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  #1  
Old 09-15-2006, 08:09 AM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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What if the 4th plane on 9/11 had hit the White House?

the thread what if the casualties were less on 9\11]
got me thinking about how nations need their symbols.

In that thread, there is a discussion of whether the shock of the attacks was due to the number of dead people, or due to the physical damage.
Personally, I think that the media emphasizes the death toll only to avoid appearing callous and uncaring. The real shock was the falling buildings. The collapse of the towers is so vivid-showing how possible it is to destroy the infrastructure of our entire society. And that is what really scares people.

The plane that hit the pentagon is only mentioned as a sideline in the 9/11 story. Partly because the damage was less than in New York, but also because the Pentagon is not a vital part of the American psyche. (Sure, it's the central office building for the military, and has a distinctive shape, but it is not an iconic symbol to most American citizens, and doesn't convey emotional impact.)

But what about the 4th plane? It was heading towards Washington, presumably intending to hit the White House. Suppose it had succeeded, and destroyed most of the White House. And suppose that the President wasn't out visiting a school that morning, but had been at home, along with the Vice President, and they had both been killed?

How would that have affected how we see 9/11 ? Because almost everyone (from all parties and of all political stripes) can agree that the White House and the elected president are the most potent icons of American society--the symbol of our stability.
Would images of the White House in flames be more moving that images of the WTC ? And would the nation be more united as a result?
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  #2  
Old 09-15-2006, 08:13 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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It was probably headed toward the Capitol Building.
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  #3  
Old 09-15-2006, 09:25 AM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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I think the emphasis was on the WTC rather than the Pentagon for a couple of reasons. Obviously, there was larger loss of life in New York. Also, the events in New York were shown live on television (at least after the first plane hit). Mostly we heard rumors about what was happening in Washington. (We heard, for example, that there was an explosion or fire on the Mall.) And of course there's the totality of the destruction of the towers.

Aside from that, the Pentagon attack had enormous symbolism.
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Old 09-15-2006, 10:16 AM
RumMunkey RumMunkey is offline
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They'd have fucking rebuilt that within 5 years!
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Old 09-15-2006, 10:20 AM
Ethilrist Ethilrist is offline
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I think you're overestimating the importance of a building, or even two people, on the stability and infrastructure of our country. If the White House had been destroyed, and the pres & vp survived, there wouldn't have been much of an upset. Even if one or both of them had been killed, we have plans in place to deal with it.

However, if the 4th plane had hit Wall Street and managed to bring down the majority of the global stock exchange... That would seriously impact the price of toilet paper in Nebraska.
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Old 09-15-2006, 10:22 AM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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In pretty much every cheesy aliens-attack-the-Earth movie, a few landmarks always get blasted: Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal -- and the U.S. Capitol. I suppose one could argue that an attack on the Capitol would have packed even more symbolism than the WTC.

However, I think the images we did see on 9/11 were horrifying enough. How much shock is too much?
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  #7  
Old 09-15-2006, 10:33 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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It's unlikely. The White House has on-site SAM batteries.
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  #8  
Old 09-15-2006, 01:13 PM
Slypork Slypork is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright
It's unlikely. The White House has on-site SAM batteries.
Sure but if you hit a jumbo jet flying at you at 300 mph, it’s not going to just stop in its tracks. It’s going to keep moving in the direction it was last headed in: right at your face.

Let’s suppose Dubya had been home that day and gotten pancaked. Cheney is now the big cheese. I’m sure he would have gone after Afghanistan still. But I think he would have gone after Saudi Arabia because the terrorist were from there, bin Laden was from there, the support came from there and, of course, THE OIL comes from there. It wouldn’t have been the “shock and awe” we saw in Baghdad. It would have been sneaky back room maneuvering, certain princes with “questionable” alliances disappearing, the current King handing power over to someone more acceptable, expansions of our bases while the people were given more say so in their government (which would have been controlled from DC not Riyadh).
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  #9  
Old 09-15-2006, 01:24 PM
Askia Askia is offline
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Were snakes on the plane?

