Monday, December 27, 2010

A “Free Fall” Piece? Really, Guys?

This week saw the appearance of a WTC 7 free-fall post over at AE911. The post contains prime examples of everything that is wrong with your average Truther post.

I’m surprised that skeptics have made less light of the incredibly mediocre nature of the average 9/11 denier’s screed. Tell me if the apparent flow of each such “big-claim” type article, each “final proof” disseminated from bobbing head to bobbing head is a mutually assured annoyance, or if I’m just crazy:

1. The meandering, banal prologue.

The post I’m griping about begins with the groan-inducing phrase, “Galileo was the first to describe the amazing fact that…” Does anything make you reach for the scroller faster? Does anything prompt more urgent zoning out of the eyes in desperate search of valuable keywords like “gravity,” “data,” or “the goddamn point of all this?”

This introduction reminds me of an epically bad blog post from the cargo-cult version of an academic organization, the Journal of 911 Studies. The post was as useless as one must come to expect from frauds like Frank Legge, and it managed to open with a

It has been said that the world is one continuous Rorschach inkblot test: we see what we expect to see based on our fears and desires.

The hinge on my laptop lid just rusted a little. Can’t we just get to the point? Can’t your evidence and your reasoning speak for itself?

It has been said that the world is one continuous Rorschach inkblot test: we see what we expect to see based on our fears and desires. All sides of the World Trade Centre (WTC) collapse issue can see definitive corroboration in the same photos and videos, the same laboratory tests and the same reports. In this way both authors of this paper initially accepted the official explanation for the collapse of the buildings, as set out in the technical report of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),[2] but they now undeniably approach the report from a skeptical perspective.

So we first get a post-modern statement that everything is a mere matter of interpretation, then a passive assertion that the authors have got it all figured out. That is, after all, one of the apparent points of the droning intro:

2. The in-your-face appeal to authority.

We all recognize this. Not a post goes by these guys where it isn’t asserted with resolute failure to get the joke that the “authors have studied this issue for year.” They have “thought hard about the evidence.” They have “carefully considered all sides of the issue.” When making his shocking and novel claims about free-fall collapse speeds, the author of this post asserts in describing his methodology,

I used a video analysis tool to carefully measure the velocity profile of the falling building using CBS video footage from a fixed camera aimed almost squarely at the north wall. A video detailing this measurement is available at YouTube/user/ae911truth. I calibrated my measurements with the heights of two points in the building provided in the NIST Building 7 report released in August 2008, so I know the picture scale is good.

The “video analysis tool” is unnamed, the video is unidentified and relies on you to use a broken hyperlink, and the provision of the calibration points is completely unexplained. Which part did he rely on? Why did he use the wrong version of the report (the NIST Building 7 report has been updated multiple times – heck, updates to the report were released the very next day)? What’s worse is that this is one of the more “subtle” appeals to authority 9/11 deniers make – especially when they clothe themselves in the rank condescension of wannabe academic seriousness.

Make your point and be done with it. I don’t care where you worked for twenty years. I don’t care where you got your BS, your MD, your PhD. You don’t impress me.

3. The seemingly overt disrespect for the viewership.

This is the point that inspired this post in the first place: 9/11 deniers condescend to their readers and insult their intelligence. (And yes, it goes without saying, they lie to them as well – that’s a separate point) Why does David Chalmers just expect his readers to take his calibration method on faith? Why does he expect they will just believe him because he told them to do so? I think its because he really doesn’t give a shit about his audience anymore. He doesn’t expect to “convert” anyone anymore. He may very well understand that his cult has failed. Sloppy science is allowed because, well… because who cares?

This blog operates under the possibly naive premise that such technicalities are actually at the core of why conspiracy movements succeed or fail. The Internet has allowed arguments to play out rapidly and thoroughly, with near-instantaneous back-and-forths of links, citations, and back-up claims. The side with the most hyperlinks wins, and the other side has stopped bothering altogether. I think it goes beyond the mere fact that the 9/11 denier blogosphere is an echo chamber for people who already agree with its creators – because that’s true of every blogosphere to some extent (including the skeptical one). I think it goes to the fact that the 9/11 deniers are uniquely unequipped to handle serious refutations of their work – they fundamentally don’t know the science, and unless they’re the OPs, they can’t check the post or the author’s previous works for backup. In a world where everyone who disagrees with you is a CIA spook, your theories get little wiggle-room – it seems hard for 9/11 deniers to recalibrate their refuted ideas without making their audience raise their pitchforks and cry “heretic!” After all, in a world where Dylan Avery, Amy Goodman, Judy Wood, and Sibel Edmonds have all been variously accused of being “plants,” it is unlikely that people are going to be willing to leave their camps. The movement, as Faulkner once wrote, is fucked.

Oh and, just to be clear, the free-fall theory is bullshit – not that Chandler gives us a specific claim of any kind to refute.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Another bumper year is the only one of the major 9/11 denier sites that actually lets people know how its fundraising is going year to year, to wit. We don't mean to keep mocking it in every year-end section, it just... keeps letting us.

Just past the $2,000 mark... a steep decline, even from last year's incredibly paltry effort. The cult is fading fast.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Trollfeed, The Blog Post

The Facebook group recently got a post showing a "whistleblower's" talk about how the United States used, and continues to use, depleted uranium in combat zones. I found the talk rather interesting and I've re-posted it below.

Here's why I put "whistleblower" in quotes: I didn't know this was an unknown issue in 2010. I thought it was more or less common knowledge, at least among people who follow news about America's adventures abroad, that depleted uranium was part of the American arsenal. Bushflash did a few videos about it many years ago. It never occurred to me that people could hear phrases like "bunker buster" every day and not wonder what made bunker busters such effective busting devices.

Here's the thing that I think a lot of visitors to our group and this blog from "the other side" don't understand:

Not being a 9/11 denier =/= Support for the actions of any particular politician.

This point is often understated by skeptics, because I think we lack the gene for seeing issues in black and white that 9/11 deniers rely on to make their assumptions about the way the world works. Anyone who has been having the argument for long enough knows that words like "shill" and "spook" are the adjectives of choice 9/11 deniers use for those who refute their ideas. On their planet, it seems, they are part of a golden Crusade, where everyone around them is the unwashed masses, the political sheep who need only be anointed in the homeopathic magic-water of their grainy YouTube videos and fatuous echo chamber of a blogosphere. On their planet, you are either with the 9/11 deniers or you are a die-hard defender of the status quo, 100% copacetic with the proclamations of America's majority party du jour.

The similarities with religious fanaticism have already written themselves in your mind, I'm guessing.

To this video all I can say is, Yep, sounds like depleted uranium is a horrific weapon. 9/11 deniers have to live in a world where it isn't common knowledge that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake (an opinion that at least half this blog's authors have shared since 2003, by the way), for example. No, empirical evidence should not get balled up with your politics. No, not everyone who has a substantive disagreement with you is your enemy on 100% of fronts. I feel this has to get addressed every time I see a 9/11 denier or two hijacking a peace protest or something, but they keep doing it and not getting the un-funny joke they have been spinning this whole time.

"Depleted uranium is a horrific weapon, therefore the government committed 9/11" is a non sequitur. They're unrelated issues, at best part of some epic tu quo que fallacy, spanning decades and continents in some desperately contradictory effort to indict all on all things for an evil utterly unrelated to the debate at hand. The person who posted this video has, at best, conducted a logical fallacy. At worst, he is committing implicit intellectual fraud against his "opponents."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Okay, “911debunkers,” Let’s Walk You Through It

Looks like we really managed to ruffle some feathers over at the debunker-wannabe blog, apparently un-ironically named “Debunking the Debunkers.” Get out your violins:

While repeatedly calling us '9/11 deniers', 'wannabes' and 'cargo-cult skeptics', and mocking me for quoting more of Shermer than I needed to, NR oversimplifies my arguments and engages in the usual fact-free straw man attacks.

