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November 23, 2009

I Wonder If Harry Reid Has Told Obama This Story

This is an interesting story from Harry Reid's autobiography The Good Fight:

...on the evening of Kennedy's death, I sat with Congressman Baring of Nevada as he nursed his drink. And I was shattered. Then Baring said something that I will never forget. He was a conservative Democrat, reactionary actually, one of those guys for whom there was a Communist behind every bush. Fluoride was a Communist plot. And Kennedy, too, had been leading us down the path to Communism, Baring told me. It was probably a good thing that he was murdered.

I don't know anything about the Kennedy assassination, and I probably never will unless I live to be 10,000 years old and have some spare time. But I do think the standard left-wing position—that it would have made no sense for right-wing elements in the government to kill Kennedy, because he was pretty right-wing himself—is wrong. Making sense has nothing to do with it. There was a big section of the U.S. elite in 1963 that was genuinely insane. For them, if you didn't want to reinstitute actual slavery and then launch a sneak nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, you might as well have been named Vladimir Lenin. And they haven't changed that much since.

(I learned about Reid's story from this, which is interesting on its own.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at November 23, 2009 02:23 AM

right-wing elements in the government

If indeed the usual theory said that, you may have the point. But the folklore is that Kennedy was topped by those elements of the government closest to the national security apparatus, with which Kennedy was cosy, for a supposed reluctance to pursue US imperialism, including an escalation of the Vietnam War, which Kennedy did not possess. The people responsible in the conspiracy scenario, particularly what with the required attendant massive cover-up, would have had to be part of the power structure - not powerless nutbars like Baring. Crazies like he might have thought JFK was as good as a communist; the people who could have pulled off the conspiracy weren't that clueless. They knew which side Kennedy was on; had been on, in fact, ever since he and his brother ran errands for Tailgunner Joe. They had no reason to remove him. A friend of communist Cuba did have a reason; and indeed much of Kennedy's terror campaign against the island was wound down by LBJ. (So I'm led to believe.) Not that that's an endorsement, mind.

Just saying: Baring and his ilk =/= the people who could - even at a stretch - have gotten away with having JFK whacked.

Posted by: weaver at November 23, 2009 07:05 AM

a slip of the pen on reid's part? how did the editors let that one get by?

reid is like the mormon vampires in "twilight."

mormon vampires. mormon vampires. mormon vampires.

harry reid.

Posted by: anon at November 23, 2009 07:08 AM

When conspiracy theory debunkers delve into motivations they generally makes asses of themselves. Such as a debate Matt Taibbi had with a 9/11 "inside job" theorist. Matt said that the government had no motivation to allow or fake a terrorist attack, because they could do what they wanted anyway. Which is absurd, because obviously passing the Patriot Act days after 9/11, attacking Afghanistan, attacking Iraq etc., and the infamous "new Pearl Harbor," PNAC turd-dropping fantasy would not have been so easy, though not to say impossible, if Bush and Friends hadn't "won the trifecta."

So it's interesting to me that someone who seems fairly intelligent, and is hellbent on defending the official 9/11 story, can do extensive research, and his crowning argument is that, (I paraphrase) "the empire had nothing to gain."

Even Hitler needed to stage enemy attacks, to propagandize the German people into viciousness against Jews or Polish.

And how many Roman emperors were assassinated? I doubt many were killed because they were too peaceful, likes black people too much or whatever as Kennedy fantasists believe about their hero.

I know that the US government, like all governments but on the grandest scale, is murderous, so whether they were complicit in killing certain people on a certain day isn't terribly important to me. No more than the ending of a book. But believing that the CIA and the rest of the Complex, responsible for tens of millions of deaths around the globe, wouldn't kill one, or a few thousand Americans, (not believing that they didn't, but that they wouldn't) is pathetic.

Posted by: Marcus at November 23, 2009 09:46 AM

I like Ms. Essman's letter. Imagine that, people even in 1963 didn't want to be thought of as cranks or busy-bodies.


Your understanding is off. The right-wingers with Baring's views were the powers in the National Security State, and they still are. I hope you don't take offense, but you misunderstand JFK's politics and the political undercurrents of that time too.

Jethro's Cousin:

In 2009, it doesn't take 10,000 years to understand the JFK assassination. It was once very difficult, but not now. John Newman, career naval intelligence officer and professional historian, has now publicly written that whoever was behind the assassination was powerful enough to enlist infamous CIA Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton in the plot, because elements of the plot in Newman's opinion would not have been possible without Angleton's involvement. Newman is no hippy or flake, but as I said, a career naval intelligence officer and professional historian. The 2008 epilogue to his re-issue of Oswald and the CIA (originally published in 1994) lays out why he has concluded that Angleton was likely involved.

Newman is if anything cautious. The epilogue in question can be read in about an hour, which is considerably less than 10,000 years.

In less time than it takes to complete a single college course, the nuts and bolts of the JFK assassination can be understood. Reading about half a dozen books is enough, because at least 95% of everything written on the subject is mostly worthless either because it's sloppy or dishonest or both. Nor is separating the wheat from the chaff all that hard now either, because the quality of the best books is recognizable.

They are:

James Douglas's JFK: Why He Died and Why it Matters (2008) (simply a great book for those open to the idea that such things do matter)

Gerard McNight's Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why (2005) (McNight, another professional historian, lives up to his subtitle)

Dick Russell's The Man Who Knew Too Much (2003). (the utterly fascinating story of intelligence agent Richard Case Nagell, which dovetails with the story of one Lee Harvey Oswald)

William Davy's Let Justice Be Done (1999) about the Jim Garrison investigation and trial of Clay Shaw. (Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio is also very good on the same subject)

Gaeton Fonzi's The Last Investigation (1994). (Fonzi, a former investigator for the House Select Committee on Investigations, recounts the Congressional effort to investigate the JFK assassination in 1978 and the intelligence agencies' tampering with and successful effort to control the investigation.)

David Talbot's Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years (2007) (invaluable for its examination of how the assassination was actually viewed by RFK and Jackie and others in Washington and Moscow, though some silly, Langley-concocted slanders of JFK are included in the book, perhaps to ward off a charge of hagiography)

Articles edited by DiEugenio and Lisa Pease collected under the title "The Assassinations" (2003) (especially revelatory as to the CIA's control over the media, both in the 60s and continuing into the 90s at the time Oliver Stone made JFK)

Those books can together be read in a few months without abandoning gainful employment or other responsibilities. The view that it would take ten thousand years to understand the JFK assassination is self-protective. It anticipates and avoids the cognitive dissonance that such knowledge creates, because people of conscience tend to feel like they should do something if that's really how our government/society works.

Posted by: N E at November 23, 2009 10:04 AM


The major media corporations aren't ever going to have a genuine debate about 9/11 or the assassination of a US President or CIA drug trafficking or various other taboo topics, and EVERY "journalist" instinctively intuits that initiating a real debate about such issues is a one-way ticket to a new career. Even just an entertainer like Rosie O'Donnell stayed on The View about a week after she said something about Building 7 at the WTC. And those few intrepid journalists inclined toward such daring behavior probably have heard of Gary Webb.

So yes, Matt Taibbi will be stupidly dismissive. For him, not being stupidly dismissive would be stupidly self-destructive. Don't expect that to change anytime soon.

I agree with you that there's little reason to think that people who will kill foreigners wouldn't also kill Americans if ordered or even persuaded to do so. That view that such things wouldn't happen here seems to be tied, like so many other pernicious ideas, to American exceptionalism. Ordinary people in almost all other countries are aware that their own governments will kill them if the need arises. Why would we be different?

And, of course, we're not. We have had slavery and genocide and Jim Crow and massive violence against labor and the poor throughout our history. Political ideology just isn't fact-based, and I don't know why that would change either. So you might want to make your peace with having a lonely understanding of how Power works.

Posted by: N E at November 23, 2009 10:31 AM

Motives are uninteresting in cases like 9/11 and JFK. One can always come up with numerous groups who had motives to do such things.

As for American exceptionalism, it's not exceptionalism to notice that countries differ. The Roman Empire and the British Empire in the 19th Century were both brutal, but the elites in the British Empire did not rise to the top by assassinating each other.

As for books, if I ever read a book on this subject I'll start with Bugliosi and then move on to the conspiracy types.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 23, 2009 12:59 PM

It is one thing to acknowledge that the powerful would be willing to kill the President or innocent Americans to achieve their ends; it is another to imagine that they would have the wherewithal to pull it off successfully.

Chomsky points out that conspiracy theorists assume that power is as it wishes to be perceived: as Power, monolithic, far-reaching, omnipotent, ever-capable.

In reality, power is divided, short-sighted, and frequently inept. And more crucially, leaky. For JFK to have been murdered by cabal would have taken the connivance of hundreds--surely some of them would have talked by now? And for the Bush administration to have perpetrated 9/11 it would have required probably thousands of people to have participated actively in mass murder, in perfect silence. And eight years on, no one had a crisis of conscience?

Imagining that there are secret crimes is a good way to forget that there are plenty of state crimes being committed all the time, in the open, without any need for active conspiracy.

Posted by: Seth at November 23, 2009 01:56 PM

Until recently, my view of JFK himself resembled weaver's. Though I've never read Sy Hersh's book on Kennedy, I gather it might be the source of the outlook that I've absorbed primarily as CW in left-wing circles (hardened by confirmation from facts like Robert F. Kennedy having authorized the taps on MLK).

A month or so ago, I decided, based on NE's posts, to look at the subject of the Kennedy presidency and assassination again (in a limited way) for the first time in thirty years. I'm still agnostic on the whodunit of the killing, but feel compelled by some of the new information and documents that have become available in recent years to re-evaluate my jaundiced take on JFK's foreign policy.

I'm not to the point of accepting the thesis of the James Douglass book (which I plan to read only if circumstances combine to put me in a much, much more serene mood than I've been in for most of 2009), but I do believe in assimilating new information. In this case that would be the documentation of Kennedy's intention to de-escalate U.S. involvement in Viet Nam and of his having attempted to establish back channels for personal negotiation with both Kruschev and Castro

Of course a lot of room exists for context, interpretation, and countervailing evidence. More documents will be coming out in the next decade, as we pass the 50-year mark. I'm pretty reluctant in general to dismiss outright many of the theories out there.

The war and postwar in El Salvador taught me about the power and variety of the motivations that keep people, including me, from telling some inconvenient truths even after it might seem "safe" to do so.

Posted by: Nell at November 23, 2009 02:06 PM

oh the saintly JFK
is a notion that has legs
running smoothly still today
among the Donkle's meagre dregs

but if Johnny was a saint
then Obama is a god
to the blind horse the difference ain't
could be a wink, or a nod

Barack he is baroque
and the Kennedys be golden
but who can stand the joke
or the lie, which is olden?

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 23, 2009 02:25 PM

Donald Johnson

Bugliosi? I don't think you'll find much true about the JFK assassination in his book Reclaiming History, though apparently some of his other books are good. Jim DiEugenio, who says that he knows and likes Bugliosi, has done a lengthy and well-written review of Reclaiming History. You can find it here:

Your comment indicates that you would start with Bugliosi it if you were going to read something, but before you read 1500 pages you might want to consider the formidable defects of Bugliosi's book. You should be able to identify them from DiEugenio's review. He's honest and has no axe to grind with Bugliosi.


