Thursday, September 29, 2011



Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has long been renounced for his conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which he has called "mysterious."

His latest fiery rant at the United Nations blamed the U.S. government for the 2001 attacks, and suggested the killing of Osama bin Laden was a coverup .

Now he has new detractor: al-Qaida.

It seems the terror network doesn't like someone else taking credit for its work, which its English-language magazine, Inspire, calls "The Greatest Special Operation of All Time."

An opinion piece in the latest issue takes aim at Ahmadinejad and his 9/11 conspiracy theories.

"So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?" author Abu Suhail asks, going on to accuse the Iranians of collaborating with the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"For them, al-Qaida was a competitor for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised Muslims around the world. Al-Qaida, an organization under fire, with no state, succeeded in what Iran couldn’t," Suhail wrote.

"Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories.

And 9/11 deniers have no valid reason to be suspicious of al Qaeda's motives, right?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Squibs and thermite, take 2: “Rocket projectiles” at WTC2

I’m eager to see all the video that comes out of the Toronto Hearings, because it sounds like it’s going to be a riot. First up: David Chandler and Niels Harrit discussing rocket-propelled explosives shooting out of the Towers after they’re already collapsing.

Around second thirty-three (coincidence?!) of this video, the narrator talks about seeing an object falling faster than some of the smoke coming from the collapsing WTC2. In his mind it is a piece of super-thermite, and confirmation kicks in when, as it falls past the camera, a puff of air and debris shoots out of one of the floors of the tower – you know, one of those normal things that happens when something collapses and pushes air out of the lower floors.

In order:

The debris falling out of the tower faster than other debris falling out of the tower is probably heavier than the median piece of debris. Most of the cloud is shards and pieces of office, things that are much more subject to air resistance than a much heavier piece of debris (which the author seems to concede is what it probably is around minute two second thirty). The puff of air ejecting out of one of the caving floors is just that. As a building collapses, its caving mass forces out air and debris from wherever it will escape: elevator shafts, broken windows, vents, you name it. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is: this is a rehashing of the “squibs” claim originating from around 2005. Debunked around 2006.

In the video the narrator claims to have controlled for the motion of the camera, but even in this endeavor he fails. He may try to correct for the x-y jitter of the camera, but not the x-y-z artifact arising from the annoying fact that vision happens in three dimensions. The apparent “change of motion” of the object looks more like the object moving towards the camera as it falls – that is, pushed out of the tower by the ejection of air and debris. You can artificially halt the jitter of a camera, but it’s much more complex to flatten an image beyond how flat video makes an image, and that is not something for which the notoriously sloppy David Chandler corrected. Go figure.

This one’s barely worth the bandwidth. I repeat the same challenge I proffered at my Denkfest talk: 9/11 deniers, come up with a claim that can’t be debunked with evidence proffered over half a decade ago. Yeesh.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

“Psychological Aspects of 9/11 Truth”

It appears to be edited to be as unwatchable as possible, but 9/11 deniers have slapped together another appeal to authority in the form of a video called “Psychologists help 9/11 truth deniers.” Only two of the eight people in the video are actual psychologists, and each have oddly unrelated licenses. At least one is a New Age quack who runs a scam site (read on).

I worked in a behavioral sciences laboratory as an undergrad and have a few certifications of my own under my belt, so with that pointless appeal to authority, let me offer some of these people some actual data that the literature in their (nominal) field suggests about their statements.

Namely, that they’re all full of bullshit.

To the first interviewee, Marti Hopper: The evidence from the psychological literature demonstrates that trauma makes someone more, not less, susceptible to conspiracy theories. Oh, also that those effects sink in right around the time of the trauma, so a Commission Report that comes out years later is immune to the types of cognitive traps that a conspiracy theory peddled within months of the event isn’t.

To the second interviewee, Frances Shure: The evidence from the behavioral literature shows that flashbulb memory is crap, and that eyewitness testimony is wildly unreliable (in case you happen to base your beliefs on, say, “the sounds of explosions” or the words of, say, BBC journalists).

To Robert Hopper: For someone who points out that “fear and anxiety” are the most common reactions to cognitive dissonance (they probably aren’t, by the way), you sure are doing a lot of defending of a violent, aggressive movement of conspiracy theorists.

To Danielle Duperret: Your trauma therapies are crap. Stop telling people who to deal with tragedies; you’re hurting them. Oh also, don’t sell magic and tell people it’s science.

To Dorothy Lorig: David Ray Griffin lies for a living.

To David Ray Griffin: See above.

To John Freedom: Your own theories about how to change someone’s mind are wrong. “Open-ended questioning” doesn’t cut it, either.

