The Anti-Semitism of the Left from a Leftist

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October 7th, 2005

New Statesman Essay, 10th October 2005

Nick Cohen
Monday 10th October 2005

If you challenge liberal orthodoxy, your argument cannot be debated on its merits. You have to be in the pay of global media moguls. You have to be a Jew.

On the Saturday of the great anti-war demonstration of 2003, I watched one million people march through London, then sat down to write for the Observer. I pointed out that the march organisers represented a merger of far left and far right: Islamic fundamentalists shoulder to shoulder with George Galloway, the Socialist Workers Party and every other creepy admirer of totalitarianism this side of North Korea. Be careful, I said. Saddam Hussein's Iraq has spewed out predatory armies and corpses for decades. If you're going to advocate a policy that would keep a fascist dictator in power, you should at least talk to his victims, whose number included socialists, communists and liberals - good people, rather like you.

Next day I looked at my e-mails. There were rather a lot of them. The first was a fan letter from Ann Leslie, the Daily Mail's chief foreign correspondent, who had seen the barbarism of Ba'athism close up. Her cheery note ended with a warning: "You're not going to believe the anti-Semitism that is about to hit you." "Don't be silly, Ann," I replied. "There's no racism on the left." I worked my way through the rest of the e-mails. I couldn't believe the anti-Semitism that hit me.

I learned it was one thing being called "Cohen" if you went along with liberal orthodoxy, quite another when you pointed out liberal betrayals. Your argument could not be debated on its merits. There had to be a malign motive. You had to support Ariel Sharon. You had to be in the pay of "international" media moguls or neoconservatives. You had to have bad blood. You had to be a Jew.

My first reaction was so ignoble I blush when I think of it. I typed out a reply that read, "but there hasn't been a Jewish member of my family for 100 years". I sounded like a German begging a Gestapo officer to see the mistake in the paperwork. Mercifully, I hit the "delete" button before sending.

Rather than pander to racism, I directed my correspondents to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a member of the Socialist International which had decided after being on the receiving end of one too many extermination drives that foreign invasion was the only way. No good. I tried sending them to the Iraqi Communist Party, which opposed the invasion but understood the possibilities for liberation beyond the fine minds of the western intelligentsia. No good, either.

As the months passed, and Iraqis were caught between a criminally incompetent occupation and an "insurgency" so far to the right it was off the graph, I had it all. A leading figure on the left asked me to put him in touch with members of the new government. "I knew it! I knew it!" he cried when we next met. "They want to recognise Israel."

I experienced what many blacks and Asians had told me: you can never tell. Where people stand on the political spectrum says nothing about their visceral beliefs. I found the far left wasn't confined to the chilling Socialist Workers Party but contained many scrupulous people it was a pleasure to meet and an education to debate. Meanwhile, the centre was nowhere near as moderate as it liked to think. One minute I would be talking to a BBC reporter or liberal academic and think him a civilised man; the next, he would be screaming about the Jews.

Politicians I'd admired astonished me: Tam Dalyell explained British foreign policy as a Jewish conspiracy; Ken Livingstone embraced a Muslim cleric who favoured the blowing up of Israeli women and children, along with wife-beating and the murder of homosexuals and apostates.

I could go on. The moment when bewilderment settled into a steady scorn, however, was when the Guardian ran a web debate entitled: "David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man anti-Semitic". Gorgeously, one vigilant reader complained that the title was prejudiced - the debate should be headlined: "David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man, or woman, anti-Semitic."

Mustn't forget our manners now, must we?

I resolved then to complete two tasks: to apologise to Ms Leslie, which was a matter of minutes; and to work out if there was now a left-wing anti-Semitism, which took a little longer.

As I'd had little contact with Jewish religion or culture, I'd rarely given anti-Semitism a thought. I suppose I'd assumed it had burned out in the furnaces of Auschwitz. When the subject came up, I dutifully repeated the liberal mantra that "not all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites" and forgot the corollary "but all anti-Semites are anti-Zionists".

You have to clear away a heap of rubbish before you can distinguish between the two. At first glance, there's a good case for saying that the liberal left is Jew-obsessed. Israel receives more criticism than far worse societies, most notably Sudan, Syria and pre-war Iraq. You can call the double standard anti-Semitism if you want, but I'm not sure it gets you anywhere. It is simply the ineluctable workings of what is known in the human rights trade as "selection bias". Israel is a democracy with an independent judiciary and free press. Inevitably, it is easier in an open country to report abuses of power than cover, say, the deaths of millions and enslavement of whole black tribes in Islamist Sudan. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, came up with "Moynihan's Law" to encapsulate the process. It holds that the number of complaints about a nation's violation of human rights is in inverse proportion to its actual violation of human rights.

He wasn't absolutely right, and the law certainly doesn't work in Israel's case, but you get the point. As long as people know biases exist, no harm is done. In any case, it's not a competition, and it's no defence of Israel to say it's better to be Palestinian than Sudanese. Human rights are universal.

The issue is whether the liberal left is as keen on universal principles as it pretends. An impeccably left-wing group of Jewish academics, who are against the war in Iraq and occupation of the West Bank, gathered recently at [ http://www.engageonline.org.uk as they could see parts of the left retreating into special pleading. Their union, the Association of University Teachers, had proposed that academics abandon the freedom to exchange ideas, on which intellectual life depends, by boycotting Israeli universities. Asked why the boycott applied only to Israel and not nations with far greater crimes to their names, the AUT had no reply.]

