Back to previous post: Wouldn’t It Be Great

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Making Us Safer Every Day

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

July 7, 2005

Tips for an apocalypse
Posted by Teresa at 10:14 AM * 142 comments

1. Contact your people.

1. When a disaster strikes, everyone who hears about it immediately starts worrying about friends and relations who might have been victims. As soon as you’re safe and reasonably comfortable, get word out that you’re okay. Do it even if you were miles from the event. Your people can’t be sure you were safely far away from the event until you tell them so.

Go easy on the phone lines. Don’t tie up the public pay phones with nonessential yakking. Also, if you’re reporting that everyone in your travel group is okay, make a list of their names and contact info and phone/e-mail/IM it to someone who’ll pass it around back home.

Here’s the general rule: Collect names. Swap lists. Publicize your results. And while you’re at it, keep an eye out for potential side-channels. Think like the Internet: route around the damage.

2. Beware of rumors.

People will be desperately trying to pull together a picture of the situation. They’ll grasp at scraps of information, theorize light-years beyond the data, inflate the importance of trifles, and find connections where none exist.

By all means, keep your head up and your ear to the ground. Good information is priceless. But if there’s ever a moment to look skeptically at unsourced information, this is it.

(An amusing project: if you’re stranded by transit shutdowns and have nothing to do, try collecting reports, rumors, and speculations. Don’t pass them on, but do write them down, because once consensus reality has sorted out What Really Happened That Day, they’ll be much harder to remember, and people won’t want to cop to them. Trot them out as a curiosity a few weeks or months later.)

3. Brace yourself: the idiots are coming.

Over the next few weeks, you’re going to get hit with a spate of false alarms. It’s because everyone’s on edge, which means false alarms will produce exaggerated responses. Some sh*t-for-brains types find that amusing. If you stay calm, they’ll die down faster.

Another thing to watch out for are scammers taking up collections on behalf of the victims. These guys always pop up in the wake of major disasters. For example, a bunch of scammers toured small-town America, taking collections that never reached the victims, after the Titanic went down.

4. Hang in there. Take care of yourselves.

See also: jump bags.
And: Encoding emergency contact info on your cellphone.

Comments on Tips for an apocalypse:
#2 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:24 AM:

and if I may suggest keeping things in realistic perspective as well, this isn't WTC 9/11 London Version, it's a set of 4 relatively limited bombings with +-40 casualties. Yes this is terrible, yes there's much sympathy for the victims and their families, but that aside most of London is largely unimpressed by this all, an apocalypse this is not.

#3 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:44 AM:

0. Breathe all the way in and out, a few times. It's harder to keep your head with stress-induced hypoxia.

Other than that, your rules are an important reminder - and I speak as a woman who lived in downtown Tel-Aviv '89-'01, which meant that apocalyptic was the name of my neighborhood. You've mentioned the top 5 (4 is technically 2 items...) things that make the difference between functionality and panic. And panic kills.

#4 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:44 AM:

I woke up to this news and have to say it gave me thin shades of 9/11. But I got over it by the time I cleared the sleep from my eyes. Glad to see our London friends handling the situation well.

On a slightly lighter note:

My wife and I saw War of the Worlds last weekend and one of the (few) good details of the film was the fact that throughout most of the movie, no one really knows what's going on but everyone has a pet theory. You hear the chatter when Tom and the kids are on the move across a bridge, heading for the ferry and when they're stuck in the cellar with creepy Tim Robbins.

I'd have preferred if our protagonist for WOTW had been a level-headed New York Science Fiction Editor, rather than a smirking midgit longshoreman from New Jersey. Someone who wouldn't have hesitated to tell Dakota Fanning to stop screaming and realized that maybe driving the one working minivan within a hundred miles through a mob-crowded street wasn't a bright idea.

one good thing to come out of disaster movies is that each one raises our inteligence about such matters a hair's bredth, so that the next time a real event occurs, everyone thinks, "I've seen this movie. Now what did Tom Cruise do that was a bad idea? I think I'll do the opposite."

#5 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:44 AM:

Mobile phone networks in London were jammed earlier in the day, but the text (SMS) network seems to be holding up. A good way to contact a batch of people without using up too much bandwidth.

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:55 AM:

"[T]his isn't WTC 9/11 London Version, it's a set of 4 relatively limited bombings with +-40 casualties"

Well, another way in which it differs from 9/11 is that 9/11 featured almost no serious injuries. On the day, hospitals mobilized; but by and large, most people in the towers either walked out, or were pulverized into dust.

This is different; non-fatal injuries are definitely running in the hundreds, a reasonable number of them significant.

#7 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:08 PM:

Now what did Tom Cruise do that was a bad idea? I think I'll do the opposite.

Boy, are those ever words to live by.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:09 PM:

Good point, Keith, about disaster movies possibly raising people's awareness of what to do when a disaster strikes.

As for Spielberg's "War of the Worlds", what really bugged me about that scene of their driving the minivan thru the crowd is that Cruise and the guy who threaten him seem to be the only people with firearms. That being said, I thought the movie sucked. Yes, we finally got to see the Tripods in action, yes, the special effects were great, but I'll stick with the 1953 version, which had a more better story. And I'll stick with Jeff Wayne's musical adaptation of 1978 - in spite of the disco music.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:10 PM:

Guy, you sound just like a New Yorker: "You call this an apocalypse? This is nothing. Let me tell you about the one a couple weeks ago ..."

These were meant to be a generally applicable set of suggestions. I learned to take names and swap lists after the Loma Prieta earthquake, and passed it on to Bill Shunn on 9/11. I learned why you need a jump bag during the last blackout. Coping with emergencies is a lifelong skill set.

#10 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:19 PM:

That's very true, Patrick, and certainly makes the aftermath complex and painful...but I think that a lot of people I'm seeing are feeling this as another September 11th-scale tragedy, and it's really not. Making it into one may lead to unnecessary fear and panic (not to mention the possibility of overcorrection or inappropriate response), and dangerous confusion. For all we know, despite the message from the European franchise of Al-Qaeda, this could be a G8 summit protest or a group of disgruntled Frenchmen bitter about not getting the 2012 Olympics.

That said, Teresa's tips on aftermath coordination are valuable under any circumstance.

#11 ::: Steinn Sigurdsson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:36 PM:

The number of fatalities has probably not yet converged, typically initial estimates are undercounts, then they overshoot as confirmed dead are double counted (eg ambulance reports and hospital reports are added) and then they come down a bit as records are reconciliated.

Unless the explosives were quite small, the death toll is likely to be larger; they're probably counting intact corpses right now, there are going to be some in bits - not to put it too delicately. At that time both the tube carriages and the bus would have been very crowded, and there was no warning.

There are also several hundred injured, many very badly injured.

I was looking at the times and places, I think one person could have done all the bombs - carrying few pounds of plastic explosives with short timers and just dropped them off and scooted on.

That is frightening, because the economic damage in terms of disruption to transport and business is large, as well as the human cost. So a small supply of high explosive with very limited manpower can do large disruption of life.
Imagine this happening several times per year, without warning.

#12 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 12:55 PM:

Bombs several times a year were a reality when the IRA campaigns were active. They're not the end of the world, generally.

Having said that, these bombs weren't to make a political statement, they were aimed at killing as many people as possible - rush hour with no warning. That's just plain nasty.

Going off at a slight tangent, am I the only one who thinks the name of the group who've apparently tried to claim responsibility sounds so over-done as to be a fake?

#13 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:07 PM:

" . . . so over-done as to be a fake?"

Bad translation, and/or not-very-savvy people responsible?

If I were to name a terrorist group, I'd watch lots of movies and come up with something like "The Invisible Talons of Kali" or "Myrmidons of the Third Eye."

#14 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:13 PM:

Problem with things which seem so over-done as to be a fake is that Truth doesn't really care for verisimilitude. All those tiny details you wouldn't dare to put in a book or film cause everybody would be laughing at you, yet you do know to be actual truths.

That useless bit being vented off, the name DOES sound overdone.

#15 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:34 PM:

By the way, John Kovalic has put up a few thoughts about London and the bombings. Highlights...

Quoth one old Londoner: "I've been blown up by a better class of bastard than this!"

"If the Luftwaffe couldn't bring the city to it's knees, these pathetic penny-ante cowards certainly won't."

#16 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:34 PM:

Well, in that perspective, it's not as 9/11 was the end of the world, either. Still, it somehow seems not just a bit insensitive, but a bit missing the point, when people point out that way more than 3,000 people die here, here, there, and because of this or that or accidents with can-openers.

While I am all for reminding people as often as possible that people died in the vicinity of 100,000 in Iraq, this does not mean that 37 people in the Tube blown to smitheereens somehow don't count.

What I feel like echoing is the sentiment "Good job Bush and Blair did stopping terrorism, eh?"

#17 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:42 PM:

I notice nobody here mentioned the favourite joke around Manchester today: "mate, the French are REALLY pissed!"

Yeah, black humour keeps us going. All my people in London are fine, but there were dark faces all around the office today. Overall, the feeling is that they did it when attention was elsewhere (G8 in Scotland) and they gutted us, badly. And it's always the little guy who pays for the idiocy of our "leaders".