For me it matters less who killed JFK than how and why the Warren Commission became a sham, and how the government and the media have thereafter prevented public awareness of the the truth. That very directly relates to how much democracy we can have, which is the most important question we continue to face. JFK is, as Marcus noted, only one of millions of people who has been murdered in history. The significance of his assassination, like other political assassinations, is that it is a crime in perpetuity against democracy. (And in his case against peace too.)

Hersh's dreadful book about Camelot is indeed partly to blame for much of the left's views about JFK. Random House gave him a million dollars to write his anti-Camelot book, and then a host of people with ties to Langley told him a bunch of lies, which to his discredit he used. The book The Assassinations contains a very informative article by Jim DiEugenio, "The Posthumous Assassination of JFK," that lays it all out. I don't think it works any differently on a host of other issues such a massacres abroad, the conduct of our wars, CIA drug trafficking, stolen elections, military corruption, etc.

Posted by: N E at November 23, 2009 03:39 PM


I probably once thought all that, though it would be more accurate to say I didn't think about it at all.

The question isn't really can Presidents be assassinated and terrorist acts can be committed. The question is whether they are, and when. That has nothing to do with assumptions about power, whether far-reaching or monolithic or omnipotent or otherwise. The inquiry is empirical. People who don't want to bother with looking at evidence for a variety of reasons tend to turn the inquiry into metaphysics. That's what you did.

Power certainly can be "divided, short-sighted, and frequently inept." But it isn't always, and even if it is, a crime can be botched and still be successful. That might sound odd, but it really is just a question of good planning, and there's nothing unusual about it. Don't underestimate intelligence agencies.

People who don't explore evidence are prone to saying things like "surely some of them would have talked." Struck by that tendency, a JFK researcher named Larry Hancock actually wrote a book by the title of "Someone Would Have Talked." In fact, many people have talked a great deal and millions of documents that the CIA denied existed in the 1960s have been declassified and made public in the 90s after the release of Oliver Stone's movie JFK. Much is known even if you don't know it. The problem is, it's also very easy to pay people to lie, and to fake documents and otherwise create confusion. If you have never examined the history of military intelligence agencies, the FBI, and the CIA in the US, you might not realize how easy it is for them to do that. Do some reading about COINTELPRO or the revelations of the Church Committee hearings in the 70s. I hope you don't think the CIA has gotten less adept at all this over time.

Your view about 9/11 seems based on the false notion that a covert action cannot be conducted without sending around a detailed action memo to everyone assigned any task in connection with any part of the whole plan. That is not how the military and the intelligence agencies work. People follow orders without knowing what larger scheme those orders are part of, or what larger purpose they serve, and if necessary it is not so difficult to camouflage the purpose of orders either.

I have watched Jessie Ventura, a former Navy Seal, be questioned about this by incredulous journalists. (No stranger mix of cynicism and incredulity can be found than in journalists.) They raised the point you do, and Jessie Ventura shook his head knowingly and recounted a conversation he had with a friend of his who discovered while watching the Iran Contra hearings in the 80s that he, Ventura's friend, had been involved in Iran Contra without even knowing it at the time. Orders are given on a "need to know" basis, and you don't call up a superior officer and ask for more information while you consider whether to obey them. You have to do what you are ordered to do without asking questions, and you better do it.

There is much about 9/11 that is not known, because the American people collectively are not all that powerful vis a vis their government, and they are collectively willing to embrace your assumption that such things cannot happen and so never require any meaningful investigation of whether they actually have happened. But some things about 9/11 are publicly known, such as the occurrence of several different war games on that day by the Pentagon. The occurrence of those war games simultaneous with the attack frustrated efforts to locate and intercept the hijacked passenger jets, which on any other day would NOT have been able to fly around North America for nearly two hours without being intercepted. It seems that the war games in question may even have involved an exercise involving hijacked jets and false radar blips, which would help explain how the fiasco of such absurdly nonexistence air response could have happened. I mention that because to have a "crisis of conscience" as you suggest someone would have, people have to think they did something wrong, and they also have to know what they did. You don't get much of a crisis of conscience from participating in simulated war games and the like. Not many people need to know "why" questions in a military or intelligence operation, so many people may not even understand what exactly they did.

If you were to examine the history pertinent to your assumption that it would be difficult to keep a major covert operation silent, you would discover that the assumption is not factually supportable. Covert actions and intelligence operations are rarely revealed by participants, and even less rarely are they revealed contemporaneously. We know this because many such covert operations have taken place, but in fact very few have become public for the reasons you identify. Secrecy agreements work. Typically past covert actions have become known, if at all, decades after the fact as a result of the release of declassified documents, the publication of memoirs, and changes in government or unanticipated events leading to the publication of files. Upon publication, the information is then largely ignored or dismissed by people who cannot reconcile it with their preconceptions. Regrettably, most people dismiss evidence in favor of their preconceptions, and even that only has to happen if they have been confronted with evidence. Nothing is easier than avoiding knowledge a person doesn't want to possess. Most people really just don't bother with evidence all that much.

Finally, sure there are state crimes, or what we would call crimes, that are committed in the open without the need for much concealment, but crimes of the sort that you inexplicably characterize as involving "active conspiracy" would shake the very foundations of government if enough people believed they are possible. If people believed such crimes are possible, people might actually demand that they be investigated. And if they were investigated, the truth might be determined. And that, seth, could constrain the managers of the National Security State in their ability to manipulate events to provoke and justify wars and sustain imperial interests and ambitions that are very much contrary to the bests interests of the American people, not to mention millions of people killed abroad.

So in fact this seemingly academic disagreement is no trivial matter, as your intuition should tell you. I admire Chomsky, but he can prattle on about democratic socialism until the cows come home--just look how successful that has been. Most people would (and do) get much more worked up about the possibility that someone in the government has assassinated the President or murdered people or stolen an election or trafficked in drugs. It would be dangerous for people to believe that, so the CIA has been aggressive--and successful--in managing public opinions about these issues. Whether you want to believe it or not, you are thinking exactly what you are supposed to think. As Richard Nixon said, the ordinary American is like the child in the family.

This is a big, big problem, not merely an idle dispute. These issues now go to the heart of why democracy has become a sham in America. We need to fix them, because otherwise all the other fixes won't work. Until the power of the National Security State is brought under control, it will be an unaccountable power, and it has already shown a capacity for decisive ruthlessness that does not bode well for the future. The National Security State needs a leash.

Posted by: N E at November 23, 2009 06:18 PM

Jesus, N E, has there been a Democratic president you don't think was a deeply misunderstood saint?

Partisan hackery and conspiracy theory - such a fragrant combination.

his crowning argument is that, (I paraphrase) "the empire had nothing to gain."

His crowning argument is that Truthers have no even halfway sensible theory of the crime.

Posted by: weaver at November 23, 2009 07:21 PM

N E, probably someone has asked for your own blog url before, but I missed it ... ?

Posted by: Cloud at November 23, 2009 07:55 PM

NE, I'll take this seriously when someone proves that something like Operation Northwoods was actually carried out, with large numbers of Americans deliberately murdered by The National Security State in terrorist actions blamed on overseas actors. Who is in charge of that, anyway? I mean, when Cheney isn't in office? Obviously they must skip over the Democratic Presidents, but from my understanding of how sociopaths and Mafia chiefs operate, they don't willingly share power with each other. How does it work? Who makes the decision to kill thousands of Americans in a false flag operation? Who is the personnel director? After all, you have to know who is a reliable sociopath and who is a normal American who would find such plotting treasonous and you have to have people who are good with explosives (to bring down the Towers and WTC7) and so forth.

Weaver is right--Taibbi's best point is that it's awfully hard to imagine a halfway plausible theory for the 9/11 crime if it was an inside job. The official story--Al Qaeda did it--has the merit of being believable. I could be persuaded to believe without too much trouble that Cheney and others knew something was up and thought it might be convenient for their own plans if not too much was done to stymie it. But I don't know that this happened.

As for Bugliosi, if I ever read about JFK I'm going to read all sides. But it's unlikely I could keep my eyelids propped open for very long--so much of it seems to hinge on which witness said what, whether Oswald was really seen here or there, whether a money order was mailed, etc.... No wonder the question attracts obsessives--you have to be, to keep track of all this. I suppose police detectives and criminal lawyers and prosecutors find this kind of thing interesting. But it's what you have to care about if you are going to investigate the case--all the "deep" questions about motives don't amount to anything, since half the planet probably had a motive to take a potshot at JFK (or any other President).

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 23, 2009 08:14 PM

The fables spun by N E are much like the meanderings of the average academic -- authoritative-sounding, polysyllabic, and ultimately empty.

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 23, 2009 08:44 PM

I wasn't a deeply misunderstood saint. I was an asshole.

Posted by: Grover Cleveland at November 23, 2009 08:48 PM

A little microcosm on the pages of the Times about a month ago

“The methods of defeating or deterring covert action in the 1960s and 1970s can still be instructive to the United States’ current enemies,” a C.I.A. official wrote in a court filing.

Yeah I bet.

When it comes to information, a void always seems to have an agenda.

Sometimes it just wants to keep being a void.

Sometimes it just wants to keep murdering people.

But either way, I'd say motive is pretty important.

Posted by: BenP at November 23, 2009 08:55 PM


I actually don't really know who the "Truthers" are, though I suspect some of the most ridiculous of what you've seen are what I would call fools provocateur. That was very effective in the late 60s and 70s, so I don't know why the intel agencies would stop doing it.

I do every so often read something from the 9/11 pilots group site or the 9/11 architects and engineers group site, or of course from the history commons timeline, but I view what happened on 9/11 as an issue, not a political movement. Chomsky is right about that.

JFK wasn't a saint just because you don't understand him, or just because the CIA has been telling lies about him for a long time. Jesus Christ, have we reached the point where someone is a saint if he isn't a warmonger? Believe it or not, some people who aren't saints can be brave enough to do the right thing when it counts, and it doesn't imply they have the character of Debs or Gandhi. They could be wrong about many other things. But JFK was killed because he refused to give the warmongers their war, and he knew it might happen and refused anyway, and that, weaver, was brave and commendable.

FDR was a great President, though not a saint, and Henry Wallace could have been good too had his removal from the ticket in 44 not been orchestrated by the OSS and the incipient National Security State. Instead we got Harry Truman, who sucked, and the Cold War, which also sucked and prepared us to have this godforsaken war on terror or long war or perpetual war, because whatever we call it it sucks too. But even Harry Truman wasn't as crazy or dangerous as Macarthur and the hard-core rollback anticommunists who wanted a nuclear war. Nobody even knows it, but somebody tried to kill Truman too on November 3 1950, when the Chinese and Macarthur were at each other's throats, and they did that basically just because Truman didn't suck ENOUGH.