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  #10  
Old 09-15-2006, 01:46 PM
diggleblop diggleblop is offline
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I have a story about this. About 2 months before 9-11-2001, I was working on 1510 K Street NW Washington DC which is extremly close to the White House.

http://maps.google.com/maps?oi=map&q...Washington,+DC

Anyways, I was an HVAC mechanic and we were hired to put a chiller unit on the roof. The people that owned this building were the Al Jazeera news station. As we were completing the project, the building manager informed us that Al Jazeera were selling the building and moving immediately. I thought this was rather strange and sudden. I came in after the weekend and the place was a ghost town, the building was completely empty, everything packed up and gone ! I have never seen such a large move so fast in my life.

About 7-8 weeks later, 9-11 took place. This could be total coincidence, but I have a strong feeling that it wasn't. I feel they knew what was going to take place.
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  #11  
Old 09-15-2006, 02:00 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright
It's unlikely. The White House has on-site SAM batteries.
Were the missiles on top of the White House prior to 9/11? Because I would have thought the Pentagon would have been as well defended, but apparently not.

And as for targeting the White House, I heard speculation after 9/11 that, because of its location in the middle of the city, the White House would be a difficult target for a plane.
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  #12  
Old 09-16-2006, 12:55 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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The Pentagon is well-defended, but the no-fly area around it is smaller.
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  #13  
Old 09-16-2006, 05:59 AM
Antonius Block Antonius Block is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn
And as for targeting the White House, I heard speculation after 9/11 that, because of its location in the middle of the city, the White House would be a difficult target for a plane.
As a former DC resident, I've always beeen rather surprised at those who seem to be sure that the White House was one of the primary 9/11 targets.

From the North, East, or West, there are taller buildings in the flight path. That means that the only way to hit it from those directions is in a dive, and that's much more difficult to achieve than "level-flight" hits as happened at the WTC in New York. From the South, the Washington Monument severely restricts the angle at which a high-speed approach could take place without some serious piloting skills, and it's my understanding that the 9/11 hijackers were at the training level of "just sufficient to carry out the plan".

The President was out of town on the day of the attacks, and it's possible that this was known by the attackers (I've seen no evidence either way). Destroying the White House while POTUS isn't there would have greatly reduced the symbolism.

The US Capitol, on the other hand, stands proudly on the top of its eponymous Hill, and is visible (and thus would have been vulnerable to air attack) from many directions -- DC was planned with these sightlines being paramount! When I lived on Capitol Hill (Maryland Ave at 8th St NE), I figured that, had the USSR ever sent a sub-launched cruise missile at the Capitol, there was a fair chance that it would have passed right down the center of my street.

IMHO, the US Capitol is a much more powerful symbolic target than the White House -- especially if the latter doesn't have the President in it at the time.
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  #14  
Old 09-16-2006, 06:10 AM
TheLoadedDog TheLoadedDog is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Antonius Block
IMHO, the US Capitol is a much more powerful symbolic target than the White House -- especially if the latter doesn't have the President in it at the time.
As a non-American, I might add that that possibly isn't the case globally. I've met people who not only can identify a picture of the White House but not the Capitol, but who actually think the White House is the seat of government. I remember I did as a kid too. It's much more prominent in the popular culture exported by the US.
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  #15  
Old 09-16-2006, 06:41 AM
Antonius Block Antonius Block is online now
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This must be a true "IMHO" thing then, TheLoadedDog. I'm a born-and-raised Brit currently living in the US, and although I'll admit that seeing the White House for the first time was a "moment", it didn't mean as much to me as seeing The Capitol.

I first arrived in DC by train, already knowing that Washington was going to be my home for the next couple of years at least. One walks out of Union Station and THERE IT IS -- the US Capitol. It's the hub around which the entire District of Columbia is laid out: although it's east of the center of DC, the whole street layout (NW/NE/SW/SE) is in reference to The Capitol. [Plus, I lived within a few blocks of it for 3+ years.] YMMV, obviously .

