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THE SCENE
Comments on current ideas and events

September 11, 2001
[Note: Some now-dead links have been removed from archived items.]

BUY AN AIRLINE TICKET: Carl Cameron of Fox News Channel is reporting that the airlines expect a huge drop-off in ticket sales because of today's terrorism. The airlines say they're going to run out of cash if they're right, and they may go to Congress for help. Leaving aside the many annoying things about the airlines (not the least of which may be a request for tax dollars), one way to cast an anti-terrorism vote is to buy a ticket to fly in the next month or so. You don't have to use it. But flying itself is now a little act of defiance. I intend to make all trips planned for the next few months, including ones to Washington and L.A. week after next. I guess I'll just have to get to the airport early to deal with security. [Posted 9/11.]

NOT THE GREATEST: Get these "greatest generation" pundits off TV, starting with David McCullough. Maybe it's nostalgia for the days of internment and rationing, but these guys are way too ready to concede defeat by handing over our liberties in pursuit of an impossible level of safety. Resilience and basic bravery, not a rush to precaution, are called for. The way ordinary Americans can stand up to terrorism is by making sure we retain the right to live normally—and by continuing to value the products of normal life.

In that regard, I'm glad to see Andrew Sullivan back online but nonplussed by his grandiose almost-pleasure in the struggle to come: "It feels - finally - as if a new era has begun. The strange interlude of 1989 - 2001, with its decadent post-Cold War extravaganzas from Lewinsky to Condit to the e-boom, is now suddenly washed away. We are reminded that history obviously hasn't ended; that freedom is never secure; that previous generations aren't the only ones to be called to defend the rare way of life that this country and a handful of others have achieved for a small fraction of world history. The boom is done with. Peace is over. The new war against the frenzied forces of what Nietzsche called ressentiment is just beginning. The one silver lining of this is that we may perhaps be shaken out of our self-indulgent preoccupations and be reminded of what really matters: our freedom, our security, our integrity as a democratic society."

History never ends. Freedom is never secure. Worth saying, but not exactly a news flash. More important, it makes no sense to denigrate the products of freedom, security, and integrity while calling for their protection. Our "self-indulgent preoccupations" are otherwise known as the precious, personal textures of ordinary life—exactly what we should be defending. [Posted 9/11.]

REAL WAR: It's amazing how politicians will call everything a war except an actual military attack. Then it's a crime calling for police work and prosecution. "I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice," as the president put it. [Posted 9/11.]

GOOD NEWS: I am cheered by how often pundits and politicians of all stripes have said that we must not let today's attacks become excuses to erode civil liberties or stigmatize innocent Americans—that we must not let terrorists steal our freedom. Let's hope they stick to that line. [Posted 9/11.]

VIEW FROM MONTREAL: Reader Evan McElravy writes:

Being up here in Montréal behind a temporarily closed border has sort of hit home to me the way that distance and national borders still make a difference. Sitting here about 30 miles away from the New York border, I probably feel further from what is happening than Jonah Goldberg out west. As greatly shocked as the reaction here has been, it still has a sort of refracted feeling to it. The only people whom I've talked to who really "get it" are the Americans I know, most of whom, like me, have friends and family in and around New York, as well as Washington. And with the telephone lines tied up all day, many of us have been left wondering just what has become of our loved ones. One of my best friends goes to school at Pace University, only a handful of blocks from the World Trade Center. I still haven't any idea if she's OK or not. At any rate, while everyone back home spent the whole day glued to the television set, life went on more or less as usual. Only the eerie, telltale silence from the clear blue skies gave away that something was amiss. Electronic media make some difference: I was instantly in touch with my friends at the Naval Academy to see how reactions were in the military, but at the same time the Canadian television coverage still put me at a distance (of course if I had cable instead of bunny ears I could have watched the U.S. newscast). The most immediately gripping part of the day for me - the mysterious crash in my own home of western Pennsylvania - was almost totally ignored by the media, in lieu of questionable CanCon stories about the air traffic situation at the Toronto airport.

