Sunday, May 26, 2013

Subject: Facts vs Evidence

"DXer" on Lew Weinstein's web site, who posts here as "Anonymous," seems to believe he has more and better evidence that an Islamist militant named Adnan El Shukrijumah was the anthrax mailer, versus what the FBI has presented proving that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer.

Examples of "DXer's" so-called "evidence":

1. The J-Lo letter (which the facts say didn't contain anthrax and had nothing to do with the anthrax mailing) was reportedly written on stationery decorated with blue clouds. And there's a militant Islamist organization called "Al-Sahab" or "The Clouds."

2. The anthrax letters were mailed in pre-stamped Post Office envelopes. The stamp on those envelopes was an American Eagle design. The eagle is blue or blue-green in color. And, according to "DXer," "It was widely published among the militant Islamists that martyrs go to paradise “in the hearts of green birds."

3. The return address on the anthrax letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy was:
According to "DXer," the use of the word "green" refers to the "green birds" in which Islamist militants go to heaven, and "school" is a code word meaning "Islamist militants."

4. According to "DXer," 4th grade is American slang for "sergeant," which is also the rank of a militant Islamist commander.

5. "Dxer" claims that his lead suspect, El-Shukrijumah, worshiped in a mosque in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that across the street from a park called "Franklin Park." (In reality, however, he seems to have worshiped in a mosque over 13 miles from Franklin Park.

6. According to most Truthers who believe al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks, the FBI found an al Qaeda "anthrax lab" near Kandahar, Afghanistan. In reality, the FBI found no anthrax of any kind in that lab. They just found three pieces of DNA which evidently resulted in "false positives." The FBI went back, dismantled the lab and performed 1,254 more tests, all of which were NEGATIVE for anthrax.

The above is what "DXer" calls "evidence" and what he believes is better "evidence" than the fact that Ivins controlled the murder weapon, the fact that Ivins was observed throwing away the code books used to encode the hidden message in the first anthrax letters, and that he had motive, he had connections to the crime scene, he attempted to destroy evidence, he tried to intimidate witnesses, etc., etc., etc., etc.

If I've missed any other "evidence" that "DXer" (a.k.a. "Anonymous") wishes to explain, I'm ready to discuss such "evidence."


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Subject: Facts vs Opinions

Facts can change opinions.  That's the way opinions are supposed to work.  Unlike beliefs, which are usually based totally upon faith, opinions are supposed to be a personal interpretation of the facts.  At one time, everyone on earth thought the sun went around the earth.  They had very few facts, and the facts they had seemed to indicate that the earth was the center of the universe.  Over time, however, as more facts became known, opinions changed, and gradually nearly everyone on earth accepted what the new facts proved.  Most of those who believed the sun went around the earth, however, continued to believe as they always believed -- until they eventually all died off.

Opinions cannot change facts.  Neither can beliefs.  No matter how many people have an opinion or belief that human beings never went to the moon, that doesn't alter the overwhelming facts which prove that 12 American astronauts walked on the moon.

Anthrax Truthers argue either opinions or beliefs (and sometimes prejudices).  They have their own opinions about who sent the anthrax letters in 2001, and they argue that all the facts which say Dr. Bruce Ivins sent the anthrax letters mean nothing.  They argue that the official facts are are all just coincidences or otherwise meaningless.  It's often difficult to tell if they have opinions or beliefs, because they do not seem to have any meaningful facts which prove their own suspect is the anthrax mailer, and they argue that if the government would just do things their way and look at things from their point of view, the "facts" would become clear and would prove they are right.

They seem to believe that facts can be found to support their opinions.  But they want "the government" to find those facts.   And, if "the government" doesn't find the right facts, then "the government" didn't try hard enough.  When they refuse to accept "the government's facts" and cannot present any other facts of their own, then their opinions cease to be opinions and become beliefs.  Opinions can be altered by facts.  Beliefs are a matter of faith (or mindless prejudice) and are unaffected by facts.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Subject: Facts vs Interpretations

In some instances, Truthers claim to be looking at the facts - and that may be true, but it's their interpretations of the facts that seem to defy logic.

