History Commons Groups

February 10, 2013

Donating via credit card

Filed under: community — Max @ 4:42 pm

The link to donate via credit card on the site is bad. It was superseded over a year ago. Why it popped up again is beyond me. I’ll blame it on the server switch, why not…?

Anyway, here’s the correct link. We’re working to make the correction now.

https://npo1.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=3552

Thanks for being patient.

Update: Fixed!

February 5, 2013

Survey Results from the February 2013 Survey

Filed under: community — Max @ 1:05 pm
Tags: , ,

These are the results from the February 2013 survey conducted by Michael Tuck (blackmax) of the History Commons.

These responses are also available at Survey Results from the February 2013 Survey on our supplementary Web pages.

Last week, we asked the History Commons community to respond to a brief survey designed to help us shape the future of our coverage.

We had a total of 82 respondents — thank you for such a strong response!

Here’s the results. All questions allowed for multiple answers, so all of the results add up to far more than 100%. (Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.)

The first question asked: What projects (timelines) created by the History Commons do you find most useful?

  • First: 75% found the Complete 9/11 Timeline most useful.
  • Second: the Global Economic Crisis project, with 45% choosing it.
  • Third: the US Domestic Propaganda project, with 44% choosing it.
  • Fourth: Civil Liberties, with 39%.
  • Fifth: US Domestic Terrorism at 36%.
  • Sixth: Climate Change, at 34%.
  • Seventh and last of the projects listed: Prisoner Abuse, at 28%.
  • 14% said “other.”

Second question: Which topic(s) would you most like to see the History Commons address in the future?

This question gave the respondents a chance to focus on where they’d like to see new coverage.

  • First: by far the most popular topic for new coverage is “Corporate Influence on Society and Politics,” with 76% of respondents indicating this as their choice.
  • Second: WikiLeaks, with 49%.
  • Third: Social movements (civil rights, LGBT, women’s rights, etc) at 29%.
  • Fourth: Violence against women in the US military, at 20%.
  • Last of the listed topics: Netroots Neutrality, at 19%.
  • 17% of the respondents also listed “Other.”

Third question: Which projects (timelines) on the History Commons do you think are NOT being addressed enough?

This one surprised me a bit. We’ve long wanted expanded coverage of the Global Economic Crisis and Climate Change projects, but neither of those came in first.

  • Most popular: Genetic engineering (GMO), at 44%.
  • Second: Global Economic Crisis, at 39%.
    Third: Climate Change, 38%.
  • Fourth: US Conflict with Iran, 33%.
  • Fifth: War in Afghanistan, 23%.
  • Last of the listed topics: US Electoral Politics, at 14%.
  • 19% of respondents said “other.”

Fourth question: What should the History Commons focus most on in the future? (You can add your responses from earlier questions here, or make your own observations.)

Among the topics listed that individuals want covered are:

  • “privacy and confidentiality” (expansion of the Civil Liberties coverage, presumably)
  • “the Kashmir dispute” (as part of the US International Relations project, I’m assuming)
  • a “new 9/11 investigation” and related topics
  • “corporate influence in politics,” campaign finance issues, and gerrymandering (some of which are currently being expanded as a part of the Civil Liberties project)
  • guns and weapons profiteering
  • “Employment / Work Force / Automation”
  • goverment secrecy, whistleblower prosecution, and government-sponsored assassinations
  • US relations with Israel
  • women’s rights as a human-rights issue (we’ve suggested this before as part of a larger Social Movements project)
  • the US as an imperialist national security state
  • US and global poverty, child and human exploitation
  • more coverage of the 2001 anthrax attacks
  • more Middle East coverage, using Islam and the West and A Line in the Sand by James Barr as key sources
  • cyberwarfare, drones, robotic war
  • NATO’s increasing influence on Eastern Europe; the globalization of NATO
  • overpopulation as it connects to climate change and resource depletion
  • a bigger focus on “systemic/root causes”
  • food systems, resource depletion, and GMO production
  • a request to provide “contrary views” of “CAGW,” presumably a reference to the Citizens Against Government Waste think tank
  • more coverage of climate change (this is one of the highest priorities on our “need more coverage!” list)
  • “New World Order” corruption and “global governance”
  • expanded coverage of the 7/7 London bombing attacks
  • Operation Gladio
  • the JFK assassination
  • “created weather”
  • the US “war on drugs” using The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs by Douglas Valentine as a key source
  • sustainability issues
  • the “destruction of justice” under the Bush and Obama administrations

A comprehensive list, to say the least. We have some of these reflected on the History Commons New Topic Listing, where we’ve listed topics that we’d love to see covered by new contributors or existing contributors looking to shift their focus.