A high school teacher of mine once recounted how the JFK assassination was for her a much more abstract event since she was living in France when it happened and, as much of a big deal as it was to the French, she just was never as tuned in as she would have been at home. I think I can understand that better now; as little as it would have accomplished - and as difficult as it would have been - I really had a strong urge to try and make for home right away. I don't think that we should exaggerate the paralysis this will cause, though; as you point out most people are angry, not frightened. As shocked as people were all day, many of the Americans I know here are sort of back to their daily lives in their own ways. If the terrorists thought they could shut our civilization down for the duration, they were wrong.

Lastly, I should point out that the apologists for terror are not likely to stay silent for ever, if the nauseating speculations and parsing of the day by some of my left-wing (Canadian) friends proves anything. Right now, I'm not surprised to hear it from my half-Iraqi communist friend, but I suspect the chorus will grow. Of coarse it should be scrupulously ignored as we bring our solemn, terrible justice upon those who have done this.

[Posted 9/11.]

ONE-CLICK SUPPORT: Reader Ananda Gupta writes that Amazon is using their honor system software to collect donations to the Red Cross. Click here to give. [Posted 9/11.]

STRUCTURAL SURPRISE: According to its architect, who now lives in Israel, the World Trade Center was designed to withstand the (presumably accidental) impact of an airplane, although planes were smaller back then. Listen to the radio interview here. But can you really believe a guy who claims a half million people work in the World Trade Center? (The real number is 10,000 per tower. I assume the oft-quoted 50,000 figure includes the entire complex, including the hotel and smaller office building that collapsed later in the day.) [Posted 9/11.]

THE SPEECH: President Bush started strong, but left a dangerous ambiguity: Is this crime or is this war? He seemed to choose the law-enforcement route, when foreign policy is called for. If so, he's misreading both the country and the world. His speech had too much comforting the afflicted, too little afflicting the comfortable. [Posted 9/11.]

VIEW FROM JAPAN: Reader Sean Kinsell sends the following from Tokyo, where the news reports have a strange emphasis:

It's odd to be seeing the coverage of today's attacks in Japan. That's not just because (predictably, and in any of the reports that I've seen) NHK hasn't gone *near* the glib Pearl Harbor comparison, but because I think that as you and other web commentators are noting, we Americans are angry about the attack without defiance sent and the loss of civilian life...but no one who isn't part of a CNN crew seems to be rattled by the symbolism of the buildings hit (which is what the foreign press is, of course, focusing on). Having lived abroad for my entire adult life, more or less, perhaps I'm not competent to comment on this, but Americans don't really regard the WTC as a source of national pride, do we? Perhaps well-heeled New Yorkers do; those of us with tony educations who live transcontinental lives may. But in the provinces—and I was born and reared in Allentown, Pa, which is about as provincial as it gets—such affection as is directed at New York skyscrapers goes toward the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. And as far as the Pentagon goes, news commentators and academics seem to have forgotten what the rest of America still knows: being part of the military means being prepared to die for your country. Everyone with whom I'm in communication is outraged beyond articulation at the cowardliness of the attacks—but you'd have to be pretty thick not to have realized for years that anyone who's willing to make a suicide raid with a passenger jet could dive bomb even New York and the Pentagon.
Sean is absolutely right about the buildings. Attacking the World Trade Center may maximize deaths, but it doesn't pack an emotional wallop beyond the loss of life and the attack on American soil. Nobody gets sentimental about the twin towers. They don't represent national pride. They aren't even—or, weren't even—the most beloved skyscrapers in New York, although they were the most accessible. And the Pentagon is important symbolically only because attacking it is clearly an act of war.

The attacks arouse anger because they were made against on Americans on American soil. No one was sentimental about the Oklahoma City federal building until Tim McVeigh blew it up. Further symbolism isn't necessary. I shudder to think what retribution an attack on a real symbol of national pride, like the Statue of Liberty, would produce. Here's hoping she's well-protected. [Posted 9/11.]

FINALLY: The president is finally back at the White House, against the wishes of hypercautious military advisers who wanted him to hole up in a mountain in Colorado as though we were under nuclear attack. Fortunately someone in the administration had a clue about symbolism. [Posted 9/11.]

