Monday, February 28, 2011

AE911T's push for a "major LA PR firm"

They don't mention which firm, the length of the contract they're seeking, how they're going to get it, or what that firm could plausibly do to improve the public image of "The Movement," but AE911T appears to have successfully raised enough money to accomplish its stated goal of "hiring a major LA PR firm."

Meanwhile, skeptics will continue to go unpaid for their magazine articles, blog in their spare time, meet up just for fun to express their share interest in lower case-t truth, not try to rule by media blitz, and not live in constant wealth-extraction mode for want of the sorts of semi-slick ad campaigns 9/11 deniers seem to salivate. At the same time, said deniers will continue to accuse all skeptics of being paid agents of the U.S. and/or Israeli governments, Satan and the Sirusian space-lizards, Walt Disney and the Ninja Turtles. And they will keep forking over meager sums for meager ad campaigns that have nothing to do with intellectual argumentation because they do not get the joke.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Numerology Makes a Comeback at Killtown

Killtown brings up an excellent point: Because there are thirty-three levels in the hierarchy of Freemasonry, the government did 9/11. No, really.

In the "I'm just sayin'" style that characterizes every statement of sheer lunacy announced cautiously to a readership that might-just-might be as crazy as the author, KT explains explains that we should all be suspicious that "thirty-three cars' worth of debris" lies below the crater of the plane that crashed in Shanksville. Give that one a second.

Out of habit, if nothing else, the logic the author uses to decide on the numer thirty-three bears a little refuting.

I wanted to show people how much 80% of a Boeing 757 roughly is so people can understand just how much plane debris would have come out of the Shanksville ground as officials claim. I chose to compare it with average weight of an average sized automobile, a compact sedan, of a year closest to when 9/11 happened that I could find and wouldn't you know it, the total came out to the infamous number 33.

In the post the author uses to come up with 33, he doesn't actually use the measurement he says he does. He claims that he based this on "the weight of an average sized automobile, a compact sedan, of a year closest to when 9/11 happened." That's actually the opposite of what he meant. He has decided to measure "the average compact sedan built in a year close to 9/11," not "the average car." What is the average mass of cars? What are we counting as a car - anything with tires and a combusion engine? Just in the U.S., or elsewhere? The "average vehicle's" weight is probably skewed by things like military jeeps. And why "the year closest to 9/11?" The laws of conjunction practically demand that the number of cars sold in either 2000 or 2001 would be, in September of 2001, drastically lower than the number of all cars sold in all years prior. So, as should go without saying, KT's measurement is bogus and he doesn't actually have a claim here.

But, really, who gives a shit? Even if KT knew anything about data measurement, his point is still hey look, the number thirty-three. That's his argument - oh, and a little "nuh uh!" at the end.

But let's not overlook my original intent of this comparison. The government is trying to tell us that 33 cars-worth of debris was supposedly underneath this shallow crater and they dug it all out.

Yeah, right.

You know it can't be true, because the numerologists don't want it to be true.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two new pieces at 9/11 Studies blog!

Just in time to beat the "no articles in over a year" record for which it was headed, the blog called the Journal of 9/11 Studies released two new posts, one at the tail-end of January and another just recently in February. 911blogger brags, "Two new papers have been published..." I'm sure the review process was rigorous.

Especially considering the highly-relevant subject matter, at least of the first one: "Why Australia's Presence in Afghanistan is Untenable." In that paper, the notion that "the government" (whatever that means) is just an aside - its already taken as a given. Its an advocacy piece that flows forth from the conclusion that the world is against the author, and that the invasion of Afghanistan was based on the fraudulent notion that 9/11 was done by the same people who "get to" invade countries.

Fine. This blog is not designed to combat the idiotic notion that the United States has no legitimate interest in defending itself from its enemies. If you don't think something needs to be done about the horrific crimes the Taliban inflicts on its subjects, or that its clear and enduring terrorist presence doesn't pose a threat to the stability of the Western world, this blog is only tangentially here to counter that notion. You want out of Afghanistan? Okay, cool - maybe Australia doesn't face the same sorts of imminent threats other countries do, in your world. I suppose the most famous slaughter of Australians by religious terrorists was an accident of their presence in a "Muslim state" at the time. You're okay with that, fine. The ballot box has already ruled against you.