Woodrow Wilson tried to do some great things but failed, and he was by no means a saint, but by the standards of the Presidency, he was excellent. Trying to create a League of Nations to prevent further great power wars was commendable, and persisting in the face of so many betrayals within his own administration and in the face of so much underhanded rotten opposition by Teddy Roosevelt and Lodge was also commendable. I give Wilson points for trying to do the right things even though he didn't get it done.

Carter had decent intentions but lacked the knowledge and sophistication in international politics and intrigue necessary to survive in the den of wolves known as the Washington. He was politically destroyed with intelligence operations and misconduct that the public still doesn't know about but that have been amply testified to in various memoirs at this point. If a President isn't cunning and careful, he'll be destroyed by his enemies, foreign and domestic. If that President has anti-militarist leanings, those enemies will be the most dangerous of all, and will most certainly conspire through the perfect institutional structure, intelligence agencies and networks. Our present western intelligence alliances were formed at the outset of Carter's Presidency through something known as the Safari Club, which was an outgrowth of the Pinay Circle and was involved with Thatcher's rise in Britain and Reagan getting elected in the US. The Safari Club was also involved in the rise of militant Islam, which furthered US and British intelligence interests in South and Central Asia with Saudi money. Allen Dulles himself once wrote that an intelligence agency is the perfect mechanism to implement a conspiracy. Of course, we have to pretend that isn't so, but it is.

LBJ was cowardly as a President in foreign affairs, and to the extent he was good in domestic affairs it was only because he implemented JFK's agenda to ward off a challenge from Bobby. So oddly the best and the worst of LBJ stemmed from his reaction to the Kennedys, whom he hated. In Eisenhower's view, LBJ was a small man, and I tend to concur. But at least he wasn't a nutcase like Goldwater.

George McGovern, whom I personally like and admire, was a great man, the kind of man who was a decorated bomber pilot and never talked about it because he disliked war. But like Carter McGovern just didn't have the political cunning needed to be President. Had he been elected, he would have been destroyed, which is a pity. But as with Carter, he is an example that picking a President is a little more than just choosing the best person.

Clinton proves the opposite. He was all about Clinton and phony and compromised to the core. Roger Morris's writings about him are illuminating. The CIA has no problem with Clinton. He and Poppy Bush seem like pals. I bet he can even get along with W. I think he shows the opposite of what Carter and McGovern do: Make sure that the person you support does have some character or you'll be triangulated to death.

As for Obama, we'll see. I don't think he's that powerful, which is certainly consistent with Gates still being the Secretary of Defense. But you actually may know more about Obama than I do. Then again, no matter what either one of us knows, we don't really have enough information to assess what's going on with regard to some issues like Afghanistan. Too much is classified, too much happening behind the scenes. So much for democracy.

It's very distressing that the intel agencies and Pentagon have been able to get so much control of the political system and media that there really is no meaningful public discussion about how aggressive our military policies are, and how insanely expensive. If nothing else, that shows the complete disfunction of Congress and the media. Because that's the case, Obama is almost being asked to box while handcuffed. The National Security State is dangerously strong right now.

Posted by: N E at November 23, 2009 09:07 PM

Ah, voids.

That's what's responsible for everything.

It's good to have it all pinned down.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 23, 2009 09:28 PM

Snarkiness abhors a vacuum (of snarkiness). :)

While we're exchanging sideways glances, I find "Who Benefits" to be an inherently interesting subject. Even in tangles like 9/11 or JFK... or pretty much anything really. Its kind of what animates things, no? Even secrecy for its own sake. That there's often competing interests, subversive interests, misleading interests etc shouldn't distract from the utility of following the dough (as best one can).

Posted by: BenP at November 23, 2009 10:44 PM

So when did democracy in America "work," then?

Posted by: StO at November 23, 2009 10:53 PM

I'm disappointed there aren't 700 comments on this yet.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at November 23, 2009 10:56 PM

Mister Schwarz, you realize NE is just one person and he can't do it all by himself.

Posted by: Grover Cleveland at November 24, 2009 12:30 AM

Donald Johnson:

It's up to you what you take seriously. I actually don't really believe that people change each other's mind about issues like this very often, and I certainly don't have anything against people who disagree with me about this. I just try to correct the pervasive misimpression that these opinions aren't based on facts and evidence. That's social propaganda of the highest order.

I don't know what exactly happened on 9/11 and don't ever expect to. I think I've said that. American intel operations typically are very complex, so complex that one KGB guy once complained that they were never sure when the Americans seemed to have done something stupid if they were just missing something. And as the very wise old Peter Dale Scott has noted, it is not necessarily the case that these sorts of operations are carried out by a single nation state. There's a lot of international intel cooperation now, and has been for some time. It's a small world after all.

The one thing the US government does control, however, is whether there would be a real investigation or instead a coverup. We got a coverup. Go figure.

To me, the combination of a coverup and a huge motive is very powerful circumstantial evidence of US government complicity. What persuades you is your view that it would be difficult to get away with such a thing, impossible to keep it quiet, and therefore too risky to attempt. That's Chomsky's view too, and he's a smart guy, at least when he is talking about other things. But I don't agree with any of those three postulates. I think they're all wrong as a historical and factual matter.

What persuades me, beyond coverup, motive, and opportunity, is that the official story has always been complete BS. Of that there is not the tiniest question. Plus, the physical evidence in connection with the towers is consistent with thermate cutting charges and wholly inconsistent with the jet fuel and the crash having caused the collapse. I don't think it's a close issue, and that being so, it seems to me that those towers were highly unlikely to have been brought down by the mysterious minions of Osama bin Laden. So who did do it?

Your approach to analyzing this issue puzzles me a bit. When I come upon evidence that suggests something, I don't first ask myself whether what I see is possible. I look for an explanation for what I see. If I see it, I presume it's possible.

Finallly, one thing I think should be clear. When a President OR a Vice President like Cheney OR a Vice President and Secretary of Defense like Cheney and Rummy issue orders to a Special Forces officer, who might be an ultra-conservative zealot like General William Boykin, Commanding General of Special Forces at Fort Bragg in 2000 and of the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg in 2001, those orders are going to be followed all the way down the line, without questions or explanations and with disciplined preservation of secrecy. That's what the military does, and they do it really well.

Now, as it so happens, the military is more deferential when they like the goal, and the substantial evangelical component in the military regrettably has come to take a rather dim view of us spoiled, hedonistic civilians, who would ruin the country and the world if it were up to us. Bacevich has written about that bad development in the officers corps. If you don't think military officers could accept necessary civilian casualties for National Security AND the greater glory of the United States AND God's will and obedience to civilian leadership worthy of respect for a change, I think you don't grasp the military outlook or right-wing mind.

Far from requiring unusual meansures, implementing a plan of action in a disciplined way without debate or dialoge and in secret is standard military procedure. If the Generals get the order, they make it happen. Operation Northwoods didn't go into effect because JFK and McNamara didn't sign on the dotted line. That plan was INITIATED by the Pentagon and just didn't get approval. But if you're waiting for someone to discover copies of orders to blow up a building in the US that exploded and killed people, you're in for a long wait. You'll need to send a whole lot of FOIA requests before you'll turn up anything there.

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2009 12:49 AM

Grover my man, I demur: I believe N E could do it all by himself if he quit fooling around and took the time to submit a paragraph per post.

Posted by: Distressed at November 24, 2009 12:57 AM

Are we all familiar with PPOG, the Pentagon's admission in 2002 that terrorist groups would be infiltrated and "provoked into action to expose state and non-state actors." Agent provocateurs, cops in civvies throwing bricks, happens at every anarchist protest.

Was Dick C. flying remote controlled missiles in his basement? Probably not. But WTC7 and all that has really very little to do with it, in my opinion.

"His crowning argument is that Truthers have no even halfway sensible theory of the crime."

Finding dumb opponents to ridicule doesn't make your theory right. If syllogisms are a key part of one's dismissiveness, then your argument is a joke. That doesn't prove anything either way. If I say that Jon Schwarz had corn flakes for breakfast, and I know this because I'm psychic, and you say I know he didn't have corn flakes, because I know you aren't psychic, is that logical? Or if it turns out he did have corn flakes, does that mean I'm psychic? I've made a poor argument because my explanation is poor, not because you know that I'm wrong.

How many people who believe either the official conspiracy theory about 9/11 or an unofficial one could present a significant amount of evidence to support their conclusion? Vanishingly few. The beliefs of most are based simply on their credulity of the government/media.

If you say, there's going to be a meteor shower on this certain date. Maybe you "know" this because you read it in Discover Magazine, but do you actually know the evidence that predicts this? Yet astronomers have proven themselves accurate to a high degree. Have our media/governments proven themselves accurate?

But this is why complex arguments are brushed off with syllogisms about lack of motivation or lack of ability. The CIA has assassinated presidents all over the world...we "know" this, as somewhat official history, right? But literate people can say with a straight face that such a thing is impossible in America!

That doesn't mean the CIA can be blamed for this or that murder, but to dismiss their involvement simply based on the notion that "someone would talk, it's too complicated, they wouldn't dare, they are already have all the power they want, yada yada" is pathetic.

I actually don't know what happened on 11/22/63 or 9/11/01. That puts me in a tiny minority, because most people "know." They "believe." Whatever makes you feel good, makes you feel in control of your world.

Posted by: Marcus at November 24, 2009 01:09 AM


Alas, I don't have a blurg right now, and I probably won't for a while, but now I have at least purged myself of most of what I know, which I pray to God helps with the headaches and strange visions. :)

I think I've covered everything but the 90s anyway, and that's all too speculative because we have to wait at least three more decades before we get to find out what the hell was really going on then. Suffice it to say, if you have a big party like the Cold War and invite a bunch of ruffians like our Special Forces and CIA ops agents, you better not run out of beer and try to shut down the party too soon, because there will be hell to pay. That in a nutshell is my theory of the terrorism of the 90s.

Clash of civilizations anyone?

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2009 01:22 AM

You neglected to tell me when democracy in America was not a sham. I would like to learn more about this period.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at November 24, 2009 01:47 AM

It was during the Jackson administration-that's why the incipient national security state tried to have him killed.

I like the argument about how the Twin Towers "were designed" to withstand such and such an impact, and how they were much too strong to succumb to something as tepid as burning jet fuel. Thus thermite charges were responsible.

Why do the Truthers, while accepting that the government would blithely murder thousands of its own citizens, persist in their blind faith in the probity of the WTC construction firms and the NYC building trades?

Posted by: Seth at November 24, 2009 07:02 AM

Good sweet cream cornin' jesus - just knew this would get the soo-soo-soo-deeotic peeps in spades.

The Prez shot? Who gives a sweet fuck-all?

Look, JFK was a lesbian & Junior Semples outted him. Oh dear, even here we are all so slavish to Daddy.


Posted by: john at November 24, 2009 08:05 AM


It is forbidden to question that America was once a great, freedom-loving nation. The Jeffersonian Eden is not a moment in time but in imagination.

All you have to do focus on a few sage phrases of the Founding Fathers, ignore their treatment of blacks, Indians, women, and other non-landowners, and you'll be on your way...