MEDIA CYCLE: The always brilliant Chuck Freund, a long-time student of the uses and history of propaganda, offers a subtle analysis of the relation between actions and ideas, deeds and words and expanding terrorism and expanding media. A sample:

[T]he original, bloody version of "propaganda by deed" -- terror -- exploits its available media to disseminate a double-edged idea: The same deeds that are used to inspire others to action are intended to demoralize the enemy, and to limit his opposition. The enemy is to be left in a state of uncertainty, feeling unsafe and not knowing may happen next. Indeed, effective deeds of terror will leave the enemy uncertain not only about his security, but even about the propriety of his own reactions. The more he responds to terror in kind -- by massacre, by torture, by the suspension of law -- the more the enemy demoralizes himself. That script has played out repeatedly, from Czarist Russia to mid-century Algeria, and is playing out again now in Israel.

But if terror requires media exposure to fulfill itself, then revolutionary changes in the nature of media will impel dramatic increases in the intensity of terrorist acts. Even now, with an ever-accelerating news cycle and a multiplying number of specialized news sources, terrorist acts have been able to command ever-decreasing periods of attention. Suicide bombings, for example, used to command front-page focus for a week or more. Now, along with other once-long-lived stories, they are quickly overwhelmed by other events.

Read the rest here. [Posted 9/11.]

SHORT STORY: Joanne Jacobs says she doesn't have much to say about today's attacks, but she gets in a good lick: "I got one bitter chuckle over the video left by the latest Sacramento serial killer. I forget his name. The security guard with white supremacist fantasies. Before his suicide, he bragged his crimes would guarantee him a week on the front pages. Tough luck, mister." A background article on the serial killer is here. [Posted 9/11.]

HYPERBOLE: Sen. John Warner calls today's attacks "the most tragic hour in our nation's history." I guess he never studied Civil War battles. [Posted 9/11.]

KNIVES AND BOX CUTTERS: CNN had an off-camera interview with Solicitor General Ted Olson, whose wife Barbara, the conservative pundit and lawyer, was killed on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. According to the CNN report, she called her husband twice from the plane on a cell phone and also called the Justice Department to alert them to the hijacking. She asked her husband what to tell the pilot to do, but the crew as well as the passengers had been herded to the back of the plane and couldn't do anything.

The only weapons Olson saw the hijackers wield were knives and box cutters—no guns. That detail suggests a much less challenging task for the hijackers. Even I know how to smuggle a blade onto a plane in carry-on luggage. I've done it with letter openers. It would have been easy to practice getting through security; you just let them confiscate a few blades if necessary. And you can send multiple possible blade wielders, assuming at least a few will get onto the plane. It's a rarely vigilant security checker who would sound a general alarm after finding a passenger with a box cutter.

In a poignant note, CNN reported that Barbara Olson was not supposed to be on the plane. She had planned to travel yesterday but left later so she could have breakfast with her husband on his birthday. [Posted 9/11.]

NOT PEARL HARBOR: I'm like everyone else. When Steve got out of the shower, wondering why I was watching TV, I said, "It's Pearl Harbor." What I meant was a horrible sneak attack, and one that has sparked anger that will not soon dissipate. But it's not Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was a military action with a military result. It wiped out much of the U.S. fleet and (in the short term, anyway) advanced Japanese military objectives in the Pacific. Today's attacks had only minor effects on U.S. fighting capabilities, and the perpetrators have no clear military objectives. They are not trying to control territory or even to advance traditional terrorist goals, such as the release of prisoners or changes in U.S. policies. Today's attacks were aimed not at strategic targets but at our civilization. The only way for the terrorists to "win" is for that civilization to be destroyed. It's going to be a long war. [Posted 9/11.]

MORE REPORTS: A couple more reports from NYC. The first from Tama Starr:

My colleague Bob Jackowitz and I decided to go out at lunchtime to see how folks in the street were reacting to this morning's tragedy. We'd heard reports of people weeping, people wounded, people covered with dust. Once we started walking, though, we just kept going. World Trade Center is, was, about three miles south of here.