The second paper is a more clear-cut story. The January post is titled "Review of Analysis of Observed and Measured In-Flight Turns Suggests Superior Control of 9/11 Aircraft." So we know what its about - the planes being "hard to fly."

"Although human control of UA 175 cannot be ruled out, small margins for error are evident in the number of available degrees of bank that could generate impact with WTC 2 via a constant radius turn from approximately 1.5 miles distant. An error of 5 degrees of bank left or right seems largely indiscernible to an observer, but would generate substantial distances from a given target. To achieve impact via a mile-long plus constant radius banked turn, within an acceptable margin of error would seem to be a substantial challenge to a reportedly inexperienced pilot without aid. The CWS function would apparently provide an in-flight automated stability that would permit a pilot to apply greater attention to the course of an aircraft and consider whether additional maneuvers would be required."

Of course, this is base on a statistical falsehood. In nerdspeak, the false Bayesian prior of prior-determined plane pathway subject to natural error. In English, the false assumption that if the hijackers, say, swerved this way or that, they'd have totally missed the Towers. Please. We all see the glaring holes in this argument: One, planeside computers make it difficult to get off course at all, and easy to get back on course if you do; and if they did get "off course," course correction is possible. Commenters - is there more to this, or that really all there is to this paper? This is what passes for "academic" in Denier circles these days?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"9/11 Deniers"

The other day I received an e-mail asking me about skeptics’ use of the term “9/11 Denier,” which is synonymous with Truther, 9/11 CT, etc.:

My interpretation is that this is a blatant attempt to equate alternative 9/11 theories with Holocaust Denial. As I'm sure you are aware, Holocaust Denial is the belief that the Holocaust simply did not take place, that the event did not occur. You are also entirely aware that proponents of alternative 9/11 information are not stating that the event did not occur, they are instead questioning who was responsible, and bringing specific aspects of the event under scrutiny. In this context, then, might the term "9/11 Deniers" seem like something of a misnomer?

To be clear, I did not start using this term to equivocate between 9/11 Deniers and Holocaust Deniers.

I started using this term because virtually every 9/11 denier falls outside the criteria our e-mailer suggests. I have never had a conversation with a 9/11 denier who was devoid of his or her own theories about “who did it,” “why they did it,” and “how they did it.” In my experience the usual culprits are Israel, some variation on an Illuminati-esque elite cabal (itself often synonymous with Israel), and/or key figures in the Bush Administration – sometimes armed with an elite posse of anonymous government agents. But in no case have I met someone who denies that 9/11 happened the way the evidence indicates it did without at least an “inkling” of who they really wanted to blame. So no, virtually no 9/11 deniers are just “questioning who was responsible” – an activity our co-skeptics over at Screw Loose Change refer to as “JAQing off.” Whether a denier chooses to present their beliefs as merely taking shots at established theory is fine; read them on their own Facebook groups or listen to them at the bar after a debate and you get a very different picture.

Of course, if 9/11 deniers were actually interested in “Truth” this is how they would it to be, anyway. Approaching a true understanding of reality through un-biased scientific inquiry involves the proposal of competing hypotheses and testing their ability to explain the evidence. As a statsy guy I tend to add the caveat that these hypotheses should always be compared to a null hypothesis, even if that hypothesis is something as mundane and obvious as “there’s nothing going on,” but in the absence of reliable priors that needn’t necessarily be the case. Deniers reject the concept, anyway. However, if they were really interested in something more than selling Alex Jones DVDs, they would not shy away from the obvious need to advance positive theories.

And finally it is important to note that 9/11 deniers are denying key aspects of what happened on September 11th. After all, hundreds of people, dozens of books, and countless articles document the motivations, actions, plans and intentions of the people who actually carried out the attacks. 9/11 Deniers are required to believe in the impossibility of organic terrorism. They’re required to believe that religious and ethnic extremists who happen to be Arab or Muslim are either incapable or unwilling to act on their beliefs (and have been so for hundreds of years). The millions of people around the world who have interacted with, been affected by, or have been in al Qaeda either don’t exist or are in on it. Abrudahman Khadr, the boy from an impoverished family that grew up alongside bin Laden’s Afghanistan operations? Obviously a fiction. Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, whose name is on thousands of accounting documents for al Qaeda? Clearly a Zionist tool. Maha El-Samnah and Zaynab Khadr, whose son died as a suicide bomber – leaving them proud of his martyrdom, but ashamed of his affiliation with al Qaeda? Probably paid actors.

