Saturday, 15 September 2001Apparently stupid people can use e-mail: My alma mater (which has many foreign students) is being targeted by someone who doesn't like people with different-sounding names. Or at least, that's what I deduce from this:
Washington University's directory is taken off-line after incident [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
The university disabled the directory Tuesday after it became apparent that someone from outside had tried to send an offensive e-mail message to a student, university spokesman M. Fredric Volkmann said. He did not detail the contents of the message.
Amnesty International: news from Afghanistan
Amnesty International: 2001 Annual Report on Afghanistan
Forced displacement ... ban on women's right to education, employment and freedom of movement ... detention and torture ... unfair trials, cruel punishments and the death penaltyReports (and pictures) of some of the Taliban's atrocities committed against Afghans, posted by The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), a women's resistance organization:
On Jan. 22,1996 a lady was hit by Taliban vehicle. People went to governor of Herat for investigation. The governor said that "we keep telling you that women don't have the right to go outside their houses. If she was a man we could investigate the case. It is a good lesson to other women not to go outside of their houses. WOMEN IN THEIR HOUSES OR IN THE GRAVE."RAWA Photo Gallery ("some viewers may find disturbing")
Clearly stupid, meaningless pissing contests are still alive and well between television networks (scroll down):
Big Three Networks Delay Start Of Season [Washington Post]
...[Thursday] morning Flag War broke out among the cable news networks. CNN declared itself the victor, having put its animated American flag near the bottom of the screen at midnight Wednesday; MSNBC and Fox News Channel followed suit yesterday morning.At least CNN isn't bragging about it on-air. If it had been Fox, I'm sure we'd be hearing "Fair, Balanced, and First with the Flag" every ten minutes.
Howard Kurtz: Television's Endless Disaster:
Will the networks please -- please -- stop showing the planes crashing into the World Trade Center as scene-setters for their opening credits? As "bumpers" before commercial breaks? As video wallpaper while talking heads are being interviewed? As a split-screen diversion while Ari Fleischer is briefing reporters?Television, after having been the best way to get the initial breaking news, has (in the absence of frequent developments) lapsed into its bad habits of cheap montage-making and victim-torturing, with piano and string backgrounds accompanying repeated plane impacts (how many times have those people died now?) and everyone being asked "how does your friend/loved-one being missing make you feel? Do you still have hope? What will it take for you to stop having hope? Can we film you losing your hope?"
It doesn't mean we're able to stop watching, of course. We just change channels more frequently.
CNN's also resumed its habit of cutting away from people giving informative press conferences for no good reason, causing frantic channel-changing until we find the end of the event on another channel (usually MSNBC). Grr.
Among the broadcast networks, ABC has been doing a pretty good job. CBS (or the local affiliate, anyway) is generally not very useful or timely. We don't try the local NBC.
Generally we switch between CNN, MSNBC and ABC with occasional visits to Fox News until we get too much of the BOMB BOMB BOMB NOW NOW NOW and have to change the channel.
Found through Looka!: 9-11: On: Apocalypse, Tuesday by John Powers [LA Weekly]
...CNN indulged in the stunt of interviewing novelist Tom Clancy simply because he'd written a thriller about a similar attack. I was braced for the worst -- Clancy is, after all, a wannabe Rambo -- but he launched into a monologue about how Islam is a religion of love, like Christianity and Judaism, and we shouldn't believe that the actions of a few madmen actually represent such a religion. "My God," I told my wife. "Tom Clancy has become the voice of reason."
We have been limited in our expectations of what bad people might do:
Unthinkable, Unstoppable by William Saletan [Slate]
Why did so many of them remain in their seats or in the backs of the planes while the hijackers took aim at buildings containing thousands of people? Because it never seriously occurred to those passengers that the hijackers would use the planes for that purpose.
This is one of the small things that I will take comfort in; now it will be much harder for this particular thing to be done again, at least for quite a long time. Even if no airport security practices were changed, the attackers have lost the crucial element of surprise. Anyone flying is now going to be wary and watchful; I certainly will be (though I have no flights in my future for weeks).
While it shouldn't automatically alarm people if 4 or 5 Arab passengers get on an airplane, once anyone, Arab or not, starts actually hijacking a plane, people will get busy fighting them, precisely because they know the likely alternative now. The likelihood that hijackers could steer the plane to a heavily populated area or structure without being interfered with so that they are overcome or they crash now is much lower now.