The streets were filled with people, but eerily empty of vehicle traffic. No buses, taxis, private cars; just police, fire, and emergency trucks from here and towns in Long Island and New Jersey -- including a huge squadron of Poland Springs Water trucks, carrying water, I suppose. All heading south. A few police helicopters criss-crossing and a fighter jet way up high making a long sweep from south to north. The sound of sirens.

As we got closer to the site the sense of time suspended, the presence of history as a devourer, the maw of disaster opening up, intensified. At the police lines on Duane Street, which was as close as we could get, people spoke in whispers.

What we expected to see, as confirmation that the unbelievable really happened, was a broken-off building. Two broken-off buildings. Wounded buildings. But what we saw was -- no buildings at all. Downtown in the Village, in Soho, in Tribeca, where the WTC normally dominates the vista, nothing. Empty space. A piece of sky.

From everywhere in Manhattan where you can see the sky to the south, you can see the dust-colored cloud: white on top, beige in the middle, dark gray below. Seven hours after the bombing, it is still billowing up like Kilauea. What's not evident is that it is not only a cloud of smoke -- though the fire fighters are saying the area, including surrounding buildings, is still burning too hot to approach. It's mainly dust. The dust-covered vehicles we saw were not, as we first thought, caught in the vicinity of the blast. They had merely driven past it on the leeward side.

We walked up to a parked police car and picked up some of the dust. It was fine like talc. Rubbing it between our fingers we said, "This is the World Trade Center."

The other tall buildings look different now. The Empire State Building, the Woolworth Building, the Chrysler Building, instead of appearing to be solid edifices, symbols of grandeur and power, seem vulnerable, like toys that need protection.

We and ours are safe. So why am I sitting here on 22nd Street writing you this e-mail (everyone else has gone home) instead of going home to my 68th floor apartment, hm?

From Ken Silber:
People in NYC are being pretty helpful to each other. I went to Mt Sinai hospital to give blood (not wanted because not o-neg) and when I casually asked someone in the hallway about a payphone, hospital people pressed their phone on me. I guess they thought I was searching for my loved ones, but in fact I'd already determined they're ok (my brother was in his office a few blocks from WTC) and was making a call of the 'let's cancel that appointment' type.

I never thought I'd see fighter jets over the Upper West Side.

[Posted 9/11.]

STRANGE PRIORITIES: Why does everyone from George Bush and Karen Hughes to Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton think that the question uppermost in American minds is, "Is the government functioning?" Out here in the real world, people assume the government is still working. They want to know what that functioning government is going to do about these attacks. [Posted 9/11.]

FAMILY NEWS: My mother-in-law called to make sure we were safely in Dallas. (My mother called this morning to check on the same thing.) She flew crosscountry yesterday—fortunately not today—to visit my sisters-in-law in L.A. Her call brought the sort of news that many families will be getting over the next few days: One of my other sisters-in-law has lost one of her best friends to the terrorists. Her friend, the mother of two young children, was on one of the planes that rammed the World Trade Center. [Posted 9/11.]

MORE FROM MANHATTAN: Reader Whit Chapman writes:

I would like to echo your comments about the orderly evacuation of Manhattan. About 15 minutes after the second plane crash, a co-worker and I left our office about 8 blocks south of the WTC on Broadway and headed north towards the Brooklyn Bridge. There were still several people in the street watching the buildings on fire, no one even considering that the tower was at risk of crashing down.

A couple of minutes later, we heard the rumbling and ducked into a nearby building. Several people were covered in soot and debris and there were a couple of minor injuries. A couple of people were upset, but no one panicked. I remember being scared but also realizing that I had to what I had to do first. Total strangers consoled and helped each other as we first went in the basement and then evacuated the building minutes later. We headed east towards the Seaport, stopping at a Duane Reade drugstore where people were passing out masks and water. Everyone was helpful as we bandaged a man's bleeding foot.

