Cinnamon Stillwell

I’m the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that focuses on Middle East studies. I was a political columnist for SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle online) from 2004-2008. I've written for the American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, Family Security Matters, Accuracy In Media, Newsbusters, Israel National News, The Jewish Policy Center, J-The Jewish News Weekly of N. CA, Intellectual Conservative and many others. More info at CinnamonStillwell.com.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fleet Week: Warmongers Of San Francisco Unite!

Every year when Fleet Week comes along, it’s a source of great pride and joy for San Francisco patriots. Battered by daily anti-American and anti-military sentiment, Fleet Week is the one time right-leaning San Franciscans can revel in their patriotism. Not to mention proudly enjoying a display of American military might in the spectacular air shows of the Blue Angels.

When those beautiful blue jets fly overhead in formation and that sonic boom sounds above the Victorian rooftops of San Francisco, it’s an awesome sight indeed. In fact, as I write, Angels pilots are practicing for this weekend’s air shows and being lucky enough to have access to a roof deck with a great view, I was just up there watching them go. Not a bad way to pass the time, if I do say so myself.

Adding to the deliciousness of it all is the fact that local lefties can’t stand Fleet Week and in particular the Blue Angels. Such icky reminders of war don’t jibe too well with San Francisco’s self-proclaimed "antiwar" environment. Plus, the loud noise can be very disturbing when one’s trying to sip a latte in a café while perusing the latest issue of The Bay Guardian.

Last year, I wrote an article for SFGate about San Francisco’s attempt to turn itself into a military-free zone and in it, I made reference to the ridiculously named Bay Area Peace Navy. This is a group that wants to replace Fleet Week, which it calls an "ugly symbol of…oppression," with "a peaceful celebration of the Bay." Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll take military prowess over pacifism anytime. After all, someone has to protect all those San Francisco liberals and their "eclectic" lifestyles, whether they appreciate it or not.

As for the rest of us, we’ll be enjoying the Fleet Week festivities in all their military glory. Fellow members of the 9/11 Neocons and I will be gathering down by the waterfront this weekend to watch the Parade of Navy ships, the Red Bull air show and then of course, the Blue Angels.

Peaceniks eat your heart out.

Warmongers of San Francisco unite!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ground Zero Revisited

While visiting New York City last month, I made a pilgrimage to Ground Zero to pay my respects. It was the day before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, but the circus-like atmosphere had already begun.

Between the as-of-yet unbuilt WTC memorial, the vendors selling souvenirs, the antiwar protesters, the 9/11 conspiracists and the gawking tourists, my visit to Ground Zero was one I would not readily repeat. Indeed, in an article on the subject for SFGate.com, I pledged not to do so again until a proper framework exists for visitors to grieve and pay tribute to the losses of 9/11.

While writing the column was emotional enough, it was the response that really moved me. I received many a touching e-mail from readers who had similar experiences at Ground Zero and reading them made me feel much less alone. From FDNY to law enforcement to people who lost family members on 9/11 to WTC recovery worker volunteers, the response was truly overwhelming.

Some of it saddened me for it spoke to troublesome aspects revolving around Ground Zero that I hadn’t formerly known delved into.

Many of us have heard about the ill health effects suffered by the first responders, rescue and recovery workers who went to Ground Zero immediately after the terrorist attacks. What’s perhaps less known is that some of them have had difficulty paying for related healthcare and have experienced various financial and personal hardships as a result. As pointed out to me by several readers, an organization called Unsung: Heroes Helping Heroes is dedicated to educating the public on this issue and raising funds to help workers and their dependents.

Musician Tom Chelston has been involved with these efforts since 9/11 and has written a number of songs in tribute to those unsung heroes. He performed at a ceremony for the families on 9/10/06 and also in Washington D.C. a day later. Tom’s website, while putting forward some political viewpoints I disagree with, nonetheless does honor to its stated purpose. And I was very moved by the song he dedicated to his friend John Sferazo.

On yet another sobering note, the fate of the ashen remains of 9/11 victims, which were immediately scooped up after the attacks and moved to the ironically named Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, hangs in the balance. Families who lost loved ones on 9/11 have been urging President Bush, Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg to try and recover any further remains, but to no avail.

The mother of a 26-year old killed in the 9/11 attacks wrote to me about the organization she belongs to, WTC Families for Proper Burial. The group held a rally at Ground Zero on 9/9/06 and is currently filing a lawsuit against the city. She made clear that the suit is not about financial compensation, but rather a decent burial for their loved ones.

Immediately following 9/11, recovery workers painstakingly sifted through the debris in search of human remains, personal effects, and criminal evidence. But according to a Cox News article, "fewer than 300 intact bodies and more than 20,000 parts were recovered" and "many of those remains have not been identified." The fact that 760 body parts were recently found at the Deutsche Bank building, a skyscraper slated for demolition because it was damaged in the attack on the WTC, seems to back up the families’ contention.

Amidst the sadness and disappointment, I was heartened to hear about various museums, centers and websites dedicated to 9/11, not to mention an aspect of Ground Zero I knew nothing about.

A reader who lost his sister on Flight #11 informed me that there is a "quiet and secured 9/11 family room at the liberty building across the street." This news came as a relief because I can’t imagine grieving family members contending with the crowds and bizarre atmosphere at the street level.

Also across the street from Ground Zero is the newly opened TributeWTC visitor center. A reader who volunteers at the center brought it to my attention. She had been one of the initial volunteers in the Ground Zero recovery effort and she sent me the link to a website dedicated to such volunteers.

Another reader told me about the Ground Zero Museum Workshop, describing it as, "one of the most important places I have ever been." Filled with unforgettable photographs and artifacts from Ground Zero, including a clock from the WTC Path station stopped at 10:02am, September 11, the museum will definitely be a destination on my next trip to New York City. In the meantime, the website is well worth the visit. Be sure to turn up the speakers and watch the introductory slideshow on the homepage.

It was also suggested by several readers that I take a train ride to the New York State Museum in Albany for the long term exhibit, The World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery, Response. The museum houses the largest collection of 9/11 artifacts in the country and these simple objects can have great resonance. One reader described how "the burned out fire truck and steel beams bent in half from the heat are a very powerful reminders of what happened." The museum also sponsors a traveling exhibit called Recovery: The World Trade Center Recovery Operation at Fresh Kills, involving those artifacts that were found at the landfill soon after 9/11.

As for my comments on the inappropriate behavior of tourists at Ground Zero, many readers agreed. And several remarked on my comparison to tourists visiting the former concentration camp, Auschwitz. As I put it, "It’s as if one visited Auschwitz and wanted to take adorable snapshots of loved ones standing in front of the gas chambers." Sadly, I heard from more than a few readers who recently visited Auschwitz and assured me that this is indeed the situation.

One of them described how tourists "posed in front of the infamous ‘Arbeit macht frei’ gate, in front of the gas chambers, in the barracks, next to ovens, trying to include the mounds of human hair and shoes into the background with the group shots, [and] finding the best stretch of barb wire to photograph." Needless to say, I found this disturbing, but alas, not terribly surprising considering my recent experience at Ground Zero.

As I indicated in the article, my initial visit in 2003 was a much more satisfying one. At the time, the atmosphere was muted and I didn’t witness any objectionable behavior on the part of onlookers. However, many New York readers informed me that the surreal spectacle I encountered on my second visit had in fact existed almost from the very beginning. Then again, others described witnessing moments of genuine feeling and fittingly sober behavior on many occasions at Ground Zero.

I suspect the truth probably lies somewhere in between and it just depends on the individual circumstances. I can only speak for myself and as I stated in my article, I don’t plan on returning to Ground Zero in its present state. But I’ll leave it up to others to choose the best way to commemorate 9/11 in the years to come. I can only hope that this discussion has offered forth a few ideas.

Cross-posted at Kesher Talk.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

France vs. Hollywood

You can always count on Hollywood for deep thoughts. Wunderkind director Sofia Coppola is no exception. Her latest film, a biopic about the cake-eating French queen Marie Antoinette, is really, in Coppola's words, just a "story...about teenagers in Versailles."

It seems the French are all in a huff over Coppola's modern pop-culture take on their beloved Marie Antoinette. And actress Kirst Dunst's depiction of Antoinette as a sexpot is creating an uncharacteristically prudish reaction on the part of French audiences. The film was booed earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival and the Marie Antoinette Association is now questioning the film's historical validity.

But according to Dunst, they have nothing to worry about. As she put it, "It's kind of like a history of feelings rather than a history of facts."

Um, like, thanks, Kirsten.

Then again, anything that irritates the French can't be all that bad.

By Way of Introduction…

The time has come. After much hemming and hawing, I’ve decided to start my own blog.

I don’t promise to commit 24-hours a day to the undertaking, but I certainly plan on chiming in with my two cents whenever possible.

My primary writing niche is not that of blogger, but rather political columnist for SFGate.com (The San Francisco Chronicle online), FamilySecurityMatters.org and others. But I like to think of myself as something of a columnist/blogger. I use a lot of links in my articles, many of them originating from the blogosphere and I often rub shoulders with bloggers in my political travels. And lest it be thought that I’m completely green, I’ve established some blogging bona fides at both ChronWatch.com and Newsbusters.org.

Readers may be familiar with my post-9/11 political conversion story and if not, it can be read about here, here, here and here. Suffice to say, I’m just one of many Americans who was shaken out of my complacency by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and in the aftermath, made a political shift from left to right.

By providing backhanded and sometimes outright support to a regressive and totalitarian ideology in the wake of 9/11, too many liberals betrayed their self-professed principles of promoting human rights and social justice. Anything to remain in the anti-American camp. But the enemy of one’s enemy is not always one’s friend – and that’s certainly the case when it comes to Islamism. Conversely, by throwing in my lot with the truly progressive party in the current conflict, the United States and by extension, western civilization, I felt that I was remaining steadfast to my classical liberal roots.

As Ronald Reagan once said about his own political shift, "I didn’t leave the Democratic Party of FDR. The Democratic Party left me." In my own case, I didn’t so much leave the left as the left left me (try saying that fast three times in a row!). Since that time, my political focus has become more ideological than partisan, but I generally lean Republican.

Of course, all this has made me something of a political misfit, particularly in the leftist stronghold of San Francisco, where I reside. Inspired by The Liberal Hawks, a New York-based online discussion group started by Kesher Talk blogger Judith Weiss, and seeking out likeminded company, I formed my own group based in the Bay Area, The 9/11 Neocons.

The term "Neocons" has taken on many sinister connotations (to hear the Moonbats tell it), the majority of which I proudly ally myself with. Yes, I’m Jewish and yes, I support a muscular U.S. foreign policy. But I think the most apt definition in terms of the bulk of 9/11 Neocon members, including myself, is literal. As a reader recently pointed out, "neo" means new, so a "Neocon" is literally a new conservative. Nonetheless, the group’s politics cover a lot of territory and I like to think that we offer a pretty wide tent. Unlike the totalitarian impulses of the left, we actually tolerate dissent.

I also like to think of both The 9/11 Neocons and The Liberal Hawks as representative of an emerging political movement. The impact of this movement is still filtering throughout American society, but something tells me it will be felt for years to come.

Such is the perspective I bring to the blogosphere and it's one that I hope that readers will find valuable. I look forward to joining the conversation...

Slightly different version cross-posted at Kesher Talk.

The Emerging "Foleygate" Story

Some thoughts on the matter...

I think it's clear that this is being used as a Democratic Party election ploy---the October surprise we've all been waiting for. The idea is to discourage socially conservative Republicans from coming out to vote next month.

It's also clear that there's a doublestandard for such behavior when it applies to Democrats and that the Republicans are far more likely to be held accountable.

And it's clear that the Democrats are hypocrites when it comes to issues involving gay sexuality. Leftist opposition to the Boy Scouts prohibition of gay scout masters comes to mind.

However...

Time will tell whether any actual tampering of Foley's e-mail or IM exchanges were involved, as is being investigated in the blogosphere. Until then, we cannot be sure.

If what's being alleged is true, Foley's actions appear to have been quite contemptible and his resignation is a necessary and just step. If other House Republicans took part in helping to cover up his sexual proclivities, then they too bear some responsibility. Not that "outing" Foley in today's politically correct climate would have been an easy task. But it would have been the right thing to do.

Let's face it, there's much corruption (both monetary and moral) among the upper ranks of government, and both parties are involved. Sometimes it seems like the decadence that destroyed the Roman Empire is overtaking our own.

But in an age of 24-hour media, it's up to each of us to process these scandals as thoroughly as we can, rather than jumping to conclusions arrived at by either side.