And thus follows the usual moaning of those unable to defend a position: They claim that we characterized their arguments in an unfair fashion, that we portrayed their worldview unfavorably, and didn’t define terms in a way that makes their position look good – essentially. For reference, here is the post that got them in such a fuss – and now here’s the next refutation.

D911D starts right off by attempting to backtrack and re-characterize their stance on the “maneuvers” Hani Hanjour “pulled off” on 9/11. The author initially simply gives us

Hani Hanjour would need to have been superhuman to pull off the maneuvres he did. So number 2 definately [sic] applies to the hijackers.

While linking to one of his prior posts that includes, after an impromptu rant about some sort of unemployment difficulties he’s facing,

"Hani Hanjour, a man who was incompetant [sic] in a single engine Cessna, then executed a complex 330 degree downward turn, descending 6000 feet in two and a half minutes. He then entered a steep dive and descended a further 2000 feet in 40 seconds, pulled out of this steep dive at 500mph, overcame enormous G-Forces and knocked down five light poles in less than a second while maintaining the perfect trajectory required to hit the ground floor of a conveniently reinforced section of the Pentagon without touching the lawn. And he accomplished all this without being caught on any of the eighty plus cameras surrounding the Pentagon and without attracting the attention of the US air defence."

I think on some subconscious level I was being charitable by not trotting this out in the original post, because this generally speculative characterization of the plane’s maneuvers was pathetic. Hani Hanjour dipped the nose and the plane descended at a jaw-tearing 45 miles per hour (why, human beings themselves should fly apart at that speed!), then descended again at a face-melting 34 miles per hour and somehow managed to tip the plane back up to overcome the enormous pressure. Things are a lot less scary in perspective, I think. Hani Hanjour tipped the nose twice, and is thus a miracle pilot?

And, as usual, I think it goes without saying that the claim that Hanjour is naught but a flight-school dropout who was “incompetent in a single engine Cessna” is a lie by omission - he was, until he wasn’t.

In 1996, Hanjour returned to the United States to pursue flight training,after being rejected by a Saudi flight school. He checked out flight schools in Florida, California, and Arizona; and he briefly started at a couple of them before returning to Saudi Arabia. In 1997, he returned to Florida and then, along with two friends, went back to Arizona and began his flight training there in earnest. After about three months, Hanjour was able to obtain his private pilot's license. Several more months of training yielded him a commercial pilot certificate, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 1999... Settling in Mesa, Hanjour began refresher training at his old school,Arizona Aviation. He wanted to train on multi-engine planes, but had difficulties because his English was not good enough.The instructor advised him to discontinue but Hanjour said he could not go home without completing the training. In early 2001, he started training on a Boeing 737 simulator at Pan Am International Flight Academy in Mesa.An instructor there found his work well below standard and discouraged him from continuing.Again, Hanjour persevered; he completed the initial training by the end of March 2001.

(source, quoting page 225 of the 9/11 Commission Report)

His instructor described him as “a very average pilot,” and, from the source cited above,

One 9/11 Commission footnote (to Chapter 7) is relatively positive. 170. FBI report, "Summary of Penttbom Investigation," Feb. 29, 2004, pp. 52¬57. Hanjour successfully conducted a challenging certification flight supervised by an instructor at Congressional Air Charters of Gaithersburg, Maryland, landing at a small airport with a difficult approach.The instructor thought Hanjour may have had training from a military pilot because he used a terrain recognition system for navigation. Eddie Shalev interview (Apr.9, 2004).

And, from pentagonresearch, "Despite Hanjour's poor reviews, he did have some ability as a pilot, said Bernard of Freeway Airport. "There's no doubt in my mind that once that [hijacked jet] got going, he could have pointed that plane at a building and hit it," he said."

So this is just a battle of the scare quotes.

In 9/11 denier land, this argument breaks even: “They” have quotes saying the maneuvers were undoable for Hanjour, “we” have quotes saying they were doable for Hanjour. By the denier standard of evidence, this argument is a draw. We have to throw up our hands (ed. note: Wrote “throw up in our hands” the first time. Viva Freud!) and walk away from the table. Fortunately, as a skeptic, I can do better: this kind of crap don’t matter. Who cares what various semi-authorities think about the relative talents of the pilots? Are we meant to conclude that there should’ve been something “likely” about 9/11? Should 9/11 have been a day without the weird, without the inevitable deviations from the mean? This entire line of reasoning is hogwash. What we know is that the positive evidence helps us establish who the pilots were.

Here, in fact, let’s play a thought experiment and grant the 9/11 deniers a premise. Let us falsely render Hanjour a doddering incompetent who couldn’t have flown a paper airplane over his desk. This changes nothing about what we almost certainly already know about Hani Hanjour’s life. 100% of the remaining evidence singles him out as a hijacking pilot, even if we let the 9/11 deniers escape with the obvious lie that he couldn’t have tilted a plane slightly for a brief period. The positive evidence - the records of his training, of his travels, his presence on the plane, his consorting with the fellow hijackers, the many people who came forward to volunteer information about his life (and those who were captured and forced to…) all stand. We know 9/11 deniers are deluding themselves when they make this particularly absurd argument. But even if they weren’t, they’d still be in a very deep hole.

So yes, D911D, you’re wrong on this point. In our previous post, in fact, you were merely wrong; now you’re dishonest.

He next attempts to use the highest form of standard of evidence in 9/11 denier circles – shite YouTube videos – to address the fact that he doesn’t understand how probabilities work. This was in response to a little aside I made about his hypocrisy in saying that skeptics “don’t bother to run the numbers.” Here’s the video he used:

This video is hysterical, so I recommend you give it a view. The presenter begins, in what appears to be a fully honest deadpan, with the following:

“What is the probability of the BBC predicting an unknown event in advance? …100,000.” We can scrap this one because the BBC didn’t predict jack in advance. And yes, it goes without saying, this guy didn’t calculate jack, either. No numbers were “run” here – but by now, it should be obvious we aren’t dealing with the most intellectually rigorous of folks here.

Next up, he asks, “what are the chances of cell phones working at high altitude in 2001?” This entire claim is a non sequitur, as SLC has addressed here. In general, this guy dishonestly calls air phones “cell phones” for most of his claim. Yawn. 2003 called, they want their arguments back.

And in claim three he simply lies. The majority of 9/11 Commission Report members did not “go public saying the investigation was a fraud.” Many members of the Commission complained that the Bush Administration was unhelpful and intrusive, but this guy simply lies about the substance of those complaints. And then he simply decides, “the probability of this one is less than one in a thousand.” That of course is a non sequitur response to the stated question, “how many public enquiry’s have [sic] had a majority of its members go public about fraud?” That question doesn’t even demand a probabilistic answer.

Oh, and have we mentioned, two of the three claims made so far don’t even have anything to do with the actual mechanics of 9/11? The implied theory in number one – of foreign journalists being paid off to start telling “the official story” even before it happens, because apparently the world’s most clever conspirators don’t know what a time zone is – would be completely unrelated to actually pulling off 9/11, and number three is even more obviously so – even if it weren’t a lie.

D911D, you’ve been lied to by people who want you to believe them. Isn’t this the sort of thing you should be angry about? Going to move on now, let me know if you need hand-holding through the remaining five claims.

After all, we now have something more fun to address: D911D’s truly tragic attempt at defending the “thermite” hoax, perpetrated once again by demonstrable frauds whom this author should be dead-set on refuting. He’s a “debunker” after all, dontchaknow.

I’m confused as to why we got the first link he provides, which doesn’t have a lot to say about our case for why the big thermite article is a fraud. It provides one particularly egregious overstep early on: It quotes an article saying that “Nanosized thermitic materials are being researched by the U.S. military with the aim of developing new types of bombs that are several times more powerful than conventional explosives” to argue that nanothermite “IS an incendiary and an explosive,” even though it is literally chemically impossible for that to be true unless you add something else to the thermite (Debunking 911 maths it out here). I’m honestly unsure how to address this claim but with the self-evident fact of how thermite behaves when it “goes off” – a process you can watch here and here). Thus, clearly, its “use in incendiary devices” is the exact same as its use in fireworks – as a pyrotechnic initiator.

