Death Cult

I’m listening to the news today. Today is the first day I’ve awoken clear-headed in a week or more. I’ve binge-watched Star Trek on Netflix for the last two days, I’ve been feeling so poorly, and before that I was just going through podcast archives because I didn’t want to listen to the news. I’ve been avoiding the news since the El Paso shootings. I’ve been avoiding the news because I don’t want to hear about thoughts and prayers and I don’t want to hear arguments about what kinds of solutions that we could enact that would fix the plague of mass shootings in the US today. I don’t need to hear what we need to do, I know what needs to be done. I wrote about it two years ago. We won’t do it, and prayers don’t help, so why pay attention?

RAnt(hony)-ings

…and we don’t even notice all the mass killings that occur in this country anyway, because there are so many of them. Everyone is crying and moaning about El Paso and Dayton, but the death toll in Chicago over that same weekend was higher than both those incidents. Almost no one outside of Chicago noticed.

Today I wake up and I feel well enough to risk listening to the news. So I queue up the NPR news feed and throw in ABC (CBS?) and then I go on to the Texas Standard. That’s when I get derailed from my news consumption. They’re still talking about El Paso on the Texas Standard. Well, El Paso is in Texas, I should have expected that. Governor Abbott has held a nearly unprecedented impromptu news conference. Great. He doesn’t think he needs to call a special session of the legislature to deal with the issue of mass killings right here in Texas.

Seriously? The guy who thought we needed a special session over which bathroom you use doesn’t think we need a special session over gun regulations and mass shootings? The governor who is afraid of homosexuals and transsexuals doesn’t think that being shot while in Walmart shopping for schools supplies is a problem that we need the legislature to address? I mean, I guess he gets an attaboy for finally admitting that his president is a racist… No, wait. He said the shooter was a racist, not the president that the shooter quoted was a racist. Nevermind. No attaboy for Greg Abbott. I thought he might actually get one thing right while he was governor, but I guess not.

None of this tirade would have made the blog if I hadn’t been pinged by Steve Kubby during my cardiologist mandated sweat marathon, something I’ve neglected for several days because vertigo makes exercise into an invitation to take a trip to the emergency room for a cause other than a heart attack. Falling off the treadmill can be about as traumatic as a heart attack, in the scheme of things.

The phone pings while I’m on the treadmill, and because I know I’ve turned off push notifications except for the apps that the family uses, I figure it’s someone I know needing something. So I (carefully) check the phone and notice it’s a messenger notification from Steve Kubby. Now, that’s weird. Steve Kubby blocked me on Facebook seven years ago. What the hell does he have to say to me today?

Who is Steve Kubby? Well, back at the dawn of the internet age, back in the bad old days of the full force insane war on drugs, Steve Kubby was a cancer patient that was jailed for possessing Marijuana. He was jailed for using a known appetite enhancer and pain suppressor to treat the side effects of his cancer treatment. I wrote about him way back then. I friended him on Facebook when I joined Facebook, as I did a lot of my libertarian friends of the time.

But time passed, and libertarians got even less connected to reality than they were before they could tailor their newsfeeds to only tell them things they agreed with, and the rest of the world got progressively weirder and less connected right along with them. I found I had less and less in common with libertarians as I became disabled and had to rely on the stingily released government services that I had faithfully paid for through all of my adult life. Became less connected as I relied on services that my libertarian friends and conservative family members condemned me for relying on (decrease the surplus population!) in the first place, just another bullet point in a long list of things that I no longer had in common with these people.

Then the world changed in some pretty shocking ways. Every bit as shocking as 9-11 was in its time, from my perspective. The terrorist attacks on our country were things that libertarians had seen coming. The US was breeding terrorists with every foreign intervention. This belief was part of the libertarian ideology, a piece of it that just happened to be true. What wasn’t on the horizon, wasn’t even in the calculations, was armed uprisings targeting our own people. The Sandy Hook massacre opened my eyes to the dangers of the killing machines in our midst, and the other horrible mass shooting events that seemed to occur far more frequently than they ever had before. Seven years ago, when Sandy Hook happened, we could go a couple of weeks before another shocking incident occurred. Over the first August weekend of this year we had two on the same day, and those were just the ones the media were willing to talk about. Incessantly talk about.

One wonders that, if the images of those dead children and their teachers had been plastered all over the internet, would that have altered the trajectory of armaphiles in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting? Would they have been less inclined to pretend that the attack was a false flag operation? If the pictures of the aftermath of mass killings were things that you could find easily, would these people who are sexually aroused by holding a killing machine have decided not to take the course they took? Would their masculinity shrivel? We’ll never know now.

We’ll never know because that wasn’t what happened. With Alex Jones, the pied piper of conspiracy fantasies leading the way, the armaphiles subscribed in droves to the truly insane idea that anyone would pretend to kill or actually kill hundreds and thousands of people just to have a pretense of making them give up their fetish paraphernalia. This image is just one of dozens I’ve seen over the years asking the question “Why do they care now? It’s because they want our guns!” In the midst of the Sandy Hook denialism, denialism that has only recently been stymied by successful litigation, I got caught up in a few different conversations about firearms and the purpose of having them. Conspiracy Cults; Getting What’s Coming to Them? was one of them. ZAP Doesn’t Include Firearms and Killer Pets was another. Both of those occurred after the date stamp on the messenger message that Steve Kubby was replying to, so maybe not. The only thing that corresponds to that period in time was the image (above) of the pyre that the Branch Davidians made of their compound in Waco, and contrasting that tragedy with the slaughter at an elementary school.

As I said in the message Mr. Kubby responded to today, responded to seven years after he blocked me and I subsequently wrote it,

Good. Less crap on my daily feed. As if truthers will ever have as much credibility as the just as clueless JFK conspiracy theorists. As if libertarianism hasn’t already seen it’s zenith in political relevancy (it has, by the way) and is determined to find the bottom of the political barrel as quickly as possible.

…to be unfriended by someone who goes to Nazi imagery at word go when it comes to discussions of weapons in the US. I think that’s a compliment. Stick to subjects like drug legalization, Mr. Kubby. It’s something you can at least speak knowledgeably about. That’s why I friended you, not your crazy ideas about other subjects, that much is certain. You were asking for support back then. No good deed ever goes unpunished, indeed.

Facebook Messenger message, 12/24/12, 1:24 AM

Today he responds with the infamous, inscrutable Facebook thumbs up. I have no idea what that means, especially seven years later. He’s changed his mind? He agrees with me? He’s flipping me off? (what the hand sign means in several countries) He agrees that we both have better things to do? In looking through the blog trying to figure out if I’ve written about this before, in the intervening seven years, I realize I’ve never touched on the story of the Branch Davidians and their immolation in the presence of federal officers intent on arresting David Koresh in Waco, Texas. Well, that was a good bit more than seven years ago. That predates the time when I started writing the blog, even.

If I tried telling that story it would take us way back. Back to the days when Al Gore was inventing the internet. Back to the days when Bill Clinton was the president, a conservative Democrat that couldn’t convince the Republicans of his time that he really was their buddy and they should work with him. He even passed the proverbial law and order legislation in his attempts to meet them halfway. Legislation that has helped lead to the highest levels of criminal incarceration in human history. All to no avail. Conservatives and Republicans still hate him to this day, even though he is demonstrably one of them. But I digress.

