The week (July 28th): Nobody asked me, but…

Once more, with a tip of the fedora to New York’s great newspaper columnist Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

GEORGE ORWELL ONCE SAID: “Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.” So in the hopes of being counted among the intelligent, let me note that C-SPAN is broadcasting “American Perspectives: Symposium on Theories about 9/11” at 8PM Saturday night, airing the conspiracy theories of the “9/11 Cover-up Crew” — theories that 9/11 was an “inside U.S. government false flag operation”– and that these theories have been repeatedly discredited by objective-means journalism.

To restate the obvious: the evidence, the existing scientific analysis, and common sense disprove the 9/11 conspiracy theories, recently promulgated in a “documentary” called “Loose Change” and breathlessly covered in August’s Vanity Fair. These theories are, quite simply, false and a disturbing sign of the recent growth of the Paranoid Style in American Politics.

Rather than getting into a point-by-point rebuttal, suffice it to say there are three or four trenchant journalistic critiques that accomplish that task quite well. For those interested, I would recommend the following articles and reports which throughly debunk the conspiracy claims (and include the science behind the collapse of the World Trade Center Building 1, 2 and 7):

  • The Popular Mechanics investigation of the 16 most popular 9/11 conspiracy claims, “9/11: Debunking the Myths,” is a good starting point. PM talked to more than 300 scientists and experts and found the facts just didn’t support theories of rigged demolitions and phantom aircraft.
  • David Corn of the Nation magazine, no admirer of the Bush Administration (author of “The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception”), has also debunked many of the popular 9/11 theories floating around. You can find his take on the question here.
  • Salon‘s Farhad Manjoo throughly “fisks” the “documentary” film “Loose Change” in his “The 9/11 deniers.” (“To fisk” is, according to Wikipedia, “a blogosphere term describing ruthlessly detailed point-by-point criticism that highlights errors, disputes the analysis of presented facts, or highlights other problems in a statement, article, or essay.”)
  • For a more technical discussion, the National Institute of Standards and Technology produced two reports on the collapse of WTC 1 and WTC 2 and will release its final report on WTC 7 this fall. You can find the reports here.

I learned about the C-Span program in a helpful email from one Bill Douglas, a “false flag” proponent and the founder of; Douglas had sent an earlier email proclaiming that, contrary to a recent Cinemax documentary (“Protocols of Zion“), 9/11 conspiracy advocates are not anti-Semites. Douglas protests too much; some of the more pernicious 9/11 claims are deeply anti-Semitic–for example, that American Jews were alerted before 9/11 and avoided working in the World Trade Center and/or that the Mossad knew of the attack in advance.

MEDIA CRITIC HOWARD KURTZ of the Washington Post notes that liberal bloggers have been noticeably silent on the Mideast crisis; and further asks whether this reflects an underlying anti-Israel bias that will haunt the Democrats in the years ahead. Kurtz doesn’t think so, but he does quote Andrew Sullivan: “Are lefties unable to grapple with complex regional wars? Nah. They’re just wimping out.”

WHAT ARE THESE INTERNATIONAL CYCLISTS caught with performance-enhancing drugs in their systems thinking? How do they expect to beat the drug testing? If Tour de France winner Floyd Landis is disqualified for having artifically elevated testosterone levels, a condition he denies, that would be the first question I hope he’d answer.

ARTHUR MILLER, THE AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHT, WROTE a searing play, “All My Sons,” about wartime profiteering. I thought of his drama after seeing the Washington Post article “Homeland Security Contracts Abused” which exposes outright mismanagement, waste and outright fraud among government contractors. It’s criminality that the Bush Justice Department could pursue without overreaching, but don’t count on movement on that front from the “bidness-friendly” Administration.

THE OFTEN-BRILLIANT JOURNALIST DAVID WARSH mounts a spirited defense of Boston’s Big Dig at his web-based independent weekly, Economic Principles, in the wake of the latest crisis at the highway project. Warsh, often the contrarian, concludes: “Despite the expense, the Big Dig is a considerable success” and adds:

… the fact is that the Dig itself has delivered on its original promise to a remarkable extent, easing the east-west and north-south flow of traffic through the city, removing a steel scar bisecting its heart, extending its rail network, creating a major new business district, preserving vibrant old neighborhoods from destruction. The old elevated highway had to be replaced one way or another in any event; given the complexity of the challenge, Boston did about as well as it could.

That the Big Dig has benefited Boston can not be denied. But at what cost? At its inception, planners and politicians ignored a more modest mass transit-based solution to Boston’s commuting woes that would have avoided the complex and difficult engineering challenges posed by the overhaul of Boston’s highway system. An unholy trinity of Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor all pushed for the massive public works project as it meant jobs, construction contracts and lucrative consulting engagements. When cost overruns and shoddy work emerged in the $14.6 billion (and counting) project, local pols closed ranks to keep the money flowing in. A sorry business all around.

To look on the bright side, perhaps the experience of the Big Dig will provoke a consideration of “Small is Beautiful” solutions for future public works projects, including the reconstruction proposed for New Orleans. Hope springs eternal.

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