Remembering the Heroes: The Flight 93 National Memorial

Remembering the Heroes: The Flight 93 National Memorial

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the U.S. came under attack when four commercial airliners were hijacked and used to strike targets on the ground. Three of the planes hijacked by al-Qaeda on that day hit their high-profile targets: the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nearly 3,000 people tragically lost their lives. Because of the actions of the 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93, who fought back against their hijackers, an intended attack on the U.S. Capitol was thwarted.

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Vice-President Biden, state officials, bereaved relatives, artists and members of the public gathered Saturday to open a 1,500-acre national park on the outskirts of Shanksville (PA) that includes the partially completed Flight 93 National Memorial, in honor of the 40 passengers and crew members who died on United Airlines Flight 93.

The dedication of the memorial on Saturday, provided an opportunity for the two former presidents to appeal for unity. Neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton specifically mentioned the fractured state of relations in Washington. But their sharing of a stage and their comments here in the field where Flight 93 slammed into the ground stood in sharp contrast to the current state of divisive political discord.

Dedication of the New Shanksville Memorial

Former President Bill Clinton: Dedication of The Flight 93 National Memorial

The Flight 93 National Memorial in The Making

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Yellow Cake: A Modern Parable of Terrorism and Devastating War

Yellow Cake: A Modern Parable of Terrorism and Devastating War

Yellow Cake is a short animated film by the award-winning Canadian animator Nick Cross.  Cross explains that he got the idea for the film in 2003, in light of speculation during the Bush administration that Iraq was buying uranium powder called “Yellow Cake.”  Yellow Cake Uranium was one of the Weapons of Mass Destruction that Iraq allegedly possessed.  Cross’s fantastic animated epic becomes a modern parable of terrorism and catastrophic war, a lamentable tragedy featuring geopolitical bullying, social unrest and worker revolt. In the end, as with most revolutions, the revolt is both crushed by foreign intervention and corrupted from the inside until it becomes as evil as the regime the workers had originally fought.

Yellow Cake initially lures the viewer into a tale of pleasant mirth, filled with adorable blue creatures who spend all day baking and then eating their own  exquisitely delicious yellow cakes.  However, by the end of the film the small town of happy little bakers has been driven to terrorism by the greed of their leader and cake-hungry fat cats, resulting in the town’s ultimate catastrophic destruction.  It seems that no matter what they do, the oppressed have no hope left.

Yellow Cake: A Modern Parable of Terrorism and Devastating War

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President-elect Obama Arrives at the White House

President-elect Obama and Michelle Obama arrived at the White House for their first visit since Obama’s landslide election victory.  President Bush and first lady Laura Bush were at the South Portico of the White House to greet the Obamas on a sunny fall day with moderate temperatures and colorful autumn leaves.

The Obamas’ arrival had the look of a foreign head-of-state state visit.  The Obamas were driven up to the South Portico, where they were welcomed by the Bushes and escorted into the Executive Mansion that they’ll call home in a little more than two months.  Just a couple moments later, Bush and Obama were seen walking along the White House Collonade to the Oval Office.

President-elect Obama Arrives at the White House

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A Critical Moment: Barack Obama Accepts the Historic Presidential Nomination

A Critical Moment: Barack Obama Accepts the Historic Presidential Nomination

An Overview of the 2008 Democratic Convention’s Concluding Session

On Thursday, the 2008 Democratic National Convention moved into Denver’s Invesco Field so that more Americans could be a part of the fourth and final night of the Convention, where Barack Obama accepted the historic Democratic nomination for President. A crowd of almost 85,000 people attended the convention’s assembly at Invesco to hear Senator Obama’s acceptance speech.

Oscar-winning singer and Broadway actress Jennifer Hudson sang the National Anthem, and there were a number of other live live musical performances, including appearances by will.i.am (accompanied by John Legend, Agape choir, and band), the singer Sheryl Crowe and the legendary Stevie Wonder.

Before Senator Obama’s acceptance speech, Former Vice-President Al Gore spoke in support of Obama. Gore expressed heated criticisms about a number of public policy positions held by both Senator McCain and President Bush. His criticisms pointed to a number of specific issues in areas that included the environment, the economy and foreign affairs. Following Al Gore’s remarks, a biographic video of Obama was shown, which was directed by Davis Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning Director of An Inconvenient Truth.