It would also take us all back to the days before science became political. Al Gore didn’t only invent the internet back in the 1990’s. According to conservatives he also invented global warming. I remember those days clearly. The outrage over the immolation of children shown to us on our TV sets was fresh. The fear of government overreach so graphically on display in those images. Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban that had every conservative convinced he was coming after their guns. The merest suggestion by scientists and science communicators that we might have to stop burning gasoline while sitting in line at a drive through window to get hamburgers. Every. Single. Day. The unfathomable belief that carbon dioxide could kill us. The belief that the ancient ice that covered the poles of our planet might melt and that the seas might rise. It all sounded… Apocalyptic.

Telling that story would take us back to the days when I believed a lot of that kind of conservative bullshit. Bullshit that was spread by word of mouth because there was no internet, no access to facts and research without hours, days and months of sweating through volumes of information in a library. It would take us back to the days when I first heard the ideas that would lead a shooter to travel ten hours across Texas in order to “shoot Mexicans” in El Paso.

Back then, these weren’t the kinds of things that believers talked openly about, except among friends that agreed with them. You certainly didn’t allow yourself to be caught subscribing to them after killing more than a dozen people. Killing more than a dozen people and not even being embarrassed about the bullshit that lead you to do it.

The truncated Branch Davidian narrative was just one of the stops along the route for these deadly ideals. Sovereign ideals. The route from white supremacist, christianist writings back in the seventies to Ruby Ridge and then on to the Waco siege. From there they traveled onward to the Murrah building in OKC and onward still to the Bundy ranch and the Malheur standoff fiasco that should have been put down and it’s perpetrators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Tax cheats and fraudsters have roamed free spreading their ideas far and wide for decades now, their wrong-headed beliefs largely unchecked and most likely uncorrectable aside from warning the uninitiated away from subscribing to them.

The concept of a sovereign citizen originated in 1971 in the Posse Comitatus movement as a teaching of Christian Identity minister William P. Gale. The concept has influenced the tax protester movement, the Christian Patriot movement, and the redemption movement—the last of which claims that the U.S. government uses its citizens as collateral against foreign debt.

Gale identified the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as the act that converted sovereign citizens into federal citizens by their agreement to a contract to accept benefits from the federal government. Other commentators have identified other acts, including the Uniform Commercial Code, the Emergency Banking Act, the Zone Improvement Plan, and the alleged suppression of the Titles of Nobility Amendment.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For my part, I could never track down the facts behind what sovereign citizens believe, even though I spent several years off and on dedicated to the idea that there had to be some basis for the beliefs that my friends of the time clearly subscribed to. I wrote one article for the blog on the subject back in 2014 titled Ideally There Would Be No Idealists; the Sovereign Version a sort of tongue-in-cheek salute to my disillusionment with idealists in general and the whole notion of sovereignty in particular. As I said there,

The idea that anyone can be sovereign or should expect to be considered sovereign is laughable; this is entirely aside from having the ultimate authority on what you personally will do or not do, whether you will continue to exist or not. Sovereign is a completely different approach to the subject of authority.

Whether or not anyone other than a king can rightfully claim sovereignty as the term is defined is beside the point. The fact remains that all of these events, knowingly or not, were in some part inspired by the sovereign citizens movement and their ideas. They were inspired by these ideas because those ideas flow freely in the counterculture that is represented in the simple phrase bucking the system. That’s where you go when working within existing political structures represents surrender on your part. The counterculture. Being part of the counterculture, a scofflaw, puts you on the fringe, and the fringe is were ideas like those represented by the sovereign citizen movement reside.

…and those ideas have been widely adopted by disparate peoples, many of whom would be appalled to discover the white supremacist roots of the ideas behind sovereignty. There is no doubt that Gale and the group he was part of were white supremacists. These are established facts. What is in question is whether any of the hundreds if not thousands of flavors of the sovereign citizens movement still promote the white supremacist heart of the ideals, or if they simply subscribe to the popular notion that other people’s rules don’t apply to them.

Cliven Bundy is a racist. That much is certain. His sons and their co-conspirators subscribed to the sovereign citizens ideals, they voiced concepts related to them more times than I care to count. It is entirely possible that David Koresh had no idea where his beliefs came from. None of the things that I’ve heard about the man suggest that he was capable of introspection, of questioning his own motivations to do this or that thing. So he may never have questioned why the rules of others should not apply to him; he may simply have accepted the arguments presented to him by the manipulators and con artists that seem to run rife out on the fringe of political belief. When you are profiting from the sale of weapons at gun shows while at the same time selling off the assets of your religious sect to support your and their lifestyles, all the while having sex with all of the women housed on the sect’s property, you tend to not study your relationship to the truth too carefully.

However, the government didn’t kill those children in Waco, as tempting as it is to believe the imagery of that day as I remember it, as conservatives and sovereigns remember it. The followers of Koresh being caught up in a suicidal belief system predicated on the looming end of the world lead more to their demise than any action that the US government did undertake, or even could have undertaken, in the best of circumstances,

The tactical arm of federal law enforcement may conventionally think of the other side as a band of criminals or as a military force or, generically, as the aggressor. But the Branch Davidians were an unconventional group in an exalted, disturbed, and desperate state of mind. They were devoted to David Koresh as the Lamb of God. They were willing to die defending themselves in an apocalyptic ending and, in the alternative, to kill themselves and their children. However, these were neither psychiatrically depressed, suicidal people nor cold-blooded killers. They were ready to risk death as a test of their faith. The psychology of such behavior—together with its religious significance for the Branch Davidians—was mistakenly evaluated, if not simply ignored, by those responsible for the FBI strategy of “tightening the noose”. The overwhelming show of force was not working in the way the tacticians supposed. It did not provoke the Branch Davidians to surrender, but it may have provoked David Koresh to order the mass-suicide.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The ultimate cause of the demise of the Branch Davidians in Waco was not a problem of gun control, the point of drawing a parallel between Sandy Hook and Waco. Most of the Branch Davidians died from causes related to the burning of CS gas, namely cyanide poisoning. The ATF did overstep their authority in this instance, they should have listened to the local police enforcement and allowed them to arrest Koresh the next time he came into town. But the federal government’s missteps did not directly cause these peoples deaths. Their being part of a death cult caused their deaths. If you are hoping and praying for armageddon, you too are part of a death cult.

If anything, the gun show loophole that sovereigns and scofflaws rely on to get their weaponry lead directly to the massacre. It was the purchases of weapons for resale at gun shows that put the FBI on Koresh’s trail in the first place. Had there been proper regulations for weapons of mass destruction like semi-automatic weapons are, there would have been no lucrative arms business for David Koresh to engage in, and he would never have gotten on the FBI’s radar in the first place. At least, not until the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints showed up on government radar, and even then it would have been to quietly arrest the leaders and then liberate the people held in ignorance of their own rights.

The two events, the Sandy Hook massacre and the Waco siege, are not related. They are apples and oranges except for one tangential fact. The US as a whole has adopted a siege mentality in the years following Waco. Like the Branch Davidians did right before their self immolation, we see enemies all around us and we know the doom of our way of life is on the horizon. We are all caught up in a death cult. All of us, and most of us are in denial about this fact.

What cult, you ask? The cult of economic growth.

As I sit here finishing this article, the Amazonian rain forests are on fire. They were purposefully set on fire by people who hope to profit from farming and mining on that land. One of the last reserves of rare flora and fauna, as well as one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, is being destroyed in the name of profit. But it isn’t just the Amazon that’s on fire. The tundra in Canada, Russia and Alaska, tundra across the entire arctic circle, is melting and in places it too is on fire. We’ve had glaciers that have gone extinct in our lifetimes. Glaciers that supplied drinking water to thousands that essentially don’t exist anymore. The mythical Northwest Passage that explorers searched for in vain is no longer a myth. There is ship traffic now passing Canadian coastline that was covered in permafrost even during our lifetimes. The planet is warming and the evidence is all around us. The evidence is all around us, and still we make the problem worse.

