Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Why Were Yahweh And Jesus Incompetent?

We are so embedded in our culture's quaint Mesopotamian tribal myths that even with our modern philosophical and theological training we fail to fully grasp how monumental is the burden of proof that Christianity faces when it claims a revelation by an omnibenevolent omnipotent omniscience. We are indoctrinated from birth to be awed by the literary majesty of the Torah and the Gospels, and so we fail to fully appreciate the unimaginativeness of the primitive biblical miracles -- fire pillars, parting seas, multiplying loaves, resuscitating the just-deceased -- and the opacity of the bible's familiar doctrinal edicts (on salvation, hell, divorce, the trinity, christology, etc.).

If you gave me just thirty minutes back in the First Century to rewrite one of the Gospels, I could have given you a document whose authenticity no modern skeptic could reasonably have disputed. I would have edited out all the problems I identify in my arguments against Christianity, and would have added a few simple revelations like
  • the germ theory of disease;
  • the theory of natural selection;
  • the relationship among the Earth, Sun, stars, and Milky Way;
  • basic set theory;
  • non-Euclidean geometry;
  • Newtonian physics;
  • the axioms of special relativity (which are quite simple); and
  • the approximate value of the speed of light (e.g. "sunlight takes eight minutes to reach Earth").
Revealing any one or even two of the above could be plausibly considered a lucky or educated guess, but revealing five or six of them would be extraordinarily difficult to explain way. That difficulty is trivially made into an impossibility if I just embed the value of a couple of physical constants (the speed of light, Planck's constant) to ten digits of precision. If little ole non-omniscient me can think of these revelations in just the last 30 minutes, why couldn't the omniscient Yahweh figure this out during the millennia (or eternity?) that he was planning Jesus' ministry (and foreknowing my writing of this very paragraph)?

And if you gave me two or three miracle cards to play back in the First Century, you can bet I wouldn't have wasted them on a nativity comet or reviving a still-warm alleged corpse. No, I would have authenticated my identity and textual revelation in any of a myriad indisputable ways. I could have re-arranged the stars into an eye chart spelling out my message in Greek or Latin. Or I could have created outside every major city a kilometer-long diamond slab with my complete message massively engraved in every extant human language (with a new universal phonetic script to encode unwritten languages). Heck, I could even have just made every household on earth wake up with a stainless steel bucket with my face and core doctrines inscribed on it. Why were the miracles of Jesus so much more like those of a faith-healing carpenter than like those of an actual deity with a little bit of imagination?

Christian apologists have no persuasive argument why their deity instead chose to restrict every single one of his scores of alleged miracles to just the kind that are consistent with 1) Iron Age myth-making and 2) a perfectly naturalistic and innocent process of delusion, hallucination, misinterpretation, exaggeration, and embellishment. The standard Christian response about coerced belief is untenable. There are numerous persons that the Bible claims were granted direct first-person eyewitness of Yahweh or his miracles, starting with Adam and continuing beyond the Apostles. The Bible repeatedly admits that many of these eyewitnesses nevertheless retained enough free will to reject or deny the Lord: Satan, Eve, Pharaoh, the Israelites in the desert [Ex 32:8], the Pharisees [Mt 9:34, 12:13-14, Mk 3:5-6, Jn 9:16-34, esp. Jn 11:48, Lk 6:10-11, 14:4-6], the villagers of Korazin, Bethsaid, and Capernaum [Lk 10:13, Mt 11:20], various Jews [Jn 10:32, 12:37], disciples of Jesus [Jn 6:66] -- and of course Peter and Judas. Jesus is even quoted admitting that people have witnessed his miracles and still rejected him: Jn 15:24, Thus Christianity's own sacred texts -- and Jesus' own lips -- refute the contention that first-hand evidence of Yahweh must illicitly "coerce" belief.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

California's Minor Parties

Here is a guide to the LPC's competition among California's minor parties. Under California law a party is qualified to participate in primary (and thus also general) elections if 1) it achieves as many registrants as 1% of the voter turnout in the last regular gubernatorial election, or 2) had a statewide candidate win a 2% share in that election. Here are the registration numbers and statewide vote totals for the minor parties that have been ballot-qualified in the last four election cycles.

Registrants in 1000s
American Independent
309 (2%)
140 (.90%)
82 (.84%)
Peace and Freedom
Natural Law
Brackets indicate lack of ballot qualification that year.

Votes in %
2002 Gov
2002 SecState
2004 Sen
2004 Pres
American Independent

Peace and Freedom

Natural Law



American Independent was founded as a national party in 1968 to support the Presidential candidacy of segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. In 1991 the California AIP became an affiliate of the right-wing Constitution Party, which was formerly the U.S. Taxpayers' Party. In the 2004 Presidential election, AIP's vote in California was just 8% of its registered base, compared to 56% for the LP, 25% for the Greens, and 40% for P&F. This confirms the judgment of analysts who say that AIP's registration numbers are wildly inflated by voters trying to register as Decline To State. The AIP favors a moratorium on all immigration, the deportation of all illegal immigrants, and the denial of citizenship to their children born here. The AIP favors bans on all obscenity, all drugs, any form of same-sex unions, and any form of abortion. The AIP defends religious displays on public property and voluntary prayer in public schools. The AIP's foreign policy is nearly identical to the LP's, except the AIP demands U.S. reclaim the Panama Canal. The AIP opposes all free-trade treaties and favors tariffs on each imported item equal to the difference in the cost of its production abroad compared to in America.

The Green Party was formed in 1996 as an association of state Green parties and quickly eclipsed the Green Party USA that had been established in 1991 (and still exists). The Greens out-elected the LP-US 25-7 in 1996, 47-34 in 2000, 81-43 in 2002, and 71 to (at most) 42 in 2004. The Greens also list 47 election wins in 2005, 65 in 2003, and 64 in 2001. Half of all registered Greens are in California. The Greens are radical leftists who favor "restructuring our patterns of income distribution", nationalized health insurance, municipal veto over "large economic projects", a 30-35 hour workweek, gun control, "more progressive taxation" including inheritance taxes, and "
increased funding for Social Security, public housing, higher education, public transportation". They say "the artificial dichotomy between 'employment' and 'unemployment' has become a tool of social leverage for corporate exploiters."

Peace and Freedom was founded in 1967, and anti-war Rothbardian left-libertarians competed with Marxists to control it. (Rothbardians took over the California PFP long enough to have Bill Evers co-write its 1974 platform, but Rothbard then joined the LP and Evers followed, where they proceeded to rewrite the LP platform in 1975.) P&F lost ballot status in 1998, but was able to to regain it in 2003 because low turnout in the 2002 gubernatorial election set the registration threshold at only 77K. Like the LP and Greens, the PFP needs to win 2% in some statewide race this year to retain ballot status. PFP calls for "social ownership and democratic control of industry, financial institutions, and natural resources", doubling the minimum wage, a 30-hour work week, and "free high-quality health care for everyone". If you're surprised that PFP "supports the right of working people to keep and bear arms", then remember that The Internationale is featured prominently on their web site.