Racism is often subtle in England. David Hirsh, an Engage supporter, caught it well when he wrote that "the act of singling out Israel as the only illegitimate state - in the absence of any coherent reason for doing so - is in itself anti-Semitic, irrespective of the motivation or opinions of those who make that claim".

I'd agree, if it weren't for a brutal counter-argument that few have the guts to make. Get real, it runs. Universal values are for the birds. The left had a respectable record of exposing the dark corners of the right in South Africa, the Deep South, Pinochet's Chile, Franco's Spain and the Colonels' Greece. Only the bravest had much to say about the Soviet Union, China or Cuba. On the whole, those monstrosities were opposed by the right. Looking back, you can see that good came out of the activism of both sets of critics. Equally, good will come from our obsession with Israel. The Palestinians need help and you shouldn't ask too many questions about the helpers.

All of which sounds reasonable, until you ask a question that I've delayed asking for too long: what is anti-Semitism?

In its 19th- and 20th-century form, it was a conspiratorial explanation of power from the radical right. In this it differed from standard racism, which is generally resentment of powerless outsiders who look odd, lower wages and take jobs. The template was set by the reaction against the American and French revolutions. How could Americans proclaim such insane ideas as the rights of man, the counter-revolutionaries asked. How could the French overthrow the king who loved them and Holy Mother Church which succoured them? They couldn't admit that the Americans and the French wanted to do what they had done. Their consent had to have been manufactured by the new rulers of the world. Originally these were the Freemasons, who were damned for peddling enlightened ideas. Only after Jewish emancipation opened the ghettos were the Jews press-ganged into the plot. They represented everything that was hateful about modernity: equal rights, religious toleration and the destruction of tradition.

I don't like the term "Islamo-fascism" - fascist movements are national movements, not religions. Still, no one can fail to have noticed that in one indisputable respect the west is the "root cause" of Islamist terror: militant Muslims have bought the ideology of the European counter-revolution wholesale.

The appeal is understandable. There is a chosen people: the Germans, the Italians or the Spanish in classic fascism; Sunni Muslims in totalitarian variants of Islam. Domination is theirs by right, but they are denied their inheritance by a conspiracy of infidels, be they westernisers, Jews, sell-out leaders or the corrupters of women and youth.

You can read for yourselves the histories of the links between Nazism and the Arab world in the 1940s, but to bring you up to date, here is what Article 22 of Hamas's covenant says of the Jews: "They were behind the French revolution, the communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests."

That's right, Rotary Clubs.

Please don't tell me that it helps the Palestinians to give the far right the time of day, or pretend that Palestinian liberals, socialists, women, gays, freethinkers and Christians (let alone Israeli Jews) would prosper in a Palestine ruled by Hamas. It's not radical, it's barely political, to turn a blind eye and say you are for the Palestinian cause. Political seriousness lies in stating which Palestine you are for and which Palestinians you support. The Palestinian fight is at once an anti-colonial struggle and a clash between modernity and reaction. The confusion of our times comes from the failure to grasp that it is possible to have an anti-colonialism of the far right.

While we're at it, don't excuse Hamas and Islamic Jihad and all the rest by saying the foundation of Israel and the defeat of all the Arab attempts to destroy it made them that way. Anti-Semitism isn't a local side effect of a dirty war over a patch of land smaller than Wales. It's everywhere from Malaysia to Morocco, and it has arrived here. When the BBC showed a Panorama documentary about the ideological roots of the Muslim Council of Britain in the Pakistani religious right, the first reaction of the Council was to accuse it of following an "Israeli agenda". The other day the Telegraph reported that Ahmad Thomson, a Muslim lawyer who advises the Prime Minister on community relations of all things, had declared that a "sinister" group of Jews and Freemasons was behind the invasion of Iraq.

To explain away a global phenomenon as a rational reaction to Israeli oppression, you have once again to turn the Jew into a supernatural figure whose existence is the cause of discontents throughout the earth. You have to revive anti-Semitism.

The alternative is to do what the left used to do. If you look at the list of late-20th-century leftist causes I have mentioned, you will see that the left, for all its faults and crimes, was against fascism. It used to know that the powerful used racism to distract the powerless, as they do to this day in Egypt, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where the deployment of Jew hatred is positively tsarist. Although I know it's hard to credit, the left also used to know that the opponents of fascism, including the opponents of Saddam, had to be supported.

But the liberal left has been corrupted by defeat and doesn't know much about anything these days. Marxist-Leninism is so deep in the dustbin of history, it is composting, while social democracy is everywhere on the defensive. Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Christian fundamentalism are beating it in the struggle for working-class and peasant minds. An invigorated capitalism is threatening its European strongholds. There's an awful realisation that Tony Blair and Bill Clinton may be as good as it gets. The temptation in times of defeat is to believe in everything rather than nothing; to go along with whichever cause sounds radical, even if the radicalism on offer is the radicalism of the far right.

In 1878, George Eliot wrote that it was "difficult to find a form of bad reasoning about [Jews] which had not been heard in conversation or been admitted to the dignity of print". So it is again today. Outside the movies of Mel Gibson, Jews aren't Christ killers any longer, but they can't relax, because now they are Nazis, blood-soaked imperialists, the secret movers of neoconservatism, the root cause of every atrocity from 9/11 to 7/7.