We are poisoning the biosphere that keeps us all alive and pretending that the impending doom of our civilization is not something to worry about. Sea levels are rising, coastal cities are flooding in ways that we’ve never experienced before. All of this was predicted by the models that climate scientists have constructed, but conservatives and evangelicals refuse to believe. What they instead say is “god will provide” never understanding that what he will provide is death, just as he provided death to the Branch Davidians. He provided the death, the release from their burdens, that they prayed for. That is what omnipotence means. If it happens, he does it.

As nature itself turns against us, we live more in terror of being caught up in the next mass killing than we worry about the impending end of our civilization. The terror? That is by design. It is not the design of the government that wants your guns, but by the design of the white nationalist, sovereign, christianist, terrorists in our midst. The people who run the NRA. Young earthers. Evangelicals. The people who back Donald Trump, the Orange Hate-Monkey, his precious #MAGA, the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans. All of them. They want their armageddon. They want to meet Jesus, and they want to do it while they still have truck-nuts on their diesel SUV’s and an AR-15 in each hand. They want this disaster to continue to unfold exactly as it has been spelled out. They’d rather be dead than be wrong about everything.

Death is coming for them. Death is coming for all of us even if we do change our ways. But if we change our ways our children might have a world to live in rather than to have to die with us. If we embrace renewable energy like any sane person should, we can get over this looming catastrophe and possibly avert the apocalypse.

This has to be stopped. Their campaign of terror has to end, and we the people, the citizenry of the United States have to stop it. We are the only ones who can. If they require us to disarm them in order to get started on the real work at hand, reversing climate change, removing ourselves from the death cult of unquestionable economic growth, then that is what we will have to do. I would prefer that they could be made to see reason, but I am increasingly pessimistic that they will admit to their error before most of the currently living are already dead, and we cannot afford to wait that long.

We cared about the dead children in Waco, but we were powerless to stop them from being killed. We cared about the dead children in Sandy Hook, and we were stopped from preventing the next hundred, the next thousand mass shootings from occurring by people too stupid to know they were part of a death cult. We care about the dying biosphere all around us, and we are similarly being thwarted by these same stupid people who want desperately for their god to prove them right.

Those people? They are insane. I don’t know how else to describe it. It is insane to kill yourself when there is no need. When no sacrifice is needed. When suffering amounts to having to walk rather than drive. Cook rather than eat out. Not have the firepower on hand to take down an army single handed, just because you want to have it. They are insane, and we should not be listening to them when it comes to determining our, and our children’s, future.

Featured image Rollingstone: Flashback – Waco Cult Showdown Ends in Disaster. I found the original conversation with Steve Kubby that occured on my Facebook wall since I wrote this article. This is a completely different story than that was, so I will just link that story in this editor’s note. A mental note to myself, if to no one else, that I found the other half of this conversation. Whew. That’s a load off my mind.

GIGO is a Thing, or Why Freedom of Speech Isn’t Free

In computer sciencegarbage in, garbage out (GIGO) describes the concept that flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or “garbage”.

The principle also applies more generally to all analysis and logic, in that arguments are unsound if their premises are flawed.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As a libertarian I used to believe some pretty crazy things. I believed that a dollar was something you worked for, for one. A dollar is a debt instrument that every business in the United States is required to accept as payment. It is not a measure of hours worked or effort expended. You don’t work for dollars, you have to have dollars to pay for the things you need or want. You trade effort or hours for dollars if you are a working stiff in the modern age. If you have dollars you make the dollars work for you to create more dollars. This is a subtle but important distinction, one that anyone who desires excessive wealth should take to heart.

Similarly I believed, and most libertarians still believe, that freedom of speech meant you had to listen to every idea equally. Give every idea equal weight. This crazy notion is not limited to just fringe political groups, it has been embraced by a very large portion of conservatives and Republicans, and even American liberals don’t understand some of the finer points of what the first amendment, freedom of speech, means.

The problem with continuing to listen to bad ideas is that each successive generation receives those ideas as if they are all of equal value. This position is obviously false. Some ideas are incorrect. The world is not flat, it is visibly curved to any observer who cares to study the subject. The Earth, her moon, the other planets and their moons, etc. all move in mathematically predictable ways around the sun. We do not have to prove to each successive generation of human beings that the Earth is not the center of the universe. We need simply show how we know the Earth is round, the sun the center of a solar system, for them to grasp the math involved with these correct observations. These are factually demonstrable truths that do not have to be viewed equally with the Ptolemaic system, requiring each successive generation of human beings to determine which finding is the correct one. Learn a little math, do a few observations, yep, that confirms the heliocentric model. Onto the next thing we have to learn.

Not all truths are as obvious as the basic findings of astronomy, and even those findings are not universally embraced by all modern humans. There are a few disturbed people out there who still think the world is flat, and we don’t let those people run NASA for a reason. That reason? Because their denial of science disqualifies them from leading a scientific agency. They fail the test of expertise, another demonstrable truth.

There are things that experts know that the layman does not. I know things about CAD systems and architectural detailing that would bore the pants off of anyone who isn’t enamored of building systems and the illustration of same. That expertise qualified me to hold a high-paying job in the architectural field once upon a time. It had real value; and expertise, all expertise, is demonstrated through that value. If you plant lima beans for a living, and you do it successfully for long enough, you become an expert on lima beans. But that doesn’t make you an expert on rocket ships.

Which brings us to another truth. Expertise is limited in scope, and the farther outside your expertise you venture, the more likely you are to be wrong in your beliefs. This is the Dunning-Kruger effect in a nutshell. Everyone believes they know more about subjects that they are not experts in than they actually do. This is why a brain surgeon isn’t a good candidate to run a poverty program. The fact that Ben Carson successfully navigated a hierarchy as complicated as working in a hospital presents is probably the only reason he still has his cabinet position. He knows how to keep his mouth shut when he needs to. When he has a job to do and isn’t campaigning. He knows the value of expertise and he doesn’t visibly contradict the experts around him who know things about the department of Housing and Urban Development.

When the Republican party formed back in 1854, the value of expertise was understood. With little else to distract the population in the way of entertainment, politicians and pundits would debate for hours in front of huge crowds, working and reworking the issues of the day. Abraham Lincoln was an expert at navigating the treacherous terrain to be found between openly advocating for the abolition of slavery, and allowing slavery to encroach into the Northern states that hated slaves and slavery for what it did to the lives of average men. Hated slavery for the degrading poverty and dearth of industry in the South that slavery imposed on the economy of the South. The Lincoln-Douglas debates featured his abilities to master the subject, a success that eventually snagged him the nomination of the Republican party and through their growing influence, the presidency of the United States.

He then expertly managed to conduct the the office of the presidency, successfully, while maintaining a war with half of the original republic, and at the same time engineering the largest change in civil society, the abolition of slavery, that the United States had seen in its short 75 years of existence. Had he survived his time in office, had he not been felled by Southern hands and succeeded by a Southern sympathizer, many of the problems that we wrestle with today would never have manifested in the first place. That was the master politician that Abraham Lincoln was. That was the kind of organization that the Republican party was when it was progressive and liberal and on the right side of history.