Starting off your blog post with an obvious lie is not a good way to get taken seriously, and then trying to quote your way around the serious issues preventing your point from being taken seriously is at least as bad. The entire crux of their argument rests on the appeal to mediocre authority contained in the author’s quote of Jim Hoffman’s article, which reads thus:

These are all features of a nano-engineered material. It is not possible that such a material was formed as a by-product of the destruction of the Twin Towers...
Although these elements -- aluminum, iron, oxygen, and silicon -- were all abundant in building materials used in the Twin Towers, it is not possible that such materials milled themselves into fine powder and assembled themselves into a chemically optimized aluminothermic composite as a by-product of the destruction of the Twin Towers.

And when we go to the article itself, the evidence we find for Hoffman’s claim is… nonexistent. The author claims that the “particles” used to build the case were “very small” without saying how much larger or smaller they were than, say, the average particle found in the wreckage, or the size of other particles of similar chemical composition. You know, the only two things you would want to know to empirically verify that claim. He next says that “the particles are highly uniform in size and shape,” running into the exact same problem, plus another one: he doesn’t bother to provide any metric of uniformity! So no, they are not highly uniform in size and shape – there, an equally valid claim to Jim’s, per unit volume of empirical evidence. I think the closest Hoffman comes to trying to do original science in this regard is to try to come up with the chemical composition of his samples.

As such, it is scientific dishonesty to reject the fact that these are the normal components of the collapse site of a skyscraper. It is an impossible claim to make – and doesn’t even move an inch in the direction of our refutation.

They hint at what to me is the most important point – the ridiculous way in which the sample was gathered – in the second link, but only dig themselves deeper. To be clear, Jones did not gather any samples. People mailed him things, and he took them at their word. From the article itself:

It was learned that a number of people had saved samples of the copious, dense dust, which spread and settled across Manhattan. Several of these people sent portions of their samples to members of this research group. This paper discusses four separate dust samples collected on or shortly after 9/11/2001. Each sample was found to contain red/gray chips. All four samples were originally collected by private citizens who lived in New York City at the time of the tragedy.

And, even better, the original article gives us a map of where the samples were (supposedly) collected, showing that three of the four were uh, well, let’s just say they wouldn’t be the residue of a beam-melting job, that’s for sure:

At least this time they tried to be skeptics, unlike their other two claims. Okay, D911D, 2,300 words later, I have not reduced your fraudulent, dishonest, and/or downright absurd claims to “straw men.” Here they are, and there is why they are wrong. There is why your worldview is still, in fact, utterly false.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Debunking the Wannabes"

This is my new phrase for people who operate under the stated mission of "debunking the debunkers" - i.e., those who defend the faith against skeptical inquiry: Wannabes. Perhaps cargo-cult skeptics. At any rate, check out the incredibly tepid response of the 9/11 deniers to Michael Shermers' now-viral smackdown of Anthony Hall.

Michael Shermer has responded to Anthony Hall's confronting of him in his usual way.

After listing several NWO theories, Shermer writes...
Nevertheless, we cannot just dismiss all such theories out of hand, because real conspiracies do sometimes happen. Instead we should look for signs that indicate a conspiracy theory is likely to be untrue. The more that it manifests the following characteristics, the less probable that the theory is grounded in reality:

1. Proof of the conspiracy supposedly emerges from a pattern of “connecting the dots” between events that need not be causally connected. When no evidence supports these connections except the allegation of the conspiracy or when the evidence fits equally well to other causal connections—or to randomness—the conspiracy theory is likely to be false.
2. The agents behind the pattern of the conspiracy would need nearly superhuman power to pull it off. People are usually not nearly so powerful as we think they are.
3. The conspiracy is complex, and its successful completion demands a large number of elements.
4. Similarly, the conspiracy involves large numbers of people who would all need to keep silent about their secrets. The more people involved, the less realistic it becomes.
5. The conspiracy encompasses a grand ambition for control over a nation, economy or political system. If it suggests world domination, the theory is even less likely to be true.
6. The conspiracy theory ratchets up from small events that might be true to much larger, much less probable events.
7. The conspiracy theory assigns portentous, sinister meanings to what are most likely innocuous, insignificant events.
8. The theory tends to commingle facts and speculations without distinguishing between the two and without assigning degrees of probability or of factuality.
9. The theorist is indiscriminately suspicious of all government agencies or private groups, which suggests an inability to nuance differences between true and false conspiracies.
10. The conspiracy theorist refuses
to consider alternative explanations, rejecting all disconfirming evidence and blatantly seeking only confirmatory evidence to support what he or she has a priori determined to be the truth.
Same old incredulous nonsense. But I found 2, 8 and 10 interesting as they could equally apply to the official conspiracy theory and Shermer's own beliefs.

Hani Hanjour would need to have been superhuman to pull off the maneuvres he did. So number 2 definately applies to the hijackers.

Defenders of the official story mix facts and speculation, and they don't ever calculate the improbability or assess the factuality. If they were to calculate the improbability of all the coincidences surrounding 9/11 being 'just coincidences', they'd probably get a value greater than the number of electrons in the universe. And with regards to the explanation for the towers destruction, the debunkers take computer models over hard evidence. So the official conspiracy theory also ticks number 8.

Finally, the debunkers, including Shermer himself, "[refuse] to consider alternative explanations, rejecting all disconfirming evidence and blatantly seeking only confirmatory evidence to support what he or she has a priori determined to be the truth". I couldn't have put it any better myself, Shermer!

Why they choose to spell out all of Shermer's points and only address three of them is beyond me - especially when their three attempts only make themselves openly look worse. First of all, their point about Hani Hanjour's "maneuvering" is false. Even other 9/11 deniers concede that Hani Hanjour's "maneuvering" was nothing special. Their second attempt is a particularly glaring internal contradiction:

Defenders of the official story mix facts and speculation, and they don't ever calculate the improbability or assess the factuality. If they were to calculate the improbability of all the coincidences surrounding 9/11 being 'just coincidences', they'd probably get a value greater than the number of electrons in the universe.

"Skeptics don't bother to run the numbers... I didn't bother to run the numbers, but they'd probably get some kinda CRAZY number!" They really give nothing meatier here than an underhand-pitch for an amusing aside. The mere phrase "calculate the improbability of all the coincidences" makes my statistics background start to ache. Did they mean "calculate the probability, given their priors?" Let's give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.

For their third and final attempt at substance, they trackback to one of their own previous posts where they attack Shermer for daring to refute their beliefs from the standpoint that they lack logical coherence and the mere presence of empirical data. In attempting to rebut him, the author(s) of seem to have repeatedly fallen back on the perpetually resurfacing fraud of "thermate incendiary" [sic] being found at the WTC sites. For their own edification, in case they are as yet unaware (and they seem to be so, as they trotted out that pathetic claim as if it were still relevant to the debate), CrNU has refuted those claims here and here. Thermite was not found at the WTC site, guys - you've been duped.

Wannabes? Cargo-cult skeptics? Whichever they are, they managed to give it their full 30% at rebutting Shermer this time, and even came up 0 for 3 overall.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

NIST Tested Bomb, Demolition Hypotheses!

The torrent comes in at a massive forty GB, but if you're interested, 9/11 deniers have epically shot themselves in the foot by obtaining the NIST burn video database, much of which includes video of the various computerized tests NIST ran while trying to assess how the buildings collapsed on 9/11. In theory, this dataset includes virtually every test NIST engineers ran in devising their explanation for what happened.

Kind of makes you wonder why this wasn't bigger news in the conspiracy theory echo chamber.