I was 13 when the Berlin Wall came down. We were the generation who accepted turbo-capitalism as the only way to peace and prosperity. And then we had NYC 9/11, Iraq, Madrid 3/11 and now London 7/7. Don't know about you, but I feel a bit robbed.

#18 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:48 PM:

It's not the IRA, going on immediate past history, unless some new group's arisen that's a lot crazier than the pro hoods who run that organisation now.

Coinciding with the G8 meeting is an oddity, though. Al Quaida never gave any indication of being interested, AFAIK. On the other hand, there are extremists who'd wish to make a statement about that meeting, in this way. So it could be something like the old Red Brigades, or the Bader-Meinhoff group. A half-dozen bombs doesn't sound like a lone Tim McVeigh or a Unabomber-style crazy, though Stein Sigurdsson might be correct in saying that it's not physically impossible.

But I think there's enough of a parallel with the atrocity in Spain to suspect Al Quaida as the default, unless something else emerges. The theatrical title used by the group claiming responsibility is about par for the terrorist course. Check out the official name of Hamas, for example. And a general rule is that the tinier and more crazed the group is, the more grandiose the name they'll give themselves.

#19 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:55 PM:

To keep things in proportion, the death toll is equivalent to about four day's worth of traffic accidents.

Not that's any comfort for those caught up in it.

What worries me is the political fallout could do more long term damage to the nation than the actual carnage from the bomb. Either from the present regime going dangerously authoritarian, of a boost to the racist troglodytes of the far right.

#20 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:56 PM:

The coincidence with the G8 is pretty obvious: summit of the Eeevil Western Mighty, and of course, half the Met Police is up in Scotland now.

Ken Livingstone:: “I want to say one thing. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners.

“That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it's mass murder. We know what the objective is. They seek to divide London"

Why should they stop blowing up people? The strategy has worked so well up to now. :-(

#21 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:58 PM:

Somewhere in my web rummaging this morning, it was pointed out that police/paramedics/etc. sometimes try to use a victim's cell phone to contact next-of-kin, and wouldn't it be a good idea to *flag* that entry in your address book, instead of yet-another-cryptic-first-name.

(Apologies for the godawful unwieldy syntax of that sentence.)

Anyway, they suggested prefixing said entry with ICE -- for "In Case of Emergency". I'd be inclined to put it directly under "Emergency contact" myself but maybe that runs into limits on length of character string.

Thoughts?

#22 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:04 PM:

Terrorist groups currently still active in Europe are usually quite "civilized": they give warnings and pick scientifically chosen targets (police/institutions, tourism industry, etc).

The modus operandi here is wanton violence and very similar to Madrid, so we can presume the same "constellation" of groups is behind this. And G8 is not an oddity: 40-thousand policemen and special ops were up north, the biggest police operation on UK soil since WW2; many of these coppers would usually be in London.

#23 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:05 PM:

Dear mistress moderator, in the aftermath of having wondered for twelve hours if close friends were pulp smeared around some tube train, can we please lose it and snap at people who urge us to keep things in perspective and say something nasty?

Oh... ok. Thought so. Pity, though.

#24 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:07 PM:

Kate: I've got "Mommy" and "Daddy" in my recently-called numbers. I think that's pretty obvious. :-)

#26 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:43 PM:

"Guy, you sound just like a New Yorker"

Teresa, that had to be the nicest thing anyone's said to me in a decade, cheers! *grin*

"Unless the explosives were quite small"..."The number of fatalities has probably not yet converged"

Steinn, as I understand it only the King's Cross blast was particularly large (and it claimed the most victims at 21.) The body count is likely to stay much the same, it IS climbing a little, but we're not talking about finding 200 more dead by tomorrow. The only significant point of contention I'm aware of is the bus bomb, my figure of +-40 included an estimate of 10 dead at that site, that number has been revised downward to 2 whilst the underground casualties were raised slightly. At the latest official count the total number had risen from 33 to 37. At day's end I think we'll be more concerned about whether any of the more serious injured (as noted by Patrick) will end up being counted amongst the fatalities than any new bodies being found.

Will: Hear hear! We shall overcome! Or to be frank, we already have, as I mentioned elsewhere most people I know in my immediate vicinity are already back to worrying about the miserable mess the govt has inflicted on us by taking on the 2012 Olympics.

Anna: Just to be clear, there's no intention to be insensitive here, we're more intent on getting on with our lives ASAP, London is a pretty high-stress environment and we've got a plateload of problems to deal with already, no time to stop and take a break cos some (bleep)heads fancied blowing bits of the city up. I'm sure most of us will go to bed and feel awful for the victims, and spend some time looking to see if there's anything useful that can be done to help them, besides that though, we were back to the daily grind less than an hour after things stopped blowing up, some of us never stopped. So there's really no reason to "lose it" against those of us who were at ground zero and are NONETHELESS urging perspective.

#27 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 02:50 PM:

...the miserable mess the govt has inflicted on us by taking on the 2012 Olympics.

Oh yes indeed...and have I told you recently how happy we New Yorkers are that we aren't being saddled with it? Take that, Bloomberg, and your $600 million West Side Boondoggle with it!

#28 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:06 PM:

I watched an awful lot of CNN this morning, and caught one of the most interesting press conferences I've ever seen in a post-terrorist attack aftermath.

One of the reporters, I think an American, made a point of asking on of the British officers about the Islamic attackers. The British officer made a point of saying that he didn't like to hear them called Islamic because most Islamics are not murderers. I doubt you'd ever hear similar from the Americans.

#29 ::: Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:12 PM:

If you're going to inform your loved ones that you've survived a disaster, I highly recommend making sure they know what the disaster was.

A couple of weeks ago, there was an industrial accident in downtown STL. According to online posters, the cable networks were infusing this story with the usual overdose of hysteria. Even though I live and work way out in the burbs, I dropped my parents an e-mail to let them know I was safe, just in case.

This had the opposite of the intended effect.

I soon got a panicked phone call from Mom, asking what the frell was going on. Seems she'd been working on online genealogical research all day and hadn't even had the TV on, so my message worried her more than all the coverage she hadn't been watching.

On the other hand, when I dropped my folks a line to check on them after TS Cindy passed over their South Mississippi home, the reply was, "Guess we just forgot it was a tropical storm so didn't send you an update."

Perspective. Heh.

#30 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:14 PM:

Guy - and Tina, to whom my irritation was actually aimed at - you don't get to say that 37 deads need perspective *and* use the "I was at ground zero" card at the same time.

You get to say "Oh it's nothing" when it's you and yours being blow up. Hats off to the British for doing it. When it's somebody else, saying "Well, we had it worse" exposes you to the risk of somebody else pointing out that 3,000 deads are really paling in comparison with Afghanistan and Iraq fatalities, IF such comparisons could be made.

I can get a grip just fine, people. I can put things in perspective just fine. I never lost sight of the fact that 8,000 human beings were slaughtered in Srebrenica and 800,000 in Rwanda among general disinterest. It still irritates me to no end when people try to impose on me emotional reactions that they deem suitable to the political situation.

If a thousand wounded and several scores of dead people in London leave you cold, that's perfectly fine: just don't tell me they should leave me cold. And don't tell me that they should leave me cold because there's worse things around, because what the hell, I haven't been left cold by those either, when most people were.

37 dead people in London - at least one of whom could easily have been a good friend of mine who used to go that route at that hour until a few months ago - are, in this case, 37 dead people who might not have died if the Smart Guys in charge had actually tried to put a stop to terrorism instead of manipulating 9/11 legitimate outrage for their own deranged ends. This trumps the annoyances of traffic jams for me, and it's not because I have no experience of the stress of urban living.

Of course, the Smart Guys in Charge bear their own share of blame for the number of fatalities on the roads and the deads in several parts of the world. Since I have done my best to protest all of these things, the reasoning that there's always something more wrong going on somewhere else really doesn't cut it for me.

#31 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:24 PM:

For those who think urging perspective is being insensitive - the UK population has been dealing with worrying about close friends being smeared by terrorist bombs for most of my life. Seeing it in perspective is one way in which people express the sentiment "Fuck you" to the terrorists who hope to destroy normal life.

What happened this morning is horrible, I'm angry and upset, I've spent the morning checking up on my friends in London, and I've only learnt in the last half hour that the London Underground driver I know is safe. I also know that letting this interfere with normal life after the scenes of crime have been cleaned up is precisely what the terrorists want. The only way in which this is different in scale to any of the bombs planted by the IRA over the years is that *this* bunch of fanatics planted four on the same day, putting a much bigger strain on the emergency services. Calling it an apocalypse is well and truly overstating things. I know that Teresa intended it as a general piece of advice, but apocalypse this event is not, and I don't consider a reminder of that to be out of place.

#32 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:34 PM:

Giacomo said:

I was 13 when the Berlin Wall came down. We were the generation who accepted turbo-capitalism as the only way to peace and prosperity. And then we had NYC 9/11, Iraq, Madrid 3/11 and now London 7/7. Don't know about you, but I feel a bit robbed.

Which, I think, sums up a lot of what those of us in our late 20's and early 30's feel: we've been robbed. We were supposed to be the generation that got to live on the moon, have rocket cars, robot servants and general peace and prosperity. We were going to live in the future. Instead, we woke up one morning in a What If world where the Feudal Age never ended, it just got shiny and nuclear powered.