This probably means that the next attack (if it even gets through our security measures) will be of a completely different form. But I think people (especially in big cities) are on the lookout now, much much more than they used to be, and this makes me hopeful that whatever it is, it can be mitigated or stopped by attentive Americans.
If true, this avoids part of Ansary's feared scenario below:
Pakistan Agrees to U.S. Demands [Washington Post]
Pakistan has agreed to the full list of U.S. demands for a possible attack on neighboring Afghanistan, including a multinational force to be based within its borders, Pakistani military and diplomatic sources said Saturday.
News : AP Summaries / Recent articles | Phil Agre | MSNBC | NYTimes | WPost | BBC
This is to be read in full by everyone. It contains much background information on how Afghanistan became what it is today and what more bombing would or would not achieve.
Mir Tamim Ansary on Afghanistan [DaveNet]
...the Taliban and Bin Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators.
Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. ... There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves.
We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. ... New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs.
...to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West. And guess what: that's Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants. ... If the west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, that's even better from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?
Friday, 14 September 2001Giuliani unbound: All of New York (Loves) Hizzoner
He has looked tired, has on occasion grown emotional, but he has not allowed more than a few hours to pass without reminding the city that someone was at the helm.Count me among those who have disliked many of Mayor Giuliani's policy stances but think he's done a bangup job leading his city in this crisis.
Bush has improved since Tuesday and Wednesday; he's showing himself more and speaking more like a man in charge. He could still take a couple more lessons from Guiliani, though.
Thursday, 13 September 2001A President Faces the Test Of a Lifetime by Howard Fineman [MSNBC]
Senators were especially angry when White House communications aide Karen Hughes emerged in Washington to assure the nation that the president was safe. "We didn't need her to tell us he was all right," said another senator. "We needed him to tell us that we are all right. They missed the point."
UPDATE: Fred's OK! He spoke with thewritingsessions. Whew. Stay safe, man.
Hey, Fred of Metascene? If you're out there, can you check in and let someone know you're OK? Fellow bloggers are concerned.
24 hours after the attack, we knew much more about what happened. 48 hours after, we knew much more than that. This is good. I'm comforted somewhat by the speed with which we are finding things out, even in a news grayout like we seem to be experiencing. (Who's reporting about the truck filled with explosives that was stopped Tuesday night, or was it a false report? Weren't there other planes in the air Tuesday morning that were suspected to be hijacked, and what happened to them? And so forth.)
What should we do? I believe we should attack whoever did this in a very focused way and not obey the immediate (and understandable) impulse to "make their whole country glass."
If we resort to a nuclear strike, we will hasten the day when America is bombed with a nuclear device in retaliation or in sympathy for the victims of our attack. (I'm not saying it will never happen if we don't do it first, I'm just saying I will expect it much sooner if we start using them first.) I view being struck with nukes as a bad thing and to be avoided, just to be clear.
I have full confidence that we can strike back effectively and convincingly without resorting to weapons of mass destruction (which would also kill at least as many innocents as just died, justifying return strikes on someone else's part); I just don't know if Bush and company will be that calm.
Everybody talks about bin Laden the instigator, but various experts have also said that a nation-state almost had to be involved as a backer as well. Only today did I start hearing speculation about Iraq (though that was one of my first thoughts... did you know that we're still bombing them every few days?); before that, it was all Afghanistan and Pakistan.
And what about China? Are they above this? It's not just the Middle East that doesn't like us.
Genehack sorts through his thoughts:
...my thoughts keep turning to the longer term effects that these attacks are going to have on our society, on the shape of our daily lives. I'm going to be laying awake at night worrying about the tradeoffs that we're going to be forced to make, or bullied into choosing, or duped into believing in; tradeoffs that will reduce our personal freedoms for an illusionary and facile sense of security ... that as long as we carry our luggage inside the terminal instead of dropping it off at the curb, everything will be okay, and the boogeymen won't be able to get us.Read the whole thing and think about what will have a real effect on any dangers and what will simply create further illusions of safety while restricting us needlessly.
11:08am: Gee, Bush is actually taking questions right now. Good. As clumsy as he is on his feet (and he's actually standing in the Oval Office), he's much better than he is when reading his speechwriters' vague, weak language.
Bush's remarks from yesterday:
This is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover, but it won't be able to run for cover forever.If I say something three times that only needed saying once, I appear to be filling time.
If a speech is already short but then I pad it by repeating myself twice over, I appear to not have anything to say.
If my point was made sufficiently with one statement, repeating myself twice more will mean that I want to look like I have a lot to say when I don't actually have much to say at all.