To Robert Griffin: For someone who has accused people who know better than you of engaging in “a lack of humility,” you sure are fond of parroting the beliefs of those you agree with without providing a shred of reasoning.

Ugh, how sad. Please do check out Danielle Duperret’s website; nothing screams “fraud” louder (or with as gaudy a color scheme!). “Energy medicine,” homeopathy, and using magic vibrations to cure trauma? This sounds actively dangerous to people with legitimate problems. At the risk of shocking you: the 9/11 denier movement is employing scientific frauds to sell you something. Gasp.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Potentially Fascinating Trial Averted

A New York judge has tossed out a case alleging Larry Silverstein should've foreseen 9/11 and thus should've forbade occupants of WTC7 from installing gas-fueled generators. The burning gas was a likely contributor to the building's collapse.

If only the judge hadn't done that.

One of the most stable findings in psychology is the hindsight bias, which is precisely what it sounds like: Now that 9/11 has happened, people tend to think that 9/11 was eminently foreseeable. They're wrong, and they're especially wrong if their point is that some partial leaser of property near the sight of an unprecedented terrorist attack with no responsibility for national security (or even, technically, the protection of the building's occupants from terrorism).

Seeing a court case paper trail detailing precisely what it means to be unable to foresee something would be fascinating, to me anyway. I love risk. It is my specialty. As concepts, risk and uncertainty are my bread and butter (this is rather ironic, as I'm such a boring guy generally). Having documentation on hand to demonstrate to people the vast chain of improbabilities disconnecting Larry Silverstein's liability from the tragedy would have been very interesting. I love reading the intellectual non-entities in the 9/11 denial movement asserting that person X should've foreseen event Y given some vastly skewed probability distribution. Norman Mineta should've had flashbulb memory. The USAF should've had a fully fueled, fully armed squadron of fighter pilots armed and hot on the tarmac to shoot down a civilian aircraft at a moment's notice. Give me a break.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Not a Conspiracy Theorist

Tony Bennett thinks America deserved 9/11.

The legendary Tony Bennett appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show and talked about his antipathy to war, borne out of having served in WWII.

“But who are the terrorists? Are we the terrorists or are they the terrorists? Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Bennett said...

“They flew the plane in, but we caused it,” Bennett responded. “Because we were bombing them and they told us to stop.”

We must assume, of course, that he meant "planes."

I'm too young to give a shit about this particular musician's opinion, but I do find it curious that his views are being parroted on 911blogger. Let's be clear: He thinks 9/11 deniers are wrong. He thinks that several thousand American civilians deserved to be murdered by religious psychopaths, but that is a moral failing unrelated to the intellectual failings of 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

I suppose this lateral move to near-friends should be expected. 9/11 conspiracy theorists don't require you to be an engineer to say you're an engineer, and they don't require you to have published an academic paper to say you have published an academic paper, so why should being quoted on a blog dedicated to advancing 9/11 conspiracies be anchored to advancing 9/11 conspiracies?

There is no intellectual argument going on among 9/11 deniers, so it's little surprise this is the best they can do. Before long we'll see Tony Bennett on some "Has-Beens For 9/11 Truth" site; his quotes will be passed around alongside screenshots of the Northwoods memos; his name and music unfairly confiscated by 9/11 deniers and associated with their celebrity-baiting ad campaigns. The only way I will be wrong is if this rests on overly generous assumptions about the movement to continue to generate any such campaigns.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gullibility in Action

Why did conspiracy theorists just side with the Bush Administration, mega-corporations, and tyrants the world over?

9/11 deniers have fallen for exactly the kind of conspiracy they pretend to be speaking out against. The movement has come out against the Libyan revolution, saying that an alliance of global humanitarian forces, a unified NATO pact including regional powers and an indigenous, popular rebel movement opposed to a savage dictator and his army of private mercenaries is just another puppet of "Them." Ironically, "They" were clearly on Qaddafi's side all along. Al-Jazeera reports:

I found what appeared to be the minutes of a meeting between senior Libyan officials – Abubakr Alzleitny and Mohammed Ahmed Ismail – and David Welch, former assistant secretary of state under George W Bush. Welch was the man who brokered the deal to restore diplomatic relations between the US and Libya in 2008.

During that meeting Welch advised Gaddafi's team on how to win the propaganda war, suggesting several "confidence-building measures", according to the documents. The documents appear to indicate that an influential US political personality was advising Gaddafi on how to beat the US and NATO.

The documents read: "Any information related to al-Qaeda or other terrorist extremist organisations should be found and given to the American administration but only via the intelligence agencies of either Israel, Egypt, Morroco, or Jordan… America will listen to them… It's better to receive this information as if it originated from those countries..."

