Now This Log

Archives: September 2001

Saturday, 29 September 2001

Jesse Jackson has pretty much decided not to go over to Afghanistan. Thanks for the update, eh.

I'd like to announce to the national media that after much thought I also have decided that I won't be visiting the Taliban to negotiate for the release of American prisoners, even though I had expected they might request it of me. Any media outlet wishing to interview me about my decision is welcome to contact me. permanent link

Friday, 28 September 2001

Interesting Post articles today:

Air Safety Plan Fuels Clamor to Reopen National Airport; With No Timetable From Bush, Republican Leaders Join Outcry

In Hijacker's Bags, a Call to Planning, Prayer and Death

Lapses Plague Security At Federal Buildings
Undercover agents from the General Accounting Office [??!!?] -- posing as New York police officers with guns, bogus badges and a briefcase big enough to carry a bomb -- bypassed security checkpoints at each of the 19 federal buildings they tried to infiltrate in Washington last year. They walked past guards at the Pentagon, the CIA, the Department of Justice and other buildings.

Bioterrorism Vulnerability Cited; GAO Warns That Health Departments Are Ill-Equipped

Smithsonian Attendance Plummeted Since Attacks; Tourism Decline as High As 75 Percent on Mall

Crowded Metro Looks at Short-Term Fixes

After some initial hesitation, I agree that National Airport should be reopened. Former Senator Bob Kerrey put it well on CNN last week:
If they can't figure it out, then they should call one of two people -- call El Al and say, "we don't have the competency to provide security, can you get this thing, reopen it in 24 hours?" The Israeli airline. Or call Rudy Giuliani, get him to reopen it.
permanent link

Thursday, 27 September 2001

FBI releases photos of hijackers, asks for help
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is today releasing 19 photographs of individuals believed to be the hijackers of the four airliners that crashed on September 11, 2001, into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and in Stony Creek Township, Pennsylvania. The FBI requests the public's assistance in obtaining more information about these individuals.

It should be noted that attempts to confirm the true identities of these individuals are still under way.
The photos, by flight. permanent link

I'm not in blogalot mode at the moment; I recommend as a great place to keep caught up on things. Read back over his last couple of weeks for many articles I wish I'd linked to but never did. Rafe rules. permanent link

Mac OS X version 10.1 is out... I still haven't upgraded, but the improvements in 10.1 are seem to be significant enough for me to start thinking about it. Someday when things slow down, maybe. permanent link

Wednesday, 26 September 2001

The Onion is back and in top form with some biting, serious-but-funny stuff. Somebody had to do it.


God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule
"I don't care how holy somebody claims to be," God said. "If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time: No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."

"Why would you think I'd want anything else? Humans don't need religion or God as an excuse to kill each other -- you've been doing that without any help from Me since you were freaking apes!" God said. "The whole point of believing in God is to have a higher standard of behavior. How obvious can you get?"
U.S. Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We're At War With
According to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), the congressional move enables the president to declare war, "to the extent that war can realistically be declared on, like, maybe three or four Egyptian guys, an Algerian, and this other guy who kind of looks Lebanese but could be Syrian. Or whoever else it might have been. Because it might not have been them."

"...we know that the mastermind has the approximate personality of a terrorist," Gramm said. "Also, he is senseless. New data is emerging all the time."
And don't miss the straightforward and serious Talking To Your Child About The WTC Attack.
As your child may or may not know, much of modern Islamic fundamentalism has its roots in the writings of Sayyid Qutb, whose two-year sojourn to the U.S. in the late 1940s convinced him that Western society and non-Islamic ideologies were flawed and corrupt. Over the course of the next several decades, his writings became increasingly popular throughout the Arab world, including Afghanistan.
permanent link

Tuesday, 25 September 2001

Stories of 9/11:

Seeing the Unimaginable Freezes the Imagination [A. M. Homes / NY Times, via mrbarrett]
And then I see the second plane; the instant it is in view it's clear this is not an accident. The plane is moving toward the second tower counterintuitively; rather than avoiding the tower, it is determinedly bearing down, picking up speed.

I see the plane, and I see the plane crash into the building. I see the buildings burn, and I see the buildings fall down. I see imagery that until now did not exist in reality, only in the fiction of film. Seeing it with your own eye, in real time -- not on a screen, not protected by the frame of the television set, not in the communal darkness of movie theater -- seeing it like this is irreconcilable, like a hallucination, a psychotic break.

