Repost-A 9/11 Link

For those who didn’t make it through, and those who did, and those who have worked every day to make it better…

Here’s a video of the memorial at night, from a few years ago. You can look into those holes, the water flowing down and away. You can also be with everyone else for a moment, looking at the beauty around you; the bustling city.

Addition: At the NY Observer, a firsthand account from the 77th floor of the 2nd tower.

Repost: At Google-Lawrence Wright’s Discussion Of Al Qaeda In ‘The Looming Tower’

Lawrence Wright offered a decent profile of many Al Qaeda top-men in ‘The Looming Tower.

They tended to be smart, educated sorts away from home. Ambitious men with deep grievances and wounded pride. Men seeking purity and strength of purpose, as well as a lost kingdom.

Like many Muslim men relative to those in the West, they’d spent most of their lives segregated from women, with many fewer opportunities to have their educations match a deeper sense of purpose and vocation. These were men, who in that rush of youth, perhaps saw little purpose in merely dedicating their lives to family, work and being connected to others through the kind of civil society and associations we have here in the West.

Of course, some men are pretty sadistic to begin with, but certainly not all.

There was righteous glory to be had, and bloody battles to be fought in driving the infidel from the Arabian peninsula, and eventually Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In fact, most of these men were often exposed to political oppression and brutality within the kinds of States common throughout the Muslim world these days.

As for the new recruits: Some of them had a bomb strapped to them same day. Not much room for franchise growth…in this life!

Wright piece on Al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Some of Roger Scruton’s essays here. Interesting quote in this video, which may line-up with Wright’s observations about the pursuit of purity, and how it tends to end:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project and impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

[Addition]: Of course, what do we do in defense against people who want to kill us where we live, whose ideals are fairly deluded and corrupted from the start?

Related On This Site: From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Repost-A 9/11 Link

For those who didn’t make it through, and those who did, and those who have worked every day to make it better…

Here’s a video of the memorial at night, from a few years ago. You can look into those holes, the water flowing down and away. You can also be with everyone else for a moment, looking at the beauty around you; the bustling city.

Addition: At the NY Observer, a firsthand account from the 77th floor of the 2nd tower.

A 9/11 Link

It’s nearly too politicized these days…

For those who didn’t make it through, and those who did, and those who have worked every day to make it better…

Here’s a video of the memorial at night, from a few years ago. You can look into those holes, the water flowing down and away.  You can also be with everyone else for a moment, looking at the beauty around you; the bustling city.

Addition:  At the NY Observer, a firsthand account from the 77th floor of the 2nd tower.

Horror And Hope-Some Links On Rebuilding After 9/11

It’s taken the dedication and quiet determination of many people, working purposefully, in memory of what was lost that day.  9/11 still hovers beneath many of the debates we’re having about our freedom and security, commerce and law, immigration and openness.

We’re in a kind of war, but it’s not always clear who the enemy is.  Terrorism strikes on our soil, then melts away into the night.  It’s a religiously inspired ideology with few boundaries, an ‘-ism’ of the worst kind, with followers who remain both pathetic and dangerous.  We’ll have to keep dealing with the higher consequences and lower probability of future attacks.

Despite this, we go on with our lives.

The Freedom Tower, with spire recently attached, makes it the tallest in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776 feet.

It has extra-thick set concrete and blast-proof, or, very thick, glass.  Naturally, it’s going to be a high-value target.

Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish architect, was hired to build the transportation hub at the memorial.  The NY Times had an unfavorable review as the costs have ballooned from $2.2 billion to potentially $3.8 billion dollars.

A boondoggle?:

‘Even so, Mr. Calatrava remains unable to overcome the project’s fatal flaw: the striking incongruity between the extravagance of the architecture and the limited purpose it serves. The result is a monument to the creative ego that celebrates Mr. Calatrava’s engineering prowess but little else.’

A somewhat critical piece by Paul Goldberger at the New Yorker of how the process has gone, published September 12th, 2011:

‘Ten years on, the long-term shape of Ground Zero is coming into focus. It is turning out to be one part Daniel Libeskind to several parts Larry Silverstein, the real-estate developer who held the lease on the World Trade Center. Silverstein asked various architects to build skyscrapers on the site, none of whom, at least so far, have produced anything close to their best work.’

A more stirring, Tom Hanks-narrated, video originally shown at the 10th anniversary summit in Washington D.C.  I’m not sure I’m trusting of D.C. these days and the ‘greatness’ model to be able to get things done:


You can look into those holes, the water flowing down and away:


And down there seven stories below ground is where the museum will be, where many of the bodies remain, unrecovered:


Related On This Site: The end of the ‘greatness’ model?: From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

Joan Miro: WomanGoya’s ColossusGoya’s Fight With Cudgels… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersA Reaction To Jeff Koons ‘St John The Baptist’

From The NY Times: ‘Atheists Sue to Block Display of Cross-Shaped Beam in 9/11 Museum’


Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’

Full essay here.