On the floor of the intelligence chief's office lay an envelope addressed to Gaddafi's son Saif Al-Islam. Inside, I found what appears to be a summary of a conversation between US congressman Denis Kucinich, who publicly opposed US policy on Libya, and an intermediary for the Libyan leader's son.

It details a request by the congressman for information he needed to lobby US lawmakers to suspend their support for the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) and to put an end to NATO airstrikes.

According to the document, Kucinich wanted evidence of corruption within the NTC and, like Welch, any possible links within rebel ranks to al-Qaeda.

The document also lists specific information needed to defend Saif Al-Islam, who is currently on the International Criminal Court's most-wanted list.

(Emphasis added)

In response, PrisonPlanet has attacked al-Jazeera as a "the prolific propaganda house out of Qatar." In a fact-free screed against one of the best sources of journalistic coverage of the Maghreb, Madison Ruppert pathetically argues:

The alleged minutes claim that Welch advised the Gaddafi regime to use Israel to funnel intelligence that could impede the uprising.

Why on Earth would Israel have any interest in setting back a group of rebels that openly supports them?

When confronted with the fact that al Qaeda operatives are among the rebel forces, the rebel spokesman Ahmad Shabani told Haaretz that “Al-Qaida activists have been working for Gadhafi, among them Libyans and, according to reliable intelligence reports, foreigners who infiltrated the country’s porous borders.”

Shabani pointing out “foreigners who infiltrated the country’s porous borders” is laughable as well, seeing as the rebels have been working side-by-side with foreign intelligence agencies and covert operatives before the United Nations Security Council Resolution was even put on the table.

The first question is resting on a false assumption about Welch's competence as an advisor, and came before there was even any remote suspicion that the NTC would even recognize Israel. To the second point, it seems odd to argue that the NTC is in al Qaeda hands when Qaddafi's loyalists are fleeing to Islamist-friendly hideouts in Niger on a daily basis. And the third point is simply attempting to strike a blow at the legitimacy of popular revolt itself: With the rebels backed by an international force seeking to topple a dictator and aid a popular revolution, Ruppert loathes the mere idea that "foreigners" can work together at all and make the notion of "human rights" meaningful, it seems.

9/11 deniers are joined in their defense of Qaddafi by the dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela, right-wing nationalists in Serbia fond of the old Milosevic regime, and the vast propaganda network this implies.

Sadly, this network includes peace activists like Alexander Cockburn, whose drastically, laughably wrong prognostications for the shakeout in Libya have all but discredited him.

It requites no great prescience to see that this will all end up badly. Qaddafi’s failure to collapse on schedule is prompting increasing pressure to start a ground war, since the NATO operation is, in terms of prestige, like the banks Obama has bailed out, Too Big to Fail. Libya will probably be balkanized.

Whoops. Though this dim view has already been discredited by current events, it would already be read as total nonsense by anyone familiar with the history of Libya, who knows that without Tripolitania, there is no viable state. This is a geopolitical fail akin to arguing that, say, oil-rich Alaska could secede and easily rise to superpower status without the rest of the United States.

And yet the most disappointing part of the pro-Qaddafi chorus is yet to come. Cockurn has one last, most insidious argument to make, and with it he lays bare his forfeiture to be taken seriously.

In four decades, Libyans have gone from being among the most wretched in Africa, to considerable elevation in terms of social amenities.

This is precisely the argument used by sympathizers of Pinochet and Hussein, Franco and Suharto, Chung-Hee and Basher.

We have no "control 20th century" to compare these dictators who ruled during the modernization period to, but there is extensive economic reasoning arguing against the proposition that dictatorship is in any way useful for an economy. Those who credit iron-fisted autocrats for strong growth are overstepping their bounds. Never mind the costs of enduring such tyranny.

So, why? What has happened? Why has the conspiracy movement aligned itself with the Bush Administration, a psychotic dictator, and huge private paramilitary corporations? Why is it employing its enemies' arguments in favor of tyranny and subjugation? What has happened?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Total Reversal Impending

The planes were prevented from scrambling! The planes were prevented from scrambling! ...Oh, wait. The planes were scrambled too soon! The planes were scrambled too soon!

Kamikaze: F-16 pilots planned to ram Flight 93

When the pilots of the 121st Fighter Squadron of the D.C. Air National Guard got the order to intercept Flight 93, the hijacked jet speeding toward the nation's capital, they figured there was a decent chance they would not come back alive.

That's because the F-16 jets they were rushing to get airborne were largely unarmed, recalls one of the pilots, then-Lt. Heather Penney, leaving them one option to take out the wayward plane: a kamikaze mission.

"We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We would be ramming the aircraft, because we didn’t have weapons on board to be able to shoot the airplane down," Penney told C-SPAN.

If only the mainstream media would pay attention. Story on MSNBC.