The fifth question indicated that 25% of respondents were interested in volunteering to write for the History Commons.

The sixth question indicated that 25% of respondents were interested in donating to keep the History Commons going.

Again, thanks to everyone for participating in this survey. I’m sharing this information with the other administrators today. You can always discuss topics for new or expanded coverage on this thread, or on any other thread on the History Commons Groups Blog. We want MORE contributors and MORE coverage. You can help write history on the History Commons. Please consider doing so.

February 1, 2013

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Flight Attendants’ Phone Calls, American Airlines Response to Hijacking, Bush’s Military Aides, and More


A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons. Many of these examine the response of American Airlines to the hijacking of Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Entries focus, in particular, on phone calls made from Flight 11 by two of the plane’s flight attendants: Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney.

A new timeline entry describes how Peggy Houck, a dispatcher at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas, received her first indication of a problem with Flight 11 when another American Airlines flight contacted her at 8:20 a.m. and said air traffic controllers had asked it to try to contact Flight 11.

Betty Ong’s Phone Call from Flight 11

Around the time Houck received this call, Betty Ong phoned the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina and began describing the emergency on her plane to employees there. After a couple of minutes, Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, joined the call.

Ong provided many details of what was happening on Flight 11. She said the men who hijacked the plane were in the cockpit, and nobody could communicate with the cockpit. She reported that the plane was flying erratically. She passed on the seat numbers of two hijackers who had gained unauthorized access to the cockpit. She said one passenger had been stabbed and might be dead, and provided the name and seat number of the hijacker who likely carried out the stabbing. She also said there was no doctor on the plane to help the injured crew members.

Toward the end of the call, Ong said her plane was flying erratically again and descending. The reservations office employees lost contact with her shortly before Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center.

At one point during the call with Ong, Nydia Gonzalez instructed her colleagues who were participating in the call not to tell anyone what they had learned about the hijacking. And toward the end of the call, one of the participants, Vanessa Minter, was replaced by Ray Scott, a manager at the reservations office.

Gonzalez promptly contacted the American Airlines SOC after she joined the call and relayed the information provided by Ong to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty there. Shortly after Gonzalez reached him, Marquis briefed another manager at the SOC about the trouble on Flight 11, but instructed them not to spread the news of the incident “all over this office right now.” He also asked Peggy Houck to try and contact the pilot of Flight 11, but told her not to let anyone else know about the trouble on the plane. Houck called a company that provides a backup communications capability for airborne flights and asked it to try to contact Flight 11, but the company’s attempts to do so were unsuccessful. Later on, Marquis instructed Houck to calculate how far Flight 11 could travel with its remaining fuel.

Gonzalez notified Marquis when communication with Ong was lost, but Marquis then said he wanted Gonzalez and her colleagues to keep the news about the hijacking to themselves.

Amy Sweeney’s Phone Call from Flight 11

Amy Sweeney tried phoning the American Airlines flight services office at Boston’s Logan Airport, but her first two attempted calls failed to connect. She finally got through at 8:25 a.m. and talked to a passenger service agent, but the call was cut off after less than two minutes. Mistakenly thinking that Sweeney’s plane was still at the airport, two of the agent’s colleagues went to the departure gate, but found that all of American Airlines’ morning flights had already left. Around the same time, another American Airlines employee at Logan Airport called the SOC to report the possible hijacking, but the person they talked to instructed them to keep quiet about the incident.