It's not that the left as a whole is anti-Semitic, although there are racists who need confronting. Rather, it has been maddened by the direction history has taken. Deracinated and demoralised, its partisans aren't thinking hard enough about where they came from or - and more pertinently - where they are going.

Elias Friedman A.S., NREMT-P
& Pongo the Spotted Wonder!

RJC Weekly E-Newsletter

October 14, 2005
  • RJC Bids Farewell to William Daroff, Deputy Executive Director
  • U.S. Government Releases Letter Between al-Qaida Leaders: United States Winning the War on Terror
  • Take an Online Course to Learn More About the Israeli Conflict
  • Dennis Prager Discusses Anti-Semitism at the University

  • RJC Bids Farewell to William Daroff, Deputy Executive Director

    It is with a mixture of tremendous pride, happiness, and sadness that we inform you that Deputy Executive Director William Daroff will soon be leaving the RJC to begin a new chapter in his professional life. He has accepted an offer to become Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington office of the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization of North America's Jewish Federations.

    Since coming to the RJC over 5 years ago, first as our Congressional Affairs Director, then rising to the position of Deputy Executive Director/Director of Grassroots Development, William has made an enormous contribution to the RJC's growth and success. He has been a valuable member of our management team and the RJC has benefited from his wise counsel.

    While we are sad to see William move on, we are very proud of him. His new assignment, though outside of the world of partisan politics, is a very important one for the Jewish community. William's selection was the result of an exhaustive national search by the UJC. The fact that he was offered this position is a testament to his record of success and accomplishment at the RJC.

    We will all miss William and we wish him much continued success for what will be a very bright future ahead.

    U.S. Government Releases Letter Between al-Qaida Leaders: United States Winning the War on Terror

    On October 12, 2005 the U.S. government released a 6,000-word letter written by al-Qaida's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, to al-Qaida's leader in Iraq Abu Musab Zarqawi. The letter not only provides a detailed look at al-Qaida's larger plans in Iraq and around the globe, but also helps confirm that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism.

    Zawahiri emphasizes that al-Qaida's objectives transcend Iraq's border. "The Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals," he writes:

    The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority of amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate over as much territory as you can spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas...The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq. The fourth stage:...[This is] the clas with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity...[T]heir ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection.

    Furthermore, Zawahiri reveals that simply extracting American forces from Iraq is not sufficient.

    He charges,"the Muhahidin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal."

    Rather the terrorists are committed to obstructing the democratic process in Iraq. If American forces withdraw prematurely from Iraq, Zarqawi and his forces will attempt to overthrow the elected leadership and rule the country according to their interpretation of Islamic law.

    Despite their grandiose plans, al-Qaida recognizes that they are losing public support in Iraq. However, Zarqawi intends to exploit the democratic process to advance al-Qaida's extremist goals.

    "I stress again to you and to all your brothers," Zawahiri writes, "the need to direct the political action equally with the military action, by the alliance, cooperation and gathering of all leaders of opinion and influence in the Iraqi arena."

    Take an Online Course to Learn More About the Israeli Conflict

    The Jewish Agency for Israel, in conjunction with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is offering a course that aims to educate participants about Israel's perspective on some of the complicated questions surrounding the Middle East conflict.

    Dennis Prager Discusses Anti-Semitism at the University

    Nationally syndicated radio host Dennis Prager wrote a column earlier this week considering the degree to which both anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism has penetrated American Universities.

    The university has become a "moral wasteland" according to Prager, "and the most congenial place for enemies of the Jewish state." While the Jewish community has a very special and long lasting relationship with education, Prager charges, "universities have become society's primary breeding ground for hatred of Israel."

    He continues,

    This hatred is often so intense that the college campus has become a haven for people who use anti-Zionism to mask their anti-Semitism. Moreover, anti-Zionism itself is a form of anti-Semitism, even if some Jews share it. Why? Because anti-Zionism itself is a form of anti-Semitism, as legitimate as criticism of any country. Anti-Zionism means that Israel as a Jewish state has no right to exist. And when a person argues that only one country in the world is unworthy of existence – and that happens to be the one Jewish country in the world – one is engaged in anti-Semitism, whether personally anti-Semitic or not.

    RJC Events

    Watch the webcast of the RJC 20th Anniversary celebration in Washington, DC! Click here for more information.

    Arizona Chapter
    10/27/2005 An Evening with Ari Fleischer
    Atlanta Chapter
    10/17/2005 A conversation with Bernie Marcus
    California Region  
    10/30/2005 An afternoon with Ari Fleischer in San Diego

    10/30/2005 An evening with Ari Fleischer in Irvine

    11/02/2005 Israel and the Middle East -- What's Next?

    11/18-20/05 "RJC All California Conference" featuring Michael Medved, Congressman Ed Royce, Senator Tom McClintock, Dr. Gal Luft and other guests!