These videos are just nails in the coffin of an already-defunct movement. Rather than vindicating the faith, this archive proves that not only were the NIST and 9/11 Commission reports based on rigorous testing, but that engineers, academics and scientists working for the government explicitly tested conspiratorial claims. We have gigs and gigs of video proof that NIST and its affiliates considered every possible angle of the event, and were able to rule out the kinds of hypotheses that today guide what remains of the faith's holy writ.

The 9/11 Datasets Project is run by The "International Center for 9/11 Studies" and apparently all of its content was freely obtained by FOIA suit. Has anything ever so beautifully refuted anti-government paranoia? Maybe its the afternoon coffee kicking in, but I'm positively giddy that this has happened. IC911 has destroyed the 9/11 truth movement.

In fact, searching for "International Center for 9/11 Studies" on PrisonPlanet returns the incredibly flaccid response deniers had to actually surveying the footage: All that they cared to report about were things like 'CBS reporters heard explosions on ground floor before collapse' and 'CNN reported third explosion on 9/11' and 'firefighters heard explosions!' All that they really seemed able to deal with was the same old laughably tired fact that mainstream journalists suck at their jobs, and turns out 9/11 was a confusing day. They apparently have no interest in the substantive evidence. There's really no question as to why.

At the very least, we now have definitive proof that NIST didn't "whitewash" jack when it came to their investigation. There is terabytes of data here to deal with. These guys worked damn hard. As 9/11 deniers have themselves demonstrated, anyone who calls the 9/11 investigation a bogus effort is either lying or stupid. We now have a few weeks of video with which to address that claim.

I downloaded one of the archives, "42A0016," which is about 300mb of video and photographic depictions of NIST laboratory activity and photographs of the buildings. One video shows the hours of construction that went into recreating just one of the sections of the tower for a NIST in-lab test, and another shows a theoretical bomb blast on another such in-lab rendering. The files are too big to upload to Blogger and, for some reason, aren't in the uploads the deniers have been making to YouTube...

There really are too many photos, bits of video, and other such stuff to deal with, but make sure to check out the data yourself. Nothing I've seen to date stands as a better refutation of 9/11 denial than the evidence they themselves are presenting here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oops, I called it "new"

In my last post I made the mistake of calling "The Red Flags of 9/11" a "new" series. Its first page contains everything from the Norman Mineta testimony to the shocking revelation that the 9/11 Commission didn't send assassins after Mahmud Ahmed. They get bonus points for mentioning that the Big Evil Corporate Media was their #1 source of information, information that they credulously repeat verbatim. Super bonus points: They base their version of the Mahmud Ahmed claim on a CNN story that doesn't even mention him as a money source. That's good journalism, boys.

They do admit that on 9/11 the hijackers probably did turn off their transponders when the 9/11 Commission reports they did. However, for them, this isn't good enough because apparently they think the U.S. military should have used... satellites designed to monitor orbiting debris?

The 9-11 commission failed to consider the fact that the US military has more than just ground radar at their disposal. In 2006 a golf ball was hit off the International Space Station. New Scientist magazine reported that the ball was too small to be tracked by ground radar, but noted that,

“US military radar can track space debris as small as 10 centimeters across, and can sometimes see things as small as 5 centimeters wide if it is in just the right orbit.”

Man, five years of slow news days have taken a real turn on these guys.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bob McIlvain's interview

The echo chamber has cross-posted ad nauseum this utterly unremarkable with Bob McIlvain who, as with so many 9/11 speakers, seems to rest the "novelty" of his case solely on his own son's tragic death. He repeats the mantra that "the book is closed" on 9/11 for 9/11 deniers because they are, of course, privy to The Golden Truth, but doesn't really make any specific claims about any particular parts of the day that made him "suspicious." He makes a few typical errors - he says that the hijackers were "all from Saudi Arabia" while their identifies had them from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the UAE, and Egypt. Almost as an aside, the interviewer kept referring to the Zapruder Film as the "Zapata Film."

Utterly unremarkable interview, but one of its sponsors, 9/11 Truth News, has released a new special (read: special hobbled together from bogus claims beginning around 2003) that will earn us some lols in the coming days.

Monday, December 6, 2010

AE911's "Global Effort" Reaching Seven Towns

I really don't like to pick on street protesters because they exercise a fundamental human right that is endangered around the world at the moment... but the bombastic windbaggery of my old friends at simply can't go un-highlighted.

This month, AE911T is apparently beginning a monthly series of "action events," coordinated protests and public actions to draw attention to their cause.

We meet each month on a conference call to decide what actions the various groups will take. For this month, December, we decided that we would do “tabling” events in cities throughout the US on the same day - Saturday Dec 11 (on the 11th of course in commemoration of the loss of life on the 11th of Sept 2001). Most of the groups will be setting up information tables with AE911Truth literature at flea markets, or town squares, college campuses, or even in front of the their congressperson’s office. Here’s an example of serious tabling by accomplished AE911Truth activists. You don’t have to be that fancy if you want to join us in this nation-wide (and soon… world wide) effort. But another option, for the advanced supporters among you would be to set up a large TV monitor on the table and show the continuous video loops (found in the Resources Section of of the explosive evidence in the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7. Be prepared to actively hand out literature to passers-by and answer their questions as best you can. The AE911Truth brochures, evidence cards, and, 911 Investigator newspapers are your best bets for initial leafleting. For those that seem particularly interested you can then hand them the enveloped DVD’s. (better actually to sell them for $2 because they will be more likely to actually watch it – and… you can replenish your supplies with the proceeds). Some may be interested in purchasing the $20 special DVD’s in the full presentation plastic cases – which you may at least want to have on hand for display.

"...worldwide." DUN DUN DUN. The only problem? So far, they only have seven action groups, in Phoenix, San Jose, Atlanta, Chicago, Rochester, Houston, and Seattle. That none of these are in, say, New York City or central Pennsylvania appears to be of no concern.

In my experience in the non-profit world, one coordinated action per month is pretty mediocre, especially if your group is small enough that phone conference calls are a viable coordination method. And if your organization has an institutional framework built up over years, even more so. By any reasonable measure AE911T is a failure as an advocacy organization - and I'm curious to see what takes its place.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Don't Know Much 'Bout That There Noam Chomsky

Yes, Noam Chomsky is a complicated fella. His writing is as erudite as it is neat-o. But when "World for 9-11 Truth" runs a piece making this explosive claim:

Noam Chomsky: No Evidence that Al-Qaeda Carried Out the 9/11 Attacks

It is the ultimate Yes, But.

First of all, here is what Dr. Chomsky actually thinks of the level of intellectual shallowness required to be duped by 9/11 denialism.

So right away, we know this claim is rather fishy. What did Chomsky actually say, that this website used to essentially lie about Chomsky's stance on 9/11? They quote this PressTV interview write-up.

“The explicit and declared motive of the [Afghanistan] war was to compel the Taliban to turn over to the United States, the people who they accused of having been involved in World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist acts. The Taliban…they requested evidence…and the Bush administration refused to provide any,” the 81-year-old senior academic made the remarks on Press TV’s program a Simple Question.

“We later discovered one of the reasons why they did not bring evidence: they did not have any.”

The political analyst also said that nonexistence of such evidence was confirmed by FBI eight months later.

“The head of FBI, after the most intense international investigation in history, informed the press that the FBI believed that the plot may have been hatched in Afghanistan, but was probably implemented in the United Arab Emirates and Germany.”

Chomsky added that three weeks into the war, “a British officer announced that the US and Britain would continue bombing, until the people of Afghanistan overthrew the Taliban… That was later turned into the official justification for the war.”

“All of this was totally illegal. It was more, criminal,” Chomsky said.

Ah, so his view of the evidence is that the attacks were "implemented" in countries other than Afghanistan, rendering the Afghanistan invasion illegal. That's a question of geographic location, not organization responsible. Worldfor911Truth lies to its readers - it's up to them to decide what to do about that fact.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Only Claim I Saw More Than Once During Our Hiatus

CrNU hasn't been updating for a few months as its authors all decided to enter the working world of adulthood all at once (and yet we've still held a better record than the "Journal of 9/11 Studies" blog). Now that we've started to settle into new jobs, schools, etc., we'll have more time to talk about ridiculous claims... like this one. Warning, link will cause crappy music to ensue, but that'll be the least of your headache.

