Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hometown News

Sorry to bother you with another news story of political indignation, but this one is particularly frustrating on a few levels, not least of which that it happened where I grew up.

Resident says confusion cost her tickets to Republican rally
Bucks County Courier Times

A Lower Makefield woman said she received a rude awakening Wednesday when she tried to get tickets to see President Bush today in Lower Makefield.

Simi Nischal got a ride with a co-worker to pick up tickets for herself, her husband, Narinder, and their two children. But just as the tickets were about to be placed in her hands, she was escorted from the Yardley gristmill and told to leave, she said.

" 'I deny you the right to attend this rally,' " Nischal said a Bush-Cheney campaign worker told her.

Apparently, Nischal's ride was a Kerry-Edwards supporter. Her car sported a bumper sticker for the Democratic candidates.

Nischal, a computer programmer who is originally from India, said her children wanted to see the president. The family had talked over dinner Tuesday night about attending today's campaign rally at the Broadmeadows Farm in Lower Makefield.

About lunchtime Wednesday, Nischal's co-worker dropped her off at the gristmill to pick up free tickets. When the co-worker returned, rally organizers for Bush and Vice President Cheney apparently noticed the Kerry-Edwards sticker stuck on the car, Nischal said. The organizers asked the co-worker why she was there and she responded, "to pick up Simi." While this was going on, Nischal was in the ticket office finishing paperwork and showing her identification for her tickets.

"The lady came in and said, 'Who's Simi?' " Nischal tearfully recalled Wednesday night, adding that she identified herself and was then refused tickets to the rally and escorted from the building.

Shortly after that, a man wearing a Bush-Cheney T-shirt confronted Nischal in the parking lot and told her to leave.

"He was so rude, he made me feel like a criminal," Nischal said. "I said, 'That's not fair, you are losing a supporter.' [And he said], 'We don't care about your support.' "

Nischal said onlookers cheered and laughed at her as she left the property.

But that wasn't the end of the insult, she said.

She said another co-worker took her back to the gristmill to try to clear up the confusion, but she was again refused tickets.

Multiple calls to Bucks County Republican Party headquarters, several party members and the Broadmeadows Farm were not answered. However, rally organizer Hank Miller said he could not comment on the incident because he was not there and had not heard of it.

Nischal said her daughter has been learning about the political process at school and has been a Bush supporter. She even picked up papers for her daughter to volunteer for the Bush campaign right before she was kicked out of the gristmill, she said.

Nischal said she and her husband had not voted in previous elections, but the couple wanted to set a good example for their daughter by voting this year.

"I was undecided, but we have changed our opinion," Nischal said. "You don't treat people that way."

The first thing her son asked when he got home from school Wednesday afternoon was if they would get to see the president. Nischal said her son did not understand what happened. But she said her daughter said she wasn't going to support Bush anymore.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Wouldn't you know...I found this posted by the columnist who wrote the "Sentenced to be Raped" article on the NYTimes website. Snail mail can reach him at:

Nicholas D. Kristof The New York Times 229 West 43rd Street New York, NY 10036

An update on Mukhtaran Bibi, the woman in Pakistan who was sentenced by a tribal council to be gang-raped, and who then started schools for boys and girls in her village. I thought I might get a response from the column, but it has blown me away. While I was off traveling, my assistant, Winter Miller, was opening stacks of letters from people who wanted to help - and who in many cases did help, with checks.

So we've got a box here with more than $90,000 in checks made out to Mukhtaran. Since they are drawn on U.S. banks, we need to work out a way to get her the money without incurring large check-clearing fees, and Winter has been working that out. Probably the money will go through a U.S. aid group, which will also help Mukhtaran keep the money safe and figure out how best to use it. I should know more in a couple of days, and I'll post any updates here.

I also heard from Mukhtaran that she has received many checks directly. She deposited some directly, but will hold on to the others for now, until we can figure out how to avoid those check-clearing fees. (Unless you make special arrangements, a bank in Pakistan will charge up to $50 in fees for depositing a U.S. check.) She is delighted with the response, needless to say, and thanks everyone for the help. My hope is that the attention will also help keep her alive, and will make it harder for the higher-status villagers who raped her two years ago to kill her now.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

NYT: "Addicted to 9/11"

Addicted to 9/11
Thomas L. Friedman

I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hear the president and vice president slamming John Kerry for saying that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where "terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." The idea that President Bush and Mr. Cheney would declare such a statement to be proof that Mr. Kerry is unfit to lead actually says more about them than Mr. Kerry. Excuse me, I don't know about you, but I dream of going back to the days when terrorism was just a nuisance in our lives.