[I'll be the first to admit that my personal view of "Capitol vs White House" has been greatly swayed over the years by the particular occupants of the respective buildings...]
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  #16  
Old 09-16-2006, 06:44 AM
fessie fessie is offline
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I do agree with the OP that the loss of the White House (with or w/out Prez) would've flipped people out even further. Same with the Capitol. The Twin Towers were astonishing because they were so big; the iconic buildings in D.C., that feels even more personal.

I don't know that we would've done a better job of uniting afterwards, though; it's impossible for me to even speculate on our country's response to that additional damage (and theoretical loss of life involving elected officials). Our collective fear would've been greater, and angry people wanting bloody revenge would've been even louder. I think that IS a factor in the public's support of the war in Iraq - some of us wanted 3,000 dead in return, somewhere, anywhere.

Instead we have a story of quiet, determined heroics on the part of ordinary people. Much healthier rallying point.
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  #17  
Old 09-16-2006, 07:09 AM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright
It's unlikely. The White House has on-site SAM batteries.
You know, people keep telling me that, but (a) I've been in DC and seen the White House from every angle but from the sewers and I've never seen any missiles, (b) a Cessna once crashed right into the White House without being shot down, and (c) every time the homeland security alert level goes up, there's a big show of putting anti-aircraft missiles on the Mall. I really don't think there is an on-site SAM battery at the White House.
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  #18  
Old 09-16-2006, 10:51 AM
Shoeless Shoeless is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chappachula
But what about the 4th plane? It was heading towards Washington, presumably intending to hit the White House. Suppose it had succeeded, and destroyed most of the White House. And suppose that the President wasn't out visiting a school that morning, but had been at home, along with the Vice President, and they had both been killed?
The obvious answer here is "President Hastert".
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  #19  
Old 09-16-2006, 04:18 PM
dalej42 dalej42 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethilrist
However, if the 4th plane had hit Wall Street and managed to bring down the majority of the global stock exchange... That would seriously impact the price of toilet paper in Nebraska.
You can't bring down Wall Street with an attack. Do you mean an attack on the NYSE? Companies can appoint new specialists quickly and trades can continue.

NASDAQ doesn't have a central exchange, it is all computer trading.

The huge OTC market wouldn't really be affected too much.

We survived 4 days with no trading and a 600 plus drop in the DJIA when trading on the NYSE resumed.
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  #20  
Old 09-16-2006, 06:06 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoeless
The obvious answer here is "President Hastert".
If bin Laden really wanted to fuck with out government he would have waited until the State of the Union. Imagine the effect on American morale if all but handfull of Congressmembers were killed and somone who's name 99% never heard before were elevated to the Presidency. Of course it'd be alot harder to pull-off than 9/11.
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  #21  
Old 09-16-2006, 06:37 PM
jimmmy jimmmy is offline
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We debate the fourth target here. You may note that in that thread I say the target was the White House. I now believe that to be an error.

In May 2002 was leaked to at least two media outlets that Abu Zubaydah claimed that the target of the fourth plane was the White House.

And yet, in September 2002 Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, [as published in The New York Times on September 9, 2002,] said the target of Flight 93 was indeed the U.S. Capitol. The U.S. government, in the Trial of Zacarias Moussaoui on 04/18/2006 provided a document “Substitution for the Testimony of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed”(pdf pops) in it KSM talks about bin Ladin wanting to target, among others, to be the White House – but that Flight 93 was targeted at the Capitol.

The 9/11 Commission split the difference by saying that the actions of the crew and passengers prevented the destruction of “the White House and more likely the United States Capitol” as targets.
I have always wanted to re-visit this subject and correct my error and this thread gave me that opportunity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenman
You know, people keep telling me that, but (a) I've been in DC and seen the White House from every angle but from the sewers and I've never seen any missiles, (b) a Cessna once crashed right into the White House without being shot down, and (c) every time the homeland security alert level goes up, there's a big show of putting anti-aircraft missiles on the Mall. I really don't think there is an on-site SAM battery at the White House.
Miles O’Brien talks to Mike Brooks a veteran of the D.C. Police assigned to the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force

O'BRIEN: All right, now, I think the perception among the public would be, and among this reporter, that there has got to be at least one Stinger missile on the roof of that White House, some kind of surface to air capability. Am I wrong? And what is the capability for the White House to defend itself should the F-16s fail, as apparently they would have in this case?

