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What have we learned?

Today is September 11th, 2013.

Twelve years ago today, a cell of angry, highly committed, and (by the standards of their peers) extremely well trained young men executed the simultaneous hijacking of four airliners, and used them to mount a suicide attack on those they perceived as their enemies.

What have we learned from this?

This is a serious question.

As a direct consequence of the actions of the Hamburg cell, thousands of people died; but the indirect consequences included the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. 9/11 provided the proximate motivation for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; the indirect costs of the latter are estimated to be in the trillions of dollars. Worse still, we saw a rush throughout the developed world and the Middle East to pass draconian anti-terrorism laws and build or enlarge institutions of surveillance in an attempt to provide early warning of similar black swan terrorism events in future -- institutions which have eroded the civil liberties of hundreds of millions, if not billions of people.

But what have we learned?



Define "we". For some, the answer is "nothing"


Not sure if learned is the right term. You could posit that many groups have "learned" to use the events as either an excuse or an opportunity to carry forward their agendas.


That "most" people will put up with almost any "security" theatre in order to be allowed onto commercial airliners?


More to the point: that roughly 20 determined people can change the world (for the worse -- confirmed; for the better -- not yet tested).


'We' learned nothing from this (though we're learning alot from Snowden & Manning). 'They' learned they can get away with mass-murder and trampling over 'our' 'rights' in the cause of maximising profits...


I've learned that reactions motivated by fear but not informed by reason end badly. The "screaming wheel" gets the grease. And that discussions about safety are almost always about saving face and not net dollar-per-life expenditure.


We should have learnt from the first Afghan war, when Russia invaded-I recommend the film Charlie Wilsons War. Instead of charging off into Iraq, we could have spent a fraction of the cost on rebuilding Afghanistan-roads, hospitals, police etc. Then the Afghans would have had reason to sort the taliban out themselves. Instead, we have two smashed up countries being asset stripped and more ill will than you can ever hope to turn around.


discussions about safety are almost always about saving face and not net dollar-per-life expenditure.


As many people die on US roads every six weeks as died in the terror attacks on 9/11. The death rate in some Western European roads, in contrast, is down in the 50-70% level relative to the USA. So by taking measures to switch to global best practice for road safety, the USA could save as many lives as died on 9/11 within six months. The cost of doing so would be significant -- new signage, new road junctions, total overhaul of driving tests and licence enforcement on a national scale -- probably running into the tens of billions of dollars per year (although there'd doubtless be new jobs created in the traffic safety/driver training/construction sectors). And it could be done with net dollar-per-life-saved expenditure in mind -- a ratio of $1M/life isn't that unreasonable if we know we're tackling a technical problem that other people have solved it.

But this just doesn't happen, even though it's low-hanging fruit waiting to be plucked.



I think a lot of people have learned what those of us with fringe opinions already knew -- that you should never trust the government, any government.

Unfortunately, they've only learned that by making the mistake of trusting them...


We should have learnt from the first Afghan war, when Russia invaded-I recommend the film Charlie Wilsons War.

That wasn't the first Afghan war.

This was the First Afghan war.[*]

You will note that the Russians didn't learn from it, either ...

[*] Actually, the first Afghan war probably happened some time in the early Bronze age, but left no written records. Armies have been marching through that part of the world and leaving bleeding bodies behind for millennia, not centuries.


That people will trade any freedom for the feel of security. And that this was the most brazen use of Churchill's "Never let a crisis go unused"-doctrine. If you want to change the world in a extremely short time extremely, make use of such big crisis where everyone quivers in fear.

Unfortunately we didn't do this in 2008, when people would have allowed and agreed to any number of control measures and regulation for our dear god Capitalism.


That knee jerk reactions tend to result in you kicking yourself in the bollocks?

Also that making the symptoms illegal really doesn't cure the disease.

More seriously that you cannot stop people who are determined to kill themselves, but (as Charlie said) that you can use the fear of what they will do to browbeat your own people into giving up almost anything.

I'd say that I've learned/confirmed that these sorts of things are committed by small(ish) groups of almost exclusively men who have been disowned, disenfranchised or excluded by society. That the vast majority of our leaders think the best way to deal with this is to introduce measures that can easily be said to demonise, attack, isolate and martyr the potential groups. And that almost everyone seems to have an angle to benefit from the chaos that ensues from all this. Well, apart from your average citizen of planet earth.



Why indeed.

Road carnage is not "news".

Hospital infections, ditto. The lack of antibiotics in the pipeline, ditto. Squandering out helium get the point.

Wow, solved that one. I guess I'll make a sandwich for lunch. OH, sorry, I totally didn't solve it. Mmm...


I'd say that I've learned/confirmed that these sorts of things are committed by small(ish) groups of almost exclusively men who have been disowned, disenfranchised or excluded by society.

I may be stretching here, but it seems to be a side-effect of the stage 3/4 demographic transition to low ante-natal death rates -- lots of surplus kids survive to adulthood. If the economy doesn't grow fast enough to generate jobs, you get a lot of disaffected young unemployed men with nothing to lose. (In the case of the Hamburg cell, very bright disaffected young men who had to go overseas to get education/work, and then added culture shock on top.) In cultures with limited opportunities for socialization with women this also seems likely to produce exaggerated, machismo-like behaviour. Give them an enemy to hate on, and the result is predictable. It can be argued that we saw this in Europe circa 1914-45, when the same phase of the demographic transition provided governments with mass conscript armies composed of surplus healthy young men ...


But didn't we already know that? When Archimedes said "Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth" isn't he also talking figuratively, not just literally? One of my other favourite authors (other than you Charlie) says on his website "You should view the world as a conspiracy run by a very closely-knot group of nearly omnipotent people, and you should think of those people as yourself and your friends" - Robert Anton Wilson.

9/11 was an easy trick to pull off because it essentially required getting everyone to do exactly what they wanted to do, getting 'western' governments to do what we want is much harder. Somehow I feel that the key lay in a rather Pavlovian idea "there is no unwanted action or behaviour that can be corrected through a series of punishments that cannot otherwise be correct through a series of rewards for incompatible behaviour" (I have no idea who said this, but I read it somewhere).

Another way I think if it is the way they defeat an enemy in an anime; Evangelion is about a series of 'Angels' who all take different forms attacking sequentially. Up to a point they are all Pacific Rim-style giant monsters, but the 11th Angel turns up as a nano-scale virus-like creature, with the ability to adapt to attacks. The team are at a loss as to how to fight it, as their giant Evas are no use against such an enemy. But someone has an idea - they induce a series of evolutionary changes that lead the virus down an evolutionary path that leads to the 'logical' conclusion of the virus becoming benign and coexisting peacefully...


We have learned that it's not that to people with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; it's that no matter how many tools you have available, the hammer is still the most satisfying to use. (The Jeremy Clarkson principle)

We have learned that the Other is not only out there in the abstract (like the communists were), but in the concrete. This wasn't news per se, but it was to an awful lot of people, and it changed the world they lived in fundamentally.

Ironically, we haven't learned that with careful planning and preparation, a long-term perspective, and dedication to the task, you can succeed against the odds.


Don't forget that Doctor John Watson was an army medic discharged after being wounded in Afghanistan in the original Sherlock Holmes stories as well as in the recent TV series. Trying to occupy the region has never gone well for anyone.


'We' learned something 'we' already knew - that war is immensely profitable.

Sadly, most of the public still hasn't learned that the expedient justifications for war that appear in the media are never the real reasons.


I think we've learned (again) that it's far easier to destroy than build and that it's easier to foster fear than promote understanding.

I also read the link to the First Anglo-Afghan war from #10.

I was struck by this, might as well have been written tomorrow instead of 1843 : "(...)a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, was acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated” British army chaplain Rev. G.R. Gleig, (First) Anglo-Afghan War

I think it's most striking that we as a society haven't moved forward in 170 years with regards to governments & mercantile interests (not necessarily in that order) justifying anything to promote their special interests.

I wish that the politicians / politics would start behaving responsibly and work towards the best possible long-term future for those they're elected by and supposed to represent (the people, not the various thinly veiled special interest groups) and do this in a non-zero-sum manner, thinking beyond their next X years in office.

Again this is an example of how you need everyone to NOT play dirty/use scare tactics in order to promote themselves. As soon as a few politicians start doing that, they radicalize the debate and the moderate/opposition feel they need to be equally radical in their responses.

And isn't that a nice parable for terrorism on 9/11?


OK, I meant the Afghan war previous to that. But still, when Wilson asked congress for another million to rebuild and tell the Afghans that America was their mate, he got laughed down. Hence the Mujahadeen became the taliban, telling everyone they'd repelled the Soviets all on their own. Fast forward a couple of decades, and we've smashed Afghanistan up even further, and peeed off most of the middle east. In fact, the 9/11 attacks have been partly successful: they allowed our governments to remove our freedoms, turned the people against government and made the public unwilling to have any more wars, whether justified or not.


In fact, the 9/11 attacks have been partly successful: they allowed our governments to remove our freedoms, turned the people against government and made the public unwilling to have any more wars, whether justified or not.

Partly successful?!?

"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations." — Osama bin Laden, 2004
I'm calling that 1-0 for Al Qaida.


Less grandiose perhaps, but we've learned that when they hijack your plane you damn well better capture it back before they fly it into a tower.


I've learned that things can get worse than I thought...

I've also learned that if you keep people reasonably happy most of the time and if they buy into your propaganda, then they'll put up with almost anything, even if it immiserates them.

I've had it driven home to me that party politics is not going to provide any solutions and that we are ruled by an oligarchy.

Mostly though I've just had things confirmed: Knee-jerk reactions are never good. Powers given to authoritarian institutions (government, police etc) are very difficult to get back and will always expand and be abused. Military action will not solve your problem, and is used mainly to justify the existance of the military-industrial-political complex. Those in charge are actually incompetent (and that's an inevitability - there is nobody competent enough to do that job).

On a more positive note: There are some people intelligent and brave enough to try and work towards fixing things in their own way - be that whistleblowing, building associations, pursuing technological ideas or simply saying what is going on and trying to get people to understand.


We have learbt that our guvmints are incompetent & arrogant, & have a strong tendency to punish the wrong people.

Actually, you can "win" in Afghanistan - see third Afghan war. Where the Brits went in, beat it up a bit, installed a fairly-freindly ruler (who was not going to rampage over their border, at least) & then effed off very sharpish. Note the last bit - very imprtant.

Oh, & they have failed to learn that some people, a tiny minority, can not be negotiated with or trusted - the Taliban in this case. The remedy is extremely unpleasant, but so are they - ask Malala Yousufzai - she can tell you.

They have also failed to learn to concentrate on the real enemies who do exist .... As it is we have the security theatre pointed at everyone, costing megamoolah & 99+% of it utterly useless. As the cynical remark says ( And NO I am NOT beong racist, it's unpleasant but true ) ... "Why is security concerned with anyone at all, except muslim males, between tha ages of 18 & 50?" Are you female & non-muslim - free pass. Are you male & non-muslim, under 16 or over 50? - free pass. Others - please tick a couple of boxes. Muslim? Male? over 16? under 60? Step this way, sir, please .... Yes, it's nasty, but it would be both more effective & a LOT CHEAPER than terrorising everyone, as guvmints are now doing.

I don't normally agree with Simon Jenkins - I regard him as a traitor, but he asked a very pertinent set of questions recently THIS article by him, points a probing finger at our "secuirty" tosh & how badly it is being done.

What I want to know is why & how our guvmints are so oibviously & plainly incompetent at all of this.


We have learned that societies, like other composite organisms, are subject to autoimmune diseases, given the right trigger conditions.

Provided anybody remember, and correctly understand what they remember, this will be valuable design-basis information, next time we try to build a civilization.

The present one is doomed of course, being eaten up from within by its own indiscriminately cancerous defense mechanisms in the shape of NSA, DHS and CIA.


You missed Anders Breivik in your filter. Whoops.

Like I've said before, the future of terrorism and or activism is the highly motivated loner who doesn't consult with anyone else. Breivik, Manning, Snowden. Mmmaaybe Assange, he's got an org but he's definitely not a people person*.

If you factor in viral memes and anonymous style ad hoc groupings you can be a loner and still use an organization if you play your cards right.

  • See his controversial use of NDAs with stiff economic penalties for wikileaks collaborators

Greg: This is your yellow card.

Cause: overt racism (no I am not going to get into the "but islam is a religion, not a race": it's got a distinct sociocultural identity associated with it, and that's good enough for my purposes here).

Any more blanket anti-muslim rhetoric and you can expect a ban. The only reason you're not getting a red card right now is because I know you IRL.


We learned that the American Hyperpower period, beginning from the fall of the Berlin Wall, would last even shorter than the most pessimistic projections. 9/11 will be seen, in conjunction with the Election of 2000, as when America started to go seriously wrong.


I don't think I ever heard what the terrorists's objective was.

If it was "get some foreigners to bear the expense of pulling our country into the 20th century while eliminating the whackos even more extreme than we are," I'd say it was wildly successful.

If it was "stay away and don't bother us," I'd say it failed miserably.

Either way, it resulted in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, giving the USA its very own Cheka. The only consequences I see for that are bad and worse, and not just for the USA. The CIA was notorious for interfering with foreign governments. It's less well known that the FBI did as well. DHS is vastly more powerful than they were. And, as DHS creates its own institutional memory and policies, it will increasingly operate on its own.

The Cheka, RSHA, Stasi, etc. had hard limits on their power, at least with regard to government operations and Party members. But DHS was created without any limits, and it will be ugly when they start flexing their muscle.


I'd say that I've learned/confirmed that these sorts of things are committed by small(ish) groups of almost exclusively men who have been disowned, disenfranchised or excluded by society. That the vast majority of our leaders think the best way to deal with this is to introduce measures that can easily be said to demonise, attack, isolate and martyr the potential groups.

I'll take a more optimistic tone, and suggest that the majority of our leaders are not set on introducing measures to martyr/demonise potential groups. At least, not in this country. I'd suggest that we've learned about the short memories regarding European history of the 1970s.

There is a strong institutional memory in the UK that the creation of martyrs is the one thing that you absolutely must not do - it could be argued that without the tragedy that was Bloody Sunday, that we could have avoided thousands of wasted lives and billions of wasted pounds, because a small political movement was able to recruit enough angry disenfranchised youth (and opportunistic criminals). Note that when I say "small", I'm not talking about Irish republicanism in Northern Ireland, I'm talking about violent republicanism.