Sweeney reached the flight services office a second time at 8:29 a.m. and talked with a staff assistant, but the call was disconnected after less than a minute. She reached the office again at 8:32 a.m. and, over the next 12 minutes, passed on numerous details of the crisis on her plane to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager. She mentioned that the passengers were unaware of the hijacking, and instead thought there was a medical emergency at the front of the plane. Before her call got disconnected, Sweeney said that Flight 11 was flying “very low.”

Two of Woodward’s colleagues contacted the SOC and passed on the information Woodward received from Sweeney. Then, at 8:40 a.m., another of Woodward’s colleagues also called the SOC to pass on the information Sweeney was providing.

Senior American Airlines Managers Learned of Emergency on Flight 11

Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, learned of Betty Ong’s call from Flight 11 when he phoned the SOC at around 8:30 a.m., and he then headed to the SOC to participate in the airline’s emergency response efforts. At about 8:45 a.m., managers at the SOC began setting up the System Operations Command Center (SOCC) to handle the airline’s response to the crisis.

Some senior American Airlines managers only learned about the emergency on Flight 11 during their daily conference call, at 8:45 a.m. And a pager message to the airline’s top executives, which revealed the “confirmed hijacking” of Flight 11, was only sent out at 8:49 a.m., after the plane had crashed.

Those at the SOC learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center when American Airlines employees at two New York airports called with the news soon after the crash occurred, but SOC personnel were uncertain at the time whether the plane involved was Flight 11. American Airlines president Don Carty called the SOCC from his home after seeing coverage of the crash on television and asked if the plane involved belonged to his airline.

New York City Ordered Crisis Management Software Shortly before 9/11

New timeline entries describe the actions of two military aides who were with the president in Sarasota, Florida, on September 11. The military aides, Paul Montanus and Thomas Gould, were promptly informed about the first crash at the World Trade Center, but initially thought it was an accident. When he learned of the second crash, Gould quickly arranged for Air Force One to leave Sarasota. After the plane took off, he made a phone call to request a fighter escort and other military assets to support it. Montanus was on a plane that left Sarasota shortly after Air Force One, and which carried equipment and personnel back to Washington.

Other entries describe events before and after the day of 9/11. One entry reveals that, in the month before the attacks, New York City’s Office of Emergency Management fortuitously bought special crisis management software that it planned to launch for use on September 17. The software was promptly put into operation following the 9/11 attacks and significantly aided the recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

An entry reveals that, almost two years before 9/11, members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force told best-selling author Nelson DeMille that they believed the next terrorist attack in the US would involve suicide pilots deliberately flying planes into the World Trade Center.

Another entry describes how some key White House officials went to visit New York the day before 9/11, and were therefore away from Washington, DC, when the terrorist attacks occurred. They started making their way back to the White House after the Pentagon was hit.

August 13, 2012

Books We Read….

Filed under: Books We Read — Max @ 11:06 am

I’m currently finishing Michael Goldin’s Red Cloud at Dawn, a fascinating examination of the USSR’s development of its first nuclear bomb (Joe-1) and the political aftermath. At some point, when some of the projects I’m working on are wrapped up, I intend to use some of the material from the book in the US International Relations project. It won’t make for a lot of entries, unlike, say, Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes, which I think could be the basis of an entire project, but it will add depth and breadth to the project.

Coming up on the reading list is Jason Leopold’s The Other Abu Zubaidah, which he was kind enough to donate to the History Commons in Kindle form. Leopold provides key contextual information on Zubaida that needs to be in the HC databanks.

What are you reading? Anything that might add information to the HC projects?

August 10, 2012

Welcome back, Kevin!

Filed under: Books We Read,community — Max @ 12:07 am
Tags:

Admin Kevin Fenton, the author of Disconnecting the Dots, is back from a well-deserved vacation. Just a quick shoutout to say we’re glad to have him back. 🙂

August 5, 2012

Survey Results

Filed under: community — Max @ 5:27 pm

The results of the first History Commons survey (well, the first in two years) are in. Thanks to everyone who participated!