    Chicago Chapter
    10/16/2005 "Assault on Academic Freedom" event
    DC Chapter
    11/03/2005 Lunch with Ilan Berman and Joshua E. London
    Fresno Chapter
    10/30/2005 "Friend of Israel Award," honoring Col. John Somerville
    New York Region  
    11/1/2005 Event with Westchester County D.A. Jeanine Pirro
    North Texas Chapter
    10/30/2005 Event with Congressman Kenny Marchant
    Orange County Chapter
    10/30/2005 Event with Ari Fleischer

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    Elias Friedman A.S., NREMT-P
    & Pongo the Spotted Wonder!

    The little company that could

    What with all the negative news coming from the Gulf Coast constantly, I found this story of some unsung heros to be very refreshing
    GULFPORT, Miss. — Melvin Wilson, 46, a marketing manager for Mississippi Power, was reviewing next year's advertising campaign when Hurricane Katrina turned toward Mississippi.

    A day later, the marketing man was "director of storm logistics," responsible for feeding and housing 11,000 repairmen from 24 states and Canada. (Photo gallery: Power struggle in Mississippi)

    He needed nurses, beds, meals, tetanus shots, laundry service, showers, toilets and much more — and he needed them now. And he needed double the quantities called for in the company's "worst-case scenario." And he needed them in places that had no electricity, no plumbing, no phones, few road signs and sporadic looting.

      About Mississippi Power

    The fact that Wilson didn't have a working phone was his tough luck: If he failed, men would go hungry, hospitals would stay dark and the suffering of his community would endure. "My day job did not prepare me for this," says Wilson, his voice choked with emotion, recalling the burden of having 11,000 mouths to feed.

    Let it be told: Wilson got the job done. So did his colleagues. And how they restored power in just 12 days is one of the great modern crisis-management stories.

    While the government struggled to organize a bus convoy in New Orleans, Mississippi Power successfully executed a swift, ambitious disaster plan. The company provided its own security, communications, fuel, food and sanitation. The manpower deployed was equal in size to an Army division.

    The story of this relatively small 1,250-employee corporate subsidiary reveals how much can be done quickly when it's managed right. "I could not be prouder of our response," says David Ratcliffe, chief executive of Southern Co. (SO), the Atlanta-based utility that owns Mississippi Power.

    Operating in the harshest of circumstances — its corporate headquarters destroyed, its disaster response center flooded, all 195,000 customers without power — Mississippi Power restored power to all customers who could safely take electricity by the symbolic day of Sept. 11. The 12-day repair effort was completed far ahead of the original four-week schedule.

    Mississippi Power benefited from a strategy refined by years of hurricane experience. Southern Co.'s five electric companies — all located in hurricane-prone southeastern states — work together during storms and share lessons afterward.

    When Katrina hit, Mississippi Power management responded with a style designed for speed and flexibility, for getting things done amid confusion and chaos.

    The key elements to success:

    A can-do corporate culture.

    Southern Co.'s corporate values are written on employees' IDs: Unquestionable Trust, Superior Performance, Total Commitment. These simple rules, called Southern Style, went from platitude to practice during the crisis. For example, "unquestionable trust" made second-guessing a corporate no-no.

    Mississippi Power also had steeped its culture in Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The company's training building, the Covey Center, flooded during the storm. But Covey-speak — "win-win," "be proactive," etc. — survived as a lubricant to quick action and on-the-spot innovation.

    Clear lines of responsibility.

    In contrast to the government's disaster response, Mississippi Power made absolutely clear who had responsibility and authority for each task. Long before the storm, the company had 20 "storm directors" with crystal-clear assignments: transmission lines, logistics, security, etc. Those responsible could not hide in a bureaucracy.

    The man responsible for procuring 140,000 gallons of fuel a day in a time of extreme shortages? That's him, the man in the baseball cap, Rufus Smith, storm director for the supply chain. Smith and other directors had broad power backed by "unquestionable trust" from their superiors. "I don't have to ask permission," says Wilson. "If I need 2,000 cots and find some, I say, 'Roll the trucks.' "

    Decentralized decision-making.

    Twenty years ago, hurricane response was run from the top down: Top executives looked at the power system holistically and set priorities from headquarters. Today, decision-making has been pushed far down the command structure, to the level of the electrical substation, a distribution point that serves perhaps 5,000 people. Crews report to substations with broad authority and a simple mission: Get the power on.

    Even out-of-state line crews, hired on contract and working unsupervised, were empowered to engineer their own solutions. The results were entrepreneurial. One crew chief stripped a generator off an ice machine to get a substation working. Other crews scavenged parts from fallen poles. Costly purchases were made instantly over the phone.

    The strategy worked even better than top management expected. "We had greater storm damage than originally thought, but this structure made things happen faster than we expected. People were getting more done," says Mississippi Power President Anthony Topazi.

    Company procedures were less important than the ability to improvise.

    Mississippi Power's hurricane response manual is 4 inches thick. When Katrina struck, the manual played its traditional role: none. "I haven't looked at in years," admits Robert Powell, storm director for damage assessment and a 35-year company veteran. "If you don't know what you're supposed to do, the manual is not going to help now."

    The most valuable document was a phone directory: the names and numbers of people who could get things done.

    Lesson 1: Think ahead — A good forecast pays off

    Robert Powell, a power line project manager, is the company's weatherman when a hurricane threatens. Mississippi Power subscribes to three weather-forecasting services. As the storm approached, Powell talked to meteorologists and examined computer projections. The engineer and self-taught weather expert bet correctly that Coastal Weather Research Center at the University of South Alabama had the most accurate forecast. "They've had the hot hand this year predicting storm paths," Powell says.