The Daily Show was scheduled to be on again this week, but they're running repeats as of Tuesday. It's a decision I agree with; the ironic stance doesn't really apply to this kind of news.
Large, hi-resolution pictures of the WTC and Pentagon, before and after (via Hack the Planet)
Wednesday, 12 September 2001Amazon has collected over 1.65 million dollars so far for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Wow.
More ways to give help: http://www.disasterrelief.org/GiveHelp/
Medley has several links today to interesting commentaries and analysis.
10:46pm : Now they're saying it was a false alarm. Oy.
10:25pm : Seen on CNN & MSNBC -- Now the Empire State Building and Penn Station are being evacuated; a suspect package was detected in the building by a bomb-sniffing dog.
What in the hell. It could be anything.
And are there any packages in DC?
Ways to donate money that will help people:
Via Amazon: http://s1.amazon.com/exec/varzea/paypage/PKAXFNQH7EKCX
The Red Cross' own site: http://www.redcross.org/donate/donate.html
Via PayPal: http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/gen/relief-outside
Via Yahoo: http://paydirect.yahoo.com/PD/onePage/onePageRedCrossMoney-drv.pd/
Thanks to Dave Swim for collecting a list of such links.
Impossible to try and cover what's going on... the pros at the Washington Post produced an admirably wide-ranging set of coverage today in all sections (including Sports, which I never read) of their print edition. They also seem to have dropped most advertising from their site.
Jerry Pournelle posted a message from someone he trusts that purports to describe what happened on the Pittsburgh flight. It sounds true:
When the Hijackers took control of flight 93, Jeremy called my niece who in-turn conferenced him to 911. Jeremy relayed to the police what was happening as the hijacking unfolded. As our niece Liz listened, Jeremy told the police there were three Arab terrorists with knives and a large red box that they claimed contained a bomb. Jeremy tracked the second by second details and relayed them to the police by phone. After several minutes of describing the scene, Jeremy and several other passengers decided there was nothing to lose by rushing the hijackers. Although United Flight 93 crashed outside of Pittsburgh, with the loss of all souls, Jeremy and the other patriotic heroes saved the lives of many people on the ground that would have died...
I may not post very much else today. I have work that needs doing.
Tuesday, 11 September 2001Lots more I could post if I had the energy, but I'm just too drained. My visceral reaction, less than 10 miles from the Pentagon, is to attack something or to escape; fight or flight. Neither is particularly practical. Guess I'll try to sleep; I'll be back tomorrow, or so I think.
Cam mentions that CBS is reporting (and I just heard MSNBC mention) that a truckload of explosives were intercepted tonight going across the George Washington Bridge. Gah! Stop it!
Today Google is storing copies of major news sites' front pages, in case you can't reach those sites. Very useful.
Jim Hoagland: A Shadow War
Before the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Scotland, terrorists usually proudly claimed "credit" for themselves and their causes. They established proof of their responsibility and explained why it was necessary to shock the world with extreme actions.
Who Done It? by Timothy Noah [Slate]
...in contemplating who might be responsible for the most terrifying attack on the U.S. since Pearl Harbor, it's worth remembering that Arabs were blamed initially for the Oklahoma City bombing as well.
George Will: The Paradox of Terrorism
Just at the moment when American political debate had reached a nadir of frivolousness, with wrangling about nonexistent "lockboxes" and the like, the nation's decade-long holiday from history came to a shattering end. After about a half-century of war and Cold War, Americans came to feel, understandably, that the world was too much with them, and they turned away from it. What happened Tuesday morning, and can happen again, underscored the abnormality of the decade.
The Post printed a late edition; here's the front page.
CNN and MSNBC are saying that Barbara Olson (wife of Solicitor General Ted Olson) was on the plane that hit the Pentagon. The AP is reporting that she called her husband from the plane and told him that the hijackers were using knife-like instruments.
Dan Gillmor: An Act of Barbarism, and America's Response
...as we hunt down their leaders and collaborators, and as we tend to the families of the dead and injured, we will be tempted beyond ourselves -- tempted to abandon our rule of law and our Constitution. If we do that, the criminals will have won.
In the short term, some will want to take out their rage on neighbors whose only offense is to have an ethnic or religious background that is deemed suspicious. ... If law enforcement and national security agencies declare war on the American people in the process [of retaliation], they will give the terrorists a gift. The despicable people who planned this will triumph if we add to the damage.
The DC police say suspicious activity should be reported to 3-1-1. The attack took place on 9-11. It'll be hard not to associate the date with the phone number.
