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A 9/11 Double Mourning

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Tanya Domi was a graduate student at Columbia University on September 11, 2001. She was already in mourning when the planes hit the World Trade Center on that fateful day. Those terrible events sealed her identity as a proud New Yorker.

At the 116th Columbia University subway station, the Number 1 and then Number 2 subway train station sign said, “All Trains Slow Today,” written in chalk on a wall board, startling me as I walked past the hurried makeshift sign and up the steps, entering the university ‘s Morningside Heights campus at about 9:25 a.m. on September 11, 2001.

I thought to myself…”that is strange” because I had never seen such a sign before…never.  It was such a beautiful September fall morning as I walked across bucolic College Walk to the School of International and Public Affairs to attend my Foreign Policies of the Former Soviet Union graduate class. I was in the second-year of my graduate studies in Human Rights following a four-year tour as a State Department contractor working in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I had contributed to the implementation of the U.S.-brokered Dayton Peace Accords.

Columbia University's Alma Mater Statute

I was not a traditional student by any standard measure. And because of my professional background in the military and foreign affairs, I readily knew, more than most Americans that on this day the world as we knew it would be unalterably changed.

Despite my misgivings about the subway sign, I quickly set those feelings aside, to make emotional space, as I was steeped in mourning, reeling from a breakup just two days earlier with my lover. I had once been convinced this was the relationship that I had always longed for — the love of my life with whom I would marry and would live out my days with her to the end.

We had a transnational courtship, initially meeting in Provincetown on Thanksgiving in 1997 while I was in the States for consultations from my State Department posting in Sarajevo. We traveled back and forth for several months meeting for romantic interludes, before she arrived permanently to Bosnia in 1998. It was a whirlwind romance that ended, always to be intertwined and conflated with my 9/11 experience.

I was emotionally crushed.  Every inch of my body hurt. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move. I was not sleeping much and there was no escaping the pain

Nonetheless, I persisted, bullish in my plan to obtain a graduate degree. I promised myself that I would attend class religiously, no matter how much I hurt emotionally and physically. I rigorously willed myself to persist in the main occupation of my life, even though I was alone and without intimate friends in New York City.

As I entered the student lounge on the ground floor–a mass of students, 300 or more, were standing shoulder-to-shoulder, straining to watch the televisions affixed to the ceiling.

“What is going on?” I asked a friend, whom I had bonded with during my first year international law class. I was watching the  television as I asked him.  He told me that two planes had flown into the World Trade Center Towers. I immediately said, “Oh my god, that is terrorism! That has to be terrorism!”

Smoke was billowing from one of the towers and I was thinking, “no, this is not a movie!” Cameras panned in on people who were jumping to their deaths. It was an unthinkable, unfathomable and surreal situation.

The TV anchors were reporting there were a number of unaccounted planes still in the air. Then the report came in that the Pentagon was hit. I was thinking, “Oh my god, America is under attack.”

People were flipping their phones on and I turned to look for mine and realized that in the halcyon fog of my breakup, I had left it at home (of all days to leave your phone at home–to be in a national crisis without one–I began to lament my distractions.) Little did I know that for most of the day, cell phone service was nearly non-existent and land-line phones did not resume working until 4:00 p.m.

And then the first tower dropped, as a collective gasp and shrieks ricocheted across the room–the tower seemed to fall in a slow, excruciating motion, as dust and debris blew up and down and filled the sky in darkness. I could not wrap my brain around the surreal images unfolding in real-time. I knew it was very likely few people could survive such a horrendous calamity.

I turned to my friend and said: “New York City will be fine. Giuliani will do his job. But with Bush as president, we are so screwed!”

I knew almost immediately we were witnessing a life altering American moment which would be historically referred to as “before 9/11 and after 9/11.”

I became angry–outraged too, that these terrorists so brazenly attacked my city, New York City, one of the greatest cities in the world. I knew that New York City would rebuild, come back, as it always had done during its illustrious history. New Yorkers are resilient and much more generous than conventionally thought to be. It was in the hours and days after the 9/11 attacks, although I was angry, in shock, and at times, fearful, I absolutely fell in love with New Yorkers. My city and its first responders worked without self-regard, until they could do no more; lay their heads down to nap and then get up and do more.

However, I had no doubt that Bush would take America to war very quickly. I had early concerns about his apparent radical foreign policy agenda that marked a significant departure from previous administrations. My concerns would be borne out in ways that many Americans would find abhorrent. Some would call new Bush initiatives like warrantless wiretaps, fundamentally unconstitutional. It is a debate that continues into the present.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=YndXYIPlmd0%3Fversion%3D3%26hl%3Den_US

Classes were cancelled that day, but I could not get home until later in the evening. Sitting at my university computer, emails began rolling in from Sarajevo, written with great concern from dear friends, particularly. At this peculiar moment in my life, I felt a deep kinship with Sarajevans, who were so strong and loving, having survived a three-year siege of their city. Although America came late to their defense, they fell in love with America and Americans. Now, they were supporting New York City and America, evidenced in their urgent emails to me, and later in September more than 7,000 Sarajevans gathered together to sing Mozart’s Requiem Mass as a tribute to America and the lives that were lost on September 11th.

