Now This Log

Archives: September 2001

Saturday, 22 September 2001

Violinist Isaac Stern died today at 81.
Mr. Stern was arguably among the half-dozen greatest violinists of the 20th century.

"Music is the essential ingredient of a civilized life. It has nothing to do with the glitter of the occasional gala," he said. "You need it as you need bread." permanent link

Friday, 21 September 2001

Text of Bush's speech to Congress Thursday

Text of Daschle and Lott's responding speeches

Transcripts of most other public pronouncements in the last week & a half, courtesy of the Washington Post permanent link

Thursday, 20 September 2001

There's going to be a new Daily Show tonight, the first since the bombing. Laurel says there won't be a guest. In case you miss it, it'll be on again in the morning and tomorrow in the early evening on Comedy Central. I imagine it'll be worth watching.

Last night Letterman had John Miller of ABC News, who has done a very good job whenever I've seen him ... and damned if Miller didn't provide twenty times as much actual information about why bin Laden & co. have sworn to attack us compared to how Dan Rather waved his hands and 'explained' things the other night.

In case you're unaware (like I was until this weekend), Miller is the last Western journalist to have met with Osama bin Laden; here's the article he wrote about that for Esquire in 1999. It's a must-read.

Tonight on Letterman: Walter Cronkite! Plus Will Ferrell and Jewel.

Leno's been disappointingly simplistic about everything, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that. Letterman asks people like Rather and Miller probing questions, trying (on his audience's behalf) to understand more. Leno simply declares our unassailable goodness and superiority and waves the flag.

And that's my gross oversimplification for the day. permanent link

Handy site for checking on the truth of various rumors you may hear about the attack: They should provide a key on the page, since it's not blindingly obvious what the different bullets mean if you don't visit there much: a red circle next to something means it's false. Now go see if you're caught up on the hoaxes surrounding this.

I am particularly thankful for all the different sites addressing the whole "Nostradamus predicted this" garbage. No, he didn't. Oddly, nobody's actually forwarded me one of the offending mails claiming he did, but the idea clearly tickled someone's funny bone and it clearly has spread, even if not to me.
That particular quatrain was offered by the page's author, Neil Marshall, as a fabricated example to illustrate how easily an important-sounding prophecy can be crafted through the use of abstract imagery. He pointed out how the terms he used were so deliberately vague they could be interpreted to fit any number of cataclysmic events.
I have noticed, ever since 9/11, the search terms "nostradamus world trade" frequently leading people from Google to an old page on my site, where the words appeared in separate entries. Nothing relevant to see there, sorry; my googularity with respect to that search phrase was undeserved. permanent link

Wednesday, 19 September 2001

More attacks Saturday? More Terrorism Feared [Miami Herald]
"Yes, we have heard something about Sept. 22, but nothing specific," one source close to the investigation said. "We have information that leads us to believe that there could be more attacks very soon. The same murky sources that indicated something might be coming in the weeks before the attacks have indicated something may be happening this weekend. It is our hope that we can stop it."

Another official familiar with the investigation said preventing further attacks has become their first priority.

Whither encryption technology?: Terrorists' Online Methods Elusive [WPost]
In the wake of the attacks, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) has proposed making it mandatory that software developers give government security agents the "keys" to encryption programs when they are created, a position strongly opposed by many in the technology community who worry it could be used to invade the privacy of law-abiding computer users.

Phil Zimmermann, the creator of a popular encryption technology, said he believes the answer to catching the terrorists lies in human footwork rather than more surveillance technologies: "It's not practical to frisk everyone on the planet to find the one person with a box cutter."

Some hijackers lived not too far away from here: Dulles Hijackers Made Maryland Their Base [WPost] suburban Maryland has become a major focus of the investigation. Teams of agents are visiting and revisiting hotels, gyms, stores and apartment complexes along the Route 1 corridor.

