Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.


Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.

Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

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Debate, economy distract as political road bomb awaits

Wall Street collapse and Palin soap opera hide danger of election chicanery

Reviews of Stealing America, Able Danger reveal topic is anathema to system

But will election once again be stolen? Times seems concerned

p1013244.JPG(2pm Thu Oct 2) Like 70 million other inhabitants of this great democracy we can hardly wait for tonight’s Washington University debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, which currently scores 3000+ related news articles on Google (Click pic to enlarge) .

Undoubtedly this is the entertainment highlight of the week, though we don’t really care who the analysts will say has “won”. Palin was manifestly out of her depth in the three media interviews she has done so far with news presenters who so rudely exposed her ignorance of national affairs, but at least one voter in Scranton demonstrated to CBS that this matters not to some (“I’ll be switching between her and sports!” guffawed that fathead).

But we await with interest to see the amiable Joe Biden show how to score points without being ungentlemanly to a woman he outclasses in almost every parameter ie without being a bully and without being patronizing, which will be a trick. Here’s the BBC on the coaching going on:

Biden and Palin prepare for TV clash

This year, Mr Biden is preparing for the debate by going up against Michigan’s Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Ms Granholm, and the Biden aides watching the debates, will no doubt be paying particular attention to how Mr Biden handles debating a woman.
Mr Biden’s biggest worry might be that he will come across as a bully or a show-off if he disputes Mrs Palin’s answers, or patronising if he ignores any potential Palin mistakes.
In previous years, it was Bob Bennett’s job to assume the role of the candidate’s opponent.
He played George H W Bush for Geraldine Ferraro and Michael Dukakis, and Dick Cheney for Joe Lieberman and John Edwards.
Sometimes playing a candidate’s opponent got him into trouble. “When you’re arguing really hard against your candidate, they can get annoyed,” he says.
“Geraldine Ferraro punched me several times during debate prep.”

We are sure that Biden, like Palin currently sequestered with a training group, will be up to it. He is advised by one Alaskan politician who lost to Palin that he should watch out. She proved herself capable of winning a debate with a more experienced pol in her path to the governorship, borrowing blatantly from Ronald Reagan (‘There you go again”) and others.

Of course Palin failing to ruin McCain’s chances won’t be a surprise to those who recall Dan Quayle, a vice-president who corrected a student’s spelling from ‘potato’ to ‘potatoe’ and informed the United Negro College Fund (slogan “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”) that “You take the United Negro College Fund model that what a waste it is to lose one’s mind or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is!”

What this absurd spectacle draws attention away from which is far more important to our mind is the so far very weak response in the media and other arenas to the very real possibility that Republican operatives may again tinker with the electronic voting machines and unless Obama wins by a landslide, flip the results at the last moment for a repeat of 2004.

One doesn’t have to be a bug eyed conspiracy nut to believe this is a possibility, given that so many people in politics seem to agree that it goes without saying that the 2004 election was probably stolen in this way, and so little has been done or said about it since, a point that the recent excellent documentary Stealing America drew attention to.

The extraordinary reviews that this movie drew in New York, uniformly (and quite unfairly) castigating its production values while admitting the topic was a very important one, led us to check out what was going on here, and we have to say that it is a very troubling landscape.

(8.45pm) We will continue this theme after the debate, which has rendered the streets of the Upper East Side deserted.

Silly diversion from the elephantine ghost in the machine

(11 pm Thu) OK, we were wrong, a dull 90 minutes indeed. Sarah Palin’s coaches did a grand job and so did Joe Biden’s, so there were not too many big moments in this debate, just a series of resolutely misleading and distastefully chirpy assertions by a more confident Palin (accusing her political and personal better Obama of “beyond bad judgment” among other sillinesses) which added up to pushing the media hounds back far enough for the increasingly erratic McCain to hope for a little coverage himself, and Biden easily fending off her cheeky sallies with his dazzling smile and able to get in a few good jabs himself but stopped from holding up the abysmal (“hugely blundering” as Palin herself put it) Bush record on war and money high enough to confound anyone who would even think of voting in four more years of American counterjihad and financial mismanagement.