    Powell told storm directors that Hurricane Katrina could slice a diagonal path through the heart of Mississippi Power's 23-county service area and cause more flooding than official forecasts.

    "The computer models don't take into account a quirk in geography that affects our territory," he says. The quirk: Boot-shaped Louisiana sticks out underneath part of Mississippi. "Louisiana acted like a dam, pushing water into Mississippi and creating a storm surge that was twice what the models predicted," he says.

    With Powell's assessment in hand and the storm 24 hours away, the company retreated from its primary storm center in its high-rise headquarters on the beach in Gulfport to a backup office at a power plant about five miles inland.

    Hurricane Katrina officially landed at 6:10 a.m. Aug. 29.

    At noon, the backup storm command center lost power. The giant power plant shut down. A flooded power plant was not in the plan. The company's storm directors, holding flashlights, walked downstairs to look out a small window in a metal door. Cars were floating in the parking lot.

    Powell radioed his wife, an officer in the National Guard, that he was OK. He wouldn't speak to her again for six days. "This was more than our worst-case scenario," he says.

    Repair trucks were rolling in from out of state as the hurricane pounded Mississippi.

    Mississippi Power had pre-positioned 2,400 workers, mostly contract tree trimmers and line crews, in Alabama and Georgia. Combined with its own workforce, Mississippi Power had a force of 3,700 on the ground one day after the hurricane.

    Southern Co. procedure called for each subsidiary to run the show on its home turf.

    Mississippi Power is a small utility — one-tenth the size of Georgia Power, one-sixth the size of Alabama Power. The company's worst-case scenarios had considered that every customer could lose power, which happened. But the company didn't think it was big enough to manage an outside repair force of more than 5,000, the number prepared for in the worst-case scenario. "We have never, in our little company's history, used more than 4,000 from outside," says Topazi.

    The problem wasn't resources. Southern Co. had net income of $1.5 billion in 2004 and resources to spare.

    It was all about managing. And that was Mississippi Power's problem.

    Lesson 2: Be prepared — Back up your backup plans

    Floodwaters had yet to recede when a company security van came to take the first load of storm directors to the company's third option for a storm center: a service office in North Gulfport that had survived Hurricane Camille in 1969. The company had no fourth option.

    The office had survived. It didn't have electricity or running water, but it had a roof and walls. The hurricane response control room was set up in a windowless conference room. Topazi took a small office usually inhabited by a local manager.

    Phone lines were down. Cellphones were useless. Police radios were silent.

    Mississippi Power had one last option: a unique radio function on its company-issued cellphones. When all else had failed, the company radios worked.

    At least some of the time.

    Mississippi Power cellphones — sold by SouthernLinc Wireless, another Southern Co. subsidiary — work both as a phone and a radio. The phone function died because cellphones needed outside switches and towers. But radio traffic stayed within the damaged but alive SouthernLinc system.

    Mississippi Power had 1,100 working radios for themselves, plus 500 extras to lend out. For the first 72 hours, these radios were virtually the only way to communicate on Mississippi's Gulf Coast. A week later, SouthernLinc put the cellphones' function back in service by cleverly issuing toll-free 800-numbers to the phones. That let callers bypass the overworked switches in the 228 area code. While others struggled to communicate at all, Mississippi Power could hold conference calls with line crews in the field.

    Mississippi Power and SouthernLinc worked furiously to increase the system's capacity. Microwave dishes were brought in to bypass other companies' disabled telephone lines and switches. When a crane was late, workers didn't wait. They used ropes and brute strength to string a heavy wire to the tower atop a seven-story building.

    Immediately after the storm, though, radio contact was spotty.

    Melvin Wilson, the logistics man, tried for 12 hours to reach the outside world. He knew thousands of men already were on their way to Mississippi. Some pre-planned staging areas were flooded or inaccessible. It was unclear what supplies were coming or where they should go.

    Finally, his SouthernLinc radio worked.

    Lesson 3: Teamwork — How to get help when you need it

    Joe Wyse, a Georgia Power manager, sitting at a desk in Atlanta, answered.

    "Joe, is that you? Can you help me?" Wilson asked.

    "Tell me what you need," Wyse said. "I'm here to help."

    Wyse's regular job is benchmarking performance, but he's also Georgia Power's storm director of logistics. His group of three people were Wilson's link to the outside world. As the outside repair force grew from zero to nearly 11,000 in eight days, Wyse went deeper and deeper into his supplier database, contacting vendors as far away as Michigan. His team turned to the Yellow Pages and the Internet, cold-calling vendors to see if they could head immediately to Mississippi.

    "Food is not the problem. Specialized needs like showers and laundry are toughest," Wyse says.

    Wyse's only limit on what to buy and how much to spend was his good judgment. "You can't do a lot of price shopping when you're in a situation like Katrina, but you watch for price-gougers," Wyse says.

    One vendor quoted a sky-high price for setting up showers. As desperately as he needed showers, Wyse turned the offer down. Instead, power company crews built their own shower tent in a parking lot of a former Sunbeam appliance warehouse in Hattiesburg, Miss.

