What if 9/11 Never Happened?

New York Magazine has several different writers provide their scenario for What If 9/11 Never Happened? As anyone who has watched Star Trek knows, change one thing and the whole time line changes in unpredictable ways. (Actually that’s how I see the consequences of the 2000 election going to Bush rather than the rightful winner). Most likely other events would have changed things in unpredictable ways, but even considering this I cannot resist providing my own comments on what might have happened.

There would have been a major difference in the lives of both those personally involved and many public officials. George Bush was looking like a one-term President in August, 2001 and without fear of terrorism it is doubtful he would have been reelected. Rudy Giuliani would have retired as Mayor and most likely would now be living in obscurity.

Some have suggested that, without a war, the Democrats would not have nominated John Kerry. I disagree, believing Kerry was the natural front runner based upon his overall record. He would have remained front runner through 2003 as Howard Dean, without the war, would have been a minor candidate, assuming he still decided to run. The former Governor of Vermont might have created some interest with his proposals for universal health care and early childhood education, but he would not have challenged Kerry as he did. The one wild card is if Al Gore had decided differently and entered the race. Gore, not Hillary, is the ten ton gorilla who could be the front runner for the nomination in 2004 or 2008 if he chose to run.

Another big loser would have been Kiefer Sutherland. Without 9/11, 24 would never have been a big hit and Sutherland would not have revived his career. Many authors, such as Jay McInerney, would not have had 9/11 for their novels. McInerney might have had to stick to writing about wine rather than returning to his novelist career.

The consensus of the scenarios is that Saddam would have still been in power. Most likely this is true, but Bush had the goal of removing Saddam before 9/11. The attack was just his excuse, and perhaps he would have found some other way to get support for an attack. Fabricating a different excuse wouldn’t have been beyond him.

This assumes no terrorist attack, but sooner or later al Qaeda would have acted. Considering the slow time scale they work by, if their plans for 9/11 didn’t succeed it is likely that a major attack would not have been reattempted until John Kerry or Al Gore was in the White House. In either case we’d have a more competent government which would have been more willing to pay attention to warnings of attack. The old recommendations from the Clinton Administration for fighting al Qaeda might even have been dusted off before an attack. On the other hand, without the experience of 9/11 we’d be less vigilant, and perhaps last week’s plans in Great Britain would have succeeded.

In reality, the question may not have been whether but when we’d be faced with a direct confrontation with al Qaeda and other extremist groups. The difference may have been that it would have occurred when we had a more rational government here. A Kerry or Gore government would have responded to the crisis rationally, and would not have used it to play politics while placing the nation in greater danger as George Bush has done. Events might have forced Kerry or Gore to go into Afghanistan. They would have finished the job in Afghanistan, and perhaps a Kerry government would have had the opportunity to capture bin Laden in Tora Bora, rather than allowing him to escape by outsourcing the job.


Exposing Media Errors Versus Hatred of the Press

I previously commented on the exposure of Little Green Footballs of the alteration of photos by a former Reuter’s photographer. Eric Boehlert adds some perspective by reviewing LGF’s long standing hatred of the press.

This is more relevant to the manner in which the story was covered than the particular story. There were major differences between the manner in which the left and right blogospheres reported on the story. At the time the story came out, a few of us from liberal blogs briefly noted the story, and then moved on. It was a simple story of a single photographer altering photos, and subsequently being fired. The press organization acted appropriately. I also found the story of interest as it was a story which started in the blogosphere and then made it to the mainstream media. I suspect this will be increasingly common.

Much of the right blogosphere covered this as a major scandal. While they were right in criticizing the alteration of a photograph, this did not provide any sort of proof for their anti-news media feelings. This is certainly misnamed by calling it Reutergate consider that Reuters did the right thing in firing the photographer and removing his photos from their files.

The initial stories have been followed by blog posts such as Boehlert’s. I disagree with Boehlert and some others in writing this off as minor alterations of a photo. Altering news photos is wrong, period. Being minor does not excuse such alterations, as Reuters realized when they fired the photographer. We also cannot ignore or oppose the story merely because it came from a right wing blog. LGF deserves credit in this case, but it is also relevant to point out their overall history of hatred of the news media. While I give them credit in this particular story, I would not want anyone to take this as reason to trust them the next time they criticize the media. Each accusation will need to be evaluated independently.

Update: Reviewing the track backs (see comment 1) I see that The Sundries Shack has commented on this post. It was partially favorable but did disagree here:

I’d question, though, the way Chusid got to where he did. He accets as true Boehlert’s contention that Johnson hates the media. That is simply not true. What Boehlert and Chusid call hate is far better described as a deep, deep mistrust.

The author goes on to cite several examples of perceived media bias. The myths of liberal bias are far better refuted in Eric Boehlert’s excellent book than can be done in a blog post. When the conservative blogs repeatedly make unsubstantiated claims of bias (which often come down to not accepting their world view) it is a fine line as to whether we characterize this as hating the media versus having a deep, deep mistrust (although if this is mistrust, it often sounds more like paranoia). Still, not personally knowing the author or having the ability to read his mind, I really cannot say what his personal feelings are. Rather than stating that LGF and others hate the media, I should have noted their views.