#33 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:42 PM:

Somewhere in my web rummaging this morning, it was pointed out that police/paramedics/etc. sometimes try to use a victim's cell phone to contact next-of-kin, and wouldn't it be a good idea to *flag* that entry in your address book, instead of yet-another-cryptic-first-name.

It's an excellent idea, and not just in case of emergency. I used to work in a lost and found office, and it was amazing the number of cell phones that turned up with no clear person to call. Generally -- as this was on a college campus -- we wound up calling "Home" or "Mom" or "Dad" and asking them to tell their kid that we had the cell phone. But we got a surprising number of cell phones where the best lead was "Tina," or "Ned."

I wish I had something else useful to say. My heart goes out to everyone there, and everyone still trying to track down friends and family members in the area.

#34 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:49 PM:

Assuming that people can access an Internet connection, online forums/blogs are good spots to cross-communicate. There are two highly-active Halo forums (Halo.Bungie.Org and High Impact Halo) that are acting as clearinghouses for members checking in as we speak.

It's low-bandwidth, it's simplex, and (since it's packets and searchable text) it's robust even in times of peak volume. The only weakness is that you have to find a functioning connection, but that can be anything that connects to the Web.

Thankfully most of the members have already checked in on HBO and HIH... no direct members as casualties, and most have already contacted loved ones at risk.

#35 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:50 PM:

"Calling it an apocalypse is well and truly overstating things. I know that Teresa intended it as a general piece of advice, but apocalypse this event is not, and I don't consider a reminder of that to be out of place."

Certainly. In fact it's very important to address the many readers of Making Light who don't understand the difference between a few bombs and the eschatological end of the world. I know my confusion has been dispelled!

#36 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 03:55 PM:

Nothing really to add, just sympathy going out to all involved.

The UK filkers have all reported in, which is good.

#37 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:04 PM:

I've been monitoring various and sundry sites all morning and it seems London's population of sf related folks are ok. There was even, it seems, and abbreviated Tun across the street from the usual location which was closed. There is an LJ community for news here.

My cellphone has numbers for Home, Mother, and Sis so I think I'm covered.

I need to update the meds in my emergency stash though.

MKK

#38 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:13 PM:

Yes, Patrick, sarcasm's a lovely tool. Unfortunately, some of the stuff I've been seeing on the net today, including on this thread, suggests to me that there are people who think that what happened in London is deserving of the label apocalyptic. It isn't.

It's a nasty, vicious, pre-mediated murder, and that gives it a horror beyond the numbers. But it is on a scale that warrants comparisons with previous nasty, vicious murders of the type in the UK, not with the WTC attack, and I don't consider it insensitive of people to say so.

#39 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:15 PM:

"Guy - and Tina, to whom my irritation was actually aimed at - you don't get to say that 37 deads need perspective *and* use the "I was at ground zero" card at the same time."

Anna, respectfully, you have no idea what you're talking about. You don't know who I am, what I've lived through, or who I may or may not have lost in which incidents. I have the right to urge perspective and I have a right to state my position in the story to any degree I wish or not at all. If you want to accuse me of somehow wronging the dead by doing so, that is also your right, that's freedom of speech for you, that particular statement however is putting words in my mouth that aren't there and never were, it is hurtful, offensive and provocative. I have no intention of getting into a fight and therefore must regretfully inform you I will no longer be giving notice to your posts in any way as they appear aimed at villifying me and anyone else who just wants to maintain some degree of common sense and composure in responding to this situation.

#40 ::: Steinn Sigurdsson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:24 PM:

I don't think the London bombings are literally the work of a single person - but they need not have required a large group either. Most likely 2-8 people, working in pairs - I think it is just about possible for a single person or pair of people to have planted all four devices. Of course if they were suicide bombers, things are a bit different. But I'm betting a pair of bombers, for moral support.
Good to know these were small blasts, then there may not be more uncounted prompt fatalities. Makes it more likely they were small plastic explosive lumps that were dropped and the bomber scooted. I don't get the impression people in London are as alert for unattended packages as they were, in any case, leave it inside a half-eaten fast food package under a crumpled up copy of the Sun and nobody'd notice, then.
I remember the IRA campaigns well, I was in the UK for two of the more extensive ones. The IRA never went for maximum casualty bombings (except for the very first pub bombs and the last market place bomb, which was a political disaster, and from a splinter faction). The IRA went for disruptive political bombing events, to put pressure on the UK without over alienating the UK public (I won't say if they were successful). Typically they gave just-in-time warnings, and had an optimal number of hoaxes per real bomb. Psychologically very different.
For a science fictional view of high impact terrorism, there is Larry Bond's "Enemy Within" - flawed, but interesting given current events.

#41 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 04:39 PM:

Incidental trivia item... I was at GenCon in 1993 where Bond gave a Q&A session, in which he complained/stated that The Enemy Within was ready for publishing but had been delayed because of the political climate; the truck bombing of the World Trade Center parking garage, to be specific.

It just goes around in circles, this history thing. Really. I get dizzy watching.

(He also said that his biggest disappointment at the time was that he and Clancy hadn't held onto the Red Storm Rising film rights a bit longer, so that it could've been made into a movie at a reasonable budget when the fUSSR military was essentially for-hire. *shrug*)

#42 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:14 PM:

Julia - your comment is a much better summary of the sentiments I was after than I made. It was a nasty, vicious attack, and the bastards responsible need to be found and thrown in jail for the rest of their lives.

For perspective, The List I've been on for six years spent most of the morning tracking down members of the London faction; I'm still not sure if they've all checked in. Someone else I know is in training to be a policeman; all the trainees were ordered into the city this morning to help deal with things, before they knew if all the bombs had gone off or not.

And yet, one of the best ways I know to show the guilty morons just how contemptible they are is to deny them the attention they crave. Essentially, fuck 'em. And the horse they rode in on.

Stefan Jones: Bad translation, and/or not-very-savvy people responsible?

Could well be. It has enough in common with the WTC and Madrid attacks that I'm willing to entertain al-Qaeda as a source, at least for now.

MD²: Problem with things which seem so over-done as to be a fake is that Truth doesn't really care for verisimilitude.

Or the shorter version - truth is stranger than fiction. :-) The point is well taken, though.

#43 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Sixty years on, and my father was saying that he recognised some of what was going on in the TV pictures from his days in ARP/Civil Defence, during WW2. He reckons there's not much difference between what happened today and a V1 or V2. You change the plans because they closed a hospital, not because a different bugger is trying to blow up London.

#44 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:22 PM:

Maybe one person, but probably more, though likely not very many. An article on The Times online mentioned that this sort of attack had been thwarted in the past, so while we can look for significanse in relation to the 8 summit or the Olympic bid win the day before or the average of the dates of the 4th of July and the opening day of the Fantastic Four on the 8th, I think the nasty reality is that this is just the one that got through.

Disasters happen regardless, so a jump bag is a good idea, especially for city dwellers. As a suburbanite, I'm less concerned about needing to flee the house, but we've got adequate canned goods and candles for things like when the Pacific grid blew a few years ago. In fact, my gothy obsession with candles made it so that we were the only house in the neighborhood with adequate illumination, since candles don't do you much good without candelabras to put them in if you're interested in serious candlepower, not just quaint mood lighting.

My jump bag more tends to be my car trunk, which has both sleeping bag and change of clothes for unexpected weather.

#45 ::: Sarah M ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:24 PM:

As much as I agree with those who are pointing out that the number of casualties in London now is relatively small and needs to be put into perspective, I really disagree that the effectiveness of this attack ought to be measured in terms of how many casualties.

The point of a terrorist attack isn't necessarily to kill people, but to terrorize and hurt those who aren't caught in the actual blast. So yeah, maybe fewer people died in this attack than in a week of traffic accidents, but think of how they died -- they were killed while taking public transportation on their communte, something everyone does, usually without much thought, and something most people therefore take completely for granted.

In a way, I'm kind of more freaked out by this attack than by 9/11 (and I'm from NYC). Yeah, 9/11 shook me quite a lot, but there was always the (somewhat) consoling thought (repeated a lot during the Freedom Tower debates) that the WTC represented something special and that that's why it was hit. You could box off the Towers as a "special" place, which meant that the rest of the city was still safe, still okay, because where else in the city was there such obvious and alluring symbolism? Maybe if I worked at the NYSE I'd have been worried, but other than that...

But trains and buses! How utterly mundane. If even an underground subway tunnel isn't safe from evoking the ire and murderous wrath of a terrorist, really, then it can be hard to see what is safe. Subway riding isn't supposed to be a political act, and so this act of terrorism, by turning even a relatively unremarkable element of urban infrastructure into something politically-charged, has the potential to make life that much more terrifying and stressful and horrifying for everyone everyday. (I say "potential" because I don't how Londoners - who by all reports are coping wonderfully - will actually react. All I do know is if this had happened in New York, I'd be more than a little shaky, to put it lightly, the next time I rode the subway/bus.)

#46 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:36 PM:

My car trunk is a de facto jump bag, as a result of an aborted camping trip. I'm too lazy to move the tent, sleeping bag, camp table and chairs, and box of canned food and kitchen gear back up to my storage area.

Which, come to think of it, doesn't have room for that stuff any more.

#47 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:40 PM:

"I learned to take names and swap lists after the Loma Prieta earthquake, and passed it on to Bill Shunn on 9/11."