The Natural Law Party was founded in the early 1990's by followers of Transcendental Meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He stopped funding the party after its failed hostile takeover of the Reform Party in 2000, and the California NLP will lose its ballot status this year because it is running no statewide candidates. The NLP platform called for a flat income tax, market-based healthcare reform, school vouchers, sustainable agriculture, and energy conservation. It straddled many issues, e.g. by supporting the status quo on abortion, immigration and gun control.

The Reform Party was founded in 1995 by Ross Perot and has been plagued by infighting since he abandoned it in 1997. The Reform Party agenda consists of protectionism, procedural political reforms, balanced budgets, and restricted immigration. RP lost its California ballot status in 2003 and will likely never regain it.

Thus the LPC's biggest competitor by far is the ten-year-old Green Party, which positions itself to capture the loyalty of anyone with libertarian impulses but who doesn't understand free market economics. The GP's growth seems to be leveling off, perhaps due to a ceiling effect imposed by the presence of an existing major party in their quadrant of political space. If the LP wants to regain its undisputed title as America's third party, it needs to take advantage of the the absence of competition in its own quadrant by branding itself as the market-smart choice for the plurality of Americans who favor social tolerance.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Statewide Libertarian Candidates in California

Governor - Art Olivier, former Mayor of Bellflower. Olivier was an engineer at Boeing for 20 years, and after serving as Mayor of Bellflower in 1998-1999 he was the Libertarian nominee for Vice-President in 2000. In his official candidate statement, he emphasizes 1) cutting state spending, 2) ending benefits for illegal immigrants, and 3) focusing gas taxes and license fees on road construction. In 2003 gubernatorial race the Greens won 5% and the LP 2%. Both marks will probably edge up in 2006, as the Greens are running their 2004 VP nominee Peter Camejo.

Lt. Governor - Lynnette Shaw, medical marijuana activist. Shaw successfully lobbied the Marin County Supervisors to formally de-prioritize enforcement efforts against medical marijuana. She calls for the release of over 1400 non-violent marijuana prisoners in California jails, and promotes hemp agriculture in America to help save family farms and in Mexico to ease immigration pressures. Her Republican opponent Sen. Tom McClintock was endorsed for governor in 2003 by the American Medical Marijuana Association, who also attracted some Libertarian supporters for his positions on spending, education, minimum wage, guns, and eminent domain. The Green Donna Warren wants a "living wage" law, universal health care, slavery reparations, and to "re-regulate energy" because "energy belongs to the people". At this writing McClintock and Democratic machine candidate John Garamendi are neck-and-neck.

Secretary of State - Gail Lightfoot, retired nurse. Lightfoot is a 1972 Charter member of the LP, an LPC activist since 1980, and was a prominent plaintiff in the 2000 Supreme Court decision overturning California's Prop 198 blanket primary. Her focus in this election for Secretary of State is on procedural issues like None Of The Above and Instant Runoff Voting.

Controller - Donna Tello, tax accountant. Tello sums up her position as: "Control spending, not people. Protect taxpayers, not special interests." She gently challenges voters using humor: "I'm conservative on economic issues and liberal on personal issues. (I'm not confused; are you?)"

Treasurer - Marian Smithson, West Covina City Treasurer. Smithson proposes to use her practical experience to put California on a pay-as-you-go financing policy.

Attorney General - Kenneth Weissman, Beverly Hills attorney. Weissman is a straight shooter when it comes to all the vital issues of personal freedom. He describes himself as a 2nd Amendment absolutist, and says “Gun control means hitting your target.”

Insurance Commissioner - Dale Ogden, actuary and insurance consultant. Ogden lays out detailed plans for reforms on his pages. He summarizes: "California used to have a reputation for competent insurance regulation, along with a few other heavily-populated states like New York and Illinois. Since we've had elected commissioners, we've become a national joke."

Board of Equalization - Kennita Watson, Willard Michlin, Monica Kadera. Watson won 275K votes (22%) in her 2-way District 1 race in 1998 (and 7% in a 3-way in 1994), but this year all four districts are contested by the two incumbent parties as well as by Peace & Freedom.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Guide to 2006 California Ballot Measures

Here are the LP-CA's recommendations for November's ballot measures. The most important ones are 89 (campaign finance) and 90 (eminent domain and takings). 86 (cigarette taxes) and 87 (oil taxes) will have a big impact if they pass. 85 (parental abortion notification) will be closely watched for symbolic reasons. My predictions: 84, 85 and 89 will fail. 88 will pass narrowly, while 86 and 87 will fail narrowly. The rest will pass.
[Update: I was very sad to be wrong on 90, which failed narrowly. I was also wrong about 84 and 88, but right about the rest.]

Yes on 1A - Transportation fund protection. Protects transportation-designated gas tax revenues from further raids by Sacramento.

No on 1B - Bonds for roads, highways, and transit. More than half the revenue would go to agency budgets and local projects rather than state-wide long-term transportation projects.

No on 1C - Bonds for housing. Subsidizes "infill" urban social engineering. Subsidizes moderate-income homebuyers. Ongoing shelter assistance for the indigent should not be funded as a capital expense.

No on 1D - Bonds for education facilities. The government provides food assistance without building supermarkets, and it can provide education assistance without building schools. Any government assistance for education should take the form of vouchers or tax credits, not capital expenditures.

No on 1E - Bonds for Central Valley flood control. Flood control is the responsibility of the districts containing the flood zone(s).

No on 83 - "Jessica's Law" against former sex offenders. 83 seems to impose an ex post facto new punishment of lifetime GPS tracking on people already convicted of a sex crime.

No on 84 - Bonds for water quality, environmental protection, and flood control. $11B in water and resource-related bonds have been approved since 1996. This measure is a Christmas tree of funding for local and regional projects that should be funded by the affected users or districts.

Silent on 85 - Parental notification for minor's abortion. Libertarians are conflicted on this measure. While parents normally must consent to any surgical procedure on their children, children should be protected from parents' efforts to bind them with a multi-decade child-rearing obligation. I wonder if parents would be willing to opt in to the notification rule on condition of an agreement to permanently adopt any resulting grandchild.

No on 86 - Cigarette tax for healthcare spending. Tripling the cigarette tax to $3.50 per pack would demonstrate how black markets put limits on consumption tax revenues. If a hospital accepts cigarette funds to defray state mandates for ER care regardless of ability to pay, 86 imposes price controls for services to patients with income up to 3.5 times the poverty line. 86 thus increases the cross-subsidizing and single-payer problems that make our healthcare system inferior to one in which healthcare consumers control their own healthcare dollars.