The claim is thus: Someone interviewed on 9/11 by a Fox affiliate spoke really articulately, therefore the government did 9/11. No, really.

And so, because of the witness' precise claims - such as "the plane came from nowhere," and "the towers fell, one after the other" - 9/11 deniers engaged in a six-month search for the identity of this mystery man, dubbed "Harley Guy" by the deniers.

This claim bears a little thinking through. Someone at Fox News hired an actor to start spouting lines that mostly-kinda-sorta ended up accurately describing what happened; that actor was, in turn, somehow kept quiet, by someone, on behalf of Fox News and/or "The Government." As was the reporter. And the camera crew. And the person who hired the paid actor. And that person's secretary. And the secretary's friends. And so on.

One of the reasons why we've been remiss in updating this blog is because the 9/11 deniers never give us anything new to work with. My thoughts on this issue pertain entirely to the same type of analysis I provided for Loose Change:

This claim just adds a few dozen more people to this list.

The sheer bizarreness of the claim only dawned on me as I started on this post. The sole reasoning behind 9/11 deniers leaping in so typically gullible fashion onto this claim seems to be because the guy spoke clearly and articulately, even though he only said some pretty obvious things. The claim that a guy who speaks clearly and slowly must be a paid actor says more about the fantasy-world paranoia of 9/11 denial than any novel accusations I could level against them.

So it looks like their first official guess was that The Daily Show's Rob Riggle was, in fact, the "Harley Guy."

If any of you are familiar with the John Stewart show "The daily show" on that show named Rob Riggle.

I believe that is who this man is. A paid actor who in 2001 was unknown.

What an awkward IMDB profile that would be. Obviously did great things for his career. Sure, the guy is too short by about two feet, they sound nothing alike and any Daily Show actor would probably take the chance to bring down the Bush government after the fact, for God's sake, but it's probably better than who the kids finally settled on:

Actor Mark Humphrey. No, really. That's who they think it is. And how do they know? Well, allow me to demonstrate what appears to be the sole analysis done to date demonstrating the argument:

According to the blog where the claim broke, that's it. Come on, I can't be the only one thinking, "ummm... they look nothing alike..."

Apparently not, because debate has gotten started over whether this claim is correct. Truthaction disagrees, as do 9/11 Blogger and some ATS users. Here's the CrNU prediction: In six months, the people who believe the government recruits C-list television actors and trusts them with case-making tasks will have the same sort of obscurity as those in the faith who believe Judy Wood's theory about space laser beams. They'll be as "obscure" as one can be in a movement where refutation is impossible because science doesn't matter. None of these theories can actually be refuted because 9/11 deniers aren't in the habit of ruling out absurdities. However, they'll reach as close to that state as pseudo-scientists can imitate, and the faith will bleed a few more members.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Trolling as an official policy?

"I encourage people who post here to also post on the facebook group "9/11 conspiracy theories are BS." It takes only a second to join, post, and leave the group, but it will reach people who are in desperate need of real information."

Well, I guess it's easier for them to run away from their stated beliefs than defend them. Oh, well - guess this means they don't intend to be taken seriously?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

And we think they're irrelevant: 9/11 deniers to hold OKC bombing event

Next: 9/11 deniers for U.S.S. Maine truth? From 911truth:

Well documented information contradicting the patently false, official account of the Oklahoma City bombing of April, 19, 1995 as offered by the U.S. Department of Justice and the F.B.I. will be reviewed. Why should any one of us be asked to remember the deaths of the Oklahoma City bombing victims in a lie?

Guest Speakers including Pat Shannan – Independent journalist with American Free Press, Washington, DC., Wendy Painting - Graduate student at NY University – Buffalo, V.Z. Lawton – OKC bombing survivor and several others will be in attendance.

Words fail to describe (or appear on) Pat Shannan's startlingly hideous website - an amalgam of broken links ostensibly assaulting your sense of grammatical correctness with titles like "Read more about FDNY Chief of Safety Reported Bombs in WTC/Planes" (link broken) and "New Article! Bush and Republicans Continue to Make 9/11 Probe Difficult" (link, alas, also broken). Real star-studded cast you've got there. "What if... what if we threw a party and the designer of the world's ugliest website, a grad student, a living appeal to emotion, and several others showed up?"

One of the nice things about the Internet for champions of unpopular causes is that websites are easier to paint a shiny veneer on more so than, say, an ill-attended event or marketing campaign designed on a shoestring budget. Though 9/11 denial has a lucrative DVD business associated with it, apparently its big conspiracy-rehashing parties can't get much behind them, even from their peers. Another day, another conference by greedy conspiracy theorists on one of their long-refuted tokens of faith.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How to Destroy the Peace Movement In One Easy Step

From the "oh, for the love of God" files.

In advance: You can realize that the War in Iraq was probably a bad idea and not believe 9/11 conspiracy theories. You can agree with the general consensus of foreign policy experts just fine and not be one of these lunatics.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

John Patrick Bedell: 9/11 denier, fanatic, suicide martyr

The next in the line of bearded anti-American engineering students who become suicide attackers was a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. Shocking. His entire belief set was 100% compatible with those of your average Tea Partier, and the ideological right has already leaped to their own defense. Just because he bought every right-wing belief about the monetary system, Barack Obama, gun rights, drugs, and the American legal system doesn't mean he... well, the excuse-making is up to them.

Predictably, Stormfront has eagerly endorsed the violence in the name of traditional conservative values, while others have demanded that Bedell shouldn't be labeled as right-wing because he smoked pot. For the record, only one presidential candidate vocally favored marijuana legalization in the last election.

The particular brand of nutjobbery fostered and nurtured by the cult of 9/11 denial has inevitable consequences. Like virtually every die-hard acolyte we meet, these people are disconnected from their families, mistrustful of everyone around them, and in favor of violent retaliation of everyone who disagrees with them. Whether it's a Facebook troll promoting eugenics on public websites, or someone actually going out and making good on your beliefs as Bedell did, 9/11 deniers fall on the same continuum. After all, if you truly, honestly believed that the world was run by a secret sect of greedy, murderous overlords, waiting in the wings to destroy everything you love... why wouldn't you lash out against innocent people like this?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Please, oh please...

Dear 9/11 deniers: Please, oh please, accuse the government of complicity in the recent Teabagger suicide martyrdom. First props goes out to Killtown, which provides trenchant insights such as, "people heard a loud noise," and "jee, I heard a sort of bomb-like boom when that plane hit!"

The quotes they pull include those from a dazed man in a CBS news story who initially said the plane impact "felt like a bomb went off;" FOX News' reporting that "several witnesses are reporting they first thought it was a bomb," and an Australian news organization owned by the notorious inside trader Conrad Black quoting a nearly-victim in saying that he also thought a bomb exploded.

Two points.

One, in the Muslim world, it is common knowledge that the American and Israeli governments are responsible for everything from 9/11 to the burned toast at breakfast. The Zionists are the reason someone can't get a job, why the price of gas is so high, why its so damn hot out. 9/11 deniers' ideological allies in violent Muslim organizations were evidently so shocked at the American response to 9/11 that many have actually begun promoting 9/11 as an inside job even as al Qaeda proudly claims responsibility for it. Though most Muslims believe violence in the name of Islam is justified, many appear so horrified at the logical conclusion of their beliefs that some Muslim leaders have decided it is easier to rewrite history than to face it.

9/11 deniers must remain allied with religious extremists on this point to whatever end. They are ideologically forced, as are the Muslim fascists who rule daily life with the whip and the sword in most of the Muslim world, to concoct excuses for every indication that something bad has happened for which the West is not responsible. This is why, in large part, both have lost so much credibility so quickly (yes, sorry to cite my own work...what can I say?). It is to their own downfall to be forced into such a position, and for that us skeptics are glad.

