And God said, “No way I can divert all four airplanes, so I’ll let New York go and concentrate on rural Pennsylvania.” The August 28 issue of PBS Web publication “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly” ( visited Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for the obligatory September 11 anniversary story and came away with a theologically challenged quote from a local pastor’s wife: “I believe God had a lot to do with the timing of that plane and where, if it had to go down, where it went down–where not another soul was harmed or hurt. That strengthened my faith so much.”

“American activists have consistently innovated, not only tactically and organizationally, but also relationally,” writes sociologist Francesca Polletta in the new University of Chicago Press book Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements. “The affinity group, the workshop, the organizational discipline, the residential cluster, the consciousness-raising group, and the house meeting: each one has fostered new kinds of relationships among movement participants. . . . Each one created a setting in which participants were expected to behave in ways that were unlike both conventional political interaction and the interaction expected of people in their churches, workplaces, families, and friendships. They encouraged cooperation that was mutually respectful but tolerant of disagreement, caring but inclusive, and personally enriching but firmly directed toward the public sphere. . . . Activists participating in groups like these have compared them to more intimate relationships: ‘We were like family’; ‘we became incredibly close.’ But the point is that they are not like intimate relationships, at least insofar as the latter are vulnerable to exclusivity and an avoidance of conflict. . . . They provide a space within which participants can experiment with new behaviors knowing that other participants are also committed to the enterprise.”

“No one is to blame for the state’s fiscal predicament,” claims Tim Bramlet of the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois in “Tax Facts” (July-August). “If Illinois policymakers are at fault for misjudging the financial landscape, then so are those from the other 41 states that had to deal with deficits this spring.” Let me get this straight: if everyone else ran off a cliff you would do likewise–and on the way down you’d say it wasn’t your fault because they jumped too?

How would you say “Look out!” 10,000 years from now? According to the judges of the Desert Space Foundation’s contest to find a “universal warning sign” for Yucca Mountain, our descendants, if any, are most likely to be warned off from nuclear waste by weird-looking plants. Catherine Auer writes in the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (September/October), “Yucca plants, genetically engineered to be blue, would be thickly planted on top of the mountain. The idea is that upon seeing the stretch of mutated yucca, viewers would instinctively comprehend the dangers of what lies beneath.” Provided, of course, that bizarre mutations haven’t long since become a part of normal life 100 centuries from now.

(What) were they thinking? “Previously . . . the Justice Department could go to a judge and obtain, upon a showing of probable cause, permission to surreptitiously eavesdrop on conversations, including attorney-client conversations,” American Bar Association immediate past president Robert Hirshon told a Columbia Law School audience September 13, according to an ABA press release (September 13). “The key was that it was necessary for the Justice Department to demonstrate probable cause to an independent fact finder.” But in its October 2001 ruling authorizing such eavesdropping without court order, “the Department of Justice put everyone on notice that it intended to become the fact finder. I suspect that any attorney worth his or her salt, representing a detainee, immediately notified their client that their conversation might be recorded. If the detainee were about to discuss an issue important to our war on terrorism, he or she kept quiet. So, good information may have been lost.”