Sarajevo Martyrs Memorial Cemetery

I staggered home later in the afternoon and watched television non-stop for the duration of the week until I could not bear another second. I learned about the 19 Saudi Arabian hijackers, who learned to fly planes in America, but not to land them, ultimately using them as suicide missiles.

CNN broadcast 24/7 and I watched video repeatedly of the planes flying into World Trade Center, as well as into the Pentagon. By the time the Friday night marathon tribute to the victims and country took place, I was more than ready to return to a reassuring episode of “Law and Order,” which envisaged the capture and arrest of the bad guys, who have been prosecuted and thrown into jail. It was a comforting thought in the midst of total chaos. But my thoughts were a fantasy, a wishful attempt to reclaim the idyllic and innocent America that once existed “before 9/11.”

The next morning, I headed to Harry’s Shoes at 83rd and Broadway to buy a new pair of shoes. Having made my purchase, I exited the store to my cell phone ringing.

On the line was a dear friend from Honolulu, Hawaii, who shared the terrible news that the husband of a mutual friend had been one of the passengers on United Flight 93–the hijacked plane that was successfully brought down in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, by its brave passengers, who thwarted another likely attack on the nation’s capitol or the White House in Washington, D.C.

I began to cry–the week’s terrible events finally had caught up with me. The bravery and sacrifice demonstrated by so many Americans–and some who were not–overwhelmed and touched me deeply. All these events, brought home and reinforced my notions that I consciously wanted to live life to its absolute fullest in the big and small moments, to be kind and show respect for others, to tell those who you love, that you indeed love and care about them everyday and live a mindful and conscious life that imbues gratitude and a zest for life.

Reflecting on all those who went to their deaths that fateful day–who had little, if any time to reflect. But we do, at least for today, which recalls Ralph Waldo  Emerson’s “Thanksgiving” poem, a sweet thought to consider as we reflect:

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

And may it be so for every day I live to see the morning dawn. After we leave this earth “only love will survive us” (Phillip Larkin.)

(Image (top) of Columbia College Walk)

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

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House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.

Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”

The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”

READ MORE: ‘Ran a Bribery Center Blocks From the White House’: Comer Mocked for Claiming No Evidence of Trump Influence Peddling

Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.

The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.

“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.

After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.

Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.

READ MORE: Trump Spent 2020 Attacking Ballot Drop Boxes – but Now He’s Demanding They Be Deployed in Churches

“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”

“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”

“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.

National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”

Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”

Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”

READ MORE: ‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History

And yet another, wholly mocking Comer, who holds far-right anti-LGBTQ beliefs, said: “Or worse, what if it has woke trans undocumented drag queen athletes?”

Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”

Watch the video above or at this link.

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COMMENTARY

Trump Spent 2020 Attacking Ballot Drop Boxes – but Now He’s Demanding They Be Deployed in Churches

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Donald Trump laid the groundwork early in the 2020 election for his possible defeat by attacking voting by mail and ballot drop boxes, insisting they should be illegal while making clear if he lost the White House those proven safe and effective means of voting would be to blame.

But now, with a flailing 2024 campaign the failed ex-president who is under multiple investigations is demanding ballot drop boxes be deployed – but only in churches.

“Some states use ‘drop boxes’ for the collection of Universal Mail-In Ballots,” Trump tweeted in August of 2020. “So who is going to ‘collect’ the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? A Rigged Election? So bad for our Country. Only Absentee Ballots acceptable!”

That was just one of his many attacks on drop boxes.

READ MORE: ‘Breathtaking’: Economists Stunned by Job Growth ‘Boom’ as Unemployment Drops to Level Not Seen Since 1969

“So now the Democrats are using Mail Drop Boxes, which are a voter security disaster,” Trump tweeted just days later.  “Among other things, they make it possible for a person to vote multiple times. Also, who controls them, are they placed in Republican or Democrat areas? They are not Covid sanitized. A big fraud!”

The tweet was so false Twitter appended a warning label to it that reads: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about civic and election integrity.”

Fast forward to now.

On his social media platform Trump reposted a “truth” (the word Truth Social uses instead of “tweet”) from far-right activist, conspiracy theorist, and provocateur Jack Posobiec. Posobiec was “one of the most prominent promoters of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, that held that the Washington D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong was really a front for a child sex dungeon run by Hillary Clinton. He even went to the restaurant to find out ‘what’s really going on’ there,” according to The Daily Beast.