Just remember, nobody's perfect, and the lesser evil is the best-er evil.

Posted by: Marcus at November 24, 2009 08:46 AM

NE -

Do you see any relationship between the massive expansion of Federal power in the 30s, culminating in US participation in WWII, and the subsequent permanent warbanking apparatus, or as you call it, the National Security State?

1: Government power rests on violence: the coercion of taxpayers.

2: A warbanking economy requires enormous Federal power to tax and spend.

You want Federal power, this is what you get. Surveillance and gulags at home, bombs abroad. Violence begets violence.

Posted by: Marcus at November 24, 2009 09:04 AM

StO reiterates that one of life's persistent questions (from StO's perspective) is "When was democracy in America NOT a sham?"

A few days ago at, in the context of a discussion of the movie 2012, in which the topic of the European Union/Euroland came up, commenter Debra wrote

"France and the U.S. have a special relationship which is the result of the fact that the U.S. is the ultimate Enlightenment experiment, and the Enlightenment is of French origin. I have said this before, and I still believe it."

With regard to experiments aiming in the general direction of Enlightenment, no doubt Gandhi was thinking of that in particular when he was asked for his view of Western civilization, and replied, "I think it would be a good idea."

I suspect that the Enlightenment is rather more relevant among French intellectuals and opinion leaders than it is in the American commentariat/power elite/MICFiC, and while l'homme dans la rue has at least heard of the Enlightenment in school, his American counterpart has not.

The situation in which we find ourselves makes it clear how far we are from implementing the values of the Age of Enlightenment. Not all manifestations of this quest have disappeared, of course. I would argue that the public-minded search for liberty, equality, and siblinghood on blog comment threads - which we ourselves are participating in, even as we speak [or exchange written information asynchronously, to be literal about it] - would qualify as an attempt to throw the Light of Reason on our predicament. The reading suggestions given in this comment thread here at ATR might be helpful to those who still suppose that knowing what has [probably] really happened could be relevant to one's understanding and future action - and surely we all think that some of the time, or we wouldn't bother with something like this, with uncomfortable lumps of opinion strewn among the wisecracks.

On the other hand, we have the skillful development of propaganda/advertising/public relations/repressive desublimation (in Marcuse's phrase), along with the truly frightening perfection of the technology of detection and destruction. Only the recalcitrant nature of the various subject populations across the globe - their stubborn refusal to do what they are told, even in the face of bribes and deadly force - stands in the way of the final victory of the Machine. It is not the values of the Enlightenment that our little brown brothers cling to, however - rather, it is Pashtunwali or the local equivalent. May the Force be with them.

Speaking of movies as the literalizers of metaphor and allegory, I see It's a Wonderful Life as a prophetic vision of what has happened to the American spirit in the time since that movie was made. We are now in Pottersville, not Bedford Falls. A change of heart by George Bailey is not going to get us back to where we liked to think we were. Will there be a mass uprising, analogous to the spontaneous eruption of the people's justice which is imagined in Wonderful Life's "final scene" at ?

As Irving Berlin put it in his song, may the Creative Forces of the Universe stand beside us, and guide us, through the Night with the Light from Above (metaphorically speaking). Mike Huckabee, in addition to being a former governor of Arkansas, is a Baptist minister accustomed to appealing for guidance from above. Maybe Mike Huckabee will be the guy leading the torch-carrying crowd. Who knows if it's good or bad?

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at November 24, 2009 09:19 AM

It's A Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story

As posted on my own blog in 2007, but written a number of years earlier.

Although allegedly this is the movie's "suppressed ending", I wrote it myself, admittedly influenced by the Saturday Night Live sketch in which they went over to Potter's house and beat him up.

Coincidentally, the Bible quote with which I notionally end the film - "therefore choose life" - was also in Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize speech yesterday.

The challenge we all face is that of continuing to choose life, even while recognizing that we live in Pottersville, not Bedford Falls.

It's A Wonderful Life - The Final Scene

Potter's personal health care attendant (the man who pushes his wheelchair) bursts into the party at George and Mary Bailey's house. The mood, which had been festive (just a moment before, we saw the arrest warrant being torn apart and thrown on the pile of contributions from "so many friends") changes immediately, as the tale of Potter's purloining of the disappeared bank deposit is told. At first incredulous, the people become increasingly angry as the depth of depravity of the twisted, misanthropic millionaire becomes clear.

Next we see the crowd carrying torches as they approach Potter's mansion - it is like the evil twin of the house that George, Mary, and their kids have filled with love - equally large, but almost all in darkness, and without any sort of holiday decoration, neither Christmas tree, menorah, or solstice wreath. Ernie drives up in his cab, and siphons some gasoline from the tank into a large metal can. We see him and Potter's former health care attendant splashing the gasoline at the entrances of the house, including the wheelchair ramp. Uncle Billy ignites the flammable liquid by throwing his torch into it, and the rest of the crowd follows suit. The volunteer fire department arrives, but Burt the cop keeps them from coming up the long drive.

Inside the house, through the windows, we see Potter desperately going from room to room in his wheelchair, trying to escape, but it is useless. Uncle Billy watches with grim satisfaction, and we see the flames of the house reflected in his glasses as he mutters "So long, you old so and so."

We recognize other members of the crowd - the same individuals we saw in the "Pottersville bar" scene - and, like then, there are no women or other members of the Bailey family present, except for Uncle Billy.

Clarence the angel, no longer in civilian clothes, but rather in his magnificent new robe and wings, watches sadly from treetop level. The camera pulls back and we see the house beginning to collapse as the flames leap higher. The final scene pans upward from the burning house to the starry sky, and we see in Gothic letters the following Biblical quote: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life" (Deut. 30:19).

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at November 24, 2009 09:33 AM

Other countries with higher taxes don't necessarily strike me as warlike, especially if they didn't come out of WWII as superpowers.

Posted by: godoggo at November 24, 2009 10:02 AM


I don't think most people think they "know." I think people are just more or less just like Seth is, and like I used to be, and they don't spend their time trying to figure out this sort of thing. It's much easier to not know anything and be a little funny and do a Bill Mahar schtick. Most people do that or just go about their business, and I don't blame them at all. Who wants to sit in the corner with us crazy kids wearing a dorky hat (covered in tin foil?) while everyone else plays cool games. That just really isn't too appealling. I don't hold this opinion of the situation for fame or fortune or to get chicks.

I stubbornly persist in declaring my opinion because it won't be possible to fix anything else without eliminating the covert power of the National Security State. Right now the game is rigged and our political process is basically a sham. The National Security apparatus wields unaccountable power and can control policy by the manipulation of events, and when there is consensus within the National Security State about the goals to be accomplished, it isn't even difficult for them to do it. It does NOT require a broad conspiracy to do something; it just requires a broad agreement about what direction policy should take. At this point, the rest almost takes care of itself.

The ironic thing is, back in 1947 we created the National Security State and the CIA and empowered them to covertly manipulate the populations of other nations everywhere else in the world, and for decades they did just that with considerable success--in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in the Middle East, and of course in Latin America. In the process, they killed many innocent people, including women and children, toppled governments, assassinated foreign leaders, and even blew up planes and trains in collaboration with entities like P2 in Italy so that we could blame leftists and swing public opinion the way they wanted. None of that is disputable; that's a part of history that can be corroborated.

We developed formidable expertise at these covert acts, including terroristic covert acts, to manipulate foreign political opinion. Those practices are subsumed under the term 'psychological warfare,' though the name carries over from German doctrine and is misleading. Psychological warfare really includes all non-traditional military actions, including those associated with propaganda and sabotage. We became very good at it in the 50s. Really, really good at it, and we've just gotten better and better since.

In the 60s, with economic and democratic populism resurgent and social change in great demand in the United States itself, it became important to do those same things within our own country. So we did. With COINTELPRO and other even more covert CIA programs we engaged in a whole host of activities to make the anti-war movement look bad and manipulate public opinion. Some of those intelligence programs are well documented and resulted in the deaths of American citizens, while other programs remain shadowy though their existence is confirmed. What is most clear is that despite the public outcry in the mid 70s when the public first learned of these programs, nothing meaningful was ever done to make sure it wouldn't happen again. There was a brief and mild reprimand by Congress, and then everyone sighed unconfortably and moved on.

The National Security State emerged from those problems in the mid 70s with its power consolidated, and it made quick work of President Carter, who had begun his Presidency by challenging it, but by the end had completely capitulated, though not in time to win reelection. The Reagan Revolution led to new covert programs, often through NGOs, and also a renewed commitment to secrecy and avoiding the legislation enacted by Congress to contain the National Security State. The hawks considered that legislation emasculating, and they developed an aggressive contempt and disdain for those laws. So they ignored them, and we had Iran contra, which began before the time journalists identify and involved far deeper and more insious corruption that the American public has ever realized.

After the Cold War ended, the most serious problem for the National Security State developed. The whole global economy had become dependent upon American military power, but the American people never signed up to pay for that. With communism gone, it became necessary to find a new justification for an imperial agenda that has to be served, or else the whole neoliberal world economy could be torn apart by the same nationalist/capitalist rivalries that had led to WWI and WWII and nearly destroyed capitalism, which by conservatives is called freedom.

But how could the leaders of the country get the modern, materialistic, hedonistic, selfish citizens of the country to live up to their global responsibilities? By 1990, people wanted a peace dividend. And there was even serious talk in the early 90s of abolishing the CIA, which had become racked by scandal and, according to Senator Moynihan, wasn't close to worth its cost. Simultaneously, the greatest opportunity in modern history was opening up to American energy corporations because of the dissolution of the USSR. The National Security State had a historic chance to secure control of the entire Middle East during Russia's temporary weakness and evem expand into the Caucasus and Central Asia--BUT ONLY IF they could awaken the American people to their obligations.

So it again became even more important to do domestically the same things we had done abroad for decades, and to do them for much the same purposes. Otherwise, the American people would assuredly retreat from their overextended commitments because of their selfish desire to live happy, healthy lives and educate their children. There is not the smallest doubt in my mind about what choice the American people would make if not frightened out of their minds and propogandized into a militant frenzy.

So what's a National Security State with a
demonstrated expertise in covertly orchestrating events, including terrorism, to do? Option A: Forego the historic commercial and political opportunities and let the world devolve into national rivalries and a conflagration of various regional wars; Option B: Use the National Security State's expertise at covert operations to mobilize opinion in favor of imperial policies under an anti-terrorism rationale.

That, in condensed blurg form, appears to me to be what has happened throughout the 90s, ultimately culminating in 9/11. It's not funny, even if seth is witty, but in a larger sense that we Americans do richly deserve what has happened to us for having done this to the rest of the world for fifty years. What is ironic, and perhaps to the knowing foreigners especially funny, is that even though we created intelligence organizations to do this to the people of other countries so that they wouldn't go communist or lean too far left (a centimeter?), almost everyone in the United States actually refuses to believe that it's even possible for those same American intelligence organizations to do these same things, well within their developed expertise, within the United States. Go figure.

So we have become the victims of our own past folly, and yet we insistently pretend that it hasn't happened. Why do we pretend? Now that's a good question. Maybe Seth knows.

