First Ladies Laura Bush And Michelle Obama Honor Victims Of Flight 93 In Pennsylvania

To commemorate the lives lost there on September 11, 2001, First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush visited Shanksville, PA, the site of the fallen Flight 93 that was diverted from its target by passengers, to honor the service of those on the plane who gave their lives to save others who were in harm’s way. They emphasized their selflessness and the example they set for the rest of the nation.

First Lady Laura Bush spoke specifically to the sacrifice of the people on the plane, who chose to deviate the plane away from its target, even if it meant crashing and burning themselves. “They spared our county from even greater horrors,” she explained, and thanked them for their selflessness, connecting it to the greater response from the rest of the country: “We saw the worst of our enemy and the best of our nation.”

First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about the victims individually, their individual goodbyes to their families, the reactions of their children, and the work they did in their everyday lives before the tragedy. “They remind us,” she explains, “not just by how they gave their lives, but by how they lived their lives, that being a hero is not just a matter of fate– it’s a matter of choice.”

The two speeches at Shanksville, via CNN, below:

Local Florida Pastor Surfaces In New York, Will Curb Desire To Burn Korans

The local Gainesville, Florida pastor who won his Warhol-esque 15 minutes by making public his arsonist tendencies and threatening to burn the seminal texts of one of the world’s largest religions decided to show his face in New York on September 11, making an appearance on Today this morning with a sidekick. He promises not to burn any Korans, but still has a problem with the “Ground Zero” “Mosque,” and would like some face time with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

“We have come here with the hopes of speaking with the Imam,” the pastor tells NBC’s Carl Quintanilla, explaining also, that his church has decided “to cancel the burning. We feel that whenever we started this out, one of our reasons was to show, to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous.” He goes on to tell a story about Abraham and insist in his belief in the existence of Sharia Law. He also explains that his gesture of not burning the Koran is an act of good will, and that “making the first gesture of not burning the Koran… we hope that through that, we will be able to open a way to talk to the Imam.” Yes, his “first gesture” is to not do something pointlessly offensive, distasteful, and fairly time consuming.

Quintanilla then goes for the $64,000 question: “was all this for publicity?” Absolutely not! “We were completely convinced that this was a type of mission. We believe that there is Sharia Law,” he responded. In other words, this interview is everything you need to know to realize that Mika and Joe were right.

Some of the more self-righteous elements of the media like to criticize famous-for-being-famous media personalities like Snooki and Levi Johnston for being a completely useless and distracting the media’s attention from more important issues. Those “more important issues” are sometimes people like this pastor, who has proven to be little more than a real-life manifestation of an Onion headline (“Area Man Enjoys Burning Books”; alternatively, “Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere“). Sure, Snooki and Levi and Kim Kardashian or whoever else falls into that category actively burn our brain cells by existing, but at least they deserve points for being upfront about wanting fame for fame’s sake. Cowering behind God to achieve the same goal shouldn’t excuse this pastor.

His interview on this morning’s Today on NBC below:

President Obama’s 9/11 Address: “We Define The Character Of Our Country”

In observance of the deadly attacks of September 11, 2001, President Barack Obama addressed a crowd of friends and loved ones of the victims of the attacks at the Pentagon, and spoke to the perseverance of the American people as they gather on “hallowed ground” to remember the fallen.

Describing the day as one of “reflection, unity, and renewal,” the President emphasized healing and resilience, and reminded the audience that, while “it’s perhaps natural to focus on the images of that horrible morning… these memorials, in your presence today, remind us to remember the fullness of [the victims'] presence on earth.” President Obama didn’t just take the time to linger on the victims, however, and spoke to the vile nature of the attacks and those behind them:

“The perpetrators of this evil act didn’t simply attack America. They attacked the very idea of America itself– all that we stand for and represent in the world. And so the highest honor we can pay those we lost– indeed, our greatest weapon in this ongoing war– is to do what our adversaries fear the most: to stay true to who we are as Americans. To renew our sense of common purpose; to say that we define the character of our country, and we will not let the acts of some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent and cower in caves distort who we are.”

His full speech at the Pentagon, via Fox News, below:

Rudy Giuliani Revisits 9/11 With Fox & Friends Crew

September 11th has become a day of commemoration, reflection, and sharing memories, and this morning on Fox & Friends, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani dropped in to reflect on the past nine years in his city, the progress made in lower Manhattan, and the recent scandals surrounding Islam and the memory of 9/11.