From Lincoln to the Orange Hate-Monkey in 150 years.  That is what the Republican party gained from not understanding that there were real, actual truths underneath all the political posturing. That science and expertise have real, demonstrable value. GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out has taken its toll on the GOP and rendered it the political organ of a would-be fascist. A would-be fascist whose political supporters want to enact a racial cleansing on the United States. The party that ended slavery has become the party of the inheritors of slavery’s stolen wealth. The irony is almost rich enough to laugh at, if the fate of the world didn’t hang in the balance, and it does currently hang in the balance.

It hangs in the balance because Vladimir Putin did work to get Donald Trump elected as president. He worked to get Britain to embrace Brexit, and his troll farm is still actively attempting to subvert political processes in the United States and all across the world. He is seeking inroads to power wherever he can find them, and right now the internet is his tool of choice. All information on the internet is now suspect. Nothing can be taken for granted. Every platform, every system, every piece of information technology can now be possibly subverted by criminal actors attempting undermine the great advances that have been made in the world, and they are doing this with the technology we, the West, invented.

On the Media Everything Is Fake January 11, 2019

On Thursday, President Trump flew down to McAllen, Texas to push his pro-wall, anti-immigrant narrative. This week, On the Media examines how the community tells a more welcoming story about the border — and a dogged presidential fact-checker joins us to pick apart the Oval Office address. Plus, how some progressives used Russian election interference tactics against a right-wing senate campaign. Also, is everything online fake? 

On the Media Everything Is Fake January 11, 2019

Make no mistake, we have made great strides toward improving equality across the world. In between the war profiteering and other boondoggles embarked on by the powers that be in Washington DC, the technology we created has moved out of the United States and improved the lives of people everywhere. So much so that poverty in the world is the lowest that it has been at any point so far in history. But the spreading of information and equality through technological systems has opened the doors for misinformation and distraction to be spread in the same way, through the same mechanisms.

Political bias, racial bias, religious bias. All these things still exist, and all these things are corruptions of the truth. They are weaknesses that the power-hungry can exploit in order to gain more power. That is what Vladimir Putin has done in Russia by re-establishing the Russian Orthodox church. He gives ethnic Russians a thing to believe in now that the dictatorships that liberated the Russian people from Czarist rule have fallen. He foments friction at the edges of his political empire, his fake republic, and exploits the resulting distrust by seizing land belonging to neighboring nations, by re-asserting old Soviet alliances. His neighbors fear him, which is what he wants, and his old foes are confused, fighting among themselves. All by his design.

The first thing we need to do, if we want to oppose this new criminal oligarchy founded by Vladimir Putin and embodied in his paid-for stooge in the White House, is to know who it is we are fighting, why we are fighting them and how we intend to win this fight. The first casualty of this information war has to be the ability to promote falsities as truths. If we can’t even determine what is true and what is false, then we have already lost the war.

Garbage In, Garbage Out. If we believe what we are told by others with no need to verify what is true, we are sheep lead to slaughter. Subjectivity is the enemy. The people we are fighting are liars. Charlatans. Confidence artists. People who say things we want to believe but which are not demonstrably true.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

Many people cite this quote, few understand it. To be eternally vigilant is to practice due diligence as often as required when it comes to the things you believe as well as the things you are told. What is due diligence? Caveat Emptor. The two states of mind are interchangeable. Healthy caution and skepticism. If you want to be at liberty, if you want to maintain liberty, then you must be skeptical of all things that are not immediately apparent.

As an example. Freedom of speech is not free. You cannot say whatever springs to your mind and expect to suffer no consequences. This is what most people think freedom of speech means. Speech without consequences. All speech has a cost, in that you may be held accountable for the results of the words you speak. This is why you are punished for causing a panic by yelling fire! when there is no fire. It is not the speech that is punished, it is the result of the speech. The cause of the harm was speech if anyone was harmed in the resultant panic. No harm, no foul, as the adage goes.

But how do you assess harm? Is all harm readily apparent? If you are not harmed by a person’s speech, but your neighbor is, should you care? What if your neighbor is a different race? A different religion? A member of a different political party? Insert Niemöller’s law here.

That way lies death. So harm, even delayed, indirect harm, should be guarded against. And that, dear reader, is the quandary. As I noted on my last article about Alex Jones, deplatforming is not censoring a person’s speech. All these people claiming they have been censored by social media have their own websites. They have just as much access to consumers as any other individual in the system has. They simply do not have a megaphone through which to spread their lies. We are fighting an information war here, and the first thing that has to go is information which is demonstrably false.

Kicking ethics violators off of Twitter and Facebook is not censoring them, it is applying objective rules to subjective life. This is necessarily a messy business, but then bad people do exist. Bad ideas do exist. Stupid people do exist, and they don’t know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea. This requires things like rules of order (Robert’s Rules) parliamentary procedures, etcetera. Objective ethical standards have to be in place and they have to be enforced so that ideas can be properly tested and debated. You cannot call for harming another person and not expect the platform from which you speak to be taken away. That is simply good information hygiene. Any platform which doesn’t distinguish between good (correct) and bad (incorrect) information is a platform which is doomed to be dominated by the most ruthless, because it is the ruthless people who have no boundaries. Ruthless people do not worry about harming others to get their way. Lies. Fraud. These are but tools in the hands of the ruthless. Does deplatforming cause them harm? Only if they subjectively deem that their lies bring them power. In that case they don’t need a platform, they need a therapist.

Any platform created to be all inclusive (Spreely.com, Minds.com, etcetera) will be dominated by the most hateful. There is no way to avoid this scenario if you do not set hard ethical lines which cannot be crossed. I hope these platform providers enjoy taking orders from fascists. Fascists that will tell them what and how to think; which is what fascists do and why fascists (like Nazis) shouldn’t be given a platform in the first place. It is a quandary, but it isn’t an unsolvable problem.

I’m still on Facebook, for now. They at least acknowledge the existence of incorrect information and harmful social interaction. I’m not happy with providing a platform for ideas designed to kill me. I won’t spend time on a social platform that allows them space to spread their lies. Consequently those who voice views about political purity, religious purity, racial purity, promote the lie that life is a zero sum game that requires I harm others to win, these kinds of people and beliefs are not welcome anywhere that I am expected to be. I would ban these people myself. I do block and report these people when I’m given the tools to do so.

Authority might be necessary, but authority need not lead to authoritarianism. The difference between allowing Donald Trump to take office because existing mechanisms put him in position to assume that office, and not allowing Caudillo Trump to violate the law in the name of his whims or his stormtrumper’s whims is exactly how that ethical hair is split.

Wikipedia – First Amendment to the US Constitution

The Best Illustration of What Freedom of Speech Means Today

I’ve seen this Youtube video pop up in my Twitter feed a few times today. Stonekettle Station posted it to his Facebook page with the comment This damned near killed me.

Alex Jones Rants as an Indie Folk Song – Jul 14, 2017

What nearly kills me are the trolls convinced that Alex Jones has somehow been silenced. That kills me. He’s not banned. He’s not silenced. You can go to his website and download anything you want. Watch anything you want. If he wants his content to be offered on a platform, he has to conform to the platform’s rules. Don’t like it? Tough. There will always be rules like that. Who are the snowflakes now? That is the question I want answered.

[Editor’s note: Twitter has banned Alex Jones, August 14th, 2018]

As for being kicked off the various platforms that he’s been kicked off of? It couldn’t have happened to a more appropriate person. Remind me to send him a nice fruit basket full of dildos. When Twitter actually gets the balls to ban the Orange Hate-Monkey for his violations of their rules, I’ll send him the same tasteful arrangement of dildos.

By the way, do not Google that phrase. You have been warned!