Here’s an FT correspondent’s quick blog take, The Palin-Biden debate and the poverty of low expectations

Well, I have just finished watching the vice-presidential debate – and I must admit I feel a bit cheated. I didn’t tune in because I was hoping for enlightenment. I wanted car-crash television – gaffes galore, the implosion of Sarah Palin, something weird from Joe Biden. But – judged by those standards – the debate was a huge disappointment. Palin was, of course, profoundly unimpressive. But she didn’t mess up – she even managed to say “Ahmadinejad”, without stumbling or hesitating. And Biden also avoided any of his trademark gaffes.
The fact that both candidates will be judged to have done OK is – I think – a sorry commentary on how low expectations have sunk. Because by any reasonable standard, it was a pretty sorry performance. Neither candidate even came close to answering the first question – on whether the House of Representatives had been right to reject the bail-out bill. At that point, I longed for the moderator to jump right in and do a Jeremy Paxman – and insist, preferably with a sneer, that they actually answer the question. But no such luck.
So what did we learn? Well, it turns out that both candidates hate Wall Street and Iran; and love Israel and the American middle-class.
I thought that Palin gained in confidence as the debate continued. And some of her most effective moments came on foreign policy, which is meant to be her biggest weakness. She did quite a good job in exposing the awkward fact that Joe Biden supported the Iraq war, while Obama opposed it. Biden occasionally broke the informal rules of the debate, by speaking coherently and making sense – and I thought he was pretty effective in hitting his theme that Obama’s tax proposals were about fairness. At one point, I thought he was actually going to cry when he recalled the injuries his children had suffered in a car crash. How the Obama campaign must have been willing him on! But he pulled himself together and the moment passed.

Well, we are not sure that Palin hit Ahmadinejad with bullseye pronunciation (is there really a K to be inserted after the “Ah-“, as she, McCain and Biden seem to think?) but it was certainly better than McCain’s flub the other day of “Akmedennydandy”, which made even those who cannot pronounce the name correctly themselves (99% of viewers, probably) laugh.

There’s still a big elephant in the room

However, despite Biden’s admirable restraint the economic news will no doubt do the Bush bashing job for him and Obama over the next month, and since the approval rating for Bush is already the lowest ever, with McCain’s sinking too, we rate the debate a failure on all fronts from entertainment value to game changing electoral significance, with one important exception: it serves as yet another distraction from the ghost in the machines, the bull elephant in the back room of American democracy, the troubling evidence that Republicans have stolen recent elections and may do it again, without the mainstream media keeping the topic on the front burner and determinedly investigating what really happened and whether the action taken so far is sufficient.

In this respect we are glad to see the Times making some noises in this regard in its editorial last week, Certified but Not Guaranteed

Electronic voting machines are notoriously unreliable, but their defenders insist that they can be trusted because they are rigorously tested before they are certified for use. Now Congressional investigators have issued a report confirming that the federal certification program needs work.

The serious problems with electronic voting machines are well-known. They are prone to miscounts — including “vote flipping,” in which votes for one candidate are recorded for another — and computer scientists have shown how easy it is to hack these machines and change the vote totals.

We agree with the many computer scientists, voting rights activists and voters who insist that there must be voter-verified paper records. Still, no state or locality should be using machines that have not met rigorous certification standards.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office concluded that the Election Assistance Commission, which is in charge of certification, has improved the system, but it still identified serious problems.

It found that the commission has failed to establish a central repository where copies of all certified software would be available for inspection and cross-checking. States and localities need to be able to ensure that the software they get from voting machine manufacturers is identical to the software that has been tested and certified. The commission has also failed to set up an adequate system for tracking and resolving problems with machines once they are certified and in use.

The Election Assistance Commission says it wants to do better. Congress should monitor its progress and make sure that the certification system is strengthened. Still, the best way to ensure the integrity of the vote is for Congress to require voter-verified paper records for every electronic ballot cast.

Only the lightest touch on the possibility of real, election changing skulduggery, which is simply not enough in an era where hidden excesses in so many areas are constantly being uncovered. Bottom line: the checks and controls are too weak to prevent another attack in November.

Strange contortions of the Manhattan critics

The best sign of the defensive blindness of the media towards this concern might be the very odd reviews received by Stealing America: Vote by Vote, the latest film to sum up the circumstantial and actual evidence for theft by electronic manipulation by Republican operatives of Democratic votes in 2000, 2004 and possibly 2006.