I remember that. Lucy Huntzinger showed up on our doorstep, and said that she'd heard that we were OK from you- and you were living in Toronto(?) at the time. We were boggled, because we hadn't called you. But somebody we called talked to somebody, who talked to you who talked to Lucy....

I've never forgotten that, it made a deep impression on me - the power of networks, and all that.

#48 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 05:45 PM:

Sarah - attacks on tube stations aren't new - the [Real|Provisional|"Original"] IRA made several, with varying degrees of success. There hasn't been one for quite a few years, though, as far as I remember.

(Again, this isn't to diminish what happened today; just to add information.)

#49 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:00 PM:

Paul: Or the shorter version - truth is stranger than fiction. :-)

But, mine version uses a longer word... Long words make you sound smarter, don't they ? o_O"

(Damn...)

#50 ::: Abigail ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:06 PM:

Sarah M. makes a good point. I'm Israeli, and for a while a few years ago I simply took it for granted that one day I'd end up in a bus bombing. I had friends at university whose parents had given them a special allowance for cab fare to anywhere they needed to go. A person shouldn't have to stand in a bus stop and wonder if they're about to make the last decision of their lives.

That said, I'm not sure I'd say that the body count is insignificant to the terrorists. The timing of the attack clearly indicates a desire to maximize fatalities. In that sense, today has been a failure for them. At the risk of sounding coarse and with the understanding that this makes no difference to the families and loved ones of those unlucky enough to perish today, 40 casualties is practically miraculous.

#51 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:09 PM:

Anna FDD, I thought it said "Tina Hall" the first time, too, but it's actually "Tim Hall."

#52 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:16 PM:

The timing of the attack clearly indicates a desire to maximize fatalities.

Not necessarily. It could also indicate a desire to maximise inconvenience and disruption; that magnifies the political effect by spreading the "that could've been me" out as far as possible. Trapping several million people in rush hour traffic does that rather well.

It's called "terrorism", not "murderism". The goal is to induce terror by striking in a spectacular manner... in their eyes killing a few bystanders is a means towards that end but the more people they can frighten by a close brush with death, the better.

Dead voters don't petition their governments to change policy. Frightened ones do.

#53 ::: fjm ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:20 PM:

Sarah

The effectiveness of an attack is entirely determined by the response of those in the vicinity.

The absolute worst thing we could do is go into national mourning, The absolute best thing is to go to work as normal, celebrate the Olympics (should you wish to) as normal, go out and see our friends as normal.

As Paul says, the British have lived through this before. I grew up in Birmingham when the IRA were bombing the pubs. I commuted through London through the last terror campaign.

We know how the British public wil react: we know how to do this. We know the undergound is not and cannot be safe. We accept that we live in a city without litter bins.

Crooked Timber has posted Noel Coward's London Pride. It brought a lump to my throat.

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 06:29 PM:

Quoth Sarah,

Subway riding isn't supposed to be a political act

I moved to the UK when the IRA were still bombing the mainland from time to time. I learned then that the British are very, very good at defiant normality. They can turn subway riding, train riding, and going to the pub into political acts.

I suspect it's the magical power of tea. Why else does every crisis end when someone says, "I'll put the kettle on"?

#55 ::: Maria Ng ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 07:16 PM:

Hehe, I'm very proud of our 'defiant normality'. Thanks :)

They target public transport and random people because they're cowards and because they want us to be afraid. Simple as that.

I'm not in London, for which I'm glad, and even riding the bus here where I am made me feel a little rattled. But realistically, there is nothing much we as ordinary citizens can do in the face of this threat except go on with all the important stuff of our daily lives.

And of course hold Tony Blair to his word when he says "we will hold true to the British way of life." - i.e. not letting him leech away our civil liberties and our freedom any further than he already has.

For me, keeping it in perspective means thankfulness that we have functioning hospitals and well-resourced emergency services, and that the survivors can walk out from those underground stations back into eventual ordinary old peaceful normality. And even a small, second-hand taste via the television news today of all that fear and hurt and panic and loss makes me angrier than I can express that our leaders in our name could ever contemplate wilfully inflicting that on any other people.

#56 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 07:36 PM:

Okay, here's the deal: everyone here is entitled to their own reaction(s) -- unless they're being seriously obnoxious, of course, in which case they'll be summarily dealt with in accordance with local customs.

Telling other people what reactions they should be having is not an approved activity, unless you do it really well and are right.

Meanwhile, all hail Ken Livingstone for rising so eloquently to the occasion.

#57 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 07:39 PM:

(Just to make clear, I wasn't trying to tell people what reactions they should be having; if that's the way it came across, I apologise.)

#58 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 07:55 PM:

Emergency-supply related item:

http://www.heatermeals.com

Not for a jump bag, but perhaps for sticking in the back of the pantry.

My parents, who got some of these from FEMA when their neighborhood flooded, report that they're not bad.

#59 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 08:02 PM:

I woke up this morning to the just-short-of-hysterical NPR reporting on the London bombings and found my reaction to be surprisingly cool. Certainly, I feel for the people affected and their families, but I think my response was dulled because this sort of attack was something I expected.

I also suspect that my reaction would have been more intense had the attack been in New York or San Francisco, both of which I know well, love and are home to lots of people I care about, or Seattle, where I live now and am learning to love.

One of the surprising things was how fast photo groups formed over on Flickr. There are two pools already and you can see more pictures by searching the tags. The pictures are a mix of shots in and around London, including some of the bus and of injured people, and others expressing sympathy. Since the groups are self-organizing, there are also too many shots of TV screens.

Looking at this, for me anyway, shows the resilience of Londoners and exactly how connected we are, now more than ever.

#60 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 08:37 PM:

To merge this with the real future overtaking SF thread.

I never thought I'd miss the Cold War.

I never imagined I'd hear about a bombing and hope it was just the IRA with their rules of engagement and constant half-glance over the shoulder at the US media.

I could never in a million years have made up a Londoner not over twenty saying in 2005: "You think you can achieve anything by bombing us? We've been bombed by the Luftwaffe, mate."

#61 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 08:53 PM:

Jo Walton:

Sheila Finch tells stories of the London Blitz. As I recall, she rather liked reading Mystery novels in the London Tubes as the bombs rained down. Can someone persuade her to post her take on today's London mass-murder?

My wife and I have said for years, looking back nostalgically on when the Government paid us to do weird research vaguely related to Star Wars:

"The good news is, the Cold War is over.
The bad news is, the Cold War is over."

Isn't there a proverb to the effect: "Now that we have slain the dragon, we face a thousand scorpions?"

#62 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:00 PM:

My husband went to a coworker's house (of mine) on 9/11 to let his wife (whose cell wasn't working) know her husband was OK.

I IMed a friend in London who called my mom for me (I couldn't get through)

I owe londoners for how wonderful they were to me after 9/11. I hope they're coping.

#63 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:12 PM:

Ken Livingston uses the Tube pretty much all the time. He's a SOB but he's our SOB, while Blair is their SOB.

#64 ::: Chantal Le Feu ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 09:54 PM:

Teresa and Patrick:

I've been lurking on your for blog some time. But please may I say this:

Please let me take over your space for one little moment just to say I'm asking those who unite in sympathy and outrage with me about the events in London on 7 July 2005 to just take a few seconds out and say "hi" in solidaity on my blog.

Forgive me for the intrusion.

Chantal.

"I Was Hitler's Wet Nurse"

http://iwashitlerswetnurse.blogspot.com

#65 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:09 PM:

Isn't there a proverb to the effect: "Now that we have slain the dragon, we face a thousand scorpions?"

"We have slain a dragon, but now we inhabit a jungle filled with poisonous snakes. In many ways, the dragon was easier to keep track of."

--Counterintelligence agent after the Cold War ended. I saw it at the International Spy Museum in DC.

#66 ::: Jackmormon ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 11:59 PM:

I'm still a little too overwrought to write anything either emotional or political. So, a note on emergenency preparedness.

In the wake either of 9-11-2001 or the blackout of 09-2003, I bought a couple of plastic gallons of water. About a week ago, NYC issued a warning about short-term public water contamination, and so I broke out the emergency water. Lesson learned? You should change your emergency water supplies at least once a year.

In other news, I'm really impressed that online Halo communities could turn into informational clearing-houses in such times.

#67 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 01:54 AM:

Allow me to remark to Guy Matthews: You've been coming on about 300% too strong since you started. As it happens, I agree almost entirely with the attitude toward urban terrorism you've been trying to articulate--and I think you're being a real prick to Anna Feruglio Dal Dan. Parse it yourself.

#68 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 01:57 AM:

Jo Walton;

In one sense the timing on this is quite inept.

It's the week that the end-of-WW2 commemorations are running, with TV coverage, and special events running.

And, almost three weeks ago (same night as Doctor Who finished), one of the other TV channels showed the movie "Battle of Britain". As well as there being the Doctor Who story set in the Blitz.

It doesn't surprise me that a TV vox pop would find a young Londoner who had picked up on how much bigger the Blitz was.

But if people put stuff like that in stories it feels odd, reminiscent of writers with the attitudes of Tom Clancy, and less talent. It sounds like the neocons trampling out another batch of the grapes of wrath.

Though I reckon a cockney accent does make it sound better, whatever colour the speaker's skin is.