5:20pm: FoxNews says:
Afghan News Network
All this talk of America vs. the world by our politicians is making me sick and uneasy. This is a human issue, not an American, democracy, or a freedom issue. Someone attacked us all, all of us on the Good Earth.
Evocative column from Marc Fisher: Coddled No More: A Stunned Silence on the Streets
We have lived a very safe and coddled life in this country. And now we are like the rest of the world.
As I wrote to a friend this morning, "We're updating our sites, as it's the only thing we can think of to do." There's no clear benefit to packing up and driving west to the wilds of Virginia, but I have a greater-than-zero impulse to do just that.
Is it over? And who could possibly answer that for sure?
BBC: In pictures: Terror strikes America
FBI news conference coming at 3:15pm EDT (supposedly; haven't seen a sign of it yet)
Unless otherwise noted, all links are to the Washington Post site, which is doing a very good job under bad conditions.
American Airlines confirmed today that it lost two aircraft in tragic incidents this morning. American said the flights were Flight 11, a Boeing 767 en route from Boston to Los Angeles with 81 passengers, nine flight attendants and two pilots; and Flight 77, a Boeing 757 operating from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles with 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots.
From Aaron Barnhart's TV Barn coverage:
Kansas City (Mo.) mayor Kay Barnes ... has something to say that bears repeating: "I think it is important not to prejudge people … who represent other nationalities in our community."
Local Kristie posted. Glad you're OK. (Thanks for the compliment, sorry it had to be this.)
12:30 p.m.: The FAA says 50 flights are in U.S. airspace, but none are reporting any problems.
12:15 p.m.: The Immigration and Naturalization Service says U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico are on the highest state of alert, but no decision has been made about closing borders.
AP's 2pm update
Afghanistan's hardline Taliban rulers condemned the devastating terrorist attacks in New York and Washington today and rejected suggestions that Osama bin Laden could be behind them. "We never support terrorism. We too are targets of terrorism," Abdul Hai Muttmain, the Taliban's spokesman in the southern city of Kandahar, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Bush's second batch of remarks on the attacks.
I ask the American people to join me in saying a thanks for all the folks who have been fighting hard to rescue our fellow citizens and to join me in saying a prayer for the victims and their families.
The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake: We will show the world that we will pass this test.
From United's site:
...extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the individuals, employees and families who had friends or loved ones onboard United Flight 93 or United Flight 175. We are dispatching a team of United employees to assist the families involved and have established a toll-free number that families and friends can call for assistance and information...
American's site isn't reachable right now, but their number for families to call was reported as 1-800-245-0999.
Some Fox anchor got Rudy Guiliani on the air and the first question he fired at him was something about 'so what do you think the death toll will be from this?'
Guiliani essentially waved it aside, saying that what we should be concentrating on is facilitating the work of emergency teams to save as many as possible now.
Mayor Guiliani has it right, and I offer rude gestures to the Fox guy for only thinking about one kind of story, namely how to quantify and rank and attach superlatives to a bad thing. There will be time for that later (if one feels the need to do that at all); right now news organizations should be talking about what can be done (for instance, giving blood).
Q (Jason L.) is OK so far.
AP roundup of news at 1:20pm EDT [AP/Washington Post]
Thousands of Palestinians celebrated today's terror attacks in the United States, chanting "God is Great" and distributing candy to passers-by, even as their leader, Yasser Arafat, said he was horrified.
List of Planes That Crashed Today [AP/Washington Post]
Remarks by the President After Two Planes Crash Into World Trade Center
Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. I have spoken to the Vice President, to the Governor of New York, to the Director of the FBI, and have ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and their families, and to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.
Terrorism against our nation will not stand.
He sounds like his dad saying 'This aggression will not stand.'
What does he even mean? Bush the 41st was talking about repelling or undoing Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
What is there that can be undone here? How will this not 'stand'? What does he mean? Does he mean anything? Is there any content in anything he says?
I wish I had a President who knew how to say something meaningful, especially at a time like this.
Timeline of the morning's events from Nando Times (found at rc3.org)
Most news outfits are saying that emergency teams are needing more blood.
Giving blood in New York
Giving blood in the DC area
Flipping between CSPAN, CNN, FOX News, local channel 9, ABC, MSNBC...
Some eyewitness accounts from Politechbot:
Radio is out due to loss of transmitters on the collapsed WTC towers.
