Category Archives: 9/11

Monday, April 13, 2009

If you are in New England, your tax processing may take a little longer this year than normal.  A friend of ours who works up in Andover, MA says that the IRS facility there has been completely cordoned off.  Workers were sent back home this morning when they arrived and now the whole area is swarming in DHS, FBI, ATF, and any other alphabet-soup agency you can think of (no EPA that I’ve heard of yet).  The same guy said that the flagpole out front was flying the New England Pine Tree flag.  He got good long look since the traffic was so tied up at the I-93 interchange with a chunk of Rt. 133 closed.

With the Pine Flag, I’ve gotta think that this is another Children of Liberty operation.  But what could they have done that keeps all the taxmen from their jobs (apparently for at least a week).  My mind went to biological or chemical agents like the anthrax attacks after 9/11.  Neve was leaning a little more towards the dadaistic tactics we’ve seen from the CoL before (maybe they filled the place with loose tea – English Breakfast she says).

Whatever it is, the local reaction seems to have hit a nerve, at least during the morning commute hours.  What’s weirder, is that there’s been nothing in the news.  No Globe story (not even Boston.com), no TV coverage, nothing.  To have the Fourth Estate stay quiet on this is just not right.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Moving Day for EPA today.  Or at least my division.

The building we’ve been in for almost 10 years above the Haymarket T stop was sold a few years back to some developers.  The profit in high-rise parking garages (with federal offices on top) just isn’t as much as it was back in the ’70s when the place was built.  Instead, they are going to tear it down and build a mixed-use high-rise.  Current plans are for shops on the bottom, semi-retail offices (jewelers and lawyers) on the next few floors, a few floors of office space in the middle, and luxury condos on top. As a Bostonian I’m happy to see a little more life being brought back into the whole Scollay Sq./Government Center/Haymarket area.  The place (along with the West End) was really pretty devestated by the ‘urban renewal’ of the ’70s.

Now EPA is moving into a beautiful 1930’s building at Post Office Square.  The Post Office has left the building, but it is still government-owned.  Several of the old corridors and 2-storey court-rooms (it was also a Federal Courthouse) are being preserved instead of becoming solely cubicle-land.  Alas, I do not rank an office in the new set-up (my ‘bad attitude’ of late may have had some bearing on that).

Also new, EPA has finally implemented ‘smart-card’ federal IDs.  Instead of just RFID tags in plastic like at the old building, the new card encodes all kinds of personal information including my fingerprints.  The up-side is that I can now (in theory) use this card to access any federal building that my background check level approves (not TOP SECRET or anything).  The down-side is that I have to guard this thing with my life since they REALLY don’t want to issue new ones and a crook who could crack it would have everything he needs to make my life a living hell.

The whole smart-card thing started after 9/11.  It got a big push when DHS tried to standardize state drivers licenses – the idea being if the Feds could push the technology, the states would join on, didn’t really work out that way.  The final push to get all the systems in place has been big since the Halloween attacks.  We got a whole long lecture about how this ”enhances our security’ with the recent bombings at the embassies in Latin America and Europe as examples.

Better security at federal buildings makes sense.  But I have to admit, I keep expecting to come around a corner in the new building to see Big Brother staring down at me.

Friday, Feb. 6, 2009

I had my teeth cleaned today, which means it’s time to check and repack our Bug-out Bags.

For those of you who aren’t into disaster preparedness, a bugout bag is what you grab on your way out of harm’s way, be it a terrorist attack, a tornado, a flood, a tsunami, civil unrest, or a zombie attack. It should be easily portable, contain the bare necessities, and be regularly checked.

Back when we first started doing this, back after 9/11, they were called grab-and-go bags, but since then it’s reverted to the older and more alliterative term. We decided to pin it to my dental check ups because that way it gets checked every six months.