No on 87 - Oil extraction tax for alternative energy. 87 naively dictates that the tax "shall not be passed on to consumers through higher prices", and will have the government investigate all price increases. Thus one cannot trust 87's vague hand-waving that a new bureaucracy will apply 57% of the revenues to "market-based incentives" for alternative fuel production, distribution, and vehicles. 37% of revenues are for commercialization of renewable energy technologies, an activity at which government bureaucracy is even less competent. Even proponents of applying resource extraction taxes to incentives for reduced petroleum use find this measure unsupportable.

No on 88 - $50 parcel tax for public K-12 schools. 88 bypasses the Prop 13 2/3 threshold for local property tax increases by making this tax statewide and thus less locally accountable. K-12 education is too important to be a government monopoly. K-12 education just needs one reform: let tuition dollars be controlled by parents. Government support for nutrition doesn't require owning supermarkets, so any government support for education doesn't require it owning schools.

No on 89 - Public campaign financing and limits on campaign contributions/spending. If you restrict the use of monetary resources for political speech, you merely amplify the power of other resources, e.g. celebrity, incumbency, media access and control, membership power magnified by special legal privileges (e.g. unions, churches), etc. Indeed, Prop 89 was put on the ballot by the California Nurses Union, which is trying to use its political muscle to unfairly limit corporate contributions for ballot measures and to make corporations foot the bill for public campaign financing. This 56-page law treats as second-class any candidate from a party that didn't get 10% of the previous gubernatorial vote, so third parties essentially need to have a break-out year before they can have a break-out year. The government would manage the campaign finances of all participating candidates, and would subsidize dollar-for-dollar the major-party opponent of any candidate who dared reject public campaign financing and the strings attached to it. The law even restricts contributions to independent groups advocating for or against particular candidates.

Yes on 90 - Constitutional protection against eminent domain and regulatory takings. A wonderful constitutional amendment that not only would stop abuse of eminent domain, but would also require government compensation when new laws and regulations reduce the economic value of one's property.

Libertarian-oriented guides to the 2006 ballot measures are available at:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Teaching Economics To "Spiritual Progressives"

To Jean Barker, for the Network of Spiritual Progressives:
You write:
> Please note that the Tikkun Community plans to publish the responses from you and your fellow candidates to the letter's questionnaire, in order to help Tikkun Magazine readers evaluate candidate stands on these issues <
I look forward to your readers being afforded this opportunity to hear candidates' unfiltered responses to your thoughtful questions. It's refreshing to see an organization that is open-minded and intellectually confident enough to challenge their readers with perspectives that aren't filtered to merely confirm their existing beliefs.
1. War in Iraq: Do you believe the U.S. should have a timetable for bringing the troops home from Iraq, and that full withdrawal/redeployment occur within calendar year 2007?
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not?
Withdrawal should be based less on arbitrary timetables than on these exit criteria: elimination of any WMD or international terrorist infrastructure; inauguration of a federal democratic constitutional framework that protects minorities and human rights; and successful transition of security responsibility to Iraq. Our leaders should not disclose our precise pain thresholds, but America will not tolerate a total cost over 3000 U.S. combat fatalities or $500B. Sunni and Shia infighting is now close to exhausting the reconstruction and stabilization efforts we owed the Iraqis for having liberated them.

2. New Bottom Line: The NSP is calling for a new bottom line in America, by which organizations, corporations, social and governmental practices, and legislation would be judged rational, efficient, and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power (the old bottom line), but also to the extent that they increase our capacities to be loving and caring, kind and generous, ethically and ecologically sensitive, able to see others as embodiments of the sacred and able to respond to the universe with gratitude, awe, and wonder. Would you work to implement this "New Bottom Line"?
( X ) Yes ( ) No How would you implement it?
The only legislation I would support along these lines would be to protect species from extinction, to protect animals from torture, and to legally recognize the economic value of the environment through market-smart environmentalism: tax products and transactions for pollution caused; allow trading and retiring of emissions licenses; and auction access to natural resources. Government is the only institution with police and prisons, and I would oppose all use of such power to enforce some social vision at gunpoint. The problems with the current "bottom line" are caused more by too much government than by too little.

3. Strong Families: Do you agree that strong families will be supported if we reward institutions and social practices that promote love and caring in our work places, economic policies, government and corporate practices, and our educational system?
( ) Yes ( X ) No How would you promote such institutions and practices?
Markets are already able to reward such institutions and practices to the extent that they produce value for consumers, workers, and other market participants. Except for correcting textbook market failures, use of government power to "promote love and caring" is guaranteed to do more harm than good. If you love families, then free them from government interference.

4. Health Care: Do you support the call for a federal government-sponsored single-payer national health care program?
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not?
Healthcare policy should limit government's role to the things that government can do better than market participants can do on their own:
  1. Provide a safety net of basic health care for people in immediate need.
  2. Provide vouchers to people who cannot otherwise afford catastrophic health insurance.
  3. Require non-poor people to buy catastrophic insurance (so that they don't use the safety net as their insurance).
  4. Incentivize people to buy preventive care by means of tax-deductible medical savings accounts
5. Education: Would you support legislation aimed at restructuring educational priorities, so that in addition to teaching basic academic skills, schools gave high attention to teaching students to be socially, ethically, and ecologically responsible, caring toward others, kind, generous, loving, non-violent in their behavior and their speech, and responsive to and grateful for and in awe of the grandeur of the universe?
( X ) Yes ( ) No Why, or why not?
I support privatizing education and providing tuition vouchers from states and localities to those too poor to educate their children. Giving parents control of tuition dollars will enable a free market in education to satisfy the consumer demands of all the parents who share your educational priorities, while protecting the rights of parents who disagree with your priorities. I oppose your use of government power to force your educational priorities on others, just as I oppose such use of government power by the Religious Right.

6. Global Poverty: Would you support a plan to allocate 5% of our gross domestic product (GDP) each year for the next twenty years to ending global as well as domestic poverty and inadequate health care and education?
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not?
The two greatest forces for material well-being in human history have been freedom and knowledge, while the two greatest forces for misery have been tyranny and ignorance. Your organization is "The Network of Spiritual Progressives". Spirituality promotes ignorance about the nature of reality, and "progressivism" opposes economic freedom. Thus while your good intentions are demonstrated by your opposition to religious fundamentalism and support for civil liberties, a strong argument can be made that your efforts against "poverty" actually retard its amelioration. Are you open-minded and self-critical enough to examine that argument? Are you even aware of it?

7. Social Responsibility Amendment: Do you support legislation that would require every large corporation (income over $50 million/year) to get a new charter every ten years, with the charter being granted only to those corporations that could prove a satisfactory history of social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens?
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not? To what practices would you want such a jury to give particular attention?
No. History has already pronounced its verdict against this naive notion that the voluntary interactions of peaceful honest competent adults should be controlled or policed by some central authority, regardless of whether you call it (as Stalin and Mao did) a "Five-Year Plan" or (as Goering did) a "Four-Year Plan" or (as Nixon did) a "Price Commission and Pay Board" or (as you do) "a jury of ordinary citizens". However, I support reforming limited corporate liability so that at least one shareholder must have unlimited liability.