As we noted in our previous post on the topic on July 31st Stealing America: hacking put Bush in office, Stealing America was a prize example of good movie-bad review in the copycat and insular world of Manhattan media critics. The pans by the Times and the New York Sun were followed by another in the Village Voice, all of them complaining that an all important topic had been short changed by the terrible graphics, music and other production values they deplored in what any reasonable person would have appreciated as an alarmingly effective and well presented documentary account, both methodical and persuasive.

Here is James Snyder in The New York Sun, perhaps the most intellectually thoughtful daily newspaper in the US or even the world before its sad demise on Tuesday (Sept 30) for lack of subsidy (its original investors were financially exhausted by the tens of millions needed annually to sustain its conservative mindset in a city where most opinion makers and educated readers are Democrats, and its last minute appeal for additional donors garnered only lavish compliments from such as billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, but insufficient monies. Thus died the last brave effort at serving up truly thoughtful and literate printed material daily on culture and politics at the breakfast tables of America.

All readers are urgently directed to the The New York Sun web site as a rare collection of timely and often timeless reference commentary and opinion on current affairs and culture that may not last much longer there, much of which is worth downloading. Try entering your favorite author in literature, for instance.)

Stealing America’: When Democracy Loses the Vote
By S. JAMES SNYDER | August 1, 2008

“Stealing America: Vote by Vote,” a compelling examination of modern-day voting practices that opens Friday at Quad Cinemas, is a bold, if slightly dry, act of journalism. The documentary begins with a rather straightforward thesis that has not been examined as thoroughly as it should be: The past two presidential elections, in which victory has been determined by razor-thin margins, have been beset by a skyrocketing number of mishaps at the polls. The mainstream press often dubs them “voting irregularities,” and one doesn’t have to be a supporter of any of the candidates involved to know that they are damaging our concept of free and fair elections.

It wasn’t until the infamous re-count of 2000 and the difficulty in deciding whether, for example, a dimpled chad indicated voter intent, that the average American became familiar with the weaknesses inherent in our voting infrastructure. For her part, “Stealing America” director Dorothy Fadiman became infuriated during the 2004 presidential election about the way in which the confusion, fear, and outright suspicion felt by so many voters went all but unaddressed by major news organizations.

Ms. Fadiman was working as a volunteer at the polls in Florida on Election Day in 2004 when she heard numerous reports of citizens voting for one candidate, only to have another name light up on the electronic screen before them. The director was struck by the mounting frustration of the voters, who could not find acceptable solutions to the problems they had encountered at the polls.

The documentary is quick to point out that manipulating election results is as old as elections themselves, but conspiracy theories of corruption are not the goal here, despite the ring of the title. What has changed in recent years is the degree of reliance on technology, which is more vulnerable to sabotage and less helpful in terms of verifying or scrutinizing results — not to mention in clarifying who has won a tight race.

Not surprisingly, given the results of the 2000 and 2004 elections, the majority of the voters and election volunteers interviewed by Ms. Fadiman are Democrats. But she takes pains to balance the voices in her film in order to show that the irregularities that have come to plague our electoral system represent a bipartisan concern. The dozens of interviewees include state Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat, who witnessed on-screen vote switching; the BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast; Avi Rubin, who runs the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University; the pollster John Zogby, and Ion Sancho, who was appointed to conduct the 2000 Florida recount by the state’s Supreme Court.

“Stealing America” aligns these interviews to support a couple of distinct arguments. First, Ms. Fadiman argues, technological upgrades in the polling booth have left our elections more susceptible to interference, malfunctions, and tampering. In some cases, analysts attempting to re-examine past election results have been told that the raw voting data are proprietary information owned by a private company, and that the only figures available for study are the summaries the company delivered to election officials.

Moreover, the costly equipment and software upgrades for the new machines have not been evenly distributed, leaving many precincts underserved. In 2004, various reports out of Florida and Ohio described citizens waiting in excess of six hours to vote — and in some cases longer.

Ultimately, though, Ms. Fadiman’s ire (as communicated through Peter Coyote’s narration) is directed firmly at the press. Using the firsthand evidence of what she witnessed, not only unreliable computer terminals but election-night results that deviated widely, for the first time in history, from exit polls — a fact that alone should have drawn greater scrutiny — “Stealing America” lambastes the press for its failure to properly dissect the problem. Juxtaposing the exasperation of voters and election volunteers with the calm and steady news reports of the same day in 2004, it’s clear that these are two versions of Election Day that do not mesh.