Apart from one death of an innocent Brazilian, no martyrs. Apart from some almost-caricature bad people, who have enjoyed the (eventual) protection of the law, little or no detention without trial (sorry, nine hours doesn't count - I'm talking about weeks/months/years here). A constant low-level effort to keep the bulk of the UK Muslim voters reassured that this is about the nutters, not the innocent.

The screeching comes from those sources who always screech. Those tabloid editors who try to sell on the basis of hate, fear, or both; those power-hungry types who use bigotry and scapegoating as a rallying cry. The BNP or EDL suddenly started to focus more on religion, less on skin colour.

What changes have we really seen in the UK? We already had metal detectors, X-rays of hand-luggage, and body searches of passengers well before 9/11 (in fact, you weren't allowed hand luggage on flights to Northern Ireland). We've had all new government buildings designed with an eye to potential car-bombs since the 1970s. We've had (occasionally tightening) restrictions on the ownership of firearms, ammunition, and explosives for nearly a century.

What changes did we see in Europe? Not much - after the violent protests and terrorist activities of the 1960s and 1970s (Baader-Meinhof, the Munich Olympics, ETA, Red Army Faction, Action Directe) the existing systems and practices were in place. If you want liberalism, don't try to take on the Guardia Civile or the CRS - and the Bundesgrenschutz aren't known for tolerance in the face of rock throwing. The Greeks have had bombs and gunfire since the Communists lost the Civil War, not to mention a military dictatorship.

What about the increased levels of fear? Well, there have always been those who decided that perhaps a journey wasn't worth it, but most tourism has carried on - to Egypt after busloads of tourists were machine-gunned, to Ireland, to London even though the IRA was mounting attacks on Downing Street, Vauxhall Bridge, Heathrow, and Harrods. Normal people still went shopping in 1970s Belfast city centre, there were just pedestrianisation and random bag searches at checkpoints. Normal people still used London Transport on the 8th and 22nd of July.

What about the improvements? Well, we've got more anti-terrorist legislation, but I would also suggest that we also have better oversight. The West Midlands Regional Crime Squad isn't running around torturing likely-but-innocent Irishmen. The Special Patrol Group of the Metropolitan Police aren't driving around, tooled up, looking for a fight. The Special Support Unit of the RUC is long gone.

Democracy? Well, we've now got a Prime Minister who asked Parliament about military intervention in Syria, hasn't fiddled intelligence data to his own Cabinet, and has followed the will of the House. And subsequently, a US President that has followed his example.

Information? Well, I can watch Al-Jazeera and Russia Today for free, on UK terrestrial television. Couldn't do that ten years ago.

War-fighting? Well, we didn't see* the same evidence of collateral civilian casualties during the Libyan air campaign (not for want of effort by Gaddafi's government), so perhaps the bombs are getting smarter.


Demographic transition or simply (rapid) demographic growth? I think any demographic stage that grew (rapidly) would suffer.

The male/female interaction issue is an interesting one. What does this say for the possibility of problems in China, and therefore as an explanation of some of their policies and attitudes? I.e. is a demographic imbalance a good indicator of potential problems, either in a country or grouping. I'm not sure I like where I'm going with this, but it could be summarised that empowered women are an antidote to terrorism, and explain several really unpleasant happenings in Asia. (Also "He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy" is a very effective put-down.)

As well as the above, I think another key factor is the power of "the politics of them": the ability to create an evil daemon ("them") which is/are to blame for all the worlds ills and that it is your duty to destroy. After all, we are all perfect and know that we're perfect, so if there's a problem that problem must lie with someone else.


"We" (whoever "we" are) have learned that catastrophe creates a new normal. In that new normal, things which had been unthinkable become part of the background. For example, the new normal post-Hamburg-cell is that behaviours which only a few years before had been decried as invasions of privacy for which no sane freedom-loving Westerner would stand are now wholly acceptable, in order to "fight terror". If one doesn't have enemies at the gates, one creates them (here in Australia, it's people who are fleeing war-torn parts of the world, and seeking to claim asylum in our country) out of the shadows, and one justifies one's actions by claiming it's a part of the fight against those who would destroy the country.

"And nothing ever happens Nothing happens at all They'll burn down the synagogues at six o'clock And we'll all sing along like before

And we'll all be lonely tonight, and lonely tomorrow."

(Del Amitri, "Nothing Ever Happens").

On a personal note, I have learned over the past dozen years that paying too much attention to the political news means I wind up depressed and miserable, because there's so much wrong with the world, and so very little I can do about it. I'm trying not to do that to myself these days.


Some sub-groups of people learnt some things no doubt.

America en masse learnt that 'the homeland' could be attacked with some impunity by "foreigners." Not as an invasion, but as an act of terrorism it was vulnerable. Previously it had really only had domestic terrorists.

Various populations learnt just how far their governments will go in the cause of "protecting" them to destroy their civil liberties. Some were surprised, some saddened, some said "I told you so!"

As a fairly direct product, some learnt just how badly their governments will lie not only to them but to their own parliaments to do "the right thing" as they see it. WMD in Iraq my... choose your expletive. That was one I'll say I learnt, I didn't think they'd lie that brazenly. And although I'm opposed to military action at the moment in Syria, Cameron paid the price for everyone learning that lesson.

I suspect a lot of people who knew bugger all about Islam now know a little bit more. That's a positive broadly speaking. Although a lot of people currently are using it to fuel mostly-ignorant rampages. I know quite a few people who didn't know there were various sects and so on. They don't know the details now (and I don't know the fine details) but they at least have more of a clue about the religion, some of its tenets and so on.


I don't think I ever heard what the terrorists's objective was.

Then you didn't go looking.

Start in wikipedia with the history of al Qaeda (its goals changed over time). Then consider the Al Qaeda response to the establishment of large US bases in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait -- to allow a "Crusader State" (did you notice GWB's slip of the tongue during his speech on 9/12?) to have fortresses in the "holy places" of Islam was seen as blasphemous by ObL, and led pretty directly to the AQ campaign to kick the USA in the nuts.

Those bases have now been replaced by equivalent installations in Iraq. Looks to me like Al Qaeda won ...

That "most" people will put up with almost any "security" theatre in order to be allowed onto commercial airliners?

Actually, no.

Bruce Schneier recently referenced an article that attributes about 500 extra deaths per year in the US due to people deciding that the extra hassle of airport security theater isn't worth it on the shorter trips, and taking cars instead.

People aren't complaining. They simply aren't using airlines as much as they would.


On a more positive note: There are some people intelligent and brave enough to try and work towards fixing things in their own way - be that whistleblowing, building associations, pursuing technological ideas or simply saying what is going on and trying to get people to understand.

I'd agree, but what is disappointing is how rarely we hear about the positives: the ordinary people who, in there own small ways reach out across the artificial boundaries of hate to show that we are all the same. Every so often, usually on a quiet news day, you do hear such stories.

I'd love to have a bleeding filter on the news ("If it bleeds, it leads").


I don't know what we learned, but I learned that my country (US) was a hell of a lot closer to reverting to totalitarianism than I thought it was. We didn't go all the way, but after 9/11, every moderate voice was shouted down for years as we stampeded away from freedom.

I learned that most people didn't realize that the separation between national intelligence and domestic law enforcement was a bulwark against tyranny, and not just a flaw that allowed 9/11 to happen.

I learned that a lot of people didn't think that "PATRIOT Act", "Homeland Security", and "If you see something, say something" had creepy totalitarian overtones.

I learned that every government agency in the country was willing to exploit fear of terrorism to get more money and power. And that it would work.

I learned that anti-Muslim bigotry was more common than I thought.

I learned that there's no such thing as a temporary security measure.


I think governments have learnt that it is possible to use war and increased security to achieve a lot of their goals. I think we as voters have learnt that we don't necessarily agree with the goals or the methods used. We have also learnt that the government goals are not always made public.

As yet we don't have a method of dealing with a morally failed state; economically failed, yes; traditionally the banks get rich by solving that in a (largely) accepted international fashion (the IMF for instance)

My hopeful take on the post-911 world is that increasingly people are learning that the international community has to stand together to process morally failed states. I hope the Syrian situation is dealt with in a different fashion to Iraq/Afghanistan. Something has to be done if nerve gas was used; it isn't allowed. I think the UN should use its military power to stop the war, remove from power and prosecute any war criminals, then invest in the country.

Building schools, hospitals, housing, roads and giving everyone satellite TV is probably going to be the cheapest way of doing it. The other way is expensive; I think we've learnt that.


One thing which amazes me - we have the internet here. We have the power to create a news service for spreading hopeful stories, for boosting the signal for stories about things going right, about people doing well, about the improvements. So where is it?

Maybe we have to start small, train ourselves to notice things going right on a day-to-day scale, and share these little stories of things going right. It'll start out Highly Local News, of course - the things which go right tend to be highly personal things. But maybe this is something that's needed - a space to share What Went Right, rather than what went wrong.

So, would anyone else be interested?

empowered women are an antidote to terrorism, and explain several really unpleasant happenings in Asia. (Also "He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy" is a very effective put-down.)

Honestly, while I sympathise with the notion, I suspect that one is another piece of wishful thinking like the notion paleolithic cultures were noble savages, everyone in the middle east/Asia/Africa got along famously until white men drew borders with rulers and such.

Women's natural allegiance is with men, specifically their descendants. There's precious little "He's a naughty boy" going on in real life, rather more "Let's you and me go throw vitriol in that bitch's face, son". My grandmother would literally have helped me bury the bodies, should the need arose.

See also Maggie Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Golda Meir, Hillary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice...


That brilliant, single-use tricks (1) exist (2) are exceedingly hard to predict before the fact, and (3) are easy to "predict" in retrospect.

This encourages paranoid decision-making, and that in turn can be taken advantage of.

One must therefor expect that intelligent enemies will succeed on occasion, and not let yourself be turned into their mirror-image, or worse.


Sarcastically, I could also say that you shouldn't read Tom Clancy novels if you're a member of a group who regularly used to hijack airliners (:-))

In "Debt of Honor" (1994), Tom Clancy has an angry Japanese airline pilot "crash a jetliner into the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of attended by most senior U.S. government officials, including the President. [His character Jack] Ryan thus becomes the new President through succession."


We did learn that all you need to do to stop hijackers with knives taking over a plane is better locks on the cabin door.


I'd ask a different question: what have we forgotten?

We've forgotten the lessons of Watergate: that the people running the government are highly motivated to retain power, and will often break the rules if they feel it's in their own interests. We've forgotten that unaccountable power quickly becomes unjust power, and given our leaders the power to target their political rivals on a scale Nixon never imagined.


By noon, EST of September 11, 2001 we learned that such hijack techniques could be defeated by the public without government assistance. The hijacking of Flight 93 failed, as has every other such use of aircraft (See e.g. the Shoe Bomber, Richard Reed) with no law enforcement or military assistance needed. We learned that we need not live in fear of terrorism.

Sorry, I must have been dreaming.


Small clarification: there's still at least one base in Saudi Arabia, but it flies drones and is run by the CIA.

In any case, the one thing I've learned is that I don't spend much time having discussions about 9/11 on 9/11. From my very biased, left-coast view, neither New York nor Washington had learned to contemplate the idea of a city dying quickly before 9/11. Conversely, that's something people in LA are trained in, whether or not they take that training seriously. Some day, LA will die in The Big One, and the city that rises from that rubble will be very different.

New York didn't have a clue, nor did Washington, and as a result, they massively over-reacted to attacks that claimed roughly as many people as die in a week on our roads as a result of normal car wrecks.

My hope, going forward, is not that 9/11 taught "us" anything, but that Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy did. People who are used to thinking in terms of catastrophes will probably be much more resilient to human-caused ones as well.

In any case, I don't think there's any statute of limitations on what Bush, Cheney and company did, so I wish them all very long lives indeed. Preferably in solitary confinement.


I don't about the "we", but what I have learned is that:

Given the events of the past ten or so years, it sure looks like China won the Cold War.


Interesting, but I think "extra road deaths" is the wrong statistic to invalidate my use of "most". You'd have to show a reduction of better than 50% in air trips between destinations which have a land route under 500 miles long connecting them to do that.


I've learned that Hermann Göring was right: that the people can be manipulated into going along with just about any outrage, if you can convince them that they're being threatened and that those who question it are endangering the rest.


Contrariwise, you need to demonstrate that 'almost any "security" theatre' has been tried. So far we've had some security theatre, and some people who reject it. Was security theatre to get to the stage that it involved full cavity searches and the drugging into insensibility of all passengers, who knows what proportion of people would then refuse to fly?


I've seen people actually suggest "drugging into insensibility", and know some who'd consider "Nudist Airways" if it meant things like no body scans.


Oh, I think we'd allow paper overalls to be issued. In a fetching shade of orange so the passengers could be easily identified if they made a break for it.

Hmm, hoods too.

But we we'd still have to have full body scans and cavity searches, in case of suicide bombers.


What I've learned from the events of 9/11 (as well as Vietnam, Kosovo, Desert Storm, Shock and Awe, Blitzkrieg, etc.) is that we are all at the mercy of greedy, short-sighted power mongers who will always find a way to float to the top of any society, no matter what the political system. They will lie, cheat, steal and kill at will to increase or preserve their power, and they will wrap everything they do in the trappings of "Old Glory!" (Non-US citizens feel free to insert their own jingoistic term of the day.)

On the bright side, the world seems to have learned not to trust the US. Nobody ever trusted the Taliban or Hezbollah or Communist China -- but back at the end of the last millennium, just about everybody trusted the US to be the good guys. Then dopey ol' W got the bit between his teeth and smeared our good name with dung. And now nobody trusts us either.

That's probably an excellent lesson to learn: Trust no one. They are not on our "side", they are not doing it for our "good" or our "safety". They are doing it because it creates/maintains their power.


Define "we".

I'd like to echo that.

You could argue that certain groups of people have learned to be less questioning of authority and become more used to the current climate of "some things just need to be done" (without due process etc).

Some people have gone in the opposite direction and become more paranoid (whether justified or not) and developed tendencies to view the state more as a force of nature you have to live with but try to work around. I would see parts of the maker community going this way too.

Overall I think communities have become more polarized. You said yourself a couple of posts back that we have conceivably reached a pre-revolutionary state and I think anything happening in the future is just going to push us further along and down the funnel.

Personally I've learned that people will believe anything when it's repeated often enough and loud enough and it's depressing how few people are willing to think critically.


TRX @ 29 But DHS was created without any limits, and it will be ugly when they start flexing their muscle. They already have, haven't they? And it is unpleasant...