Organizations like al Qaeda leave their indelible mark wherever they go. 9/11 deniers are required to pretend that those marks are just Western operatives covering their own tracks – an obvious delusion to everyone who has seen it in action, knows its members, and knows those who are tempted by it and any other extremist organization. To me, this is the key – 9/11 deniers flatly deny virtually every relevant event in the lead-up to 9/11. They deny that centuries of geopolitical events ever occurred. To them, history begins at the Balfour Declaration, crescendos when Ronald Reagan begins supplying anti-Communist rebels in Afghanistan, and ends when George Bush plants bombs in the North Tower and scampers off in a black helicopter. Between these pockmarks on the historical landscape there are thousands of religious ideologues, millions of oppressed victims of colonialism, and countless strategic opportunists struggling to guide human affairs to their own ends. 9/11 denier history is the shallowest history of all, one that requires them to reject the needs, desires, machinations and schemes of billions of people across centuries. 9/11 denial is reality denial.

That’s why I call them 9/11 Deniers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

There's No Such Thing As Terrorism, Denmark Edition

The point that most quickly riles 9/11 deniers' feathers is the point that 9/11 deniers must believe that there is no such thing as terrorism. The mere thought is so absurd that it begs contrition - until deniers realize that, unfortunately for them, the point must be true. To them, there is no such thing as valid, organic home-brewed extremism. Everything is at the very least a foment of U.S. aggression, and in most cases, actively supported by America (and/or Israel). Can you find a headline-making terrorist attack that has not received such treatment by 9/11 deniers?

Today a court in Denmark sentenced the man who attacked cartoonist Kurt Westergaard to nine years. The attacker broke into his house with an axe, on the morning of New Years' Day, with the intent to kill him (the attacker claimed it was "just to scare him" - bullshit).

9/11 deniers, the ball is now in your court: What immediate policy ends did this attack serve? Cui bono? How many "Zionists" had the man met with prior? Who was his "handler" on the way to the attack? Every terrorist attack is based on the ulterior motives of rich white men, right? Come on kids, let's hear it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No, It’s Not

“A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words” is the new post over at AE911T that appears to argue that the debris that fell from the Towers on 9/11 “accelerated” as it penetrated the surrounding buildings, and that engages in some classic confirmation bias (and/or lyin’ with photographs!). Its nothing new, and the only reason it feels worth commenting on is because its stated aim is to “open the minds of skeptics.” Hey, we’re all skeptics here, so let’s see what we’re in for!

Another way to open the minds of skeptics – without getting technical at all – is to compare the other WTC buildings that did not actually collapse to the three that collapsed completely. Show the following photos to your stubborn interlocutor. Ask him or her to notice how severely damaged these other buildings were by the debris from the Twin Towers, yet substantial portions remained upright. And ask “Why?”


Ergo, “why did one of the peripheral buildings suffer a full collapse, while others only mostly collapsed (and had to be torn down later due to irreparability)?” Stunning, guys. Let’s break it down further: “I know 9/11 was an inside job because some buildings were damaged more than others.” My skeptical faculties, they cannot cope with the genius.

Here’s the thing. When there a lot of something happens in a measurable (“localized”) area, that something tends not to happen evenly. People who read this blog already know what stats geeks we are but, hey, 9/11 deniers, there’s this thing called a distribution. (For the rest of us, there are also these things that influence the spread of falling debris like initial impact point, wind speed, wind direction…)

This particularly vapid argument does not require getting down into brass tacks; it is enough to point out its statistical naivety and its obvious disingenuousness (I mean, do we really think Michael Cook doesn’t know this?) and to remind people about the macro-level apparent disorder that characterizes our universe. People who are better-qualified to address the engineering and technical specifics of why, say, WTC 7 outright collapsed and WTC 3 only mostly collapsed are welcome to, but to me this is a non-argument.

And besides, what did 9/11 deniers expect? For every tower in the complex to collapse? Why is one peripheral collapse more or less “suspicious” than two? Would five collapses have been more plausible? Why? What is the argument here?

Briefly consider with these questions in mind the next act of their shtick.

