Saturday, October 15, 2011

Anthony Shaffer Is A Con Artist

The guy that built his career telling lies about Able Danger is trying to make a comeback by telling lies about the Administration. He says that the Obama Administration invented the Iranians suspected of plotting to assassinate the ambassadors of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

This same guy, who claims to be up to his eyeballs in "FBI informants," also claimed he was a key founding member on a secret project where his entire real contribution seemed to be carrying documents to meetings.

It goes without saying that he invented his claims whole cloth: The FBI was a key part of the the case. Robert Woloszyn, an FBI agent, filed the actual charges on behalf of the FBI team that lead the investigation. Shaffer's claims about what his "insiders" are saying reads like the unfounded speculation of a tabloid magazine. "Sources close to the victim say..." "The craziest thing happened to a friend of a friend..."

His claims would also imply some very interesting things about the U.S.-Iran relationship. Given that most conspiracy theorists believe the Administration is looking for an excuse to go to war, wouldn't the Presidents of Iran and the U.S. need to be pretty damn buddy-buddy for Ahmadinejad to come along and offer up a few of his elite special forces for a foiled terror plot that would result in retaliation against his own government? Come on, guys. Conspiracies have an end-stage, but they have a beginning, too, and this one doesn't quite pan out.

Shaffer is a career con who hits his conspiracy theorist mark every time. Everyone who has ever worked in the public sector is evil, but every two-bit half-wit with a rumor to peddle gets vaulted to the front stage. Impeccable logic, guys. Impeccable.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Barbara Slavin Takes Iran's Word For It

Barbara Slavin has decided the Iranians arrested under suspicion of plotting to assassinate the Saudi and Israeli ambassadors to the US seem innocent. She's writing for one of my favorite new alternative media outlets, so imagine my disappointment that her bland and factless scribbling made its front page.

To begin with the obvious: Her arguments wrong. She says that Iran, taken as a whole (a rather na├»ve way to view an ethnically diverse theocracy/democracy) would never try to target the U.S. because it is “focused on political dissidents and theatres of war closer to home” – an odd thing to say about a government responsible for terrorist attacks on three continents that has styled itself as a regional power for decades. She wrongly says that “Iran has not been behind a political assassination in the United States since a year after the 1979 revolution,” which is wrong – it subsidized the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It also raised a $2.1 million bounty for Salman Rushdie, so it’s not like they aren’t trying.

She quotes someone who has decided Iran is innocent because its agents might have contacted people who are Mexican, and Iran never contacts Mexicans:

"Iran does not use non-Muslim groups or people who are not trusted members or associates of the Quds force," Katzman said. "Iran does not blow up buildings in Washington that invites retaliation against the Iranian homeland."

Though it does blow up Americans in New York, Kuwait, Iraq, and over the ocean.

Here’s an odd one made by this same Katzman:

Katzman speculated that Arbabsiar, a former used car salesman who was apparently in financial difficulties, may have come up with the idea on his own... Mr. Arbabsiar was said to have wired nearly 100,000 dollars to the informant's bank account from Iran in September and to have promised 1.5 million dollars to do the deed.

One of the suspects was in such dire financial straits that he, acting alone, gave a stranger $100,000 just to listen to his idea. Kenneth Katzman seems like a smart guy, and given Barbara Slavin’s knowledge of the world around her demonstrated thus far, I’ll assume she’ll simply forgot what he said in the space between him saying it and her putting her pen on the paper.

Her logic is wrong. She argues that Iran must be innocent because “the timing would be extremely awkward for Iran, which is already facing growing isolation because of its nuclear program and domestic abuses of human rights.” How has “growing isolation” (whatever that means) ever stopped a regime from exercising its muscle? Does anyone remember the Cheonan, or Venezuela’s neighbors?

Her final attempt at an argument, dug out of her Katzman interview, seals it:

It is possible that the Iranian cousin "agreed to support him in some way but was doubtful he could pull it off", Katzman said. "This was not a thoroughly vetted and approved terrorist plot."

I don’t understand the conspiracy theorist obsession that just because a government hatches a plot that it’s going to be a good plot. Iran is not well-governed: who would deny that? Who would argue that the Iranian government is particularly competent at anything other than mere survival?

But at least she has the integrity to admit that “the U.S. government” isn’t just making things up:

Several U.S. intelligence experts expressed scepticism about the expertise of the DEA in evaluating such a sensitive case.

It’s not a very good U.S. government conspiracy if there’s external and internal disagreement, after all – this is the fact that refutes 9/11 denial, so she was wise to ignore it here.

