for breakfast, then drove in a little later than usual, listening to the radio on the way. That was when I first heard about the plane that had struck the World Trade Center.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    The Day The Earth Stood Still

    September 11th, 2001

    I turned 40 years old on my last birthday. I was too small to know what was happening when JFK was assassinated, knowing only that the grown-ups were upset by something. I understood a little better when Bobby and Martin were killed, but I was not yet aware of who these great men were.

    In my lifetime, there have been only a few public tragedies that have stopped me cold and threatened to overwhelm me.

    Jonestown … George Moscone and Harvey Milk … John Lennon … The Challenger … Oklahoma City … Columbine …

    … today, September 11 2001.

    They seem to be getting closer together and more horrific.


    It was about 9:30 this morning when I first heard the news in my car. First one, then another commercial airplane flown into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack. I wondered if anyone else at work had heard. That question was answered by the ashen face of our receptionist. “Have you heard?” “I was just listening…” “Did you hear about the Pentagon too?” “The Pentagon…?!” It was like that all morning, everybody wanting to hear more, wanting to tell more, hoping it would stop. I tried to do some work but couldn’t concentrate. A TV was set up in a conference room. I stood in back and watched some of the live coverage. My god, only one tower is standing. I stared, unbelieving, as the other collapsed. The more we watched, the worse it got.

    A meeting was called for all supervisors at 11:00. Our department is not closing, they announced, we must carry on and keep the system working, to do otherwise would be exactly what the terrorists want us to do. Does any one have any other suggestions? You mean other than letting us all go home so we can be with our families, I did not ask.

    Are the schools staying open? Will there be an emergency blood drive at the hospital? People just want to do something, said the woman next to me, because we’re so angry.

    Angry? Yes, I should be angry, I thought. Why do I not feel anger? Am I just too numb?

    I left work early to deliver some papers to the elementary school. It was just after lunch as the kids were returning to their classrooms , so I slipped in to the cafeteria to see if I could find either of my girls. My youngest had left already, but my oldest was still in line with the rest of her class. She gave me a big hug and a kiss and asked what I was doing there.

    I couldn’t answer. I could barely say anything at all. I was starting to lose it. Right there, right then, in front of all those children, I needed to be the adult and keep control.

    She left with her class, smiling broadly and waving. I stepped outside onto the playground, sat down on a bench, and for the first time in a long time, bawled like a baby…


    “To all my fellow Americans beyond this hall, I say one thing we owe those who have sacrificed is the duty to purge ourselves of the dark forces which gave rise to this evil. They are forces that threaten our common peace, our freedom, our way of life. Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness. Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind. Justice will prevail. Let us let our own children know that we will stand against the forces of fear. When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it. In the face of death, let us honor life. As St. Paul admonished us, ‘Let us not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good’.”

    Our national leaders have important roles to play as consolers and reconcilers. After Oklahoma City, Bill Clinton, the President of our nation, the man I voted for, delivered these words of compassion and renewal. So far, the only words I have heard from George Bush are promises to “hunt down and find those folks who committed this act”, but I will give him time. I hope he is up to the task.

    It is time for collective soul-searching, to think about those things that we can and should change.

    For one, is this really the time to spend billions of dollars, violate long-standing treaties, and antagonize our European partners to create an ill-considered defense system that purports to protect us from “rogue nations” with sophisticated nuclear hardware?

    The attacks that we saw today weren’t the result of high-tech weaponry. The terrorists’ greatest weapons are their capacity for cold and calculated planning, and their hatred for all things American.

    I am trying to wrap my mind around the thinking of anyone who could commit these heinous acts. What could drive a human being, even an insane one, to walk into a school and start shooting random victims, or to commandeer a jumbo jet and crash it into a tower holding thousands of people?

    Does being the strongest nation in the world make us the brightest hope for the future, or are we just the biggest bully on the block? Are we a target because of our strength, or our arrogance?

    The slogan of the current White House is “compassionate conservatism”, but compassion does not stop at our doorstep. As a nation, we must reach out across the chasm that separates us from those who would see us perish, embrace that which confounds us, and work together to create tolerance and a better life for people everywhere.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my words. I hope they do not seem trivial or trite. I leave you now to go spend time with my family, to hold my children, and struggle to explain to them what is happening. Tomorrow, I give blood.


    SEMI TRUTHS: Vol. 1, Issue 1

    February 9th, 2001

    THIS MODERN LIFE

    I love living in the 21st Century.

    True, when I woke up on January 1, I was a little disappointed that my Honda Civic ® had not been somehow magically replaced by a Jetsons-style hover car, and no robot man-servant was available to cater to my every whim, but give it time.

    Look at what we do have: pocket-sized phones and Personal Digital Assistants, movies on 5-inch DVDs, CD players in our cars, and powerful computers at home and at work that allow us to download choppy streaming video of naked people coupling in Malaysia (um…so I’ve been told).

    I’ve been lucky: with my college degree in Liberal Arts, an otherwise brilliant future in the retail or food service industries was interrupted by the Internet Revolution and my discovery of a previously unsuspected knack for Information Technology. As a PC Support Guy ©, I have taken a solemn oath to use my powers only for Good and never for Evil. I know too well the dangers of succumbing to the dark side of technology.

    Speaking of Star Wars ®…


    THE BUSH EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

    …or perhaps that should be BACK TO THE FUTURE, as the once-and-future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld finds himself on Capitol Hill pushing for some kind of super force-field to protect our nation against nuclear attacks from “rogue states”.

    Oh man, not this again! I can already hear the voice of James Earl Jones…

    “Don’t be so proud of this technological terror you’ve created. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force. This is CNN!”