    In all, thousands of men were housed at 30 staging areas. Most lived in six full-service tent cities, sleeping in air-conditioned circus tents that held up to 1,800. They ate hot breakfasts at dawn, took box lunches in their trucks and had hot meals at sundown. They showered daily and had their laundry done. They received more than 8,000 tetanus shots.

    Wilson worked 20 hours a day. His home was flooded. He didn't see his family for nine days. He sometimes slept on the floor. "I was a logistics man without a bed to sleep in," he says.

    Lesson 4: Be clever — Seek breakthrough solutions

    Three days after the storm, Mississippi Power's outside workforce already exceeded the 5,000 planned for in the company's worst-case scenario. Repair crews were arriving in fuel-guzzling heavy equipment — bucket trucks, digger derricks, 18-wheelers pulling bulldozers.

    Wilson's job was to feed the men. Rufus Smith's job was to feed their trucks.

    On a normal day, Mississippi Power's fleet of 600 trucks consumes 3,000 gallons of fuel. One week after the hurricane, the company was feeding 140,000 gallons a day to a fleet of 5,000 trucks.

    "My worst nightmare was to have 5,000 trucks and no fuel," says Mississippi Power Vice President Bobby Kerley, who oversaw the repair effort.

    The fear was understandable. The military and law enforcement were short on fuel. Looters were siphoning gas from cars. Mississippi Power's diesel supply got so low that trucks were limited to 20 gallons on the second day after the storm.

    With the cash economy in shambles, Mississippi Power reverted to the barter system: electricity for fuel. It restored power to a Chevron refinery in Pascagoula and a pipeline in Collins, Miss., in exchange for a steady supply of fuel. The decision helped Mississippi Power and also boosted the fuel supply for the Gulf Coast and the entire eastern United States.

    Lesson 5: Set high goals — Hard work and pride pay off

    Six days after the storm, Mississippi Power executives were surprised at how quickly the repairs were going. They realized the original four-week goal was "average performance," not the "superior performance" called for in the mission statement. Storm directors met every day at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. At the evening meeting on Sept. 5, Topazi asked: How quickly could power be restored? Someone said two weeks, maybe 13 days.

    The company president walked to a dry-erase board on the wall and wrote 9-11-05. "Someone in the meeting noted, 'Hey, that's Sept. 11' (the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon). We decided then, let's take that terrible date and make it mean something positive."

    The company issued a press release after the Monday meeting: Every customer who could safely receive power would have it by Sept. 11, that Sunday. The pledge was an educated guess and a bold dare.

    Line crews were hanging wire, sticking poles, replacing transformers and fixing substations at a rate company executives had never seen before. "My job is to keep morale high, but these guys didn't need a morale boost," Topazi said.

    Added Powell, the storm assessment director: "These guys had more 'want-to' than I've ever seen. They knew Hurricane Katrina was an historic event and took pride in their role."

    The crews are often hurricane veterans.

    In the first few days, when big convoys of 30 trucks were common, Mississippi Power might have a single employee assigned to the crew of 50 to 100. The company employee — it could be a line man or cross-trained accountant — directed crews around local streets and maintained radio contact.

    By entrusting outside repair crews to do their jobs as they saw fit, Mississippi Power was able to deploy a force nine times bigger than the company.

    Lesson 6: Measure results

    Topazi thinks the breakneck pace of the repair cost a little less than if the company had stuck to its four-week goal. "We accomplished more work on a per-head basis," he says. Only 350 outside workers remain on the job.

    The company still has months of work to do. Its power plants aren't all working. Its transmission system needs repair. There are more than 19,000 customers whose buildings were destroyed or too damaged to receive electricity.

    On Sept. 8, Topazi showed a reporter around the company's improvised storm center, where the Sept. 11 goal had been established.

    "Oops," he said. "You're not supposed to see that." He erased "9-10-05" from the dry-erase board and rewrote "9-11-05."

    Mississippi Power was exceeding its revised expectations. Sure enough, Mississippi Power restored power to all its customers a day early — on Saturday, Sept. 10. Just before dark.

    Elias Friedman A.S., NREMT-P
    & Pongo the Spotted Wonder!

    William A. Cooper: Forget a 'living Constitution,' and stick to actual text


    Much was made by U.S. senators during the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge John Roberts over a "living Constitution" -- a U.S. Constitution that, under their view, changes with the times.

    These senators want a Supreme Court that looks at a constitution as a document susceptible to changing interpretations based on current popular thinking, particularly that of our political elite. Some senators and Supreme Court justices even opine that foreign law should be somehow integrated into our Constitution.

    The founding fathers of the United States created a constitution that was the bedrock of our democracy. Congress would pass laws, the executive branch would implement the laws and the Supreme Court would determine if the laws were consistent with our written Constitution. Processes were made to amend the Constitution if needed, and indeed it has been amended many times.

    A so-called "living Constitution" significantly changes this arrangement. If the Supreme Court can in effect change the Constitution according to recent trends, then the Supreme Court is making new laws and we don't have a set of rules as set forth in the Constitution.

    A careful reading of our Constitution reveals that it was constructed mainly to limit the role of government in the lives of citizens. The document bestowed certain limited rights to government and all other rights to the states and, most importantly, to the people. "Living Constitution" makes our rights as citizens subject to a dictatorship of the court. The Supreme Court makes new law outside the political process.

