As horrible as the terrorist events on 9/11 were, the worst thing that happened on that day we did to ourselves. We forgot the truth within the 18th century quote (variously expressed, and variously attributed to Jefferson and Franklin amongst others):
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
How can anyone argue the truth of that statement? How can anyone argue that we did not betray that guiding principle?
We let the Patriot Act happen, we let the NSA and other clandestine agencies run wild, we began a forever war, creating new enemies perhaps more quickly than we can kill the old ones. Will freedoms lost ever be restored? Surely not. Technology has only made it easier to violate our freedoms and harder to detect when they are violated.
Most confounding to me is that many of those seemingly most comfortable with this situation, with the violation of the above seemingly inarguable (to me) truth, are the same people who are the most unyielding when it comes to any suggested restriction of gun ownership. How can one be unwilling to have any government involvement in weapons ownership/transfer for fear of encouraging tyranny or loss of God and Constitution given freedoms, and yet permit/accept the same government should be able to observe our phone and online activity? It seems like wild hypocrisy to me, but maybe I'm not understanding some nuances involved in the argument; or maybe for those individuals it's really not so much about a love of freedom so much as it is a love of the gun (and its use).
Ah well, another sad 9/11, for so many reasons.
Let me make it clear, I assume that the US government's account of the raid and killing of Osama bin Laden is pretty much true. I tend strongly not to believe in conspiracies. That said, there are things about this situation which strike me as very peculiar, and which I would love to have explained, just to appease my curiosity.
Helicopters are very, very loud. I've had small police helicopters circling hundreds of feet in the air looking for a suspect five blocks away and the noise was incredibly loud and impossible to ignore. These helicopters at their close range must have been more than ten times that volume. Surely there must have been some significant amount of time (more than thirty seconds, perhaps more than several minutes) between the time when the house would have been awakened and the time when the first Navy SEALs would have made contact with the people in the house. It is reported that the SEALs landed outside the compound's walls and breached them to get in, this would have added some extra waking seconds to the lives of the people inside. So how is it that only one person in the house had the presence of mind to grab and use a weapon? They did have weapons. It was reported that they had three AK-47s and two pistols. That seems like a curiously small arsenal for this crowd. Many ordinary citizens in the US have far fewer guns in their modest houses. And how is it that Osama bin Laden reportedly had an AK-47 in his room and yet did not have it in his hands when the SEALs finally reached him? Imagine you are Osama Bin Laden. Your entire life has led up to this moment. You've been hiding out for ten years, you're so paranoid you built a special house, you communicate with almost no one, you don't have telephone or internet, and you have money and phone numbers sewn into your clothing. And a small army has finally found and come for you. You have an AK-47 leaning against the wall in your room, what do you do? It just seems inconceivable that you do nothing. My dog wakes me up barking in the middle of the night and I grab my baseball bat from the closet before investigating. Yet Osama is seen by the SEALs looking over a third floor railing and then retreating back into his room, all unarmed. The entire time at the compound is reported as 38 minutes, and Osama is reported killed in only the last 5 - 10 minutes. That means Osama would have been awake and presumably trapped in his upstairs bedroom for 28 - 33 minutes. That is an incredible amount of time to remain passive and not use an available weapon. Time elongates in situations like that, those minutes must have passed like hours, affording one plenty of mental time to take some sort of action.
I just have a hard time believing the raid occurred exactly as reported, with the timetable reported, with the people in the compound having so much time to react to what was happening. None of that makes sense to me.
It has been reported that the CIA set up a safe house late last summer just to observe and report on the location where the raid took place, gleaning what they could. Who knows how many people they stationed there, who else they could have smuggled in there. And who knows how much they learned. Nine months is an awfully long time to wait and watch, to prepare.
Personally my very strong suspicion is that the raid included a component of SEALs (or other) who did not arrive by helicopter. If you have a demonstrated ability to place people at the location by conventional means, and they can silently slip up to the building without being detected, why choose instead to first announce your presence with helicopters? This better fits the facts, for me. You send a team on the ground to breach the compound and initiate the raid, then you send in additional SEALs to assist and ultimately extract your soldiers. That would explain (to me) how they caught everyone in the house so unaware, how nobody had time to react as one might expect them to. And that wouldn't fall under the definition of conspiracy, just good warfighting or spycraft. And it wouldn't really qualify as a lie to the American people so much as a reasonable state secret.
