Archive for June 9th, 2006

I must adimit. I find it a little surprising that 500 people gathered together in one spot to discuss 9/11 conspiracy theories. Not that there are 500 people who actually believe the U.S. government might have orchestrated the events that transpired on September 11–I'm sure there are thousands more who believe the same thing.

No, I'm more surprised that 500 loonies actually managed to get out of their parent's basements (or their caves–I kid you not–read the article below) and make their way to one spot in chicago and sit around like a bunch of pigeons cooing, "What about this?" and "What about that?" and "Who did this" and "what" and "who" and "whooo." These guys make Trekkies look like Nobel science recipients.

Five hundred. That's a start I suppose.

500 Conspiracy Buffs Meet to Seek the Truth of 9/11

Published: June 5, 2006

Tonya Miller Bailey, of Indiana, in the rally at Daley Plaza on Friday that served as the conference kickoff. "We've done a lot of solid research," one participant said.

David Kubiak, one of the speakers at the International Education and Strategy Conference for 9/11 Truth.

CHICAGO, June 4 In the ballroom foyer of the Embassy Suites Hotel, the two-day International Education and Strategy Conference for 9/11 Truth was off to a rollicking start.

In Salon Four, there was a presentation under way on the attack in Oklahoma City, while in the room next door, the splintered factions of the movement were asked for sake of unity to seek a common goal.

In the foyer, there were stick-pins for sale ("More gin, less Rummy"), and in the lecture halls discussions of the melting point of steel. "It's all documented," people said. Or: "The mass media is mass deception." Or, as strangers from the Internet shook hands: "Great to meet you. Love the work."

Such was the coming-out for the movement known as "9/11 Truth," a society of skeptics and scientists who believe the government was complicit in the terrorist attacks. In colleges and chat rooms on the Internet, this band of disbelievers has been trying for years to prove that 9/11 was an inside job.

Whatever one thinks of the claim that the state would plan, then execute, a scheme to murder thousands of its own, there was something to the fact that more than 500 people from Italy to Northern California gathered for the weekend at a major chain hotel near the runways of O'Hare International. It was, in tone, half trade show, half political convention. There were talks on the Reichstag fire and the sinking of the Battleship Maine as precedents for 9/11. There were speeches by the lawyer for James Earl Ray, who claimed that a military conspiracy killed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and by a former operative for the British secret service, MI5.

"We feel at this point we've done a lot of solid research, but the American public still is not informed," said Michael Berger, press director for 911Truth.org, which sponsored the event. "We had to come up with a disciplined approach to get it out."

Mr. Berger, 40, is typical of 9/11 Truthers a group that, in its rank and file, includes professors, chain-saw operators, mothers, engineers, activists, used-book sellers, pizza deliverymen, college students, a former fringe candidate for United States Senate and a long-haired fellow named hummux (pronounced who-mook) who, on and off, lived in a cave for 15 years.

The former owner of a recycling plant outside St. Louis, Mr. Berger joined the movement when he grew skeptical of why the 9/11 Commission had failed, to his sense of sufficiency, to answer how the building at 7 World Trade Center collapsed like a ton of bricks. It was his "9/11 trigger," the incident that drew him in, he said. For others, it might be the fact that the air-defense network did not prevent the attacks that day, or the appearance of thousands of "puts" or short-sell bids on the nation's airline stocks. (The 9/11 Commission found the sales innocuous.)

Such "red flags," as they are sometimes called, were the meat and potatoes of the keynote speech on Friday night by Alex Jones, who is the William Jennings Bryan of the 9/11 band. Mr. Jones, a syndicated radio host, is known for his larynx-tearing screeds against corruption fiery, almost preacherly, addresses in which he sweats, balls his fists and often swerves from quoting Roman history to using foul language in a single breath.

At the lectern Friday night, beside a digital projection reading "History of Government Sponsored Terrorism," Mr. Jones set forth the central tenets of 9/11 Truth: that the military command that monitors aircraft "stood down" on the day of the attacks; that President Bush addressed children in a Florida classroom instead of being whisked off to the White House; that the hijackers, despite what the authorities say, were trained at American military bases; and that the towers did not collapse because of burning fuel and weakened steel but because of a "controlled demolition" caused by pre-set bombs.