The WTC towers had a distinctive structural system which utilized the exterior wall framing for lateral bracing -- a so-called lattice framework. This allowed minimization of internal lateral bracing and opened up the floor plans. You can see the effect of that when the buildings collapsed, with the lattice framework crumbling and the interior imploding. The lattice works so long as it remains intact as a system: if a part of it goes, then the whole system goes.
[Reuters] A senior official from the radical Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine denied Tuesday the group had any connection to a double plane crash onto New York City's World Trade Center.
Mayor Giuliani said on CNN that when the WTC2 collapsed, there will still many many emergency personnel inside.
There hasn't been another strike for a little bit... I don't expect that this is all over, though. To increase total terror, one would probably allow people to breathe again and then hit them once they relaxed.
Reports on some locals... so far:
We're OK; wishing we were still honeymooning in Vermont, but here and OK.
Genehack and Lor are OK
WOIFM and spouse are OK.
Derek posted. Dave posted (are you still in DC?).
Interesting comments from MetaFilter:
'the US has bombed civilians on numerous occasions... this is what it feels like :('
'This is going to be a big turning point in the history and character of this country, I think.'
'Oh, man... I am so sick. This is the day everything changed. I was just there the day before yesterday, the World Trade Center. There are so many people there....'
Drudge says the President is being kept in the air (and the probability of that being accurate is ... ?)
More from Scripting News: Timothy Timlin: "A fifth hijacked plane crashed near Camp David, MD. There is a sixth hijacked plane circling around in Virginia airspace; it is surrounded by our aircraft at this time."
They're saying don't use the phones right now; e-mail people you need to get in touch with. (This may not work well if they need their phone line to be able to read it, I suppose. This is one time I'm especially glad to have DSL.)
Seeing the towers collapse was very sad. I'm trying to imagine how it would have felt to bolt from my office to the street and then watch my office just disappear.
From Scripting News: Bryan McCormick: "I'm at the epicenter. According to a neighbor everyone in WTC2 below the 90th floor got out alive." (permanent link)
Washington Post webcam on Pentagon fire
http://www.cnn.com/ isn't working well right now, but http://www-cgi.cnn.com/ is answering, with minimal updates.
We're getting our news off TV; the Net isn't the best medium for breaking news (servers stall, pipes fill, etc. etc.)
MSNBC is the best source on TV so far, with CNN second.
There was just a third explosion at the WTC.
The FAA just grounded all planes across the U.S.
There's a fire at the Mall, according to CNN?
The White House, the Capitol and the Treasury are being evacuated.
So not only are there two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, but Jim Myklaszewski of NBC is reporting that there was some small explosion at the Pentagon.
That's not that far from here.
Over there at the bottom of my sidebar, I've added two links: How's my HTML? and How's my CSS?. For those unfamiliar with what they are, clicking on either link will cause the page you're coming from to be checked for technical errors in its HTML or CSS code. If I've constructed the page properly, it should return a result 'No errors found!'.
As of right now, both links return the right result. Feel free to check up on me and bug me if errors creep in over time.
The rest of my site doesn't validate perfectly; I've included a workaround for the consistent placement of the corner and side graphics that isn't legal syntax any more, creating at least 4 errors (as an example, see the report for my links page). Sometimes this bothers me; then I look at the dozens of errors in the code from more famous sites and feel better.
Why bother writing valid HTML when browsers are forgiving enough to show even horrifically bad HTML in a pleasing form? Because you can predict the results better across multiple browsers if your HTML is structured properly; because there's no good reason not to; because I wish to show that I actually know what I'm doing; because valid HTML can be shown on more devices with simpler browsers than bad HTML; because it's the Right Thing to do.
This Modern World: The president who managed to render satire obsolete
I haven't been perusing a newsstand lately, so this may be old news, but Vanity Fair has a cover story on the Harry Potter movie. Empire Online has a summary and a couple of reproductions of photos from the article: the cover with Harry on a broom and Harry and friends next to Draco and friends (pretty cool).
I like how in this film the dark-haired kid is good and the blond one is a creep.
Monday, 10 September 2001Photos from Michael Jackson's concert (and Whitney Houston does look very different now)
I confess to some curiosity about the comeback attempt of Michael Jackson. How does somebody who's been out of the public eye for so long (and in it in an unwelcome way) attempt to get back into the business of selling millions upon millions of records? How would you, if you were him?
This review of his anniversary/comeback concert is detailed and evocative; I salute the poor guy who had to sit through the whole thing to write it. As is often the case, a harsh review is more fun to read than a positive review...
Sunday, 9 September 2001
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