“Stealing America” suffers from limited production values, arriving complete with canned music, second-rate graphics, and awkward segues between interview and archival footage. It also lacks the flair of a singular personality, such as Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock. But perhaps that’s precisely the point. The movie almost goes out of its way to avoid being provocative for the sake of provocation. It substantiates its arguments, and though it asks big questions, Ms. Fadiman offers a virtual bullet-point list defending why they deserve to be asked.

The 21st century has become an era of neck-and-neck elections that play out moment by moment on 24/7 cable news — elections run by machines and managed by people fixed in the political structure. Ms. Fadiman doesn’t want to sell us on the theory of a swindled populace, but she makes a compelling argument that now is not the time to take the right to the vote, or the security of our voting apparatus, for granted. – ssnyder@nysun.com

One Comment: Submitted by Michael, Aug 15, 2008 14:40

It’s about time someone held the press’ feet to and in the fire. I have noticed that CNN, for instance, spends an inordinate amount of time talking about what a great job they do, summarily dismissing critics. The Murdoch press venues such as Fox are paragons of swiftboating. There is no doubt that partisans such as Katherine Harris in FL and Ken Blackwell in OH interfered in elections and this is in addition to the comments of the CEO of Diebold (the manufacturer of electronic voting machines) that he could make sure Republicans won crucial elections.

There’s no difference between third world countries’ stuffing of ballot boxes and tampering with electronics. And there’s no excuse in the national press not reporting it — except that members of the press now work for multi-national corporations and defense contractors which themselves are the beneficiaries of governmental (especially the Bush administration’s) largess. As always, if you want to understand what goes on in Washington, follow the money, not the Constitution.

As the last sentence of his review shows us (the boldface is ours), Mr Snyder is loathe to be too explicit or forward in endorsing the film director’s alarm at the state of affairs she has unearthed and tagged, but he cannot conceal it either. The reader who comments is not in the same indecisive state.

The same ambivalence was shown in more blatantly schizophrenic style in the two other key commercial mainstream reviews mentioned. Instead of pussyfooting the critics reject the film outright as a total failure for what they see as its unforgivable artistic and craft flaws, never mind its message.

Here is the Times notice, as earlier posted here:

A Glitch in the System

August 1, 2008
A Glitch in the System
New York Times August 1, 2008

“Stealing America: Vote by Vote” might have been this year’s most alarming and patriotic documentary if it weren’t so shoddy and dull. Remember all those complaints about “An Inconvenient Truth” playing like an aggrandized PowerPoint presentation? “Stealing America,” by comparison, barely qualifies as a glorified Google search.

The filmmaker, Dorothy Fadiman, would argue that that’s exactly the point. In reporting on the suspicious circumstances of recent elections, she relies on information gathered by bloggers, local newspapers and personal testimony as opposed to the “mainstream media” — those TV networks and national newspapers, which supposedly ignored or dismissed evidence of electoral malfeasance.

Ah, “supposedly”! There I go being a tool of the hegemonic MSM.

Personally, I happen to share Ms. Fadiman’s outrage over certain details: the unprecedented discrepancies between exit polls and final vote tallies, the wildly divergent wait times for differing populations, the anecdotal frequency of “vote switching” on machines designed as if to encourage hacking.

Professionally, I prefer to have my paranoid liberal indignation enflamed by a little cinematic savoir faire. A call to arms, then: Let us reform our glitch-ridden electoral system, and while we’re at it retire the cheesy computer effects, graceless rhetoric and preaching-to-the-choir irrelevancy of the awkward advocacy doc.

This juvenile effort is a tour de force in self-contradiction, since if Mr. Lee is outraged over the probability that votes and elections are being stolen and the most powerful country in the world has been shanghaied for eight years, these are hardly “details”.

The details are the minor deficiencies he is preoccupied with, which would be more excusable for a movie critic if his comments were accurate, which they are not. The computer effects amusingly point up the outrageous simplicity of the steal, the rhetoric is needed to drive the points home to newcomers to the topic and to the already well informed sophisticate that Mr Lee is apparently anxious to play, and the preaching confined to a momentary flourish at the end of a balanced presentation, forgivable for the director and participants of a conclusive summary of what looks like the greatest three card monte ever perpetrated on the hapless US voter.