But we do pretend, dismissing possibilities without even coming close to understanding them, and that means that this option will remain open to the National Security State. We have given the National Security State an open invitation to do it again, because people don't abandon practices that are successful. So one day we'll again be viciously attacked by one rogue band of mysterious swarthy foreigners or another, depending on the needs of the moment, and some still-undetermined number of Americans will die, and we'll gear up the war machine to spend another ten trillion dollars while half the country goes without medical treatment and watches loved ones die needlessly because there isn't enough money for everything. And we'll kill a few million more foreigners, maybe more maybe less. We probably won't kill any more people than the Generals think is necessary under their counterinsurgency plans.

For the American people, the cost of empire is prohibitive. We wouldn't agree to it without being scared into doing so by horrible events. But we can be successfully manipulated, and we need to recognize that so we can at least make it more difficult.

So I'm going to keep sitting in the corner in my dorky hat announcing my opinion to those who will listen while everyone else plays cool games, and perhaps someday enough people will recognize this Frankenstein Monster we have created for what it is and we will be able to round up a big enough mob of villagers with pitchforks to do something about it. Maybe not in my lifetime, because I'm not as young and pretty as I used to be, but eventually maybe enough people will reacquire their critical faculties without flinching at the unnerving implications. People will have to feel silly for a while until they get used to the idea that these possibilities aren't as crazy as Bill Mahar and other celebrity entertainers are paid to think, but eventually a person can get over that.

And we need to, becaus otherwise our kids are screwed.

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2009 10:03 AM

...or undemocratic

Posted by: godoggo at November 24, 2009 10:04 AM

"To me, the combination of a coverup and a huge motive is very powerful circumstantial evidence of US government complicity"

Very weak evidence. 3000 people got killed by a handful of guys who flew planes into buildings and we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on "national defense" every year. Kind of embarrassing. If the US was completely 100 percent innocent of anything even vaguely resembling complicity, it's likely there still would be a coverup of the incompetence involved. But given our history with Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there's probably some other things that need to be covered up. That doesn't necessarily mean complicity in 9/11.

Similarly, some naive human rights types seemed to envision Saddam Hussein would be tried for all of his crimes. But that might have been embarrassing, as past US connections might have been exposed more fully--best he just be executed right away, for one particular massacre of a Shiite village, IIRC. I think his early execution was in part a coverup. But that isn't proof of any particular theory one might have about the relationship of Saddam with the US.

As for why the Towers plus WTC7 collapsed, the bulk of the engineering community seems to think the official story is plausible. Bunch of damn cowards, no doubt, unable to see what is scientifically obvious to the Truther community.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 24, 2009 10:12 AM

N E asserts Now, as it so happens, the military is more deferential when they like the goal, and the substantial evangelical component in the military regrettably has come to take a rather dim view of us spoiled, hedonistic civilians, who would ruin the country and the world if it were up to us. Bacevich has written about that bad development in the officers corps. If you don't think military officers could accept necessary civilian casualties for National Security AND the greater glory of the United States AND God's will and obedience to civilian leadership worthy of respect for a change, I think you don't grasp the military outlook or right-wing mind.

Last month, during the hospitalization of my late father, Colonel Charley, I had occasion to spend long hours on a military base [Walter Reed Army Medical Center], my most concentrated dose of that atmosphere since my days as an Army brat four decades earlier. My observations were entirely consistent with what I have just quoted. Colonel Charley, like me a time traveller from the 20th century (in his case the EARLY 20th century), would grumble about the "Warrior Care" posters - "we were SOLDIERS, not WARRIORS, in my day" - but they are warriors now, and proud of it. Again, this represents a retreat from Enlightenment values - the mechanisms of mass murder not as a means of collective self-defense, as in WWII, but of the imposition of the Imperial will on our little brown brothers.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at November 24, 2009 11:03 AM

Marcus and mistah charley, ph.d. show forms of wisdom and insight that somehow evade N E's intellectual grasp. This makes me wonder whether N E just can't see the truth, or does he realize the truth but feel obliged to protect The Donkle and/or The Most Super-Exceptional Government IN UNIVERSAL HISTORY wherever he goes?

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 24, 2009 11:25 AM

Donald Johnson:

"As for why the Towers plus WTC7 collapsed, the bulk of the engineering community seems to think the official story is plausible."

That's not remotely true. I don't even think you read it anywhere except maybe some blog (from some windbag like me :)). Since you want the views of an "engineering community," here are some views and credential for you:

But seriously, most of the "engineering community" doesn't think about that issue at all. It's not that they are cowardly, any more than I was cowardly when I didn't think about these things. I didn't not think about this shit because I was afraid. I didn't think about it because I had other things to do and didn't have time to waste. (oh, those were the days!) The fear I have referred to is the psychological reaction to heretical ideas, which is completely normal. That's not the biggest reason people don't interest themselves in things that have nothing to do with them.

I would imagine most engineers would select gainful employment and the ability to work for the government and government contractors over free cookies at a 9/11 Truth meeting. I find that sort of easy to understand. So it's not hard for me to understand why such an organization would only have hundreds rather than thousands of members.

I don't know if you have much experience working with scientific experts, or reading technical scientific reports, so maybe you wouldn't feel comfortable forming your own opinion, but the collapse of WTC 7 hasn't been explained in any technical report. And the technical reports have actually admitted that. On this point, you really don't know what you are talking about, and why you (and seth) want to argue about things you don't know much about is beyond me. If you want to debate, go learn the facts, though frankly it's typically better to form an opinion AFTER learning the facts.

Anyway, I think it's sort of a waste of time for us to argue about it. But if you ever actually do want to know something about this, you will find that some very credentialed engineers and architects have said those towers didn't fall beacuse of the planes colliding with them or the fuel burning. And if you ever get any experience telling the difference between scientists who are being honest and scientists who are talking out their asses (I can tell the difference), your eyes will open wide to those reports.

But seriously, we don't need to argue! I'm just setting the record straight for the one or two other people who might look at this!

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2009 11:29 AM

N E, while I may disagree with some of your conclusions I do appreciate your thoughtful and articulate comments. And they do make me think. So please keep writing.

Posted by: empty at November 24, 2009 12:46 PM

I've seen most of those arguments before, NE--the free fall claim, for instance, is debunked according to other websites.

More generally, there are these things called peer reviewed journals and if someone thinks he can demonstrate that 9/11 couldn't happen except with the aid of (very large numbers of people) planting explosives ahead of time (and why would they do that anyway, speaking of motives?), that person should try publishing his ideas in one of the standard journals in the field. That's when scientists take allegations seriously--when they've been vetted by other experts in the field and then allowed to be published. And the ideas can be way out there--when I was interested in such things I once tracked down a paper in Nature that said the 1908 Tunguska fireball was a mini-black hole. Not exactly the mainstream theory, but Nature published it. They did so because they thought the idea was worth consideration. Yeah, out of all the structural engineers in the US you can find a handful who say that the standard theory of 9/11 is physically impossible. So write a damn paper and submit it then.

Here, btw, are papers on 9/11 submitted to peer reviewed journals. What gets published in the scientific literature, it is safe to say, represents the mainstream thinking in that discipline.


The original link


"And if you ever get any experience telling the difference between scientists who are being honest and scientists who are talking out their asses (I can tell the difference), your eyes will open wide to those reports."

Sounds like a useful skill. So anyway, the guys who get published, then, are the ones using their rear ends to pass on propaganda for The Man. Gotcha.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 24, 2009 12:56 PM

When the US invaded Iraq on the premise that we had to capture the WMDs, I assumed that they would plant some weapons there or forge evidence that was competent enough to deceive embedded reporters.

But they couldn't even pull that off. The vaunted national security state is far less efficient and capable than either the Tom Clancy wing or the Truthers imagine.

Posted by: Seth at November 24, 2009 12:58 PM

When the US invaded Iraq on the premise that we had to capture the WMDs, I assumed that they would plant some weapons there or forge evidence that was competent enough to deceive embedded reporters.

But they couldn't even pull that off. The vaunted national security state is far less efficient and capable than either the Tom Clancy wing or the Truthers imagine.

Posted by: Seth at November 24, 2009 01:04 PM

N E sez: JFK was killed because he refused to give the warmongers their war.

Is snark really frowned upon around here? Because that really, really deserves some heavy snark.

By contrast, on the same question, Nell sez: Of course a lot of room exists for context, interpretation, and countervailing evidence.

And so maybe snark isn't necessary after all. Because we know that the context shows that the fantabulous de-escalation "plans" Kennedy had were conditional.

W Bush "planned" to de-escalate our involvement in Iraq -- if things went just so, we would "stand down as they stood up." There was never any hope of things going just so. Kennedy's "plans," on which so much conspiracy-theoretic "motive" is contingent, were equally weighted with unrealistic conditionalities.

Posted by: Earth at November 24, 2009 01:55 PM

Seth sets up the straw man:

When the US invaded Iraq on the premise that we had to capture the WMDs, I assumed that they would plant some weapons there or forge evidence that was competent enough to deceive embedded reporters. But they couldn't even pull that off.

Your assumption is wrong, Seth. There would be no need to "plant" that evidence. Only you think it was needed. Good job killing that straw-man, though. Talented stuff for a 10-year-old boy.

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 24, 2009 02:16 PM

So anyway, the guys who get published, then, are the ones using their rear ends to pass on propaganda for The Man. Gotcha.

I don't imagine "getting published" means anything other than what those two words suggest:


It bears not a whit on the truth of what is published. For pete's sake, the JAMA has published pap and pablum for decades. Scientific journals are one part science, one part public relations. Sometimes the science part takes such a back seat that it's really not even there.

If anyone wants to determine whether the events of 9/11/2001 were honestly documented by The Official Story, there's this nifty device known as a laboratory experiment where one can try to duplicate the Official Story's explanation. For example, someone could build a micro-scale structural steel skeletoned model of the WTC 1 & 2 towers, and then try to make those towers collapse perfectly onto their own footprints with just kerosene and burning office furniture to fuel the collapse.

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 24, 2009 02:24 PM

Why does everyone here have such a instant reaction that N E is a Democratic Party hack? My main point of disagreement is that I don't agree with him that politicians like Carter (and certainly not Obama) had any interest at all in challenging the Machine, but other than that...95% of his discussion is not dedicated to the Democratic Party at all. I think he would agree that the DP is a bought and paid for component of the system.

Posted by: BMiller at November 24, 2009 02:37 PM

Absolutely nothing is stopping the truthers from designing experiments, outlining in detail what they did, performing their experiments, and publishing the results for others to examine. One might have trouble doing the real life scale model thing, because various physical quantities don't all scale the same way--mass goes up with length cubed, but strength only with the square of the length, which is why small objects are inherently stronger than larger geometrically similar objects. (Which is why ant strength really isn't all that impressive and Godzilla is impossible). Scale models work if you have a limited number of factors you need to worry about. But maybe someone can find a material that has the same properties as steel with respect to how it weakens with temperature and yet is sufficiently weak to model how steel would behave at full scale. It might be hard. Has anyone ever tried to do an actual scale model ofa burning building involving all these different factors? I don't know--not my field. Others can do theoretical calculations. Everyone can play. That's how science works. But one of the ground rules involves people submitting their results (experimental or theoretical) to the examination of their peers.