It was a very short, targeted survey about user participation. Here is the link to the results. (More equally short and targeted surveys are in the works, though we promise not to overwhelm you with survey after survey.)

As with all surveys, the responses prompt an entirely new array of questions

Poll Results:

Future surveys may ask questions based on the results of this poll. Some of the ones that come to mind are:

  • How can the History Commons attract more contributors?
  • How can it expand its perception from “just” a historical site to one that covers more current information? One suggestion that came up in discussion among the admins was the creation of a “quick response team” of contributors to handle current or “breaking” events or issues.
  • Are there timelines/projects that would attract more interest? What are some suggestions for new projects? We want to expand our coverage, and have a page of ideas for new and/or expanded projects.

We have a lot of good ideas about improving the user interface and the application, so we probably won’t be asking about that in the next couple of surveys. We’re more interested in finding ways to make these improvements happen (i.e. funding!).

Comments

Several comments focused on updating HC for social media and mobile platforms. We definitely, definitely need to focus on making HC more mobile-friendly; that’s part of improving the user interface. We’re not sure what this means: “History Commons might consider the ‘link’ metaphor/technology widely used in social media as a beginner’s level for those who want to take active part in it the first time.” If someone could expand on that idea, we’d love to hear it.

Any suggestions on showing off our credentials in a more effective way?

Making it Happen

As is the case with so many things, all of these improvements and expansions require financial and volunteer support. If you think History Commons is worth the effort, please consider making a financial donation, or (even better in some respects), please consider doing some writing, researching, and/or editing for the Commons.

Thanks!

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Hijacking Exercises, Air Force One’s Movements, Laura Bush on Sept. 11, and More


A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, most off which provide new details about the events of the day of September 11, 2001.

One new timeline entry describes a training exercise based on the scenario of a possible terrorist attack that was run on the morning of September 11 by the US Coast Guard in Tampa Bay, Florida, quite close to Sarasota, where the president was at the time. Another entry deals with a meeting scheduled to take place at the Pentagon that morning, regarding a planned “disaster exercise” at the nearby Navy Annex building.

An entry reveals that a number of FBI agents had, for reasons that are unknown, already arrived at the Navy Annex when the Pentagon was hit. Later on, the Navy set up a new command center at the Navy Annex, after its original command center was destroyed in the Pentagon attack.

Several entries describe the futile attempts of intelligence officers at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to obtain information about the first hijacking. After learning of the hijacking, a NEADS intelligence officer called the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center and the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, but neither of them could provide any information. Searches on the SIPRNET–the US military Internet system–also revealed nothing. Furthermore, the threat briefing at NEADS that morning had included no indication of an increase in the terrorist threat level.

Some NEADS personnel have said they were monitoring Flight 93 long before the time at which the 9/11 Commission concluded the military was first alerted to this hijacked aircraft. Also, a commander at NEADS complained that an officer from the NEADS battle cab had come down to the operations floor, where he had been “circumventing my system.” What is more, NEADS personnel only learned that the president’s plane, Air Force One, was airborne about half an hour after it took off from Sarasota.

New entries describe in detail the actions of Laura Bush, the first lady, on September 11. Laura Bush learned of the first crash in New York as she was about to leave the White House and go to Capitol Hill, to attend a hearing there. When her limousine drove off from the White House, she was unaware that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center minutes earlier. She only learned of this second crash just before she reached Capitol Hill.

When she arrived on Capitol Hill, Laura Bush initially spent time with Senator Edward Kennedy in his office. However, her arrival apparently did not lead to any increase in the level of security. She was even allowed to make an appearance before the press, which was shown live on television. But a reporter who attended the appearance was subsequently warned to stay away from the windows of the building, because it was thought that a suspicious aircraft was heading in their direction.

Following the public appearance, Laura Bush and her staff headed to the office of Senator Judd Gregg, on a lower floor of the building. After they waited there for a short time, the Secret Service emergency response team arrived and escorted them out of the building. Laura Bush and her entourage were then driven to the Secret Service headquarters, but they were significantly slowed by the heavy traffic and reportedly arrived about 45 minutes after leaving Capitol Hill.