Giuliani retold his story to Brian Kilmeade, Gretchen Carlson, and Steve Doocy (all in for the weekend crew to commemorate the day)– he was trapped in lower Manhattan for a while himself, and how the experience made him grow as a person. “You get used to dealing with emergencies” as mayor of New York, he joked, but nothing had quite prepared him for this situation, and the grief, he explained, was gradual in its ebb and flow– “I feel it in different stages, in different times… a day like today is very complex.”

He thanks the construction workers who “showed up like the cavalry” to clean up the mess, and lamented, to a certain extent, that “the kind of solidarity– the feeling we had after September 11… unfortunately, as we move away from it, gets lost a bit.” The healing process, however, he noted was necessary. He also reiterated his desire to see Ground Zero used exclusively as a memorial site to the fallen– “no office towers, none of this competition for commercial space,” like Pearl Harbor, and argued that much of the delay in constructing the memorial was due to confusion about the use of the land.

His entire discussion on Fox & Friends below:

When Fidel Castro Says Communism ‘Doesn’t Work,’ He Means ‘The Opposite’ Of That

Cuban ex-tyrant and current mascot Fidel Castro has been duped by the imperialist media! Castro trusted The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg enough to grant him an interview, and instead of quoting verbatim his every six-hour harangue on the virtues of Marxism, Goldberg found fascinating a nugget of regret the Comandante let drop: “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” This means “exactly the opposite” of what it says!

Sometimes the truth is more Orwellian than fiction. Castro has now come out against the interview, but not too aggressively. Stating that Goldberg’s interpretation of his statement was “amusing,” he commented during an event for his new book, Strategic Victory:

Castro said he made the statement “without anger or worry. Now I’m amused to see how (the Atlantic reporter) interpreted it literally” in consultation with a CFR expert.

My answer, Castro said, “meant exactly the opposite” of what the reporter wrote, Castro said, speaking at an event presenting the second volume of his autobiography.

Castro said he was clear about Goldberg’s intention when he asked if the Cuban model was still worth exporting: “It’s obvious that implicit in the question was the theory that Cuba was exporting the revolution.”

Note: for the average Cuban, a statement like “the Cuban model doesn’t work for us anymore” is a crime against the state (“subversion” or, if the arresting soldier is in a crabby mood, “treason”) and can cost up to twenty years in prison and/or a meeting with your friendly neighborhood firing squad.

Anyway, there are many, many reasons why that interview was acutely painful for the Cuban exile community to read (and the sadistic dolphin park story is the least of them). Seems like it was almost as painful for Fidel, who decades ago ran literal circles around sympathetic American journalists like the New York Times’ Herbert Matthews, to get a dose of his own medicine. Goldberg has already fired back, stating that he copied the statement verbatim and did not remove any relevant context. Needless to say he’s probably not going to be invited back to Havana anytime soon.

[h/t Gawker, photo via Telegraph]

Is Now The Right Time For A $376 Million White House Renovation Project?

Renovations have begun on the electrical wiring and plumbing of the White House, adding up to somewhere along the lines of $376 million. On-site construction administrators say the nearly century-old infrastructure is dangerous, but some are questioning whether, given the current economic situation, now is the right time to spend money on this. Surely the money can be better spent?
The funding for the work was approved by Congress in 2008, the work scheduled to last four irritatingly loud and messy years. The reason? Much of the electrical wiring and plumbing in the offices of the White House– including most of the West Wing and the situation room– had been causing problems for some time. It’s being called a “facelift,” but it seems not to involve any aesthetic improvements, merely functional ones.

Despite this, $376 million is a gigantic figure for anything, especially during a time when jobs are increasingly scarce and the economy, more than anything, appears in need of renovation. CNN visited the site of the construction work and posed the question of the renovation’s timeliness to Bob Peck of the General Services Administration, which oversees the project. He responded, “It doesn’t do a whole lot of good to have a building that’s the image of the free world standing up there and not functioning well.”

Relatedly, this is not the first time that a major American landmark is extensively renovated, and it’s hard to imagine anyone griping about the last time it happened– President Ronald Reagan’s multi-million-dollar Statue of Liberty project. Those renovations on the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, though, to be fair, were mostly funded through the then newly-established Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (SOLEIF) as well as federal funding. Perhaps taking a leaf from President Reagan on this issue and marking the culmination of the renovations with a celebration would give the construction the patriotic feel that will help ease those concerned about the costs.

Coverage of the construction via CNN below: