Scene from an Airport

by Kieran Healy on September 25, 2005

My brother was traveling through Toronto airport last week, and was running a little late. But he was also hungry, so he stopped to get a sandwich. The guy in front of him in the queue took a very long time to order. He began counting out his change very slowly. He asked things like “Is this a quarter?” My brother, increasingly impatient and not in a charitable mood, thought maybe it’s the guy’s first time in Canada, or maybe he’s just an idiot. The guy had an odd bag at his feet that was a mixture of leather panels and silver-lined parachute material. He wore an Irish flat-peaked farmer’s cap of the sort which, when seen on someone under the age of sixty, is guaranteed to annoy Irish people everywhere. These facts lent support to the second theory. Finally, the guy finished counting out his money, slowly gathered his food and his silly bag and turned around to leave.

It was Michael Stipe. My brother said hello. Stipe said hello. Off he went. My brother said the only other thing that it occurred to him to say at the time was “Hey, how’s Thom Yorke? When’s the next _Radiohead_ album coming out?” But he felt this might not have been an appropriate question.

Rotten apples

by Henry Farrell on September 25, 2005

Scott Horton has an “indispensable post”: at Balkinization on the armed forces’ response to the torture scandals. One telling paragraph:

bq. Harvey and Schoomaker also claim that the reports reflect that the Army took a “critical look at itself” and that it “investigated every credible allegation of detainee abuse.” But the cumulative evidence shows that, although the investigators and staff took their work seriously, the focus of those higher up was on a whitewash. An excellent example of this can be found in the work of MG Fay, who before being called up was a New Jersey insurance executive best known for his fund-raising activities on behalf of the Bush-Cheney campaign. As it happens, I was in Germany in the spring of 2004 at roughly the same time that MG Fay was there interviewing soldiers and officers with V Corps MI units. Having some contacts with these units, I took the time to speak to a number of NCOs and officers to get a sense of just how Fay was conducting his investigation. What I heard was consistent and very disturbing. Fay repeatedly warned soldiers that if they were involved in incidents, they would be put up on charges. And if they had seen things and not reported them, they would be up on charges. Then he asked if the soldiers had anything to report. One soldier told me that when he began to describe an incident to Fay, he was stopped and told “Son, you don’t want to go there.” This process was constructed to stop soldiers from coming forward with evidence about what had happened — the opposite of a fair or critical inquiry. But I stress that among the twelve investigations conducted, the Fay/Jones report was one of the best. One wonders what it would have netted had proper investigatory technique been used.