Can the Islamist revival be read through the lens of liberal Europe to benefit?  Berman perhaps sees parallels from his Marxist/Communist days in the recruitment writings of Al Qaeda:

‘Al Qaeda itself seemed to me entirely recognizable. It was one of several splintery offshoots from the main trunk of the Islamist movement, which was the Muslim Brotherhood, and the kinship of offshoot and trunk reminded me of the worldwide communist movement of forty years ago.’

Maybe, maybe not. This could help explain, though, why many well educated young men planned 9/11:

‘It was customary for a while to look on primitive madrassas in remote towns of the peasant universe as the root of the terrorist problem—religious academies where penniless boys with zero prospects for a better life are inducted into a culture of medieval rote-learning. But in regard to Islamism and especially its terrorist branches, the root of the problem seemed to me far more likely to be found on the other end of the educational spectrum: in the medical schools of Egypt or at Punjab University, or in places that might be regarded as still more prestigious—in the professional schools of Hamburg or the London School of Economics, where, after class, the students might amble off to their tea shops or apartments and pore over the same literature that was piling up on my floor’

And Berman, liberal hawk though he is, reminds me why if this is liberalism, I remain skeptical; namely the desire to look out from the materialist doctrines and see Christianity as a competitor for the proles…human freedom there to be plucked from the ether and made into a system, a law, or an institution by those who have seen the light and dream of revolution:

‘The rise of Christianity—to cite a non-trivial example—does not lend itself to any obvious material explanations. The religion got started in a backwater province among people with very little power or wealth, and yet within a mere three hundred years, a blink of an eye in those times, it managed, by force of persuasion, to conquer the Roman Empire and change world history irreversibly’

and he concludes:

‘If you are philosophically a hard-core materialist and you tally up the measurable facts of power and wealth, they add up to nothing. But if you consider that ideas sometimes have an autonomous force of their own, and that liberal ideas are more likely to flourish in an atmosphere of freedom, these two new and feeble elements look like—well, a beginning.’

Well, I’m sure many in the West would like to see some form of Western thought take deeper root in the Muslim world and grow into flowering plants we’d recognize (from Fukuyama’s End Of History, to the Bush doctrine, to the human rights/interventionist Obama and European Libya ‘kinetic military action’,  to simply anything that would keep religiously motivated Islamic extremists from exporting terror to our soil. This would include freedom from tyrannies and autocrats and Islamist moral absolutism. What the Islamic world does and how it sees itself may be another matter.

Addition: I have to give Berman a lot more credit than I did when I wrote this.  The fascistic and Western ideological elements that can be found in AQ and IS literature can be found in Muslim Brotherhood stuff and some Ba’ath party thinking, from what I’m told.  Berman knows whereof he speaks. Fuse this with the Islamic ‘revival’ of sorts going on in the Middle-East, the higher birth rates, many of the autocratic rulers swept away during the ‘Arab Spring.’  Also throw-in the tribal and ethnic, nationalist and historical, tensions that traditionally have unified under the banner of Islam, and it starts to make more sense.  Let’s not forget the problems and tensions stemming from Western contact and influence (military, business, technological) either.

Related On This Site:  Could Berman be on some arc toward neoconservatism that many liberals take, being ‘mugged by reality’…or is it just the dark side of materialism and dreaming of revolution?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’….is Hitchens on that arc?: Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And VirtuePaul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize Iran

Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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Martha Nussbaum At The Chronicle Of Higher Education Responding To The 10th Anniversary Of 09/11: ‘Justice’

Full piece here.

Nussbaum implores Americans to respond to the idea of ‘global justice.’

‘Well, why not? It is a day when people, immersed in busy lives, may actually stop to think in ways that they usually don’t. So why not talk about a vitally important topic that usually occupies too little of most people’s time?’

Here’s where I would agree with Nussbaum:

Moreover, the intense compassion that was generated by the disaster never got translated into a keen interest in the mundane and boring problems that actually kill so many more people in the world than terrorism, or even war: hunger, malnutrition, chronic diseases, lack of sanitation and clean water, sex-selective abortion, and infanticide.’

These efforts can clearly be worthwhile, and the day-to-day struggle and the cost and risks are picked up by those who often volunteer their time, money, and resources to try and ease the suffering of others (and I agree they are generally morally good but the reasons as to why they are morally good are up for debate).  I would point out that such work can also lead to Western and American interests involving themselves in other countries and potentially involving other parts of our societies (political, military) in those cultures.

