Links of Interest to Activists

Grab-bag time:

  • Wired reports that among the lessons learned from the study of the collapse of the World Trade Center is that you obey the advice of official authority at your peril:

    After both buildings were burning, many calls to 911 resulted in advice to stay put and wait for rescue. Also, occupants of the towers had been trained to use the stairs, not the elevators, in case of evacuation.

    Fortunately, this advice was mostly ignored. According to the engineers, use of elevators in the early phase of the evacuation, along with the decision to not stay put, saved roughly 2,500 lives.…

    We know that US borders are porous, that major targets are largely undefended, and that the multicolor threat alert scheme known affectionately as “the rainbow of doom” is a national joke. Anybody who has been paying attention probably suspects that if we rely on orders from above to protect us, we’ll be in terrible shape. But in a networked era, we have increasing opportunities to help ourselves. This is the real source of homeland security: not authoritarian schemes of surveillance and punishment, but multichannel networks of advice, information, and mutual aid.

  • Among the authorities you are best-advised to ignore (void where prohibited) is the Transportation Security Administration, which has wasted no time in the years since its post-9/11 founding in becoming a stupid and wasteful bureaucracy. Among the items that showed up in a recent audit of the agency were a $526.95 domestic phone call, $1,180 for conference-room coffee, and $1,540 to rent 14 extension cords for three weeks.
  • The Boston Globe reports that (please quell your gasps of astonishment) “Congress, taking advantage of wartime support of national defense spending, is using the military’s budget to steer billions to pet projects that apparently have little to do with Iraq or the ongoing war on terrorism, according to congressional documents, government budget officials, and watchdog groups.”
  • And if that’s not enough for you, take a look at this London Review of Books article about the orgy of cash squandering in Iraq since the invasion.