How consequential does such a conclusion have to be before Mr Lee abandons his seen-it-all-before, let’s-have-some-Hollywood-production-values-please posture – a trillion dollar war with 4000 American deaths and 100,000 casualties, and the greatest credit crisis since the Great Depression is not enough?

Finally, there was the blithely insulting Village Voice dismissal, as follows:

Power Point Conspiracy Theories in Stealing America: Vote by Vote by Vadim Rizov (Tuesday, July 29th 2008)

Never mind that in trying to establish that voter fraud in American elections is a national problem, Stealing America: Vote by Vote mostly relies on insinuation, anecdotes, and quotes from blogs. Never mind that it trusts the viewer’s intelligence so little that the opening Thomas Paine quote isn’t just shown on-screen but also read out loud (including the author’s name) for the presumably illiterate by narrator Peter Coyote. Never mind that it follows that insult with an unsubtle shot of the White House behind bars. Never mind that much of the footage—when it’s not talking heads, news clips, or bar graphs—consists simply of Daily Show excerpts taken as the last word in incisive media commentary. Never mind that in the rush to make its case, the movie forgoes any serious investigation and treats paranoid liberal conspiracy theories as fact. Never mind that the film complains at one point that allegations of electronic-voting screw-ups were completely ignored by the mainstream media, only to use clips from CNN and Fox News to validate itself. Never mind any of this. What matters is that Stealing America: Vote by Vote—even by the political video documentary’s meager standards—plays like a particularly dull PowerPoint presentation. The case it lays out is factually sketchy, but as a movie, it’s unforgivable.

In other words, an unforgivably dull witted parade of sketchy paranoid conspiracy theory material which omitted any serious investigation, such as Congressional committee testimony, from the horse’s mouth expert explanation and on camera demonstration of the vulnerability of the machines to vote flipping in less than a minute of untraceable manipulation, or bipartisan testimony from voters high and low who experienced vote changes before their very eyes? In fact, all of the latter were included.

It is hard not to conclude that serious documentary material involving careful sequential presentation that argues a case for mighty suspicion of concealed skulduggery is unacceptable unless its point of view is already pc, in the manner of Gore’s man made global warming Powerpoint, and entertaining and well executed to boot, and that Vadim’s editors are not going to accept praise for anything that remotely smacks of “conspiracy theory”, even though it is inevitable that paranoia will be vindicated in some case sooner or later, and that this particular case seems the best case to date.

Able Danger another case study in media prejudice

The media prejudice against conspiracy theory (one which we share) is most lately excited by the utter inability of 9/11 paranoids to produce a logical case or any hard evidence to support it, in the face of overwhelming investigation and fact checking by establishment political and engineering groups in response.

The latest of these is the report issued a month ago dismissing the sudden downfall of WTC 7 seven hours after the Twin Towers as any kind of evidence that explosive material had been installed in advance.

August 22, 2008
Fire, Not Explosives, Felled 3rd Tower on 9/11, Report Says
By Eric Lipton

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Fires in the 47-story office tower at the edge of the World Trade Center site undermined floor beams and a critical structural column, federal investigators concluded on Thursday, as they attempted to curb still-rampant speculation that explosives caused the building’s collapse on Sept. 11, 2001.

No one died when the tower, 7 World Trade Center, tumbled, as the estimated 4,000 office workers there at the time had evacuated before it gave way, nearly seven hours after the second of the twin towers came down.

But the collapse of 7 World Trade Center — home at the time to branch offices of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service and the Giuliani administration’s emergency operations center — is cited in hundreds of Web sites and books as perhaps the most compelling evidence that an insider secretly planted explosives, intentionally destroying the tower.

A separate, preliminary report issued in 2002 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency questioned whether diesel fuel tanks installed in the tower to supply backup generators — including one that powered the Giuliani administration’s emergency “bunker” — might have been to blame.

But S. Shyam Sunder, the lead investigator from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, based here in the suburbs of Washington, also rejected that theory on Thursday, even as he acknowledged that the collapse had been something of a puzzle.

“Our take-home message today is the reason for the collapse of World Trade Center 7 is no longer a mystery,” Dr. Sunder said at a news conference at the institute’s headquarters. “It did not collapse from explosives or fuel oil fires.”

The institute’s findings were released on Thursday as part of a 915-page report resulting from the work of more than 50 federal investigators and a dozen contractors over three years.