Posted by: Donalld Johnson at November 24, 2009 02:53 PM

The anti federalist writes:

"Your assumption is wrong, Seth. There would be no need to "plant" that evidence. Only you think it was needed. Good job killing that straw-man, though. Talented stuff for a 10-year-old boy."

Since I am only 8 years old and haven't learned about syllogisms yet I accept your remark as a compliment.

I still maintain that if the Bush people really had their disinfo act together they would have thought through their WMD gameplan to include finding something instead of looking ridiculous.

So the CIA that elegantly killed JFK is the same group that couldn't kill Castro two years before? OK, whatever you say.

All of the nasty stuff that the CIA and FBI did in the 20th century was basically known about when it happened or soon after. It was no secret they were meddling in Italy and Greece, or in Iran or Guatemala or Cuba. It is not as though these things were covered up and only discovered decades later.

We still live in the most open society on earth. We have a Freedom of Information Act that is more expansive than any such law elsewhere in the world. The state does all kinds of evil but most of it is aboveboard.

Posted by: Seth at November 24, 2009 03:15 PM

Sure, black ops guys don't ask teleological questions about their orders. Still, one would think they would notice that they were inside the WTC, wiring up explosives to load-bearing members. Such a job would be many many man-hours, as those buildings were immense.

The logistics *do* seem prohibitive. That ain't no little Reichstag fire or assassination.

On the other hand, the "truther" physics-based argument is also very compelling to me, because presumably whatever happened that day, it wasn't an anomaly in the laws of nature.

I friggin' hate this paradox.

Posted by: Cloud at November 24, 2009 03:22 PM

Donald Johnson:

At one point, beacuse some of the scientists writing about 9/11 could not get their views peer-reviewed, they formed their own peer-reviewed journal. (Believe it or not, there are enough of them to do that.) Many of the articles (most of which I haven't even looked at) are scientific, some historical. The are collected in the Journal of 9/11 Studies:

Now, I must confess that I'm a little more cynical than you are about peer-reviewed journals and experts, because I know damn well that almost any expert will change his opinion for a lot less than the value of his entire career. It's a very big deal for a scientist to get on the wrong side of the government and elite opinion. Note as an example the case of demolition expert David Romero, vice president of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology who was quoted in the newspapers on 9/11 as saying that the towers had contained explosives, or at least that it looked like it to him. He disputes what he exactly said and later demanded a retraction, at least according to the somewhat notorious (VERY anti-conspiracy) March 2005 Popular Mechanics article called Debunking the 9/11 Myths, which says:

"Demolition expert Romero regrets that his comments to the Albuquerque Journal became fodder for conspiracy theorists. "I was misquoted in saying that I thought it was explosives that brought down the building," he tells PM. "I only said that that's what it looked like."

Romero, who agrees with the scientific conclusion that fire triggered the collapses, demanded a retraction from the Journal. It was printed Sept. 22, 2001. "I felt like my scientific reputation was on the line.""

So there you have the nub of the problem. A demolitions expert retracted his previously stated opinion that explosives seem to have brought down the towers because he felt like his professional reputation was on the line. His opinion seems to have changed when he found out what served his professional interests. That should not surprise you. What might surprise you is how much scientific research directly or indirectly involves government money.

As a personal matter, when a scientist with no axe to grind like Steven Jones is relieved of his teaching duties and paid on leave by his university (BYU)for researching the issue of whether the WTC towers collapsed because of explosives in them, I tend to trust that he is not motivated by anything but a desire to find out the truth. He may be wrong about some things, because of course he is just a scientist engaging in the scientific process of testing hypothesese, but at least that is what he is doing. He is not debunking or propagandizing or doing anything but science. And his science looks pretty good to me. It is at least not just smoke and mirrors, which is what the WTC 7 reports are. I can identify smoke and mirrors.

For the same reason I find it worthwhile to read David Ray Griffin. He is honest, a good writer, a careful thinker, and he has no axe to grind. He didn't even want to reach the conclusion he did, but that's where his brain led him. And since he's a theologian, with some sense that murdering lots of people is wrong, he thought he should follow his brain and not the reflex "oh come on" instinct. Maybe if he had listened to some more witty conspiracy jokes, he wouldn't have. I'm glad he did.

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2009 04:00 PM

Oh, enough with the towers already.

I did it. I also manipulated Enron stock and helped Ken Lay fake his own death. Did a whole bunch of stuff, some of it so secret NE hasn't formulated a quaint theory about it yet. For example, I also found D.B. Cooper's money in the eighties. The feds were so embarrassed, they said just keep it and spend it wisely, and don't tell nobody. What about the guys at ATR comments, I asked them, replying several years later. Oh, blugs don't count, they replied.

Posted by: Grover Cleveland at November 24, 2009 05:03 PM


I cannot find a single fact in your 3:15 post that is correct, which I am not saying to be insulting or argumentative. And when you say that everything that happened was known about when it happened or soon after, I'm rather astonished. I didn't know about most of it for thirty years, and I suspect my lack of knowledge wasn't unusual. In fact, I have a pretty strong hunch that even now you don't know most of what the CIA did in Italy and Green and Iran and Guatemala and Cuba, let alone what it did in the US, because it went far beyond meddling, and it was most definitely concealed. Much of it remains concealed. When James Angleton was fired in 1975, more than 40,000 files were destroyed. Richard Helms destroyed all the MK Ultra files shortly before that. And those are just destroyed files that we know about. Langley denied having files pertinent to Oswald and JFK's assassination for decades, then it produced whole rooms full of documents in the 1990s after the Assassinations Review Board was created. Hell, the CIA only a couple of years ago declassified and released the infamous "family jewels" collected by James Schlessinger for Nixon when he was director in 1973, when Nixon was at war with the CIA (a war Nixon obviously lost). And the "family jewels" undoubtedly would have been destroyed too if their general contents had not become so publicly well known.

So really, don't make stuff up, even if this is just a blurg.

As for the supposedly "elegant" killing of JFK, I don't think the conspirators can get all that proud of themselves after leaving Oswald alive and having to kill him on national television, thereby making everyone in the country with an open mind and a brain bigger than a nat immediately realize that there had been a conspiracy. But Angleton and David Atlee Phillips covered themselves, as one would expect, so it all worked out, even if it did cause fifteen years of public commotion, especially in 68 when MLK and RFK were killed too. Thank God we live in the most open society on earth so we all know the truth about those killings! Oops, I forgot, I guess there still are some lingering questions caused by the fact that the RFK assassination investigation files STILL have not been made public, but we can always send out more FOIA requests right now to try to get them for the millionth time! I have a hunch you haven't ever litigated with the government about some of the exceptions to FOIA: law enforcement is a good one, but my favorite is "deliberative process."

Finally, it's a little presumptuous that killing Castro would be easier than killing JFK. The CIA didn't control Fabian Escalante and Castro's security. It's a lot easier to kill your own President. That's why all those Ceasars were done in by their own Praetorian guards.

Aboveboard evil. That's quite a phrase.

As for your 12:58 post, the question you raise about why WMDs were not planted in Iraq is a good one, but factions within the National Security State don't always get along. I don't think Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson and Scooter Libby exchange Christmas cards these days, and Langley obviously was not on the same wavelength as Cheney and the neocons with respect to our Middle East policy. The power at Langley (the real power such as Poppy Bush and Gates and maybe some of the ops guys, not the Tenet lobbying types) do not like get cutting out of the loop. Cheney and the neocons are very powerful, but Langley is powerful too.

When Robert Gates replaced Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, that was Langley showing that it had again become the alpha. The fact that Gates has remained at DoD shows that Obama has no independent power base of consequence in the National Security State, which is why I think expecting big things from Obama in that area is expecting a lot.

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2009 05:25 PM

"The CIA couldn't kill Castro." Do you think it's easier to operate in a foreign country? If the CIA/Oilmen/Mafia/LBJ/Hoover had wanted to kill Kennedy it would have been vastly easier to do it, and cover it up with the media and Warren Commission. But they didn't pull off the exploding cigar trick on Fidel.

It was only a few years later that the CIA admitted to how many hundreds of agents planted in the media?

Had Fidel cruised through Dallas in a convertible, he may not have outlived all the Kennedy boys.

A lone nut could do it with a magic bullet, but trained assassins couldn't.

If only the CIA had put Agent Oswald on the Castro hit squad, the mafia could have had their island back.

Posted by: Marcus at November 24, 2009 05:25 PM

"Other countries with higher taxes don't necessarily strike me as warlike, especially if they didn't come out of WWII as superpowers."

Maybe it's hard for anyone to look warlike when one country is as overwhelmingly violent as the US, but if you look at the per capita military spending numbers, you will be disabused of the notion of peaceful Euros.

Many small, rich countries do spend considerable amounts on military, defending themselves from who? These countries support aggressive actions through NATO and the UN. That they may show more restraint than the US is hardly an endorsement.

Small countries are in an entirely different position also. It doesn't mean the Swedes wouldn't like to do a bit of colonizing if they have the chance.

What empire was not funded by taxes?

There is some variance, but the more money a government collects, the more it spends on warfare. To be pro-government and anti-war is ridiculous. To be anti-government and pro-war is also ridiculous. But many who would point out the hypocrisy of the latter - saying about Reaganites or Palinites, how can you be anti-government and pro-war - don't understand that they are no less absurd in adhering to the former.

And how did the US come out of WWII as a superpower, except that the government took over industries during the war, a natural continuation, I think, of the New Deal, and never really relinquished those industries. Or the industries never relinquished the government, as they are one and the same. Government is the enforcement wing of business. After all, "The purpose of government is to protect the opulent minority from the majority."

Posted by: Marcus at November 24, 2009 05:57 PM


I have no idea how long it takes to rig a building with thermate cutting charges, and I have no idea what sort of experts you might get to do such a thing, though I would expect military personnel and contractors have such training. I have actually given some thought to what might have been done, but I have no special knowledge or insight on it.

Here's one thing that has occurred to me. By the time the towers were brought down, almost everyone in them who could be evacuated had been evacuated. The notable exception is the firemen whose radios didn't work thanks to Guliani's fine work as mayor. And if their radios had worked, they would have been evacuated too. Most of those who were killed were on the planes or on or above the floors struck by the planes and unable to evacuate because of the fires or crash damage.

There is some potential significance to that fact. When the towers were bombed in 1993, there was some concern that they would topple over, and obviously a 100-story tower of that enormous size toppling over in lower Manhattan could be horrendous. There is a reason that a controlled demolition is set up to cause a building to implode and fall into its footprint. The upshot of that is that the towers could have been prepared for controlled demolition with cutting charges that could be detonated remotely (subject to fail safe measures of course) under a public safety rationale. In fact, one of the odd aspects of 9/11 is that everything seems to have been done to keep casualties relatively low compared to what they easily could have been, both on the planes, at the towers, and at the Pentagon. (One might think that vicious terrorists able to carry out a plan of that sophistication would try to hit the part of the Pentagon occupied by the important brass and kill the most New Yorkers possible, not strike a largely empty part of the Pentagon and hit the towers before many people even got to work. But that's just a peripheral observation.)