Second: Everywhere else, your sources of information are supposedly actively working against you to suppress "the truth, remember? You guys think the media is engaged in a "blackout," remember? The mainstream media is being unfairly mean to every public official who believes evidence rather than conspiracy theories, aren't they? These insane claims against everyday journalists are yours to begin with. They're just trying to silence Rosie!

No, you can't have it both ways. Either your habitual quote-mining of the Zionist Media for ways to support your farcical worldview is valid, or everything professional journalists say is a lie. Your ridiculous personal slanders against everyone who disagrees with you can go un-punished because unlike the religious nutjobs to whom you are ideologically wed you live in a country that values free speech, but they don't go unnoticed.

Either everyone working in a media organization is a fraud, or your worldview is a fraud. Either there is no such thing as organic opposition to the United States, or your worldview is a fraud. Take your pick. This is why I'm glad the conspiracy theories have begun to burble: it brings 9/11 deniers one step closer to having to sit and ask themselves, "do I really believe this nonsense?"

Monday, February 15, 2010

A telling argument

Great comment from reader angrysoba the other day:

I like this picture and coincidentally I was arguing with someone who insisted that the first plane that struck the towers may well have been "a small plane" because there had been numerous news reports that said so.

When I pointed out that there can be no doubt the second plane was a passenger jet, he agreed. I said, "what the Hell is the point of the first plane being faked and not the second?"

The answer: "Because it proves the official story's a lie!"

That's the weird world of Truthers!

Demonstrating once again that the Truthers are their own un-funny joke, being told over and over on a broken record. The picture is the famous webcomic xkcd, which regularly gets passed across the Internet, so I'm positive the picture is copyable.

Something you might want to ask this guy, angrysoba, is, "would an error in the 9/11 Commission Report count as a lie in your world?" I think the answer given his logic here would have to be yes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A thought experiment for truthers

Question: How do you know this isn't the cover-up of a crashed, hijacked plane?

"Course all the neighbors ran out into the street. We didn't know what was going on," said Paul Williams, who heard the explosion.

Some people said they thought it was a plane crash, others, a house explosion.

It has everything 9/11 deniers need. Bystanders hearing the sounds of explosions. A quick attempt at a cover-up. Media shills - both with 'Eastern European'-sounding last names.

Truthers, spell out your line of reasoning about this and see if you get the joke.

Monday, January 25, 2010

XKCD: rarely funny, sometimes hilarious

Remarkably close to the beliefs of actual 9/11 deniers, many of whom admit that the United States really does have enemies abroad, but still insist that George Bush had to concoct the most elaborate hoax in history in order to invade a couple of third-world countries, such as the United States invades every couple of years or so.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"The Weird Factor," or, spot the logical fallacy

Answers after the block. Hint: The "better name" rhymes with "shmallacy from schmincredulity." From, posted over at

What I call the Weird Factor, for lack of a better name, seems to have become a permanent feature of our post-9/11 world, a dark and sinister leitmotif that plays in the background. On 9/11, of course, the Factor was on full display as a whole string of unusual events and unexplained phenomena were visited on us. The 9/11 Commission did little to clear these matters up, for the most part because they didn't address them. Just a few for the record: Bush reading My Pet Goat to schoolchildren after being told of the attacks, the sudden appearance of the "Israeli art students" – and their buddies, the "laughing Israelis" – in the months and weeks leading up to the attacks, and the apparent passivity of US air defenses on that fateful day.

I mean, how is it possible that the terrorists actually hit the Pentagon, the symbolic fortress of America's alleged military supremacy? After spending untold trillions on "defense" over the years, a sum that never declines in real terms, and driving ourselves into near-bankruptcy on account of it, how in the name of all that's holy did nineteen men armed with box-cutters manage to drive Don Rumsfeld stumbling into the street, literally running for his life?

The most glaring logical error the author of's blog post committed here is called the fallacy from incredulity. This fallacy is committed when one argues that because one is surprised by an event, that event could not have happened.

1. 9/11 was surprising to me.
: The government did it.

Could this "logic" replicate in any way, to any other situation? Of course not. The fact that something surprised you has nothing to do with whether or not that something did in fact happen. 911truth and require you to believe that if you think something is unlikely, it is therefore obvious that "the government" (whoever that is) was responsible. Here are a few examples of this fallacy being committed by the author of that post in just the first couple of paragraphs.

Fallacy from incredulity: People from Israel were in New York City in September of 2001. Shocking. Some of them came to the United States to go to college, and some even came as (gasp) tourists! Because the "five dancing Israelis" were such good secret agents, here they are on national television talking (and laughing) about the conspiracy theories that have been born to justify their existence in the minds of 9/11 deniers. Hey, wouldn't people cheering the deaths of Americans be people 9/11 deniers could naturally associate with? The founders of the religion of 9/11 denial did find 9/11 rather humorous, after all.

Fallacy from incredulity: "A plane hit one of the biggest buildings on the Potomac? Impossible! 2003 called, they want their arguments back."

Fallacy from incredulity:. "Having an international military presence means the Pentagon should've been armed with missile banks eager to be fired onto hijacked civilian jetliners. Because in the few minutes between the hijacking of Flight 77 and its impact into the Pentagon defense officials weren't miraculously granted the authority to rewrite American national defense rules to allow the shooting down of American civilian jetliners, the hijacking of which in every case prior to 2001 was for ransom purposes rather than suicide attack purposes, the government did 9/11."

As you can tell from my sarcastic interpretation of this author's claims, I think his assessments of the relative probabilities of certain things happening is patently false. But even if they weren't, the mere logic of the author's statements gets him laughed out the door. His only argument is that he personally thought the United States was invulnerable to terrorism, and that any deviation from his fantasy world is therefore a stochastic impossibility short of necessitating what would be by far the most elaborate hoax in history.

A conspiracy-minded blogger thinks something unlikely happened, therefore everyone who works for the US government is a terrorist. Does that statement not ring true to you? No? Congratulations, you know more about writing, rhetoric and argumentation than the editorial staff of

Next up: The rest of his post!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Well, its official

Cindy Sheehan, the activist who once thought she could beat Nancy Pelosi in a primary election, is on the speaker list for a "Treason in America: the Wars & Our Broken Constitution" Conference."

Because all 9/11 deniers must be anti-war, and must believe that everyone who isn't a 9/11 denier must be a gullible, warmongering hawk. That's how cults work, don'tcha know.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Heads it was the US, tails it wasn't the Taliban (cont.)

An elaborate plan by Taliban soldiers was carried out in Kabul today, with multiple timed suicide strikes on the capital's downtown, coupled with urban squad tactics on the part of the Taliban. MSNBC has more.

When the Flight 253 hijacking was foiled by a Dutch film-maker - who 9/11 deniers think was a trained CIA spook along with would-be terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, now facing two consecutive life sentences barely into his twenties - deniers argued that the plan was so shoddily-crafted that it proves African and Middle Eastern people are too stupid to have carried out the 9/11 attacks. 9/11 deniers are convinced that non-Westerners are simply stupider than the rest of us, and to them the failure of the Flight 253 hijacking, though a black op of course, is final proof of their beliefs.

Here we have a coordinated tactical strike with military and symbolic significance. Twenty militants devastated a country's (ostensible) capital city. The Taliban, which 9/11 deniers also believe is run by the U.S. government, attempted to destroy the U.S.-backed center-left government and nearly succeeded.

Listening to the twits over at 911blogger and 911truth, one comes to realize that 9/11 deniers legitimately don't think terrorism exists. Right now they're trying to cook something up over at 811truth connecting Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to - you guessed it - Mossad. Sometimes, the jokes write themselves.

9/11 deniers have some answering to do. Does your bigotry against non-Westerners hold up in the face of the obvious? Does terrorism not exist? Does the U.S. have no real enemies, only its own creations come home to roost? Is there no such thing as an organic foreign opposition to U.S. interests abroad... or has your worldview failed?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This guy loves himself. Also labels. But not his friends.