Conspiracy theorists have pointed to the fact that the building fell straight down, instead of tumbling, as proof that explosives were used to topple it, as well as to bring down the twin towers. Sixteen percent of the respondents in a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll said it was very likely or somewhat likely that explosives were planted.

During the last four decades, other towers in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have remained standing through catastrophic blazes that burned out of control for hours because of malfunctioning or nonexistent sprinkler systems. But 7 World Trade Center, which was not struck by a plane, is the first skyscraper in modern times to collapse primarily as a result of a fire. Adding to the suspicion is the fact that in the rush to clean up the site, almost all of the steel remains of the tower were disposed of, leaving investigators in later years with little forensic evidence.

Using videos, photographs and building design documents, the investigators at the National Institute spent the last three years building an elaborate computer model of 7 World Trade Center that they used to test various chains of events to figure out what caused the collapse, Dr. Sunder said.

The investigators determined that debris from the falling twin towers damaged structural columns and ignited fires on at least 10 floors at 7 World Trade Center, which stood about 400 feet north of the twin towers. But the structural damage from the falling debris was not significant enough to threaten the tower’s stability, Dr. Sunder said.

The fires on six of the lower floors burned with particular intensity because the water supply for the sprinkler system had been cut off — the upper floors had a backup water supply — and the Fire Department, devastated by the collapse of the twin towers, stopped trying to fight the blaze.

Normally, fireproofing on a skyscraper should have been sufficient to allow such a blaze to burn itself out and leave the building damaged but still standing. But investigators determined that the heat from the fire caused girders in the steel floor of 7 World Trade Center to expand. As a result, steel beams underneath the floors that provided lateral support for the tower’s structural columns began to buckle or put pressure against the vertical structural columns.

These fires might have been fed partly by the diesel from tanks and a pressurized fuel line, which were on the fifth to the ninth floors, Dr. Sunder said. But the analysis showed that even in the worst case, the diesel fuel-fed fire would not have burned hot enough or long enough to have played a major role in weakening the structure. The investigators determined that the fire that day was fed mainly by office paper and furnishings.

The collapse started when a girder on the 13th floor disconnected from a critical column — listed as Column 79 — that supported a long open floor span, the report said. Once that floor gave way, the floors below it down to the fifth floor also collapsed, although this was not visible from the building’s exterior.

Without lateral support for nine stories, Column 79 buckled, and the floors above gave way all the way up to the roof. Only then did the collapse become visible from the exterior with a penthouse area on the roof first falling in, followed by what looked like the sudden implosion of the tower, Dr. Sunder said. “The physics is consistent, it is sound, it has been analyzed,” he said.

Skeptics have questioned whether explosives were planted at the three towers at ground zero, and at the Pentagon as well, often contending that the Bush administration had planned the catastrophes to provide a justification to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. What started as a small number of such conspiracy theorists ballooned into a movement of sorts, largely fed by Internet sites and homemade videos.

Dr. Sunder said the investigators considered the possibility that explosives were used, but ruled it out because the noise associated with such an explosion would have been 10 times louder than being in front of the speakers at a rock concert, he said, and detectable from as far as a half a mile away. He said that interviews with eyewitnesses and a review of video taken that day provided no evidence of a sound that loud just before the collapse.

The skeptics — including several who attended Thursday’s news conference — were unimpressed. They have long argued that an incendiary material called thermite, made of aluminum powder and a metal oxide, was used to take down the trade center towers, an approach that would not necessarily result in an explosive boom. They also have argued that a sulfur residue found at the World Trade Center site is evidence of an inside job.

Dr. Sunder said the investigators chose not to use the computer model to evaluate whether a thermite-fueled fire might have brought down the tower, since 100 pounds of it would have had to have been stacked directly against the critical column that gave way, which he said they did not believe had occurred.

To the skeptics, it was a glaring omission.

“It is very difficult to find what you are not looking for,” said Shane Geiger, who contributes to a Web site that follows the topic and who had come to Maryland from Texas to quiz Dr. Sunder about his findings, with a bumper sticker on his laptop computer that says, “9-11 was an inside job.”

Dr. Sunder attempted to patiently answer the questions that Mr. Geiger and another obvious critic presented to him during the news conference. Five armed police officers and a bomb-sniffing dog stood guard near the rear of the room.