We left the drug store and continued east and then north towards the Brooklyn Bridge. I remember thinking as we walked that no one was panicking. There were ordinary people on the street passing out towels and providing water. People were walking in an orderly way up the ramp and over the Brooklyn Bridge. It wasn't until I got into Brooklyn that I actually saw a couple of people in various states of disrepair. I guess people do what they have to do, first, and then the emotions come later.

I got home and showered the soot off. As I went back outside, I noticed that things were continuing to run somewhat normally in Brooklyn Heights. Most of the restaurants were open and the grocery stores were doing a lot of business. A man was passing out flyers on where to give blood. As I walked around, I noticed that people were expressing disbelief and concern. Personally, I am in a little bit of a state of shock and could use some sleep, but I won't be going to sleep anytime soon.

[Posted 9/11.]

NET NEWS: It's one thing for folks in small-town Oregon to get mad. But today's attacks have roused enormous anger in places you wouldn't expect. Dave Farber's tech-oriented Interesting-People list sends along this report from computer scientist Jonathan S. Shapiro:

As someone who passed through the WTC 45 minutes before the bomb went off years ago, and watched live as the second WTC tower was penetrated at 9:03, I wanted to inject some analysis into the current situation.

This act goes well beyond terrorism as we have previously understood it. It's been repeatedly demonstrated to us that a single plane can be hijacked by a small, well-prepared group backed up by the right logistics support. Hijacking *five* planes, on a tight timetable, from multiple locations, to hit multiple targets within 90 minutes of each other is simply a completely different scale of organization. This act required logistic support and coordination involving hundreds of people, with major-league funding.

Also, it's worth remembering that airplanes aren't all that easy to fly, and it's unlikely that a commercial pilot could be persuaded to fly into a building -- even at gunpoint. This means that the perpetrators needed to find five adequate pilots, which in turn means that they needed to know *in advance* which kinds of planes they would be hijacking. While a lot of the pilot training could be done using Flight Simulator, you still need to know what to train for.

Further, this is a very difficult attack to defend against. Suppose you *did* have a SAM (surface to air missile) handy in New York, and you saw the plane coming in time to use it. Do you shoot down a plane over a major metropolitan area, or do you let it crash? Which will cause greater destruction? While you figure it out the opportunity passes.

The attackers picked planes that were scheduled for cross-country flights, and would therefore be loaded with JP (airplane fuel). JP burns very hot, and is relatively easy to set on fire. Because these planes were loaded with fuel, they could be relied on to spread the fuel through the buildings on impact, maximizing damage and hampering rescue efforts.

The planes were hijacked from major U.S. airports. Security at these airports may not be the tightest in the world, but neither is it sloppy. In this case, it was systematically beaten in several locations at once. This required time, money, thought, and preparation.

What we have here is an attacker who has said not just "I can attack anything I want", but "I can attack lots of things, all at once, and not only can't you stop me but you can't even detect a very large organization that is doing the preparations -- even when we tip you off three weeks in advance!"

On the whole, it seems fair to say that this entire action was carefully thought out, planned in careful detail, and (at least from the attacker's perspective) well executed. It required access to significant information resources.

Obviously, the targets were picked for maximum symbolic value, but the Pentagon is a military target. That means that this *isn't* an act of terrorism; it is an act of war. If indeed it proves that the attacker was bin-Laden, and if Taliban has been harboring him, it would not surprise me to see the United States take the view that Taliban has committed an undeclared act of war, and react accordingly.

Finally, an observation on people's reactions. People here at Hopkins showed a range of initial reactions from dismay to tears to shock. But this quickly hanged. The second reaction was universally anger. The sense of things -- and we are talking here about basically pacifist academics, mind you -- is that if we can figure out who launched this thing we should take them out decisively, and it's just too damned bad if some country decides to get on the wrong side.

If the goal of this attack was fear it has failed. Possibly, it has altered the American perception of terrorism in a basic way and convinced us that decisive action is the only response to terrorism. This lesson comes at too high a cost, and with personal tragic impact on too many people, and at a price that we should never have been forced to pay, to be sure. Still, if this incident teaches America to respond decisively to terrorism then perhaps those losses will mean something, and *some* small good may yet be recovered from this.