One Anthrax Truther did actually argue that misspelling "PENACILIN" on the first anthrax letter and misspelling "Isreal" on the Assaad letter indicated that they were written by the same person.  That Truther also argues that many hoax letters mailed during the past decade were also sent by the same person - because some similarities in syntax can be observed, even if there is no similarity in the handwriting.

Another Anthrax Truther argues that it is a fact that al Qaeda is known to be interested in weaponizing anthrax, therefore they must have been behind the anthrax attacks of 2001.

These Truthers are looking at facts, but they are interpreting (or rationalizing or twisting) those facts to fit their beliefs. If you ask why the culprit misspelled "Isreal" on the Assaad letter but spelled it correctly on the anthrax letters, he would probably rationalize that the culprit learned to spell the word correctly in the years between the two incidents.  And, he'd defy you to prove otherwise.

Other Truthers point to the fact that there was a conspiracy involving the President of the United States to cover up the truth about the Watergate break-in during the Nixon administration.  And the Truthers interpret that fact as evidence that there is currently a conspiracy involving the President to cover up whatever it is that the Truthers want to believe happened regarding 9/11, the anthrax attacks, the landings on the moon, the JFK assassination, etc., etc., etc.

Of course, the FBI and everyone else also interpret the facts.  The difference is: Truthers only look at the facts they can interpret/twist/rationalize to fit their beliefs.  When unbiased people discuss the facts to try to understand what really happened, they look at all the facts which support an argument and all the facts which dispute an argument, and the base their findings on what seems most logical.

It's not logical that only one person on earth can misspell "PENACILIN," "Isreal" and "anthracks" and therefore that person must have been behind all three crimes.          

It's not logical that because al Qaeda had a motive that they must have sent the anthrax letters, even if a mountain of facts say otherwise.

Interpretations aren't the same as beliefs.  People usually understand that their interpretations can be wrong, and they're usually open to hearing other interpretations.  But, people who believe they are right are generally not open to other interpretations or beliefs.  Too often, they aren't even open to viewing new facts.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Subject: Mohamed Atta's Handwriting

One of the more bizarre beliefs about the anthrax letters expressed by a certain True Believer is that the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes is Mohamed Atta's handwriting.

In reality, there are enormous differences between Mohamed Atta's handwriting and the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes.  But, the True Believer seems to argue that if you look hard enough in a big enough sample you will find that some of the characters of the alphabet drawn by Mohamed Atta on some occasion kind of - sort of - look a little bit like the same characters on the anthrax letters and envelopes.  And, to the True Believer that's evidence that Atta wrote the letters.

I've created a web page HERE comparing Atta's handwriting to that on the anthrax documents, proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the handwriting on the anthrax document does NOT look like Mohamed Atta's normal handwriting.

In my analysis, I show how Mohamed Atta typically drew characters of the alphabet (and numbers), I provide various examples, and (where possible) I compare those multiple examples to multiple examples of the same characters and numbers on the anthrax documents. The differences are obvious.  For example, Mohamed Atta typically drew his 1's in a manner that made them look like 7's.  The illustration above shows an example of that.  There's no similarity whatsoever to the 1's on the anthrax documents.  BUT, if you include the lines on the form as part of the writing, the 1 drawn by Atta would have a line across the bottom, and Atta's single-stroke 1 would look a little bit like a 1 drawn with three strokes on the anthrax documents.  That is bizarre reasoning used to argue that handwriting that is truly different can be viewed as somewhat similar in order to justify a True Believer's beliefs. 


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Subject: Truthers

 "Truthers" are people who believe that the government is wrong or lying about something, and the "Truther" believes he or she knows what the "truth" really is.    

After studying and arguing with "Truthers" for over 11 years, it seems to me that "Truthers" can be divided into two sub-classifications: Conspiracy Theorists and True Believers.