Dr. Sunder said there were no apparent flaws in 7 World Trade Center’s design that contributed to its collapse and that it met New York City codes. But there are some important lessons for other skyscrapers, he said, as engineers and architects should consider how the heat from fires can weaken structural elements, potentially causing a so-called progressive collapse.

Owners of tall buildings with a similar floor design — he could not estimate how many such towers exist in the United States — should immediately consider whether to install reinforcements, he said, and perhaps codes should be changed to address the weakness.

A new, substantially different 7 World Trade Center — now 52 stories — reopened at roughly the same site in 2006. The new building has extra safety features, including wider emergency stairwells and a fire-resistant refuge area on each floor.

Within moments after the news conference ended, leaders of a group called Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth held their own telephone conference briefing, dismissing the investigation as flawed.

“How much longer do we have to endure the coverup of how Building 7 was destroyed?” said Richard Gage, a California architect and leader of the group.

Told of the doubts, Dr. Sunder said he could not explain why the skepticism would not die.

“I am really not a psychologist,” he said. “Our job was to come up with the best science.”

(To be cont.)

9 Responses to “Debate, economy distract as political road bomb awaits”

  1. Baby Pong Says:

    I completely agree with TS. Conspiracy theories are silly. Everybody knows that conspiracies don’t happen. And everybody knows that a US government agency like NIST is going to produce an objective investigation of alleged government wrongdoing, because, darn, it’s the right thing to do!


  2. Truthseeker Says:

    Almost all conspiracy theories are silly. That’s what is so damaging about them – they let the true problems sneak through under the Crying Wolf camouflage, with the guards asleep at the post.

    Because 9/11 is so fatuous a theory without any credibility or the smallest scrap of genuine evidence everyone is lulled into thinking that elections don’t get hacked.

  3. Baby Pong Says:

    Of course, conspiracies never happen. Two guys don’t plot to knock off a 7-Eleven on a Saturday night. And a guy in a cave (a most unusual cave, which would have needed to have been outfitted with the most sophisticated communications equipment capable of executing an elaborate plot on the other side of the world with split second timing, defeating the vast resources of the world’s most advanced defensive system, and also would have needed a dialysis machine in the cave to keep the guy alive…and lots of electricity to run all this technology…this conspiracy doesn’t happen either.

  4. Truthseeker Says:

    Gee, I guess the fact that they must have power sockets in the caves to run the video cameras proves beyond doubt that that the CIA supplied generators.

  5. stevekj Says:

    TS, you must bear in mind that the story peddled by the U.S. government of what happened on 9/11 is itself a conspiracy theory. So the choice available to intelligent observers is not “should I believe the official account or some nutjob conspiracy theorists” but rather “*which* conspiracy theorists should I believe?” There is no reason to elevate the official story above the pejorative label “conspiracy theory” just because it happens to come from the government.

    When you frame it this way, and look at the available evidence carefully, it quickly becomes obvious that the official story is a fabrication, and that whatever happened that day had a lot of inside help. It was very clearly not just a bunch of turban-wearing foreigners stealing a couple of planes. Where did that help come from? Since the government put a lot of effort into covering up and suppressing evidence, that’s who I would look at first.

  6. Truthseeker Says:

    Well Steve, perhaps you are in possession of evidence that some known or unknown branch of the US government gave them inside help, but it appears that the New York Times does not have it. Would you care to forward it to us or them? Not sure that the government’s “conspiracy theory” and the 9/11 nutjob “conspiracy theory” are on the same plane as far as the definition of “conspiracy theory” goes. Buncha Al Quaeda loonies hitting at the Great Satan’s new brand symbol (G’bye Statue of Liberty) on the grounds it offended their idea of maintaining the innocence of Islam from Western values is hardly the same kind of thing as officials of the US federal government assisting the assault and if so how exactly? How did they assist them? They knew about them but they let them go ahead? OK so did they know it would demolish the WTC Twin Towers so dramatically and totally? If not, was it really such a great idea as it turned out to be? Not beforehand, clearly. It was small scale in prospect, even compared with boarding and downing many more planes at a time. Any Federal Government involvement would have escalated it to a decent level commensurate with the ambitions of the dastardly planners of world domination or whatever.

