Sunday, November 27, 2011

Truthers Versus Occupiers

I'm not high on either group, but the Occupier definitely has my sympathy here. Love the signs.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Washington's Blog Dumps 9-11 Truth (Mostly), Starts Getting Cited

You may recall Washington's blog used to get cited mostly by 9-11 Blogger. Run by Alex Floum, Washington's Blog highlighted the nuttery back in the day.
Director of the U.S. "Star Wars" space defense program in both Republican and Democratic administrations, who was a senior air force colonel who flew 101 combat missions (Col. Robert Bowman) stated that 9/11 was an inside job.
But lately, Alex has dropped the 9-11 Troof focus, purchased a website, added a few more posters (including Crackpot Carl Herman) and suddenly his blog has become respectable, at least among the wackadoodle left. For example, Naomi Wolf cites him in an article today:
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.
(Bolding added for emphasis) I have also seen Washington's Blog cited numerous times at Memeorandum, a major blog aggregator and traffic builder. The only evidence that Washington's Blog is run by a 9-11 crackpot is one of their links in the sidebar:
Truth (or Fiction?) . 911 Blogger
Of course, that's not to say they've suddenly become sane; just good enough at feigning sanity to get linked by major sites. If you know what to look for, you can see the crazy. For example, this post:
Bush and Blair Found Guilty of War Crimes George W. Bush and Tony Blair have been found guilty of war crimes for committing crimes against humanity during the Iraq war. Granted, it was not the U.S., or England or any other Western country … but Malaysia.
Malaysia, Malaysia, where have we heard of that country around here? Wasn't a former prime minister a 9-11 Truther?
Later, during a question-and-answer session, Dr Mahathir said he had doubts that the collapse of the World Trade Centre in New York was actually caused by terrorists crashing planes into the towers. He said the buildings had collapsed in an orderly manner with such military precision that it all seemed well planned. “I can believe that they (the United States) would kill 3,000 of their own to have an excuse to kill 650,000 Iraqis. These are the kind of people we are dealing with. Please don't think this is fiction.”
And yes, Dr Mahathir was part of that Malaysian panel that found Bush and Blair guilty. Glenn Greenwald was suckered into posting about it.
A tribunal in Malaysia, spearheaded by that nation’s former Prime Minister, yesterday found George Bush and Tony Blair guilty of “crimes against peace” and other war crimes for their 2003 aggressive attack on Iraq, as well as fabricating pretexts used to justify the attack.
(Bolding added for emphasis) Here's confirmation it was Mahathir:
The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, part of an initiative by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad - a fierce critic of the Iraq war - found the former leaders guilty after a four-day hearing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gage Got a Raise in 2010

Not a huge raise, but then not many people got any raise at all last year. Update: As requested, here is the full page:

Monday, November 21, 2011

OK... Maybe They Aren't the 84 Percent?

Damn, so close...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Truthers March

As you can see, Occupy Building 7 was not quite as massive as Occupy Wall Street.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Architects and Engineers for Paranoid Texans

They like to pretend that they are scientists and engineers, but after over 5 years, they have yet to produce anything even remotely scientific, unless you consider it a study on logical fallacies. Things are getting so bad, however, that they are not only producing their own unscientific material, but posting frontpage articles from Alex Jones' Infowars. Yeah, I go to them for all of my science and engineering reporting.

UK’s Daily Mail newspaper claims weakening of ‘exterior beams’ caused WTC 7 collapse
Editor’s note: In this incisive article, Infowars journalist Paul Joseph Watson refutes the illogical claims of an overambitious reporter from the UK Daily Mail, who asserts that video footage confirms the destruction of WTC Building 7 by office fires. The Daily Mail article comes in stark contrast to the easily accessible and understandable evidence of the controlled demolition of WTC 7 on the afternoon of 9/11.

But hey, remember, they are architects and engineers...

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wasting a Decade?