Alex Jones or the OHM, that used rubber of an excuse for a human being, should be flushed down the toilet like his compatriots. Just joking, don’t flush your used rubbers down the toilet. Plugs up the drains. Do try and give Alex Jones a free swirly for me, though. Seriously, I hate that guy. I’ve hated him longer than most of you have known about him, because he started out on Austin public access TV. Yes, I’ve already apologized for that.

These events do point out the difference between what we think of as freedom of speech today, and what freedom of speech really is. Alex Jones has not been censored. His freedom of speech has not been curtailed in any real way. His voice is still magnified beyond the range of any other narcissistic conman except for one, and that one is going to be censored eventually. The Orange Hate-Monkey will be censored, because that will be part of the act of government that ends his freedom. After his conviction. During his sentencing. Banning him from speaking will almost certainly be part of his punishment, and a justified punishment in every sense of the phrase.

Assembled from multiple comments. This was the other one. I did append a few words to this to explain the title.

Grand Conspiratorial Fantasies

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Hanlon’s Razor

The image at right was culled from a friend’s Facebook wall a few years back. The image serves as an introduction, the proverbial rabbit-hole, a building 7 to 9/11 truthers, a lead-in to draw you deeper into this post dedicated to critical thinking. Humor me, dear reader. I’m going somewhere with this.

You might well ask, what does the image mean? Anyone who doesn’t recognize Morpheus from The Matrix movies really needs to go back and do some homework before reading this. The Matrix is its own introduction to conspiratorial thinking, a rabbit hole of its own metaphorical making. However, the  text on the image is misleading. Anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns.  If the candidates from the party do not pander to the big spenders (i.e. the corporations) then the party will not get the funds they need to win, meaning their ideology will never take root directly in the politics of the nation. All parties work for corporations, even the third parties. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable.  This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple. There is no other way to fix the problem of corporations buying the parties and the candidates for office.

I have no problem with the image. I probably don’t have a problem with the website the image came from, although I haven’t spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild after it was released. I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall.  Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends do indulge in conspiracy fantasies though, and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.

Grand conspiracies are ludicrous, starting with the phrase conspiracy theory. Grand conspiracies aren’t theories.  A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error.  The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community. The fact that nearly half of Americans reject the theory of evolution merely serves as a painful reminder of just how misinformed most of us are.

Grand conspiracies aren’t conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address.  A hypothesis has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation. Grand conspiracies tend to ignore all evidence and instead look for anomalies that can be held up as examples of failure for explanations the grand conspiracy believer doesn’t like. Phrases like magic bullet get thrown around, as if the unexplained will remain inexplicable forever.

Grand conspiracies are conspiratorial conjecture, nothing more. They are stories that are told to entertain. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies.  When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you. When the Facebook friend (mentioned previously) made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his post, I recognized the reference immediately (Rothschild Skeptoid episode) It is an old anti-Semitic/white supremacist fabrication. Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews, which says more about you than it does about anyone else.

I’ve argued with this guy and his friends over beers before. I know there is no convincing him that his pet fantasies were meaningless. Rather than hopelessly resign myself to having to ignore him once again, I tried to tangent into a discussion of the gullibility of conspiracy fantasists. I linked this video of Rebecca Watson discussing a recent study to see if I could head off the impending disaster,

Rebecca Watson May 18, 2015, No Shit Study: Scientists Show Conspiracy Theorists Will Believe Anything

Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated their heads was that “the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren’t real”  which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real. Well, they aren’t real. Of course chemicals are detectable in airline contrails. The planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn’t that hard to figure out.

…Unless there is a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All that is required is to entertain your curiosity without engaging your critical thinking skills. If you ever learned to think critically in the first place. Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.

If you, dear reader, think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then you are probably also a conspiracy fan, lack critical thinking skills, and are as gullible as the study she talks about shows. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into, just like Alex Jones does. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They’ll never know you’re pulling their legs.

After I rebutted the chemtrails argument the conversation with that Facebook friend I mentioned proceeded to spiral down the proverbial rabbit hole, morphing into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales. Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn’t anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is.  Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time, and I really didn’t want to have to hear about Building 7 one more time. I didn’t want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they believe at me one at a time, each time certain that it can’t be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.

So why are grand conspiracies fantasies? Scale. That’s really all there is to it.  Fantasists who support whatever conspiracy I sent you here to inoculate yourself against (if you got here without my linking this article in a discussion, well done!) will likely talk about the Gulf of Tonkin incident or Watergate or more recently, Edward Snowden. Well, Watergate wasn’t a grand conspiracy. It relied on about ten people keeping their mouths shut, and that conspiracy not only failed because ten people couldn’t keep quiet, it failed because Nixon was taping everything said in his office. He was that paranoid.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, like the revelations of NSA spying, are the very stories that illustrate the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them.  The NSA spying was anything but secret. Oh, it was officially denied like Tonkin was denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret.  Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.

It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true.  The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there. They certainly don’t point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact. The NSA’s spying program, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tuskegee experiment, Project MKUltra, etcetera, are all hallmarks of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.

After once again being forced to ignore an old friend, I’m left wondering why is the US such a misanthropic nation? Why do we obsess over these silly fantasies that cannot possibly be true? Perhaps the reason why so many Americans believe conspiracy fantasies is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray.  Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there “Them! They did it! It wasn’t me!” rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics.  I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?

However this willful blindness to the state of US politics on the part of the people whom the government supposedly represents does have a cost. It is not all fun and games as we pretend that lizards run our country or that we narrowly missed being governed by a pedophile in the last election. Conspiracies do exist, yes. And when they are represented in plots hatched by a foreign government, especially on that speaks a different language and is on shaky ties with the US to start with, they can be quite large and even link to the leadership of that government, and still take years for us to catch wind of it.

It turns out that the Jade Helm 15 fantasy that took the nation by storm during the Obama administration came from somewhere, and that somewhere wasn’t inside the United States. It was created by Russian operatives as a testbed to see if they could alter US politics by sowing discord.

If you think the president can just wave his big Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo and declare martial law, you really don’t understand how your government works – but then again that’s not even a little bit surprising given a sitting US senator such as Ted Cruz apparently doesn’t understand how the very government he is part of works either.

Stonekettle Station, Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas

So the answer was yes. Yes Russia could and did interfere with our politics; and they continued to do it from that point straight on through the 2016 presidential elections that gave us the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) as president.

TEXAS STANDARD|May 4, 2018|SECURITY EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA IS WINNING THE DISINFORMATION WAR

A former director of the CIA and NSA said Wednesday that hysteria in Texas over a 2015 U.S. military training exercise called Jade Helm was fueled by Russians wanting to dominate “the information space,” and that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation gave them proof of the power of such misinformation campaigns.

Michael Hayden, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast, chalked up peoples’ fear over Jade Helm 15 to “Russian bots and the American alt-right media [that] convinced many Texans [Jade Helm] was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents.”

Abbott ordered the State Guard to monitor the federal exercise soon after news broke of the operation. Hayden said that move gave Russians the go-ahead to continue — and possibly expand — their efforts to spread fear.

“At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying, ‘We can go big time,’” Hayden said of Abbott’s response. “At that point, I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process.’”

Texas Tribune, Hysteria over Jade Helm exercise in Texas was fueled by Russians, former CIA director says

Does this mean that the OHM is a Russian stooge? No. No it doesn’t. Why? Because those links are tenuous and unproven. Likely unprovable. He is a money launderer and a client for Russian oligarchs, but he isn’t an invisible bomb-throwing ninja of the scale necessary to pull off that kind of spy intrigue. He’s just another conman who was used in a con that targeted the American people. The sooner we figure that out and get him out of office, the better everything will be.

