Cybrarian at Large  

In defeat: DEFIANCE
In Peace: GOOD WILL"
Sir Winston Churchill

My Email is


Pejman Pundit, by the way, has joined in the “Noam” – “Gnoam” – “Gnome” wordplay; is this the start of a trend, I wonder? (Scroll down to the “Light Humor: this is funny” entry).
In any case, Gnoam Chomsky confidently informs all of us who are still, in spite of his best efforts, unenlightened dupes, that the U.S. response to 9/11 was entirely wrong. Just completely, utterly wrong, wrong, wrong:

“we know quite well how the problem should be addressed, if we want to reduce the threat rather than escalate it. When IRA bombs were set off in London, there was no call to bomb West Belfast, or Boston, the source of much of the financial support of the IRA. Rather, steps were taken to apprehend the criminals, and efforts were made to deal with what lay behind the resort to terror. When a federal building was blown up in Oklahoma City, there were calls for bombing the Middle East…(but) When it was found to be domestic, with links to the ultra-right militias, there was no call to obliterate Montana and Idaho. Rather, there was a search for the perpetrator…and there were efforts to understand the grievances that lay behind such crimes and to address the problems. Just about every crime… has reasons, and commonly we find that some of them are serious and should be addressed.” ( 9-11, pp.23-24)

“And surely no ‘civilized world’ would plunge the world into a major war instead of following the means prescribed by international law, following ample precedents.”

“Much of the world has been asking the U.S. to provide come evidence to link Bin Laden to the crime, and if such evidence could be provided, it would not be difficult to rally enormous support for an international effort, under the rubric of the UN, to apprehend and try him and his collaborators.”(p. 101)

Gnoam, pardon me, but OF COURSE we didn’t bomb Montana or Idaho, and OF COURSE the British didn’t bomb Boston or Belfast. And we didn’t obliterate Kabul, either. Perhaps you aren’t aware of this, but a military campaign does not have to involve turning everything in sight into a parking lot; there are levels of response between “Give Peace A Chance” and “Indiscriminate, Snarling Rage”. So that was one lousy analogy. And have you ever heard of a logical fallacy called a false dichotomy? In simple terms, this is where you only mention two alternatives and ignore any others. And this is such a good example that I’m sorely tempted to use it the next time I teach a class on critical thinking.

As for “efforts to understand the grievances,” gimme a break!!(more on this later)

I’m very tempted to roll on the floor shaking with hysterical laughter at the very idea of the Taliban actually handing Osama or any of his henchmen over; even if any of them had seriously considered this, I imagine that members of Au Qaeda would NOT have agreed, and would have argued back with bullets or artillery.

Now Gnoam, I’m assuming that your policy, outside of rounding up a few leaders, would leave the Taliban and Al Qaeda basically untouched. So pardon me if I seem a bit paranoid here, but even if we could have brought Osama and friends to trial, what would have stopped Al Qaeda, or some of their chums, from trying to set them free, or at least trying to totally wreck the place where the trial was being held? Remember now, a lot of these guys actually WANT to become martyrs, and think massive “collateral damage” is A Very Good Thing. And we’ve seen how shaky our security systems can be. So how many of you folks out there in cyberspace would have been happy to serve on the hypothetical jury for this hypothetical trial? Gnoam, how about you? Can I see a show of hands? Anybody? Looong pause…I kinda thought so!

This next point may sound trivial, but what might have happened if Osama & co. had actually gone to trial here in the U.S.? If they had managed to get a hot-shot attorney like OJ’s lead lawyer, would we all have been treated to a tacky spectacle that ended with them going free because of some technicality? I remember several editorial cartoons that included the phrase, “If the turban doesn’t fit, you must acquit”…

Eliot Cohen (“A Strange War,” The National Interest, Thanksgiving 2001 Special issue, pp. 11-22) says the attacks on 9/11 may look like crimes because no government claimed responsibility, and the terrorists were not part of a uniformed military. But he contends that they were really acts of war, because:

  • ”War” should really be defined to include not just the conventional Gulf War type of conflict, but also the different sorts of “strange” wars, such as the Crusades, which had a number of things in common with the “strange” war we are now fighting. These include a “clash of civilizations” along with “more conventional interstate struggles,” “entrepreneurs, religious orders and bandits” along with conventional armies, “strange and shifting alliances,” and a lack of “end states and exit strategies.” (p.12)

  • If, quoting Winston Churchill, great battles “create new standards of values, new moods, new atmospheres,” 9/11 qualifies because it has encouraged our enemies, while bringing us (or most of us at least) closer together in common grief and resolve. (p.13)

  • While criminals act to get something or to make their victims suffer, the terrorists, although they no doubt wanted to cause suffering, had a political motive, flowing from Bin Ladens’s fatwa of Feb. 23., 1998. This purpose was and is to drive the United States out of the Muslim world.