Killtown's mad about being banned on TruTV's forums. I don't know the guy or why he was, but I find his post-ban griping quite amusing.

One, his post drips with ego, as his posts do generally. This is pretty much in line with the vast cranial expansion of most 9/11 deniers, who regard themselves as "the truth seekers" who are "going deeper" to ask questions that us "sheeple" wouldn't dare ponder. Of course, that they uncritically glean answers to said questions from shoddily-made YouTube videos full of Garage Band house beats and grainy Bitmaps posted by people lacking basic grammar and critical thinking skills is beside the point. The point is, we're sheep because we get our information from people who have fancy college degrees and stable sources of income, and they're privy to mystical sources of knowledge such as only CrystalSeeker99 can provide. Apparently he was banned from TruTV because he was spamming. The response he gives himself on his personal blog is that, well, his spamming was popular and it ain't spam if a lot of people click on it. Trolling is allowed when someone as smart as me is doing it. Right.

Two, he doesn't seem to get the joke when he refers to people who dare challenge his faith as "skeptics" in a derogatory fashion. Consider his passive-aggressive anger at us blasphemous interlopers in his post:

And what's really funny is right before they banned me, I just reported two posts from skeptic trolls for -- guess? -- that's right, them starting trouble (as to be expected from your average JREF skeptic troll).

Getting banned there is harsh. They delete all of your posts. Just ask skeptic troll "Deelite." =)

Three sentences. Three usages of the phrase "skeptic troll." Cute. So do 9/11 deniers just not bother calling themselves "skeptics" or "alternative theorists" anymore, at this point? Have they just admitted that they're a religion?

It pleases me to no end to see that "skepticism" has become a sin in the denier world. There is no better way to further reduce your cult to a broken record player repeating an un-funny joke than to take a synonym for "person who thinks a lot" and use it as an insult. Right on, Killtown. You tell your frontal lobe who's boss. "Starting trouble" will sow dissent amongst the proletariat.

Third, the denier infighting is about to reach ridiculous levels. Remember when they decided that Amy Goodman was a government spook? Remember when they decided that Dylan Avery was a government spook? If you decide to take a peek over at any of these hysterical dens of woo-woo known as a 9/11 forum, you'll see what I mean. Everyone is an enemy, and everyone is scared of everyone else. Its almost not funny. Almost.

Killtown: You go, girl. Fight the man/each other/your impulse to think critically.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"The government wants to make us THINK!"

As someone who works in behavioral econ and mathematical psychology I was pumped to see one of my intellectual heroes Cass Sunstein appointed to a post in the Obama Administration. His bibliography spans politics, economics, and psychology, and his work in the academic literature is required reading in most courses in behavioral studies. A true polymath of the social sciences, and a pretty nice guy to boot.

And 9/11 deniers have just started comparing him to Hitler.

Got Fascism? : Obama Advisor Promotes 'Cognitive Infiltration'
Cass Sunstein is President Obama's Harvard Law School friend, and recently appointed Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

In a recent scholarly article, he and coauthor Adrian Vermeule take up the question of "Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures." (J. Political Philosophy, 7 (2009), 202-227). This is a man with the president's ear. This is a man who would process information and regulate things. What does he here propose?

[W]e suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of believers by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity. (Page 219.)

Read this paragraph again. Unpack it. Work your way through the language and the intent. Imagine the application. What do we learn?

Rarely does the failure to get the joke resound so epically.

People who oppose the government have legitimate concerns. During the Bush Administration, police and military organizations engaged in illegal or at least immoral infiltration of peaceful protest organizations. And it was wrong.

Cass Sunstein is advocating showing up to a group of people and asking them to explain why they believe what they believe. This is what every group should voluntarily be seeking, anyway. To their cries of "got fascism?" I ask, "got group-think?" If your beliefs are true, Sunstein's argument that the government should seek open debate with you should be a blessing. You should be looking forward to having hordes of converts.

Instead, what do they fear?

Put into English, what Sunstein is proposing is government infiltration of groups opposing prevailing policy. Palestinian Liberation? 9/11 Truth? Anti-nuclear power? Stop the wars? End the Fed? Support Nader? Eat the Rich?

It's easy to destroy groups with "cognitive diversity." You just take up meeting time with arguments to the point where people don't come back. You make protest signs which alienate 90% of colleagues. You demand revolutionary violence from pacifist groups.

Only one of those things Sunstein lists is a conspiracy theory, making this blogger's paranoia look more than a little silly - and to that second paragraph, its not like 9/11 deniers, you know, already do all of that themselves.

Never has a group ever so resolutely opposed such a banal policy that would be beneficial in the long run to any group that wasn't fundamentally afraid of having its beliefs challenged.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Abdulmutallab probably would've failed anyway

Beware journalists trying to play engineer, but this piece at is quite interesting.

In theory at least, seat 19A would seem ideal. It is positioned exactly over the center of the wings, and under it is a tank capable of holding 41,559 liters of fuel. Video demonstrations of a similar amount of the same explosive being detonated in the open show a powerful blast, and that power would be magnified in a restricted space like an airplane cabin.
But it’s not so simple. That center fuel tank is part of what is called the wing box, a structure that anchors the wings to the fuselage and absorbs the greatest stresses of flight. For this reason, it is one of the strongest parts of the airplane. Also, Northwest Flight 253 was in the last phase of a long trans-oceanic flight and the main fuel tank would have been by then very light in fuel. It’s true that even a small amount of fuel would still have been enough to ensure the success of the bomber’s mission, but only if that tough wing box had been penetrated.

And where was this guy who supposedly helped him get through security? Is Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch filmmaker who is certainly no Amereican sympathizer, also now supposed to be a CIA agent? Abdulmutallab is facing life plus ninety years, and can't point the finger anywhere else to lessen his sentence? Considering it was going to fail anyway, what about this exactly reeks of "false flag?"

The 9/11 denier noise machine has some approaching tanks in the background to deal with.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Other 9/11 deniers trying to jump in on flight 253 conspiracy theories

911blogger imported its post from attempted to join the "GOV DID 253" bandwagon and, I have to say, it is quite a lark. They have absolutely nothing that wasn't reported in that "mainstream media" they love to hate... they just use it to come to the conclusion that there's no such thing as terrorism and Britain (or possibly America or Yemen) did the flight 253 hijacking.

Let’s take a look at those informational “snippets” and summarize what is quickly emerging as growing evidence of U.S. foreknowledge of an imminent attack on an American passenger plane:

* May: the British government withdrew its student visa for Abdulmutallab, a graduate of the prestigious University College London and placed him on a watchlist, barring his entry into the UK. MI5, and presumably their MI6 military intelligence colleagues in Yemen, compiled a dossier on the would-be bomber, citing his “political involvement” with “extremist networks” that have enjoyed on-again, off-again ties with NATO military intelligence organizations across the decades. This information, as Brown government spokesperson Simon Lewis, who let the cat out of the proverbial bag, was shared with their American counterparts.

* August: U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA and NSA, intercepted cell- and satellite phone traffic which revealed that a Yemeni affiliate of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets, also known as al-Qaeda, were finalizing preparations for an operation that would utilize a “Nigerian.”

* October: Newsweek revealed in their January 11 issue, that the dodgy cleric, the American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, who communicated extensively with the disturbed Ft. Hood shooter, Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, posted “a provocative message on his English-language Web site: ‘COULD YEMEN BE THE NEXT SURPRISE OF THE SEASON?’” According to Newsweek, “Al-Awlaki seemed to hint at an upcoming attack that would make Yemen ‘the single most important front of jihad in the world’.” The Washington Post reported in 2008 that al-Awlaki had extensive contacts with 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour and was suspected of having assisted the 9/11 plot. According to the Post, “three of the hijackers had spent time at his mosques in California and Falls Church.” Despite, or possibly because, of these dubious connections “he was allowed to leave the country in 2002.” According to the History Commons, it is only in 2008 that the U.S. government concludes that the shady imam “is linked to al-Qaeda attacks.” However, Al-Awlaki’s provenance as a new “terrorist mastermind” should be viewed with suspicion, given well-documented links known to have existed amongst the 9/11 hijackers and American, Saudi and Pakistani secret state agencies.