#69 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 01:59 AM:

(If there's any general point to be derived from my remarks above, it's that while I dislike investing terrorist attacks with more emotional significance than they deserve, I dislike the Attitude Police, all prissiness and finger-wagging moral superiority, even more. What Teresa said: by and large, people are entitled to have a diversity of reactions. Slack is a really good idea.)

#70 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 02:38 AM:

I noticed an interesting phenomenon on the bus yesterday. It pulls up at Finsbury Park rather than Kings Cross because the station is shut and they don't know why... and everyone whips out their mobile phones in synchrony. The noise level in the bus quadrupled in seconds. Within three minutes a decently accurate set of rumours had coalesced --- they even had the locations of some of the bombs (the Piccadilly Line one was correctly localized down to which stations it was between!)

So going from this one event, the cross-checking which wide-scale mobile use allows seems to kill inaccuracy in rumour to some extent.


God, listen to me, I sound like Cory Doctorow --- and I don't even have a mobile phone! ;)


Thanks to a WAGN train failure I was not in that Piccadilly Line train --- had the WAGN train worked, that's my typical train so I might not be here.

The first thing that occurred to me: `let's see how Tony Blair thinks that expensive compulsory ID cards would have stopped *this*.'
(Oops, they won't.)

#71 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 05:10 AM:

This may be of interest:

http://www.paramedic.org.uk/news_archive/2005/04/News_Item.2005-04-20.3755

It concerns storing emergency contact details on your mobile phone.

...and since I'm commenting from London I'd like to thank Anna for her comments and reassure her that we aren't all pricks.

#72 ::: Chantal Le Feu ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 05:57 AM:

Like Teresa, I too would like to applaud and commend Ken Livingstone for his eloquent condemnation of the London terrorists. Like Rudy Guiliani after 9/11 in NYC, it was the mayor of either city who seemed to encapsulate and give articulation to the righteous indignation and emotional power of "the peoples'" reaction. Whatever policies Ken may or may not have pursued during his often-controversial political tenancy of this city that might have alienated this or that constituency, his repsonse from Singapore, while his city was bleeding, redeemed him in human terms for ever, IMHO.

As it was after 9/11, as it was after Madrid, as it is after human disaster of such monumental outrage: we are all Londoners now.

Chantal.

"I Was Hitler's Wet Nurse"

http://iwashitlerswetnurse.blogspot.com

#73 ::: Nick Kiddle ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 07:59 AM:

Sarah M: I think I know what you mean. The deaths, once I'd been reassured that the last of my London friends was safe on holiday, didn't make much of an emotional impression on me. But when I heard where the bombs went off, I suddenly started to shake.

I've been through that deep tunnel on most of the occasions I've been to London. Next month, I planned a journey that would in all likelihood have taken me through that tunnel again. It could have been me, and that's the most terrifying aspect.

#74 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 08:15 AM:

One of my London coworkers assured me that "no one from [our company] London has been affected."

I told her that while I was glad none of our colleagues was hurt, she shouldn't count on not being affected.

#75 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 08:28 AM:

Following Chantal's example, I ought to introduce myself as a lurker on these blogs for a while (but I've been posting on the poetry thread). I'm also from south-east England - not London, but King's Cross is my usual station. There's no point in my condemning the attacks, because most of what I would have wanted to say has been said here already by various people. I'm just glad that the friends I have in London are mostly in the south of the city.

For anyone who knows the tube map, though: it looks to me as though it would be best explained by a single bomber starting from King's Cross, and going east, west and then south (before getting on the bus at Russell Square). If the attacks had been done by a co-ordinated group, then the timings would surely have been closer. That may be all a bit Joseph Conrad, but it might be a little more reassuring to think of this as a lone nut (like the nail bomber a few years ago) rather than an organised terrorist cell.

(Not that it makes the death and injury toll any easier to accept.)

And Nix: apparently Charles Clarke said in a news conference that ID cards would *not* have stopped this kind of attack, which was a surprisingly frank admission. Nobody yet seems to be trying to make political capital out of it all.

#76 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 08:38 AM:

Yes, it's amazing: politician tells the truth shock. ;)

I note the opposition is now asking what ID cards are *for* --- if they won't stop attacks in the heart of London, it seems unlikely to assume they'll stop them anywhere. Yet this is what they've been sold on up till now. (The reality is that certain civil servants have been pressing for ID cards ever since they were ditched after the Second World War. They have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism, any more than driving licenses have.)

#77 ::: Abigail ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 08:54 AM:

There's no question that ID cards alone can't prevent these kinds of attacks. The solution* is the one that Israel has pursued for the last decade - placing guards at all entrance to public buildings and public transportation hubs, sometimes with metal detectors, who examine everyone's bag as they enter. There are obvious problems with this approach - it causes congestion and delays at the entrance points and is quite costly. The people of London, with their experience of IRA bombs, have no doubt weighed the costs of this method against its gains. So far, they've decided against it, which isn't surprising to me.

* By 'solution', of course, I mean something partial. Guards at entrances don't protect against bus bombers, which is why that kind of attack has been the most common one in the last decade, and the congestion that a guard point creates can and has been targeted by bombers (some of you may remember the Dolphinarium attack in June 2001, in which a bomber blew himself up in the crowd waiting to get into a dance club and killed 16 people). Nevertheless, testimonies from would-be suicide bombers detained by Israeli authorities suggest that the very presence of a guard will deter a bomber seeking a target of opportunity.

#78 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 09:51 AM:

Hrm, Abigail what you describe is what Mexico and South America has done for years.

I was an exchange student in Morelia in high school. Cops with uzis were in front of all the stores and usually nearby transportation centers. This was pre real elections though.

#79 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 10:41 AM:

Patrick, I apologize if I've offended anyone, however I do NOT feel I've been a prick in the least bit. Anna attacked me by implying some very nasty thoughts on my behalf that simply weren't there, the first time she did so all I did was assume a misunderstanding and go to great lengths to explain my position further to calm things down, there wasn't a nasty word anywhere in that text that I'm aware of. To this she responded by quite strongly (in my opinion!) re-affirming that she isn't misundestanding anything and indeed intends to attack me and tell me what I can and cannot say and intepret my inner thoughts in a very negative way. Now when someone purports to be in my head and to understand what it is I ACTUALLY mean even though I said no such thing at any point, I have no choice but to explicitely point out they are NOT in my head, know NOTHING about me, and therefore are NOT qualified to make those sorts of assertions about my intentions, I did so without resorting to vulgarity, hostility or attacking her own right of expression, I then closed by saying that since she appears to be intent on doing so anyways I have no choice but to ignore her from there on out. The ALTERNATIVE to ignoring her would be to get into a major argument with fireworks and insults flying everywhere, which I have no intention of doing (nor, should I point out am I trying to do so now, I'm again just trying to clarify my position), I don't think that was unfair or unduly harsh of me.

#80 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 10:49 AM:

candle, that's an interesting theory, the timing does seem to suggest this could be a possible scenario.

As regards the comments pertaining to screening all passengers. I'm vaguely thinking y'all who are bringing that option up have never been on the tube at rush hour. We're talking about cattle-car type people densities here, it's a mess, no room to move, breathe, zip. The only way to get all these people in and out is to leave the access points more or less free-flowing, add security and the entire system will simply stop. Imagine if you will the worst airport security line you've ever been in, multiply that by +-100, that's what you'll get stretching out onto the streets around all the major tube stations at rush hour if security checkpoints are thrown in, and that's why it's never been done, even the UK govt isn't THAT crazy.

#81 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 10:59 AM:

Survey revealed on a TV show (didn't note surveyer or channel) said that roughly 75% of Americans would accept metal detectors at all entrances to all train stations. Hey, that stops almost everyone, wouldn't detect explosives, and New York City's subway entrances outnumber all airports in the country. We must NOT let panic overwhelm common sense, in allowing increased government intrusiveness to no good purpose. By the way, a majority of Americans polled say that it should be okay for cops to enter homes without warrants, in the interests of stopping drug dealers and/or terrorists.

Here in Los Angeles, mayor Villagarosa rode our light rail Metro system yersterday. Perhaps if all elected officials had to ride mass transit, this might be kept realistic? When's the last time you saw a Senator ride an urban bus?

#82 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 11:45 AM:

Jonathan, indeed, metal detectors would not do an iota of good. Detecting explosive devices would require full x-ray stations, with the associated delays, which is completely impractical. Worse in fact, when you consider there's a significant increase in the variety of items packed by people taking the tube in their own city vs people taking carry-on luggage on a plane, the actual screening process would increase in complexity with more manual checks needed, it'd be a scene of pure madness.

#83 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 11:52 AM:

JVP: Survey revealed on a TV show (didn't note surveyer or channel) said that roughly 75% of Americans would accept metal detectors at all entrances to all train stations.

Of those surveyed, only 25% had ever ridden transit in a major metropolitan area during rush hour, and those responders correlated almost exactly with those saying "no". (Or so I'd imagine.)

Once again, those in the least danger seem to be most afraid.

#84 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 12:18 PM:

Re: 75%

So 7 out of 10 people. (They probably asked 10 and only in one city).

80% of statistics are false...including this one.

#85 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 12:39 PM:

The measures taken by Israel and cited by Abigail were all in place before and during the entire first and second Intifada.