Don't mistake what I'm saying for a belief that too many humanitarian concerns were involved in all this. It wouldn't have been that hard to give some protection to the workers at Ground Zero during the cleanup, but nobody did a damn thing for them, presumably because nobody cared that much. So I'm not suggesting anything more than the sort of rationales that routinely provide cover for covert activities in the event something goes wrong, not genuine humane concerns.

All that being said, I doubt many military demolitions experts actually feel like it is up to them to judge the motives and bona fides of their superiors. I wouldn't think people with that habit of mind would go into that work, or last long if they acquired it. And if you do covert work for the military, under all circumstances you better be able to keep your mouth shut.

That's about all the thinking I have done on that.

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2009 06:20 PM

NE, having spent some time around the UFO subject as a kid and creationism as an adult (though in the latter case I never bought into it), I'm a teensy bit less impressed by the knowledge that some, ah, differently opinioned people have gotten together and created their very own peer reviewed journal. Hot diggety.

There's a great big world out there filled with scientists and engineers, some with tenure and many with opinions of the National Security State every bit as low as yours, ethically speaking (though maybe they don't necessarily have as elevated a view of its competence--few could). Some of them are outside the US. I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that if it was freaking obvious that 9/11 could not have physically happened the way it was supposed to, people would be able to get papers published on this in already existing reputable journals. It'd be hotly debated, at least overseas, and the debate would leak through here and you'd have leading scientists weighing in on the subject. And yeah, I know it all boils down to everyone being in on the conspiracy--those experts who don't agree with you, who have written papers on the subject--they're all corrupt.

Frankly, I'm sick of this subject and not for the reasons you fondly imagine--the world seems full of people who think the world revolves around some vastly important secret which they happen to know about. And people who oppose the truth do so for nefarious reasons, not because they think the theory is stupid.

Time to quit blog comment sections. There's a disproportionate number of people who think like this on blog comment sections.
I can't imagine why.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 24, 2009 07:19 PM

It's much easier to not know anything and be a little funny and do a Bill Mahar schtick.

Actually, it would - theoretically - be easier to accept the obvious historical truism that every President Democratic voters ever sent to the White House was just another imperialist warmonger than to have to tie yourself in the kinds of knots - leading inevitably to febrile conspiracism - necessary to imagine that the honourable motives of Democratic leaders are forever subverted by that durned National Security state. Of course, then you'd also lose the opportunity to tell yourself how much cleverer you are than the sheeple who allow their minds to be clouded by facts and evidence, lacking as they do the brilliance to weave gossamer organzas from unreleased documents, suppressed files and other absences of evidence to the contrary. That's right, kids, N E's worldview remains rock-solid until y'all can prove a negative.

My advice, N E, is that you take a break from the Truther sites for a little, and read up on cognitive dissonance. It might help. It would certainly help those of us who have little patience with talking to people who've decided to live inside a bubble.

And meditate on this: at the end of the day, the conspiracy theory of history is just pathological buck-passing.

Posted by: weaver at November 24, 2009 07:35 PM

@ Donald Johnson --

But maybe someone can find a material that has the same properties as steel with respect to how it weakens with temperature and yet is sufficiently weak to model how steel would behave at full scale.

I spent several years building custom steel bicycle frames. I used chromoly steel, heated by an oxy-acetylene torch. I had plenty of opportunity to observe how steel behaves when heated. And it NEVER does what a controlled demolition does (fall on itself under influence of heat) unless there is a super-heating agent that thermically shears the steel.

Pooh-pooh that with "truther" slander/libel all you wish, but it doesn't change the physical reality of how steel behaves under heat.

Has anyone ever tried to do an actual scale model ofa burning building involving all these different factors? I don't know--not my field. Others can do theoretical calculations. Everyone can play. That's how science works. But one of the ground rules involves people submitting their results (experimental or theoretical) to the examination of their peers.

In a politically charged situation, scientists are no more honest, and no more immune to the pull of politics, than garbage-men, mail clerks, dog groomers, phlebotomists, or statisticians.

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 24, 2009 08:21 PM

Why does everyone here have such a instant reaction that N E is a Democratic Party hack?

That's not the phrase I'd use. I'd use the phrase "apologist" and I'd use that because of the timidity N E shows when it comes to criticizing a political party/entity associated with the animal known as "the donkey." Ultimately N E seems to be able to find a GOP scapegoat in every trouble-spot he examines. He's a bit like Glenn Greenwald and many other "liberal" or "progressive" spouters in that way. The latent tribalism remains, although it's not vestigial like a non-critical appendix. It's like a rupturing appendix.

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 24, 2009 08:28 PM

Donald Johnson

You don't have to agree with me, and take from what I say what you will, which I gather is nothing. But lest you be too dismissive of Steven Jones, he was a distinguished physicist BEFORE 9/11, often peer-reviewed, and David Ray Griffin was a distinguished theologian BEFORE 9/11, and there are many people here and even more abroad who agree with them, including scientists and engineers and pilots and academics of all sorts, and give a moment's thought to the possibility that you just don't know it. You act like you have absorbed the totality of world opinion on this and everyone agrees with you. Uhmm, no.

Your recharacterizing some of what I said to make it more easily dismissable, that reminds me of journalism. If you don't want to argue about 9/11, you don't have to, and it's pretty clear that you have never taken the possibility that the government could have been responsbile seriously. Well, if you can't believe it, I don't think that's nefarious, it's just typical, and I never said it's nefarious, but if you dismiss something without thinking about it much at all, it shouldn't surprise you too much if you opinion isn't thoughtful, and what turns out to be dumb might be something entirely different from what you had thought.


I don't know what "the conspiracy theory of history" is or what else you were babbling about there, and if you aren't going to be polite, I don't especially care.

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2009 08:28 PM


Bike frames vs. steel frames of 1000 foot buildings sounds like the sort of scaling problem I was talking about.

Anyway, here's a link--


The one good thing about comments sections as far as I am concerned is that it might motivate me to read papers like the one above and see how much of it I can follow.

And NE, sorry about how personal I got above. But I am getting really sick of blog comment sections and yes, over the years I've developed something of an intolerance for people with a Theory That Explains What Really Matters. The Theory comes in many forms, and adherents of one never think there is any legitimate comparison between what they believe and what those other people believe, but from the outside it looks sort of similar.

Anyway, I'm banning myself.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 24, 2009 08:49 PM

"the conspiracy theory of history"

One of the particular over-arching theories as to the mechanisms behind historical events, or of the "engine" of history - other examples include Hegelianism, the "great man" theory, Whiggism, dialectical materialism, religious eschatology, etc. The conspiracy theory of history holds that historical events happen because of the manipulation of events by clandestine and powerful agents.

Originally the phrase "conspiracy theory" referred to this and only this, but has since linguistically drifted to stand for any accusation of a conspiracy, clandestine, far-fetched or otherwise. Which is probably why the longer phrase baffles you. Though you could have looked it up, as with "cognitive dissonance". See also: confirmation bias.

Posted by: weaver at November 24, 2009 08:50 PM

Donald, the phenomenon isn't affected negatively by the scaling problem. Steel tubing used for bicycle frames is more likely to be cut with mere unfocused heat, it's thin-walled. By comparison, structural steel girders are much thicker and far less susceptible to cutting in mere unfocused heat. In fact, I'd say unfocused heat CANNOT cut structural steel girders.

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 24, 2009 10:01 PM

ps to Donald -- by "unfocused" I mean generally, not using a cutting charge of explosives or the like. The torch I used for brazing steel tubes with brass was not a cutting torch, it would be much closer in nature to an open fire in a building using structural steel girders.


@ weaver --

the use of the pejorative "conspiracy" makes me wonder if it might be smarter to use "consensus" plus a bit of "team spirit" to describe what I'd call a literal and/or non-pejorative definition of conspiracy. Those who denigrate "conspiracy theorists" by the utterance of that phrase aren't careful enough with their criticisms or choice of words. Team sports require conspiracy among the players on the team. Corporations require a conspiracy of sorts, a following of a "corporate mission," as does a club or formal society. Obviously the word gets a bad rap when used as a pejorative.

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 24, 2009 10:07 PM


I don't recall seeing that phrase used as you used it, but that isn't something that ever interested me that much. Maybe because my natural instinct for most of my life was to dismiss "conspiracy theories" as a bit whacky, like many people who believe them, I never felt the need for thinking about them. I am generally familiar with the subject, of course, and I have even read Richard Hofstadter's essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." But I think it's apples and oranges.

The Nazis and other anti-Semites gave blaming conspiracies for anything a bad name. (Anybody know Hitler admired Henry Ford, had a picture of him on his wall, and praised him in Mein Kampf?) And of course there are lots of other stupid theories that blame religious or ethnic minorities or foreigners for everything bad. The Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs types have been around forever.

I don't really see how that has anything to do with whether the government has the successful capability to engage in covert actions and ensuing coverups, whether the media investigates and reports in any meaningful way, whether there is accountabilty or impunity, etc. But I've said enough about that.

I know what cognitive dissonance is, and I know what a confirmation bias is too. I try to be clear, including with myself, about when I know facts and when I'm guessing.

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2009 10:34 PM

Okay, I've lasted as long as I could. Here are a couple of quick thoughts guaranteed to change no one's mind.

I don't have an opinion about 9/11; I do have an opinion on the JFK murder, but that's not due to "the conspiracy theory of history," whatever that is. It's because the official solution to the crime stinks. The physical evidence against Oswald is flimsy, and the circumstantial evidence is more than offset by a mountain of verified connections to US intel agencies. The ballistics don't work, the autopsy's laughable, and the assassin was killed in police custody before he could testify. The whole thing's ridiculous.

Crimes get solved every day, using well-established methods. When those well-established methods are not used--especially in crimes with immense political ramifications--it is right and proper to be suspicious. Whatever one thinks of JFK personally, NSAM 263, or the Democrats either in '63 or '09, a basic respect for democracy demands that when a sitting President is murdered, that murder should be investigated with competency and thoroughness. This is beyond dispute. It's not freakin' UFOs or creationism, it's civics. Forty-six years ago, President Kennedy was murdered and we still don't know for sure what happened. That's unacceptable. (And just btw and fyi: the last government inquiry into the murder concluded that there was a fourth shot--hence a conspiracy. The lone nutters try to spin this, but officially, nobody believes in the lone nut theory, not even the government.)

Whatever one thinks of the Warren Commission, or of the HSCA that followed it, we know that both were manipulated by the intelligence agencies. Why? Don't ask me. But they were. That's a matter of historical record, and it should trouble every American. Then add the performance of the MSM in the JFK murder; far from using its own investigatory abilities to dig for the truth, and hold the government's feet to the fire, the media has been completely compliant. Why? Who cares? What matters is that the watchdog function of the press is bullshit. This is trotted out on ATR regularly as if it's news, but all us "conspiracy buffs" have known it for years. Come on in, the water's cold.

