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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Speaking Of Credulity

It's not just the Spanish who have this little credulity problem.

Carl at No Oil For Pacifists posted regarding the 9/11 beliefs of Richard Falk, who has just been unanimously elected to the head of the UN Human Rights Commission that is supposed to monitor human rights issues in the Israeli/Palestinian standoff.

Among Mr Falk's qualifications is that he was an international law professor at Princeton University. Of course! And he is distinguished for his openmindedness and critical thinking abilities, as demonstrated by this lovely quote:
On March 24 in an interview with a radio host and former University of Wisconsin instructor, Kevin Barrett, Mr. Falk said, "It is possibly true that especially the neoconservatives thought there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people. Whether they are innocent about the contention that they made that something happen or not, I don't think we can answer definitively at this point. All we can say is there is a lot of grounds for suspicion, there should be an official investigation of the sort the 9/11 commission did not engage in and that the failure to do these things is cheating the American people and in some sense the people of the world of a greater confidence in what really happened than they presently possess."
And also the manhunts, Mr Falk! Don't forget the North Carolina and Virginia manhunts! In 2004 Richard Falk wrote the foreword to Griffin's book claiming that the US attacked itself, so in fairness to Mr. Falk one would have to say that he did not adopt this theory as a UN Human Rights campaign strategy. He's been barmy for a while, to put it in Brit-speak. One would say that Mr. Falk has spent too much time sniffing the academic glue in extremely progressive Princeton University circles.

What's really amusing is that this latest statement emerged on Kevin Barrett's radio show. Our Kevin is the wackjob who proposed to teach 9/11 conspiracy theory in his introductory level "Islam, Religion and Culture" course at UW-Madison. Among the other features of that theory is the remarkable assertion that steel does not melt from hydrocarbon fires, a contention that makes welders mysterious Merlins and rewrites human technological history.

Anyway, Barrett is now hanging out on two radio shows, one of which is named "Truth Jihad Radio", from which platform he disseminates his enlightened views on free speech and capital punishment:
In Fall 2006 Kevin Barrett began hosting a talk show twice a week on the GCN called "The Dynamic Duo," and another talk show, hosted weekly on RBN, titled "Truth Jihad Radio." The topic of both shows is mainly conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11.

Barrett's controversial views on Jews and Zionism came under focus in late 2006 when statements from an email exchange were documented in which he stated, "As a rational person who is not a specialist in the subject of WWII, but who has studied the history of Zionist Big Lies vis-a-vis Palestine, I cannot possibly dismiss the arguments of people like Green, Irving, and even Zundel."[15][16] Some activists have also commented on a pattern of public statements by Barrett suggestive of violence toward reporters and journalists, such as, "journalists who act as propagandists for war crimes may one day find themselves on the scaffold," and "anybody who has drawn a paycheck from the major mainstream journalistic outlets in the past should be up on the scaffold for the crimes of high treason and crimes against humanity."[17]
Irving and Zundel? Finding Mr. Falk on Barrett's radio show is alarming to say the least.

As for Mr. Falk, he claims that the Palestinian situation now is equivalent to Hitler's tactics. See his 2007 paper "Slouching Toward A Palestinian Holocaust":
There is little doubt that the Nazi Holocaust was as close to unconditional evil as has been revealed throughout the entire bloody history of the human species. Its massiveness, unconcealed genocidal intent, and reliance on the mentality and instruments of modernity give its enactment in the death camps of Europe a special status in our moral imagination.
Against this background, it is especially painful for me, as an American Jew, to feel compelled to portray the ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel through a reliance on such an inflammatory metaphor as ‘holocaust.’
Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not.
Even if the pressures exerted on Gaza were to be acknowledged as having genocidal potential and even if Israel’s impunity under America’s geopolitical umbrella is put aside, there is little assurance that any sort of protective action in Gaza would be taken. There were strong advance signals in 1994 of a genocide to come in Rwanda, and yet nothing was done to stop it; the UN and the world watched while the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnians took place, an incident that the World Court described as ‘genocide’ a few months ago; similarly, there have been repeated allegations of genocidal conduct in Darfur over the course of the last several years, and hardly an international finger has been raised, either to protect those threatened or to resolve the conflict in some manner that shares power and resources among the contending ethnic groups.

But Gaza is morally far worse, although mass death has not yet resulted.
It goes on, and it is painful to read. Needless to say Israel has denied this man a visa and rejected his appointment. A person who does not know the difference between actual mass murder and the Palestinian situation is either insane or malign. One fascinating feature of Falk's attitudes is that he never actually gets down to proposing any solutions.

Here is Richard Falk's 2004 foreword to David Ray Griffin's "The New Pearl Harbor". A selection of Falk's papers can be found here. The "dialectic" has a distinctive brand of verbose and exalted obfuscation.

Now,Now MoM,if he wasn't a self important whackjob he would not have qualified for those jobs in the first place.Personally I like John Yoo of ultra liberal UC berkeley who asserts that the fourth Amendment has NO applicability to Domestic Military operations,and whose "Torture Memo" brought sophistry to new levels.
A small thing, the 911 fires did not melt or need to melt the steel, just heat them to where they became weakened.

Welders of steel normally use electric arc to weld not gas.

Jet fuel is a different thing than welding gas.

One should never confuse for a conspiracy what can be attributed to chance and incompetance.
Every architect and licensed professional engineer can contradict the fire-steel claim. So can every firefighter. In the current climate, they have an obligation to do so. The basic fact: the finish and contents of an ordinary office can create enough heat to soften (not melt, soften) structural steel past the point of collapse. This is why steel in buildings is fireproofed, and why the fireproofing is rated in terms of the length of time for which it will provide adequate protection.