However, he is one of the people who believed the Jade Helm story at the time. Just like Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Just like Ted Cruz. This is the cost of believing these conspiratorial fairytales. The cost being that these people have been shown to be unfit for office. They are far too gullible to be trusted with handling the daily business of our government. Unfortunately for the average American, they’re still caught up in so many other conspiratorial fantasies that they probably haven’t noticed that their leaders have been shown to be just as clueless as they are.

A previous version of this was originally posted here.

…and Now for the Rest of the Story, the 9-11 Version

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Hanlon’s Razor

Paul Harvey dominated the radio waves when I was growing up.  It seems fitting to title a corrections post after his iconic radio narration; the hallmark of which was telling you teasing parts of the story in advance, then pitching you on whatever his advertisers told him to pitch that week, and finally getting to the truth of the story in the final segment.  Well, I don’t know that this is the final segment of the story or not, but I do have some corrections to offer on a particular subject which is bugging me at the moment, and it has something to do with truth.

Steven Novella is currently in a debate on his blog NeuroLogica with a 9-11 truther; and while I am unable to even read the articles from the 9-11 truth side of the argument, I felt the desire to offer a comment for Dr. Novella’s excellent rebuttal of the truther argument.  So I wandered back over here to my blog, looking for the well-reasoned arguments that I’ve presented in the past, only to find that none of the reasoned arguments I remember on the subject have ever been posted to this blog. Every Single Thing I’ve EVER written on the subject of 9-11 on this blog is bullshit, up to this point.  No seriously, go look, I’ll wait. See what I mean?  I was (I might still be) completely clueless on the subject, far too gullible even still.  The entries are a blatant example of the malleability of the moment and one’s experiences in it.  When I wrote that crap, I believed it (well, the plagiarism-level cut and paste on the subject of the 9-11 mosque isn’t too bad, but then I didn’t write 9/10’s of that) and it’s only been my experience online in various threads and sites that have refined my thinking on the subject of conspiracy theories in general and the attacks on 9-11 in particular.  

If I had to point to a specific moment in time or a piece of literature in particular that affected my thinking on this subject, it was Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War a book suggested by Buck Field just as a passing side-comment while we were discussing the failings of the first Abramanation.  I’ve often marveled at how the apparently insignificant contents of conversational banter can have immense ramifications on the thinking of an individual (probably why I’m so fond of Connections and other works by James Burke) reading Deadly Decisions did that for me.  Suddenly all the conspiratorial thinking that fogged up my reason lifted, and I could just glimpse the million monkeys banging on keyboards producing, if not Shakespeare, then at least all the catastrophes of history that seemed to defy explanation. Humans as a group are not too bright and are prone to make decisions that lead to very, very bad outcomes.

Case in point, the attacks on 9-11.  Paraphrasing the chapters in the book detailing the failings that lead up to the attacks, the attacks were ultimately successful because that is how human systems fail.  The CIA was tracking the terrorists until they arrived in the US.  Once they were on US soil, the FBI claimed jurisdiction and promptly flushed the investigation. Not once but three times President Bush and his cabinet were advised that attacks on targets in the US using commercial airliners were being planned. None of the signals were acted upon, and nothing more is needed to explain the inaction beyond the observation that human systems fail in this fashion.  The only way to end these kinds of failures is to alter the way we think about the systems we create.

Ultimately no one is to blame for the attacks on 9-11 beyond the 11 men who successfully hijacked the planes and flew them into the buildings, because they were the ones who took those actions.


Some of the content I’ve posted other places follows, starting with proper reference links;

The first debunking site I remember going to;
http://www.debunking911.com/firsttime.htm

There were a lot of firsts for the WTC. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been hit with a plane traveling 500 miles an hour and had its fire proofing removed from its trusses. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever had its steel columns which hold lateral load sheared off by a 767. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been a building which had its vertical load bearing columns in its core removed by an airliner. For Building 7, in all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been left for 6-7 hours with its bottom floors on fire with structural damage from another building collapse. Not the Madrid/Windsor tower did not have almost 40 stories of load on its supports after being hit by another building which left a 20 story gash. The Madrid tower lost portions of its steel frame from the fire. Windsor’s central core was steel reinforced concrete. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been without some fire fighters fighting the fires.

I find it amusing, reading the thread I pulled this reference quote from. So much crap in my head at that time; but I was starting to work through it, call it into question, laugh at it, then discard it. I wish there was something worthy of posting from that period that I wrote. There isn’t. Just more of what is already on the blog that I don’t need more of.  Well, maybe this bit;


I love the way they say “collapsed in their footprint” as if that’s even the case. Watch the full video of the collapse, and you will see the outside skin peeling away OUTWARD as the upper floors collapse through them. One can duplicate this effect with a couple of cardboard paper towel rolls. The upper floors landed in the footprint, because the perimeter structure guided those floors down onto it, as it sheared away and impacted the structures around it. Those ‘explosive’ puffs of smoke? Smoke and Air escaping through the fracture points as the upper floor forced the compressed air beneath them out (also replicatable with some basic home items) This is a pretty straightforward structural failure, and the engineer who designed it was devastated by it. Watch the video of him discussing it, if you don’t believe me. 

When the US shot down a civilian airliner, back around gulf war one, I first noticed this unwillingness of Americans to accept facts related to tragedies. There were all these theories about the plane being loaded with corpses and flown into restricted airspace, that it wasn’t the US that fired on it, etc. Silly complexifying theories that just got in the way of understanding what really happened. This 9/11 truth stuff is nothing but more of the same. Got no time for it.


That bit and the bit where I laugh at Alex Jones for claiming that he predicted 9-11.


Alex Jones lives in Austin. The syndicated radio show comes from the local AM station that I listened to (3 to 6 pm weekdays. Jeff Ward, best radio show in Austin) A couple of my friends from my time at the local LP were part of his blue windbreaker truth squad (or whatever they called themselves) They all believed what he said implicitly, but to me it’s a lot like professional wrestling. It’s real to them, but that doesn’t make it true. Has anything that he’s promoted breathlessly in the last 20 years come true? The secret prisons? Any of it? He’s playing to his market, and he’s pretty good at it. Like Coast to Coast, there’s just enough truth buried in the exaggerations to make you pause. But in the end it’s entertainment, not science. If he predicted 9/11, then I predicted 9/11. 

It was a common argument in LP circles that an attack on the US was inevitable, because of our military adventurism. Hell, it was a rare day that went by where we DIDN’T talk about what form of attack might occur, and how that would be the end of freedom in this country, because the average American was completely unprepared to understand the costs of our military adventurism, and wouldn’t realize that our foreign policy lead us to this place.


The last debunking article I’d read was this one.

At a certain point, though, debating science and theory and ideas is an exercise in futility, because the hypotheses of conspiracy theorists are not grounded in any kind of a larger understanding of the real world. “This sounds really mean,” says Erik Sofge, a reporter on the original Popular Mechanics piece and an occasional contributor to Slate. “But really, it’s like arguing over the marching speed of hobbits.”

Slate: The Rise and Fall of the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory.

Here is a link to the NIST reports;
http://www.nist.gov/el/disasterstudies/wtc/wtc_finalreports.cfm 

Here is a link to the Commission report;
http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf

The final report from the NIST concerning building 7 including the modeling parameters (something I’ve been wanting to see)
http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=861612

Here’s the article where the AIA signs off on the NIST reports and distances itself from Richard Gage, the man behind AE911Truth.