Well, Gnoam, I myself would love to see this settled peacefully, but I think the arguments I’ve presented show that the notion of bringing Osama and co. to trial just won’t work. And you, my friend, seem to be so touchingly fond of international law that you don’t realize its limits. Silly, silly, silly…maybe you should just step back and let the grownups handle this. Now I’ll wrap this up and put a ribbon on it with a final quote from Cohen::

“It is reassuring to have ‘outlaws’ as opponents, for it assumes that the civilized world – indeed humanity itself – regards those who committed those atrocities as acting out of all norms of decent behavior. The language implies a comforting restriction on the threats we face, and therefore on the responses we must consider.”(p.12)

And that, Gnoam, is the core issue; we can’t deal with this threat properly if we misunderstand it at such a basic level.

  posted by Liz L @ 12:58 PM

Thursday, July 25, 2002  


APOLOGIES UPDATE - I finally got all the links working in the previous post! Now if I could just delete the one right before it...

  posted by Liz L @ 1:32 AM

Friday, July 19, 2002  



Well, the proposed plans for rebuilding at Ground Zero are out, and things could be **MUCH** worse. Someone actually suggested, at, as I recall, that the whole site should be left to grow back into wilderness. In Manhattan, AKA “Skyscraper National Park?!” Gimme a break!! At least all the plans have one building that doesn’t look like it’s trying to hide behind the skyline.
I still think the proposal by Franck Lohsen McCrery is the best I’ve seen, even if the pictures don’t completely do it justice. Their keynote building, in particular, is an elegant art deco tower that would really soar. And it would reclaim the world’s tallest building title, to boot.
But let’s take a peek at the plans we have to work with (I've found the 3D renderings to be especially helpful, but you can click on links to any of several views towards the top of each page) …
The Promenade in Plan 6 really catches my attention, with its clear sweep from the site down to the edge of the island and out towards the Statue of Liberty. I’m sorely tempted to call it a processional way, because it seems made for parades and other public ceremonies. On the other hand, I think Plan 5 has the best buildings, if we’re not going with Franck Lohsen McCrery. So maybe we could take the tallest building, put the setback a lot closer to the street, or maybe have two, make the tower taller and slimmer, and put it at the head of the promenade. Then we could do the same thing to the other buildings, and group them around the other sides of the plaza. And let’s take advantage of the contrast between glass, stone, and metal on the outside walls.
Here’s something else to consider: those plain white shapes in the plans are so ambiguous that we won’t really know how well the hypothetical skyscrapers will soar until we see the architectural detailing that can make all the difference. The Empire State Building, for instance, got its mast instead of a plain, flat roof, and the Chrysler Building got its shining spire instead of a round dome, almost on the spur (or spire) of the moment, as a result of the “tallest building in the world” contest going on at the time. So you just never know what might happen…
And besides, if the later plans become **REALLY** bland and uninspiring, those of us who are frustrated enough can mount an Email blitz suggesting that the folks in charge of the project might find some good architects in this place known as Chicago.
Last question – does the fact that there are no bodies left at the site affect the argument that it’s hallowed ground, and thus the footprints of the towers, at least, should never be built on?

  posted by Liz L @ 1:20 AM



Well, the proposed plans for rebuilding at Ground Zero are out, and things could be **MUCH** worse. Someone actually suggested, at, as I recall, that the whole site should be left to grow back into wilderness. In Manhattan, AKA “Skyscraper National Park?!” Gimme a break!! At least all the plans have one building that doesn’t look like it’s trying to hide behind the skyline.
I still think the proposal by Franck Lohsen McCrery is the best I’ve seen, even if the pictures don’t completely do it justice. Their keynote building, in particular, is an elegant art deco tower that would really soar. And it would reclaim the world’s tallest building title, to boot.
But let’s take a peek at the plans we have to work with…
The Promenade in

  posted by
Liz L @ 1:03 AM


The name we give something may not be the same thing as what we’re naming, but inaccurate names can still be downright dangerous in a war where we need to accurately understand an elusive enemy. This is why I think we should stop calling The Current Unpleasantness the “War on Terror,” and call it the “War against Islamic Fundamentalism.” Those who point out that we aren't really at war because Congress has never issued the formal declaration might want to call it something like, "what might (or should) become the War against Islamic Fundamentalism." This is mainly a summary of what I’ve read elsewhere, but at any rate, I say it because:

  • “Terrorism” is a word that needs to be more clearly defined, and in any case it’s simply the means our enemies use against us.

  • These enemies, as far as I can tell, are all driven by the evil engine of radical Islamic fundamentalism, as so ably exported by our so-called “friends” the Saudis, among others. So even though we ARE NOT at war against the entire house of Islam, we have to completely smash this radical fundamentalism as a viable political force. Yes, I realize that we can't force inner reform on the house of Islam, but we can certainly make it clear that any group who sends fanatics to fly planes into skyscrapers, for instance, will REALLY, REALLY wish they'd never even thought of the idea!

  • The concept of a “War on Terror” risks becoming abstract and impossible to win, just like the “War on Poverty.”

  • As Jonah Goldberg pointed out on National Review Online, we might not have to listen to so many people complain that, “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.” (Ya hear that, Noam?)