“In 2017, BuzzFeed reported text messages suggesting that Posobiec held a ‘Rape Melania’ sign during an anti-Trump protest in an apparent attempt to discredit the protesters as insidious and deranged.”

READ MORE: ‘Firehose of Disinformation’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders Picked to Deliver State of the Union Response in Nod to Trump (Video)

Thursday, on Trump’s Truth Social platform, Posobiec wrote: “I don’t know who needs to hear this but Republicans should put ballot drop boxes in the back of churches in every state where it’s legal.”

Hours later Trump was all over the idea, demanding the Republican National Committee implement it.

“Best idea I’ve heard in a long time,” Trump wrote in all-caps, “put them all over the place. RNC, every Republican, get to work on this now!!!”

Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias’ Democracy Docket platform just last week reported that in 2020, “Trump first attacked mail-in voting itself, then tried to undermine the postal service’s ability to handle the volume of ballots. Soon after, he began to target drop boxes as well.”

As Trump learned, making it more difficult to vote is not a winning strategy, unless you’re highly unpopular and can block a significant number of your opponents’ votes while retaining your own, which he did not.

But the GOP sure tried.

“Republicans in many states soon followed Trump’s lead and began restricting the deployment of drop boxes even if the state had previously used them without controversy. [Ohio] Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) limited each county to a single drop box no matter how populous. Similarly, the Texas Supreme Court upheld Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) order limiting every county to a single ballot drop-off location — from Loving County (population of 64 people) to Harris County (population of 4.7 million people). In other states, Republicans moved to ban drop boxes entirely, and Missouri officials decided against deploying 80 boxes the state had already purchased,” Democrat Docket adds.

Meanwhile, Trump’s – or rather, Posobiec’s – strategy is clear: “Republicans should put ballot drop boxes in the back of churches,” because Trump thinks he still owns the Christian vote, despite attacking “disloyal” evangelical leaders just weeks ago.

But drop boxes are largely the purview of state election officials, and there would be a strong case to make again putting drop boxes only in churches. What about other houses of worship? And why just houses of worship – are they more secure than other areas?

Some might think it’s difficult to flip-flop on such a basic idea as drop boxes, especially if you went to court to void voters’ ballots that were deposited in them.

“In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign sued to invalidate the use of drop boxes in the primary election and prevent their use in the general election,” Democracy Docket adds. “Then after the election, Republicans pointed to drop boxes as a reason to question the results in a lawsuit filed in Michigan.”

Now that Trump has succeeded in ensuring Ronna McDaniel remains head of the RNC, this will be a test of his strength, or lack thereof.

 

 

 

 

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News

‘Breathtaking’: Economists Stunned by Job Growth ‘Boom’ as Unemployment Drops to Level Not Seen Since 1969

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The year was 1969: Congress certified the results of the election, officially declaring Richard Nixon would be the 37th President of the United States, Joe Namath led the New York Jets to win Super Bowl III, The Beatles released the soundtrack from their hit film “Yellow Submarine,” and unemployment was 3.4%.

It’s been 54 years since unemployment was at 3.4%, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released January’s report  Friday morning, stunning economists who expected unemployment to go up, not down.

Economists projected 187,000 new jobs would be added to the U.S. economy in January. Instead, the number came in at 517,000, Forbes reported. Prior months were also adjusted to be better than first reported.

READ MORE: ‘Anyone Who Thinks This Is Economy Is in Recession Is Bananas’: Economists Cheer ‘Hot’ Biden Jobs Report

“This is a breathtaking number. That spike in stories about layoffs? It was about a small unrepresentative slice of the economy. Real America is still getting back to work,” crowed Professor Justin Wolfers, the popular University of Michigan School of Economics professor, a senior fellow at Brookings.

“Average job growth over the past 3 months is a cracking +356k. A boom!” Wolfers cheered.

“We haven’t seen unemployment this low since before Woodstock, baby,” he added. “Groovy.”

Wolfers wasn’t done. He blasted those who continue to talk about recession: “This is a final nail in the coffin of all the 2022 recessionistas. When average job growth is this high we call it a BOOM.”

READ MORE: ‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History

For those who just want the bottom line, Wolfers offered this take on the jobs report: “It’s all good news.”

“January marked the 25th straight month of solid job growth,” The Washington Post reports, observing that the “labor market shattered expectations.” The Post adds: “the labor market remains formidable, inflation is beginning to normalize and there are signs that the global economy may be on stronger footing than originally feared.”

 

Image: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy, Thursday, January 26, 2023, at Steamfitters Local 602 United Association Mechanical Trades School in Springfield, Virginia. Official White House Photo by Erin Scott via Flickr

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