Then dopey ol' W got the bit between his teeth and smeared our good name with dung. And now nobody trusts us either.

To be fair it's been a team effort, even though Dubya did do the lion's share, in the last 10 years the US has been broadcasting it's internal thought processes in a much more detailed fashion. I can tune into Fox news, forum discussions, etc that are remarkably candid about what's going in people's mind. That part about the NSA surveillance not being important because it only affects foreigners. You left the metaphorical mike on when you said that. Or, you didn't care who heard, both readings are offensive.

It's a combination of having an open society with a hegemonic language (Blame the brits for that one!). I bet China says awful stuff indoors, but no one notices yet. I bet reliable-ish auto translation will do the same to them (And the Indians or whoever the next prospective hegemon is) in 10-15 years.


We did learn that all you need to do to stop hijackers with knives taking over a plane is better locks on the cabin door.

Which has so far killed at least 121 people -- more people than have died in hijackings since 9/11.


As Jay stated upthread, we haven't really learned anything new, although we may have relearned that military invasion and subsequent attempts at "nation building" don't work. We are relearning how easy it is for fear of individual safety to be manipulated by institutions and perhaps relearning how fragile democracy can be.

It seems to be the old story that it takes just 2 generations to forget the lessons of history, whatever the crisis.


As many people die on US roads every six weeks as died in the terror attacks on 9/11.

We already know about risk perception and human irrationality in this regard.

But bear in mind that risks you can control (or think you can) are far more tolerable than those you cannot.


Well, Americans elected a president who seems to be reluctant to start expensive wars. So maybe someone learned something?


I think the Americans have learned there are a lot of people out there that don't like them.

remember those talking heads on the news channels that couldn't explain why anyone would attack America and blamed it all on envy of there freedoms and wealth.


I learnt that the 40th anniversary of the 11th September 1973 [1] could completely overwhelm the 12th anniversary of the 11th September 2001 [2] in the media. To my great amazement.

[1] thousands of heavily armed soldiers curtail democracy in Chile by ousting a democratically elected government

[2] a dozen men armed with office supplies curtail democracy in the USA by reinforcing the non-elected government.


In "Debt of Honor" (1994), Tom Clancy has an angry Japanese airline pilot "crash a jetliner into the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of attended by most senior U.S. government officials, including the President. [His character Jack] Ryan thus becomes the new President through succession."

Also don't watch the pilot of the "X-files" spin-off "The lone gunmen" where a faction in the government tries to fly a remote controlled 727 into the World trade centre.


We've forgotten the lessons of Watergate: that the people running the government are highly motivated to retain power, and will often break the rules if they feel it's in their own interests.

To expand this slightly, a big problem in the White House in the US (and also in lots of other places around the world) is that the occupants at any point in time after a while begin to see disagreement with policy as being a traitor to the country.

In the US this is fed but party loyalists who support anything "their Pres" wants without question. And the flip side is the opposition that opposes out of reflex.


My hope, going forward, is not that 9/11 taught "us" anything, but that Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy did. People who are used to thinking in terms of catastrophes will probably be much more resilient to human-caused ones as well.

It taught me that a badly placed city or house will be rebuilt in exactly the same place, slightly stronger, but no where near strong enough for the long term, as long as it's a "disaster" and not just a normal weather event.


If you think the world has change since 9/11 think about how it might have changed if the 4th plane had hit it's target. The White House or the Capital. I suspect the last ten years as they have actually happened would be trivial in terms of warfare.

For those of you here who are not that familiar with the US, these two buildings are much more symbolic than the Pentagon or the Twin Towers. Much more.


After reading that article, I can't see any indication that it was the up-armoured door which caused the accident - could you clarify?


Obama's reluctant to overtly send in troops, or commit them to extended deployments (though even so, he still let the generals talk him into a surge in Afghanistan). That saves money, but I don't think it's why he's reluctant.

In other respects, though, he's pretty cavalier --- his continued pursuit of the drone killing program, for example. (One of the more interesting things coming out of the Snowden document dump was a memo on the black budget, which had the CIA spend as $14.7 billion, well above external estimates. The drones aren't the majority of this, but they certainly are a hefty chunk.)


Not to mention issue #50 of the Larry Hama-written GI Joe comic published by Marvel in 1986. The backup story, "Best Defense", had a group of Trotskyist terrorists hijack an airliner with the intent of crashing it into a Soviet chemical weapons depot as revenge on the USSR for Trotsky's assassination.


Any passenger who might have been able to land the plane, could not enter the cockpit.


There was a flight attendant who was training as a pilot and had a couple of hundred hours of flying time. He got into the cockpit but couldn't take over from the autopilot before the engines started running out of fuel.

I didn't notice any mention of the door, but there's strong circumstantial evidence: he took a long time to get there, and he would have known the pilots were not following the emergency loss-of-pressure procedure.


Also the first episode of Seven Days, which had a plane carrying (I think) a chemical weapon crash into the White House.


I think terrorists learned again what they always knew, which was that the disruption they cause is out of all proportion to the amount of damage. The 2007 London tube bombings did considerably less damage than the lightest night of the Blitz, but brought London to a virtual standstill.

The authorities learned that you can twist these events to suit your own political agenda, and e.g. invade the wrong country.

I learned that it is really NOT a good idea to transfer most of your savings to an investment account a couple of months before an incident that severely depresses the stock market. Also that I really want to avoid flying, if at all possible, for the foreseeable future.


We have learned that it is possible to defeat the entire US-air defense infrastructure with box-cutter-technology. Some former Sovjet air force generals must be embarrassed they never figured that one out. Interestingly no-one in the US defense establishment was fired for this utter failure of it's primary function.

We have also learned it is possible to vertically implode some of the largest steel high-rises ever built with office-fires (a feat not seen before or since!). Making them descend symmetrically into their own footprints while conveniently breaking up into bits short enough to be fit on trucks and barges so the pieces van be quickly shipped off to landfills and eventually South-Korea for melting and recycling. In the third case (WTC-7) it was not required to hit the specific building with a jetliner. Strange enough controlled demolitions companies have gone out of business since.

We have learned that some BBC reporters have the amazing ability to report some of these unexpected and unprecedented implosions 20 minutes before they happen and have the modesty to completely deny this ability well asked about it. This despite the visible proof in a live broadcast.

We have learned the US government will initially refuse to investigate the greatest murder-case in US history, only caving into pressure form families after well over a year. The budget for this investigation is then lower than Clinton's cigar or the most recent Space Shuttle crash. Despite this the same government unleashes a series of wars based on this not-properly-investigated-event killing well over 2 million mostly civilians in the process and spending 4-6 Trillion dollars. None of these wars actually make anyone safer from 'terrorism' instead exacerbating existing hatred for the west in general and the US in particular. The Chair en Vice-Chair of the investigate commission later wrote a book where they state the commission what underfunded, lied to and setup to fail.

Despite all of this anyone who dares to ask questions about any of the above is considered crazy. But then; so were people who said smartphones are being used as surveillance devices and US intelligence capabilities were being used as repressive systems against legitimate dissidents in 'western democracies'

I'm sure there's some other stuff we've learned as well but I would these as some of the highlights.


Hardly a good example - after all, the flight attendant got in.

A better example might be El Al, that have used armoured cockpit doors since the 1970s, AIUI. No-one has tried or managed to hijack one in a long time, and it's not as if they've had any crashes as a result. Their security levels still exceed that which many here regard as "security theatre", but they have a demonstrable and credible threat to deal with. It has so far succeeded, in that the murderous nutjobs have been forced to come up with other plans.

However, the critical lesson - that political problems rarely, if ever, have a military solution - has taken a decade to relearn. Unfortunately, some countries seem to be stuck in the "if you have a hammer" view of realpolitik, and local politics mean that any attempt at an alternative render politicians unelectable. A bit like not being Sufficiently Visibly Christian to run for the US Presidency...

...I do wonder whether the US and Russia have tag-teamed the Syrians into CW disarmament; it's preferable to thinking that the current initiative was accidental (the timing is just too tight). If so, I'd suggest that it's a restart to some useful cooperation.


It is crazy.

Because beyond the little matter of the vanished planes and passengers, you are assuming a plot of a tremendous technical complexity, enormous scale, pulled off by the Bush Administration and the CIA.

Furthermore, the US security apparatus leaks like a sieve. We know about their torture, we know about their assassinations, we even know about their Stasi-themed world-wide costume party. If they had began to plan a false-flag operation of such a magnitude, we'd known before they did.


We at least take international terrorist activity more seriously now, and that's not just US Intelligence at work. The Bush Administration's pre-9/11 response to warning signs of a 9/11 terrorism attack was a comedy of errors, procrastination, and just "this is low on my priority of things to do" thinking.

So that's a plus. If we had left it at that, we'd just have the War in Afghanistan (which I think was going to happen once they failed to kill/capture Bin Laden and Tora Bora in 2001), plus the abuses of extraordinary rendition. But we didn't.


What have we learned? The name of the Danilo Ilić for this century


Well, if you broaden your filter somewhat and include ALL males between 18 and 50, I guess Breivik is quite in. In fact, I guess you could narrow it down somewhat to a maximum age of about 40, maybe even in the 30s.

Actually, this seems to be true for quite some other crimes, e.g. assault, murder, rape etc. I don't know how this fares in cross-cultural studies.

As for the focus on males vs. females, well, I'm not that sure about that one. Men commit more violent crimes than females:

As for the reasons, e.g. social roles, testosterone brain damage etc., we could speculate. For the testosterone, if we really want to enter the world of pain of sex differences in HSS, well, I always talk about the docu where they talked about Baron-Cohen's idea of sex differences with empathizing vs. systemizing.–systemizing_theory

Example for a "male" systemizing brain? One Temple Grandin, quite visible female,

which might hint that whatever the nature of sex differences in HSS brains, there is quite some overlap and has been for some time. Talk about shield maidens or Loki's behaviour in some Norse mythology...

As for the actual numbers of women in terrorism, leaving aside female assasinations are already mentioned in Old Middle Eastern lore

I think the notion that "empowered women" are an antidote to terrorism is debatable. Especially if you look at German left terrorists:

Though one could argue if the female RAF members really where that empowered, especially if you look at some of the nastier stories of group dynamics.

On a global scale, it seems like the Tamil Tigers used a high proportion of female suicide bombers, e.g. 30 to 40%,

though in this case one might argue that this is not so much a case of empowered women and more of "honor suicide", as opposed to "honor killing". Also note that even if at the moment, female terrorists might be a minority, tighter security with young males might lead to recruiting from different pools. And we already have female terrorist, though I'd be somewhat hard pressed for terrorists older than 40. In the context of the Muslim world, the organisation in question being Islamist or secular seems only marginally important:

So, well, I guess focusing on people between 15 and 40 would be the thing to do. For both sexes.

Problem is,if we employ tighter security for this group it is going to create quite a few disenfranchised youngsters who will be somewhat angry with the system. With some reason. And this might be a breeding pool for some new terrorists. So in the long run, I guess abstaining from demographical, ethnic etc. profiling with security checks might be the better option.

BTW, as already hinted at, I think the strong version of the Youth Bulge theory is BS,

for starters, if we go with the median age graphic on the left, you'd expect great civil unrest in Mongolia, while Brazil and Turkey would be quite peaceful.

I guess some weak version, e.g. "might destabilize a country under some circumstances" might work, but then, there are quite a lot of "weak" factors influencing social unrest.

P.S. Sorry for coming back to this subthread. Please delete if I reopen some can of worms.


Actually, none of the hijackers were what you could call exactly "disenfranchised", oftne isolated to some degree, yes, but none of them was from an Afghan or Palestinian war refugee camp.

Actually, like most "revolutionary" organizations, Islamism runs on the principle of Oligarchical Collectivism,


Chapter I. Ignorance is Strength Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, therehave been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other. The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim--for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives--is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main outlines recurs over and over again. For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again.

We have learned that it is possible to defeat the entire US-air defense infrastructure with box-cutter-technology. Some former Sovjet air force generals must be embarrassed they never figured that one out. Interestingly no-one in the US defense establishment was fired for this utter failure of it's primary function.

Actually there was no active air defense for the US mainland. So there was no failure.

And to be honest there still mostly isn't. Cost of keeping air patrols over both coasts in numbers and positions such that they could intercept most anything on quick notice would likely be the biggest line item in the defense budget. Then toss in the borders with Mexico and Canada if you really want to get paranoid. And after the cold war wound down somewhat it was decided it was not needed. And it was never budgeted for total security like the USSR tried to do. (I wonder what the cost of the Chrome flights would be in today economy.)

And there was no planning (purposely all the way to Congress) for attacks by air from inside the US.

You can't fire people for not doing what they were told not to do.

As to the rest of your rant, well I hope you well in the world view you live in.


As for the focus on males vs. females, well, I'm not that sure about that one. Men commit more violent crimes than females: ... As for the reasons, e.g. social roles, testosterone brain damage etc., we could speculate.

I wonder if the women associated with these men are in a child birth cycle of times past for most of us here?


Which has so far killed at least 121 people -- more people than have died in hijackings since 9/11.

What killed those people is an apparently incompetent flight crew. Not so much as it relates to flying the plane but in their apparent complete inability to diagnose a problem when the solution was slapping them up side the head constantly.


The Today programme (the Radio 4 one on the BBC rather than any others sharing the name) had a piece yesterday about politicians making slips of the tongue and the diplomats stepping him from a now retired diplomat.

John Prescott apparently assured the US that the RAF would be bombing in Kosovo from 15 feet.... oops. Reagan and Gorbachev went for a walk together at some summit and in a nice private chat agreed they should get rid of all nuclear missiles - to the great consternation of 2 sets of military and diplomatic services and more than a few allied political leaders. The considered opinion of the guy they were interviewing was that although they got rowed back obviously, it established a bond of trust such that SALT, START etc. were made possible.

And his thought on Kerry's "off the cuff" remark? It probably was off the cuff in the sense of it wasn't part of his speech. But almost certainly at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg the idea had been floated around and probably shot down, quite possibly in exactly the tone he presented it at the press conference.

It's possible it's a really clever diplomatic feint play to save face and avoid a military intervention - there are some smart cookies out there. But I think it's more serendipitous. There's pretty good evidence that in Syria everything stops to listen to the Obama administration's pronouncements on their war. So they'll have heard it. I'm sure a chunk of Russian diplomats interested in the Syrian situation will have listened to it. Which way they actually reached out I don't know, although I know what the news is reporting. It's just so neat - The US looks good for suggesting it in public first, Russia looks good for actually brokering it, Assad looks good for giving up his chemical weapons (OK, he shouldn't have had them, but he looks much better giving them graciously than [possibly carrying on] using them). It this was all a cunning plan, someone would be shouting 'This was my idea, this was my idea!' or someone else would be leaking it.