According to the group's Web site, the motive for faking a terrorist attack was to allow the administration "to instantly implement policies its members have long supported, but which were otherwise infeasible."

The controlled-demolition theory is the sine qua non of the 9/11 movement its basic claim and, in some sense, the one upon which all others rest. It is, of course, directly contradicted by the 10,000-page investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which held that jet-fuel fires distressed the towers' structure, which eventually collapsed.

The movement's answer to that report was written by Steven E. Jones, a professor of physics at Brigham Young University and the movement's expert in the matter of collapse. Dr. Jones, unlike Alex Jones, is a soft-spoken man who lets his writing do the talking. He composed an account of the destruction of the towers (www.physics.byu.edu/research/energy/htm7.html) that holds that "pre-positioned cutter-charges" brought the buildings down.

Like a prior generation of skeptics those who doubted, say, the Warren Commission or the government's account of the Gulf of Tonkin attack the 9/11 Truthers are dogged, at home and in the office, by friends and family who suspect that they may, in fact, be completely nuts.

"Elvis and Area 51 we're sort of lumped together," said Harlan Dietrich, a recent college graduate from Austin, Tex. "It's attack the messenger, not the message every time."

To get the message out, the movement has gone beyond bumper stickers and "Kumbaya" into political action.

There is a plan, Mr. Berger said, to create a fund to support candidates on a 9/11 platform. There is a plan to create a network of college campus groups. There is a plan by the British delegation (such as it is, so far) to get members of Parliament to watch "Loose Change," the seminal movement DVD.

It would even seem the Truthers are not alone in believing the whole truth has not come out. A poll released last month by Zogby International found that 42 percent of all Americans believe the 9/11 Commission "concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence" in the attacks. This is in addition to the Zogby poll two years ago that found that 49 percent of New York City residents agreed with the idea that some leaders "knew in advance" that the attacks were planned and failed to act.

Beneath the weekend's screenings and symposiums on geopolitics and mass-hypnotic trance lies a tradition of questioning concentrated power, both in public and in private hands, said Mark Fenster, a law professor at the University of Florida and author of "Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture."

As for the 9/11 Truthers, they were confident enough that their theories made sense that on Friday, as a kickoff to the conference, they met in Daley Plaza for a rally (though some called it Dealey Plaza). They marched up Kinzle Street to the local affiliate of NBC where, at the plate glass windows, they chanted, "Talking heads tell lies," as the news was being read.

"I hope you don't end up dead somewhere," a companion said to a participant, hours earlier as he dropped him at the Loop. "Don't worry," the participant said. "There's too many of us for that."

Read Full Post »

Having lived in Los Angeles for a decade, I can certainly see how illegal immigration affects the city and Southern California in general.  While I consider myself a fairly liberal person, most would probably take my views on illegal immigration as quite conservative.  Apparently, I'm not the only one who shares these views.

The non-partisan, non-profit organization/think tank, Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) just published a poll on their website that is fairly interesting.  The way the media has portrayed it of late, one would conclude that most people are sympathetic to the illegal immigrants and their cry for amnesty.  According to this poll, which has in my view relatively neutral wording, that is not the case.


Read Full Post »


I managed to get out of the house on Saturday morning to the fancy-pants Arclight Theater to see An Inconvenient Truth, the new Al Gore slideshow/documentary/campaign commercial. Thanks to John for getting me off my ass.

At one point in his new film, Gore makes an analogy between his childhood friend who died of lung cancer and the harmful effects of tobacco smoke and the damning Surgeon General warning concerning the link to cancer from smoking. His father stopped growing and selling tobacco after the death of Gore's friend.

He expressed that if people would have only 'connected the dots' earlier, then his fiend might still be alive today. To be an optimist, the human body does have remarkable healing capabilities.