There is no place to put this experience, no folder in the mental hard drive that says "catastrophe." It is not something you want to remember, not something you want to forget.

Carol Lay's Story Minute: Sept. 11 [Salon] permanent link

TV-related frivolity:

I watched the premiere of The Ellen Show last night. Rating: two out of ten, or "painful" (particularly when compared to the laugh-out-loud episode of Everybody Loves Raymond which came before it). It reminded me of various Bill Cosby sitcom episodes where he was essentially doing a routine and no one reacted like a real human to all the funny-ha-ha things he said; Ellen's jokes, insults, etc. were apparently only hearable by the audience, not by her co-stars. Good sitcoms aren't like that.

Cloris Leachman was good though.

Daily Show tonight: CNN's Aaron Brown. He's getting much more interesting guests than he used to.

West Wing fans: Read first-hand about the experiences of an extra on the show. permanent link

I forget where exactly I read it, but there is an answer of sorts for people who ask why civilians were targeted; what the people in the Towers did to deserve their fate.

Apparently bin Laden considers civilians to be equal to military targets because we: 1) pay taxes which are used to support the military aims of the country and 2) vote into office the leaders who direct the military. And therefore we share responsibility for what the military and the government do.

It's an interesting way to think about it. It casts a rather different light on the decision to vote, at least.

But I think it's simplistic and doesn't reflect how things actually work here, and (this should go without saying, but someone will misinterpret me) I don't think that the people who died in any way deserved it. permanent link

Even though I'm impressed overall with the breadth and depth of the Washington Post's coverage, and even though I keep linking to their stories, I do need to join many others in pointing out a particularly ugly lapse on their part.

On Sunday they printed a short piece about the author of PGP (software that makes it hard for anyone but the proper recipient to read your e-mails), Phil Zimmerman:

To Attacks' Toll Add a Programmer's Grief [Washington Post]
He has been overwhelmed with feelings of guilt.
Zimmerman has sent out a clarification, which was posted on Slashdot and which I reproduce large chunks of here:

...I never implied that in the interview, and specifically went out of my way to emphasize to her that that was not the case, and made her repeat back to me this point so that she would not get it wrong in the article. This misrepresentation is serious, because it implies that under the duress of terrorism I have changed my principles on the importance of cryptography for protecting privacy and civil liberties in the information age.

Because of the political sensitivity of how my views were to be expressed, Ms. Cha read to me most of the article by phone before she submitted it to her editors, and the article had no such statement or implication when she read it to me. ... I can only speculate that her editors must have taken some inappropriate liberties in abbreviating my feelings to such an inaccurate soundbite.

...I told her that I felt bad about the possibility of terrorists using PGP, but that I also felt that this was outweighed by the fact that PGP was a tool for human rights around the world, which was my original intent in developing it ten years ago. It appears that this nuance of reasoning was lost on someone at the Washington Post...

The question of whether strong cryptography should be restricted by the government was debated all through the 1990's. ... This debate fully took into account the question of terrorists using strong crypto, and in fact, that was one of the core issues of the debate. Nonetheless, society's collective decision (over the FBI's objections) was that on the whole, we would be better off with strong crypto, unencumbered with government back doors. The export controls were lifted and no domestic controls were imposed. I feel this was a good decision, because we took the time and had such broad expert participation. Under the present emotional pressure, if we make a rash decision to reverse such a careful decision, it will only lead to terrible mistakes that will not only hurt our democracy, but will also increase the vulnerability of our national information infrastructure.

PGP users should rest assured that I would still not acquiesce to any back doors in PGP.

It is noteworthy that I had only received a single piece of hate mail on this subject. Because of all the press interviews I was dealing with, I did not have time to quietly compose a carefully worded reply to the hate mail, so I did not send a reply at all. After the article appeared, I received hundreds of supportive emails, flooding in at two or three per minute on the day of the article.

As a Slashdot poster observed, no one seems to be interviewing the head of Boeing about his feelings of guilt over having made airplanes.