They're also after a very different failure mode. Point failure of civilian flights, or several point failures on the same day, is a rather different failure than needing to get air superiority and launch bombing campaigns, air support for a ground and naval invasion and the like.

A one-off disruption of a system is relatively easy. It's harder now in the US with the extra security but someone will do it eventually (and the extra security has extra costs of course) but systematically taking it down forever is harder.


That's the programme I was listening to yesterday, having dropped firstborn off at school, and the trigger for my comment :)

The diplomat (Sir Christopher Meyer, according to the Today website) pointed out that the Russian Foreign Ministry doesn't do "off the cuff" - and I took from it that his belief tended to the "we've talked this through, it's always been an option, perhaps it happened faster than we expected". I was just as impressed with Bronwen Maddox, who was the other interviewee.


Hardly a good example - after all, the flight attendant got in.

It's hard to be sure of the chain of events -- the plane crashed, which tends to mess up the evidence -- but it appears that a flight attendant, with a portable oxygen supply, emergency tools, and not facing a mob of angry passengers (they were all on oxygen or unconscious) took half an hour to get through the reinforced door and into the cockpit ... by which time the engines were running on fumes and the pilots unconscious or dead.

(I'd call a safety feature that kills more people than it saves a bit of a liability. Wouldn't you agree?)

Hijackings, incidentally, probably aren't amenable to a purely political solution because they're not purely a terrorist problem: they're an unmedicated schizophrenic problem, a really serious asylum seeker problem -- it's not just terrorism. (You'd need to abolish political oppression of minorities/dissidents globally and magic away mental illness.)

I will grant you the point that it's taken a decade for our political elite to re-learn the "if the only tool you have is a hammer ..." proverb and painfully re-acquaint themselves with the corollary. I'm just aghast that politicians who lived, as adults, through earlier cycles of political violence and terrorism could so rapidly forget these things in middle age.


You saw the EASA and FAA warnings and orders to Boeing to install additional cockpit warning lights for that particular contingency, after the event?

(Turns out that on many Boeing 737s prior to 2005, the same alert tone was used for two different conditions. The crew became incapacitated because they misinterpreted the alarm and lost consciousness less than a minute later. More here.)


I'm sure there was some unneeded confusion early on but oxygen masks dropping down is a big signal. And I'd bet that there was at least a bright light that went off with that event.

In the US and I'm guessing many other countries there was a big change in flight crew training in the later 70s / early 80s. This came about after it was noticed that many plane crashes happened because the crew took a very flyable plane and stuck it into the ground due to lousy procedures and discipline during abnormal events. Training was overhauled to avoid such things as what appeared to happen on this flight AFTER takeoff.

The plane mentioned was flyable. The crew was apparently chasing rabbits down bottomless holes.


SO, Charlie ... here goes ... hope you will all read this very carefully.

OK: We all know that some people use "islam" as dog-whistle code for "Brown people from somewhere else that we don't like." - but, as Charlie also well knows, I'm not one of them.

I once, (almost) correctly described islam in a newspaper (The Grauniad) forum as: "Cruel, intolerant, misogynistic & medieval" - & promptly got banned for "Racism" - where I was wrong, was of course, in not describing it as "Dark Ages" not medieval, oops.

However. Let us look at the other half of that statement. Islam is a RELIGION, right? this means it has certain characteristics ... like this: 1] It has a “holy” book or books. 2] The words in those books may not be questioned, even when demonstrated proven wrong. 3] It has sub-divisions and sects and “heresy”, and heretics, in Trevor-Ropers phrase are “even wronger” than unbelievers. 4] Those sects fight each other, either by open warfare and/or in internal pogroms. 5] It craps all over women, as inferior, if they are lucky 6] Thousands if not millions are killed in the name of the “holy cause” to bring about a supposed millennium 8] It persecutes all the competing religions 9] In some sects it will deny Evolution by Natural Selection


What, aywhere is there anything to like about this? And all religions do this at some point in their existence & even if it is beaten out of them, there will always be throwbacks & wishers for a golden past, who will try to re-create those circumstances. [ Yes, there are christians & jews who still beleive & would love to enforce this crap - & if anyone challenges me on this, I can garuantee you I can produce examples, OK? ]

Of course, islam had its own fundamental split very early on, compared to christianity - between sunni & shia, but otherwise they follow the same plot-lines, as does judaism & communism (which, exceptionally didn't persecute women AFAIK) The non-monotheistic religions do it as well ....

Right, now we've established the ground-rules, we have also to remember that islam is chronologically 622 years behind christianity. Though practically, it looks as though they are somewhere between 1520 & 1618 (approx) and some sections of their "leaderships" are looking for a revival, renewal & pure true new way version of the old way. Well, we know what happened in Europe during the period I noted above & forward to 1688, & how many were killed & tortured & maimed as a result. What really suprises me is that no-one, or virtually no-one "in charge" seems to realise this & treats the problem as something new. Whereas, certainly in England & Scotland, weh have had this exact same problem before, & we know how to deal with it, but hopefully without the excesses that were perpetrated at that time. We had a foreign power (now foreign organisations & possibly sections of states) deliberately trying to replace our government & laws with another set, by a combination of external military force , internal subversion & terrorism. One must remember that, as the monarch at the time said, "We will have no making windows into men's souls" - i.e. Provided the laws were obeyed, no-one would be hounded. Didn't always happen of course, but that was the policy. At the same time a very vigorous counterintelligence project ( Possibly the best the world has ever seen, given the resources & money actually available - Walsingham was scarily good at his job. ) was run, & a lot of propaganda released.

Now, we have to remember, that as then now, a majority of the catholics muslims are quite harmless in their delusions, but there is a tiny minority, all contained inside that minority population, who really do wish us harm. Except, of course, they believe that they are doing us "good" for theological reasons.

What we have failed, totally to learn is to do effective propagand against the jesuits jihadis & to actually, start pointing out that, no there isn't a BigSkyFairy at all. Of course the vile Blair & the moronic Cameron have fucked-up totally here, in "respecting" religion in the first place. I mean, how NOT to do it!

Long-term, the answer is education. Like making Comparitive Religion a compulsory subject in all British schools, irrespective of anything else at all .... And make a comprehensive list of all the cock-ups and totally wrong statements in all the "holy books", & make sure it gets widely published. Short-term;concentrate on the likely perpetrators, not card-carrying atheists like me, or Charlie

What else have we learned? Well, look at Syria - it looked as if it was shaping up to be the trigger for a general sectarian Mid-East war, with the Sunni & Shia battling it out, shades of 1618-48 in Mitteleuropa. Now, I ain't so sure, but we shall see. Long-term, I'm sorry to say, I think the muslim states will still have a general war, until they learn the brutal truths that were fianlly enforced at Westphalia.

The way that some muslims are treated by other muslims, makes the racial prejudice & religious unease here, look petty & pathetic. I have a neighbour who is Sufi - & he tells me that the jihadis would not regard him as a muslim at all. Then there's the plight of the Ahmadhi.

And I hope no-one will ever accuse me of racism here, ever again ... but trying to explain it in long-form has taken some time & space, hasn't it?



You are now banned from this thread.

(Proximate reason: confusing a religion with the behaviour of its followers. As with the teachings of the RC Church on contraception and abortion, and the 90%+ non-compliance rate of its female members in North America, you can't and shouldn't assume that the content of a 1500 year old belief system dictates the behaviour of all of its nominal adherents today as if they're zombies.

(Real reason: you're derailing an otherwise interesting discussion and dragging it onto your personal hobby horse. Don't do that in future.)


Yourself and DavidL are both wrong. What caused the Helios Airlines crash is not a cockpit door or an incompetent crew.

It was a faulty air conditioning system.

As in, deep in the bowels of the vessel, something was causing all of the cabin air to leak. That something is an amergency in it's own right, and it's what caused the accident.

"The plane mentioned was flyable. The crew was apparently chasing rabbits down bottomless holes."

By definition....It wasn't. It should never have taken off as it was un-airworthy. It had a track record of pressurisation problems as well, all demonstrating this.

That's why the ground staff were checking it. That's why the switch was set incorrectly. That's why Boeing have tightened up their cockpit warning alarms - To prevent any further confusion over a situation that may only happen once in any pilot's career.

Thought: The thing that I've learned since 9/11 is that if the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, then the result is anxiety, boredom, and then irritation and indifference towards paying it.


@cahth3iK (76). Where did I say 'Bush did it!' ? I did not. And I don't claim to know what happened (others might, that is their problem). I just wonder about some glaring inconsistencies in the story we've been told. Because even terrorists have to obey the laws of physics.

The logic that such a plan (if there was one) could never have been kept secret is in itself faulty because obviously many people are spotting inconsistencies and are asking questions. To then say that those cannot be real inconsistencies because inconsistencies would never come out is rather circular logic. If the US governmemt can't keep secrets for some time why are the Snowden files such big news?

There was obviously a cover-op of something and it has failed, except for people who are cognitively troubled by the very idea of a cover-op. But given US history of the last 200 years the idea of cover-op should be completely natural. Remember Tonkin gulf, incubator babies in Kuwait, Saddam's WMD's, the Iranian nuclear weapons program?


Occupying Afghanistan is good for the Afghans. Apparently a few years back the NATO occupation effort and the opposition to it made up about 40% of the country's GNP. The occupiers pay folks real money to build stuff, make stuff, grow food, supply drugs and sex workers, Danegeld to buy off possible attacks and pay for information, prisoners etc. and the oil-sheik fundy backers of the opposition plough large amounts of cash into the various militias and warbands. They'll be sorry to see the back of the Yanks and their native auxiliaries when they finally up sticks and leave.


I think Charlie and David are correct.

You would only be correct if the aeroplane was flown with a known to be faulty at time of take-off air conditioning system. Since the ground crew had worked on it, they had clearly (if mistakenly) signed the "gripe sheet" as having cleared the fault.


They did know it was faulty.

Or rather, they knew that there was a problem with pressurising the airframe because on numerous occasions previously, there seemed to be something wrong with the rear door of the aircraft. They assumed that whatever was wrong would last for another flight, as it had done up until then....

Taking off in an aircraft with a undiagnosed technical fault and being of the view that an observant flight crew will be able to diagnose the problem from the cockpit and save the aircraft is a form of negligence. David Learmount, editor of Flight International, wrote an extended article about this accident 2-8th July this year. He points out that the actual cause of the leak was never actually discovered, partly due to damage but partly due to the fact nobody looked for it!

They found the switch in the wrong position, said "job done," wrote it off as pilot error, and got cracking upon slinging the airline's management in jail.


From Wikipedia "When the aircraft arrived from London Heathrow earlier that morning, the previous flight crew had reported a frozen door seal and abnormal noises coming from the right aft service door, and requested a full inspection of the door. The inspection was carried out by a ground engineer who then performed a pressurization leak check. In order to carry out this check without requiring the aircraft's engines, the pressurisation system was set to "manual". However, the engineer failed to reset it to "auto" on completion of the test.

After the aircraft was returned into service, the flight crew overlooked the pressurisation system state on three separate occasions: during the pre-flight procedure, the after-start check, and the after take-off check. During none of these checks did the flight crew notice the incorrect setting. The aircraft took off at 9:07 with the pressurisation system still set to "manual", and the aft outflow valve partially open."

That, to me, suggests that everyone was looking for the wrong fault and not finding it or thinking they'd fixed it. Your argument seem to hinge on there being an actual act of ommission and/or willful negligence rather than simply a chain of unfortunate events.


There was obviously a cover-op of something and it has failed, except for people who are cognitively troubled by the very idea of a cover-op.

I'm not sure whether I should give this a good stiff ignoring, but you appear to consider unsupported claims (and the occasional "misrepresentation", i.e. lie) to be "obvious".

The only cognitive trouble is among those who believe that the WTC didn't fall down because two fully-fuelled airliners, added to multiple floors of office furniture, provided enough fuel for the fire to burn through the insulation surrounding the main structural steelwork, causing it to soften and lose the strength that it needed to stay standing. Or that the amount of fuel and spread of the initial fire meant that this happened far faster than anyone had anticipated.

We've not learned anything new here - after all, we get frequent reminders that this kind of cognitive trouble exists, whenever it leads to a belief that no planes hit the Pentagon, the USN shot down TWA800, the moon landings were faked, that von Daniken wrote fact, that Roswell was aliens, or that (UK reference) the Royal Family are in fact members of a group of extraterrestrial lizard people.

Perhaps the most pernicious form is when the delusional believe that they are more than capable of singing on stage in front of an audience (cf "X-Factor", and "${NATION}'s Got Talent")


Putting the switches "back" or into any specific position is not a ground engineer's job. It's the pilot's job to check they are correct when they go round the cockpit with the checklist. Checking every switch, when you're on the ground.

(The ground staff were excused from blame on this point because it's not in the manuals or the regulations to switches back into any position. It's not their job to what each "correct" position was. - It's a shame this article is behind Flight's paywall.)

That part, yes, is pilot error....But notice how two survivable scenarios/faults have combined. In the event that a small leak occurs, the system when it is on "automatic" presumably just adds more air to the cabin and alerts the cockpit as to what it is doing, records the event for later analysis, etc. But when it is at manual, it assumes the pilots are aware of this and lets them handle it, by not going about 10000 feet.

All of the air leaked out through whatever small hole there was, wherever it was in the back of the aircraft. The wrong fault indeed. The real scandal with this story and the damage it has done to flight safety is the fashion in which anyone still alive and associated with it was subsequently treated by both the Greek judiciary.


....and the air accident investigators. (Missed that bit at the end.)


Guess what; I'm not a qualified Boeing 737 pilot! That means that relying on me to know which switches are in the cockpit and which are directly attached to a piece of plant elsewhere in the aeroplane is a mistake.


Charlie, This thing have an ignore feature we're not aware of? Boring 9/11 conspiracy theorist is boring.


No excuse! Not in the age of the internet:

Here is every different variant through the years. These people are nothing if not thorough:

According to the magazine, you are looking for the DCPCS panel...

...And there we are. AUTO ATLN or MAN

If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, eventually the result is anxiety, boredom and eventual irritation and indifference, as the public's attitude to the TSA illustrates.


Boring 9/11 conspiracist theorist also states factual errors. (But that's par for the course.)