    They weren’t wearing dish cloths anyhow, they were in jacket and trousers as we recall. The government motives in suppressing evidence presumably had a lot to do with various understandable political motives from crowd control and avoiding blame for incompetence to trying to get the Bush friends the Bin Ladens out of town before they got lynched, etc, just as the EPA assessment of the smoke as non toxic was to avoid panic and get business back ASAP. The list of such motives is easy to imagine. The possibility of a conspiracy within the US government executive branch of aiding and abetting a very low tech amateurish attack on the symbols of American global commercial power and keeping it concealed afterwards from the bloodhound media of the world all eager to expose any such thing is by comparison totally inconceivable on any rational basis, that is all we claim.

  7. MacDonald Says:

    Any Federal Government involvement would have escalated it to a decent level commensurate with the ambitions of the dastardly planners of world domination or whatever.

    I’m not sure what you’re gettign at here, TS 9/11 worked quite nicely for those dastardly planners of world domination. It ushered in an endless war against a phantom enemy plus Afghanistan, Iraq and soon Iran, unbridled executive powers, accelerated erosion of all civil liberties, got Buch elected twice, and is the only reason McCain is not light years behind in the polls.

    Whaddaya mean it wasn’t enuff?

    BY the way, why do we need somebody to come forward with evidence when the doting fools that runs the country spill the beans every time they forget to take their medicine on time?

    If Rumsfeld himself told you that Flight 93 was shot down, would you believe it? If Bush told you that bombs inside the buildings were part of the terrorists’ plan, would that be convincing? Note, in the usual semantic mess that characterizes every Bush statement, there is an allusion to people trapped above not being allowed to escape. Guess which event. How about 9/11 comission testimony saying that Cheney knew that…. whatever hit Pentagon was coming, but declared that “the order stands” (obviosuly not the order to shoot the bugger down)? Here’s the trinity for ya:



  8. Baby Pong Says:

    “Well Steve, perhaps you are in possession of evidence that some known or unknown branch of the US government gave them inside help, but it appears that the New York Times does not have it.”

    Did you ever serve on a jury, TS? Have you never seen a prosecutor discredit the testimony of someone who is a known and proven liar? Ah, yes, if the NYT had evidence, you imply, they would publish it, even salivate at the prospect, being part of a “bloodhound media… eager to expose any such thing…”

    These really shows your disconnect with reality. First, the NYT are known and proven liars, as any good intellectual should know. The media are only eager to expose scandals that involve illicit sex by world leaders and other titillating matters that make good headlines but do not seriously threaten to overturn the established order. The media themselves are the biggest scandal of all, for most of the time they act as though they were state-controlled, faithfully parrotting government’s self-serving stories, and do not dig to get at facts that would really stir the rabble to revolution.

    The list of important stories they have censored would probably stretch from New York city to Crackley Falls, Maryland, were it set in 16 point justified Bodoni with 1-1/2 line spacing and 1/4 inch indents.

    Okay, now I’m sure you will change your fanciful thinking. You just needed a knock on the head.

  9. Truthseeker Says:

    The list stretches from New York to Niagara Falls, yet you cannot name one favorite?

    Yes, prosecutors are often liars and abet lying and manage to railroad innocents into jail for ever and then when they are proved innocent, resist the correction, as my next post will record when I return from life ie Photoplus 2008.

    Yes, the media are captives of their system, as we all are except the few outside any system, as are the distinguished personnel and resolute commentators of the Guardian of Science.

    But what has that got to do with the price of bats flying around your belfry, my distinguished commentator?

    We requested evidence, and it appears you come up short. Do we have to laboriously post a list of all the proper explanations of all the supposed mysteries of 9/11?

    We are willing to do that but other vital topics must take priority. To avoid confusion of topic, since this post concerns voting integrity, after all, not 9/11, perhaps you will allow us to start the post on 9/11 rebuttal with a couple of sentences and fill in later, and this important discussion can be moved there instead of forcing those printing out the comments on this post to waste paper (in their view) on the topic that concerns you, which is apparently your unlikely belief that those who occupy the top positions in US government and its executive can organize conspiracies of an intricate nature and vast consequence without being found out by any intern reporter on a provincial newspaper in Utah, which seems unlikely a priori but hey, always surprises in store as the planet rolls on in it as yet undisturbed orbit.

    NOTICE: This thread moved to Was 9/11 aided and abetted by heinous, brilliant co-conspirators in federal employ?, the new post on 9/11 theories, if you don’t mind.

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