However, Slavin does unquestioningly support and believe the government – Iran’s:

Riedel noted that the complaint refers to "elements" of the Iranian government, "which suggests that the administration doesn't think that all elements of the Iranian government were involved".

An Iranian source, speaking with IPS on condition he not be named, said that the Quds force would investigate the Iranian alleged to have participated in the plot "to find out if there is any personal interest" involved, suggesting an element of freelancing.

"It seems the Americans and Saudis need this propaganda to promote their policy against Iran at this time, given that they have occupied three Muslim countries in the world – Iraq, Afghanistan and Bahrain," the source added.

Of course! Equally expected is that, because all bad things are the President’s fault, that it is his fault, too, for daring to be angry that Iran would try to assassinate some fairly important international civilian personnel:

Both Katzman and Riedel said they were troubled by the way in which the Obama administration has jumped on the case, with a news conference by the attorney general and high-profile statements by the president and secretary of state.

The record skips back to the same un-funny joke, again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Government Continues to Brutally Silence Scientists in Bruce Ivins Case

Just kidding, it's suggesting scientists might have succesfully implicated him in a broader conspiracy.

three scientists argue that distinctive chemicals found in the dried anthrax spores — including the unexpected presence of tin — point to a high degree of manufacturing skill, contrary to federal reassurances that the attack germs were unsophisticated.

Both the chairwoman of a National Academy of Science panel that spent a year and a half reviewing the F.B.I.’s scientific work and the director of a new review by the Government Accountability Office said the paper raised important questions that should be addressed.

Or not.

But other scientists who reviewed the paper said they thought the tin might be a random contaminant, not a clue to complex processing. And the Justice Department has not altered its conclusion that the deadly letters were mailed by Dr. Ivins, an Army anthrax specialist who worked at Fort Detrick, Md., and killed himself in 2008 as prosecutors prepared to charge him.

Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said the paper provided “no evidence whatsoever that the spores used in the mailings were produced” at a location other than Fort Detrick. He said investigators believe Dr. Ivins grew and dried the anthrax spores himself.

Or maybe so.

“It indicates a very special processing, and expertise,” said Martin E. Hugh-Jones, lead author of the paper and a world authority on anthrax at Louisiana State University. The deadly germs sent through the mail to news organizations and two United States senators, he added, were “far more sophisticated than needed.”

In addition to Dr. Hugh-Jones, the authors of the new paper are Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a biologist, and Stuart Jacobsen, a chemist; both have speculated publicly about the case and criticized the F.B.I. for years.

In 2008, days after Dr. Ivins’s suicide, the bureau made public a sweeping but circumstantial case against him. Last year, the bureau formally closed the case, acknowledging that some scientific questions were unanswered but asserting that the evidence against Dr. Ivins was overwhelming.

Or not.

Investigators found that the microbiologist had worked unusual late-night hours in his lab in the days before each of the two known anthrax mailings in September and October 2001; that he often mailed letters and packages under assumed names; that he had a history of homicidal threats and spoke of “Crazy Bruce” as a personality that did things he later could not remember.

Dr. Ivins had hidden from family and friends an obsession with a sorority — Kappa Kappa Gamma — with an office near the Princeton, N.J., mailbox where the letters were mailed. The F.B.I. recorded Dr. Ivins’s speaking ambiguously to a friend that he did “not have any recollection” of mailing the letters, that he was “not a killer at heart” and that “I, in my right mind, wouldn’t do it.”

Yet no evidence directly tied Dr. Ivins to the crime.

Before we dive into the evidence here, let's discuss one incontrovertible fact: This case refutes the 9/11 denier article of faith that "the government" can ever act in perfect concert on anything.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kurt Haskell Testifying in Underwear Bomber Case

9/11 deniers are rejoicing that a conspiracy theorist might wind up on the jury for Umar Abdulmutallab, the "Underwear Bomber." Unfortunately for them, Haskell has done a poor job sticking to the conspiracy theorists' handbook. On his family blog he paints an unflattering portrait of the accused, as he saw him on the day of his jury selection questioning:

Yesterday, I went to the first day of jury selection in the underwear bomber case. I was the only passenger from the flight present. Lori could not attend as she had a hearing in Mt. Clemens that she could not get out of. The process involved picking 40 potential jurors to bring back on October 6, 2011. The selection of the jury will be made that day from the remaining 40 potential jurors. The process I witnessed involved the judge asking questions of each juror, then the prosecution asking questions and finally the defense asking questions. The prosecution and the defense were given 6 minutes each to question each juror. Only one juror was allowed in the courtroom at a time. I was in the courtroom when Umar arrived. When he entered he said "Great Mujahideen, Anwar is alive" referring to Anwar Al Awlaki and his reported recent death. He then said "We will wipe out the U.S., the cancer that is the U.S." Judge Edmunds had not yet arrived. When Judge Edmunds got there, she told Umar he should dress better to make a better impression on the jurors. He was dressed in a white t-shirt as he always is. Umar said "I wanted to wear a Yemeni belt with a dagger, but nobody would let me". Judge Edmunds then said "I don't think you'll be bringing a dagger into my courtroom". Umar then said that he wanted to change and the court went into recess. Umar returned shortly thereafter and was dressed in a tan collared shirt and a black suit coat. When he entered the court this time he said "Allah Akbar Anwar is alive".

Obviously the pleas for mercy of an innocent patsy.

Quick primer: Eyewitness recollection of an event is useless.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

As Promised: 9/11 Truthers Attempting to Co-Opt Occupy Wall Street

If this happens, I'll be correct and Alex Jones might have to stop writing about Occupy Wall Street (see previous post). As with so many petition-based protest movements, 9/11 deniers are attempting to hijack the Occupy Wall Street protests to forcibly insert their beliefs. Evidently they couldn't be part of the movement organically - I have yet to see any sizeable contingent of deniers actually doing any of the legwork - so conspiracy theorists need to activate their entire activist network just to try to get on the leaderboard. Link to the petition here.

So far it doesn't seem to be going very well. As of 20:00est today it has one of the highest rejection rates, at just over 25%:

which is a pretty high rate for this particularly permissive (and, by no coincidence, as-yet ineffectual) protest. One grammatically nonexistent item simply marked "Office of the Citizen" without further description only has about a 16% rejection rate, and even the particularly insipid, useless non-item "restore true democracy to the government" (which is also a historical fail, as our Founding Fathers imagined less democratic practices when it came to most things, from the election of Senators to who wasn't property) only gets rejected by about 17% of these charmers.

I think the movement is fundamentally a good idea. Its core tenants are too banal to be anything but. And here is how it could easily be destroyed. Let's see if there be skeptics among them.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Alex Jones' acolytes thunder: 'Occupy Wall Street is a Communist plot'

This weekend Prison Planet and Infowars embodied that spirit of attacking and lying about people conspiracy theorists degree with rather than actually challenging their ideas.

Between opposing popular revolutions in Libya and opposing efforts to improve standards of living around the world, Jones places himself squarely on the side of suffering on most issues. This is the statistical cost of being a reactionary: Revolutionaries need powerful friends to overthrow powerful enemies, and so every uprising becomes a "power grab" by foreigners. Technology spreads as it effectively solves daily problems, and so people become "sheeple" as they come to rely on science to make life better rather than suffer quotidian inconveniences of old. Unexpected horrors force people to realign their worldview and understanding of the world around them, and so the die-hards must assume that the enemies they're used to fighting are really at the heart of terrorist attacks, rather than the new breed of global terrorism we're really dealing with. The anti-intellectual identity forces one to constantly recode the good and the new as the cynical and the bad. Alex Jones' livelihood depends on his idiotic ideas from thirty years ago, the ones he has been parroting ever since, on being immutable and correct, and so the banal truth that there are worse entities out there than the U.S. government becomes anathema to the faith of Alex Jones.

So this week, when protestors took to the streets pointing out that democracy has a role to play in preventing future crises, Alex Jones' acolytes went into action: They branded the protestors as "puppets" and "communists." Another popular uprising Jones has to ignore, because it seeks to refute his belief that democracy doesn't work.

The lies to be rattled off feel almost too obvious: The Occupy Wall Street protestors are not employees of George Soros (I'm pretty sure he pays better, and his actual employees dress better); they are not "communists;" and so on down the line. Hell, the story on infowars on the matter links to a sign that it describes as "being held" that is just laying on the ground.

I'm not particularly fond of George Soros, Warren Buffett, or Ron Paul, so I sympathize with anyone who has difficulty picking an ideological figurehead with whom to align everyone in this debate. So here was my solution: Don't. Let their arguments stand on their own. This, of course, has thus far been much too much to ask of the Infowars crowd and its herd of unquestioning readers.

Jones has nothing useful to contribute to the financial reform protests in the US. His bloggers have randomly taken the side of both Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul, in the hopes that he can be remembered for supporting whichever side gets him more Google hits at any given time. His life is a cynical scheme designed to profit off the gullibility of his readers, and hopefully by forcing him to take a side now, he can be called on his bullshit later.

So, let's have it: Alex Jones, does government have a role to play in solving this problem, or not?

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?