On another note, I can't escape the feeling that the killing of Bin Laden must have been mildly, tacitly encouraged. If he were capture alive it would be a nightmare. Politically, legally, terroristically... If he were held prisoner Al Qaeda would have surely carried out attack after attack seeking his release. But dead, those dangers are all rendered moot. There is an increased risk that he becomes a martyr, but surely that would come in some form either way, killed via court order or in a SEAL raid. I don't say that the government would say, "Make sure you don't bring him back alive." But I can imagine them saying, "Take absolutely no unnecessary risks, if he appears to put up even the slightest bit of resistance do what you need to do to protect yourself." And that's fine, and for the sake of the lives of the SEALs involved I am glad they would be encouraged to protect themselves, but with multiple wars going on and soldier's lives willfully lost left and right in less noble actions, attacking less important targets, it seems almost certain to me there was no insistence that Osama bin Laden be taken alive. And I'm not arguing that that's good or bad, just observing that it seemed to be.
And one minor observation. I know almost nothing of SEAL tactics, but given that they were concerned about bombs, weapons, hidden passages, etc. one can imagine they would have focused on clearing the entire structure of people and potential dangers before turning their attention to recovering things like computers, hard drives, thumb drives, etc. I imagine there would be so moment when it's announced on the radio that everything has been cleared and they would shift their focus to recovering what informational assets they could. If the official story was exactly true, Osama was only killed in the last 5 - 10 minutes of the raid that would not have allowed them much time to find and grab these informational items. Given the monumental importance of the data, the resourcefulness Bin Laden has been credited with, I would have thought they would have done more to secure what might have been present. But, perhaps there was nothing more they could do.
Whatever the case I am perpetually amazed at the relative restraint of soldiers (and police) who are required to do what I do not feel I could, enter a hostile environment where your life is on the line and make instant and permanent determinations of friend and foe (or in this case, lesser and greater foe). I may feel a bit uncomfortable with our prosecuting many of the wars the way we do, I am very thankful that good men so often do the very best they can.
I found a link with some interesting information on acoustically stealthy helicopter development, including the commercial Blue Edge blades of the Eurocopter. So, perhaps you could sneak up on someone with a helicopter... I'm still confused about how Bin Laden could have remained unarmed until his death, the shortest time I've seen indicated between when the helicopters arrived, when one crashed, when they started breaching the compound walls with explosives, and engaging the people in the compound was 15 minutes, which is still a profoundly long time not to have picked up one of two weapons only feet from you. Assuming they cut the power to the compound before going in, and assuming he had no lights, perhaps he didn't remember/realize his weapons were near at hand, that's about the only explanation I can think of.
I can think of a few situations in which reality doesn't behave as I'd expect, as though hidden (or poorly understood) laws of the universe are at work. And I wish we better understood those laws, because I feel they are important, and would help us better control our future.
Why do Macs get a (nearly) free ride when it comes to viruses and malware, to the point that almost no Mac user bothers with anti-virus/anti-malware programs?
I know enough about the Mac (historic and current) operating system to know that there's no magic involved. The operating system was for some time more secure than its Windows counterpart, but never astonishingly so. There was nothing so special about the Mac OS that would explain its seeming imperviousness. There have been viruses/malware for Macs, don't misunderstand, but not to the degree that most users were much bothered or motivated to install antivirus software. The ubiquity of the Windows platform is usually cited as the primary explanation; those seeking to cause mischief would target the OS with the largest user base, and those seeking to cause mischief are far more likely to have Windows available as their development platform. And this makes sense, to a point. Clearly the majority of virus/malware activity would be expected to target Windows because of these reasons, but why so shockingly few devastatingly targeting the Mac? Malicious people are marvelously good at finding vulnerable targets, and it can't have escaped notice that the Mac platform has been in many ways largely unguarded. My only conclusion can be that there must be something else going on, some other something restraining malicious people from targeting Macs to a greater degree. My best guess, my only real theory, is that the developers who use the Mac enough to know how to create exploits for it, have a certain respect and fondness for the platform, which their equivalent miscreants using Windows don't have for Windows, and thus the potential Mac exploiters with their warm feelings find themselves naturally restrained under a "Don't sh*t where you eat." policy. No idea if that explains it, but that's my guess.