What’s in our bug-out bag, you ask? Well, you can check out a basic BOB list on Zombie Squad! ZS is a fun little group that urges people to be prepared for hoards of brain-hungry shambling undead as a tongue-in-cheek way of promoting disaster preparedness. Because, to quote their website, “if you are prepared for a scenario where the walking corpses of your family and neighbors are trying to eat you alive, you will be prepared for almost anything.”

Paul and I, being big fans of being prepared, were members briefly. We had to drop out when April was born. Not enough time, too many guns, and frankly, she didn’t like the zombies.

Anyway, I go through the bags every six months and swap out the food for newer stuff, update April’s clothes (she grows so fast!), and make sure any meds haven’t expired. Plus I update the phone list. This year, with the dollar in the toilet, I added a couple extra twenties just in case we wound up going to Canada, where a $10 won’t buy you lunch any more.

I also updated the shelter-in-place kit in our basement storage area. This is much easier — check to make sure the water hasn’t leaked and switch out the old 10-lb-bags of rice and beans for new ones. (The old ones aren’t all that old, only 6 months, so they get donated to the soup kitchen.) One of our neighbors asked me what I was doing, however, and I lied to him.

I feel a little bad about that, like I’m being paranoid. But in an emergency situation, the last thing you want to be is the only person with supplies in a building full of people who don’t have any. Am I being paranoid? If you had asked me three years ago I would say yes, but that was before Katrina and before April. Now I have no faith in the authorities and a daughter to protect.

Wow I sound nuts.

Friday, Nov. 28, 2008

How far has America fallen in the eyes of the world? Especially in the eyes of our allies?

Now Belgium has refused to extradite Abdennabi Bendouda to the US. This guy was arrested by Belgian police as part of an Interpol investigation into the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, the folks who claimed responsibility for the London Tube Bombings in 2005. The CIA wants him because they think he was related to the Halloween attacks here in the US too. But Brussels is refusing to send him, citing the Convention Against Torture and Mukasey’s separate Federal terror courts. Instead, they are offering to have US prosecutors come and present their case at the Hague.

Belgium isn’t one of those countries in Europe that tends to lash-out at American hubris. Brussels is the home not only of the EU Parliament, but also of NATO Central Command. After 9/11, NATO invoked Article 5, declaring the attack on the US to be an attack on all of the nations of the alliance. This was amazing, since Article 5 was historically seen as a way to defend Europe and ensure that the US didn’t retreat into isolationism as we did after WWI. Instead, the first time the Article was invoked, it was the Europeans offering their assistance to an America under attack.

And they were rebuked. Washington turned down the offer and decided to go it alone in Afghanistan. Only later, as things got uglier, did we ask for NATO help.

And so we find ourselves under attack again. But this time, our allies want to see us play by the international rules. Instead they want us to try this guy in the International Court of Justice. I doubt anybody in power in Washington wants to play by those rules.

Friday, Nov. 14, 2008

After 9/11, the question that everyone was focusing on was “Why do they hate us?”  Maybe I’m strange, but I always wondered “Why did they attack there?”  We’ve since discovered that the Pentagon was a probably a back-up target when the pilots had trouble finding the White House.  Honestly, both are viable military targets, though I don’t begin to call terrorist cells or hijacked civilian airlines viable military weapons.

I wondered more about the New York attacks.  To my mind, an attack on the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty would have had a greater psychological impact on America (even if they caused fewer casualties).  The Empire State probably would have stood up to the abuse better and there are never as many people on Liberty Island as in one of the Two Towers.  But that doesn’t explain the obsession with the World Trade Center.

It wasn’t until December that I read an article in Slate describing how the layout of the WTC complex purposefully mimicked the Qa’ba in Mecca.  Bin Laden probably saw the complex as a mockery of the holy sites of Islam.  This does nothing to justify al Qaida, but it does go to show that terrorists target us for reasons that we often don’t see.  Incidentally, the sculpture that originally sat in the ‘holiest’ spot in the WTC courtyard has now has a place of honor in NYC’s Battery Park in all its damaged glory.