Jon Gold reveals that he's writing a book:
I tried everything else, so I figured I would write one. It's an autobiography, and tells about my experiences over the last decade. The title is a secret. I haven't decided how I'm going to publish it. I haven't decided if I'm going to charge for it. There are a total of 9 chapters. I'm done the first three, and am almost done Chapter 4. Some of them will contain things already written so it shouldn't take too long once 4, 5, and 9 are written. Here is the dedication:
Jon's being a little coy there, not giving away the title. So I thought, why not throw it open to our readers? Come up with a name for Jon's tome. BTW, Jon has managed to dedicate the book to about half the people in the world, and he got Cindy Sheehan to write the "foreward", which made him cry.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Ryan Mackey on Why 9-11 Truth Became So Popular

Terrific and long article on the rise (and fall) of the Truthers (in PDF format) by JREF forum member Ryan Mackey. I will post my thoughts here when I've finished reading it; I'm about a third of the way through it right now.

Update: Excellent read. I have a few points that I wish he had covered, but overall his presentation is well-organized, and very well-written and argued. Quibbles:

1. Ryan discusses why certain conspiracy theories take off and endure, while others more or less wither and die. The key factor to me is the perceived consequence of the event which spawned the conspiracy theory. The reason JFK conspiracy theories endured and even flourished is the persistent belief that Kennedy would not have gotten bogged down in Vietnam. This also may account for the sudden surge in Kennedy conspiracy theories around 1968, as opposition to the war became more widespread. Indeed, the comparison (and time to critical mass) with 9-11 and the Iraq war seems nearly perfect.

2. While I agree that video sites like YouTube and Google Video were very important to pushing 9-11 conspiracy theories into the mainstream, I believe the timing is just a little off. Dylan Avery often mentioned in interviews that earlier file-sharing technologies like Bit Torrent were responsible for spreading Loose Change 1.

3. Another reason why 9-11 conspiracy theories did not take off earlier is simply that the people who were the initial researchers were, shall we say, not ready for prime-time. When you consider that some of those responsible for many of the initial bits of "evidence" that became key to the movement were socially awkward, like Rosalee Grable or Eric Hufschmid or Nico Haupt, it's hardly surprising that the movement remained stalled for years. It took someone less obviously deranged, like David Ray Griffin, to move the theories into more mainstream society.

On the other hand, there are brilliant parts that I wish to highlight. Brilliant ideas to me are those which I did not think of beforehand, but find myself agreeing with wholeheartedly after reading them:

1. I loved his discussion of the Gish Gallop, where Truthers will lob up one floater after another, never acknowledging the rapid debunking that follows, but instead moving onto the next piece of evidence. All of us who have debunked the Truthers have been frustrated by their unwillingness to accept and admit defeat on even one tiny issue. Ryan points out that this is a defense mechanism that enables them to avoid examining their entire worldview.

2. His point about personas on the internet beginning to become more important is worthy of a standing ovation. You know, one of the supposed features of the internet at first was its supposed anonymity. Now it is becoming more and more impossible to escape one's past.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, November 07, 2011

We Are the 84 Percent!

The Troofers once again prove how after 10 years they have captured the heart and soul of America. Now they are starting a petition on the official White House site, where if they gather 15,000 signatures in a month, they get an official response from the government. The petition is actually pretty generic, nothing particularly controversial by Troofer standards:

Appoint and fund an independent prosecutor and impanel a public grand jury to investigate the crimes of 9/11.
Bring the questions concerning what happened on 9/11 into the judicial process where an independent prosecutor, the power to subpoena, and the risk of prosecution for lies can be used to publicly seek answers to why the first 3 steel superstructure buildings in history fell symmetrically at near free fall speed into their own footprints in New York on 9/11/2001 killing 3,000 people. In addition, notify all current/former federal employees and contractors that failure to respond truthfully and completely to questioning will--in addition to any criminal penalties--result in loss of employment, cancellation of pension benefits, and/or voiding of any employment contract. Further, prosecution for lying or refusing to testify for any reason will not be defended by the government.

Well how are they doing, a quarter of the way into the month. Let's... uhh... just say that they are a little behind schedule.

By comparison the following petition has over 7,700 signatures in only 3 days.

We demand a vapid, condescending, meaningless, politically safe response to this petition.