I wonder why no such collapse has been seen before or since? Surely in all the other cases of fully-fueled airliners flying into mega-towers this would have been seen before?


You mean these were the only occurrences of such impacts in history? And nobody had bothered to see if you could demolish a half-billion dollar tower by filling several floors with the better part of a hundred tonnes of burning aviation fuel?

And whaddya know, gravity acts vertically too?

Conspiracy, it's all conspiracy I tell you.


You plane has lost cabin pressurisation. Quick, use Google!

Seriously, if you're trained to fly that plane, you follow the checklist, even if some of the settings are coming to mind without that prompt.

Planes are complicated. Yes, pilots have mnemonics to help them remember, there are things they do every time they fly. They still use checklists. They should be checking on each other. They know about the ways these checks can fail.

Something to think about, in line with the recent revelations about Ryanair cutting fuel reserves to the minimum: The first engine lost fuel about an hour after the scheduled landing time. The cabin attendant apparently got into the cockpit over two hours after the emergency oxygen systems deployed. I've looked up the regs, and one hour reserve seems a bit short. But the regs are complicated, and depend on quite a few things. They might require a two-hour absolute minimum at normal cruise consumption but I could be mistaken. And since the crew lost consciousness during a climb, fuel consumption could have been high.

I don't think I would feel comfortable flying Ryanair when they are appearing to let lawyers set the limits, rather than pilots.


... and sorry, no, no such feature.


Maybe Aviation Safety should be a religion.

I think pilots would soon learn not to piss-off the Thunderbird.

That's only half-silly: why do you think there were sea-gods? If a science fiction writer can't invent a successful religion, nobody can.


You can damage your cheek that way, you know


(I'd call a safety feature that kills more people than it saves a bit of a liability. Wouldn't you agree?)

If that were proved to have happened.

If you're going to argue that particular feature killed those people on the plane, then its not at all unreasonable to say that lacking it is what allowed 9/11 to happen.

So having armored doors is responsible for about a hundred deaths. Not having armored doors is responsible for about 5000.

If you want to go with your logic.

There's also a lot of simply unknowable information that you'd need to know to conclude that armored doors "kill more people than they save".

For one thing, the knowledge that it was easy to get into the cockpit and that planes were vulnerable become common after 9/11. Even leaving aside actual terrorists who might have been inclined to try the same thing, there's regular variety crazy people.

But at the same time, public knowledge of the armored doors also changes the likelihood of their use.

Those are mostly unknowable changes.

There is stuff that it is knowable, that I haven't bothered to look up, like how many (if any) attempts to get into the cockpit have been thwarted.

So you're saying it's killed more people than it saved based on....?

How do you know how many people, if any, it's saved?


I don't fly Ryanair ever. Apart from the service being offensively shitty, there are persistent rumours -- nothing I'm going to repeat in public due to lack of substantiation, but troubling nonetheless -- about their maintenance policies. And we know they fly with minimal fuel for emergencies.


You mean these were the only occurrences of such impacts in history? And nobody had bothered to see if you could demolish a half-billion dollar tower by filling several floors with the better part of a hundred tonnes of burning aviation fuel?

Actually the consulting engineer when the twin towers were built tried to get in touch with authorities as soon as he saw the news. In his interview he said he knew they were going to come down as soon as he saw the pictures. But phones calls to the mayor and such by people not on the emergency lists didn't get very far that morning.

The towers were designed to handle a hit by a 707 at the end of a flight. Not a larger plane with a full fuel load. He said the amount of fuel involved and size of the plane made it a safe bet the fire retardant would be gone long before the fires were out. And thus the steel would loose structural integrity. And things would then rapidly come down in a cascading sequence of events. Very rapidly.


My point was more that they dealt poorly with the situation as it happened.

Without disparaging the Greek flight training systems too much, this is the kind of think they changed flight crew training for in the later 70s / early 80s in the US and I assume many other countries.


Well, we've learned that it is possible for a modern democratic state to not lose its shit in response to a rare but highly damaging terrorist incident. Norway did not curtail civil liberties, nor did its citizens start putting up NEVAR FORGET crap or wrapping themselves in the flag, nor have we seen any evidence that the Norwegian government started watching its citizens' every move. (Since Breivik was purely domestic, the "let's start wars on bogus pretexts" response was off the table.)

If only the citizens of the US and UK had the wit to learn from that excellent example...


The Empire State got hit by a bomber back in the 1945 - caused damage, but nothing permanent. But that aircraft was nowhere in the same range.

I expect (we can never know for sure, not without a parallel universe) that the WTC towers would have survived 707s hitting them, but I suspect that could have been close to the limit and precautionary demolition might have been required afterwards.

Here the calculations were based on good quality cold steel. Heat steel, and keep it hot for long enough, and even though you're nowhere near the melting point, it is still weakened. Engineers will have a certain margin of error — traditionally in this sort of case, you calculate the vertical loads, work out the structural requirement to hold that load, and double it. That way, you allow for unusual loads, bits of faulty assembly, and still have plenty over.

But if the steel is so hot it can only take half the load, and it starts to buckle, you're stuffed. Have a single joint which can't hold its share and fails, and the adjacent joints suddenly have more load and are more likely to give way themselves. Get a whole floor go, and you've got hundreds of thousands of tonnes of building scrunching down on the floor below. And that's dynamic load, which was never in the design.

Once one floor goes, everything above it collapses vertically down into it, going faster and faster until the base of the falling part hits the ground. Then everything above it collapses that base floor, and the next above, and so on until you've got little at all that hasn't pancaked.

No-one with any knowledge would expect much to survive intact. The force will mash pretty much everything into small fragments, the exception being outside panels, some multi-story shards of which were sticking out of the wreckage.


Oh yeah - what have we learned?

A building that is fully capable of withstanding the impact of a fully-laden 767 hitting it may be unexpectedly vulnerable to extended fire, particularly if the impact damage has scraped away at those parts of the structure that would otherwise have helped resist the heat.

And when a major event like that happens, there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty, some of which gets mistaken later for fact.

Seriously - consider any major news event with rolling 24-hour news going on, and you'll see that the initial reports are frequently wildly inaccurate, with sometimes a ten times over-reporting of casualties. This is part of the nature of the beast, and we've not really got used to it yet. Combine 24-hour news cycles with huge number of witnesses with cameras, and you'll get a flash-flood of reportage, large amounts of which will be inaccurate and contradictory and some of it outright false. But we're primates, and we have a fascination that must be satisfied, even if rumour ends up filling the place of truth.


The racism bit does raise a larger issue: it is easy to use seemingly pragmatic, logical, and level-headed language to argue ourselves into positions we never would have previously supported. I never thought as an American that I would be listening to our leaders arguing in favor of torture. That's something the guys with skulls on their caps did, not us. I never thought we'd be operating dungeons with rape and murder, possibly even involving children.

Then again, I doubt anyone in the 30's seriously considered that carpet-bombing cities might be a useful thing to turn the nation's purpose towards. By the time Bomber Harris got his war on, there weren't many Brits who would dare speak against it.

There's also what I would call the Nazi Party problem. To run an effective democratic government, all political parties have to agree to abide by the same rules. This is how power-sharing works. Problem is you let someone like the Nazis get voted in, they're never going to allow themselves to be voted out. This is allegedly what the Muslim Brotherhood did in Egypt, according to the military that booted them out. (Take with a pillar of salt?) This argument seems fair enough when talking about Nazis. Screw those guys. We can't let them into a democratic process. But you can turn this around quicker than you can say Godwin. "Those evil, godless liberals are trying to de-Jesusfy America. They're worse than the Nazis. They're subverting the democratic process. We can't let them stand for election."

In summary, what I've learned from 9-11 is there is far more to be depressed about than I had ever imagined. I'm damned nostalgic for a time when the OJ Simpson trial was the most pressing matter facing America.


Boeing 707-320L -- MTOW 152,000 kg, fuel load 90,300L (that's the heaviest version)

Boeing 767-223ER -- MTOW 179,000 kg, fuel load up to 91,400L

So the 767 was up to 20% heavier. However, the 707-320L was the heaviest long-range variant of the 707 -- most 707's only carried around 60,000L of fuel and were considerably lighter. It's probably reasonable to say that the WTC towers were spec'd to stand up to a 707 at considerably less than MTOW, rather than a 20% heavier airliner close to MTOW (with around 80 tons of fuel aboard as they took off for their first flights of the day).

A jet fuel fire is going to burn rather hotter than a normal office building fire. I'd also speculate that the lift shafts may have acted as chimneys, funneling fresh air into the combustion zone to keep the flames burning hot (and weakening the steel structural core).

A few years ago someone noted in the pages of New Scientist that the gravitational potential energy of the structural mass of each tower was roughly equivalent to around 0.1 kilotons of TNT. Once that began to come out, in a chain reaction of pancaking concrete and rebar, it wasn't going to stop.


This is allegedly what the Muslim Brotherhood did in Egypt, according to the military that booted them out. (Take with a pillar of salt?)

I would be very wary of taking anything the Egyptian military say -- or the Muslim Brotherhood -- at face value.

Egypt is run by a classic Deep State, with lots of financial back-scratching for military leaders, and a tendency to subordinate the public sphere to the demands of the private. (Arguably there's something like the Turkish Ergenekon Organization at work there; which in turn was a bit like the Italian Propaganda Due entity, which in turn was a spin-off of Operation Gladio and we would now be getting well into tinfoil hat territory except people did serious prison time for their involvement in this conspiracy crap ...)

Ahem. Sometimes there really are conspiracies with committees of villains trying to take over a corner of the world. Usually a corner that has a lot of lucrative defense contracts and sod-all history of transparency, rule of law, and democratic oversight.


Don't forget the hundreds of tonnes of combustibles in the towers set alight by the original fuel fire; furnishings, wood panelling, plastics, paper etc. The volatile fuel would have burned off quite quickly after the initial impact.

I recall hearing that the builders changed the thermal protection material on the core during construction. The upper sections were not asbestos-jacketed unlike the lower sections and thus less able to stop heat affecting the steel structures in the core -- it's a bitch but asbestos is very good at what it does, shame about the health risks.

Then again, I doubt anyone in the 30's seriously considered that carpet-bombing cities might be a useful thing to turn the nation's purpose towards. By the time Bomber Harris got his war on, there weren't many Brits who would dare speak against it.

Anyone who'd read Von Clausewitz might have expected carpet bombing, more or less. Maybe not in 1930, but later in the 30's certainly. Destroying their industrial capacity to wage war and all that jazz is pretty central. Granted your average housewife might not (I'm not your average 2013 housewife either) but given things like the much more overtly paramilitary nature of the Scouts and so on, I think it might not have been that much of a surprise to a fair proportion of the population.

We, and indeed terrorists, still apply some of the same lessons today. Terrorists attack transport infrastructure in big cities because it causes maximum disruption of our capacity. OK, that has a variety of other effects too, but it's still a disruption of our industrial capacity. During the invasion of Iraq the US and UK beat hell out of the airfields to stop air support, then tanks and factories that make tanks. In a fast campaign, taking out the airfields is more important than the factories that make planes because it takes a long time to make a new airfield and they expected (pretty much correctly) to have won the majority of the fighting war by then.

I must admit I was more surprised to see Dubya publicly supporting torture. Even soldiers that accept it might happen to them really doubt its usefulness. And countries that are supposed to be leaders on human rights and freedom of speech and so on to actively, publicly speak in favour of torture - not so good.


I suppose the question is, what occurrences there are in modern times of large aircraft (as opposed to the odd Cessna or similar) hitting large buildings that either the anticipated 707 or the actual 767 impacts can be compared to. The 1945 B25 was the previous one that I'd ever heard of, and a B25 is tiny in comparison (twin piston engines).

Also, a clean shallow dive is not what the designers will have anticipated either. I think we found out that in this case, the designers' absolute worst case scenario was exceeded, and when that happens, the outcome can be pretty awful.

I hope we never find out what an A380 would do. An awful lot of them spend a lot of time near the Burj Khalifa.


That does sound a little too much like the background to that plane crash in Greece.


Then again, I doubt anyone in the 30's seriously considered that carpet-bombing cities might be a useful thing to turn the nation's purpose towards. By the time Bomber Harris got his war on, there weren't many Brits who would dare speak against it.

Watch the original black-and-white Alexander Korda "Things to Come" if you can - from H.G.Wells' "The Shape of Things to Come". The book came out in 1933; the film in 1936.

Wells and Korda (like many) assumed that chemical weapons would be used against civilian populations; that's why you see the near-ubiquitous gas mask carriers in photos of the UK from WW2. Memories were still sharp of the Zeppelin and Gotha bombing raids on London from 1915 to 1918; millions of soldiers who had served in the Great War were only too aware of the perils of CW. I don't think there was any great surprise when the Germans started their strategic bombing campaign in WW2; the bombing of Guernica in 1937 was widely-known event.

Firstborn's Primary 7 year group are studying WW2 until Christmas. On September 3rd, they listened to a recording of Chamberlain's 3-Sep-1939 radio announcement. Under an hour later, an air raid siren was sounded in their classrooms - because that was how long it took on that day in 1939 (false alarm - the first raid on the UK was a month later near Edinburgh, the Luftwaffe were trying to hit the RN in Rosyth).


The chap between Clausewitz and terror bombing was Giulio Douhet. He died in 1930. and in 1936 the Wells/Korda movie Things To Come starts with a surprise air raid on an English city. The claim that "The bomber always gets through" was made by Baldwin in 1932, and with the technology available it was near enough right. In some ways the political thinking of the 1930s was similar to the Cole War era of MAD.

But the Star Wars program of the time used the Supermarine Spitfire.


What I love about the demolition conspiracy theory is picturing the planning session.

A darkened, smoke filled room. One shadowy figure speaks "Okay so our cruise missiles holographically camouflaged as airliners will hit the buildings and bring them down giving us a casus... what is it now Bob?" he says, testily, as a scritching writing noise distracts him from his speech.

"Well... I've been running the numbers and it looks like the impact won't be enough to bring down the buildings"

"What? Are you sure? We need those buildings to go down! Whole thing is pointless otherwise!"

"Err... numbers don't lie... melting point of steel... it's obvious to any engineer worth his salt"

An awkward silence ensues until one voice pipes up: "No problem folks, I happen to have a batallion of special forces mute ninja demolitions experts on hand, I can get hem to wire the buildings up for demolition next weekend. Might have to dissapear some of the cleaning staff while they're at it but they're all wetbacks, no one'll notice, haw!"

