Sunday, June 4, 2006

Sunday Reading

  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrest 17 in terror plot.

    The arrests represented one of the largest counterterrorism sweeps in North America since the attacks of September 2001. American officials said that the plot did not involve any targets in the United States, but added that the full dimension of the plan for attacks was unknown.

    At a news conference in Toronto, police and intelligence officials said they had been monitoring the group for some time and moved in to make the arrests on Friday after the group arranged to take delivery of three tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be made into an explosive when combined with fuel oil.

    “It was their intent to use it for a terrorist attack,” said Mike McDonell, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police assistant commissioner. He said that by comparison the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, was carried out “with only one ton of ammonium nitrate.”

    The 17 men were mainly of South Asian descent and most were in their teens or early 20’s. One of the men was 30 years old and the oldest was 43 years old, police officials said. None of them had any known affiliation with Al Qaeda.

    “They represent the broad strata of our society,” Mr. McDonell said. “Some are students, some are employed, some are unemployed.”

    Bad guys plotting bad things should be arrested. What will be interesting is to see if the Canadian public goes all xenophobic against all Muslims or people of Southeast Asian descent because that’s who some of these were. Somehow I doubt it, but we’ll see. In retrospect, we in America didn’t get all sketchy about white Anglo-Saxon Protestant men after a couple of them bombed Oklahoma City.

    Several rightie blogs are chortling over how the leftie blogs will respond to this event, one going so far as to anticipate how we’ll respond to the “shredding of the Constitution.” Guess what: the events took place in Canada and the Constitution doesn’t have any jurisdiction there. Duh. I expect the RCMP did, however, follow the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  • Jonathan Rauch on how adversity in the form of AIDS in the gay community turned us from fun-loving boys into caring and committed men, and worthy of marriage.

    We feared for our lives; we prayed for a remedy. What none of us in the gay world imagined, when word of a mysterious affliction surfaced 25 years ago, was what proved to be the epidemic’s most important moral legacy: AIDS transformed the gay-marriage movement from implausible to inevitable.

    In May 1970, two men applied for a marriage license in Minnesota and then filed suit after being refused. The gay world hardly noticed. “Support for marriage was a distinctly minority position in the gay and lesbian movement,” wrote the historian George Chauncey. “After an initial flurry of activity, marriage virtually disappeared as a goal of the movement.”

    Marriage, after all, hardly seemed relevant. The master narrative for gay life was: come out, leave home, gorge at the banquet of sexual liberation. Gay men celebrated their image as sexual rebels; straight America was happy to consign them to that role. After 1981, the master narrative changed from ubiquitous sex to ubiquitous death. Death became, as the writer Andrew Sullivan noted at the height of the epidemic, not just an event in gay America but “an environment.” For the stricken there were lesions, chills, wasting, death; for friends and lovers, there was grief compounded by despair.

    But there was also an epidemic of care giving. Lovers, friends and AIDS “buddies” were spooning food, emptying bedpans, holding wracked bodies through the night. They were assuming the burdens of marriage at its hardest. They were also showing that no relative, government program or charity is as dependable or consoling as a dedicated partner.


    Watching gays become family to each other, the public saw nobility. AIDS reminded the country that a good marriage is the best public-health measure known to man. “Gay marriage,” so recently an oxymoron, began to make sense.

    Yes, the idea of same-sex marriage predated AIDS. But would gay America have internalized as deeply the need for marriage if it had not first internalized H.I.V.? Would straight America have been as willing to consider gay marriage if not for AIDS? Impossible. In gay cultural history, marriage is to AIDS much as Israel is to the Holocaust in Jewish cultural history. It offers a safer shore, a better life, and a promise: never again.

  • Let’s take a look at a place where the president still draws favorable poll numbers: Utah. Even there he only manages to pull a 51% approval rating.

    This core group is a highly concentrated version of the Bush base, one that appears to be motivated more by general principles and a comfort level with the president than by specific issues or political trends. They tend to be impressed by Mr. Bush’s faith and convinced that he understands their lives and values. They like what they see as his muscular foreign policy.

    These supporters are mostly clustered in places like Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, the only three states where Mr. Bush’s job approval rating is at or above 50 percent, and in smaller pockets in areas like the suburbs of Birmingham, Ala.; northwest Georgia; and the Florida Panhandle.

    “I’m against the war in Iraq — and what happened with Hurricane Katrina, well, it was a failure by everybody,” said Ron Craft, a sales manager in Provo who said he was a devout Mormon and a strong conservative who considered himself independent politically. “I tend to judge a person by their character. And President Bush reminds me of President Reagan. He’s a man of principle.”


    Another student at Brigham Young, Danielle Pulsipher, a junior, offered blanket approval of the president. Asked to name which of his actions as president she liked most, she was hard-pressed to answer.

    “I’m not sure of anything he’s done, but I like that he’s religious — that’s really important,” Ms. Pulsipher said.

    It is disturbing that the people who were interviewed are such deeply religious people who espouse very high standards of morality, and yet they’re completely bamboozled by the smoke and mirrors that have been the hallmark of this administration. As for Ms. Pulsipher’s statement, if this is the state of curiosity and education among the students at one of the leading universities in the nation, we’re in for a lot of trouble with our next generation.

  • Frank Rich:

    The marriage-amendment campaign will be kicked off tomorrow with a Rose Garden benediction by the president. Though the amendment has no chance of passing, Mr. Bush apparently still thinks, as he did in 2004, that gay-baiting remains just the diversion to distract from a war gone south.

    So much for the troops. For all the politicians’ talk about honoring those who serve, Washington’s record is derelict: chronic shortages in body and Humvee armor; a back-door draft forcing troops with expired contracts into repeated deployments; inadequate postwar health care and veterans’ benefits. And that’s just the short list. Now a war without end is running off the rails and putting an undermanned army in still greater jeopardy. “Today, the Americans are just one more militia lost in the anarchy,” Nir Rosen, who has covered Iraq since the invasion, wrote in The Washington Post last weekend.

    We can’t pretend we don’t know this is happening. It’s happening in broad daylight. We know that “as the Iraqis stand up, we’ll stand down” is fiction, not reality. We know from the Pentagon’s own report to Congress last week that attacks on Americans and Iraqis alike are at their highest since American commanders started keeping count in 2004. We know that even as coalition partners like Italy and South Korea bail out, we are planning an indefinite stay of undefined parameters: the 104-acre embassy complex rising in the Green Zone is the largest in the world, and the Decider himself has said that it’s up to “future presidents and future governments of Iraq” to decide our exit strategy.

    Actually, the current government of Iraq already is. On Thursday the latest American-backed Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, whom Mr. Bush is “proud to call” his “ally and friend,” invited open warfare on American forces by accusing them of conducting Haditha-like killing sprees against civilians as a “regular” phenomenon. If this is the ally and friend we are fighting for, a country that truly supports the troops has no choice but to start bringing them home.

  • Hey, Detroit, sorry about the Pistons, but at least the Tigers are still winning (sorry, Beantown Girl…)