Why have there been no terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11?
It seems inconceivable to me that there have been no foreign terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11. And the only things that come close are the arguable domestic terrorist events of the DC sniper and Ft. Hood. Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. appear to be awash with explosives for IEDs, machine guns, RPGs, etc. Various news agencies have reported for years that our ports are almost completely insecure: less than 1% of shipments from overseas are inspected by customs and anyone with a few thousand dollars can get into the country via our Southern border, just by paying a "cayote". We've been told that thousands of foreign terrorists made their way to Iraq to commit various atrocities and commit suicide in the process, and yet not a single one has packed his toothbrush and an IED and made his way across the seas and caused mayhem here? And it they could leave the IED at home and just come and do any manner of horribly improvised thing. But they haven't. And it just seems inconceivable to me that no one has tried anything. And surely if they had tried, we'd have heard about it, because we have heard about several truly unremarkable and speculative plots by people who seemed only slightly likely and slightly capable of doing anything. So it makes me think something else is going on here. My best guess/theory combines the idea that terror networks are not nearly as (and probably never were as) sophisticated/organized/funded as people have speculated and, more importantly, these terrorists are looking to "vent" their anger, and as long as they feel like they are doing some blood letting somewhere, they are disorganized enough to not escalate. Perhaps they get their jihadist "fix" killing soldiers and civilians in Iraq, and as long as they can look themselves in the mirror and say they blew up an infidel that week, they don't feel compelled to try and spread their terror.
The most popular of the 9/11 conspiracy theories (as featured in the Loose Change videos, and commonly featured on the Alex Jones radio show) hold that the 9/11 attack was not committed by foreign terrorists but by neo-conservative elements within the US government as a "false flag" operation to curtail our liberties at home and extend our power abroad.
The conspiracy theorists offer numerous pieces of "evidence" to back up their argument, none of which I find particularly valid or compelling (interesting sure, in the paradolia sense). But most significant of all to me is the issue they never address, and to be fair that I've never heard anyone on either side of the debate bring up. The conspirators in our government cannot be both brilliant, masterful, devious plotters and mere months later mind-numbingly stupid and scrupulously honest.
According to the conspiracy theorists, elements at the top of our government pulled off this masterful 9/11 plot as a pretext for invasion of Afghanistan and ultimately Iraq. I believe it reasonable to expect these same conspirators would then turn their skills towards pulling off the justification for the subsequent Iraq war. The US government (from the president, to his cabinet, to the various intelligence agencies) went before its citizens assuring them that Iraq had WMDs that necessitated invasion. The US government went before the UN, and the world, and claimed the same. The US government sent its soldiers to Iraq, toppled the government, and yet found absolutely no WMDs.
If hawkish elements wanted war, wanted it badly enough to deviously murder 3,000 innocent Americans by means of three remotely controlled passenger jets, a cruise missile/drone flown into the Pentagon, controlled demolitions of the Twin Towers, and a controlled demolition of WTC 7, why would they not have produced a single piece of evidence in the months or years after the Iraq invasion that justified the invasion and war? Pulling off a 9/11 conspiracy would be brutally hard work. Pulling off an Iraq war WMD discovery conspiracy would have been far easier. Our government has all manner of WMDs, from the nuclear to the chemical to the biological, with all the powers ascribed to the conspirators under the dominant conspiracy theories, it would have been easy to plant some of our WMDs in Iraq. There was every reason for the same alleged conspirators within the US government to do just that, to prove this was a just war, to prove it to our citizens, to the world, to our soldiers. Proving their case would have secured their position, their politics, their future. And yet no one from the government or military has ever suggested we found anything. Finding nothing was painful, languishing in this debate about whether the war was just was painful. Finding nothing was an embarrassment to the president and the country, and a serious black mark on the various intelligence organizations involved. Finding nothing did us no favors. There was every reason for elements in our government to lie, and yet our government was, apparently, scrupulously honest (about finding nothing).
I do not believe in such inconsistent conspirators; I do not believe this conspiracy.