This analogy was drawn as a comparison to global warming and the cause(s) of said global warming. While I think only a moron would disagree that global warming is taking place at a far greater rate than has ever happened in our recorded history, there still is a lack of hard evidence as to the cause(s) of this catastrophic, earth-changing phenomenon. Gore expressed the idea that our industrialized world is the leading cause, and I would tend to agree. While the 'former next president of the United States' (as he refers to himself at the beginning of his presentation) spent 3/4 of the film laying out what global warming is and what it is doing to the planet, he never fully connected the dots to his conclusion and cure: drive more energy efficient cars, recycle, plant more trees, etc.

I have no problem connecting the dots from the cause to the conclusion, and ultimately I believe anything helps, though more can and should be done by each individual. Some people/politicians/fuckwits in this country in particular would rather push the issue aside entirely. If anything, An Inconvenient Truth is a great introduction to global warming that effectively lays out in layman terms how the process happens and what it is doing to our planet. I would recommend everyone who can, go see this movie, especially not just people who already agree with the conclusions.

Along these lines, here's a dissenting review of the film, that draws many interesting points, though Michael Crichton can't write for shit.

In Inconvenient Truth review
An Inconvenient Truth (6/10)

by Tony Medley

Al Gore is trying to prove that we are in a period of global warming, which is like trying to prove that grass is green with an abundance of evidence, or trying to kill a mosquito with an atomic bomb. Unfortunately, in addition, he is trying to get us to believe that man is responsible, and that we in the United States have the ability to stop it if only we had the will. This film, which is junk science gone mad, is the baby of leftie producer Laurie David, wife of Seinfeld co-creator, Larry.

If the Al Gore that you see in this movie had been the Al Gore who ran for the presidency in 2000, he would have had a much better chance of being elected than he did then, when he appeared about as loose as a wooden soldier. This Al Gore is relaxed, informative, eloquent, and speaks with a respect for his audience. The 2000 Al Gore was stiff, inarticulate, condescending and cliché-ridden, mouthing insipid platitudes given him by political hacks. Hes still probably wrong about the cause of global warming, but hes probably wrong with style.

Because this is basically Gores stump speech that he estimates he has given over 1,000 times to alert the world to what he considers irrefutable evidence of global-warming, its devastating effects, and that both are caused by human activity, this was a relatively easy movie to produce. Among a mountain of evidence he presents to prove the obvious and universally admitted, he shows time-lapse pictures of the diminishing ice in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Greenland, with before- and now aerial photos. The best graphics he showed were what would happen to various cities throughout the world if both the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps melted completely, which Gore says would raise the level of the ocean 40 feet. The graphics showed how the water would inundate cities like New York City, Beijing, and the entire country of The Netherlands. Pretty scary.

That something is happening is irrefutable. That it is something that can be attributed to human behavior, which is the point of the film, is much more debatable.

This is a technically well-made movie that ultimately fails because of Gores faulty logic. For instance, this entire movie shows evidence of global warming. There are lots of shots of glaciers breaking up and falling into the sea. Gore gives us a flood of statistics about what will happen if we do have global warming. He spends a lot of time trying to convince us that global warming is occurring. After doing all that, he comes to the conclusion that the reason why global warming is occurring (if it is), is because of what man is doing, and specifically because of what America is doing or not doing, like not signing the Kyoto Protocol.

But Al isnt a scientist (even though he once claimed he invented the internet among lots of other things we take for granted today). What he presents as science epitomizes junk science. Just for starters, Als arguments are based on flawed logic, which might go over well in the United States Senate given the intellectual level of people like Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch, and Teddy Kennedy, but which dont withstand analysis, which is what were going to do right now. Lets analyze his arguments logically.

First, hes got a problem with Confirmation Bias, the tendency to seek out evidence that is consistent with an hypothesis, instead of seeking out evidence that could disprove it. Als hypothesis is that global warming is occurring and man is the cause. All Al does is to present evidence that its occurring. He doesnt show what is causing it, but he comes to the conclusion that the cause wears pants. He doesnt even try to find evidence that refutes this conclusion.

