Sunday, March 31, 2013

Subject: Double Standard for Evidence

I've come to realize that there's a key point that I haven't used enough when I argue with Anthrax Truthers: Anthrax Truthers use a "double standard" when discussing their evidence versus the FBI's evidence.

If it's evidence for something they believe, it's solid evidence.  If it's evidence pointing to Bruce Ivins as the anthrax mailer, it's meaningless and not evidence.

The gash on al Haznawi's leg that Dr. Tsonas thought might have been an anthrax lesion is seen as solid proof that the 9/11 hijackers brought a supply of anthrax with them.  The fact that Ivins had all the anthrax needed for the attacks with the same DNA attributes and made the same way as the attack spores is seen as proof of nothing by Anthrax Truthers. 

The evidence showing that Ivins controlled the murder weapon is seen as meaningless, since the Truthers claim that hundreds of others could have accessed flask RMR-1029 in secret.  However, false positives encountered during tests of a lab in Afghanistan are seen as solid proof that al Qaeda made "the murder weapon."

The fact that no spores were found in Ivins' car is seen as proof that Ivins did NOT mail the letters.  The fact that no spores were found anywhere the 9/11 hijackers went isn't seen as proof of anything.

Etc., etc., etc., etc.

I'm thinking that I should try to prevent Anthrax Truthers from using a double standard for the evidence - or I should point out that they are using a double standard when I can't prevent it.  That could be the key to showing that Anthrax Truthers really have no case -- no matter who they think sent the anthrax letters.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Subject: Anthrax Truthers

After 11 years of debating with Anthrax Truthers, it's clear that they all think the FBI is wrong because each one has his own personal theory about the case.

Interestingly, not a single Anthrax Truther seems capable of fully explaining his or her own theory.  It seems that all they can talk about is reasons why they think the FBI's evidence is inadequate to convince anyone that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer.  Yet, inexplicably, they cannot explain why their own evidence about their own suspect is better than the FBI's evidence.  They hesitate to even attempt to explain their case against their own suspect.  Instead, they look upon all the others with theories as agreeing with them because all the others disagree with the FBI.

The logic for each individual Anthrax Truther is: Everyone agrees that the FBI is wrong, that means I'm right.

In reality, it just means that they have a theory that no one else in the world fully agrees with.  Yet, they believe it is a better theory than the FBI's case against Dr. Ivins because no Anthrax Truther agrees with the FBI.
"I never cease to be dumbfounded by the unbelievable things people believe."
                                                        - Leo Rosten

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Subject: My book

I probably should have created a thread on this blog about my book "A Crime Unlike Any Other: What the Facts Say About Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins and the Anthrax Attacks of 2001" months ago.  Click HERE to view the ad on  Above are images of the front and back covers.  It's a 6x9 paperback, and it's also available on Kindle.

The book isn't just the story of how and why Dr. Ivins created the anthrax powders and sent the anthrax letters of 2001, and how he was identified as the killer.  It's also about how the facts of the case gradually became clear.

Some have found that the most interesting part of the book is how little was known about anthrax before the letters, and how nearly everyone was making wildly false assumptions.  Even Dr. Ivins made some critical false assumptions which later came back to haunt him.  He thought the Ames strain of anthrax that he used in the letters was a very common strain used by "countless" laboratories all over the world.  He thought it could never be traced back to him.  However, the FBI investigation showed it to be a very rare strain used in only 18 laboratories, and 17 of those laboratories got their samples of the Ames strain from the 18th lab, the lab where Dr. Ivins worked, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

That's a blunder that's truly "stranger than fiction," since no one would believe it if it were in a work of fiction.

The book also shows how other false beliefs got started.  Some of those false beliefs are still held by people today as they endlessly argue conspiracy theories or that Dr. Ivins couldn't have made the anthrax powders.  They believe the powders were "weaponized" in some supersophisticated way only possible in a government-run bioweapons laboratory, when the facts clearly show that they were routine powders that almost any microbiologist could make.  Dr. Ivins was just an expert at purifying anthrax spores.  Many mistaken beliefs were started by the media.  The Amerithrax investigation involved some of the worst and most inaccurate reporting by the media in modern times.

The book also explains things that are not part of the official case against Dr. Ivins, such as when he appears to have first gotten the idea for using an anthrax-filled letter to get more funding for anthrax vaccine research.  The idea appears to have occurred to him a full year before the actual attacks.  And, the facts clearly indicate that the first anthrax letter was written weeks before 9/11.  So, unlike most beliefs about the case, the facts say Ivins was planning a crime using anthrax before 9/11 focused his attention and spurred him to actually do what he'd only been thinking about for over a year.       

I think it's a fascinating story.  It's kept me fascinated for over 11 years.  But, it's mostly forgotten by the public.  They generally remember the attacks, but they don't remember who did it or why.