"Can you donumber 7 too, they have some mortgage papers on file there I wouldn't mind going up in smoke"

"No problem buddy!"

The first voice speaks again "Well, that's all sorted then. Charlene, make a note to send a memo to our contact in the BBC so they can get their reports in bright and early, we wouldn't want them to get distracted with some royal gossip and miss our big event"

"Sure thing boss!"


Oh hush. Fresh installation of the required tonnes of demolition charges would be way too obvious. If you've ever seen film of professional buildings demolition, you'll note that there is det-cord running everywhere and holes drilled in just about every vertical surface.

No, the buildings were constructed back in 1973 ready-to-blow. What's not yet been revealed (too embarrassing) is that somebody accidentally pressed the big red button when they didn't mean to. There is a cover up, but it's been by Howard the janitor.


Occupying Afghanistan is good for the Afghans.

BS. The occupiers also destroy stuff, bribe officials and interfere with the opium production (which despite occupation accounts for about half the GDP and provides 92% of the world's production).


Some obscure fellow called Wells wrote a book, published in 1907, in which cities were razed by attack from the air. And there were more than just Douhet in love with the idea of carpet bombing cities.
Heck the RAF was gearing up to mass heavy bombing raids before WW1 ended, only it did so before they could prove the point one way or another.

It's that strange attractor again!


As to the type of coating used on what floors, the engineers who designed it said the size, fuel load, etc... of the plane that hit it likely blew off much of that during impact and early in the burn. Didn't really matter what it was made of.

As to Charlie's speculation about the lift shafts as chimneys, I suspect not so much.

All of the doors on the floors below and above the impact would be closed automatically. Plus the shafts would have lifts in them. And most of the shafts to the floors impacted would have only local lift service. The lifts in the towers were done in a staged manner. Express to 1/3 and 2/3s of height. Then locals for each 1/3. With a few "all the way" for special situations and tourists to the top.

While not much planning was done for a fully fuel loaded 767 impacting, a lot of the building code on lifts has to do with how to keep the lifts from becoming chimneys and/or death traps.

And windows were designed such that the only way to open them would be to break them out. This would stop air intake that could feed the shafts.

I think I've replaced all my memory typing of elevators with lifts. :)


What have we learned.

IMNERHO, way too many people will jump from that doesn't make sense to ME to there must be a conspiracy.

Tower 7 comes to mind. Since I can't believe it could happen that way, someone has to be lying about it. Especially since I know nothing about structural engineering and the people I think are lying to us do.

Just one example. There is a comment upstream about how the pieces were carried away in trucks. Well they were delivered in truck sized pieces. Smash them to bits by dropping them a few 100 to 1000 feet and just what. They tend to fracture along the construction joints into "WOW" truck sized bits. And when clearing things up the easiest way to take things apart that stayed stuck together is typically along the construction joints. What a conspiracy!


resh installation of the required tonnes of demolition charges would be way too obvious.

Over here they made a documentary about the changes made after the Oops on the Citicorp tower. This was before they had computer analysis and the street level cantilever was added AFTER all the manual load calcs had been done. Long after the building was up and fully occupied they realized the mistake and discovered that there was a good chance the building would fall over in a light hurricane.

A plan was put into place where they literally welded extra steel into the corners for much of the building. Then they instituted a "re-modeling" campaign where they went floor to floor moving people out of the corner offices while they welded structural steel in them.

Everyone knew something was going on, but there WAS a conspiracy of the real reason why. And the city officials were in on the act. There was also a survey being done where they built up a contact data base of everyone who lives or worked within the fall zone, in case the fix didn't beat the weather. And it almost didn't.


Hmm. Wikipedia contradicts my memory of how the problem go to be but confirms the conspiracy to keep it quiet. The article isn't clear if the NYC officials were informed or not.


There was nothing really to learn from that event other then the general level of detachment from reality in most lf the world was a little higher then that I had previously thought.

Everything played out with a dreary predictability. The US got upset and found some people to kill at ridculois expense to take the edge off. Europe continued its pattern of the last fifty years of complaining loudly and doing nothing. Lots and lots of brown people died. Surprisingly few white people died. Go figure.

The only surprising thing to me was the US did better in the military campaigns then I had thought especially when it came to casualties, robotic warfare is closer then I had originally guessed


As to the conspiracy theorists, I had the unfortunate experience of being mid-town watching fuzzy Spanish TV ( the main channels were down as the antenna were on the WTC) and proclaiming that the towers would fall. In retrospect, I wish I had kept my mouth shut, but I was lucky enough to have some great structural/civil lecturers at Uni who had emphasized that a) Fire Protection buys you time, before the Steel heats up (not melts) and b) the Ronan Point collapse( which by the way triggered a major design code change in high rise building design in the UK).

So yes, I have no truck with the conspiracy theorists.

But to Charlie's larger point, 9/11 triggered a major unability to think logically.I can't have been the only engineer to know that the Towers would collapse, why were the heroic fireman charging up the stairs - with no way to fight the fires. Within 24 hours it should have been clear that no-one survived but thousands of people were out there, ignoring basic haz-mat training and breathing God knows what for weeks.

I could go on and on, some recent articles on the $4.3 billion PATH station confirm the madness continues.

9/11 was such a shock, especially to NY/NJ' s highly politicized systems of governance, and additionally to the quite frankly delusional Federal Government ( I don't meant that to be political, a certain Scottish SF author made a convincing case that things wouldn't be that different under a Gore Government) that it brought a period of collective craziness, that even now, I would argue, the US is still struggling to recover from


Firefighters always charge in, that's their job. I laud them for their bravery, but I wish their necks were a lot more flexible, shall we say. Even if they knew the buildings were going to come down, they'd just say they can pull a few more people out before the buildings go down, whatever the Ten Commandments of Fire Safety say.


If the US governmemt can't keep secrets for some time why are the Snowden files such big news?

Because they are irrefutable proofs of illegal activities by the US government, not because we learned anything fundamentally new. Most of what was revealed by Snowden was already assumed a rather fine details by security savvy people, just check the talks of the Chaos Computer Club. The only thing that came as a surprise was the budget of the CIA. For the rest, all we learned was the codewords of the projects and that sort of details.

What Snowden revealed was open secrets, like the Israeli nuclear bomb. If you did not know that the NSA practiced population-wide interception, it would have been because you were not interested in the matter; anyone with a passing interest and basic arithmetic could have inferred as much from the size of the buildings of the NSA.

Incidentally, this is the reason why those who claim that Snowden is a traitor who provided crucial information to the terrorists and the pedophiles are full of it. What Snowden did was merely snap our societies out of their denial.


The interceptor (e.g. Spitfire) was part of what was important, the integrated air defence system. South-east England in 1939 had the first effective one of these, due to years of work (implementation led by Dowding). One of the lessons of the time was that military hardware is of limited use if you don't have the ability to send it to where it is needed, when it is needed.


Hm, I'm not that sure about that. BTW, I had some problems with parsing your comment, sorry if I understood something wrong, at least part of the confusion stems from me bringing in non-political violence...

Oh, and sorry for looking like the prejudiced stereotyping jock I am, first of, whale biologist (the phylogenetic data I'm looking at contains some cetaceae), I just say it like it is, and then, I'm with the Shadwell school of racism, I just have a general distrust for Southeneres, and I'm the only one at the North Pole. Err, whatever...

In general, hormones and behaviour are complex stuff, and HSS is notorious for the diverse reproductive strategies it employs, so it's somewhat difficult to generalize, especially over closely related, but somewhat divergent cultures (mainstream Western vs. your friendly neighbour hool, Western vs. Middle Eastern etc.).

Still, it seems like being a caring father is correlated with low testosterone levels, and this might not just be a case of low testosterone levels eventually making men more homely, as it seems like active fatherhood dampens testosterone production. Makes sense from a reproductive strategy POV, high male investment seems to go for well nourished, somewhat protected "high quality" offspring, risk taking is not that compatible with this strategy, and then, the energy for this has to come from somewhere since there already is a tradeoff between quality and quantity. As an added bonus, if we go with the pater familias thing dear to quite a few cultures, at least in some primates low social status goes with low serotonin, leading to a somewhat short temper, funny thing is, feeding SSRIs to those makes them not just well mannered, but also leads to a rise in social status. And raising status changes serotonin levels. Yeah, cute.

So, well, having to care for a pregnant female and some kids might be exactly the kind of thing that keeps young men from becoming violent political or apolitical thugs, though of course, that might not works for some, and since we are already going for endocrinological determinism, keeping clear of parents with cubs is generally a sound idea with mammals. Though then, in this case it's usually the females to be aware of.

I don't have any statistics to back this, but anecdotal evidence of various young maladjusted males going about their friends going steady being no more fun hanging with around, especially if there is family around.

Of course, if you look at it this way, being a violent thug is also something of a reproductive strategy, though one that is not correlated that much with high male parental investment, e.g. something similar to the notorious one night stand or other forms of male parental absenteeism. As for the women associated with this type of men, hm, the usual HSS partner choice paradigm and, again, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate there is some kind of assortative mating at play, where we would have females scoring high on impulsivity and like. Which would mean that violent behaviour is somewhat more common with female members of this demographic, too. As for reproductive strategies of the women involved, high impulsivity might mean many children, since acting on an impulse is not that known for being supportive of adherance to planned parenthood schemes, still, I guess this is not your standard Early Modern Western birth cycle and family structure with male investment from the father. It might be somewhat more compatible with cultures where male investment comes predominantly from male relatives of the mother. Yes, I have this strange grin when my father visits his nephews and nieces, why do you ask?

Which IMHO fits somewhat with the data for political violence at hand, AFAIK none of the 9/11 hijackers were married, and neither was Breivik. Osama Bin Laden was married and had children, but I guess it's somewhat different for the higher echelons here. For non-political violence I'd have to look up some statistics.

As for associations between political violence and family structure on the level of a culture, well, I guess it's somewhat more complicated there, too.

First of, as already mentioned, there are already female fighters/terrorists in the Muslim world, the Chechens are somewhat notorious for that; while Chechens are culturally quite distinct from the Arabs we're talking about with 9/11, there are examples with the latter, too. And if you want to go with precedents, it seems there were some shield maiden in early Islamic Arabia, too:

In general, while I think there are some genetically determined differences between men and women on a population level, there is quite some individual overlap; also note that the same mechanisms that lead to women being seen as second class in some cultures, e.g. low level warfare being common and important, males being better suited for said kind of warfare, warriors being more likely to be killed and thus in short supply etc. also mean that in certain circumstances male warriors are in such a short supply that women have to fulfill at least some aspects of the warrior role. Which might explain some strange ideosyncracies.

On another level, AFAIK most Muslim societies are quite far into the demographic transition and industrialisation, and the reason real Marxists, as opposed to the pampered high-born no-talent pseudointellectuals that play some, love capitalism is that if you want to compete with it, you have to become like it, and as the saying goes, modes of production shape societies.

To elaborate, lower infant mortality first of leads to a higher number of surviving children and high population growth; since contrary to Heinlein there is some free lunch, but the reservation is something of a bitch, best way to give your children a good start is good education or at least high attractivity (health or plastic surgery) to marry them off with an advantageous party. Which means higher investment, which means either very unequal treatment or less children. Of course, if we go with the latter strategy this means not necessarily more time for women, since they spend the same amount of time on less children.

At the same time, automatisation and new mechanical devices, see industrialisation, mean there is less drudgery with the household, which would really mean more time for women in a culture where cooking, keeping clean etc. are women's work.

The same automatisation means that the physical advantage men might have over women in some areas are not that important anymore, and women can easily do men's work. Yeah, I know this is again more of a "population level" thing, individually, there was always some overlap.

And automatisation means that for various reasons, educated workers that can take different roles are important; so we get compulsary education, which also means women at home have some spare time.

Now wage labor, like any product, is subject to the "laws" of demand and supply, more workers means lower wages; and one half of the population sitting idle at home is not an oppurtunity to miss, don't tell me you think managers press for affordable kindergartens because they are good at heart.

Which lowers wages, which means products have to become cheaper; which means more automatisation and another go on the slippery slope of modern industrial society. Yeah, I simplify things somewhat.

It has happened and is still happening in the West, and it also happens in the Muslim world. Going against it is nostalgia or idiocy. Please note that I somewhat doubt the people subject to this will become mellow freeloving hippies, the chief-suffragette from my class joining the youth organization of the German conservatives cured me of illusions in this vain.


Hm, I'm not that sure about that. BTW, I had some problems with parsing your comment, sorry if I understood something wrong, at least part of the confusion stems from me bringing in non-political violence...

My question is this. Do guys who tend to violence tend to tie down "their women" with child rearing more than other guys. So the women that might be more violent tend to be stuck with the kids more then their non violent counter parts who may not be having to spend as much time raising kids.

Yes i know the above statement is blunt and sexist. That iss somewhat my point.


I'd also speculate that the lift shafts may have acted as chimneys, funneling fresh air into the combustion zone to keep the flames burning hot (and weakening the steel structural core).

Point apropos to this - Buildings the sort of age of the WTC tend to use said chimneys, er lift shafts as a significant part of the structure, and that is where the fire will burn hottest.


What have we learned? How about this: Science and technology is giving individuals more destructive power than ever, and it will only increase from now on. When all you have is knifes, a civilian could cut down 1 or 2 people; with automatic weapons a kid could slaughter a dozen. Before 9/11, people just don't realize how much kinetic and chemical energy a pilot has on his hand, much more powerful than an AK-47. Fortunately (or unfortunately) we're not doing so good on increasing the energy density we can casually control, so 9/11 is probably the biggest boom you'll see in a while. But we're getting very good progress on biotech, so it is not unconceivable that biotech could give individual the power to harm millions in the foreseeable future. The question is, what are you going to do about it.


"That people will trade any freedom for the feel of security"

And to add sh*t frosting to an already disgusting cake, they'll brag about how tough-minded and brave they are for giving up their freedom.


No, no - it wasn't an accident. They had to blow the building up then, because the repair work would have revealed that it was constructed ready-to-blow. Even worse, the pattern of the demolition explosives encoded the last known location of the holy grail, and imagine if that got out!


Wow, I'd never even heard of that. This, folks, is what a proper conspiracy looks like. And damned if they didn't get away with it for a good, long time.


Yep. Basically because it didn't fall down, so those people who may have noted the work then forgot about it.

Image what the reaction would have been if it had blown down — there would have been an immediate connection in people's minds between the work and the collapse, even though it would have been an attempt to prevent it.