While perhaps I should not have used the word hate, my main point here is not altered. When a site such as LGF posts criticism of the media, it should not be rejected based purely due to the source. The media does make mistakes, and there are episodes of bias, and LGF may be right from time to time. However, as Eric Boehlert points out, conservative sites do have a track record which does give us reason to be suspicious of their criticism and the motivations for their criticism.

Ignorance and the Teaching of Intelligent Design

Lawrence M. Krauss, professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, has an essay in The New York Times entitled How to Make Sure Children Are Scientifically Illiterate. He is happy about the recent defeat members of the Kansas School Board who supported teaching creationism/intelligent design in the schools, but realizes the war to defend science and reason is not over:

But perhaps more worrisome than a political movement against science is plain old ignorance. The people determining the curriculum of our children in many states remain scientifically illiterate. And Kansas is a good case in point.

The chairman of the school board, Dr. Steve Abrams, a veterinarian, is not merely a strict creationist. He has openly stated that he believes that God created the universe 6,500 years ago, although he was quoted in The New York Times this month as saying that his personal faith “doesn’t have anything to do with science.”

“I can separate them,” he continued, adding, “My personal views of Scripture have no room in the science classroom.”

A key concern should not be whether Dr. Abrams’s religious views have a place in the classroom, but rather how someone whose religious views require a denial of essentially all modern scientific knowledge can be chairman of a state school board.

I have recently been criticized by some for strenuously objecting in print to what I believe are scientifically inappropriate attempts by some scientists to discredit the religious faith of others. However, the age of the earth, and the universe, is no more a matter of religious faith than is the question of whether or not the earth is flat.

It is a matter of overwhelming scientific evidence. To maintain a belief in a 6,000-year-old earth requires a denial of essentially all the results of modern physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology and geology. It is to imply that airplanes and automobiles work by divine magic, rather than by empirically testable laws.

Americans Know Their Pop Culture

As someone who goes to Walt Disney World virtually every year I see nothing wrong with the fact that 77% of Americans can identify two of Snow White’s dwarfs. I even have many of their autographs. I am bothered, but not surprised, that only 24% could identify two Supreme Court justices. This is one of the results of a Zogby Poll on popular culture released yesterday. Perhaps they are confused by the fact that the last two Supreme Court justices were appointed by Dopey.
Maybe we can understand why 73% could identify the Three Stooges while only 42% could identify the three branches of government considering that the leaders of each branch might be seen as a contemporary version of the Three Stooges. I do not find ths poll surprising considering that one of my posts from The Democratic Daily which received the most hits was on Britney Spears and poodle balling following her appearance on Will and Grace (This is reprinted under the fold, along with the nude Britney Spears magazine cover in an attempt at blatant blog whoring to increase search engine hits). Is George Bush bucking this trend, or putting on an act, by reading Camus?

I am a great believer in cultural literacy, but this should include both true culture as well as pop culture. It appears that I’m in the minority by being more familiar with the Iliad and Odyssey than Homer Simpson. I also differ from the majority in knowing that Mercury is the closest planet to the sun while also knowing that Krypton was the birth place of Superman (along with being familiar with Vulcan, Barsoom, Caprica, Gallifrey, Tralfamadore, and Bajor).

While knowledge of pop culture is fine this must not replace knowledge of history, science, literature, and current events. Such ignorance leads to a population which does not understand when the government is violating the principles this country was founded on. This explains a country in which many believe Saddam had WMD before the war or was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Lack of understanding of science (as well as the separation of church and state) allows Americans to be conned by arguments supporting the teaching of intelligent design in the schools.

Republicans Play Follow The Leader Better Than Democrats

E.J. Dionne, Jr. compares the organization and party identification of Republicans and Democrats:

“On the Republican side, everyone plays a role in supporting the party and building a party structure,” says Amy Chapman, executive director of Grassroots Democrats, which raises money for state party organizations. “It’s too big a job for one part of the party to do,” meaning that Dean and the DNC can’t do it alone.

The odd result is that Republicans, who defend individualism in theory, act like communitarians where their party is concerned. Democrats claim to be more community-minded but act like radical individualists in their penchant for candidate-centered, one-cause-at-a-time politics.

The organizational gap has spurred national Democrats to countermeasures. Emanuel has hired Michael Whouley, one of his party’s premier organizers, to create turnout programs in the 40 most contested congressional races. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s two top staffers, J.B. Poersch and Guy Cecil, have long experience in field operations. The unions are kicking up their turnout efforts. And an anti-incumbent tide against the Republicans could counter the GOP’s organizational advantages.

I find this no surprise. While Republicans use words like “individualsm” their rhetoric and their policies rarely agree. As the Republicans have become more authoritarian in nature, they find it easier to blindly follow the party and their leaders. While Repubicans have had recent victories, ultimately they will suffer the same fate as the like-minded leadership of the old Soviet Union.

Intelligent Design Equals Creationism

Someone is out of the loop. Intelligent Design was promoted as an attempt to get around the Supreme Court’s ruling against teaching Creationism in the schools. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports on how the Repubican candidate for Attorney General slipped:

“The old creation science is the new intelligent design. And yes, I think it’s scientifically valid,” DeLay said.

No surprise here. Hat tip to Panda’s Thumb.

Previous comments on this below the fold.