‘In his terrific recent book Altruism in Humans, C. Daniel Batson summarizes years of experiments showing that the vivid imagining of another person’s suffering is strongly correlated with helping behavior.’


‘Batson concludes that compassion is necessary for morality, but woefully incomplete: We need principles and entrenched habits. Bloom comes to a similar conclusion: Morality has roots in “human nature” but is an achievement of culture that must go beyond our native equipment.’

But whence those principles?  Clearly, some combination of nature/nuture leads to our capacity for empathy and development of the moral imagination and its duties to our civilization.  Nussbaum argues that in the wake 9/11, we’ve failed to live up those principles:

‘But we also saw the distressing shortfall of the compassionate imagination: As soon as things returned to “normal,” most people went back to their old habits and their daily lives, continuing to put themselves and their friends first in the old familiar ways.’

On Nussbaum’s view, what is necessary is:

‘What, then, should we learn from these unsurprising and all-too-human failures? First, we need not just emotional responses, but then, tempering and correcting them, principles and habits. Second, we’d better turn those principles into laws and institutions that treat all people with equal concern and regard: at the national level, but also through global agreements and global work on human development and human rights.’

Why exactly should we turn those principles into laws and institutions?  What obligations would they impose upon, say, citizens of the U.S.? Why should individuals like Bill Gates (who thrived due to innate intelligence, hard thinking and hard work, access to computers, shrewdness to say the least, business acumen, cultural opportunity resources ((laws and traditions)) and maybe just luck) be obligated to create an institution?  Why should principles of positively defined justice and the power of the State through the laws be involved in deciding an individual’s moral obligations to his neighbor, and to unknown persons halfway around the world?

To my mind, just as vital to the moral imagination on this view may be the freedom from institutions and eventual bureaucracies that would enshrine these ideals (human rights and global justice).  The pursuit of justice can unite people in common cause and tap into a deeply human need for fairness, especially on a global scale (and could be expedient in defining common U.S. and European interest).  However, as the Continental Left in Europe has shown, it can also commit individuals to institutions and structures that can abandon those very same individuals (including the development of the moral imagination) in favor of rule by a relative few, hierarchy and injustice, (and the abuse of those institutions through fraud, rewarding friends and punishing enemies, maintaining power, creating a Eurozone bureaucratic class).

Nussbaum has done good work guiding feminism and liberalism back to our laws.   She’s also tried to solve very specific problems in India’s young democracy with Amartya Sen (addressing that nation’s long history and the deep injustice of the caste system, its hundreds of languages and many, many religions with a platform of Western liberal equality and liberty).  This brief piece, though, reminds me why I am generally not a liberal, and why I’m skeptical of distributive and re-distributive justice, and would rather have liberty much more negatively (defined) as regards the laws and the State.

Related On This Site:  Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal..and with some hubris of her own, as she sees little place for religion in the laws Martha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution… From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’… From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke in a strong, libertarian defense of the individual A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

Jesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads.

Some Quotations From Leo Strauss On Edmund Burke In ‘Natural Right And History’Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Full post here.

On what Mohammed Atta may have been looking for in the Bab-al Nasr district of Aleppo, Syria, as an architectectural student:

“Just a few paces into the labyrinth, the din of vehicular traffic is replaced by the banter of conversation in the marketplace. A brief stroll deeper, and the voices of men are replaced by the voices of boys chasing after a soccer ball in a courtyard as a hijab clad mother looks on from the window above”

Beauty, the past, meaning, religious purity…and perhaps confirmation of what he already believed:

To Atta, the French planners’ imposition of modernist urbanism on this “Islamic-Oriental city” wasn’t just architecturally ugly—it undermined the traditional Islamic culture of the neighborhood. So did globalization, an economic force of impersonal, mechanistic transactionsthat bestows inordinate power on wealthy, non-Muslim countries

…restoring a supposed Middle Eastern golden age that existed before Western encroachment and secularization. Atta has written this arcadia into his thesis.”

…ideas that helped Atta lead, as Atta led himself, to New York on a path of extreme and radical violence, which is tough to discuss, let alone forgive.

Though I could still, aesthetically and politically, have some sympathy for Atta as our author informs us of his hometown:

“With the crumbling legacy of European imperialism and American-backed dictatorship written into its Paris-meets-Houston cityscape, Cairo is one of the world’s worst advertisements for East-West relations.”

See Also On This Site:  Christopher Caldwell points out that multiculturalism is an obviously insufficient set of ideas for dealing with the tensions between native Europeans and largely immigrant Muslims:  From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

Are secular humanism and the kind of political freedoms we enjoy in the West incompatible with Islam?:  From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

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