Meanwhile, let us hope that the death toll is smaller than all our fears, and do what we can to help the victims and their loved ones come to terms as they can.

Dave also reposts a bunch of messages that went to Declan McCullagh's Politech list. (I can't find the original page on Declan's site, so I'm linking to Dave's.) Not a lot of news there—most of these notes came in early—but these messages provide a nice example of the Internet in action. There are first-hand reports, as well as requests for information. My favorite comes from a correspondent in Holland, who wants to know, "What the heck is going on? Dutch television could only describe what's going on as an act of war. Seeing CNN it's impossible to think otherwise." He also reports that "the Dutch stock market had to be stopped as stocks were dropping extremely fast." [Posted 9/11.]

AMERICAN LIFE: The incomparable Jonah Goldberg finds himself a continent away from his loved ones while their cities are under attack, and files a great report from Pendleton, Oregon. A snippet:

There's a big rodeo in town called the Pendleton Roundup, and the whole place seemed to be packed to overflowing with visitors last night. RVs line the streets and fill parking lots. But, this morning, the streets are largely empty. After about an hour or two of TV coverage, I went out with my Walkman to walk my dog. I listened to the radio as Cosmo and I played fetch in a small park next to the rodeo stadium. The sounds of the cows mooing in their pens almost drowned out the NPR broadcast coming through my headphones. Across the street, small groups of tourists and locals huddled together in the temporary RV park they've made out of the Albertson's supermarket parking lot.

Suddenly, the NPR broadcast grew louder, or seemed to. Then I realized that the Rodeo PA system was blasting the National Public Radio newscast. In this day of firsts, this may been the first time an American rodeo amplified NPR's Morning Edition on purpose, which gives you just a sense of how quickly Americans can rally together when necessary.

In fact, I found it oddly touching that QVC, the home-shopping network, is running the following announcement in lieu of regular programming: "QVC acknowledges today's events and expresses our heartfelt concern with this national tragedy. For more information, please turn to your TV news channel. In light of these events, QVC will be temporarily suspending its broadcast."...

Some people here seem upset, others fascinated. But one emotion seems to unite all: anger. I know it was my overriding response as I listened to witnesses describing how a dozen people deliberately leaped to their deaths from the World Trade Center, in order to escape the blaze. Rage was preeminent as I watched Palestinians cheer in the streets in joy, as innocent Americans died in the largest suicide-bomber attack on innocents and noncombatants in human history. And fury was all I had for Peter Jennings as he seemed to defend the anti-American revelers, even as they celebrated this attack.

Jonah's conclusion is one I've heard echoed even by diplomatic establishment types: "This was an act of war, and we must force the world to choose sides: Are you with us, or with those who did this to us? Decide now. There is no middle ground. There are no other squares on the board. What was once complicated is now simple."

It will, of course, get complicated again. Action has costs. But those complications are different from ambivalence about who is right and who is wrong in this fight. [Posted 9/11.]

THE SIEGE: On a cautionary note, I recommend renting The Siege, a movie that was underrated and inaccurately attacked as anti-Arab when it was first released. It features one of Annette Benning's best performances and is a serious (for Hollywood) meditation on liberty and safety. The script was written by Larry Wright, whose book on false accusations of satanic child abuse, Remembering Satan, I've previously recommended. [9/11.]

TRADEOFFS: Henry Kissinger made a good point in an interview with (I think) CNN: If you attack terrorists and keep them on the run, forcing them to spend a lot of time worrying about survival, they'll have less time and fewer resources to use planning attacks. So counterstrikes are not simply retaliation and deterrence; they're ways of increasing the literal cost of terrorist acts. (Unfortunately, that equation works both ways. Responding to terrorists acts diverts resources from more productive activities.) [9/11.]

COOL, CALM, AND KINDA TIRED: Under that subject line, reader David Tepper sends in the following evacuation report:

Thanks for pointing out that for many people, the response -- the correct response -- to the attacks was calm yet purposeful. I work in a federal building in northern Va., and within 15 minutes of the second World Trade Center explosion, we were notified that we had to evacuate.