    The abortion issue is the clearest and most hotly debated issue that demonstrates the effects of the "living Constitution." The U.S. Supreme Court took away the rights of the states to legislate laws limiting abortion based on a so-called "privacy right" in the "living Constitution." There is no right of privacy in the Constitution. In fact, the word privacy is nowhere to be found in our Constitution. This so-called right was somehow divined out of our Constitution by a court interpreting contemporary standards into our Constitution, without the inconvenience of amending the Constitution.

    Regardless of how you feel about abortion, the Supreme Court has taken the issue away from the states and the voters (where it belongs) and has assured that it will remain as a divisive issue in America because it cannot be resolved through the political process (except through the replacement of Supreme Court judges).

    Perhaps the U.S. Constitution should be amended to reflect present-day opinions. If that is the case, we have a political process to make these changes. However, the so-called "living Constitution" system allows judges to make these changes without consulting the people. A very bad idea.

    A "living Constitution" means that in effect we don't have any constitution at all. Without a real written set of laws called a Constitution, we are subject to the government's ever-growing encroachment on our rights. The umpire gets to change the rules during the game: four strikes and three balls so that their team wins.

    William A. Cooper, Wayzata, is a banker and a former chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party.

    Elias Friedman A.S., NREMT-P
    & Pongo the Spotted Wonder!

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    Fighting Words on the Street

    Published: October 9, 2005

    Correction Appended

    IN the documentary "Protocols of Zion," which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Oct. 21, the director Marc Levin ( "Slam," "Brooklyn Babylon," "Whiteboyz") sets out to understand what he sees as a surge in anti-Semitism since 9/11. At times, the film echoes "Roger and Me" in style, allowing its targets to incriminate themselves. But Mr. Levin's film, unlike Michael Moore's, provides few clear answers to the questions it stirs, though Mr. Levin takes pains to refute the canard that no Jews died at the World Trade Center. The title is borrowed from a century-old tract, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which purported to expose a Jewish plot for world domination hatched in a secret graveyard meeting. Mr. Levin discussed his work with David M. Halbfinger recently over drinks in Beverly Hills.

    Skip to next paragraph

    The director Marc Levin, next to the camera, interviewing inmates at a maximum security prison in New Jersey for his documentary "Protocols of Zion."

    J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

    The director Marc Levin said his visit to a talk-radio show was scarier than time spent at Nazi headquarters.

    DAVID M. HALBFINGER I've read a bit about the genesis of "Protocols" - that it started with something an Egyptian cabby said to you in New York - but why did you feel compelled to make this film?

    MARC LEVIN There's more to that story. When that cabdriver said to me, "The Jews had been warned, the rabbis in Brooklyn warned the Jews not to go to work, 4,000 didn't go to work, no Jews died" - I had heard that already. And this kid was listening to the Roots, a pretty progressive hip-hop group I know. So I figured, this has got to be a hip guy, I can talk honestly with him. I was like, "You got to be kidding, buddy, you can't believe this." So he said it was all written 100 years ago in "The Protocols of Zion."

    But the second part of the story is, I flipped out, and I said, "My great-grandfather was at that meeting!" This is only weeks after 9/11, and any Arab-American was paranoid. So we get to a light. He turns around. And I look at him and say, "I'm going to give you some advice: just shut up and do what we say!"

    I'd had a few drinks; I lost my cool. Well, he almost crashed. He pulled over, asked me to get out, went into a coffee shop, and I followed. Then he starts telling me his life story: He was from Alexandria. He loved hip-hop. And every time he bought a rap CD, and the fundamentalists saw it, they would beat him up. Or if he bought a DVD of a European or an American movie. He finally couldn't take it and left. So I'm thinking, he came to New York, wants to get into the music industry, wants an American girlfriend - this is so bizarre. Twenty minutes ago he was repeating the cartoon lie - blame it on the Jews, it's written in "The Protocols" - but the guy himself is a victim of fanaticism.

    Q. At one point, I wondered, is Marc Levin shocked, shocked, to find anti-Semitism in this world?

    A. No, I wasn't shocked. But I didn't grow up in a world where you really faced what our parents and grandparents did. I was always fascinated by the history but never thought of it in the present tense. I did a film, "Gladiator Days," with one of the heroes of the white power movement, so I've dealt with a lot of extremists. But I never thought it would become, not legitimate but, somehow, not just fringe. Take "The Diaspora," the [Syrian-made, Lebanese-broadcast] television series, where you see the matzo, the blood libel. Tens of millions of people saw that. So when people said to me, "Why would you want to even bring up 'The Protocols of Zion'? You should bury that book - -. "

    Q. "Is it good for the Jews?"

    A. Believe me, I had investors who wanted to do something about anti-Semitism but were uncomfortable with "The Protocols of Zion." They were like, it's better that no one knows about it. But if 100 million people on 40 nights are watching during Ramadan, who are you hiding it from? Jews need to find their place in this discussion, and it's very hard, because we're in the cross hairs - because of Israel, the Mideast, the neocons, all these things. But look at our history as victims of religious-inspired madness for 1,600 years. How are we going to step into this battle, how are we going to defuse and combat this kind of hate? That is the huge question.