8. Social Responsibility Impact Legislation: Would you support the SRI‹legislation that would require than any corporation applying for public funds in excess of $100,000 to file a Social Responsibility Impact report describing the steps they've taken to increase social responsibility in the way that they treat their employees, the choice of products they produce or services they provide, and their impact on the ethical and ecological climate of the communities where their products are advertised or bought. In awarding the contract, the government office would take into account their history of social responsibility as presented by them and also as described in SRI reports filed by their employees and by community organizations in the communities affected by their activities.
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not?
See answer 7. Under my policies, there would be much less "applying for public funds" and other corporate welfare. Consumers would thus have more influence over corporations than now, and would be more able to encourage "social responsibility" through voluntary means such as boycotts.

9. Modeling Personal Responsibility: Do you support the NSP's call for elected officials and their staffs to give a few hours during each work week to hands-on service to the needy, for example in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter?
( X ) Yes ( ) No Why, or why not?
I support almost any policy that limits that time available to legislators and bureaucrats to create new rules for men with guns to enforce against the voluntary interactions of peaceful honest competent adults. However, a better reform would be to have legislators be required to repeal as many rules as they enact. The best reform would be to have a legislative house (and/or an co-President) whose only powers are to repeal or veto legislation.

10. Hunger for Meaning: The Network of Spiritual Progressives holds that people have meaning needs that are as important to them, if not more so, than their economic needs. In what ways would you give priority to the need for meaning and what role might government play in this process? What higher meaning and purpose would be given higher priority if you had power to influence the shape of our economic life beyond the goals of accumulation of wealth and material goods?
By definition, the only way for an alleged need to be immune from economic analysis is for it to 1) have absolutely no constraints on its fulfillment, or 2) have absolutely no observable influence on the needer's behavior. Neither is true of the need for meaning, and there is already a rich economic literature studying this very important need. As an institution, government is characterized by its unique authority to initiate coercive force, and coercive force has zero role to play in our quest for meaning. All institutional roles in that quest can and should be performed by non-coercive institutions such as your own.

11. Global Warming: What specific policies do you support to save our planet from ecological degradation and to dramatically reduce and reverse global warming?
A modest carbon tax and intensive research are prudent due to the possible effects of anthropogenic global warming on species in marginal ecosystems. Extinctions of species and forgetting of languages are our century's only crimes that history will not forgive. Warming's biggest threat -- up to 5m higher seas due to complete collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet -- is very unlikely, and the projected moderate warming (up to 2C) would have a net positive impact on the developed (i.e. temperate) world. See Skeptical Environmentalist p. 301, and the authoritative 2001 UN IPCC report.

12. Values in the Public Sphere: What values do you think should be encouraged by our government, schools, and social policy? How would you exemplify those values as an elected official? Or do you believe that the introduction of any values are a slippery slope toward undermining the first amendment separation clause? Explain your views on the separation of church
and state and the role of values in the public sphere.
Government is distinguished from other public institutions only by its dangerous authority to use non-defensive force, and should do only what no non-coercive institution can do: 1) Provide police and courts. 2) Regulate unowned natural resources. 3) Regulate natural monopolies -- i.e. road/pipe/wire networks. 4) Provide services for which free-ridership prevents market provision: national defense, anti-poverty safety net, prevention of contagion/conflagration/flood, and fundamental scientific research. That's it. Every other societal function is best fulfilled by non-coercive institutions.
Brian Holtz
Libertarian candidate for Congress, CA14 (Silicon Valley)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Does Optimal Virulance Imply Super-Germs Are Possible?

I suspect that the greatest anthropogenic extinction threat in this century is the possibility of a natural pathogen engineered (perhaps somewhat accidentally) to spread easily from person to person, persist in the environment, resist antibiotics and immune responses, and cause 100% mortality without evolving toward less virulence. I would like to hear expert opinion on whether evolutionary pressure toward optimal virulence has kept pathogens from exploring the most dangerous parts of the virulence landscape. I'm hoping that pathogens spread by intermediaries (e.g., vectors and wastes) have had little incentive to avoid those parts of the landscape, and that mad scientists will thus not find any magic bullets there. But just as certain well-known technologies (e.g. the wheel, internal combustion) seem to be unreachable in evolution's search space, I worry that there are techniques for increased virulence that a mad scientist could find much more easily than evolution ever could.

I also worry that I'm simply ignorant of the heights of virulence that evolution has already been able to reach. Is there a survey of the worst known and suspected cases of pathogenic (near-)extinction in humans, mammals, and animals in general? For example,
  • Variola major and a couple other pathogens were together able to kill somewhere between 25% and 95% of native Americans as a result of the Columbian Exchange -- including 100% of the population of Hispaniola.
  • The enterobacterium Yersinia pestis in the 14th century killed up to 1/3 of Eurasia's population.
  • The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed up to 5% of the world's population.
As horrific as these and other pandemics have been, they are obviously not as bad as extinction. My casual searching on the web found no discussion of continent- or planet-wide animal extinctions caused by pathogens, but I'm skeptical that there haven't been any.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Common Cause Puts Incumbents First

To Aimee Tavares (

You wrote to me about the Common Cause "Voters First" Pledge:

) our coalition will be reaching out to nearly 3 million Americans to tell them about the website, how to find out if their candidates have signed, and engage them in the campaign for Clean Elections—or publicly financed elections. (

I will not sign your "Voters First" Pledge, since it's really just an "Incumbents First" Pledge. I urge all my fellow candidates to tell you the same thing.

"Publicly financed elections" aren't clean, they're dirty. They're dirty because they force taxpayers belonging to minor parties to subsidize the political campaigns of the two incumbent parties. The "corruption" that you claim to oppose is caused entirely members of the two incumbent parties, so it's bizarre for you to believe that defending the incumbent parties from competition will decrease corruption. The Connecticut public financing law that you tout is so biased toward the incumbent parties that it is being challenged in a federal lawsuit by the ACLU, which ordinarily supports public campaign financing.

If you restrict the use of monetary resources for political speech, you merely amplify the power of other resources, e.g. celebrity, incumbency, media ownership/control, ability to organize and bundle the resources of volunteers (e.g. benefit concerts), etc. If you limit how much of my money I can spend on my speech, shouldn't you limit how much of Barbara Streisand's fame she can spend on her speech?

Speech restrictions are profoundly undemocratic, and don't even have the effect their advocates claim to desire. Retiring politicians don't suddenly change their voting patterns when freed from the need to seek campaign financing. The myth is that the politicians adapt their positions to chase the money. The reality is that the money is there because of the government benefits (or potential restrictions) that are up for grabs, and each interest group just pays whichever side is its natural ally on the issue.