My hope is that my book will show true crime buffs that there's "a crime unlike any other" that they have totally overlooked and should read more about.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Subject: Handwriting evidence

For over ten years, I have claimed that the FACTS say a child wrote the anthrax letters and addressed the anthrax envelopes.  The "Burden of Proof" is on me to support the claim.  Here is that proof:

There are at least TWELVE FACTS which together combine to show that Dr. Ivins almost certainly manipulated a child into writing the anthrax letters and addressing the anthrax envelopes:

Fact #1. Between the writing of the Brokaw letter and the addressing of the Brokaw envelope, the writer seems to have learned the correct way to draw the letter R (and other characters of the alphabet).

Fact #2. Adults do not generally learn the correct way to draw letters of the alphabet between writing a letter and addressing an envelope.

Fact #3. Children are generally taught the correct way to draw letters of the alphabet in the first weeks of first grade.

Fact #4. The writing on the media letter and envelopes was roughly twice the size of the writing on the senate letter and envelopes.

Fact #5. Adults go not generally change the size of their handwriting.

Fact #6. Children are generally taught to write smaller in the first weeks of first grade.

Fact #7. The media letter did NOT use punctuation, while the senate letter mailed three weeks later DID use punctuation.

Fact #8. Adults generally write from habit and do not switch from not using punctuation to using punctuation.

Fact #9. Children are taught about punctuation in the first weeks of first grade.

Fact #10. The anthrax letters were sent out at about the same time as children were beginning the first weeks of first grade (September & October 2001).

Fact #11. Adults who attempt to disguise their handwriting generally do so by (A) writing with their "wrong" hand, (B) writing upside down, or (C) copying someone else's handwriting.

Fact #12. None of the above methods of disguising one's handwriting would result in a change in
how characters of the alphabet are drawn, a change in writing size OR a change in the use of punctuation.  Differences generally result from fluctuations between the disguised style they are attempting to use and the habitual style they regularly use.

I challenge anyone to explain how these TWELVE facts are not facts.  If they cannot do that, I challenge anyone to provide ADDITIONAL facts which prove that those 12 facts are misleading and that an adult actually DID write the letters.

These facts were true when it was not yet known who sent the anthrax letters.  The facts predicted that the anthrax killer would have access to a child just starting first grade.  That was many years before it was known that Ivins' wife ran a day care center in their home.  (There are other facts which also support the above facts and evidence, but for discussion purposes, the above facts should be sufficient. 

Click HERE to view a YouTube video which describes the above 12 facts in much greater detail.  Click HERE to view my 2009 analysis on the handwriting (updated as of 2011).  Click HERE to view my 2002 analysis on the handwriting (updated as of 2005).  


Subject: Burden of Proof

I did some research to find what others say "proving the negative" means. Doing that research showed me that the argument is really about "Burden of Proof." For example, I found a reference to "Russell's Teapot" which says,
Russell's teapot, sometimes called the celestial teapot or cosmic teapot, is an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others, ... Russell wrote that if he claims that a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, it is nonsensical for him to expect others to believe him on the grounds that they cannot prove him wrong.
Another source:
The burden of proof is always on the claim that X exists rather than on the claim that X does not exist.
Another source that may be easier to understand says:
A negative proof is a logical fallacy which takes the structure of:

X is true because there is no proof that X is false.
Another good source says:
The negative proof fallacy is where one assumes something is true if it cannot be proven false. It can also happen when one assumes that something is false if it cannot be proven true.

An infinite amount of silly statements might be declared and be completely unprovable, hence we cannot assume validity in the face of unprovability. This is what is known as burden of proof.
As anyone can see, that kind of argument is not really about proving someone wrong.  It has to do with claiming something is true because those who disagree cannot prove it to be false.

Here's an example of how one Anthrax Truther might argue:
I know that an American-based supporter of al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks because it cannot be proved that there was no al Qaeda supporter behind the anthrax attacks.  If you claim that all the evidence proves that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer, all that means is that Ivins was an al Qaeda supporter, if you cannot prove he wasn't.
Here's an example of how another Anthrax Truther might argue:
I know that Dick Cheney was behind the anthrax attacks because no one has proved that he was NOT behind the attacks.
The burden on the proof MUST be on the person making the claim, not on the person who disputes the claim.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Subject: Circumstantial Evidence

There's been a great deal of debate on this blog and elsewhere about the evidence against Dr. Bruce Ivins in the anthrax letter case.  Anthrax Truthers endlessly argue that if an item of evidence by itself does not prove Ivins was the anthrax killer, then it's not admissible evidence. They'll examine item by item and say, "This doesn't prove Ivins was guilty."

No matter how many times I point out that it is not any single item of evidence, it is the mountain of evidence that says that Ivins made the anthrax powders and mailed the letters, the argument always returns to the Anthrax Truthers pointing to a single item of evidence and saying it doesn't Ivins was guilty.

