Further thoughts on the Requiem and the day

I just finished singing in the Bellevue Rolling Requiem. What a difference from a year ago. Then I had just finished writing a weblog update and had gone into the library to study. Starting up my web browser to download some course notes, I hit the message on Yahoo (images weren’t loading) that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I went looking for more information and found it at Scripting News. Shellshocked, I left the library and walked into the lobby of E-52, Sloan’s main building, where I joined a gathering crowd of students, faculty, administration staff, and others watching the coverage. I saw the videos, and I saw the second tower go down on live TV as I watched. After a while I walked next door to the E-51 lobby, worried about my friend Kate’s fiancé Oli who worked in the financial district. I ran into my finance professor, who was just coming out of class and had no idea what was happening. I told him that both towers had come down and the Pentagon had been hit. “Oh my God,” he said, as if he had been slapped. I found Kate. At the time she hadn’t heard from Oli (he was fine). We just sat and watched and listened.

Today singing the Requiem I really didn’t think about any of that, just the time I used to spend, lonely from the isolation of my fourth year studies, hanging out in Doug’s dorm with the man now known as Tin Man and some Glee Club friends. Many hands of spades were played, much laughter was had. And I couldn’t believe that this life, and so many others, had been taken.

The Mozart Requiem differs from all other Requiem masses in one of two ways. Later Requiems such as Gabriel Fauré’s close on a note of hope. Earlier Requiems may close on a note of fear, prayer or penitence. Mozart’s Requiem closes on the same theme with which it began, having briefly gone through a dancelike Hosanna to return to the cosmic awe of the request to support the deceased in their new home beyond our knowledge: “Grant them rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.” It is pleading, angry, demanding.

And it’s not Mozart’s, not really. Mozart died while writing the Requiem (legend has it, after singing through the first bars of the “Lacrymosa”) and his pupil Süssmayer completed the mass by taking parts the master had already written together with new material to finish the sequence. The end result is we end the mass without closure, with our anger and confusion and grief still intact. Which is how I feel today, one year after 3,025 lives (what a ridiculously precise number) were taken from us. My only consolation is that I’ve spent so much of the last year thinking about the war, the erosion of our rights and liberties, the madness of unilateral war, and the insanity of suicidal terrorism, only to find today a way to give voice to my grief for those who died without other thoughts and voices drowning out the message.

One Year

It is hard to believe that it has been a year. When the clock radio went off this morning, I sat bolt upright, listening to see if anything had happened.

In an hour I’ll be “on stage” at Bellevue Square warming up for the Rolling Requiem. I dedicate today to Doug Ketcham, my friend from University of Virginia, who was at Cantor Fitzgerald and who was killed a year ago.

BBC sniggers over “stiffing”

BBC: Stiffing: Deceived and confused. The BBC elucidates the American “folksy idiom” behind President Bush’s recent utterance, and can’t resist pointing out that stiff “already has a number of slang definitions. The word can be used to mean a corpse, an erection, a dull person and to describe a strong alcoholic drink.” I will leave out the obvious, though salicious, comment about which of these applies to the warbloggers and their baying for Saddam’s blood.
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Ashcroft v. “Secret Court”: Court 1, Ashcroft 0

Washington Post: Secret Court Rebuffs Ashcroft. In an almost unprecedented decision, the court that oversees the Justice Department’s requests for wiretaps and search warrants refused to give the Justice Department broad powers because they’ve done such a bad job providing evidence to date. Apparently this is the first time the FISA court has ever unanimously voted to release an opinion.

According to the article, the court “alleges that Justice Department and FBI officials supplied erroneous information to the court in more than 75 applications for search warrants and wiretaps.” As a result, the court felt that giving Justice carte blanche under Ashcroft’s proposed new procedures would “would have given prosecutors too much control over counterintelligence investigations and would have effectively allowed the government to misuse intelligence information for criminal cases.”

When even your rubberstamp court of record is telling you they don’t trust you with extended powers, your brain, if you were Attorney General, might dig up something long forgotten from your civics classes. Something about checks and balances, perhaps, or limits of government power. Probably not anything about the Bill of Rights, but hey, we can always hope.
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Georgia landslide

Greg points to the primary results in Georgia. Of particular note: “Cynthia McKinney, a 10-year incumbent, lost her primary by 16 points.” My question to Greg: Now that she’s out of the picture, what are you going to do next? (Other than play Soup Dragons–oh, and I suppose Jesus Jones, if you must, though I ceased being a fan about 10 years ago.)

Seriously, there are a couple of worthy candidates in need of serious campaign savvy, including Tara Sue Grubb, who’s running against the infamous Rep. Howard Coble (of Berman and Coble) for a House seat and may be the first candidate to run her own blog (Sheila Lennon’s coverage of Tara Sue is good). I’d love to see you working with her.
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Axis of Medieval

Nicholas D. Kristof in the New York Times: Bush Vs. Women. Is the administration’s appalling record of actively trampling efforts to better the condition of women worldwide the result of

  • (a) a low prioritization of women’s rights
  • (b) a confusion about whether the issue is abortion or survival
  • (c) a Talibanesque desire to push women worldwide back into the Stone Age?

Kristof makes an alarming case, based on the administration’s record, that the real story is closer to (c).
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When Copyright Attacks

I’ve been waiting to add this link until I found out more about the case, but I’ve finally linked to the website of Eldred v. Ashcroft over the issue of the challenge to the Sonny Bono Extension of Copyright act, which extended by 20 years both existing and future copyrights. The tradeoff of copyright is between the rights of the creator and the rights of the public, a balance which this suit alleges has been tipped unfairly in favor of the creators at the expense of the public’s rights. I urge you, if you are a creator or consumer of any kind of content, a user of libraries, or a reader of electronic texts, check out the site. The archive of materials about the case is richer than anything I could possibly say here.

Except to point to Aaron Swartz’s summary of the Justice Department’s response to the suit, which was essentially to say, “You don’t have a right to question this law.”
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What color is your philosophy?

Greg: Alex Cockburn, Arbiter of Black Authenticity. Greg unleashes some pointed thought on the issue of whether one can be “black in skin tone but not in philosohy” (I’m paraphrasing). Greg sez:

you get to spell out what my fellow Alabamans — Condolezza Rice and Cynthia Tucker — and I have in common save skin tone, good looks and a firm conviction that Dreamland cooks the best barbecue ever.

And maybe then you can help me figure out why you and Pat Buchanan don’t seem to think much alike. How am I supposed to know which one of you is philosophially white?

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An administration incapable of telling the truth?

Paul Krugman in the New York Times: The Memory Hole. Krugman discusses the origins of the “trifecta” quote (about Bush’s statement that he said he would only let the budget go into deficit in case of war, recession or national emergency; there’s no evidence he ever promised any such thing). Now evidence that OMB and other agencies may not be telling the truth in new budget deficit projections just disappears.

Every government tries to make excuses for its past errors, but I don’t think any previous U.S. administration has been this brazen about rewriting history to make itself look good. For this kind of thing to happen you have to have politicians who have no qualms about playing Big Brother; officials whose partisan loyalty trumps their professional scruples; and a press corps that, with some honorable exceptions, lets the people in power get away with it.

Lucky us: we hit the trifecta.

Thanks to Brendan Nyhan at Spinsanity for the link.

Update: Forgot I wrote about the trifecta already; just linked it in.
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