Since these petitions are ignored apart from an occasional patronizing and inane political statement amounting to nothing more than a condescending pat on the head, we the signers would enjoy having the illusion of success. Since no other outcome to this process seems possible, we demand that the White House immediately assign a junior staffer to compose a tame and vapid response to this petition, and never attempt to take any meaningful action on this or any other issue. We would also like a cookie.

But hey, everyone likes cookies.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Occupy Envy?

There are, in my opinion, two buffoonish movements in this country that are bound to fail. But one of them is young, vibrant, growing and has captured the imagination of the media. The other one is the Truth Movement. No surprise, the Truthers are a little envious of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. "We are the 99%" has proven a more effective rallying cry than "9-11 was an inside job!" Well, if you can't beat them, join them.
Occupy Building 7 November 19 and 20
I have to give them a little credit. Usually the Truthers come up with these grandiose plans that have no chance of succeeding, like getting Steve Alten's cruddy book on the bestseller list, or getting 10,000 architects and engineers to sign Box Boy's petition. This time they have actually come up with a plan that could conceivably work:
March from Liberty Plaza to WTC 7 at noon each day. Occupy the park in front of WTC 7 until nightfall.
I haven't looked at Google Maps, but I'd guess that the march is maybe a half mile. November 19th and 20th are the Saturday and Sunday after next. Nightfall in New York City can't be much after 5:00 PM this time of year. It certainly seems doable. Could this be the first successful action by the 9-11 Truthers?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Book Review: The Believing Brain

All is quiet on the Truther front, at least until another one of them gets arrested, so I figured I would do a post on a related subject the Michael Shermer book The Believing Brain, which I recently finished.

The book discusses the biological reasons, mostly evolutionary, that the human brain has for believing things, in this case he mostly focuses on things which are an article of faith such as religion, superstitious beliefs and, of course, conspiracy theories. The rest are interesting, even though I consider Shermer to be somewhat self-absorbed and meandering as a writer, but outside of the scope of this blog.

Shermer, who is well known for his skepticism and criticism of 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and conspiracy theorists in general, is actually somewhat kind to them, in much of the same way that Jonathan Kay was in his book, pointing out that people who hold these fringe beliefs are not idiots, but may actually be fairly smart, it is just their brains are hardwired to act this way. Shermer's thesis is essentially that the brain is built around recognizing patterns (see Jeff Hawkin's excellent On Intelligence for an in-depth examination of this) and "conspiracies" are the ultimate patterns.

The problem, Shermer argues, is that we have to recognize patterns to survive, he uses the famous example of a caveman recognizing the rustle of grass made by an approaching predator, but we are extremely bad at detecting fake patterns. And, as he points out, this is worse among certain people, especially when they are stressed or feeling insecure, which is something that has been proven through experimentation. For example when made to feel stressed test subjects are more likely to recognize objects in a completely random pattern of dots than control subjects.

Anyway, so what the thesis basically ends up arguing is that conspiracy theorists aren't necessarily dumber than the rest of us, and some may even be geniuses, but that they have an overdeveloped sense of recognizing patterns and making connections, even when they do no exist. For example a Truther who insists that there must be a reason that Michael Chertoff, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, and Benjamin Chertoff a former junior editor at Popular Mechanics share the last name. It can't just be pure random chance. Or that there must be a reason that Flight 77 crashed into the part of the Pentagon that was being remodeled, it is not just that this happened to be the side of the Pentagon the plane was approaching from.

This thesis makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider that the people who have absolutely no filter for being able to detect patterns, who completely detect patterns which do not exist at all, are schizophrenics. As in the famous case of the Nobel Prize winning Mathematician John Nash, this ability to recognize and create comes in handy, even though it leads to insanity and destroys their lives.

Overall, although Shermer really needs to focus as a writer, a good book. It does give an interesting insight into why otherwise intelligent people believe in weird things.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

More Dramatic WTC-7 Footage

I'd say that this will finally shut up Box Boy about minor office fires, but I know he'll continue to use that line because his paycheck depends on it. We've seen footage from this reporter and his cameraman before; he's the guy who made the comment about, "I've been on this earth for 36 years and I've never been in a war zone. I can only imagine this is what it's like."

Comments open.