The overwhelming majority of political corruption has nothing to do with the "gifts and travel" that you worry about in your Pledge. If corrupt congressmen merely sought personal wealth, then we could let them each take $1M/year from the Treasury and it wouldn't noticeably affect the federal budget. The much more costly corruption is caused by congressmen who buy votes with government payoffs and subsidies and special rules for farmers, seniors, teachers, civil servants, union members, lawyers, doctors, exporters, real estate developers, intellectual property owners, etc.

The Cato Institute explained in this 2004 article exactly why Big Government inexorably will lead to Big Lobbying:

Cato) There is solid empirical evidence that expanding government results in increases in campaign spending. Economist John Lott Jr. found that 87 percent of the rise in federal campaign spending between 1976 and 1994 was attributable to the $1,101 per-capita rise (in real terms) in federal government spending that occurred over that time.

We will only reduce the amount of money flowing within the tributaries of our political system by reducing the incentive for private interests to directly and indirectly support candidates and parties. Therefore, the only plausible solution is to limit the size of government. Anything else merely treats the symptom without addressing the underlying disease of the body politic. Lower government spending will lead to lower levels of campaign contributions. In turn, that will result in lower levels of campaign spending. All other efforts to limit campaign spending will be futile. (Cato

Instead of trying to impose on every candidate a one-size-fits-all muzzle, why not instead impose on every voter a requirement to listen? I'd like to hear just one campaign finance reformer have the courage to blame the people who by the reformer's logic must ultimately be at fault: the voters. If you think voters are wise and competent consumers of political speech, then surely political speech needs no regulation.

If instead you think voters are too selfish, then you should advocate no representation without taxation. We could say that if both last year and in your lifetime you've received more in dollar-denominated government benefits/credits/deductions than you've paid in taxes, then you don't get to vote.

If instead you think voters are too ignorant, then you should test voters before they can vote. We could say you can't vote for me unless you can answer one multiple-choice question about my positions from each of my opponents. The idea would be that you can't vote for X unless you can prove that you've listened to the arguments against X.

I personally am not yet ready to declare that voters are irredeemably selfish or ignorant. I just wish process-oriented reformers would hold a mirror up to the electorate itself, instead of complaining about the things that influence the electorate.

Aimee, if you really believe in a level playing field, where voters hear both sides speaking at the same volume, then there's only one way for you not to be a hypocrite when you have your Voters First press conference on Tuesday. You will allow as much time at your event for opposition to your Pledge as you allow for promotion of it.

So how about it, Aimee? Are you willing to practice what you preach? If so, I'm available to attend your event via voice conference and let your audience hear the other side of this issue. Don't you think that your proposal can win support over the alternative if you have to advocate it under the rules you want candidates to live by? Or is your proposal just a naked power grab, trying to shift power from elected officials to unelected organizations like your own that already have their own big megaphone?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Libertarian Taxation Theory

I would advocate the following hierarchy of taxes, ordered by their increasing undesirability.

User fees are of course the ideal form of financing any product or service. However, governments should generally avoid them, because if the optimal amount of a product or service can be financed by voluntary transactions, then the government should probably not be involved in providing that product or service in the first place. (This is called the Yellow Pages Test.) The government should only produce/regulate those goods and services that free markets either 1) overconsume, 2) underproduce, or 3) cannot produce efficiently. These three categories are well-defined in modern economics, and are called 1) natural resources, 2) public goods, and 3) natural monopolies. (For definitions and examples, see here.) The only general exception to the no-government-user-fees rule should be natural monopolies, because (unlike public goods and natural resources) their "excludability" makes it easy to charge by usage.

Taxes on negative externalities (e.g. pollution) are a critical function of government. One of the best ways to tax a negative externality like pollution is to hold regular auctions for limited-duration emissions credits. An indispensable paper on this idea is here.

Resource usage fees are the best way for government to prevent overconsumption of natural resources -- i.e., goods like fisheries, aquifers, spectrum, and orbits, for which consumption is rivalrous but not excludable. Again, an excellent way to set these fees is by periodic auctions.

Land-value taxes are considered by economics Nobel laureate Milton Friedman to be the least onerous kind of tax. They are the central differentiating idea of geolibertarianism. Our own Santa Clara University economics professor Fred Foldvary (a former LP congressional candidate) is one of the world's leading advocates of geolibertarianism.

A libertarian polity would probably not need any form of taxation beyond LVT, so the discussion below is relevant mainly for transitional tax policy on the way to Libertopia.

Consumption taxes have several nice properties compared to alternatives below. 1) They don't inhibit investment, which (along with technological advances) is the engine of increased living standards. 2) They are self-limiting, in that if the consumption tax rate gets too high, then consumers can just decrease consumption or take their transactions to the black market. 3) They allow for a bit of libertarian paternalism, which (despite libertarian dogma against "sin taxes") can perhaps be justified on the basis of bounded rationality. 4) They are hard to make progressive, but easy (through rebates) to make non-regressive.

Production taxes (e.g. a value-added tax) are very similar in effect to consumption taxes, and differ primarily in how they are administered.

Income taxes are dangerous because they are hard to evade and are very tempting to make progressive. Their primary relative virtue is that they are a transaction tax and not a wealth tax, so that a 99% income tax doesn't do as much redistribution as a 99% wealth tax.

Property taxes are onerous not only for their potential to redistribute wealth (as opposed to just income), but also because they create hardships for people (like retired homeowners) whose wealth is very illiquid. (Reverse mortgages do not yet have low enough transaction costs to address this issue.) Any advantages that property taxes might have in terms of Tiebout sorting are shared by Land Value Taxes, and so are not an argument for traditional property taxes.

Estate taxes are the closest thing America has seen to outright confiscatory communalism.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fact-Checking The 9/11 "Truth" Movement

2006-08-21 Debate On The 9/11 "Truth" Movement

Brian Holtz vs. Carol Brouillet, Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk, and Robert Forte

The Next Step is hosted on Palo Alto community TV by Daniel Kottke (first Apple employee)

On Thursday Aug 17 my Green opponent Carol Brouillet invited me to be a "skeptic" on an Aug 21 Palo Alto community access TV show about the 9/11 "Truth Movement". I agreed, and my concerns over a possible ambush were greatly eased by email exchanges in the intervening days in which Carol's co-panelists tipped their hand about how weak their case is. On the show I said my role would be "to ask questions, and try to get as specific as possible claims from them so that I can go fact-check them later". I've produced a nearly-complete transcript of the show here, in which I systematically analyze and rebut their most interesting claims. The table below summarizes my fact-checking. Their final score was: 10 falsehoods, 3 distortions, 1 misleading statement, 2 inaccurate statements, and 2 unsubstantiated statements. (I also diagnose one exaggeration on my part, caused by rounding off fatalities in the atomic bombings of Japan to the nearest 100,000.)