Along the same lines, it might be a good idea if we didn’t refer so casually to these terrorists, especially those responsible for 9/11, as “madmen.” Now please bear with me here; I tend to stretch an idea until it snaps. Sure, some of them may have (or may have had) diagnosable mental problems; the phrase “sociopath,” for instance, comes to mind. But to call all of them insane, as if they just need to be diagnosed and committed en masse, is not only a big, sweeping overgeneralization; it almost seems to unwittingly trivialize the evil they’ve done, and the threat they pose. After all, the truly mentally ill need compassion and expert medical care. And don’t we tend, with our therapeutic mindset, to see them as not completely responsible for what they do (thus, the insanity defense)? I just hate to see any hint of an excuse for these people lingering in the air, even if it is only a faint wisp of unintended meaning.

I think “fanatic” is a much better generic description; Webster’s refers to fanaticism as “excessive and unreasonable enthusiasm or zeal,” which is certainly a step in the right direction. And fanatics, while not technically insane, do often act, in the eyes of the rest of the world, as if they are.

Maybe this seems trivial, and some of my points are probably breathtakingly obvious. But clear understanding, even of nitpicking details, is absolutely essential for right action.

  posted by Liz L @ 1:10 PM

Thursday, July 18, 2002  


Well, the computer is back home, safe and sound, and I don't have to worry about Internet withdrawal symptoms anymore. Since I've been following developments with great interest, I just thought I'd add my two cents to the discussion about what should be built to replace the World Trade Center. Now I don't live in New York, so I don't have a direct stake in this question, but still...
I know there has to be a memorial there, and the footprints of the two towers might be a natural place for this.
But I also really, REALLY want to see new, living buildings go up there as well; tall, strong, proud, and eye-popping, breath-takingingly beautiful; buildings built to be filled with people, humming with life, a vital part of what Lucianne calls, "this gigantic engine of a city." New York City will always have a special spot in my heart after 9/11, and I just can't bear to think of leaving that wound in the skyline as it is; it would be a sort of surrender, I think. I say that because that void would, even if unintentionally, commemorate what the terrorists did as much as it would remind us of the precious lives we lost. The New York Post had an editorial a while back titled, Urban Planning by Atta, and that's what building nothing on that site would amount to. Besides, new buildings would also be an appropriate and harmonious memorial, a perfect complement to whatever formal memorial will be built.
On the other hand, I'm not so sure about simply rebuilding the old towers just as they were. First, that idea simply makes me uncomfortable for some reason, as if it's an attempt to pretend 9/11 never happened. Does that make any sense? Second (here I come, the great architectural critic), I suspect the right architects could come up with something even bolder and better. Yes, there was something splendid about those towers; they were "proud and soaring...rising in exaltation...without a dissenting line," to quote skyscraper pioneer Louis Sullivan. And from the pictures I've seen, they were simply built for the light, whether it was the sun turning them into pillars of glowing gold by day, or their own lights shining like strands of diamonds at night. The light, I think, was what allowed them to soar. But still, when I look at the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, or some of the newer, post-modern buildings in Chicago; well, I realize that there are so many interesting possibilities "outside of the box," so to speak. I think some modern version of the elegant, graceful art deco style (think Empire State or Chrysler as a starting point) would really soar!
I've heard the arguments against trying to build the world's tallest building,or even something that's really tall:

  • Nobody will insure it.

  • Nobody will want to work there.

  • This is because of the risk that some human pond scum will try to bring it down.

  • Businesses are fleeing Manhattan like the Israelites fleeing Egypt, so nobody will need much office space.

  • Big, centralized downtowns in general are going to fade because of telecommuting and similar factors, so nobody will need much office space.

  • Jane Galt suggests that the increasing number of elevators required leaves so little usable space that buildings much higher than 55 stories or so become poor investments. This is why, she says, recent super-tall buildings have not been funded by private enterprise.

I realize that a lot of factors will have to come into play in the final decision, but even if we don't see a world's tallet building there, I still do hope to see at least one real, awesome, magnificent skyscraper that won't look like it's trying to hide behind the skyline. I'm with Asparagirl on this one; I'd also love to see, "a big, BIG shiny new building (or better yet, two)...futuristic metallic towers screaming up towards the sky....brash ostentatious pillars of commercialism and technology to spring up and light up the New York skyline."

  posted by Liz L @ 11:45 PM

Tuesday, July 09, 2002  


For the Fourth, I thought I'd post this new verse to The Star-Spangled Banner:

And still we can see, as the years have gone by,
There's a dream in this land like a flame that keeps burning.
And the lantern of hope from the harbor still shines.
Those who seek freedom's dream to its light are still turnng.
Now we look to the skies and we lift up our eyes,
For we know with the dawn we will see our flag rise.
And this is our star-spangled banner unfurled,
As a sign to the free and a hope to the world.

This is from the CD For God and Country: Inspiring Songs of Faith and Freedom, Word Entertainment, written, as far as I can tell, by Sandi Patti.

Unexpected computer problems will keep me from posting anything else until next Tuesday, so everybody have a great Independence Day, and I'll see you next week.

  posted by Liz L @ 7:48 AM

Tuesday, July 02, 2002  
Powered By Blogger TM