    Q. I don't know that the film answers it.

    A. It doesn't. Quite honestly, I set out to try to get oriented and ask the questions. It was almost like an opener.

    Q. You can see this stuff anywhere. You can walk by it in Times Square. Some avert their eyes, or roll their eyes, and think, "I can't waste my time, I can't engage, it's not worth it, these are stupid people if they buy into it."

    A. I would've been one of those people who would've walked by it also. But all of a sudden, it was like I was searching - what's the constellation or road map in this new world? And here in New York City, where this kid or anybody could've been blown up, all of a sudden it doesn't sound the same way as it did before to me. It's like, whose side are you on, if this is a war - whether it's a war on terror, a war against Al Qaeda or a war of civilizations. To wake up and realize we were in the Middle Ages, where religious warfare, tribal warfare, are a force. I didn't know how to make sense of it. So my way was engaging, just on the street, in talking to people to try to get my bearings again. I don't believe in the ignorance of the street. I believe there is that of a street intelligence.

    Q. As I watched you on film, debating the host on an anti-Semitic talk-radio show, I thought that it was happening to you: that you were getting rolled, that you were caught on your heels, that you were kind of overwhelmed.

    A. I might have been.

    Q. That may have been the scene that ticked me off the most. "This guy, he goes into the lion's den. How can he go in unprepared, and how can he put it on the screen that way?" You're the filmmaker. You're supposed to get the last word.

    A. It's funny you say that, because people often asked, "What was the scariest thing that happened?" and I would say that was. Why? In West Virginia, in the Nazi headquarters, in the prison, even in the mosque, I was prepared, both emotionally and in what I wanted to say. On that radio show, I have to admit, I didn't expect, in St. Louis, Middle America, no hillbilly accents, just regular people calling. I was unprepared, and you sensed it. That was the scariest moment, that you could just be in the middle of our country, and one after another, people calling - - .

    Q. "I despise you," one said.

    A. Right. Maybe it was unflattering, maybe it made me look unprepared. You saw it in my reaction, but because it was so banal or everyday, I thought it was so important to include. I would admit I was not prepared. I was shocked.

    Q. But it may take that vulnerability to get in with people.

    A. I think it does. Originally, the film wasn't as personal as it became.

    Q. It's a really bleak picture of the extent of anti-Semitism. You don't show any positive, countervailing voices. Do you think it's that bad?

    A. I think there are a lot of countervailing forces, and I was in touch with a lot of people who are bridge builders. If I was doing a Bill Moyers show, that's where we would've gone. But I wanted to do something that had street credibility. Meaning, why can't you talk about religion, faith, fanaticism, the way you talk about sports, sex, music, on the street? We always hear the Arab street, the street, the red states, vox populi, but then you go out and it's like, "What are you talking to people on the streets for, why aren't you talking in the university or to the professor or to the experts?" I didn't want to do a dry, historic, academic, intellectual - I wanted it to be emotive.

    Q. Are you sounding an alarm?

    A. To a certain extent, yes, but not in the sense of crying wolf, the Gestapo's coming. I don't see it like that. We're all Jews, now, who believe in open societies. And so we all have got to figure out how we're going to fight this fight. It's pre-emptive engagement. We better come up with a way, and culture matters: music, art, journalism, painting, literature - it matters.

    Q. It's "I've seen the enemy and it is ..." who?

    A. Exactly. But isn't that what it's about? Just think of the war on terror. The greatest failure? Intelligence. We have no idea how these people think, we have nobody in Al Qaeda. Anybody is a potential victim, don't have to be a Jew. So we're all in this together. And staring into the eyes, trying to get intelligence, and understanding how people think and how people who are intelligent can actually say things, like 'the Jews met in a graveyard, and they've got secrets from when Moses came down with the Torah,' and believe that - yeah. So I feel better armed.

    Q. In one scene, you're on a cellphone in your hotel room trying to get famous Hollywood Jews to sit around and talk about Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." It seems like you're trying to imply something pretty heavy-handedly about their refusal to do it.

    A. I would say, I was na�ve.

    Q. Did you really think they'd just say, "Sure!"?

    A. No. I have tremendous respect for Norman Lear, Larry David, Rob Reiner. These guys are heroes. And not only are they brilliant, but they've gone on the front lines themselves. But I was na�ve. I did think there would be people who would say: "Hey, let's have a discussion. What does this mean?" At the same time, how could I make a movie, if I was going to sit with all different kinds of people and not at least try?

    Q. Why would anybody say yes? I wouldn't say yes. "Who the hell are you?"

    A. You're absolutely right, and I did it out of love and respect.

    Q. Are you going to persuade anybody that they're wrong, that the world is not what they've been led to believe, or are they going to come away from the movie saying, 'This guy didn't win that argument on the radio show, it must all be true'?

    A. It's not going to convert anyone. Hopefully, even the most obdurate or obstinate will say, "Maybe the Jews did die on 9/11, and maybe 'The Protocols' is a fraud and maybe this level of stereotypical hate of the Jews is past tense. But the Jews still have too much power," and dot-dot-dot. O.K. But that's a step. That's something.

    Correction: Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005:
    Because of an editing error, the introduction to an interview last Sunday with Marc Levin, director of the documentary "Protocols of Zion," misstated a word in describing the century-old anti-Semitic tract "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," from which the title was taken. It should have said that the tract, a proven forgery, "purports" (not "sought") to expose a Jewish plot for world domination.