Here's the definition of "circumstantial evidence" from one on-line legal dictionary.
"circumstantial evidence n. evidence in a trial which is not directly from an eyewitness or participant and requires some reasoning to prove a fact. There is a public perception that such evidence is weak ("all they have is circumstantial evidence"), but the probable conclusion from the circumstances may be so strong that there can be little doubt as to a vital fact ("beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal case...)
On my web site I have two lists of evidence.  Click HERE for a list of evidence against Dr. Ivins and the counter arguments from Anthrax Truthers who claim that none of it means anything.

Here are a few of the items of circumstantial evidence from the list at the top of my web site:
Dr. Ivins was in charge of the RMR-1029 flask containing the "mother" spores which produced the attack anthrax "daughter" spores.  He was in charge of "the murder weapon."
Dr. Ivins tried to destroy "smoking gun" evidence that he had encoded a hidden message inside the media letters, but the evidence was recovered and clearly points to Dr. Ivins as the anthrax mailer. 
Dr. Ivins had worked with Bacillus anthracis for over 20 years and had all the necessary expertise and equipment to prepare the spores in the anthrax letters.  He could routinely make a trillion spores a week.
Dr. Ivins worked alone and unsupervised in his lab for long hours at night and on weekends during the time the attack anthrax would have been prepared.

Dr. Ivins had no scientific reason or verifiable explanation for working those hours or at those times, and working such hours was not usual for him.

In December of 2001, Dr. Ivins secretly swabbed and bleached more than 20 areas in his lab, destroying possible evidence.   In April of 2002, he did it again.  Both cleanings were unauthorized and against protocol.  His explanations for doing it were contradictory to his actions.
Investigators examined another flask of Ames anthrax spores created by Dr. Ivins and found that a percentage of the spores in flask RMR-1030 contained silicon just like what was in the attack spores.
Dr. Ivins had multiple motives for sending the anthrax letters.

Dr. Ivins tried various ways to mislead investigators when they started to suspect him.
Dr. Ivins had no verifiable alibi for the times when he could have driven to New Jersey to mail the letters.
Here's more information about "Circumstantial Evidence":
Circumstantial evidence is evidence in which an inference is required to connect it to a conclusion of fact, like a fingerprint at the scene of a crime. By contrast, direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion directly—i.e., without need for any additional evidence or the intervening inference.
On its own, it is the nature of circumstantial evidence for more than one explanation to still be possible. Inference from one piece of circumstantial evidence may not guarantee accuracy. Circumstantial evidence usually accumulates into a collection, so that the pieces then become corroborating evidence. Together, they may more strongly support one particular inference over another. An explanation involving circumstantial evidence becomes more valid as proof of a fact when the alternative explanations have been ruled out.
Circumstantial evidence allows a trier of fact to deduce a fact exists.  In criminal law, the inference is made by the trier of facts in order to support the truth of assertion (of guilt or absence of guilt).
And a definition from another on-line dictionary:
Circumstantial Evidence: Evidence not bearing directly on the fact in dispute but on various attendant circumstances from which the judge or jury might infer the occurrence of the fact in dispute. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mar. 3 - Mar. 9, 2013 Discussions

The comment I wrote for my web site for Sunday, March 3, was mostly about last week's discussions on this blog.  It's about how - even if you can't get a True Believer or conspiracy theorist to agree about anything - you can learn something yourself about the subjects under discussion by doing research and by looking for the best words and examples to use in the debate.  That's a great help if you're thinking of writing another book.

I'm thinking about writing another book.  Unfortunately, all I have so far is a basic idea and a possible title:

Last week's discussions ended with a debate over what can be entered into evidence as being "relevant" and what cannot be entered into evidence because it is "irrelevant."  The example being debated was the fact that the FBI didn't find (or couldn't prove they found) the copy machine that was used to produce the anthrax letters.  R. Rowley argued that the fact that they couldn't find the copy machine is "relevant" evidence of something.  I argued that the fact they couldn't find the copy machine not evidence of anything relevant.  It's no different than questioning someone who knows nothing and has nothing important to say.  Why put such a person on the stand?

However, the copier machine question seems like a question that can easily be resolved by checking with published sources or by asking some experts.  But, before doing that, we'd have to decide and agree on what the question is.  And, I fear that getting an agreement on a question may be as difficult as getting an agreement on an answer.  True Believers always want to phrase questions so that the only possible answer is the answer they want, even if the question no longer has anything to do with the issue that is being argued.  They'll change a question about the law into a question about what is "right" or what "most people believe."

We also did not finish discussing the difference between "proving the negative" and proving someone is wrong.  That looks like something that can be easily explained and equally easily researched, but that doesn't mean it will be easy to get an agreement.        

The big question seems to be: How do you convince a True Believer who believes something that no one else in the world believes that he could be be wrong.