Dave Stewart’s All-Star Music Video: My American Prayer

Replay: A Live Blogging of the Entire Acceptance Speech Event

A Biographic Tribute Video: The Search for Self

All Across the Nation, Something is Stirring

Barack Obama addressed a crowd of almost 85,000 supporters at the concluding session of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver Thursday evening, accepting the historic Democratic nomination for President of the United States. By Friday morning, a true avalanche of reviews had appeared, articles by so-called political-pundits representing both the mainstream media and new media bloggers. Many of the reviewers were enthralled by Senator Obama’s speech, but others were left with mixed feelings. Of the latter, some felt that his address failed to display the soaring, inspirational oratory that was characteristic of Obama’s earlier speeches, while others naively complained that his speech was just a repeat of his high-minded oratory that lacked any substance or specifics.

The pundits who were critical tended to churn out reviews that reflected a tenuous ability to grasp deeper or complex meanings, reviews that were highly superficial. These political-pundits are often the media’s more well-known public voices, but voices whose body of writings generally reflects a narcissistic conviction of entitlement. In fact, the dangerously alarming truth of the matter is that they view political events that are crucial to all Americans as their own personal sparkling merry-go-round, where their last political love affair is simply an entrée to their next encounter.

In sharply defined contrast, Barack Obama is a deeply thoughtful man, a characteristic once again revealed in his talk with supporters in the Invesco stadium on Thursday evening, many of whom during various parts of his address listened quietly in personal contemplative concentration. Not only was Obama addressing in detail the specifics of his positions during the acceptance speech, but far beyond that he was teaching and thus sharing with his supporters an understanding of the logic of his positions, as well as the logic supporting his reasons for repudiating Senator McCain’s political beliefs. In this context, Senator Obama clarified for all of America the fundamental motivation underlying the choice to embark upon his improbable and difficult run for the presidency: that neither Senator McCain, nor President Bush, nor the Republican administration will own up to their failures and to the devastating, often tragic results of those failures.

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With Profound Gratitude and Great Humility, I Accept

Music Audio: The O’Jays/Love Train

Barack Obama Wins Historic Presidential Nomination

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Standard Operating Procedure: People Behind the Abu Ghraib Abuse

Standard Operating Procedure: The People Behind the Abu Ghraib Abuse

Academy Award winner and documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure is an inquiry into the prisoner torture and abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. It is, predictably, a very bleak and depressing movie. But the very scale of Standard Operating Procedure, which in its expensive-looking production values, special effects and elaborately choreographed re-enactments, shows that Errol Morris has grown weary of working in the dimly lit outer fringes of motion picture productions, to which documentary filmmakers are still too often relegated.

Standard Operating Procedure is a big, provocative and disturbing work, although what makes it most provocative is that its greatest ambitions are for its own visual style. In sweeping strokes, the documentary addresses many of the issues that abound when government-authorized torture is accompanied by that very government’s public denial of responsibility, leaving young male and female soldiers bereft of anything except their own poorly-informed tactics.

Morris explains that a major force driving the project was the profusion of photographs that were taken by the American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison that document, in horrifyingly graphic detail, the prisoner abuse that those very soldiers helped to perpetuate. Morris and his documentary crew “set out to examine the context of these photographs,” attempting to uncover what had happened within the accepted narrative about the torture. For him the photographs functioned as both an exposé and a cover-up because while they revealed the horror, they also “convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything.”

Morris wasn’t convinced that he had seen everything. He made this movie, which at its finest and most focussed, tries to investigate how seeing both does and does not evolve into understanding. To that end, Morris employed two familiar documentary strategies: direct-address interviews and re-enactments in which actors re-enact actual historical events. As a tactic, the interviews with some of the soldiers who actually carried out the torture and abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison could have enabled the documentary’s subjects to speak for themselves, to raise their own voices.

Unfortunately, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that even when those subjects are able to speak from the vantage point of looking back in retrospect, they are only capable of providing, or willing to provide, anything more than defensive testimonies on their own behalves.

It is testimony to a government’s pervasive moral vacuum.

Standard Operating Procedure: The People Behind the Abuse

Abu Ghraib Iraq Prison Abuses, 2003

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There’s Just No News Today

There’s Just No News Today

There’s just no news today. The President was cloistered all alone in The Oval Office, so there are no news reports of any shenanigans or misbehaviors on his part. Plus, there were no terrorist attacks in either Europe or the Middle-East. And, sadly, there were no new juicy sex scandals involving government officials, ranging from senators to governors to mayors and city council members.

Private businesses simply closed their doors to all journalists yesterday, no access. Reportedly, most major corporations have agreed to institute a new nationwide rule: if any employee talks to a journalist, his or her job is in jeopardy. So, needless to say, there were no corporate whistle-blowers, neither yesterday nor today.