9/11 wasn't the first terrorist attack to be used as an excuse for implementing surveillance-state elements, by a long shot. I'm not sure we learned anything, in particular; it's just that this particular event happened in a sweet spot technologically wherein airport databases, clandestine service databases, and the military already were computerized, surveillance and communications tech was cheap and fast, and portable communication tech was starting to become ubiquitous.

When someone tried to bomb the WTC five years earlier, there weren't similarly wide-reaching results. That said, around that period, it's not as though there wasn't government scaremongering and some arguably highly immoral acts in the name of 'national security' (the ATF raids of the Branch Davidian compound & the Ruby Ridge compound, supposedly to shut down drug & weapons rings, were notoriously overkill insomuch as the buildings were burnt down with little kids inside, and certain techniques familiar from descriptions of Guantanamo Bay 'interrogations' -- the use of repeating music for psychological warfare, for instance -- were used there). I suspect that if police and military databases were fully computerized and integrated at that time, there would have been a big push for certain kinds of surveillance.


I'm sorry if this sounds like an ad hominem, it's not meant as such but anyone who didn't realise technology was putting a lot more energy in our hands, and therefore a lot more destructive potential in our hands year on year, really wasn't paying attention.

9/11 might have illustrated it to anyone who wasn't paying attention in a really spectacular way but I really hope it's a small subset of the population that learnt that. It might be a bigger subset that learnt just how much damage we can do now.


Wow, I'd never even heard of that. re: citicorp

Nova did a show on it a while back. Likely available in their library online.

Quick, computers don't exist except as terminals tied to rack sized things at a minimum. Build a data base of everyone living or working within 1500 of a building in Manhattan. And don't let people know you are doing it.


Well, I misunderstood you somewhat then, I was more thinking about traditional Western or Middle Eastern gender roles and not repeat teenage pregnancies, which would be the term for the age group we're talking about. Please note that the age when building a family is somewhat subject to trends, AFAIK the early building of a family in Early Modern times was itself an innovation compared with earlier times, where only one male heir was allowed to marry, and marriage was somewhat late, though engagement, which might include some forms of sex, was early. And, well there are quite some forms of non-penetrative sex or methods for lowering chance/risk of conception.

As for your question, for the part of violent males having a higher chance/risk of becoming father, well yes:

As for the dynamics, we could ask, impulsivity, drug use of the disinhibiting conception and forgetting/forfeiting contraception might be factors, and some women report something like feeling "forced" into pregnancies, though post-hoc rationalisations might account for part of the latter answer in one study:

Whatever, intimate partner violence is a risk factor for repeat pregnancies:

For the part of putting a bigger part of the nurturing burden on them, I haven't looked that much for studies, but if we look at relation of testosterone to nurturing, I guess yes,

and it seems that is not just a Western feature:

(Note: Finding a culture not influenced somewhat by Western life style today is tough; as is doing brain scans, even if not on dead salmons, doing hormone status without influencing said hormone status, even if not doing stress hormones with capturing wild animals, and doing statistical analysis. And keeping your variables seperate and significant, in the study above, the polygynous men had higher testosterone then the monogamous ones. Problem, in many polygynous societies multiple wives are nonetheless somewhat rare, since only the wealthy can afford it. Which leads to the nice alternative explanation of not multiple wives but economic success or stress tied to high testosterone. Err, sorry for digressing, but I guess quoting studies with a evolpsych/neuroimaging bent necessitates mentioning some warning. Also note that the whole link with early pregnancy and aggression might be dur to low socioeconomic status. Generally, asking the hen-egg question is both important to keep your mind open and useless at arriving at a conclussion. Which, as we all know, is: The dinos.)

As for mechanisms maybe at work beside lack of nurturing instincts keeping violent males from their children, let's just start with incarceration, and I guess a short temper is not that good when dealing with little children. That does not mean that your somewhat violent gang member with tattoos is necessarily a bad father, but if he is, well, chances are he won't stay a violent gang member, since listening to baby cries and nurturing lowers testosterone, BTW, only listening to baby cries heightens it:

OTOH, we all know how dreaming of change through the power of love usually ends, so lets stop there.

As for the women subject to said pregnancies likely being more violent themselves, well, maybe, in one study, level of aggression was a risk factor for repeat pregnancy

Though again, this is something of a hen-egg problem, being subjected to repeated unplanned pregnancies, with or without being dumped by the partner, would get me aggressive, I think.

Also note that maybe both violence and repeat teenage pregnancies are a result of high lead exposure:

Or low socioeconomic status. Or whatever.

Is this significant for occupying violent women with raising children?

Well, here I'm not that sure; if you look at predictors of repeat pregnancy, it seems "not raising the children themselves" was a risk factor in a Brazilian study,

which might either mean women not raising their children have more time to get pregnant again, but also women having repeat pregnancies not being that good with nurturing themselves. Please note testosterone is present in females and has actions there, too, though I'm not that up-to-date with the exact nature of said effects on female behaviour, first guess would be "similar to males", but I'm not that certain. And since at least with mother-child-bonding, behavioural changes in mothers need interaction, less interaction would also mean there might not be that much psychological change. To make a long story short, it violent women have twice as many children, but only spend a third of the time on parenting other women do, they would still be less affected by getting children than non-violent females. I spare you the anecdotal evidence...

Is a high rate of repeat teenage pregnancies a moderating factor on violence and delinquency in predisposed females? Not that sure about that one, again, I have some anecdotal evidence with, err, "troubled" "girls" somewhat calming down with pregnancy and raising children, but these were quite deliberately not repeat teenage pregnancies, more "one or two kids" early twenties pregnancies. And then, it might be interesting to compare "no intervention" to "early pregnancy with repeat as intervention", if we look at the graph, violent crime drops off after a certain age, it might be that happens faster in early mothers, but the missed oppurtunities with education etc. and lower socioeconomic status lead to a higher rate of violence in later years.

Also note that the children born to said pregnancies are usually born into troubled circumstances, which, even if we take genetic loadings with impulsivity etc. out of the equaltion, would mean a higher risk of becoming a violent offender themselves.

Or teenage mothers:

(BTW, the paper on MAOA also shows that children of violent fathers, e.g. with a certain MAOA allele, need not become violent themselves.)

I guess it also depends somewhat on the culture in question, since the rate of teenage pregnancies differs somewhat between different countries and different times, with the USA as an outlier with regards to the Western world:

Other countries have lower levels of teenage pregnancy, but violent ccrime, e.g. homicide, is not higher or even lower,

though finding data splitted by sex is somewhat difficult. At least, it seems the relation to partner violence is not that clear. If teenage pregnancy was the prime mover of aggressive females from the pool, countries with a high rate of teenage pregnancies would have lower rates of violence by females, while at least with intimate partner violence at colleges, this is somewhat not the case, yeah, I know college students and general population differ somewhat:


So by taking measures to switch to global best practice for road safety, the USA could save as many lives as died on 9/11 within six months.

We don't react to threats, we react to challenges. Random chance of death is not a challenge. It cannot force a community to alter its policy. It will not grow worse by inaction. An ineffective reaction to it will not encourage others to also attack.
That also explains why the reactions to Anders Breivick and Timothy McVeigh were so muted. In both cases there was no organisation behind their attacks.


We don't react to threats, we react to challenges.

If that were true, we would be doing something about global warming.

What we really react to, on a social level, is villains. 95% of human politics takes the form "Those guys are assholes. Lets kick their ass."


I suspect what we react to is actually demons, not villains. It doesn't have to be a person or group that's painted as the target, SOPA and PIPA got demonised and kicked pretty hard where it hurt for example.

I think the problem with global warming is essentially a lobbying one. On both sides of the pond. The activists by and large aren't big money while the oil and nuclear industries do have that behind them. Equally renewables in certain areas are pretty unpopular: I genuinely understand the NIMBY attitude to wind turbines - even one is pretty ugly, 100 on your moor is really nasty - even as I say they're a damn site better than an oil field and burning oil products and all the rest. It prevents a really clear message and demonisation. Without that, we don't see clear progress.

If the UK government really stopped lobbying with their bill (yeah, right) and decided to really do green things (not this one, given their track record, but the last one made a number of pretty green noises and some less green decisions too) they could decide as part of that process to really demonise a string of activities and promote others as virtuous and I bet the UK would stop being a net contributor to global warming within a very short time. Whether the world would follow suit or not is a different question of course.


Global warming is not caused intentionally. We react to challenges behind which we suspect enemies or competitors.


The science supporting global warming is starting to look very dodgy.

The connection between carbon dioxide and fossil fuels suggests that global warming may have led to us doing some of the right things for the wrong reasons.


At this point it's a bit difficult, I'd think, for an intellectually honest person to "have no truck with conspiracy theorists" regarding the events of 9/11. In the first place, the official narrative is itself a theory about a conspiracy between "a few extremely well trained young men" with boxcutters and their jihadi support network.

But the official conspiracy narrative about the fall of the towers (which was already somewhat dubious at the time, at least among some of the structural engineers and demolitions experts who had been paying attention to the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Pentagon and WTC Building 7, to say nothing of the Oklahoma City bombing) has frayed considerably since then. There are just too many holes and inconsistencies in that story, and too much glaring evidence of government coverup. Kevin Ryan, the site manager for Underwriters Laboratories who, after being fired for voicing his concerns about the methodology used by UL in the NIST investigation of the WTC collapse, went full-time "truther", has a kept a carefully researched blog about his findings, and written a couple of books as well. Other members of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (and there are over 2000 of them now) are worth listening to as well. These people are not cranks. They are not crazy. They are technically knowledgeable people who are simply exercising their basic capacities for critical thinking in a world full of well-documented government lies and conspiracies, from at least Iran-Contra onward. This is just on the engineering front, to say nothing of direct whistleblower testimony from (for example) FBI translator Sibel Edmonds and CIA asset Susan Lindauer.

In my mind, the events of September 11, 2001 are bracketed by two important items of historical record. On the one hand, we have the Project for the New American Century's call for a "catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor" about one year earlier. On the other hand, we have the hurried passage, six weeks later, of the USA-PATRIOT Act, a massive compendium of broad extensions to the national security state and abridgements of civil liberties. This is roughly concurrent with the start of two new massive (and tremendously profitable) military adventures, in first Afghanistan and then Iraq.

I'm fairly young: these past twelve years represent over a third of my life. I don't post much to blogs, and I've never read this one before today, although I have enjoyed a couple of your novels, Charles. I got here by following a link from Bruce Schneier's blog. I don't know what "we" have learned as a society, but I know that I'm not alone in having learned quite a bit over that time about the US military-industrial complex, the rigged games of international finance and oil politics, and what's called the "deep state." It saddens me to see scoffing, offhand, thoughtless dismissals of those who would question the official version of that history. We dissenters from the official conspiracy theory are not all "boring" or paranoid. Perhaps at least some of us are simply brave or uncommitted enough to allow ourselves to see the extent of the corruption within which we all live. And we are not so uncommon, anymore. I hope someday you'll join us, and we can begin to hope for genuine justice.


By the way, does anyone else here recall the story of Convar GmbH recovering financial data from World Trade Center hard drives? Puts a few of these things in some perspective, I think.


You'll have to elaborate before I can tell if you're typing pure mince or not, although this sort of thing can take this well off topic.

Although relatedly, the anti-envioronmentalist campaigns since 2001 have shown how you can fool just enough people and keep the others too busy trying to make a living, and lie about the science enough that everyone gets confused and things just don't get done, to the benefit of the status quo.


If you're suggesting the US government is directly responsible for the actions of the Hamburg cell in making 9/11 happen, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you the freehold of.

On the other hand: if you're suggesting that the PNAC folks were just waiting for an excuse to throw some punk middle eastern country up against a wall just to show everyone else who's top dog, or that the law enforcement lobby had a giant omnibus bill of repressive measures waiting just in case someone set fire to the Reichstag, then I'll nod along.

There are generally two types of workable conspiracy: conspiracies to sweep shit under the rug (see, for example, the Hillsborough disaster), and conspiracies to seize advantage of an opportunity, and the aftermath of 9/11 does indeed appear to be one of the latter.

However, the difficulty of actually setting up an event like 9/11, and the horrendous risk of blowback if the conspiracy was uncovered, suggests to me that it was indeed Al Qaida (it wasn't even their first attempt on the WTC, and the second time round they just got lucky).

Nor is it very conceivable that anyone in the national security complex -- or their political supervisors -- deliberately turned a blind eye to word of the conspiracy. Yes, there were signals that should have been spotted: but cock-ups happen regularly, and there's no need to invoke conspiracy to explain that which is adequately accounted for by incompetence. Especially as the conspiracy requires a fiendish level of foresight and a willingness to look like a complete tool at best if someone else spots (and deals with) the evil plotters before they strike. And especially when we are attributing incompetence as an alternative to conspiracy, in an administration that has famously been described as the most incompetent one since Warren Harding.

Final note: beware of engineers bearing conspiracy theories. Engineers work in a universe dominated by intelligent design (that of other engineers); they therefore have a predisposition to see an invisible hand behind every contingency, even when it's just a case of bad shit happening.


Equally renewables in certain areas are pretty unpopular: I genuinely understand the NIMBY attitude to wind turbines - even one is pretty ugly, 100 on your moor is really nasty

I live about 200 yards from one small wind turbine (make unknown, even after a quick Google). It is not just ugly, but noisy enough to be heard when I'm outside, and is visually annoying when the disc shadow hits the house windows.


about 200 yards from one small wind turbine

In the US the ones the are building are nearly that tall. Or taller. When a blade is at the top of the rotation. I understand those make some really annoying low frequency sounds.


Well, I live in the middle of a small village; only a sociopath would put a 100m wind turbine in a location like that!

I also live about 1 mile from the end of the runway at the local airport, and still complain more about the wind turbine than about the aeroplanes (well the airport was there first).


My point was it's not hard to find locals most anywhere who don't want one or a dozen or gross of these anywhere nearby. They will almost always vote to burn more Power River Basin dirt. :)

even one is pretty ugly, 100 on your moor is really nasty

Well, I guess it depends somewhat if you're the owner of said moor or not and get money out of it. Anecdotal evidence suggest some farmers in Northern Westphalia are quite happy with it, though I might be mistaken...


Undoubtedly; similarly, mine was that "environmental nuisance" from them genuinely extends beyond "I can see them from 20 miles away".

As to the airport comment; I meant that the airport was built about 55 years before I moved to the village, so I have no right to complain about it even though it's noisier than the turbine.


Nasty aesthetically.

I support the principle of renewable energy sources. I'm certainly in favour of them from that point of view. I don't object to land-owners making money from them.