BROOKS: Well, let's just say there's safeguards in place. I still really can't talk about what kind of protection that the White House does have. After September 11, they did increase the restricted air space out about 14 miles, because there are restricted air spaces in Washington, D.C. around the U.S. Capitol Building and also around the White House.

O'BRIEN: Well, but now the restricted air space was in place. He strayed right into it. The F-16s scrambled and he still probably could have gotten to the White House if he wanted to. The fact is I think that without giving us some trade secrets, can we rest assured that if the scramble doesn't work, somehow, some way they'd be able to knock that thing out of the sky?

BROOKS: Well, I can't say we can rest assured.

O'BRIEN: OK.

link
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  #22  
Old 09-17-2006, 04:22 AM
Rilchiam Rilchiam is offline
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IIRC, the White House and Capitol Building had both already been evacuated before Flight 93 was even over Pennsylvania.

Assuming that's true, the destruction of the Capitol would have caused more disruption. Where would the Senate and House convene? How long until they would have another permanent building, and how much would it cost taxpayers? How much data and paperwork in the offices could be recovered? Major headache. But the destruction of the White House would have had greater visceral impact. There's a lot of history in that building, and I don't see Laura Bush pulling a Dollie Madison and grabbing some valuable icon on her way out. Of course, there's history in the Capitol, too; George Washington is buried there, for instance. But how many people know that.

If I'm wrong, and people were vulnerable, I think the Capitol still would have been a greater loss. The VP is prepared to take office at any time, and the House Speaker no doubt has that in the back of his mind as well. But with 100 senators, and however many reps there are, if even a quarter of those were taken out...again, major headache. Again, though, people wouldn't really feel the impact until afterwards.
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  #23  
Old 09-17-2006, 08:57 AM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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There is a room in the Capitol called Washington's Tomb, and it was intended that he be interred there, but he never was. He's at Mount Vernon. The catafalque used for Lincoln, Reagan and others is stored in Washington's Tomb.
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Old 09-17-2006, 09:44 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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I think things would be hugely different if the White House was destroyed, but not because of the building or its symbolic importance to America.

The difference would be that George Bush would interpret the attack as a direct assassination attempt upon him -- which it might or might not be. I think he would be MUCH more focused on capturing and punishing (ie, killing) Osama bin Laden and the other planners/facilitators of the attack.

Instead, he and his pals had the cool-headed evil plot to spin this into a war with Iraq.

Yes, it probably would have been much better for America if the plane had hit the White House rather than a field in Pennsylvania.
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  #25  
Old 09-17-2006, 11:07 AM
Ice Wolf Ice Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheLoadedDog
As a non-American, I might add that that possibly isn't the case globally. I've met people who not only can identify a picture of the White House but not the Capitol, but who actually think the White House is the seat of government. I remember I did as a kid too. It's much more prominent in the popular culture exported by the US.
I disagree. The White House tends to require identifying as such. The Capitol Building doesn't. If that was destroyed, it would equate to the American government being destroyed. The White House's destruction basically just means the President may be dead, or if he's alive he's looking for another roof over his head.
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  #26  
Old 09-17-2006, 01:21 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn
There is a room in the Capitol called Washington's Tomb, and it was intended that he be interred there, but he never was. He's at Mount Vernon. The catafalque used for Lincoln, Reagan and others is stored in Washington's Tomb.
According to unsubstantiated rumor (no cite), this is no longer true.