All of Gage’s so-called evidence has been rebutted in peer-reviewed papers, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, by the American Society of Civil Engineers, by the 9/11 Commission Report, and, perhaps most memorably, by the 110-year-old engineering journal Popular Mechanics.

What is more interesting than these bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories is the way that Gage places his AIA membership front and center in his presentations. He seems to be attempting to cloak his organization in the officialdom of the venerable 155-year-old professional institution, even as AIA wants nothing to do with his organization.

Architects Shy From Trutherism July 19, 2012

Chris Mohr (this guy) is convinced that he has rebutted (not debunked but rebutted as in disproven, shown to be invalid, answered satisfactorily, etc.) Richard Gage, and was even featured onstage in a video with Gage that Gage’s own people refused to release, as he details in the opening seconds of the video playlist here.  The videos are as riveting as watching paint dry.  I don’t recommend them.

The Popular Mechanics article on the subject;

Healthy skepticism, it seems, has curdled into paranoia. Wild conspiracy tales are peddled daily on the Internet, talk radio and in other media. Blurry photos, quotes taken out of context and sketchy eyewitness accounts have inspired a slew of elaborate theories: The Pentagon was struck by a missile; the World Trade Center was razed by demolition-style bombs; Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet. As outlandish as these claims may sound, they are increasingly accepted abroad and among extremists here in the United States.

To investigate 16 of the most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists, POPULAR MECHANICS assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters who, together with PM editors, consulted more than 70 professionals in fields that form the core content of this magazine, including aviation, engineering and the military.

In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. Only by confronting such poisonous claims with irrefutable facts can we understand what really happened on a day that is forever seared into world history.

Debunking the 9/11 Myths: Special Report

…and I need to mention Skeptoid.com, which started the last conversation I had on the subject of 9-11 truth with the episode The Pentagon and the Missle.

The rabbit hole of 9-11 conspiracies these days begins and ends with Building 7.   Because of the positioning of the building on the site, it’s odd construction, et cetera, proponents of conspiracy theories always seem to point to building 7 as the most inexplicable part of the catastrophe.

However, it really is explainable, and the explanation isn’t implosion; the buildings didn’t disintegrate into dust, nor did they fall completely in their own footprints. Building 7 did not collapse at free fall velocities. 18 seconds per seismic monitoring; twice as long in duration than ‘free fall’.  I’ve toured ground zero, more than once. As a former architect I’ve studied the damage around that area numerous times. If you understand the structures, then you will understand why they failed the way they did. There’s nothing mysterious or inexplicable about that day and it’s events, not even the fact that W. ignored warnings in advance of the attacks. That is also completely normal human behavior.

Thirteen years and still no defectors from the group that set the bombs? Not one shred of documentation from the (and as a former architect, I know what documentation is required) thousands of pages of diagrams necessary to pull off a job of this magnitude? No significant amount of explosive residue (I have to say significant, because there was all kinds of materials in the buildings including trace amounts of explosives. Not enough to bring down the buildings) that leads to the culprits who made it? Nothing? Whereas (in that book I’ve already linked) you can find references to the CIA program that tracked the hijackers. Documentation for the meetings at which W. was warned of plans to attack with planes. In the NIST reports you can find explanations of how the structures failed the way they did. Etc. Etc. Etc. Mountains of evidence that support the explanation that planes struck the buildings just like we all saw, and the resultant damage and fires caused them to collapse, and to bring other buildings down with them. And against that mountain of evidence you have…?

The NIST report has been altered! It is full of errors

Anomaly hunting does not prove a counter argument; it simply points out anomalies in the data presented. In other words, because the government falsifies data, it doesn’t prove that the buildings were imploded, or the planes remote controlled, or whatever fanciful tale you prefer over the hard reality that occurred that day. In order for the data to be ‘falsified’ you have to prove intent to deceive, rather than simple error involved in a complex determination of structural failure.  Discounting all of the documentation accumulated on this subject because of errors in certain parts of the data is engaging in fallacious reasoning.

Anomalies in the data occur. That is reality not human nature. Building seven fell the way it did because that’s the way it’s particular frame failed with the damage it received. The side facing the twin towers fell first because of the damage it sustained, and it pulled the visible portions of the building back and down with it, making the collapse look “odd” from the perspective of the street (the only perspectives available) but is quite well explained by the NIST reports if you care to actually read them.

We knew about Watergate within the year that it occurred. MKultra within a decade of it’s ending. The NSA programs currently running stayed secret for less than a few years. The timeframes whereby secret operations remain unknown is getting shorter and shorter, and the more complex the operation, the less likely it will be able to remain secret for any amount of time.

The Manhattan project is another example of open secrets, like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in it’s own way. Anyone involved could have (and did) relate the incident when they felt they were clear of reprisal. Where are the confessions for the people involved in the implosion of building 7?

There is no magical waiver for illegal operations documentation, coordination and manpower. No way that planning materials can be made to disappear in a flash of smoke, rendering any copy of the record of the intense planning required to bring down structures the size of the World Trade Center incapable of being found and used to expose the conspiracy. Complex operations must be documented and coordinated. The more complex, the more documentation and manpower. People talk, and documents will be found. That is what happens. The claim that this doesn’t happen in this special instance is completely irrational.

But Thermite!

The possibility of using thermite to cut steel does not equate to thermite being used to cut steel in this instance. I can cut steel with a cutting torch, it does not mean they used a cutting torch to bring down the WTC. Even if it were possible, there has not been enough residue found on the debris to conclude that it was used in this fashion. Once again, anomaly hunting is not evidence. To paraphrase another skeptic, making selective choices amongst competing evidence, so as to emphasize the results that support a given position, while ignoring or dismissing any findings that do not support it, is a practice known as “cherry picking” and is a hallmark of poor science or pseudo-science.

PurgatoryIronworks, Dec 15, 2015 For the undying 9/11 MORONIC JET FUEL ARGUMENT (YouTube)

I love this wikipedia page. It is a page heavily edited by 9-11 truthers and it brings up and then dismisses with evidence every objection to the NIST report.  It is an excellent illustration of how all of these arguments have been had before, by people more informed than either side of an imaginary argument between me and whoever is reading this.

The desperation in truther mentality is quite amusing. Conspiracy theorists in general go through the years convinced that there is some nefarious plot afoot that will destroy civilization as we know it if it isn’t revealed to the world.

…however, these same conspiracies have been floated for decades. The bilderbergers, the Rothschilds, The JFK assassination, 911 truth, etc, etc, etc. Weirdly, the world just keeps on turning, never noticing that the plots go unchallenged by the vast majority of the population. How is it that these conspiracies have failed to take over the world? When these groups have been actively conspiring now since before the First World War?

Column 79 held up the building?

Column 79 in WTC7 being the first to fail,as suggested by the NIST report, makes perfect sense. The penthouse which is seen to drop before the facade of the building does has a corner on column 79. Had any other column been suggested to fail first, you would have to explain the kink in the facade which is visible when the building starts to collapse, and the disappearance of roof structures in that area before the rest of building collapses.

Anyone who thinks that therefore only colum 79 held up the building doesn’t understand structure or the phrase progressive failure which, contrary to the internet meme, has nothing to do with Obama. Progressive failure describes how the tall buildings we occupy are carefully crafted latticeworks of interlocking support members, the loss of any one of which can lead to the entire structure collapsing. Any first year engineering student understands this theory and works to avoid a circumstance where progressive failure would bring an entire building down.