These included ethnic profiling and creation of internal borders that have led to large-scale impoverishement along ethnic lines, to the ponint where some half of children under five suffer malnutrition.

What actually *did* stop the attaks was a combination of a campaign of death and negotiations with the leaders of the uprising.

Israel's recent history speaks of nothing more clearly than of the need to TALK to the people whose desparation blinds them to any path but suicidal attack.

#86 ::: Abigail ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 12:44 PM:

Guy, I have been on the Tube during rush hour, which is why I know that Londoners will never accept this method - the only one that has an even halfway decent chance of preventing a bombing like yesterday's from recurring.

Re: metal detectors. A few months ago Israel Trains received a donation from a well-meaning Jewish organization of metal detectors to place in every entrance to their stations. They were a nuisance for the very reason Jonathan notes - they stop everyone. Within a week, they had been relegated to near-uselessness - the guards check your bag and wave you through the detector without even noticing its response.

#87 ::: Abigail ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 12:59 PM:

Shunra, I was talking about approaches that can be taken by metropolitan authorities and private institutions, who have no way to affect national policy and must adapt themselves to suit their environment.

The measures you mention are undertaken by military authorities and intelligence organizations. There's no question that the fundamental reason for the drop-off in the number of suicide bombings in Israel over the last few years is the security fence, abhorrent though it is.

But, say you run a university or a shopping mall or an underground train network. How can you best defend your customers and employees against an arbitrary and wholly irrational attack? Placing security guards in your entrances won't ensure their safety, but it can minimize fatalities. Not only is the presence of a guard a deterrent, as I mentioned earlier, but on more than one occasion the guard's presence has caused bombers to detonate their charges outside. The results were casualty numbers in the low single digits as opposed to the dozens.

#88 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 01:35 PM:

Abigail, I disagree with your interpretation of the reason for the drop in number of suicide bombings in the Jewish side of Israel/Palestine. The Palestinian side called a cease fire - if Israel makes that worth their while, it can buy some time. But eventually, the issue of '48 will have to be resolved (including refugees, water rights, and territory-sharing).

As to what guards do to bombers - they deflect them from one location to another. The cost in human life is lower (sometimes, as you pointed out) but the cost in terrorization of the oponent is no different. Terror was palpable in Israel/Palestine during Intifada 2. Its effects are still visible in the daily news, there (violence has surged to insane levels, in every part of Jewish society). At what price victory?

#89 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 02:08 PM:

Has anybody noticed a common trend to recommendations in the wake of these attacks? Build a wall. Set up metal detectors. Issue new ID cards. Buy sophisticated face recognition software suites. Install more cameras. Explosive sniffers. X-ray machines.

Gadgets. All of them The Solution to Terrorism, now on sale at Sears.

I get frustrated by this "electronic scutage" we keep resorting to when adversity strikes... spending more on devices because we can point to them and say, "See? We're Doing Something." There are crises where this is appropriate, when the problem is due to mechanical or natural causes. But terrorism comes from *human* causes, and gadgets aren't a good way to deal with behaviour. (As witnessed by so many weight loss machines.) Humans are just too good at circumventing the gadgets.

Let's stop trying to buy our way out of this with comet pills and ED-209s, and look at human solutions to human problems? Better international intelligence sharing, informational campaigns to undercut domestic support for the terrorists, multilateral political (and military, when necessary) actions against nations giving militants safe-harbour; these are far more likely to result in long-term gains against terrorism than building the Great Wall of London.

#90 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 02:30 PM:

Ahhh face recognition, an idea so awful even bad jokes look down on it :P. I've used various forms of face recognizing biometric access control on my home rigs for years now, so I have first hand experience of just how bad it is. It's basically a toy, I don't expect any real security out of it and most of the time I use the hidden password override since the damn thing can't recognize me, either because the light in the room has changed or I'm having a bad hair day or some other equally stupid reason. Now that's 1 person under pretty much ideal scanning conditions, in contract commercial face recognition is trying to match an infinity of faces against a wide range of suspect photos, using a poor viewing angle to begin with which furthermore isn't even CLOSE to the angle at which the sample photos were taken (which are either mugshots or poor quality surveillance shots). Short of a breakthrough in intelligent computing, this is quite simply an impossible task, can't be done, and the actual attempts to use the 'technology' have proven that in spades.

An ED-209 would be SO cool though :).

#91 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 03:27 PM:

The last time the British were under a sustained bombing campaign, they tried a lot of the same solutions that have been proposed or tried to address the current wave of terrorism. They tried ethnic profiling, imprisonment without trial, loose care on the evidence in the trials of people they "knew" were guilty, all that.

It's true that they didn't try invading the country whose citizens were the source of much of the terrorists' fundng. That could be down to superior armament, or simply a lack of desire to send the RAF to bomb Boston.

And what finally worked? Talking, and addressing the problems of the bulk of the terrorists' supporters. There are still mad dogs on both sides of that line, ready to go kill again if given the chance, but they have no support. The moderate majority, who tacitly (or actively) supported the murderers now see their best hope of a better life through political means.

I'm not saying we can stop fanatics. I'm saying that a fanatic without backers can be reduced to carrying a placard on a street corner.

#92 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Abi, I think you are exactly right.

And I wonder how much more blood will flow before enough of the citizens of the G8 will get it to unseat the "beat totalitlarianism by becoming a police state" figures currently leading the world.

#93 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 03:52 PM:

Abi, London certainly tried to exert political pressure on the US to clamp down on IRA fundraising... alas, I don't have any figures or dates. (Research project for the weekend, I guess.) That it was private individuals doing the donating complicated the matter, as does the extent of private donations to Al-Quaida.

However, we do agree that we have to work with people and not gadgets in order to constrain the use of terror... the politics of talk can be just as useful (and far cheaper) than power politics. So long as it's made clear to all involved that driving around blowing up things isn't civilized behaviour. (And I'm not limiting that to private individuals either, Mr. W. Shrub of Pennsylvania Ave.)

#94 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 04:00 PM:

Steve,

I am aware that London did exert political pressure on the US about IRA funding, though portions of the American establishment were not - at that point - iron-hard in their view that Terrorism is Bad. (Mr Kennedy, I'm lookin' at you, though I share your ancestry, religion, and political affiliation.)

My point is that, where political pressure failed, military intervention did not follow. It's the one major strand of US post 9/11 activity that the British did not try. I included it purely for completeness.

Let's not let the aside distract from the main point, on which we both agree. As Churchill said, "Jaw, jaw is better than war, war."

#95 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 04:18 PM:

For all that Ken Livingstone did a good job yesterday, Tony Blair wasn't much of a slouch, either.

I mean, he dumps a meeting of the most important leaders in the world, hops in a helicopter and flies down to the middle of it all, without much visible dithering at all, though he was visibly affected.

I wonder how many at the meeting thought, "See, George, that's how you do it."

#96 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 04:30 PM:

I doubt if any of the actual leaders at the G8 think they can teach Dubya how to do it. How to stop crashing his bicycle, perhaps, but leading a nation? Here, George, have a banana.

#97 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2005, 05:43 PM:

NelC - Obviously, the G8 meeting was far, far less important than a reading from My Pet Goat.

#98 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 06:40 PM:

The burrito place where my wife and I ate lunch today (saturday) had Fox News on. While I know it's silly to complain about the coverage on Fox news, (No pretty white women went messing this weekend, thankfully) I just wanted to mention an unnerving realization: Their coverage and format on Saturday of the London attack made it look like it was breaking news, rather than something that happened two days ago. For a split second, I almost thought London had been hit again. It took me actually reading the closed caption dialogue to realise it was just talking heads beating a dead horse.

Like I said, not an original observation that Fox news is full of fear mongers and horse's asses, but still. This is the background chatter to sunday lunch in a restaurant and no one but me even noticed.

#99 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2005, 08:27 PM:

I rarely, intentionally watch FOX news at home. Sometimes, if something important happens, the local affiliate will pick up their feed. When that happens I generally turn to another news station.

However: When I visit my folks, my channel-surfing father occasionally stops of FOX to watch some talking head.

Something I saw in the text "crawl" on the bottom of the scene disgusted and saddened me. Every once in a while, they displayed a flashing Homeland Security Color-Coded Terror Alert Level Announcement:

"Terror Alert Level:" (pause) "YELLOW!" . . . in blinking text.

I mean . . . really! What a totally useless piece of information!

No, I take that back. It isn't useless for FOX. It is part of management's edict to promote the Administration's worldview. By displaying the superfluous blinking bug, they are i) making people feel like they should be watching, just in case, and ii) reinforcing the idea that terror alert system was something other than an inane bureaucratic stunt.

#100 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 12:46 AM:

What we fear, not without cause, are terror attacks. What we are far more likely to get are natural disasters.

In contrast to last year, Floridians seem to be taking the evacuation orders much more seriously, to the point of hoarding gas -- which is sad, because there actually is a plan that works pretty well to provide gas for an evacuation, decent supplies for the starting points, serious deliveries to the gas stations on the evac routes. There shouldn't be a need for multiple jerrycans of extra gas, and it slows down other folks departures.