If I have a choice, I prefer not to live the rest of my life with the difference between a good day and bad day being whether Homeland Security tells me it is "code red" or "code orange" outside. To get inside the Washington office of the International Monetary Fund the other day, I had to show my ID, wait for an escort and fill out a one-page form about myself and my visit. I told my host: "Look, I don't want a loan. I just want an interview." Somewhere along the way we've gone over the top and lost our balance.

That's why Mr. Kerry was actually touching something many Americans are worried about - that this war on terrorism is transforming us and our society, when it was supposed to be about uprooting the terrorists and transforming their societies.

The Bush team's responses to Mr. Kerry's musings are revealing because they go to the very heart of how much this administration has become addicted to 9/11. The president has exploited the terrorism issue for political ends - trying to make it into another wedge issue like abortion, guns or gay rights - to rally the Republican base and push his own political agenda. But it is precisely this exploitation of 9/11 that has gotten him and the country off-track, because it has not only created a wedge between Republicans and Democrats, it's also created a wedge between America and the rest of the world, between America and its own historical identity, and between the president and common sense.

By exploiting the emotions around 9/11, Mr. Bush took a far-right agenda on taxes, the environment and social issues - for which he had no electoral mandate - and drove it into a 9/12 world. In doing so, Mr. Bush made himself the most divisive and polarizing president in modern history.

By using 9/11 to justify launching a war in Iraq without U.N. support, Mr. Bush also created a huge wedge between America and the rest of the world. I sympathize with the president when he says he would never have gotten a U.N. consensus for a strategy of trying to get at the roots of terrorism by reshaping the Arab-Muslim regimes that foster it - starting with Iraq.

But in politicizing 9/11, Mr. Bush drove a wedge between himself and common sense when it came to implementing his Iraq strategy. After failing to find any W.M.D. in Iraq, he became so dependent on justifying the Iraq war as the response to 9/11 - a campaign to bring freedom and democracy to the Arab-Muslim world - that he refused to see reality in Iraq. The president seemed to be saying to himself, "Something so good and right as getting rid of Saddam can't possibly be going so wrong." Long after it was obvious to anyone who visited Iraq that we never had enough troops there to establish order, Mr. Bush simply ignored reality. When pressed on Iraq, he sought cover behind 9/11 and how it required "tough decisions" - as if the tough decision to go to war in Iraq, in the name of 9/11, should make him immune to criticism over how he conducted the war.

Lastly, politicizing 9/11 put a wedge between us and our history. The Bush team has turned this country into "The United States of Fighting Terrorism." "Bush only seems able to express our anger, not our hopes," said the Mideast expert Stephen P. Cohen. "His whole focus is on an America whose role in the world is to negate the negation of the terrorists. But America has always been about the affirmation of something positive. That is missing today. Beyond Afghanistan, they've been much better at destruction than construction."

I wish Mr. Kerry were better able to articulate how America is going to get its groove back. But the point he was raising about wanting to put terrorism back into perspective is correct. I want a president who can one day restore Sept. 11th to its rightful place on the calendar: as the day after Sept. 10th and before Sept. 12th. I do not want it to become a day that defines us. Because ultimately Sept. 11th is about them - the bad guys - not about us. We're about the Fourth of July.

Friday, October 1, 2004

Cheesesteak Rules

Okay people. I've gone through this with others who are alien to the ways of the cheesesteak. I'm gonna go through this one more time.

A cheesteak consists of:
  • Rib-eye steak -- sliced very thin or chopped
  • Cheese: Provolone, American, Whiz, and perhaps Mozzerella (exercise caution).
  • Toppings: fried onions (obtained by merely saying "with" or "wid" in local parlance), green peppers (optional), mushrooms (optional), red sauce (but then it's a pizza steak, which is almost it's own entity, so tread carefully).

If you have something before you that has any component not mentioned above IT IS NOT A CHEESESTEAK. It may be a "steak and cheese." It may be a sandwich or sub of some kind. But it ain't no cheesesteak. And even if it has the above components but has been obtained anywhere more than 50 miles outside of Philly proper, it still debatable as to whether it is in fact a cheesesteak. Consult a professional if there's any doubt by dialing 215 and seven numbers of your choosing. You should be able to obtain knowledgable guidance.