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Terror Alert Met by U.S. Guards, New York Defiant

I suspect this is the last time I am going to post anything about these absurd terror alerts, although I am sure this is not the last time Ridge will dance this jig between now and the election inauguration day. Like others before it, the timing of this alert is too opportune a diversion from the Democratic limelight to be a coincidence. ‘The lady doth protest too much’ with insistent assertions of how credible the threat assessment is. And, as I commented at the time of Ridge’s last contortion about the ‘credible’ al Qaeda threat to ‘disrupt the democratic process’ sometime between then and the election, there is no purpose for these dramatic announcements except to keep the terror issue on everyone’s mind. Since this pitiful president has nothing with which to lay claim to the American voters but his self-professed toughness-on-terrorism (literally the only area in which the pollsters indicate he commands higher ratings than Kerry), and since he and his handlers are sufficiently contemptuous of the American electorate as to be utterly unconcerned about the level of angst they sow in their quest to steal the White House again, expect this pitiful charade to continue fulltilt. It’s all about commodity brand recognition, and once enough has been invested in a branding and marketing strategy, it doesn’t change. I am getting quite a kick out of listening to the ‘person-on-the-street’ interviews with New Yorkers reacting to the ‘threat’. While the BBC commentator to whom I listened characterized their replies as ‘stoical’, what I heard was plain unmitigated perspicacious cynicism.

Addendum: Of course I wrote the above before the news broke that the administration neglected to tell us that it was more than four years ago that al Qaeda cased these buildings. Q.E.D.

Pundits are saying that this is another intelligence failure in the mold of those to which the 9/11 commission report pointed. Let’s be clear that neither in the current instance or in the lead-up to the war was it so much a question of faulty threat assessment by our intelligence analysts as of the disingenuous use of threat data for political purposes by the Bush Cabal. It was clear from its inception that the 9/11 commission would be a whitewash because it examined the generation of threat assessment without a mandate to explore executive branch misuse of the data. The whitewash continues.

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He’s tried to live a moral life. How could he be the bad guy?

“Either he’s crazy, or we’re selfish.” A reader told me that The New Yorker last week profiled Zell Kravinsky, the Pennsylvania professor of Renaissance literature, real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist embroiled in controversy for donating a kidney to a total stranger… and considering donating his other one as well. I cannot find the New Yorker piece online, but this San Francisco Chronicle article from November is the best of the portraits I found online by googling Kravinsky’s name.

Kravinsky has aroused reactions running the gamut from near-beatification to revulsion. When he proposed to donate a kidney to a stranger, with the sole stipulation being that it be to someone poor and black (“No one should have two houses when people were homeless and no one should have two kidneys while others struggled to live without one”), the transplant surgeon had him examined by a psychiatrist “to ensure that he really wanted to do this”, having never encountered a living donor willing to give an organ to an unrelated individual. Kravinsky literally sneaked out of his house to go to the hospital for the procedure, and at the time of the article he and his wife, (also a psychiatrist) who was reportedly angered that his action would prevent one of his children from receiving his kidney if needed (which Kravinsky considers an implausible scenario and an outlandish objection), were estranged. No less a celebrity than Pat Boone, who makes a cause celebre of organ donation, is publicly exhorting Kravisky’s wife to reconcile with this ‘hero’. Others too consider him to be “turning his back on his …young family to fill a personal need” and one columnist called him a “selfish SOB”. Kravinsky appears to answer such objections with homilies (“They say charity begins in the home. I don’t know why it ends at home.”) and a humility that does appear abit labored. Reading about him, one finds oneself less desirous of being in his presence than, say, Albert Schweitzer, who when I was young was the archetypical object of endless consideration of whether someone could be truly altruistic without deriving an egoistic satisfaction from it (or, if it is unavoidable, whether such pride would be in the sinful category).

Kravisky says that, in deference to his family’s objections, he will probably not donate his remaining kidney, having once expressed a hope (again with that somewhat forced modesty) that his death would allow someone who might make an even greater contribution to live. He is looking into donating other organs while he continues to live, which left me with a Buddhist-flavored image of the piece-by-piece dismantling of the self and shedding of the extraneous, melded with the Christian ascetic conceit of the mortification of the flesh. According to the journalist, he seeks to give more and more as a means to a “perfectly moral life” in which he ‘loves everyone’ and is ‘totally good’ and ‘totally self-sacrificing’, which I hope is a caricature of something the writer does not really understand. I look forward to reading the New Yorker piece, which will hopefully have greater psychological depth. (I found myself wihsing I had been the psychiatrist asked to examine him to render an opinion as to his competency to consent to the kidney donation, and grateful I was not the psychiatrist called upon around his hypothetical consent for the second procedure…) Lord help Kravinsky if it is not a caricature; he has much work to do to find an avenue to true humility if so, but the practices of abnegation he is pursuing may be well-suited to getting him there. I wish him well… [thanks, adam]

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‘Don’t destroy us – our way of life is as modern as yours’

Hunter-gatherers’ plea to outside world on UN Day of Indigenous Peoples:

“Remote hunter-gatherer tribes have issued a plea to the outside world to mark the UN Day of Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, saying, ‘We are not backward, our way of life is as modern as yours’. The appeal comes as isolated tribal people face a wave of persecution and attacks on their way of life…

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Hunter-gatherers extend from those still uncontacted by anyone else to those who wear watches, listen to the radio and complain to the UN when they are abused. White people have now accepted that black people are not inferior to themselves, it’s high time everyone now realised that hunter-gatherers are not inferior to farmers or bankers.’ ” (Survival International)

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I’m back. We made a hasty escape from Boston to avoid the DNC craziness. Some backcountry canoeing in northern Maine was just the ticket. Sorry not to have kept up with posting from our campsites!