I'm leaving for Alabama from Massachusetts around 8:30 am Sunday, media interest has added a press conference to our departure plans (this is a good thing -- the media wants to show a local angle, we need to get placement to help with fundraising -- look for me on the evening news). I'm driving a Red Cross emergency vehicle (empty ambulance bodied truck), heading in while everyone else is heading out. ETA early Monday morning, with one last good night's sleep Sunday night.
Wish me luck!

#101 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 01:39 AM:

John Houghton:

Good luck! As you know, there's more energy in a hurricane than in an atomic bomb. Just lower temperature, the effects spread over a larger area for a longer time, less penetrating radiation, and no fallout. But just as deadly. You are acting with true courage, the kind that terrorists do not have, the kind on which civilization is based. To me, Hemingway showed more courage driving an ambulance than in any lion hunt or Pamplona bull run.

#102 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 04:41 AM:

I was thinking about the difference in my reaction between the Loma Prieta quake (I was in Berkeley) and Thursday's London attacks. I was much more upset about Thursday's attacks than about the quake.

The difference is the malice. No fault cares whether it harms people. Terrorists do it deliberately, which is much more unpleasant.

Incidently, I've seen a lot of shots of Americans showing solidarity with the British by hanging and waving Union Jacks. I've been over here long enough that it looks really strange to me. Sweet, and the thought is deeply appreciated. But strange.

#103 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 04:39 PM:

I'm afraid we are still getting a lot of follow-up reporting, mostly speculation. It's not just FOX News or America.

#104 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2005, 04:41 PM:

British Police: Same Old Rubbish

From a memo sent by the National Crime Squad to British ISPs on Thursday:

It is "likely that the perpetrators behind the multiple explosions in central London today have used telecommunications systems in the planning and execution of their act".

No word yet on whether the bombers went to the grocery or used the loo during the planning stages, but the Special Binliner Branch is on high alert.

What they want -- stop me if you've heard this one -- is for the ISPs to store e-mail, apparently all of it, so in the event of a Bad Thing happening highly trained officers can go trolling through it all, looking for Significant Phrases, like, you know, "mortage" and "C1@l1s." (Hey, remember when the Evil Foreign Foreigners were going to send their plans digitized into porn .jpgs? Boy howdy, our horizons have certainly lowered.)

Everyone here aware that this idea is

a) Old
b) Outrageously invasive
c) Worthless for its stated purpose

. . . and why? Okay, good, though I suppose you know this means you are all under -- hey, you! 5079 Smith W! Why are you downloading a bus schedule?

#105 ::: Katherine ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 11:56 AM:

"Survey revealed on a TV show (didn't note surveyer or channel) said that roughly 75% of Americans would accept metal detectors at all entrances to all train stations. Hey, that stops almost everyone, wouldn't detect explosives, and New York City's subway entrances outnumber all airports in the country. We must NOT let panic overwhelm common sense, in allowing increased government intrusiveness to no good purpose. By the way, a majority of Americans polled say that it should be okay for cops to enter homes without warrants, in the interests of stopping drug dealers and/or terrorists."

Yeah, because those 75% do not actually ride mass transit to work or just to get around town. Ask New Yorkers, Chicagoans, Washingtonians, Bostonians; I bet you get completely different answers.

From my point of view: cities like New York and London--they're worth taking some risks for. The subway systems make these cities what they are. And I wonder if we're not still safer taking public transportation, on net, then driving.

New York City averages 4.83 auto accident deaths per 100,000 people. Sprawling cities like Atlanta, Houston and Dallas average 13.86, 12.84, and 11.99 deaths per 100,000 people. The difference is largely because fewer people drive and traffic is slower.

Doing a rough estimate--if New York had an auto accident rate like Atlanta, that's 9 more deaths per 100,000 people. The population of NYC is about 8 million. That's 720 more auto deaths a year.

Of course, a big part of this is density and traffic rather than use of transit itself, so it's not like it would work that way--New Yorkers couldn't start getting to work like Atlantans if they wanted to, traffic would be at a standstill. But the point is, you need a subway to live in a city like this, and it's worth it--even in risk assessment terms it's worth it.

#106 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 01:35 PM:

We're having a bit of heatwave here in London.
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article298284.ece
I'm sure that anyone could find the article I just linked to. I think the heading "British Police: Same Old Rubbish" would not have been chosen if you weren't responding in the heat of the moment. I know that the rubbish remark is about the memo and not the police themselves, but it grates under the circumstances. You are quite correct that a fishing expedition through a mountain of data would be unlikely to produce useful results. Perhaps then that is not the intention.
By the way - like your work.

#107 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2005, 02:23 PM:

Ken, I regret that it was taken that way. The comment was specifically about the very tired idea that storing all private mail to sort through after the fact might somehow be worthwhile, despite all the many reasons it would be misplaced effort. It wasn't meant as an insult to the police, but the agency I named -did- propose this (just as various American agencies have); perhaps they spoke in the "heat of the moment." When people, however good and worthy, propose bad ideas, those ideas require criticism.

#108 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 09:07 AM:

I couldn't agree more (well maybe a bit). The politicians here are already starting to take the opportunity to have a go at pushing through bad legislation. The National Crime Squad does have people working for it who understand these issues, but of course they are not necessarily the guys in charge. The current Home Secretary gives the impression of not understanding them.
I think the intention is to use the logs for signals intelligence rather than for keyword searching. Criticise away on this - I am sure many police officers would agree with you.

#109 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 09:21 AM:

Further: The messages you're looking for are more likely to read "Uncle Bob says Mother appreciates flowers" than "The HBX and detonators are at the safehouse."

#110 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 10:42 AM:

There is also the question of surveillance cameras. Were the perpetrators caught on film? (Not that it deterred them.)

#111 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 01:58 PM:

Current Reportage on BBC News 24: a Metropolitan Police press conference:

They have identified four suspects from various sources, including documents found on the scene and CCTV footage showing them passing through Kings Cross station. One of the suspects is believed to have been killed by the Aldgate bomb (not the bus).

Six houses in West Yorkshire are being searched, and it's been suggested that one of them was used as a bomb factory.

And the bus bomb seems to be in near-perfect conditions for the forensic search. Excellent light, no wind and no rain.

Downside: the actual bombers may be dead, suicide bombers. But one arrest had been made: maybe the trail hasn't been cut.

#112 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 02:54 PM:

Laura --

Deterrents only work if people perceive themselves as having something to lose.

One of the many, many reasons the Bush policy of opposing anything that makes anyone better off (unless they're a member of the Bush faction) is an appallingly bad policy.

You can deter heads of state, the apparatchiks, the people who have (at least relatively) high incomes and social positions.

You can't deter people who know in their hearts that life is going to be nasty, brutish, and short, and that it doesn't have to be, but you made it that way anyway.

Which is a perception with far too much factual support behind it.

#113 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 03:52 PM:

Graydon - I agree completely.

#114 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 05:29 PM:

Last night and this morning, the commuter train station in White Plains, NY, some ways north of NYC, was being guarded by at least a dozen Army guys in long-sleeved camouflage BDUs, flak vests, helmets, heavy leather boots, and serious-looking rifles. They're near to perishing in the heat. The station is also being guarded by at least three or four members of White Plains' SWAT team, who seem to mostly be hanging around inside the air-conditioned station.

The trains themselves are guarded by armed members of the New York State Police. I don't think I've ever seen them before. They've got snappy-looking uniforms. Grand Central is being guarded by more NY State Police, more Army guys in camo and flak vests, and the usual NYPD personnel.

Never before has the Metro North Railroad been able to project so much military presence. It looks like it could easily invade and conquer another transit system or two.

#115 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 05:43 PM:

Given the nature of the potential threat, this is what is known tactically as "mulitplying targets."

If the perceived threat is of someone hijacking a Metro-North train, this might make some sense. Against someone reaching inside his clothing and closing a circuit . . . not so much.

#116 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 05:49 PM:

Yes, but they're doing something*.

* "Doing something" is a trademark of Bad Policing, Inc.

#117 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 06:32 PM:

Randolph Fritz:

Yes, but they're doing something*.

* "Doing something" is a trademark of Bad Policing, Inc.

Alternatively, "don't just do something, stand there" is also trademark of Bad Policing, Inc., as their Dutch contingent demonstrated in Srebrenica.

Once again, rational people recognize the tightrope that must be walked between extreme positions in either direction of many an axis, with the position exactly in the middle not necessarily a winner either (vz. the Buridan's Ass subthread that Patrick started a while back).

Which again, hate to say it, is why my ongoing "Topology of Politics" makes sense, but is hard to translate from Deep Math into English.

#118 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 06:41 PM:

I'm sure the question that's exercising W's mind right now is how Saddam managed to plan this from his jail cell.

Perhaps if they send all of Saddam's guards and a random selection of Baghdad taxi drivers to GITMO for questioning one of them will confess.

#119 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 07:16 PM:

James D. Macdonald:

"I'm sure the question that's exercising W's mind right now is how Saddam managed to plan this from his jail cell."

Easy. He had Karl Rove to help him. But I won't reveal my sources [he said as the prison door clanged shut].

So Clinton and Kerry say that Bush should fire Rove.

I say that Rove will fire Bush.

#120 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 07:34 PM:

I say Rove will, when confronted, cackle demonically, shed his human form, and after screeching an unholy oath to return and destroy the world disappear leaving behind the smell of rotting roses and death.

Or maybe Bush will just pardon him.