In 59 minutes of discussion, I simply could not get any of the Truthers to reveal to me their Truth about why bin Laden and al Qaeda have ten times implied or admitted responsibility for 9/11 (and have not denied it since being hosted by the Taliban in 2001). Dennis can't decide whether al Qaeda is controlled or are "patsies", and Carol just throws up her hands and says "who knows?".
When the Truthers carefully avoid trying to explain the actions of the only living people who are universally agreed to be 9/11 conspirators, it clearly indicates that the Truthers are more interested in advancing the political agenda they had on 9/10 than in understanding the truth of 9/11.

It's ironic that the Truth Movement is just as guilty as the Bushies in seizing on the 9/11 tragedy to promote their prior political agenda. What's comical is that the Truth Movementarians would be far more effective in promoting their political agenda if they merely claimed that Bush knowingly allowed 9/11 instead of planned it. That would be a far harder theory to refute, but would serve their cause equally well. However, their pathology is so systematic that they find it hard to resist claiming Bush planned every bad thing that any human does anywhere. (Some conspiracists even claim that Bush caused the 2004 tsunami.)

On Aug 30
I challenged Brouillet with 10 Questions about 9/11. I wanted to see if she is as good at answering questions on the candidates' stage as she is at shouting them from the audience -- as she did in in a 2004 debate between me and the incumbent congresswoman in our race. As of Sept 6 she has not said whether she will answer my questions before the election. (I will immediately update the front page of my campaign site if she does.) She did, however, answer an 11th question and admitted that she "doesn't have time" to read criticisms of the "Truth" movement. Carol, if you really are more interested in 9/11 Truth than you are in your 9/10 Movement, you'll answer the questions posed by your fellow candidate.

To Dennis Mitrzyk: You said on the show that I "can't argue the laws of physics" and so I argue al Qaeda instead. I say that you couldn't argue al Qaeda on the show and so you threw up a physics smokescreen instead. In my annotated transcript I've now rebutted the claims you made based on physical science. If you would like to respond to my rebuttals, I'll link to them here and then demolish those too.

To Robert Forte: You made the least factual mistakes, and seem the most intellectually honest, of the three cover-up-conspiracy panelists, but you seem to care more about a 9/11 Inquisition than about 9/11 Truth. Dennis and Carol at least offer (multiple inconsistent) theories about al Qaeda -- they mainly and ludicrously claim it's owned and operated by the CIA. But your theory is that you don't need a theory. That's not being interested in 9/11 "Truth". That's being interested in 9/11 Ignorance.

Forte: These are buildings that were deliberately blown up, a false flag terrorist operation, with a number of precedents in recent American history. False There is no precedent of even one American civilian being killed in a false flag terrorist operation by the U.S. government. See the annotated transcript for discussion of Operations Northwoods.
Brouillet: We have the Patriot Act's mirror in Canada, England, Australia, and they're relabeling all dissent against government or corporate power as "terrorists" False
Her sweeping phrase "all dissent" is clumsily hyperbolic propoganda.
Brouillet: The Rendon Group has been paid $50 to $100 million since 9/11 to sell the war on terrorism to the American people. Inaccurate
The Rendon Group's focus has been on Iraq's liberation, not 9/11 or the war on al Qaeda. The Rolling Stone article's author later had to admit he "never claimed the Rendon Group deliberately disseminated false information".
Brouillet: 90% of the soldiers are convinced that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11 Inaccurate
The Zogby poll said 85%, but it apparently had a serious methodological problem, described below.
Mitrzyk: [The conspirators] had access to those buildings through Marvin Bush, who happened to be on the board of Securacom. He was President and CEO of a Kuwaiti -US joint venture that had responsibility for security at the World Trade Center False
Bush was never President or CEO of Kuwam, and left the Securacom board in 2000. Securacom lost the WTC security contract before 1998.
Mitrzyk: Osama bin Laden issued a letter saying that he was not involved with 9/11 Misleading
No longer needing to protect their Taliban hosts after 2001, bin Laden and al Qaeda have since admitted or implied responsibility for 9/11 at least ten times.
Brouillet: al Qaeda is definitely a creation of our CIA and Saudi Arabia False
Experts and primary sources overwhelmingly disagree with Brouillet's third-hand citation of a leftist radio report citing an apparently-non-existent expert who is quoted only about "Afghan arabs" in the 1980s and not specifically bin Laden or al Qaeda. Al Qaeda was formed in 1988 to expand jihad beyond Afghanistan, contrary to the interests of the CIA and Saudi Arabia.
Mitrzyk: [Osama bin Laden] is the youngest brother of the guy who gave [President Bush] $2 million for his first oil well. False
Mitrzyk is thinking of the $50,000 that Bush air national guard buddy James Bath invested in Arbusto in 1979. Bath at the time was a trustee for Salem bin Laden. Some claim that Bath was merely a front man, but there is no documentation for their speculation about this modest $50K investment.
Brouillet: $100,000 was wired to Mohammed Atta on the orders of the head of Pakistani ISI Unsubstantiated
This widespread claim traces back to two unsourced Indian press reports about an Indian intelligence claim that cell phone records show pro-Taliban Gen. Ahmed to have been in contact with al Qaeda paymaster Omar Saeed. Ahmed was dismissed as Pakistan aligned against the Taliban after 9/11, and there is no evidence that Saeed received (or would need) any orders from Ahmed to continue financing the operation.
Brouillet: The official commission says in their document: who financed the attacks of Sept 11 is of little or no importance False
The Report says the precise mix of sources of al Qaeda's $30M/yr of donations is "ultimately of little practical significance", and it's a blatant distortion to claim the Report is instead saying this about the 9/11 plot's $250K/yr financing, which the Report analyzes in detail.
Mitrzyk: Steven Jones, who's a fully tenured professor of physics at Brigham Young University, has written a peer-review paper that has not been challenged False
The Jones paper has not been published in any pre-existing peer-reviewed journal, but instead in a 9/11 book from "Olive Branch Press". The paper has been extensively challenged, and repudiated by Jones' BYU colleagues.
Mitrzyk: the people that covered this up lied about the construction as they said there was no core to the [WTC towers] building False
The "lie" is in a footnote explaining the layout of the available exits at the beginning of a chapter about evacuation and rescue efforts. The footnote says: "The interior core of the buildings was a hollow steel shaft, in which elevators and stairwells were grouped." This is an absolutely accurate way to characterize the layout of the available exits. WTC's steel core is not ignored by the detailed FEMA and NIST studies of the tower collapses. NIST even cites the delayed collapse of the lower portions of the core as evidence against controlled demolition.
Mitrzyk: This is simple Newtonian physics, people. To turn that concrete into dust needs energy. There was not enough gravitational energy. False
It's flatly false to claim that one can balance the energy budget of the WTC 1 & 2 collapses using just Newtonian kinematics and dynamics. You also need sophisticated models to estimate the use of energy to pulverize concrete and other materials, eject debris, heat debris, deform steel and other materials, damage the WTC substructure and neighboring structures, etc.
Mitrzyk: there was molten steel at the 7th subfloor, they discovered a week after the event Unsubstantiated
Urban legends about "molten steel" in the WTC debris are debunked here.
Brouillet: The Project For A New American Century had already laid out that they needed: a catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor Distortion
PNAC did not say a new Pearl Harbor is "needed" or in any way desired. PNAC said "the prime directive for transformation will be to design and deploy a global missile defense system". It mentioned China more often than it mentioned Iraq. It mentioned ballistic missiles 30 times, and mentioned terrorism only twice. It said ""the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor". It's simply illiterate to say that PNAC white paper had "already laid out" the idea that knife-wielding suicidal pilots were America's paradigmatic new defense problem.
Holtz: [America] incinerated 100,000 innocents in Hiroshima, and then did it again three days later in Nagasaki
Immediate fatalities at each of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were about 70,000, and many tens of thousands of them worked either for the military or in wartime industries.
Mitrzyk: [are] people who have degrees in physics and mechanical engineering and they have written peer-review papers and so these people, they're doing the science on this Distortion
All of the "peer-reviewed" papers on were published in forums created explicitly for "9/11 studies". They include only three PhD authors with a record of publications in engineering or mathematics or physical science. One of the three actually supports the NIST collapse analsysis, and the second's only paper consists only of three pages calculating the speed of the WTC 7 collapse. The rest of these "peer-reviewed" scholars are all either in "soft" disciplines like theology or philosophy, or are not even published academics.
Forte: You [Holtz] strike me as an apologist for the government. You have not voiced any skepticism about the official story. False
At 27 minutes into the show, I said that the so-called "war on terror" is "phony", and disagreed with Bush's story that al Qaeda "hates freedom", and said that I agree with al Qaeda instead of Bush in their competing theories of why 9/11 happened. I also had already told Forte in email that I believe the 9/11 Report turns a blind eye to Bush and Cheney apparently lying about whether the shootdown rules of engagement first originated with Bush.
Holtz: Was he [maimed Iraqi boy in Mitzryk photo] targeted?
Mitzryk: Well, it's hard to say.
Mitzryk should have known that the boy was not targeted. He is Ali Abbas, and the book about him says "in the early hours of March 31 last year, 11 days into the Iraq war, a stray missile hit the hamlet where Ali lived".