At the Secret Service headquarters, Laura Bush spoke over the phone with her daughters and her mother. During the afternoon, her Secret Service agents told her to be prepared to leave Washington for several days. Later on, some of her staffers briefly returned to the White House before heading home. Then, after it was learned that the president would be returning to Washington that day, it was decided that the first lady could go back to the White House and so she was driven there early in the evening. When the president subsequently arrived at the White House, he was reunited with his wife there.

Several timeline entries deal with the movements of Air Force One after it left Sarasota with the president on board. The director of the White House Military Office received a call from the White House Situation Room advising him not to bring the president back to Washington, DC. The pilot of Air Force One and some of the president’s staffers then agreed that they should head to somewhere other than Washington. Shortly after taking off, the plane therefore changed course and flew west. At around 10:20 a.m., Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana was identified as a suitable destination for the plane, although a few accounts have claimed that Air Force One headed toward Barksdale about 25 minutes later.

At 10:37 a.m., President Bush was notified that his wife and daughters had been taken to safe locations, although Bush’s daughters reportedly only reached “secure locations” just before 11:00 a.m. At 10:41 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney called the president and advised him against returning to Washington. Then, as Air Force One approached Barksdale, the president talked over the phone with his wife for the first time that morning.

A few new entries describe events before 9/11, and cover various training exercises. These include a Federal Aviation Administration exercise that was based around a simulated plane hijacking and an FBI exercise, also based around a hijacking, held at Washington Dulles International Airport–the airport from which one of the hijacked planes took off on September 11. Another entry describes the arrival of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives in New York the day before 9/11, ready for a training exercise called “Tripod” that was set to take place on September 12. However, the first FEMA urban search and rescue teams to reach New York following the terrorist attacks only arrived at around 10:30 p.m. on September 11.

History Commons is still seeking funds to help it continue as a leading informational source for the 21st century. Please click here if you would like to make a donation.

August 4, 2012

Musings on the New Campaign Finance Material

Filed under: Civil Liberties,US Elections — Max @ 10:51 pm

There are two categories under US Civil Liberties that are about to get a huge influx of new material: Voting Rights/Campaign Finance and Election, Voting Laws and Issues. There is, as one would imagine, a lot of overlap between the two.

I’m doing much of the work on them, and I have to say, in an entirely nonpartisan, observational kind of way: there is a Godawful amount of corruption and untoward influence being wielded on American politics because of the post-Citizens United changes. History Commons does something better (I believe) than most other information outlets does: by providing the information in a chronological context, and “mashing up” information from literally hundreds of disparate and sometimes contradictory stories, a much broader and deeper perception of a larger issue can be created. It is definitely happening here.

Look for a strong influx of entries in the coming weeks.

August 1, 2012

Please take this new survey…it’s only 2 questions

Filed under: community,Uncategorized — Max @ 10:21 pm

It takes less time to take this survey than it does to slug down a Red Bull, and the information you give us will be tremendously helpful for helping us improve our content and our functionality. Thanks, and please pass this along!

Click the “Take Our Survey!” phrase below to open the survey in a popup. If your browser blocks this kind of popup, the survey can also be accessed here: History Commons Survey

All results will be noted and discussed in a followup post. Thanks again.

July 30, 2012

Pushing the information envelope

Filed under: community — Max @ 12:37 am

We are not only trying to raise enough money to upgrade our UX/app, we’re also trying to bring aboard volunteer writers and researchers who want to collaborate with HC to expand coverage of a number of issues.

This is a new topic listing with ideas for new projects, sub-projects, and categories.

Some of the subjects I can think of that we’d really love to cover include:

  • climate change and global warming
  • the US, EU, and other economies, and their interrelationships
  • the struggle for LGBTQ rights
  • the ongoing war in Afghanistan
  • the US elections (2012 and before)
  • any number of environmental issues

And some of our best projects came from suggestions and work done by first-time contributors. Got an idea that’s not on the list or on the linked page? Let us know, either by email — hc AT historycommons DOT org — or in a comment on this post.

Collaborate with us to expand and enhance our information flow.

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