I quite like a lot of modern minimalist architecture and some engineering solutions. But I find it hard to imagine anyone finding them attractive to the eye or ear.

Nasty aesthetically.

Well, I guess, the people in question think the money is quite aesthetical... ;)

Personally, my main problem is the sound: for the looks, it could hardly get worse, we're talking about an area where the special feature is the lack of special features, e.g. its uniformity.

Though I guess thinking nuclear devastation would have been a change for the better stresses it somewhat:


Nasty aesthetically

And visible for 20 miles or more depending on terrain. :)


Like you, I like renewables, but (like you) I've certainly gotten an earful of the problems with wind turbines. Ever heard of turbine jump or stray voltage? Keep reading.

Turbine jump is what happens when the transmission fails on a turbine, usually when the blades are revolving at high speed, as during a wind storm. All that kinetic energy goes somewhere, and one of the common failure modes is that the turbine blades jump off the turbine (individually or en masse) and go flying. I've heard they can fly up to a kilometer, but I honestly don't know how far they can fly. This is one reason why building a huge turbine in the middle of a populated area is kind of not smart.

The other failure mode, incidentally, is that the transmission and/or turbine melt down, spraying flaming bits around the base in a diameter approximately as wide as the turbine is tall. Kind of messy, and they have started fires. Did I mention that turbines usually fail during high winds? Yeah, high winds and flaming debris really don't belong together, unless there's a lot of rain too.

The stray voltage issue is one that's a bugbear of all power plants. Suffers claim that it makes their lives unlivable, rots the hoofs off cattle, and so forth, and it may well do so. Proving it's a problem is messy. Thing is, all that energy the windmill's generating has to go somewhere, and I've seen proposals (for all I know, it's SOP) to simply ground the electricity out if there's no buyer for it when it's produced.

Still, turbines are better than the idea of putting a natural gas plant between an interstate freeway, a major rail line, and the base of the runway for a Marine aviation station. They proposed that one, oh, a few years ago. The nearby residents screamed bloody murder, and hopefully the idea will go away quietly and die somewhere. Gotta love the idea of a warplane crashing on takeoff, blacking out half a city when it caused the power plant to explode, and the resulting fire blocking most of the routes into and out of the area. And they worked on the design for two years before they asked anyone whether it was safe or not.

It's amazing that I used to think all engineers were actually clever and safety-conscious. Silly me.


I've seen proposals (for all I know, it's SOP) to simply ground the electricity out if there's no buyer for it when it's produced.

That's just dumb. Wind power is irregular and unsuitable for base load anyway; what it should be used for when it goes outside whatever the local grid can handle is Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of methane, or maybe pumped compressed-air storage for load balancing. In other words, storing the surplus energy in a usable form (modulo efficiency losses incurred in the storage process).


You're not getting any argument for me about the abysmal stupidity of that particular proposal. The idea with the ground-out dopes is that storage is more expensive than dumping voltage. I honestly don't get it, because I thought most turbines came with a neutral setting on the clutch to let the blades freewheel at need.

That said, I have heard first-hand reports of turbines that may have been improperly grounded making life miserable for those who live nearby.


Random vicious thought for the day, about how little we've learned.

In the past, I've grumbled that the CIA is a major world polluter, because the more useful parts of its insurgent skill and tech arsenal inevitably finds its way to criminal games, insurgents, and malcontents. Ideas have a long half-life, and they're a pain to clean up, are they not? Personally, I wonder how much IED tech originally came from CIA labs and was adapted in the Middle East.

Be that as it may, my negative idea for the day is to wonder what happens when all that nifty NSA and other agency crypto-tech gets away from the big boys that are running it right now, and starts showing up as scripts for, shall we say, disenfranchised youth. After all, Moore's Law is still cranking away, and what needs a dedicated server farm and specialized chipsets right now might run on a cell phone in 10 or 20 years. Happy fun, don't you think?


Whether or not there's a clutch, they can feather the vanes to switch the bloody thing off - it's a safety feature for high winds, but its utility is not restricted to when under high load. Unless they've made it a solely mechanical failsafe that triggers above a certain rotational speed, in which case we're back to engineers being idiots.


Yeah, that too. I'm glad you remembered it. One hopes that the argument for letting them dump voltage was coming from a pundit, and not someone in the industry.

Of course, there's something sad about assuming that pundits are idiots too, come to think of it. It would be nice to get away from the stupids a bit more often.


The basic mechanism of an alternator, as found on your car, uses output current to generate the magnetic field. Bootstrapping a generator set can be tricky if the Grid is down.

Anyway, apart from mechanical blade feathering, controlling the output of a wind generator is pretty standard electrical engineering. It does interact with blade feathering, since cutting the output allows the system to speed up.


I've not been able to find the story I was looking for (happened in Scotland) of a turbine nacelle catching fire but staying up its 100m pole (so impossible for the Fire Service), but did find several stories of turbines losing one or more blades in the process.


Was this the event you were thinking of?


Current thinking is that this problem is solved with (1) Supergrids, such as the European Supergrid (2) Smart networks / devices.

Supergrids, connecting Ireland to Britain to France and Scandanavia, to North Africa ... basically, sell on the power elsewhere. Wind power / solar is essentially predictable, and can replace most baseload on a large enough scale.

Smart devices: we are moving from a constant-demand and constant-supply world to a 'smarter' variable supply and demand one. On the supply side: wind and solar, etc. On demand: from fridges to more industrial scale (eg. large chemical facilities) manufacturing when/where power is cheap. But also, there is a lot of scope to store directly in electric vehicles. It makes no sense to build storage systems to store power for the grid (with consequent losses) if its going into a car battery ... just utilize a nations worth of batteries as the grid storage.

Its worth realizing that our current architecture with "base load" is itself a function of generation technology: i.e. the desire not to thermally cycle power stations. Its not an automatic given, and with sufficient predictability across power we can and are moving to a new dynamic architecture.

From a sufficient remove, there is a certain schadenfreude in looking at the "industrialization" of the countryside. Over the 20th and 21st centuries we have increasingly cleaned up the pollution in our cities. We now have trout, salmon and dolphins entering the rivers in Dublin, for example. Meanwhile the rich, who could afford to move out of the cities, are seeing their views ruined. Given that we have to generate the power somewhere, and most of the population now lives in cities, I'd be reluctant to say this is the wrong way to go ...


I'll point out that those who move to the countryside for the views and the piece and quiet are often sadly disappointed. The Irish countryside is already industrialized; it's the factory floor of a massive food production facility. Talk to any farmer in the new Dublin commuter belt and you'll collect a rich sample of new neighbours not figuring this out and complaining bitterly the first time they're woken by silage harvesting starting at 6am - or suffer through the field next door being spread with slurry.


Thanks for the thought, but I'm blocked from using Youtube (hardware contraints which IS are working on).


Ahh, but the good thing about wind power is that it's distributed. (as well as the entertainment value of a big fire of course)

By contrast, this century, Torness nuclear power station has had a number of problems which have led to it being shut down, sometimes for months. I.e. the entire station stopped feeding power to the grid. One was a lightning strike. ANother was radiation embrittlement of big metal cooling fans leading to them breaking, then there's the problems with jellyfish* and seaweed clogging the cooling intakes.

By contrast, when one turbine breaks down, the others can keep working.

  • Jellyfish are increasing thanks to climate change and our destruction of oceanic ecosystems, so look forwards to more problems with them.

We've learned that making short-haul flights inconvenient with security measures is what you need to do to make high-speed rail profitable.


You don't think that if high speed rail takes off in the US the security measures will not follow?

Or are you talking about the EU?


Supergrids cost lots of money to build and waste electricity in line transmission losses over long distances. They are only economical if the electricity being transmitted is really cheap at the generating end and/or paid for by high prices at the receiving end. The first British Supergrid construction in the 30s and later was designed to move cheap hydroelectric power from the Scottish highlands down into the central belt and thence into England where demand was increasing.

It is usually cheaper to build baseload generating capacity locally hence the construction of Drax in middle England and a bunch of localised nuclear plants on the coasts with the main grid connections being used to balance loads regionally rather than moving lots of power long distances. Baseload thermal stations need fuel though.

As for smart devices they also cost money to install and maintain and they break the consumer's expectation of something working when they want it to work, not when it is permitted by some robotic overlord balancing demand to meet a variable and (hopefully temporarily) insufficient supply.


Wind turbines feather their blades when the winds reach gale force but they also apply brakes to lock the driveshaft to prevent them "windmilling" as an overspeeding turbine will wreck the gearbox and generator if the brake fails in a storm and friction will sometimes cause a fire. If a blade comes off in a storm then the unbalanced load will usually destroy the entire tower head assembly and possibly bring down the tower too.

As for smart devices they also cost money to install and maintain and they break the consumer's expectation of something working when they want it to work, not when it is permitted by some robotic overlord balancing demand to meet a variable and (hopefully temporarily) insufficient supply.

As someone who already sets his washing machine to run at the dead of night to take advantage of cheap electricity, what do you think is the barrier to everyone loading their washing machine/dishwasher/dryer and specifying "do this load of washing/dishes/drying at a price point below $cash before this time, privileging time if necessary"? I don't care about what time the washing machine or dryer run at, I care about them being done by whenever I need fresh socks.

A smart grid is more complicated, but its pricing should be predictable (or be made so at the consumer end), modulo whole baseload power stations going dark accidentally.

Regards the feathering thing; thanks for pointing out the brake. The point was that the turbines can be shut down if there's overproduction, as opposed to just letting the power run to ground.


As someone who already sets his washing machine to run at the dead of night to take advantage of cheap electricity, what do you think is the barrier to everyone loading their washing machine/dishwasher/dryer and specifying

You must have a cleaner life than my house. Laundry usually means 3 to 5 loads at a time. If I did it once a day I'd have to have a lot of clothes stack up waiting for a reasonable amount of similar items to go in the wash. Jeans from yard work and replacing the alternator on the car don't mix well with my lady's lace things. Ditto dress shirts, etc..

We just let it accumulate for a few days then do as much as full loads make sense.

I don't care about what time the washing machine or dryer run at, I care about them being done by whenever I need fresh socks.

Which is fine when you need clean socks for next week, but much less good when a baby has just thrown up all over you and you don't want the house to stink of vomit.

It's also not much use if you're wanting to run something that's going to require a steady power supply for (say) twenty hours continuously. Smart grids are potentially a very good idea, but there are some problems that need consideration too.


what do you think is the barrier to everyone loading their washing machine/dishwasher/dryer and specifying "do this load of washing/dishes/drying at a price point below $cash before this time, privileging time if necessary"?

Too much choice is frequently an obstacle to effiency, not a benefit. Consider the headache of deciding what mobile phone tariff to buy; now imagine doing this whenever you have a load of laundry to run!

(Also: in my household, sometimes we run 2-3 washer/drier loads per week, at 1-3 day intervals. And then sometimes we run 2-3 loads per day for 2-3 consecutive days (if, say, we've gotten home from a month-long trip and decided to launder the bed linen). One-size-fits-all optimizations suck.)


Smartgrids potentially solve another problem, which is how to aggregate surplus generation from a number of distributed sources (solar panels, small wind turbines, biogas, etc.). The problem with these sources is that they come online discontinuously, and the grid has to be sufficiently smart to juggle all these separate loads so that it doesn't overload or brown out.

My local power company would rather tax solar panels out of existence than figure out how to solve the distributed load problem, or (at the least) they want the ability to remotely shut down your solar panels if they're connected to the grid, under the notion that, during a blackout, energy won't leak out of your solar panels to energize lines their employees think are dead. Yes, I know that some (or all) solar installations have automatic cutoffs to isolate the panels from the grid in event of a black-out. And yes, I know that any electrician worth his voltmeter isn't stupid enough to assume lines are dead without checking first. But that was their official line, at least last year.

Along with this deeply engrained culture of "we only buy electricity from isolated big power sources," there are a number of legal hurdles to overcome to make a smart grid work. For example, many people and most businesses don't own the roofs over their heads, so there's no legal option for them to put up solar panels. Similarly, a lot of building owners don't want to be in the business of selling power to their tenants. It's a lot of work for not a lot of money, and benefits tend to accrue to the tenant rather than the owner. Certainly, businesses are springing up to lease solar panels, but there's still the complexity of giving someone access to the roof and allowing them to install and maintain the leased panels. Magnify this up to the scale of a city (along with all the legal challenges of maintaining a smart grid when the thousands of generators are located on private roofs), and there's a mess of legal issues to disentangle. Everyone hopes it can be done, but very few communities want to be the first one to figure it out. I think a community in Florida is trying to work it out, and I hope they make it work.


this deeply engrained culture of "we only buy electricity from isolated big power sources,"

That's not entirely a cultural issue. Converting low voltage DC off a solar array to high voltage AC for the transmission grid requires some capital expense (not huge for a single site, but fairly big compared to the average customer's electric bill) and incurs some energy loss.


Entirely true, but I have to reveal some personal information to give an idea of the scale of the "ingrained culture" issue. My local provider is SDG&E. Their liability over the 2007 Cedar wildfire (sparked by their powerlines swinging together during a high wind) is somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million in property losses and death compensation.

SDG&E wants to pass that on to their customers, a plan which has been vigorously protested.

SDG&E was also partner to some, erm, inadvisable upgrades to the San Onofre nuclear power plant, resulting in the permanent closure of station and a cost of something over $4 billion in decommissioning costs.

SDG&E wants to pass their $900 million share of that cost onto their customers, a plan which has been vigorously protested.

By my accounting they're something like $1.4 billion into screwups already. I somehow doubt that changing their entire system into a distributed smart grid format would have been quite that expensive, and one study says that San Diego, unlike most places, has ample sunlight for its electrical grid. That's what culture does for you, I'm afraid.


Here is the United States, there's been an almost-sufficient amount of media attention paid to the 50th anniversary of a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, in which 4 young girls were murdered.

That was the 11th bombing in Birmingham that year. Local papers were printing the quip "Bombingham." Nobody panicked.

There are some things to learn from teh contrast.


You mean the bit where the meedja didn't promptly mock up the week's front pages reading variations on "OH NOES, Haz Beed Terrorist Attack in $location" (quarter of the World away)?


I ask a slightly different question.

Assume that we are an organization like Contact (The Culture books by Iain M Banks).

We are genuinely looking for a strategy for intervening in unpleasant societies that are an affront to all decent folk.

What lessons would we learn from the interventions in Iraq,Afghanistan and Libya?

What strategy will work if we wish to improve life in N Korea ? Syria ?



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