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Questions For The 9/11 "Truth" Movement

Now that my race for Congress includes a Green who claims the Bush administration staged 9/11, I've surveyed the landscape of the 9/11 conspiracy funhouse. As someone who spent years debunking JFK conspiracy theories in the pre-Web era of the Internet, I've had no trouble zeroing in on the multiple weak spots of the 9/11 "Truth" movement. For those new to the funhouse, the 9/11 "Truth" movement believes that the Bush administration staged the 9/11 attacks by
  • controlling the two 767's that crashed into the World Trade Center;
  • using pre-planted explosive charges to demolish the twin towers and the 47-story tower 7;
  • making Flight 77 and its passengers and crew disappear, so that the least-important wing of Pentagon could be hit with a missile alleged to be Flight 77;
  • shooting down Flight 93 over Pennsylvania and faking all the evidence of a passenger revolt;
  • arranging that America's air defenses failed to intercept the allegedly-hijacked jets; and
  • arranging that al Qaeda fails to deny responsibility and indeed appears to claim responsibility.
9/11 Truthers say that the linchpin of their case is the "obvious" and "incontrovertible" visual evidence that the WTC buildings collapsed as a result of controlled demolition. Even though demolitions experts are nearly unanimous in disagreeing with such claims, the Truthers assert that a proper understanding of physics and materials science proves their case. So they focus on the technical details of the building collapses, and ignore questions showing that the conspiracy can be seen to be utterly implausible without any technical expertise whatsoever.

Thus to my opponent Carol Brouillet and all other Truthers I ask the following.

1. al Qaeda. The JFK conspirators couldn't get their lone gunman to claim responsibility, but the omni-competent 9/11 conspirators have such influence over al Qaeda as to make it consistently take credit -- and never again deny responsibility -- for 9/11. Why has al Qaeda taken credit for 9/11 in multiple communiques, and not attempted to deny responsibility since losing Taliban protection in 2001? Bonus questions: If the conspirators are making al Qaeda (appear to) claim credit, why didn't they do so earlier? If you can prove the conspirators control al Qaeda, then why bother arguing the rest of the conspiracy theory -- missiles, controlled demolition, faked hijackings, etc -- to people who believe al Qaeda did it? Why does Zacarias Moussaoui not deny that his al Qaeda comrades perpetrated 9/11?

2. Flight 93. If the government conspiracy could control commercial 767's and fly them into the WTC, why would it shoot down a 757 over Pennsylvania instead of fly it into the ground as suggested by all the carefully-prearranged onboard transmissions and recordings suggesting a passenger revolt that you say never happened?

3. Pentagon. If the government conspiracy could control commercial 767's and fly them into the WTC, why use a missile instead of another jetliner to hit the Pentagon in broad daylight and clear skies over a crowded metropolitan area bristling with civilian witnesses and camcorders and camera phones? Bonus questions: And if a missile was used, why make a 330-degree turn in the final approach, creating more exposure to cameras and witnesses? And if the radar recordings are fabricated, why include a turn that you say is suspicious?

4. Wristwatches. If the government conspiracy could crash two commercial 767's in a window of 17 minutes, why would it risk ordering a suspicious and traceable stand-down of air defenses so it could hit the Pentagon with a missile 80 minutes later? Flight 77 would not have struck D.C. until about 95 minutes after the first WTC crash. Instead of the government conspiracy spreading its four meticulously planned attacks across an hour and a half, why not instead just pretend the hijackers had wristwatches and then competently synchronize the four strikes? Did the Pentagon missile/drone team oversleep the morning of 9/11? And why were the cockpit takeovers spread over 90 minutes, allowing Flight 175 to even be warned of cockpit intrusion before it happened?

5. We Have Some Planes. Truthers claim that the government conspiracy was so worried about the alleged ability of America's air defenses to intercept hijacked airliners that the conspiracy took the risk of arranging stand-down orders. Whey did the conspiracy then use a suicide flight crew so incompetent that two of them repeatedly used the air-traffic radio to broadcast warnings they were trying to give to their passengers over the cabin intercom, thus giving the earliest possible notice that hijackings were under way? Why did they broadcast "planes" plural? Why did they only turn off the transponders on Flights 77 and 93 only after deviating from their course? Why did they never turn off the transponder on Flight 175 at all? Just how stupid were these evil government geniuses who took over these planes?