#121 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2005, 08:04 PM:

Feeling Safer Yet meets Wacky Space Ideas dept:

Check out the debate at slashdot about the US General who says that America should seize the Lagrange Points.

While at Rockwell, I submitted an unsolicited proposal to NASA to explore the vicinity of the Earth-Moon and Earth-Sun Lagrange points with solar sails that had acoustic monitors to detect and measure impacts with dust grains and larger particles. I don't know for a fact that NASA received this, as I only received one acknowledgment for a dozen or so proposals I did, which might have been for the whole batch. The uncertainty was also due to a weirdo named Ron Jones who kept offering to hand deliver everyone's proposals to the mailroom (presumably so he could winnow them or plagiarize them, as several people testified to his plagiarism). Anyway, it was (and is) a cool idea. We should at least determine the distribution of material at and in halo orbits near these points. If we don't seize the high ground, we should at least survey it. I tend to agree with Sir Arthur C. Clarke about not (further) militarizing space, although I disagree with the Moon Treaty.

#122 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 03:18 AM:

Why the US Army might be interested in rail transit...

It's a PDF file, and it isn't by Charles Stross.

#123 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2005, 11:09 PM:

The heavy and light rail transit systems in Los Angeles have had more than the usual number of law enforcement people on them this last week. (Meaning more than the usual invisible presence - although one day there were _four_ deputy sheriffs in the subway car, all at one end.) And my building has closed its corner revolving doors and now has one guard by each remaining entrance, doing cursory bag checks. We figure this might deter the more nervous terrorists. The determined ones certainly won't be stopped. Personally, I figure it's like a major earthquake: you can't prevent it; you can try to make it more survivable. Although it would be a Really Good Idea to put some money into port security, like checking more of the containers coming in (for illegal immigrants if not for illegal explosives), since there are a lot more containers in ports than in Wyoming.

#124 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 03:37 PM:

The Logic of Suicide Terrorism
by Bruce Hoffman

The Atlantic Monthly | June 2003

"First you feel nervous about riding the bus. Then you wonder about going to a mall. Then you think twice about sitting for long at your favorite café. Then nowhere seems safe. Terrorist groups have a strategy—to shrink to nothing the areas in which people move freely—and suicide bombers, inexpensive and reliably lethal, are their latest weapons. Israel has learned to recognize and disrupt the steps on the path to suicide attacks. We must learn too..."

#125 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 06:31 PM:

The local NBC station's website has a survey on whether all bags should be searched at Metro stations or not. Current result is about 60% for.

#126 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 06:40 PM:

What good would searching passengers' bags do?

Listen: I've been a magician. I know how to disguise things. Bombs don't need to look like iron spheres with sputtering fuses, or like cylinders attached to batteries and red LED countdown timers. Want to bet that someone can't make a bomb that looks exactly like an unopened six-pack of Coca-Cola? The Army has a field manual on booby traps if you want instructions.

Searches with probable cause and a warrant, go for it! Random fishing expeditions with their baseline assumption being that the bad guys are idiots ... why tear up the Constitution for that?

#127 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 07:39 PM:

Do the "60%" who favor bag searches actually use the Metro? Regularly? If the question were phrased as "Every time you board a train you will be delayed for at least ten minutes, possibly an hour or more, even if you're not carrying a bag," would the answer have been the same? (It doesn't help to say that one would "only" be inconvenienced once when riding to work and once when going home, since commuter peak hours would be when the system would move slowest.)

To put it in Bruce's terms, on what could we spend the money and manpower that would be required for this project that might actually prevent an attack? Understanding that the answer may in fact be, "Very little that the public will see, unless there is an attack, in which case improved response services may save their lives."

#128 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 09:09 PM:

And add in whoever-it-was who thinks we're less likely to have home-grown terrorists in the US because we're a more mobile society. I guess his city has no gangs. I can see Al Qaeda and the gangs making an alliance for terrorist purposes: the differences between them are just not that large.

#129 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2005, 10:03 PM:

Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph and William Krar are just so ... Middle Eastern, y'know?

#130 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2005, 07:28 PM:

Jim, I agree, I voted No. Then again, I don't use Metro anyway because they assume the people who must use elevators are capable of moving a block or so to get to them, and when they *do* get to the elevators, they're likely to be broken.

Mike, they don't try to make it scientific -- it's the people who are watching some portion of the three hours of local news on weekday evenings.

Today's survey asks "Do you think that a terrorist attack on buses, trains or subways in the United States can be prevented?" Currently running at 86% No.

#131 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 10:17 PM:

The link above "Encoding emergency contact info on your cellphone" is now 404.

This link has the same info, and much more. It's specifically about storm preparedness, but there's lots of other good stuff for more general situations. One of the suggestions: have a Disater Supply Kit Drill. Pick a night when everyone's home, and don't use any electric items (TV, fridge, microwave), running water, or phones. See what's not in your kit that you wish you had.

Oh -- the cellphone information. Just make one of the entries in your address book be ICE. That stands for In Case Of Emergency. Make it the phone number of someone who knows your medical situation (allergies, meds, history). If there are several contacts, label 'em ICE-1, ICE-2, ICE-3, etc. Responders will know to check your cell phone if you're unable to tell them yourself what's up with you.

#132 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 02:15 AM:

On Phones:

I have observed directly* that many people no longer have important phone numbers memorized. If your cell phone falls in the water, or is lost, or runs out of power, then you won't have it as a phonebook.

I recommend everyone take their critical phone numbers and run them through "what does my phone number spell?" so that you can find a few that are easy to memorize. Then memorize them.

-----------
* helping with a fake-looking but truly-working phone at Burning Man. It allowed free calls to anywhere in the world, but too many people came up to say "I'd use it, but I don't have my cell phone with me so I don't know any numbers."

#133 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 02:37 AM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 132

Perhaps not as useful in an emergency, but one of those things that will bite you if you don't do it: back up the contacts in your phone. Use whatever sync utility will work on your computer and make sure that you sync the computer and the phone whenever you add new contacts to either. If you have a bluetooth phone and computer, it's really easy, because you don't have to fuss with cables, but even if you do, it's not hard to do.

Sync utilities allow merging of contact info, so if there are several phones in your phamily*, you can use the backup to make aure that all the contacts are in all the phones and on the backup computer.


* Sorry, it just came out that way.

#134 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 03:10 AM:

I'm sure I've seen this elsewhere on ML, but it bears mentioning again:

For your home, have an older style phone that doesn't need to be plugged into an electrical outlet to work. Often, when the electricity is out, the land lines still work.

You can sometimes find them at garage sales, prop departments of theatres (borrow, don't steal!), and EBay. Recently my husband wanted a rotary phone, and I bought one on EBay for under $10. We like to be prepared.*

*and he likes older technology

#135 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 07:45 AM:

Marilee (130):
I'm always amazed at how planners fail to understand that distance is one of the biggest challenges for the mobility impaired. Since my sister has been on crutches for 50+ years, I've always sort of known this, but it really hit home when I spent a year on crutches myself.
(Less obvious is that ramps and curb-cuts are a nuisance on crutches, steps and curbs can actually be easier).

[Delayed response dept.]

#136 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 09:29 AM:

Tania, the hint about telephones was in the hypothermia thread, Cold Blows the Wind Today.

#137 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 10:14 AM:

The only problem with rotary phones is that they don't work (at least, mine doesn't) with push-button commands. Our newer phone barely functions -- needs a new battery, which we *will* get ASAP -- but I have to use its buttons to get on the menu at my husband's workplace, quickly switching to the older phone once I'm connected to the right place.

[The old one is cool, though: a "bone phone" kinda sorta in the shape of a pelvis.]

#138 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Quite right: The assumption is that you're on a touch-tone phone. How many places do you hear, "To continue, press '2' now"?

#139 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Sorry. ::hangs head abashedly::

We have an old touch-tone phone for emergency use. And that's what people should have.

John wanted a rotary one because he was feeling nostalgic. I was staring at the giant green rotary phone while I was typing last night, and the bugger snuck into my post.

#140 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Don't feel bad. It was only a few years ago that the town where I live went to touch-tone (and seven digits for in-town numbers). Before that we only had to dial four numbers for in-town, and only rotary phones worked. Which made calling out ... a challenge.

What I did -- I had an external modem on my Atari hooked to the phone jack, and when I was asked to press a number, I sent it via the dialer on the modem.

#141 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 05:57 PM:

That is so geekily clever and cool.

We didn't have phones out to the homestead until I was in about 7th or 8th grade. The party line installed ended up being made of family members living on various parts of the original quarter-section.

Isn't living in small communities fun?

I'm still pretty good with a CB radio, and John has his ham license from back when you had to be able to use Morse code. I worked computer/data support during the last mass vaccination exercise in town, and I was right next to the radio guys that were handling communications between vaccination sites. I sooo wanted to go play with their cool toys.

#142 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2011, 07:26 AM:

Now that you have your kit, learn how to use all the parts. Map-and-compass aren't much good if you can't read a map or use a compass.

Same for first aid -- American Red Cross and American Heart Association have first-aid classes you can take. I'm certain that non-US countries have equivalents.

And it wouldn't hurt to test your plan once: "Power's out; get to Aunt Ruth's."

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

If you are a spammer, your fate is in the hands of Jim Macdonald, and your foot shall slide in due time.

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.