Considering all that, I wonder about Halloween’s attacks.  Bloggers and pundits say that the attcks were aimed at our culture and government (hence hitting NYC, DC, & Chicago).  Others talk about efforts to drive up oil prices by hurting our refineries (Houston) and scaring people away from mass transit.  Before Houston got hit, the religious wackos and conspiracy theorists were already focusing on how only relatively liberal areas of the country are targeted.

There is a focus on transportation, but I think that may just be because it is where people gather.  The opportunities of crowded train platforms would be tempting to anybody planning a high body-count.  The added tactic of planting car-bombs in taxis waiting outside the subway stations is a variation on tactics we’ve seen plenty in Iraq and elsewhere.

The real key is Houston I think.  Some have played it down, but I think targeting the oil industry in Texas was a way for Bin Laden to try and enrage Bush. 

And I think it worked.

Monday, Nov. 3, 2008

Things weren’t as bad at work today as I had thought they’d be. One bomb-threat so far.

At least we’re more organized, more practiced at this than we were after 9/11. I remember one bomb threat that September that had us all filing across New Chardon Street to the muster area in front of the county courthouse. As the first EPA folks got to the front door of the courthouse building, those same doors swing open and all the court employees start streaming out to go to their muster area, directly under our building. We both got pranked at the same time and security folks for the buildings had never bothered to compare their plans.

I also remember when they told us all to evacuate due to some ‘white powder’ on a mail package only to realize that 3/4 of the building would have to evacuate through the loading dock where the suspicious package was. So we all walked back up eleven flights of stairs. Anybody else remember the anthrax attacks? They still haven’t arrested anyone for that have they?

Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008

Neve has a point from the last post. The campaign ads have been getting pretty nasty. The meme that I was surprised to see surface again this week was the tried and true GOP standard “If you vote for the Democrats, we will have another 9/11.” What a crock!

First-off, I thought the 9/11 allusions would finally die-down once Guliani dropped out. More the fool me. Guliani was certainly not the only one playing this one-note symphony. Cheney had it the best back in ’04 when he predicted a Dem congressional victory would lead to “mushroom clouds over New York”. The meme is not just with the candidates — its true home is in the minds of the political consultants. And while a candidate can drop out and fade away, the same consultants are in the campaigns, round after round.

The meme is at least marginally effective (or it would have died by now). People can be motivated by images of the Two Towers burning. It plays well into the idea that Republicans are decisive and strong on foreign policy and Dems are emotional flip-floppers who are focused only on the domestic sphere. That’s an argument the GOP can win, so they like to frame it that way.

But what about the idea itself? Does al Qaida care whether there is a Republican or a Democrat in the White House? I sincerely doubt it. Is al Qaida planning to hit the domestic US again? Everybody says yes, but why should they? Think about it, they got exactly what they wanted from us. The US is embroiled in a guerrilla war against not just al Qaida, but nationalistic secular Sunnis, theocratic Shiites, and just off-the-street Muslim civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every day we remain occupying these countries, we prove al Qaida’s point that the West (and the US in particular) are a threat to the Arab and Islamic world.

And here’s the kicker. Osama and company don’t really care about the threat that the West poses to Islam. All the attacks, all the rhetoric against the ‘Great Satan’, and our insidious creeping culture, all the bluster is not aimed at us. The messages are aimed at the Muslim world. Sure, it would be good for al Qaida if all US troops left any lands inhabited by Muslims, but only if they get the credit! The true conflict is between the Wahabbist Sunni fundamentalists and the various secular dictatorships, royal families, and Shiite dictatorships through out the Middle East. By attacking the West, al Qaida is looking to ‘fire-up’ their base (al Qaida means ‘the base’ in Arabic).

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this, after all, the meme that al Qaida will attack the US again isn’t really about al Qaida; it is about impressing and motivating the Republican base.