Here's my point, and I think it's a really important one, especially for readers of this blog: people like me aren't "nuts" or "kooks" for wanting to know what the hell happened to President Kennedy. We're citizens of a democracy outraged at a clear instance of government manipulation, not to mention someone getting away with murder. If this crime doesn't grab you for whatever reason, okay. But demanding that we solve the case--demanding that private citizens with no access to classified information or subpoena power somehow solve a crime that has been actively suppressed for 45 years--that's completely unreasonable. The Warren Commission didn't solve the case; in fact, they did the opposite. And what constitutes proof at this late date? A deathbed confession from Mac Wallace? A photo of Jim Angleton and David Phillips en flagrante with "Hunter of Kennedys, ha-ha-ha" scrawled across the back? Smoking guns, if they ever existed, have long since gone up Richard Helms' chimney. I'm sorry if that's frustrating, but that's what "covert action" means. Casting the debate in those terms doesn't say a damn thing about the JFK assassination, it only says that, in this case, you're content to believe whatever Daddy tells you. Who knows, maybe Daddy is right--maybe Oswald did do it. But I doubt it, and you would, too, the more you read.

Any devoted reader of this blog--which started as a way for Jon to vent over government dissembling and manipulation over WMD--who accepts the Warren Commission or any of its well-paid defenders, is revealing a blind spot, a fundamental flaw in their understanding of postwar American politics. I would think that would be something they would want to correct.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at November 24, 2009 11:48 PM

It's a Cookout Freakout On Lookout Mountain!

Posted by: Happy Jack at November 25, 2009 12:10 AM

"So the CIA that elegantly killed JFK is the same group that couldn't kill Castro two years before? OK, whatever you say."

maybe they needed to practice....

Posted by: Susan at November 25, 2009 02:14 AM

In a politically charged situation, scientists are no more honest, and no more immune to the pull of politics, than garbage-men, mail clerks, dog groomers, phlebotomists, or statisticians.

I was with you until you started slandering phlebotomists. This cannot stand!

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at November 25, 2009 02:20 AM

Both the JFK shooting and 9/11 were completely "solved" by midnight of the day they happened. Further government and major media investigations served to repeat these accounts (except the HSCA, but it was History by then, and the result was, yeah, there was a fourth shot, Lee Harvey could not have acted alone, whatever.)

The slightly charred photo ID that had survived the plane crash and floated down eighty stories on angels wings into the hands of Rudy Guilani, and so on and so forth.

Interesting how clever the FBI et al is to solved these crimes so quickly.

Posted by: Marcus at November 25, 2009 05:22 AM

Corn Flakes for Breakfast

re Marcus at November 24, 2009 01:09 AM

Whether or not Jon Schwarz had corn flakes for breakfast recently, I had corn flakes today. It was an unopened box from the kitchen of my late father, Colonel Charley. As was typical of him, they were not Kellogg's, but a less expensive brand that is never advertised - Ralston Foods, a division of Ralcorp Holdings Inc. of St. Louis.

My father was once described on a performance evaluation by his superior (which he should not have seen, but you know how secretaries sometimes are) as a "Spartan New Englander." It was from him I learned the four principles of New England frugality:

Eat it up.
Wear it out.
Make do.
Do without.

Along these general lines is a notice which was allegedly posted in some guest house in Maine: If there is something you need which is not here, please consult with the staff, who will explain how to do without it.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at November 25, 2009 08:13 AM


set on fire by airplane-sized molotov cocktails, after a while the buildings fell down

I have spent more time in the last day or two reading about the collapse of the WTC buildings than I did in the eight years before that, but I end up where I started. It seems perfectly clear that the publicly-visible events of 9/11 are sufficient to explain the destruction, and the "planted explosives - controlled demolition" idea is so crazy (who did it? when? how did they keep it a secret?) that it is yet another example of Todd Rundgren's assertion in his song "[I'll believe it when I see it in] Black and White":

People will believe anything

To take just one example from the discussion above, the anti-federalist at November 24, 2009 10:01 PM "I'd say unfocused heat CANNOT cut structural steel girders."

But when you actually read about it, it is perfectly clear to even the layman that the girders didn't have to be CUT - they just had to bend a bit:

"Note that, in structural mechanics, the term ‘creep buckling’ or ‘viscoplastic buckling’ represents any time-dependent buckling; on the other hand, in materials science, the term ‘creep’ is reserved for the time-dependent deformation at stresses less than 0.5 sigma sub zero, while the time-dependent deformation at stresses near sigma sub zero is called 'the flow.' "

Bazant et al., 2008; Journal of Engineering Mechanics ASCE.

Highly intelligent and well-informed people believe things which are obviously impossible.

"Who can explain it? Who can tell you why? Fools give you reasons; wise men never try." Evening, Sam & Janet, 1949; South Pacific.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at November 25, 2009 09:02 AM

i've grown fond of colonel charley

and i think mike of angle's post is smart.

and i also hate the vicious slander of phlebotomists.

i long ago realized that people don't very commonly change their minds about things like whether the government might have been actively complicit in 9/11 based on facts, which are like great swarms of minnows swirling in vast oceans. Cast a net and you'll pull up more than you could ever count. Float a bit and cast another net and you'll pull up a different swarm. There are just too many facts for anyone to ever account for them all in the amount of time people can reasonably commit to such an idle and unproductive exercise.

People can only form their opinions honestly, based on what they know. i just get sick of people repeating the media's endless propoganda about how crazy it is to be a "conspiracy theorist." Repeating that ad nauseum has been highly effective, and it greatly assists elite control of mass opinion. it stifles critical thinking, allows the government to keep vast amounts of information secret, and invites ruthless people to do things that wouldn't be possible if the public's instinctive reaction was more mistrustful.

Anyone who did give a modestly close read to the seven books I identified on the JFK assassination would be disspelled of many of the ideas about impossibility put forth in this threat. More than any alleged government crime in history, a public record exists for the JFK assassination. After 45 years of investigation and analysis, some by very dedicated and intelligent researchers who spent most of their lives doing the work, the record doesn't leave nearly as much doubt about what happened as people who don't examine it tend to think. (Sure details won't ever be known, but that's true of anything, and it doesn't stop people from understanding events.) I would have been proud to write any one of those seven books I listed earlier in the threat. (I shouldn't have left out John Newman's book Oswald and the CIA, especially the 2008 epilogue). They are thorough, scholarly yet accessible, well-written, and most of all honest.

Those who actually learn what did happen over time in connection with the various investigations of the assassination of JFK (from the following day through the Warren Commission and the Garrison trial and the HSCA hearings and the Stone movie and the AARB document productions in the 90s) will reach very different conclusions about what is possible and what is not possible for the government to do. What has been done is possible. That should be any honest person's first admission to himself.

It bears observation that most of the books I identified above, and nearly all of the subject matter, has little to do with the assassination of JFK itself. Nearly all of it has to do with the subsequent investigations, the corruption of those investigations, and the role played by the media in connection with them. There is much more known today than I ever would have guessed five years ago, because the effort to keep the public from believing that such things are possible has been so successful. People might ask themselves why the government has made such a huge investment in preventing the public from being able to honestly evaluate what happened, even after the end of the Cold War and decades after the events themselves. There must be a reason.

Every person will make up his or her own mind how much he wants to learn about this. I put the names of those books out there in the thread because it would have saved me a great deal of time had I been able to find such a list of books by honest, smart, knowledgeable authors. One thing I strongly believe is that no one can make an honest, credible case that whether terrorist events and Presidential assassinations can actually be covertly conducted by elements of the government/military is an unimportant question. It is important. It may be pointless, but it's important. And it doesn't become unimportant just because people repeat "conspiracy theorist" like trained parrots.

Posted by: N E at November 25, 2009 10:33 AM

mistah charley,

buckling is a deformation. you might want to check its ("buckling") definition. it is not a clean shear, which is what is required for a large complex grid of perpendicular beams to collapse on itself. a deformation collapse causes the heavier TOP portion to BEND. so your "technical book" is saying it can bend at a clean shear, on its own footprint?

I think not. somewhere, something is being misunderstood in the use of that source you cite.

try to do this with any linear item, mistah charley. try to make it fall perfectly on itself.

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 25, 2009 12:03 PM

anti-federalist: if I have misunderstood something in the source, the quotation from which I cut and pasted exactly - except for typing out the sigma sub zero part, which wouldn't paste correctly - I'm not surprised. I was only trying to illustrate the level of technical detail, and did not intend to make any particular claim about the collapse of a large grid of perpendicular beams on itself, except to make the assertion that, in my limited perception, due to a series of unfortunate events, the beams were NO LONGER perpendicular.

Go ahead and read the whole thing yourself - it's downloadable from the address given earlier by Donald Johnson in his November 24 8:49 posting.

I also agree with Johnson's general point that comments sections, which perhaps do not change many minds, nevertheless provide interesting pointers to information we weren't aware of, which some people may follow up, assisting in the pursuit of truth, justice, and the potentially sentient way.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at November 25, 2009 03:02 PM

mistah charley

I hope you don't mind me referring you to some technical responses to Bazant, and rest assured I won't take offense if you don't read them. They are at the end of this post.

Bazant does a fine job, as such an expert with his mission typically would, of making the issue seem extremely complex, requiring very large amounts of higher mathematics, certainly enough to scare most people. And in one way the issue does require that. That tends to cause people to defer to the expert, because they are unable to really understand and decide for themselves. But in a more important way the intimidating math is unnecessary. It obscures the theory underlying it, which has to comport with very basic rules of physics such as the law of conservation of energy.
I don't need to explain the attached papers, which were written in language so that people can understand, because the authors wanted to be understood.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: N E at November 25, 2009 05:59 PM

mistah charley, the point isn't 90deg angles in a network of girders.

the point is what happens -- deformation vs clean shear.

textbooks can and often are wrong, because they are written with agendas in mind.

and even accurate textbooks can be misread.

the entire field of economics, and that of statistics, are proof that one can write text after text of utter nonsense, using mathematical formulae that look impressive to the naif.

so when you can show me how deformation magically changes to a clean shear through the miracle of ________________ (please insert the trait, word, or phenomenon that you will use in your proof) then perhaps I'll start believing what you're arguing.

I would strongly urge any person who is following mistah charley's line of commentary to gain access to some steel and an oxy-acetylene torch, and to have some experimental fun trying to replicate what mistah charley is arguing here.

you'll have as much success as a human trying to breathe water.

Posted by: the anti-federalist at November 26, 2009 12:07 PM

i hope everybody knows how to use a torch!

i wonder how many people took out their rifles and tried to replicate that ridiculous magic bullet trajectory that Arlen Specter "came up with" forty years ago. somehow i don't think many people do that sort of thing.

happy thanksgiving!

Posted by: N E at November 26, 2009 01:38 PM


"Surely some of them would have talked by now."

You're right, they would have talked, and they did talk. Look into what Howard Hunt has to say about Kennedy.

Posted by: doug lain at November 28, 2009 04:50 PM