…and if you have other questions, you might want to peruse this link for answers before postulating anything else that makes you look like an idiot.

Progressive Failure is the exact mechanism of crafted structures that implosion methods exploit in order to bring down buildings. All of the building collapses on 9-11 represented sobering problems for future engineers, because engineers specifically attempt to design buildings to not do what those buildings did anyway.

Anyone in the AEC community who clings to the implosion theory for the WTC structures is engaging in a well known psychological evasion technique, probably due to an emotional need to prove someone else is to blame aside from the engineering community. Consequently it’s actually surprising that so few architects and engineers are truthers. This speaks to the strength of the evidence, rather than the weakness of the individuals involved.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Conspiracy theorists rely on this while spinning their theories. There’s no room for the knowledge that things were different and seen differently before the incident; so the idea that you might not conclude that what we after the fact would see as a threat, would not be seen as a threat at the time. That there were vested interests denying that America could be attacked directly, and that attempts to investigate the conspirators before the attack were actively discouraged by these interests. That the government was warned multiple times prior to the attack, but then modified the narrative to remove these references after the fact, and that this is simply the way human systems have been shown to operate.

Third times a charm for this link; Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War I cannot recommend the book highly enough for sorting through the noise related to the 9-11 attacks. It is not an either/or question concerning the attacks. It is a question of just how severely our government failed us.

What brought down the buildings? Waiting for proof that it wasn’t planes, fire and construction techniques that lead to their collapse is waiting on someone to manufacture evidence. Because nothing of any credible significance has ever been found that says otherwise.

99% Invisible

Social media abuzz over Piers Morgan vs. Alex Jones

I hadn’t noticed. Apparently Alex Jones went on Piers Morgan’s show on CNN and was typically Alex Jones. Weirdly, people were surprised to discover that Alex Jones was a complete nutjob. People were also weirdly surprised that a talking head with a British accent doesn’t like guns, almost as if they didn’t know that the United Kingdom has some pretty strict regulations on guns, which is why the United States adopted the second amendment, rightly or wrongly.

This is further evidence that ,

  • I’ve never been happier to not be a watcher/listener of either of these idiot’s shows (or CNN in general)
  • That Alex Jones and a good portion of his followers are becoming dangerously deluded. Banning assault rifles isn’t coming for your guns. The assault rifle dressing on the weapon may be cosmetic, but it also might serve a purpose (too bad no one seems to be studying the subject in depth) and I would really like to ask these people, who think they should have access to military grade weapons, exactly which weekends each month are they spending training with their (state/locally organized) militias? I’d really like to get a serious answer to that question, because it’s the part of the amendment which seems to be completely ignored. And
  • It’s time to re-institute the fairness doctrine on bandwidths which are licensed from the FCC. If these panderers of vitriol wish to continue their paranoid rants, they should be required to balance their adrenaline feed hysteria with an equal number of hours of quiet mood music. Also
  • Most Americans are complete morons when it comes to history.

I was sick of Alex Jones when he was running his public access channel here in Austin; and he should still be doing that channel, because his rants haven’t changed. Generally to warrant a larger audience, your communications skills and message should improve. His is the same, old, tired Schtick. Piers handled him perfectly. “Oh, would you like more rope? Here, let me get that for you.”

On the other hand, everyone who is pro-gun simply skips over the parts of the Second Amendment they don’t want to address. If the State of Texas drafted every 18 to 21 year old tomorrow and started a militia as it was intended by the founders, there would be screaming all across the state. But that is what the 2nd establishes.

The fact that the federal government already limits access to other military grade weapons, and so can limit access to the ‘assault rifles’ as well if it so desires. Want a semi-auto (that fires more accurately, I might add) anyway? Buy one that isn’t dressed up to look sexy and sell to wanna-be soldiers; or become one. A soldier, that is. Satisfying a need for defense (the finding in the Heller case) can be defined as “shall-issue” permitting for a weapon. this doesn’t mean there can’t be required training to go along with that permitting. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the exact type of weapon you want. Pro-gunners want this to be about banning all guns, because they win if that’s the argument. It’s not the argument being advanced.

I get it, no one wants to be defenseless. If these gunnuts (and I mean that in the kindest way) want to have 50, 100 guns, machine guns, rocket launchers, tanks, whatever; it’s completely within reason for the government to turn around (local, state and/or federal) and say “OK, if you want those weapons, insist on having those weapons, you will be trained and certified to carry those weapons, and you will do it in the following prescribed manner.” There is nothing in the Constitution that limits the cities and states from creating militias of their own and requiring all citizens to participate and be trained. No matter what historically the Second Amendment meant to have a militia. We aren’t living in history, we live in the here and now.

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America: From Freedom to Fascism

I invited a friend along and went out to take in America: From Freedom to Fascism this last Sunday night.

As a long time member of the Libertarian Party, I was already pretty familiar with a large portion of the central argument in the film; the unconstitutional nature of the Income Tax and the Tax Honesty movement that is trying to shed a little light on the subject. However, the film certainly doesn’t limit itself to this subject alone.

Done much in the style of Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, which brought Michael Moore critical acclaim, Aaron Russo is trying to bring some popular attention to arguably the most serious problem in America today, the growing size and power of government.

So I was prepared for sensationalism, and I was prepared to hear many arguments I’d heard before. What I wasn’t prepared for were the interviews with several former IRS agents who are now the targets of the agency they worked for. I wasn’t prepared for the frank conversation with a juror from a failure to file case who simply states “they never produced the law”. I wasn’t prepared for the (former) IRS commissioner who showed nothing but contempt for court rulings and questions from citizens concerning the nature of the laws that govern us all.

I found these sequences to be the most illuminating, since they involved people who aren’t in the “tax honesty” movement. Not that G. Edward Griffin, Bob Schulz and others don’t deserve respect for at least standing up in the face of tyranny that is the IRS; but that these people had no axe to grind, and yet found themselves unable to answer the very simple question “what is the law that requires an American to file and pay income tax?” In the case of the (former) commissioner, he could not present a reasonable argument concerning the existence of the law, even though he ‘wrote’ the tax code.

In the end, it was Dr. Ron Paul’s answer that I think is the most ‘truthful’. To paraphrase the gist of it, he said he knew of no law that requires Americans to file and pay the income tax on the face of it; but since those who carry the guns and enforce the IRS code think they are authorized to do so, it makes very little difference.

…Which is pretty much my opinion on the matter in a nutshell.

The remainder of the film tallies up a rather frightening list of programs, executive orders, and laws that together with the current electronic voting nightmare, and police largesse, paints a pretty grim picture of the future. Anyone who has visited Alex Jones‘ sites is probably familiar with the gist of it. Whether you take any of it seriously is entirely up to you.

The problems with the film are visible the moment you sit down and it starts rolling. First, the film was shot on DV, and hasn’t been transferred to film for projection purposes (at least it wasn’t in the theatre that I went to) so the quality of the viewing experience is less than most people would expect. The pixelization on the screen makes the production appear to be amateurish, something I’m sure Russo wasn’t looking for when he made the film. If the theatre had been equipped with a decent DLP projector, the results might have been different.

Second, the theatre I attended was only about a third full. The people who need to see this film will never attend it of their own free will. They are far to willing to have their minds numbed by watching films of the caliber of “You, Me and Dupree” to ever do the requisite thinking required to appreciate the message Aaron Russo is trying to communicate.

…And since they make up the majority of “We the People”, the sovereigns who are supposed to be “Eternally vigilant” in order to preserve our freedom, it leaves me very little doubt that the future described in “America: From Freedom to Fascism” really isn’t too far away.