Conspiracy Theorists generally believe that the government is deliberately covering up "the truth" about some event for evil, manipulative purposes as part of some massive conspiracy.  The Conspiracy Theorists generally believe they have seen through the plot by spotting similarities to past known "conspiracies." 

True Believers generally do not believe that the government is covering up the truth.  Instead, they generally believe that the government and everyone in it is just incompetent and cannot figure out the truth.  The True Believers believe that they (and everyone who agrees the government is wrong) have figured out "the truth."

Professor James Tracy, for example, is generally considered to be a Conspiracy Theorist.  He sees the government as having concocted various complex plots with the cooperation of the media (and everyone else required to make the theory work) to mislead the American public in order to manipulate them into accepting some new program or law -- gun control being a prime example.  He fantasizes such government conspiracies as being behind the Newtown massacre and the Boston Marathon bombings.  His argument is that those events were just staged "enactments" made to frighten and manipulate people.  And, he seems to believe that anyone who disagrees must be part of the conspiracy.  If proof is found to debunk his conspiracy theory, he sees the proof as proof of his theory, since it means the government has planted false evidence in an attempt to debunk his theory.

Other individuals believed or considered to be Conspiracy Theorists are Professor Lance deHaven Smith (whose theories are very similar to those of Professor Tracy), Professor Francis Boyle, Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, author Edward Jay Epstein and numerous others.

One unusual but telling fact about most Conspiracy Theorists and True Believers is that they very often think that all other conspiracy or similar theories are ridiculous and totally unlike their own.  9/11 Truthers often think Anthrax Truthers are stupid, and vice versa.  Sometimes, to avoid using the word "conspiracy," the "Truthers" will argue that the manipulations could be the work of just one key criminal who does all the thinking, and countless government underlings simply go along and do as they are told.

On this forum, "Anonymous" is clearly a True Believer, since he never talks about any "conspiracy," only about how the FBI is wrong in pointing at Dr. Bruce Ivins as the anthrax mailer.   His mantra is "Amerithrax represents the greatest intelligence analysis failure in the history of the United States."  "Anonymous" clearly feels that he knows the "truth," even if he cannot provide any solid facts and doesn't seem to be able to fully explain his reasoning.

R. Rowley appears to be another True Believer - but at times he also seems to be a conspiracy theorist.  He also never talks about any government conspiracy, but he has a theory that the anthrax letters were sent by some mastermind, and many other hoax letters and other types of mysterious letters were sent by the same person or by fellow conspirators.  And, of course, only Mr. Rowley has been able to figure out the "truth" about how all those happenings are connected.

One attribute that seems to apply to all Conspiracy Theorists and True Believers is that they have a double standard for evidence.  If the "evidence" supports their theory, anything goes.  If the evidence disproves their theory (or helps prove a different theory), they set very strict and often unrealistic standards for what they will accept as evidence.

Another attribute that applies to nearly all Conspiracy Theorists and True Believers is that they do not like being labeled as "Conspiracy Theorists" or "True Believers," since that puts them into a category with many others with whom they do not agree.  Generally speaking, each individual Conspiracy Theorist and True Believer has independently developed his own theory.  Therefore, since they have a "unique" theory of their own, they feel they are unlike all other Conspiracy Theorists and True Believers.  In reality, that makes them just like all other Conspiracy Theorists and True Believers.

Yes, we all know there have been people who had facts about some event that might happen, and in hindsight, more attention should have been paid to what facts they had.  But they had FACTS not beliefs. So, they weren't Truthers.  And, too, real conspiracies have been uncovered by reporters and others digging for facts - the Watergate Scandal being the prime example.  Those people produced FACTS to dispute beliefs.  "Truthers" argue beliefs to counter solid facts.  Or they present their beliefs about facts.  And, they usually want the FBI to do the investigating for them to prove that they are right.     

For every person who truly knows facts that no one else knows, there seem to be thousands of "Truthers" who only believe they know "the truth" but have no solid facts to support their beliefs.