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"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

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"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

September 11, 2014

Today Is the 13th Anniversary of an Enormous Opportunity

Today, September 11th, 2014, is a good time for a short quiz.

1. What is this?


What did you answer? Did you say "That's the last moments of the lives of thousands of people"? Or "That's a vile act of mass murder"? Or "That's the beginning of a lifetime of suffering for everyone who loved someone who died at the World Trade Center"?

Wrong! The right answer is: that is an OPPORTUNITY, an ENORMOUS OPPORTUNITY:

"Through my tears I see opportunity." – George Bush, September 20, 2001

"If the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11 bookend a major shift in international politics, then this is a period not just of grave danger, but of enormous opportunity. Before the clay is dry again, America and our friends and our allies must move decisively to take advantage of these new opportunities." – Condoleezza Rice, April 29, 2002

2. What is this?


This question is a little harder. Some people might answer, "That's the result of an Al Qaeda bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya on November 28, 2002 aimed at Israeli tourists." Others might say, "It's the place where terrorists murdered 13 people, including ten Kenyans and Israeli brothers Noy and Dvir Anter, ages 12 and 13." Or, "That's the place where, CNN reported, 'screaming children covered in blood searched desperately for their parents amid the wreckage.'"

They would also be wrong. The correct answer is, that is a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY:

"Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meeting with ministry staff in the aftermath of the Kenya attacks, said that the incidents had presented Israel with a 'golden opportunity' to strengthen its strategic ties with the United States and other Western countries."

3. What is this?


Some might guess, "That's a five-year-old Iraqi girl covered in the blood of her parents, who'd just been murdered by U.S. soldiers." Or, “That’s something that every American should be atoning for until the day we die."

But again, that would be wrong. The right answer is, that's yet another GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY:

"Targeting America in Iraq in terms of economy and losses in life is a golden and unique opportunity. Do not waste it only to regret it later." – Osama bin Laden, December, 2004

Probably the point here is clear. But I'll go ahead and spell it out.

For normal people, it's an unmitigated tragedy when their fellow citizens are killed in terrorist attacks or wars. Normal people cry, become afraid, and think of children who now have no parents and parents who now have no children.

For our would-be "leaders," however – in every country – the situation is different. Of course, they pretend to feel the same as normal people. They give teary-eyed speeches about sorrow and suffering.

And yet, behind their tears, there seems to be something else. When they think no one is looking, you glimpse another expression flitting across their face. You think it couldn't be. But – yes, incredibly enough, they're smiling. Because before the bodies are cold, before the mothers have stopped shrieking, our leaders are thinking:


And for them it is. It's an opportunity for them to do whatever they wanted to do before, but couldn't get away with. It's an opportunity for them to smear anyone who criticizes them as disloyal. It's an opportunity for them to become much more powerful than they ever could be in peacetime. Leaders love war. That's why there's so much of it.

It's understandably hard for normal people to come to terms with this. It's scary to believe your leaders may secretly be, uh, not so sad if you die. But all you have to do is listen to them, and they'll tell you.

Can we change this? Maybe. But the first step in changing reality is facing it, no matter how ugly and frightening it is.

Happy September 11th.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at September 11, 2014 02:26 PM

Only IF we could LEARN SOMETHNIG from these HORRORS?????

And let us not forget another Sep 11....

Posted by: rupa at September 11, 2014 03:57 PM

i offer the following in the spirit of 9/11

MICFiC - an acronym every child should know

I'm formally suggesting an easy-to-say acronym for the ruling class. The phrase "the military-industrial complex" was featured in Eisenhower's 1961 Farewell Address, which in a humane and reasonable America (in the future? in an alternative universe? in one's dreams?) will have the prominence it deserves. Wikipedia tells us

The first public use of the term was by the Union of Democratic Control, formed by Sir Charles Trevelyan in the United Kingdom on 5 August 1914. Point Four of their pacifist manifesto declared:

4. National armaments should be limited by mutual agreement, and the pressures of the military-industrial complex regulated by the nationalisation of armaments firms and control over the arms trade. -- page 144, DeGroot, Gerard J. Blighty: British Society in the Era of the Great War, London & New York: Longman, 1996.

Eisenhower's speech in draft form had the phrase "the military-industrial-congressional complex", but he took "congressional" out after objections from those who thought it might offend important people (as it would have, of course). I've restored that word, and added a couple of others for comprehensiveness.


M ilitary
I ndustrial
C ongressional
Fi nancial
C orporate Media Complex

The second "i" in MICFiC is not capitalized, which makes it a bit more interesting if it should ever come to the "graphic design" stage, as well as facilitating easy pronunciation -


I wondered if I could come up with an aphoristic explanation, and decided that the elevator version is:

The MICFiC is a conspiracy to use, abuse, and confuse the people, to "milk, shear, and slaughter the sheeple", figuratively speaking - except the "slaughter" is literal.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at September 11, 2014 06:18 PM

Of course, a wise leader knows to make their own opportunities. Cory Doctorow's recent essay on the moral hazard that shows up in particular kinds of SF refers:

"‘The Cold Equations’ shoves every one of those questions out the airlock along with the young girl. It barks at us that now is not the time for pointing fingers, because there is an emergency. It says that now is the time to pull together, the time for all foolish girls to die to save brave explorers from certain death, and not the time for assigning blame.

"But if a crisis of your own making isn’t the time to lay blame, then the optimal strategy is to ensure that the crisis never ends."

My emphasis, just to be obvious

Posted by: weaver at September 11, 2014 10:27 PM

sorry for the poor choice of words - "in the spirit of" can be taken in various ways - what i mean is, let's hope we or those who observe our example will eventually learn from various tragedies, what led up to them, and how to avoid repeating them

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at September 12, 2014 09:21 AM

One of my favorite reruns. (Oh, for the day it won't be timely.)

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