Consider the impact that WTC 3 must have sustained for it to have been damaged as it was. Material from the Twin Towers was coming down with enough force to penetrate as many as about sixteen floors of this building. Yet, the lower floors stopped the debris, and a total collapse, well before ground level, and most sections stopped the damage far higher than that. How could any “collapse” in Building 7 – which would have had nowhere near the momentum that the falling Twin Towers material did – have continued through the entire structure of WTC 7? How could any such destruction (regardless of what started it) possibly have kept accelerating, through scores of heavy, mostly undamaged columns and hundreds of structural interconnections? Shouldn’t Building 7’s collapse have decelerated and stopped even sooner than the free-falling heavy structural steel members that were stopped by the lower portions of WTC 3?

This one took me a couple of re-readings to digest fully. Mostly because Cook apparently seems to barely know what the word “accelerating” means (or is at least using it dishonestly in the hopes that you don’t know that acceleration can be both negative and positive), but also because of the transparent falsity of his argument. Why do we expect the steel kicked out of the main towers to have “more momentum” than the falling WTC 7? p=mv, anyone? Sure the building didn’t have as far to fall, but WTC 7 itself was order of magnitude heavier than the debris that crippled it structurally – all we need to know why it eventually collapsed.

Cook pointlessly references “acceleration” to make a misleading point about the falling steel “falling at a rate that was changing” – enough to warrant the word in the Cook book – and then blatantly messes up his physics concerning the “momentum” of various falling objects. I don’t foresee this claim getting too far into the “Movement” and there should be no mystery as to why.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sweden’s JFK?

I never even knew this is how the life of one of Sweden’s most respected statesmen ended, but apparently the assassination of Olaf Palme is as plagued by conspiracy theories as the assassination of John F. Kennedy:

In the course of my year traveling around Sweden, I often asked those whom I met what was there view of the assassination, and what I discovered was that the responses told me more about them than it did about the public event. Some thought it was a dissident faction in the Swedish security forces long angered by Palme’s neutralist policies; some believed it was resentment caused by Palme’s alleged engineering of Swedish arms sales to both sides in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s; some believed it was the CIA in revenge for Palme’s neutralism during the Cold War; some believed it could have criminals in the pay of business tycoons tired of paying high taxes needed to maintain the Swedish maximalist version of a welfare state; and there were other theories as well. What was common to all of these explanations was the lack of evidence that might connect the dots. What people believed happened flowed from their worldview rather than the facts of the event—a distrust of the state, especially its secret operations, or a strong conviction that special interests hidden from view were behind prominent public events of this character.

This quote comes to us, unfortunately, from blithering doofoid Richard Falk, who seemingly breathlessly transitions straight from this, to a critique of such a mindset, right to 9/11 denial:

In a way, this process of reflection is natural, even inevitable, but it leads to faulty conclusions. We tend to process information against the background of our general worldview and understanding, and we do this all the time as an efficient way of coping with the complexity of the world combined with our lack of time or inclination to reach conclusions by independent investigation. The problem arises when we confuse this means of interpreting our experience with an effort to provide an explanation of a contested public event…

The arguments swirling around the 9/11 attacks are emblematic of these issues. What fuels suspicions of conspiracy is the reluctance to address the sort of awkward gaps and contradictions in the official explanations that David Ray Griffin (and other devoted scholars of high integrity) have been documenting in book after book ever since 2001. What may be more distressing than the apparent cover up is the eerie silence of the mainstream media, unwilling to acknowledge the well-evidenced doubts about the official version of the events: an al Qaeda operation with no foreknowledge by government officials. Is this silence a manifestation of fear or cooption, or part of an equally disturbing filter of self-censorship? Whatever it is, the result is the withering away of a participatory citizenry and the erosion of legitimate constitutional government…

Of course, the proposition that David Ray Griffin’s absurd claims have gone unaddressed is by now so obviously false that it seems fair to call it a lie. And it is no longer a source of debate to say that every single JFK conspiracy theory is transparently false.

As skeptics tend to understand, conspiracy theories arise at the drop of the hat and they don’t really leave the public conscience. It’s just another part of forming an identity to make enemies out of people who are dislike you, and even slightly paranoid people have no trouble doing just that. Falk, himself a rabid bigot, probably doesn’t even get the joke he just told.