Allegedly, the tomb area has been converted into an electronically secure meeting room for Military & Intelligence Subcommittees.
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  #27  
Old 09-17-2006, 01:44 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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I don't know about this secure meeting room. (My guess is that the tomb wouldn't be large enough to use for that purpose.) My point was that Washington is not in Washington's Tomb, despite what Rilchiam said. (Sort of a variation on the old "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" riddle.)
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  #28  
Old 09-17-2006, 02:05 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaboi867
If bin Laden really wanted to fuck with out government he would have waited until the State of the Union. Imagine the effect on American morale if all but handfull of Congressmembers were killed and somone who's name 99% never heard before were elevated to the Presidency. Of course it'd be alot harder to pull-off than 9/11.
Again, this is a guess, but I think on that night no legitimate flights would be allowed over the capital, so any plane flying in that general direction would be shot down early enough to prevent this.
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  #29  
Old 09-17-2006, 03:18 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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I know it'd be very hard to pull off pre-9/11; now it's all but impossible (short of planting a small nuke in DC). But just imagine what our lives would be like if Osama managed to pull it off.
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  #30  
Old 09-17-2006, 03:59 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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What would our lives be like? We'd be living in a Tom Clancy novel.
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  #31  
Old 09-17-2006, 05:21 PM
Scuba_Ben Scuba_Ben is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chappachula
But what about the 4th plane? It was heading towards Washington, presumably intending to hit the White House. Suppose it had succeeded, and destroyed most of the White House. And suppose that the President wasn't out visiting a school that morning, but had been at home, along with the Vice President, and they had both been killed?
Had the Vice President been at his own official residence in this scenario, he would've survived and taken over. The Veep's official residence is the Naval Observatory in Northwest DC.
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  #32  
Old 09-17-2006, 06:05 PM
Rilchiam Rilchiam is offline
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Well, on Washington's Tomb. And I forgot to say that the Capitol Building is far more handsome, architecturally, than the White House.
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  #33  
Old 09-17-2006, 10:50 PM
Zebra Zebra is offline
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The White House is a pretty small building. They had to do a 'go around' to hit the Pentagon.

Even if there were/are SAM batteries protecting the White House on 9/11 they still have to be ordered to fire and that takes time.


Here is a link to a very interesting and informative article in Vanity Fair about the response to the hijackings that day by the military and air traffic control.
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  #34  
Old 09-18-2006, 01:30 AM
Walloon Walloon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rilchiam
IIRC, the White House and Capitol Building had both already been evacuated before Flight 93 was even over Pennsylvania.
Correct. Both buildings were evacuated at 9:43 am, and Flight 93 crashed in western Pennsylvania at 10:03 am.

However, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 am, six minutes before the Capitol building or the White House were evacuated.
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  #35  
Old 09-18-2006, 02:00 PM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
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I'm not that sure that an approach from the south would be that difficult. The only obstacle would be the Washington Monument and it might be quite possible to construct a path that misses the monument and hits the White House. The Capitol would be a much easier shot.

The impact would not have been as traumatic as the sight of two giant towers falling. And after all, it wouldn't be the first time the White House was targeted though of course the plane would have done a much better job of total destruction than what the British did.
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  #36  
Old 09-18-2006, 03:44 PM
rjung rjung is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyo Jim
The difference would be that George Bush would interpret the attack as a direct assassination attempt upon him -- which it might or might not be. I think he would be MUCH more focused on capturing and punishing (ie, killing) Osama bin Laden and the other planners/facilitators of the attack.
I heartily disagree; I think the Iraq invasion was planned from the beginning of this Administration, and all they needed was any excuse to do so.

We've gone through five years of playing "Where's Osama?" (aka "I just don't spend that much time on him"); a White House attack wouldn't have made that much of a difference.
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  #37  
Old 09-19-2006, 11:17 AM
Frelling Tralk Frelling Tralk is offline
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If bin Laden really wanted to fuck with out government he would have waited until the State of the Union. Imagine the effect on American morale if all but handfull of Congressmembers were killed and somone who's name 99% never heard before were elevated to the Presidency. Of course it'd be alot harder to pull-off than 9/11.
Jack Ryan would become president.

Seriously, I felt like I was living in a Tom Clancy novel when 9/11 happened. I seem to recall one of the news networks having Clancy on to discuss the events as if he were some sort of expert on crashing planes into buildings.
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