Patterico's Pontifications


On 18th Anniversary of 9/11, New York Times Still Can’t Name The Perpetrators

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:17 am

[guest post by Dana]

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks:

The September 11 attacks (also referred to as 9/11) were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Additional people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks.

Everyone of a certain age remembers where they were and what they were doing when the towers were hit. Overwhelmed with disbelief and anger, we talked about it for days and weeks and months until we were eventually forced to concede that everything was changed from that day forward. A modern-day awakening to the very real evil that exists, not just “out there,” but here, in our own small worlds where we quietly go about our business. In this, we no longer see through a glass, darkly; from that day forward, now, face to face.

I read that, just days ago, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation making it the law that all New York public schools hold a moment of silence on the future anniversaries of Sept. 11 so that students who weren’t yet born, would know what happened. In other words, “making remembrance the law”:

On Monday, just two days before the 18th anniversary of 9/11, Cuomo established the “September 11th Remembrance Day.”

“9/11 was one of the single darkest periods in this state’s and this nation’s history, and we owe it to those we lost and to the countless heroes who ran toward danger that day and the days that followed to do everything we can to keep their memory alive,” Cuomo said.

“By establishing this annual day of remembrance and a brief moment of silence in public schools, we will help ensure we never forget — not just the pain of that moment but of the courage, sacrifice and outpouring of love that defined our response,” he continued, adding the law is being put in place to encourage dialogue in classrooms.

One hopes that this keeps each and every generation coming up through the school ranks, at least aware of that fateful day. Of course one also hopes that between parents and teachers, there will be every effort made to accurately inform students of what took place, without whitewashing the evil because we are so desperate to go back to that place of innocence that no longer exists. Perhaps, unlike the New York Times, there will be an effort made toward the blunt truth because knowledge is indeed a powerful tool, and one that every American deserves to have. Clearly, though, judging from this morning’s now-deleted tweet, the New York Times is just not there yet:


When are 2,753 deaths not “nearly 3,000 deaths,” but rather “more than 2,000 deaths”? When do airplanes take aim into specific buildings to deliberately kill as many innocent lives as possible? The effort to whitewash the truth on this day is a travesty. After the push back and ridicule began, the tweet was deleted. However, the misleading wording in the article remained:

Finally, shame had its way, sort of:

Eighteen years have passed since terrorists commandeered airplanes to take aim at the World Trade Center and bring them down.

Eighteen years later, and what others think still matters more than the hard truth.

Radical Muslim Extremists. Just say it, NYT.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


The Libertarian Case for the Surveillance State

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:59 am

Today I will drive to work. At lunchtime I will probably walk to the nearby gym to work out. After work, I’ll go where I choose. Maybe I’ll go home and stay there. Maybe I’ll go out to dinner with my wife. It’s my choice.

I am confident that one day, humans will look back on this state of affairs with nostalgia. Because at some point, humans will never again enjoy the freedom of movement we have today.

Everything will change the day the first nuclear bomb goes off in an American city.

It will happen. It’s inevitable that it will happen. It may not happen in your lifetime. But it will happen.

And the day that happens, there will be martial law. It may last only weeks, months, or years — or it may last forever. But if it happens in your lifetime, your freedom of movement will be severely restricted for years.

And you’ll support it.

Many of us yammered a lot about Obama acting like a dictator, and many also yammer about Donald Trump acting like a dictator. It’s good to be vigilant. An overbearing executive is a real danger. It’s good to watch out for it.

But if a nuclear bomb goes off in an American city today, Donald Trump will be a dictator tomorrow. A real one.

And you’ll support it.

The day that a bomb goes off in an American city, everything in this country, and this world, will change forever. The surveillance state you thought you had? You’ll remember it as the greatest era of freedom the human race has ever enjoyed — and something that will never be enjoyed in quite the same way again.