We quietly made our way down the stairs and out into the sunlight, buddy-systemed and not particularly alarmed. A few minutes later, we were told to go home.

The traffic coming out of the garage was bad, so I spent the next hour across the street calling home and letting my family know I was okay. Traffic was moving; it was rather heavy, but no worse than a bad rush hour. It was eerie seeing fighter planes and helicopters circling the area, though.

I had a coffee at Starbucks to await further developments, and then when the traffic had slackened a little, decided to try my luck getting home. It took me an hour to travel 6 miles, but then amazingly, the phone lines were up, the 'Net was just fine, so I contacted everyone I cared about and let them know I was safe, untouched, and comfortable at home.

And then came time to sort things out, to listen to the news reports, to either start mourning or see about getting lunch, I'm still not sure which. Or possibly both. I wonder if they'll accept my blood donation even though I'd last given less than eight weeks ago.

Life does continue, after a fashion, and that's really the only response I can think of giving to a terrorist. Life goes on without you. You died trying to destroy the life I believe in, but I'm still alive and living it.

But the question is still in my disconnected brain: pizza or prayer?

Why choose? Pizza and prayer go fine together. And the attacks were, in a sense, aimed at both.

Interestingly, the news has turned, and reports are now emphasizing how calm New Yorkers were. Based on my experience with the L.A. riots, I would expect that New Yorkers are nicer than they've ever been to each other, and more orderly. Big cities suddenly become supportive communities when they find themselves under attack. [Posted 9/11.]

SHOCKING COWARDICE: I am absolutely appalled that President Bush not only let himself be diverted from his return to Washington but wouldn't even face the cameras live from Louisiana. He taped a stumbling message, which appropriately enough had technical difficulties, and then disappeared to an unknown military base. THIS IS NOT HOW A LEADER ACTS when his country is under attack. I can't imagine ANY president in my lifetime muffing this so badly—and that includes Jimmy Carter. If Rudy Guiliani can crawl out of the rubble and stand in the streets of Manhattan, surely the President of the United States can show his face in public. What is wrong with these people? This is HUMILIATING to the country, and to the president, and to everyone who voted for him. Doesn't this guy have advisers? Or common sense? Or a backbone? Before you can stand up to terrorism, you have to be willing to stand up to the Secret Service. [Posted 9/11.]

NO CHAOS: Despite the newscasters' best effforts to invoke "chaos and panic," New Yorkers have reacted to tumbling buildings with remarkable cool. TV footage shows people running, but in an orderly fashion. Considering how hard it is to get anywhere in Manhattan under the best of circumstances, the evacuation of Lower Manhattan has proceeded with amazing efficiency. And at the Pentagon, the evacuation just looked like people leaving work on any ordinary day. Americans don't panic as easily under attack as reporters would like. [Posted 9/11.]

WAR: Nobody in their right mind wants to fight a war in Afghanistan. But when Americans are suddenly and deliberately attacked, they are not in their right mind—something the rest of the world has a tendency to forget. And the Taliban is as evil as they come.

I'm personally ready to level most of the Middle East. That's why I'm glad I'm not president—but also glad Bill Clinton isn't either. A coordinated act of war is not the sort of thing you respond to with symbolic missiles in empty buildings, or aspirin-factory bombings to change the news cycle. [Posted 9/11.]

QUESTIONS: 1) What sort of pilot would ram a plane into the World Trade Center? Let's hope the American Airlines crew was dead by then. 2) Why is are the experts acting so surprised that you can hijack an airplane? Don't they travel? The security is annoying, but it's also lackidaisical. Anyone who planned carefully and was a good actor could hijack a plane. The airlines can't even deal with drunks. 3) Maybe Isama din Ladin had nothing to do with this attack, but the reports raise the question: Where does this guy keep his money—surely not under his mattress—and why does he have such easy access to it? [Posted 9/11.]

READ GLENN: Glenn Reynolds lives up to his InstaPundit name, managing to post thoughtful responses while the rest of us are still reeling. Check it out here. [Posted 9/11.]

–Virginia Postrel


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