* October: the same month Al-Awlaki was hinting at a “surprise,” Newsweek revealed that John O. Brennan “received an alarming briefing at the White House from Muhammad bin Nayef, Brennan’s Saudi counterpart. Nayef had just survived an assassination attempt by a Qaeda operative using a novel method: the operative had flown in from the Saudi-Yemeni border region with a bomb hidden in his underwear. The Saudi was concerned because he ‘didn’t think [U.S. officials] were paying enough attention’ to the growing threat.” A familiar trope we’ve heard in the aftermath of other terrorist strikes.

* Early November: Newsweek published an exclusive report January 4, that two U.S. “intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security circulated a paper within the government last fall that examined in some detail the threats that bombs secreted in clothing–or inside someone’s body cavities–might pose to aviation security.” According to information leaked to the newsmagazine by anonymous “national-security officials,” the report “was prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center in conjunction with Homeland Security and the CIA,” and that “one principal point of discussion in the document was whether the detonation of a bomb hidden in clothing on an airliner would have a different explosive effect than the detonation of a bomb secreted in a body cavity under similar circumstances.” (emphasis added) This chilling report, prepared in the wake of intelligence information provided U.S. security agencies by Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism czar, should raise provocative questions. No other media outlet however, has followed the trail.

* November 19: Abdulmutallab’s father, a prominent Nigerian banker and former high state official, visits the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, telling State Department and CIA officials he believes his son is a threat. A cousin tells The New York Times that the father told U.S. officials, “Look at the texts he’s sending. He’s a security threat.” Although Embassy personnel promise “to look into it,” the cousin told the Times that “they didn’t take him seriously.”

* November 20: the CIA prepares and files a report on Abdulmutallab that is sent to agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia “but not disseminated to other intelligence agencies,” unnamed “officials” tell the Times. Embassy staff also wrote and sent a cable known as a “Visa Viper,” to the State Department and National Counterterrorism Center and a security file is opened on the suspect.

* December 9-24: Abdulmutallab travels to Ghana from Ethiopia and pays cash, $2,831 to be precise, for a ticket on a Northwest Airlines flight from Lagos through Amsterdam to Detroit, landing on Christmas Day. “It is now known” The Independent on Sunday reported January 10, “that the Ghanaian hotel he listed on his immigration form was not the one where he was actually staying.” According to IoS, although the FBI “has officers on the ground in Ghana and believe it is likely the terrorist may well have had his final al-Qa’ida briefing, and supplied with equipment and explosives, there,” no steps are taken to apprehend the suspect. “All this” IoS comments, “was more than a month after his father, a wealthy Nigerian banker, had met officials at the US embassy in Abuja to share concerns about his son.”

* December 22: during a White House Situation Room briefing Newsweek reports that “a document presented to the president titled ‘Key Homeland Threats’ did not mention Yemen, according to a senior administration official.”

* December 25: Abdulmutallab boards Flight 253 in Amsterdam with only a carry-on bag for his international flight; the would-be lap bomber holds a 2-year entry visa into the United States. As is standard procedure, the Department of Homeland Security is notified an hour prior to departure that he is a passenger on the plane.

* December 25: the Los Angeles Times disclosed January 7 that “U.S. border security officials learned of the alleged extremist links of the suspect in the Christmas Day jetliner bombing attempt as he was airborne from Amsterdam to Detroit and had decided to question him when he landed.” Homeland Security officials “declined to discuss what information reached the U.S. border officials in Amsterdam on Christmas Day.” Despite suspicions by Customs and Border Protection agents, who had accessed NCTC’s TIDE database, the flight crew is not notified of Abdulmutallab’s presence aboard the airliner and additional security precautions therefore, are not made.

Once you lop off the daffy leap of faith required to next assert that "therefore, Barack Obama wanted Flight 253 to be hijacked," nothing more elegantly makes my point that the United States has many enemies, tracking all of them is hard, coordination amongst interdepartmental and international intelligence agencies is hard too, and many but not all terrorist plots are foiled.

That's some fine work, boys. Even disregarding that almost their entire case is built on political hearsay, if you haven't drunken the Truther Kool-Aid you actually have quite elegant proof of the fact that the government did not hijack this flight right here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Heads it was the government, Tails it wasn't the terrorists

Still more from's version of a 12/25 conspiracy theory:

What are we to make of the failed Underwear Bomber plot, the Toothpaste, Shampoo, and Bottled Water Bomber plot, and the Shoe Bomber plot? These blundering and implausible plots to bring down an airliner seem far removed from al-Qaida's expertise in pulling off 9/11.

If we are to believe the U.S. government, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged al-Qaida "mastermind" behind 9/11, outwitted the CIA, the NSA, indeed all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies...

And so on.

Consider the logic of this line of argument. If a terrorist plot is successful, it couldn't have been terrorists, because terrorism against the United States is hard to pull off. It is difficult, therefore impossible. Apparently, 9/11 deniers are convinced that Middle Eastern Muslims can not possibly be as clever as white Westerners.

If a terrorist plot fails, 9/11 deniers say, it is because terrorists are incompetent dolts, uneducated foreigners who could not possibly possess the capacity for tactical action required to pull off this sort of thing. I mean, just look at how many ridiculous plots have been foiled!

It never seems to occur to 9/11 deniers that recent events prove that there are many, many attempts made on the lives of Americans at home and abroad on a constant basis, and that the probability of a terrorist attack succeeding is positively correlated with the amount of planning that went into it. With many attempts tiny probabilities stack, and those who plan win. Those would be those snippets of obvious statistical reality that are just too inconvenient for deniers to pay attention to.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Well, it took about two weeks, but...

9/11 deniers have finally started slapping together an excuse for themselves about the would-be flight 253 hijacker. From today's post, unironically called "Is Anyone Telling Us the Truth?"

Could the Underwear Bomber have been one of the Israeli terrorist recruits? Certainly Israel has an interest in keeping the US fully engaged militarily against all potential foes of Israel's territorial expansion.

The thought brought back memory of my Russian studies at Oxford University where I learned that the Tsar's secret police set off bombs so that they could blame those whom they wanted to arrest.

Of course. Hundreds of years ago the Russian monarchy engaged in subterfuge, therefore The Jews Did 12/25.

Who benefits? Clearly, attacking Iran is on the Israeli-U.S. agenda, and someone is creating the "evidence" to support the case, just as the leaked secret "Downing Street Memo" to the British cabinet informed Prime Minister Tony Blair's government that President Bush had already made the decision to invade Iraq and "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Of course, the classic cui bono fallacy. It'd been days since a 9/11 denier used that one. The military-industrial complex might in some long term, crassly utilitarian sort of way benefit from a failed terrorist plot, therefore the military-industrial complex engineered a hijacking. Just like how I personally benefited from the invention of wireless Internet, therefore I helped invent it. Have you met my buddy, Al?

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been posting his views online since at least 2005, and had been a practicing proselytizer for Islam since high school. He never went to the U.S. until 2004, meaning he'd have to become a CIA agent really quickly. While being trained as a CIA spook he had time to attend college in London and noisily announce his worldview via Internet on multiple occasions.

This insinuation is no more pathetic than any other set of 9/11 denier beliefs, but it really makes one want to get inside the head of the person who wrote this. Being a 9/11 denier forces an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance on someone - they have to turn people like this into patriotic American CIA agents who are willing to give their lives to temporarily alarm the civilian population. This kid's going to rot for "life in jail plus ninety years," and the author of this pitiful article has to convince himself that he's doing it at the behest of the Zionist conspiracy.

Kind of saddening, actually.