If we can prevent this from happening, for a while, it will be a victory for freedom. Even if we have to allow greater surveillance by the state now, it will be nothing compared to what’s coming after an event like the explosion of a nuclear bomb in an urban center. People will think about literally nothing else, for years. Everyone will be utterly terrified. The economy will collapse. Communication will be restricted. Freedom of movement will disappear instantly. The only priority, for years, and perhaps the main priority forevermore, will be making sure it doesn’t happen again. Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. Yesterday’s civil libertarian will become tomorrow’s fan of the security state, overnight. Almost nobody will object, and the few who do will be drowned out, shunned, and perhaps imprisoned.

Today is 18 years after the events of September 11, 2001.

I tried to go to work on September 11, 2001. I had seen the planes hitting the World Trade Center. I knew buildings in downtown Los Angeles might be under attack before the end of the day. But I worked in the Hall of Records downtown. No terrorist cared about the Hall of Records. And I had work to do. So I drove all the way downtown, only to be turned away. Nothing was going to happen that day. I went up to my office anyway, and retrieved some work to do at home. (I’m not sure I got much done, to be honest.)

Events occurring over 2000 miles away put a stop to a lot of activity that day. I was never at serious risk and I knew it, but my organization treated the day as if we were all at risk, because that was the “safe” thing to do.

The feeling of unease lasted for a while. Those of us who experienced that day, even secondhand and even across the country, may never quite shake off the unease, but we surely don’t experience it the way we did then. Every jet plane looked like a potential weapon. The first time I got on a plane after 9/11, I was looking very closely at everyone in the airport. Whenever I saw a plane fly near downtown L.A., or soar overhead at the Hollywood Bowl, I imagined it redirecting its flight path to hurtle into a building or a crowd. I know I was not alone in these thoughts.

Now, 18 years later, people say “never forget” but increasingly people do.

Whether you forget or you never forget, today the world is a changed place. I remember a time when you could walk into the Hollywood Bowl or Disneyland or even some courthouses without going through TSA style security. We may have forgotten 9/11 but we still walk through a metal detector to see Mickey Mouse. There was Richard Reid, and a lot of people don’t remember him, but we still take off our shoes at the airport. Security is a one-way ratchet, and each new threat twists us just a little more in the direction of less freedom of movement. The ratchet locks, we get used to the new normal, and we wait for the next twist.

If a nuclear bomb goes off in an American city, we could recover. Decades later, we could reach a place that we call some degree of normalcy. But the new normal would include, compared to today, severe restrictions on freedom of movement. The new normal would include an extraordinary governmental capacity, approved by the vast majority of Americans, to monitor communications.

I don’t want government officials to be able to read my email on a whim. I want them to have to get a warrant. And warrants can get issued waaaay too easily at times. But I’m not terribly concerned by the notion that a database could exist that could be accessed — with a warrant — containing most or all electronic communications, cell phone activity and cell site data, and the like.

We hear from the civil libertarians all the time about the potential for government abuse. Why, security officials will use the database to spy on lovers or personal rivals! Well, that may happen. I don’t recall reading any stories about it, but such stories may exist and may have flown under my radar. But it’s clearly not a pervasive enough problem to have come to everyone’s attention. And, speaking as a member of “the system,” I can confirm that at least from what I have witnessed, information tends to be accessed and handled for the right reasons. The police departments I work with have access to automatic plate readers. I have never heard of a cop using that information to spy on a lover, but I have used such information in murder trials more than once. I have used cell site information countless times in murder cases, and have never heard of such information being used for personal purposes. The phone companies require a warrant to release that information.

The fact that the information exists, and that it can be accessed pursuant to proper procedures, should not concern you. It should reassure you.

Arguments for greater surveillance are not particularly popular, in these days of civil libertarianism — where one of the biggest knocks on Kamala Harris is the very fact that she was a prosecutor; where lightening punishments and releasing prisoners is one of the few issues that is truly bipartisan; where many Republicans no longer consider themselves law and order supporters but instead rail about a largely mythical “deep state.”

But I’m here to tell you. If you don’t let government target the bad guys today, government’s powers will increase exponentially in the future. Maybe not today, on the 18th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Maybe not tomorrow. But someday.

The day after a nuclear bomb goes off in one of our cities.

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