And, for the first time in decades, there were no news stories about celebrities. Perez Hilton didn’t post a single gossip item today, not a one. Celebrity thingees were going so slow, that it’s rumored Perez took the day off to do some whale impersonations with his bestest buddy Jason “Gummi Bear” Davis (Perez is still trying to get over the loss of his “kissy-kissy” John Mayer) ) at a Malibu beach. Lately, there have been so many unflattering articles about celebrities, ranging from the A-list to D-list celebrities, that public relations representatives would not give interviews with any of their clients yesterday or today. Now there was one celebrity report that was released yesterday, which at first looked as though it might turn out to be a good news story for today. Avant News released the findings of a large-scale, empirically-based study of the trajectory of celebrities and celebrity-hood, which reached the conclusion that in recent years there has been a remarkable rise in short-term celebrity status among citizens from all walks of life.

For the first time, according to our projections,” Dr. K. Phillip Townsend, a statistician at Rutgers University in New Jersey (many might remember Dr. Townsend from his three-week appearance on Fox TV’s Tenured and Untamed last spring), said, “America now has more celebrities than fans.” That trend, which determined that the current celebrity-to-fan ratio (CTFR) is 52:48, is due to multiple factors, including the proliferation of venues for reality television, politics, sporting events, and tabloid news outlets, but even more to do with a substantial “lowering of the bar” that is required for the elevation of an ordinary person to celebrity status, according to Dr. Townsend.

Fans tend to be fiercely loyal to a given celebrity for a period ranging from thirty seconds up to four days,” co-author Dr. Griffith said. “At that point, either the celebrity is deposed by a new, bigger, brighter celebrity, or the fan’s attention span is simply unable to sustain further interest. Either way, the fan moves on and the celebrity is left out in the cold.”

Hoping to wrench a real, headline-grabbing news story out of this research report, entertainment news executives and news anchors made lightning-fast searches to track down one of those “ordinary people” who had suddenly achieved celebrity status and notoriety, hoping to land a blockbuster interview about the experience of newly-found fame, celebrity-hood and notoriety. Finally, they found who they initially thought was the perfect candidate, a Mr. Rupert Ioderm.

Rupert, an unemployed temporary worker, had achieved brief celebrity status yesterday evening during his appearance on Dancing With the Unemployed Temporary Workers on The Lifestyle Television Channel. Mr. Ioderm said that he has been very painfully affected by what he calls “post-crawl depression“, referring to the euphoria that an ephemeral celebrity experiences upon seeing his or her name briefly appear in the news crawl at the bottom of the television screen, only to disappear and never appear there again.

When I saw my name flickering by with the headline ‘Ioderm Wins Dancing With Temps Round 1, Chokes in Runoff’, I thought I’d finally found my calling,” Mr. Ioderm said. “To be famous for having had my name appear in the crawl. Life feels so empty and meaningless now. The crawl is gone. The crawl is gone away.”

So Rupert Ioderm is really old news, not News for Now, News for Today. He’s just one more example of “Just No News Today.” However, Mr. Ioderm will be appearing next month on Losers in the News and on Dancing with the Temps: A Retrospective, both of which will air on The E-Network. Now, if reporters (maybe like from Gawker or TMZ) can just manage to catch up with him quickly enough, maybe he’ll be news then. We’ll just have to wait and see.

But for now, while the bulk of our print and TV news is usually chock-full of local crimes, stupid celebrity news, just pain old silly stories, weather, sports, and consumer information (with randomly partisan narcissistic pundits giving their smarty-pants spins about government, elections and economic issues…Hello, Andrew Sullivan…), today there was absolutely nothing to report. There was just No News Today.

Just No News Today

The Beatles: A Day in the Life

I Read the News Today…Oh Boy…

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Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

Let us not forget that on Saturday, March 8, 2008, President Bush announced that he had vetoed legislation that would have banned the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods, such as waterboarding, to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that he said have prevented attacks. The bill that he rejected would have provided guidelines for intelligence activities and has the interrogation requirement as one provision. The bill would have limited CIA interrogators to the 19 techniques that are allowed for use by military questioners. In 2006, the Army Field Manual banned the use of methods such as waterboarding or sensory deprivation on uncooperative prisoners.

Therefore, at this moment in history, let us not forget what is still being executed by our government. Rather than simply describing it as an “advanced” or “enhanced” interrogation technique, let us call it by its proper name: Torture.

Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

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