THE SPINE DECEMBER 28, 2009
“Copacetic.” “Fine and dandy,” says the Webster's New International. Textured origins can be found in the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and the various Oxfords. Mixed origins, actually, from the black South, Creole French, Harlem jazz, Italian and Hebrew/Yiddish. The last pairing points to a Hebrew phrase, “kol b'tsedek,” “all with justice.” I've never heard this phrase, and I don't believe it's the secret behind "copacetic" for a moment. But there is an expression "kol b'seder," in both common Yiddish and Israeli Hebrew usage that means, well, "fine and dandy." That's certainly much more plausible. Which is clearly what she meant.
Anyway, nothing on the Northwest flight about to land in Detroit noontime Christmas was at all copacetic, a I pointed out unoriginally twice already, despite Secretary Napolitano's breathlessly assuring words: "the system has worked very, very smoothly over the last few days." Of course, she has now come to her senses or, maybe, David Axelrod or, worse yet, my old friend Rahm shouted at her. In any case, Eric Lipton and Scott Shane have done a fine job in the Times detailing Madame Secretary's self-humiliation. In a later addition on the Times web-site, the reporting pair tells us that a Saudi-based group, linked to Al Qaeda, claimed credit for organizing the enterprise. It also turns out that the Nigerian heir to a forfeited fortune arrived at Schiphol Airport without a ticket, paid cash and also had no baggage. Did he have a reservation?
There's another important article by John Burns (Burns almost never writes unimportantly) about how "Britain Rejected Visa Renewal for Terrorism Suspect." "The British government said Monday that it had acted earlier this year to reject a bid for a renewed student visa" for Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab."
So there are at least two pregnant questions about the Brits. "What does earlier this year" actually mean? And what information were they given? Then there are many questions about us. Including why we are so casual and really so unserious about such matters. The ever mordant columnist for The Daily Beast, Tunku Varadarajan, puts it to us not so very nicely.
Burns reports on a B.B.C. radio interview with Alan Johnson, the Labor Home Secretary, who was rather more perturbed than the American Homeland Security Secretary. He seems to have believed that Abbdul Mutallab did not act alone.
He also introduced two other themes. One is whether full body scanners should be employed at airports. These have long been available, apparently even in the U.S. But the privacy-mongers (who are not at all troubled by what your computer can tell you about your neighbor and your wife and, in fact, yourself) are hysterical that some security guard might have seen Umar Farouk's Calvins.
The second pressing matter put before us by Burns is about educational visas for foreign students. Johnson reports on an epidemic of 2,000 phony colleges in the U.K. set up in the last year. How many Muslim students "studied" in these institutions? And not just Muslim students, but others who want to leave their home countries and live in England? Do they want to become Brits?
Which reminds me that some of the 9/11 eighteen (plus others involved in a variety of terrorism cases) also attended schools in the United States: air flight schools, hair dressing schools, hit-and-miss colleges. Isn't this a racket that needs to be addressed, especially since this weird cohort conceals a huge visa racket to America.
And one more thing, perhaps germane to the case of Abdul Mutallab. Here, via MEMRI, a command put on jihadist websites on October 18 commanding the faithful, the really faithful, to attack American airplanes.