    Didn’t we leave this behind with Ronald Ray-gun? Does anybody think this thing is really going to work? There’s an expression that used to be popular, referring to something that should be easily learned: “it’s not rocket science”. So what expression do rocket scientists use? More importantly, what expression do they use now that they keep launching missiles at Mars and missing!!!

    During the most recent set of missile tests, these “rocket scientists” even handicapped the demonstration by slowing the “enemy” rocket to a virtual standstill and launching decoys with big green arrows pointing back at the incoming that said “Hey guys, over here!“… and they still missed it.

    Here’s an idea: let’s train our soldiers to stand in open fields and fire at incoming nukes with their rifles. I think they’d stand a better chance. For heaven’s sake, who’s going to launch a missile at us in the first place when it can be so easily tracked. That would be like the Unabomber putting his return address on a package. It would be so much easier to smuggle a bomb over the border from Mexico; say, for example, in a van full of illegal immigrants.

    According to a New York Times January 15 front-page story by Steven Lee Myers:

    “Rumsfeld…called today for a sweeping revision of the nation’s deterrence strategy and weaponry, advocating increases in military spending, the deployment of a national missile defense and a tougher stand toward China and North Korea.”

    But I thought China was our new best friend in the WTO? And aren’t we in negotiations with North Korea? (Unless they’re still mad about that time Hawkeye and Trapper John had a bit too much of their homemade hooch and drove to the DMZ to create an estuary of “the Yellow Sea”.)

    The Cynic in me says that is just an overt tactic to pay off fat cat defense contractors and Republican campaign contributors, whereas the Skeptic in me believes that it is a desperate attempt to keep old Cold War alliances from collapsing under the diminished fear of nuclear attack. That leaves very little room for the Optimist, which merely hopes that I’ve fallen asleep in front of the TV during a documentary retrospective of the 1980’s.

    Yes, I still do a double-take when I hear references to “the Bush Administration” in the news. I know, I know: “get over it”. In my more rational moments, I realize how grateful I am to live in a nation governed by democratic principles, where any drunk-driving, glad-handing, blue-blooded millionaire Texas oilman who can’t string together a coherent paragraph can become president through the cherished tradition of individual citizens exercising their Constitutional right to go into the ballot booth and accidentally vote for Pat Buchanan. In my less rational moments, I look forward to my 1.3 trillion dollar tax refund!


    THE HOPE-FULLER BUSH MAN

    “I want it to be said that the Bush administration was a results-oriented administration, (we) will make America what we want it to be a literate country and a hopefuller country.” George W. Bush, Jan. 11, 2001

    In my introductory issue, I pointed out that I try not to use the expression “hopefully” because of its inherent usage problem. According to an entry at Dictionary.com:

    “Writers who use hopefully as a sentence adverb…should be aware that the usage is unacceptable to many critics, including a large majority of the Usage Panel…. Like other sentence adverbs such as bluntly and happily, hopefully may occasionally be ambiguous. In the sentence ‘Hopefully, the company has launched a new venture‘, the word hopefully might be construed as describing the point of view of either the speaker or the subject. Such ambiguities can be resolved either by repositioning the adverb (as in ‘The company has launched the new venture hopefully‘) or by choosing a paraphrase (‘One may hope that the company has launched the new venture‘).

    I suppose I should give “President” Bush credit for finding a unique and original course around that conundrum.

    Why is this important? Well, after eight years of complaints that Bill Clinton’s lack of a personal moral compass contributed to the attenuation of the Chief Executive as a moral exemplar in our time (an objection to which I have some sympathy, though I think that the process started long before the Man From Hope came to office), I do not think that four years of hearing the English language butchered on a regular basis should be considered an improvement. I have children just entering grade school, after all.

    “I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well.” George W. Bush, Jan. 29, 2001

    Well, that’s a relief!


    LOST IN THE TRANSLATION

    If you’ve read this far, I wish to pause for a moment to point out that I do not intend to spend every column lampooning our maundering “President”. But once I start, it’s like eating peanuts. Shall we have some more?

    The Texas Observer started having some early fun with then-Governor Bush before the rest of us even had a turn at bat. In an article titled “Don’t Mess With Roofing Tiles!” by Jorge Arbusto, they used a computer to translate the Governor’s 1999 State of the State speech into Spanish and then back into English. The editors note that “through this remarkable process, ‘Texas‘ becomes ‘Tejas‘ becomes ‘Roofing Tiles.’ Similar linguistic improvements abound…”

    “We began this session with a national projector in us. They have asked to me about him. They have asked to him about him. You did not request he – but she is here anyway. And we can any vision he like distraction, or take hold it as opportunity to show the world what limited and constructive government seems. Here in the secondly greater state of the nation – eleventh greater economy of the world – we satisfy by only 140 days only once every two years. And we found a the job done, because the limited government works. The limited government brings the center. He requires to us to put to a side posturing and policy and to find the Earth common. We differed sometimes, but so in agreement. We know that we served Texans more better possible when we worked together in an alcohol of the cooperation and the respect, when we looked for the common Earth based on the values of Roofing Tiles of the limited government, of the local air-traffic control, strong families, and the personal responsibility….”

    What startles me is how much that “translation” reads just like the unmodified Geo. Bush during the debates!


    SEMI DRIVER IN THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY

    SEMI FINAL WORDS

    All definitions liberated from Dictionary.com

    rogue (n): one who is playfully mischievous or impish; a scamp

    (One can only suppose that attempting to protect ourselves from “impish” states doesn’t carry the same sense of urgency)

    co·nun·drum : a difficult problem

    at·ten u·a tion : To reduce in force, value, amount, or degree; weaken.

    ex·em·plar n. One that is worthy of imitation; a model.

    pred·e·ces·sor n : one who precedes you in time, as in holding a position or office

    maun·der·ing: to speak indistinctly or disconnectedly