Would anyone call for a ban on 'security envelopes' that make it hard for mail carriers and nosy neighbors to peek at the contents? This isn't so different, and I wouldn't blame the manufacturer of the envelopes for what someone sent in them. permanent link

Hey John, here's the list of financial entities blocked by yesterday's executive order:

Organizations With Assets Frozen by Bush's Order [Washington Post]

Plus some analysis that notes three groups that were not included but could have been:

Bush Moves to Cut Terrorists' Support [Washington Post]
Not on the list are three groups -- Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad -- that are frequently denounced by the United States. Still, they receive support from countries seen as potential members of the coalition Bush is trying to build against bin Laden.
As far as why the promised evidentiary document is taking so long, they say it's because they're worried about protecting their sources:

U.S. Unsure on Going Public With Proof; Protecting Intelligence Sources, Methods at Issue in Case Against Bin Laden [Washington Post]
Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said yesterday that the administration cannot present its full case "without revealing some sources and methods that we would not want to reveal." // Still, Goss and other officials with access to highly classified intelligence reporting said they were confident that even a "white paper" based solely on unclassified information could make a persuasive case against bin Laden and his terrorist network, al Qaeda. // What is known publicly about possible links between the 19 hijackers and bin Laden, however, falls well short of that mark...

One administration official said the disagreement over what should and should not be revealed by the government "is why this thing is not done." But another official who reviewed a working draft of the document, consisting of several dozen pages, predicted that it would be completed and released in several days. // "I think there are a lot of people, myself included, who believe it's an important piece in this war to present credible evidence," the official said. "But it's very much a work in progress."

While even highly sensitive intelligence is sometimes shared with such friendly countries as Britain, the official said, many governments may not need much convincing. // "They are coming to the same conclusion themselves, based on their own investigations," the official said.
So, take that for what it's worth...? permanent link

Monday, 24 September 2001

War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.
-- Thomas Jefferson

Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.
-- Benjamin Franklin

I do not relinquish, nor should any of you, the right to criticize, even as we support, our government. This is still a democracy, and they're still politicians ... Political correctness itself is something we can no longer afford. Feelings are gonna get hurt so that actual people won't, and that will be a good thing.
-- Bill Maher

I don't equate Maher with Jefferson and Franklin by any stretch of the imagination, by the way. It's just something well said. permanent link

Guiliani's on Letterman tonight. Should be a heck of a show.

Ditto for the Daily Show, with Frank Rich of the New York Times. permanent link

An interesting beginning:

Bush Freezes Assets of 27 Individuals, Organizations [Washington Post]
President Bush signed an executive order Monday freezing the assets of 27 individuals and organizations.

"They include terrorist organizations, individuals, terrorist leaders, a corporation that serves as a front for terrorism and several nonprofit organizations," the president said in a Rose Garden appearance.
I'm happy to see something concrete happening, especially since it's more clever and targeted than simply blowing up already-ruined buildings.

Matt Drudge has clearly lost whatever marbles he had ("PUSH THE DAMN BUTTON!" is the current headline on his site), but I do understand the impulse to see some action, even if he shows a serious lack of imagination as to what effective action might be.

Text of the executive order [Washington Post] permanent link

Just remember, what you hear on the news may not be true, even if it comes from a government briefing:

Journalists Worry About Limits on Information, Access [Howard Kurtz, Washington Post]
"This is the most information-intensive war you can imagine...


said a military officer involved in the planning. "If it is an information war, certainly the bad guys will lie."

Retired Air Force Gen. Perry M. Smith said the administration's approach is justified. "Rumsfeld's trying to clamp down on everything and, at least for the moment, he's been very successful," Smith said. "In Kosovo and the Gulf War, keeping secrets wasn't all that important because everyone knew the bombing campaign was coming. Now, with a lot of special operations stuff and going into dangerous countries, if you telegraph what you're going to do, it might cause a lot of deaths."

I understand the tactic, but it does make it harder then to be reassured by anything they say.

This isn't different from usual, I suppose, except that they're admitting it ahead of time. permanent link

Sunday, 23 September 2001

Today the flags around America returned to flying at full-mast; the official period of governmental mourning is over.

That answers one of my unspoken questions about durations. Here are two more:

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (a governmental structure not too far from here) has shut down the parking meters immediately next to and directly across the street from the building, presumably so it would be harder for bad people to casually leave a car next to the building and explode something. The notes on the meters say 'Out of Order from 9/15 Until', with not even question marks after 'Until'. When might the parking meters be back in service? If ever?

On a very different note, a local pizza place has a sign out front that says something like '20% off for police and military'. That's quite nice; I just wonder, how long will that last? Will they just keep the offer in place indefinitely (which might affect their bottom line greatly over time)? Or do they have an ending date in mind, barring further attacks? And what do you say when you withdraw the offer and someone wonders what happened to it? That police and military aren't as important any more? It makes for a very awkward business situation.

It's much easier to start things than to stop them. permanent link

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synthesis from
Steve Bogart

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