His logic is further skewed because of the basic error called correlation to cause, which occurs when a correlation is observed, and a causal relationship assumed. Al says global warming is occurring and man is doing lots of things at the same time, so mans actions must be causing the global warming. But he gives us no PROOF that mans actions are the cause of his alleged global warming.

But even worse is his Causal Oversimplification, which occurs when there are many causes to a phenomenon, but the argument implies or assumes that only one is important. It is naïve to assume that if global warming is occurring, there is only one cause. The earth has been cooling and heating throughout its 4 billion year existence. Even assuming that Als first premise is correct, that global warming is occurring, he has completely struck out in trying to prove that the sole, primary cause is human activity.

Global warming is one of the lefts pet projects. Consistent therewith the film complains that the United States is one of two advanced countries who have not signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, another of the lefts more boring refrains.

As technically proficient as the film is, it often looks like a campaign poster for Gore 2008. Instead of concentrating on its subject, the film veers into Gores personal life, even covering the deaths of his sister and child. While that is emotional and creates empathy for him, it has nothing to do with the topic of the film. Did the producers of The March of the Penguins detour into the personal life of the Director Luc Jacquet? Gores personal life has nothing to do with Global Warming (some more callous than I might comment that his personal life has as much to do with Global Warming as does human activity, but I would never stoop to such a cheap shot). So why is such information inserted in the film if not to promote Al for some political office?

Unfortunately, the film virtually ignores the real environmental calamity, which almost without doubt is a large contributor to any global warming, and thats the vicious, continual destruction of the rain forest. The tropical rain forest has circled the globe for 60 million years. Twenty five percent of our prescription medicine comes from 10f the known rainforest plants. But, fasten your seat belt, only an estimated 5-25f all plant species have been found. 1,300 of the known 2,000 cancer-fighting plants come from the rainforests. But only 1f the total number of plants has been studied for medicinal properties! Yet it is being burned to the ground. This is undisputed human activity that nobody is doing anything about. For more on this, see an article I wrote about it in 1996 at the following link: http://www.tonymedley.com/Articles/The_Rainforest.htm.

I wish Gore and the left would devote their efforts to what man is doing to the rainforest. But that would be difficult and the United States has nothing to do with whats happening there. The left would prefer to tilt at windmills, especially windmills they claim are controlled by America.

Even though, at 100 minutes, its about 40 minutes too long, this is an interesting film that can help to increase everybodys knowledge of whats going on in the world. However, to counterbalance Gores skimpy conclusions, there is another viewpoint, eloquently expressed by author Michael Crichton, a man who really is a trained scientist, and who was on the man is causing global warming team until he started researching his novel State of Fear (2004). He changed his mind. In a postscript to his book, he states 28 conclusions, six of which are reproduced here:

  1. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, and human activity is the probable cause.
  2. We are also in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a four-hundred-year cold spell known as the Little Ice Age.
  3. Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenonor man-made (which is what Gore claims).
  4. I think that for anyone to believe in impending resource scarcity, after two hundred years of such false alarms, is kind of weird.
  5. The current near-hysterical preoccupation with safety is at best a waste of resources and a crimp on the human spirit, and at worst an invitation to totalitarianism.
  6. I believe people are well intentioned. But I have great respect for the corrosive influence of bias, systematic distortions of thought, the power of rationalization, the guises of self-interest, and the inevitability of unintended consequences.

The film is beautifully produced and shot. The quality of the filming is so clear and beauteous that it is a joy to watch. Throughout I was impressed by the visual clarity of what I was watching. Even though it probably didnt cost much money to produce, the money spent on the color and quality of the film and the cinematography was well-spent.

I urge anyone who might be swayed by Gores film to read Crichtons postscript if only to get some balance from someone who has done at least as much research as has Al. And dont forget that Crichton is a scientist with a medical degree from Harvard. As I recall, Al studied journalism in college. But I did come out of the film with a different opinion of stiff Al than I did going in.

Thats not to say that this film is categorically wrong. Who knows?

May 12, 2006

Read Full Post »