In the WTC fires, the passage of the aircraft/wreckage would have destroyed large parts of the trusswork joists (floor beams) of the floors above. Where it did not destroy the joists, it would have stripped the fire protective coating from them. The WTC, which did not have substantial horizontal girders, depended on its floors to keep the supporting columns straight. Once the floor trusses softened, everything would fail. In fact, the failure occurred in the connection between the floor structure and the columns. Once one floor slab let go, it dropped to the one below. That slab was not intended to withstand an impact and it too collapsed, and so forth. This "pancaking" is a well-known effect, and made the news when it happened in a building under construction in Connecticut not that many years ago. As the floor slabs fell, the columns lost their horizontal bracing and collapsed inwards.

Make sure that the people you meet know these basic facts.

As for Mr. Falk: Maybe it is time for the US to get out of the UN. It would be better if we could get the rest of the G7 (forget Russia) to do the same.
Now you did it, Mama. Now the conspiracy fantasists are going to drop by to ask all their innocent questions ("Did you know the hole in the Pentagon was too small?", "Did you know a world reknowned scientist found thermite at Ground Zero?"... (for the record for those who've never heard 9/11 conspiracy nuttery before: No, it was not - they're showing you pictures of an exit hole, not the main fuselage impact hole - and no, he did not)).

Idiots like Falk destroy what little faith I have in government bit by bit. I don't expect anyone in government to be undeniable geniuses, but I do expect them to not fall for dumb, unsupported urban myths, let alone use their position to trumpet them. The truth is so obvious, and when someone believes the conspiratorial explanations over the truth, you just plain lose respect. When that someone is elevated to a position of authority, you further lose respect for the ones elevating him. And so belief in the abilities of goverment - or in this case, pseudogovernment (the UN) - just diminishes even more.

And I'm not even going to start on the idiocy of comparing the Palestinian situation and the Jewish Holocaust.

But truthers... good God...

(BTW, the idiot truthers cannot even get their own canon correct; the conspiracy fantasy is supposed to be "jet fuel cannot burn hot enough to melt steel", not just "fire can't...". When the dips***s say that, they're being lazy and superficial about their own damn beliefs. Just how pathetic is that?

Vader, just so you know: Some of the less oblivious truthers have caught on to the heat weakening argument, and have shifted (or oozed) themselves over to saying that NIST proved that the fires weren't hot enough to even weaken the steel. Which is not what the sections of the NIST Report they use to buttress that claim mean to say that at all. My point is that there are some snake oil salesmen - oh, excuse me, 9/11 Truth Movement members - who are smart enough to avoid the dumb fire-steel argument.

njcommuter - This is a hairsplit, and I apologize for it, but given that truthers are always happy to think that catching someone in a verbal "error" is proof of their argument's superiority, I want to help keep you and others from unnecessary embarassment at their ignorant hands: Technically, NIST doesn't say that pancaking occurred in the collapse initiation zone. Which means that truthers turn that inch into a mile by saying NIST says no pancaking occurred whatsoever, but that's SOP for them. Anyway, NIST says that a failure of lateral supports caused a failure of the perimeter supports, which then resulted in the entire top section above the fire/impact compromised zones to fall at once onto the floors below the compromized zones. Thus, that whole "top section" as a unit was what pancaked into the floors below. So what's the difference? The compromised section failed as a unit, rather than individually by floors. And because the core and perimeter supports were involved and sure as heck didn't help keep things together, each tower really failed as a whole unit rather than staying intact everywhere else and just failing by an individual floor, then snowballing from that. Make sense?

Yeah. I know. It sounds like nitpicking. And I'm sorry about that. But since truthers are all about trying to catch people in verbal traps, if you'd say "pancaking", they'd be more than happy to counter by referring you to the part of the NIST FAQ that says "NIST’s findings do not support the “pancake theory” of collapse, which is premised on a progressive failure". And then do a victory dance, thinking they've debunked you, when in truth, it's they who misunderstand the argument. So, apologies for being painfully didactic, but again, I want to save you from having to deal with their superiority complex if you happen to stumble right into their ambush.

Yes, I've bounced off a few of these idiots before. As a change of topic, I hope they don't try to come to this blog and pollute it with their stupidity.
Elmondohummus - I fight back with terribly boring statistical posts. Truthers like a more vibrant environment with less factual discussion.

Vader - the point is the temps. I once got a fire in my fireplace so hot the iron log rack sagged and collapsed. I can barely stop laughing every time I think of their argument, because it is so silly.
ELMH - the Falk appointment truly bothers me. Can the UN be saved? If not, don't we need to create another body to supplant it?
"ELMH - the Falk appointment truly bothers me. Can the UN be saved? If not, don't we need to create another body to supplant it?"

Well, the UN is just an organization, so of course it can be saved. Just replace everyone with saner, more realistic individuals who realize and understand the importance of critical thinking over mere political agitprop delivery, and change the rules to recognize that a true world organization puts citizens first, before ideology.

Now, will that happen? Not anytime soon, I'm afraid, if ever. Too many people are entrenched, just like any other bureaucracy.

As far as creating a different, supplanting body, I'm actually not sure about that. Too often, creating competing bodies/organizations/products comes off as being petulant. I'd rather that any new bodies arise in the same manner that NATO did: Western European countries recognizing after WWII that they needed to cooperate in keeping the west safe from communist imperialism, and building on already existing ties from the war. In short, let organizations arise naturally from the individual nations' cooperations with each other. I wouldn't mind seeing Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Thailand, etc. get together and cooperate as an anti-piracy (yes, high-seas piracy) group, and let ties grow from there to something bigger (perhaps a group of Pacific nations cooperating against terrorism in general). But creating an organization from whole cloth? Well, the League of Nations and the UN started out that way too; while their failures weren't due to the the way they were born, I'd still rather avoid duplicating as many aspects of the UN as possible.
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