At least six of the hijackers ... were seen in Laurel, Bowie, Greenbelt and Beltsville [MD]. ... [I]n 1999, Waleed M. Alshehri, who was aboard the same flight as Atta, lived for a short time in a Vienna [VA] boarding house and took computer classes with his father in Tysons Corner [VA].
permanent link

Apparently a potential next target is our nuclear reactors. Who needs a bomb? This stuff is seriously scary.

This guy suggests this is what will finally get us to seriously look into other energy sources. I suspect this is wishful thinking:

Nuclear Safety by Matt Bivens [The Nation]
A terrorist strike at any such plant could not bring about a nuclear explosion -- but there are a number of scenarios that would spread deadly radiation clouds across, in the NRC's famous phrase, an area the size of Pennsylvania.

...reactor containment buildings were not built with the idea of resisting an intentional assault by a modern-day jet... The literature is actually strangely silent on this point -- so much so that experts interviewed all named the same study, published in 1974 ... about probabilities of a plane accidentally hitting a nuclear reactor. That study concluded that some reactor containment structures had zero chance of sustaining a hit by a "large" plane, defined as more than 6.25 tons. The 767s that hit the trade center weighed 150 tons...

Terrorism also has implications for the Great Waste Debate. Our reactors have for fifty years been piling up vast quantities of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. The question of what to do with it all takes on a new urgency... There is no easy answer -- which may explain such a sluggish and bleary-eyed response to potential terrorism against nuclear targets: the NRC and others are in denial. Not so long ago, they were arguing that terrorism was not a very scientific probability, and that terrorists had a moral impediment against taking life on a mass scale. So much for that. But if terrorism is real, then a clear-eyed view would suggest nuclear power is done for.

... [A]s Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists noted, no one this week is calling his colleagues in the alternative energy sectors to ask about terrorist threats to windmills.

Too many nuclear plants are not prepared to prevent attacks [U.S. News & World Report, written just before the attack]
In the past decade, nearly half the nation's 103 power plants have failed mock terrorist attacks against them.

Starting next week, the Waterford 3 plant, which had boosted security to pass the NRC's terrorist exercise, will begin to reduce its training programs and its guard force. "As soon as the NRC leaves," says one guard, "they downgrade security."

The Nuclear Control Institute has many articles about our management of waste and power plant security ... that's funny, the site was up ten minutes ago... OK, it's back now.

NRC Urges Increased Security [in response to attacks] [] permanent link

From Lisa de Moraes' TV column today [WPost]:
You will not hear that familiar refrain "This is a test of the emergency broadcast system" coming from your television over the next few weeks.

To avoid confusing or frightening viewers following last week's terrorist attacks, the Federal Communications Commission announced yesterday that TV stations and cable systems could suspend those weekly and monthly tests of the Emergency Alert System.

The FCC promised not to take action against stations if they did not comply with the rules regarding these tests through Oct. 2.

The request for the waiver came to the FCC from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

permanent link

Tuesday, 18 September 2001

Leno tonight: John McCain (!) and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Letterman: Bryant Gumbel, Denis Leary, Tori Amos.

I'm not trying to become or usurp Laurel's TV Picks (and never could, anyway)... I just find it fascinating to watch the process of timely, commercial fluff shows having to deal with actual serious stuff. I guess I think of it as the nation's recovery process in miniature, through a glass darkly.

Letterman was raw and honest last night, and it was cathartic to watch. Dan Rather, on the other hand, did the entire viewing audience a disservice by repeatedly asserting that the people who did it were just crazy with hate because we're such winners and they're the "world's losers."

Many links from numerous different news sources (I'll dig up a few when I get some time) have established pretty well that if this was bin Laden & co., they did it because they declared war on the US years ago. Why did they do that? Well, they did say why: essentially, because we intervene in the Middle East in ways that they don't like. If we would stop it, they wouldn't do things like this or the USS Cole, etc. (Not that withdrawing is what we should do, but it's what they say would satisfy them.)

