What happened? Could we have prevented it? Could we have responded better when it did happen? What lessons can we draw from it?
These are the questions the 9/11 Commission set out to answer in their 600-page report that, surprisingly enough, not many people read. Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon concluded that it was not from a lack of interest in finding the answers to these questions but rather from intimidation by the length and dryness of the report that kept more readers from tackling it, so they took it as their task to make it more accessible to the average American: make it a graphic novel.
It really works. I had spent the day I read this book fidgeting, but even with my short attention span I could read this book, and I read it in two sittings.
The main lessons, of course, are things I'd already heard: the various intelligence agencies weren't sharing information as much as they might have; we hadn't invested in enough agents who speak Arabic; in our lack of imagination we failed to anticipate this particular threat. As tragic as this day was, though, I did learn about some reasons for optimism: the evacuation plan for the WTC had, in fact, vastly improved since the 1993 bombing, and the evacuation time had reduced from over four hours in 1993 to under an hour in 2001. As a result, nearly all civilians below the impact were able to escape before the towers collapsed. NYPD was coordinated and prepared for their role in crowd control, and the rescue effort is, in fact, viewed as largely successful.
So what have we learned for next time? I certainly hope we're sharing information more than we used to, but, of course, I have no way of knowing how classified information is distributed within the intelligence community. As an individual, I'm not really sure what I can do besides trust, hope, and remind our elected officials that we will be unable to keep this threat under control until we understand the motivations and backgrounds of those who are so passionately devoted to our destruction.(less)
Much like Rebecca Mead's One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, I began reading this and immediately thought, "Yes! I'm so glad I'm not the only one thinking those things! You are so right!" (which, I guess, is why I subscribe to The New Yorker). On the other hand, since I'm already completely sold, she couldn't really persuade me much.
The premise of the book is: women say they embrace raunch culture (by, for example, wearing Playboy Bunny jewelry or snug t-shirts with phrases like "Porn Star" or "Fluffer" emblazoned across the chest, or flashing for the Girls Gone Wild film crew when it drives by) because it empowers them, because it gives them all the rights and opportunities men have, because they have a sense of humor, because they're in on the joke.
Problems with this argument: 1. Men don't wear skimpy clothing or flash for the camera, so exactly how is that giving them all the rights and opportunities men have? 2. A man posing in Playgirl might describe the experience as fun, but probably not as "powerful". If posing in Playboy makes you powerful, it's only because you are extracting that power from the male readers. Wouldn't it be better to just have women have the power in the first place, by being, say, senators or CEOs? 3. What joke exactly are you in on?
But Levy's main objection with raunch culture, ultimately, is an aesthetic one. She argues that the Hooters-style of "hotness" that is so in fashion now is just one form of sexual expression, and its prevalence is stifling all others, which is a completely fair argument, but her objections to raunch culture are somewhat akin to Michael Pollan's to American cuisine: she just personally doesn't find it appealing.