But no, Rather (who surely knows all this) just perpetuated the "we're up against craaaazy people who hate us for no apparent reason" meme when he had an opportunity to say much more specific and informative things. I was very disappointed. permanent link

I've been wondering why we haven't been hearing much about additional potential threats to watch out for. Here's one bit, finally:
FBI warns terrorists may steal fire trucks [CNN]

British Warplanes Hit Iraqi Site [AP/WPost] ... Unrelated?

"...President Bush should not rush." [Washington Post] permanent link

Dan of LakeEffect is spending this week learning about Islam. permanent link

Monday, 17 September 2001

Letterman's back tonight, but it won't be a typical show. Leno's back tomorrow. [Washington Post]
"Both the mayor [of New York City] and the president have asked America to get back to business. Therefore, we will be back on the air on Monday night." -- Worldwide Pants

Late Show Info page [CBS]
Monday, September 17: Dan Rather and Regis Philbin permanent link

Among the architects interviewed, most lean toward rebuilding:

To Rebuild or Not: Architects Respond [NY Times Magazine]
"Something else has come out of this, and that is how much ownership people outside of New York feel about our city. Maybe it's not just our decision. Maybe we should let the American people vote on it." -- Ralph Appelbaum

I don't have a well-formed opinion about this yet. permanent link

Sunday, 16 September 2001

How the entertainment industry is scrambling in the aftermath:

Hollywood, Finding a New Reality by Sharon Waxman [Washington Post]
As real-life tragedy continues to unfold in New York and Washington, Hollywood is struggling with how -- or whether -- to release certain movies that once aimed to titillate audiences but now strike too close to home in a shellshocked nation.

At least two major movies have been put off: the action thriller "Collateral Damage," ... and "Big Trouble," a dark comedy ... Other films are undergoing last-minute revisions to suit a dramatically different social climate.
Great title on this one:

No Escape From New York by David Edelstein [Slate]
I think about movies now only because that is my job, and because New York's mayor, displaying unprecedented stature, has counseled us all to go back to work...

Network television screenings of The X-Files movie (in which an office tower explodes) and Independence Day (in which the White House explodes) have been canceled. It wouldn't feel right to be entertained by annihilation. But should it ever have felt right? Pauline Kael, who passed away a week before this happened, in that other era, wrote about the obscenity of the 1974 schlock epic The Towering Inferno, in which "each scene of a person horribly in flames is presented as a feat for our delectation..." It will be a while, after footage of people fleeing clouds of lethal debris, before we surrender to disaster-porn like that again -- although it should be said that, 10 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a Japanese studio transformed the national trauma into a moneymaking machine named Gojira.
permanent link

Back From the Brink of Obscurity by Al Kamen
Tuesday's terrorist attacks had people in Washington dusting off their copies of a prescient -- if little read -- report in February by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, co-chaired by former senator Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.).

The commission said, among other things, that "the United States finds itself on the brink of an unprecedented crisis of competence in government" and must "improve recruitment, retention, and effectiveness at all levels."

A significant problem, the study found, is that talented people don't want to work for the government anymore. One reason is that the private sector pays vastly higher salaries. Another reason "is that there is no single overarching motivation to entice patriotic Americans to public service as there was during the Cold War," a situation that may have changed this week.

"The anti-Washington bias may play well at home," Rudman said, "but it is self-defeating. I think we've got to recognize that the best way to have a lousy government is to have [government workers] think that no one cares and thinks highly of them. If people in high positions are demeaning" government, "you won't get competent people," he said.

Yet it's a favorite thing of some people to do..."government is baaad, vote for me." permanent link

Official state-run New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund (requires JavaScript):
Governor George E. Pataki is urging all New Yorkers and concerned Americans who wish to support the World Trade Center emergency response and victim support effort to make a contribution to the New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund. This fund will be coordinated with the September 11th Fund, established by the United Way of New York City and the New York Community Trust, and the Twin Towers Fund established by the City of New York.

Tax deductible. permanent link

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