6. Demolitions. Nobody trapped above the impact floors in the WTC was going to be saved from the fire, and 200 of them had already jumped to their deaths. The collapse of WTC 1 and 2 only contributed 400-600 of the 3000 fatalities on 9/11, and the collapse of WTC 7 contributed zero. Why would the conspiracy risk setting up and then performing in broad daylight a controlled demolition of buildings that it knew would be under massive videographic surveillance, just to kill 400 rescue workers? Bonus questions: What if one of those swarming radio-equipped rescue workers had found an explosive charge while breaking through walls to seek trapped victims or clear exits? And with the towers twice as tall as anything around them, why not quintuple the death toll by hitting the 110-story towers just above the 57-story highest neighbor, instead of at the 96th and 81st floors? And why wait an agonizing 102 minutes to push the detonator for the first tower struck, since it is allegedly known that jet fuel cannot bring down a steel skyscraper now matter how big a fire it ignites and no matter how long it burns? Also, consider that at least 25% of the jets controlled by the conspiracy failed to hit their target. What was the government conspiracy's contingency plan if one of the WTC jets missed its assigned tower, and the building was then found to be wired from top to bottom with demolition charges?

7. Execution. The story told by 9/11 Truthers would have taken hundreds of conspirators to plan and execute:
  • demolition experts to plant the explosives days in advance;
  • insiders to allow planting of the explosives in the WTC -- whose chief of security John O'Neill was killed on 9/11 and as FBI Special Agent in Charge for National Security in the New York Field Office from 1997 to 2001 had led the bin Laden investigation;
  • a team (presumably near the WTC) to stick around all day and trigger 3 controlled demolitions over a 7-hour span;
  • people in the air defense chain of command to issue traceable and documented orders for exercises and a stand-down on 9/11;
  • an Air Force pilot to fire a missile at Flight 93;
  • military personnel to execute the missile/drone strike on the Pentagon;
  • Pentagon insiders to allegedly suppress its air defenses;
  • operatives to fabricate and plant fake Pentagon surveillance camera images;
  • American Airlines and United Airlines insiders to allow access to the WTC jets;
  • either suicidal pilots, or a team of aeronautical/avionics/jamming experts to secretly modify and remotely control the WTC jets and prevent the actual crew from using any radio or cell phone to call out;
  • operatives to divert Flight 77 and make it and its passengers and crew vanish without any trace or making any onboard calls;
  • operatives to plant physical evidence at each crash scene right in front of first responders;
  • radio technicians remotely engineering the transmissions from the planes (or a far larger team to alter and fake the transmission records after the fact; see below);
  • actors pretending to be doomed passengers talking on cell phones to loved ones and operators;
  • agents to create false identities and histories and financial records for the hijackers;
  • actors to pose as the hijackers on airport and ATM surveillance cameras;
  • etc.
How is it plausible that the bumbling administration of George W. Bush could plan and execute such an intricate operation, without anyone among these hundreds of people blowing the whistle when first approached, or anonymously/accidentally leaking the truth anytime since?

8. Cover-Up. Attempting a cover-up the 9/11 conspiracy miracle would require thousands of more conspirators:
  • operatives with sufficient influence over al Qaeda to prevent any of its leaders from disavowing al Qaeda's multiple admissions of 9/11 responsibility over the last four years;
  • the nearby pilots who say they heard the cockpit transmissions from the hijacked jets,
  • experts to fake the recordings of the 9/11 transmissions, cockpit recordings, black box data, and radar tracking data;
  • the bipartisan 9/11 Commission and its staff of 100;
  • FBI, including the teams who searched for traces of explosives at the crash sites;
  • bitter Bush critic Richard Clarke, the NSC counterterrorism aide who managed the Situation Room video conference on 9/11;
  • Secret Service;
  • Justice Department;
  • CIA;
  • NSA;
  • FAA, including air traffic control centers in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Boston, and New York;
  • DOT;
  • NORAD in Colorado,
  • NEADS in New York;
  • CONR in Florida;
  • NMCC in the Pentagon;
  • Andrews AFB in Maryland;
  • Langley AFB in Virginia;
  • Otis AFB in Massachusetts;
  • Air National Guard;
  • INS;
  • Customs Service;
  • State Department;
  • NTSB;
  • NIST;
  • FEMA;
  • NYPD;
  • FDNY;
  • NY City Office of Emergency Management;
  • Port Authority Police Department;
  • four flight training schools in Florida and Oklahoma;
  • the government of Pakistan;
  • the government of Italy;
  • the government of Britain;
  • the government of France;
  • the government of Spain;
  • operatives working against or among the 185 photographers to suppress or plant evidence in the nearly 7000 photographs taken at the WTC on 9/11;
How is it plausible that the bumbling administration of George W. Bush could orchestrate such a massive cover-up, without anyone among these thousands of people blowing the whistle or anonymously leaking the truth anytime since?

9. Scientific Apologists. If the scientific and technical evidence for the impossibility of the mainstream explanation is so overwhelming, then when will that evidence be believed by a fraction of the scientific community that is larger than the fraction who believe in creationism? The mainstream explanation is based on or corroborated by expert investigations by:
  • Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers;
  • Society of Fire Protection Engineers;
  • National Fire Protection Association;
  • American Institute of Steel Construction;
  • American Iron and Steel Institute;
  • Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat;
  • Structural Engineers Association of New York;
  • Underwriters Laboratories;
  • NY City Dept. of Design and Construction;
  • American Society of Civil Engineers;
  • Controlled Demolition, Inc.; and
  • researchers from Purdue, Northwestern, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon and UCSD.
10. Radical Non-Believers. Why is sole al Qaeda responsibility for 9/11 not denied by radical critics of the U.S. government? Such critics include:
  • Ralph Nader, who said about reinforcing cockpit doors: "this single safety step could have thwarted the events of September 11";
  • Jesse Jackson, who wrote in 2006 that "bin Laden has not stopped targeting us", and called the 9/11 Commission's recommendations "common sense steps";
  • Noam Chomsky, who says corporate control of media and government in America leads to "manufactured consent" , but calls a 9/11 government conspiracy "extremely unlikely";
  • Michael Moore, who in Fahrenheit 9/11 alleged nefarious Bush collusion with Big Oil and the House of Saud;
  • JFK director Oliver Stone, who thinks the CIA assassinated Kennedy;
  • BBC muckraking journalist Greg Palast, who thinks Bush stole the 2000 and 2004 elections;
  •, which thinks the Bush Administration lied about Iraqi WMDs and terrorist connections in order to use an Iraq war as an excuse to consolidate political power and attack civil liberties;
  • the Green Party, which admits Mohammed Atta led the al Qaeda 9/11 attacks; and
  • the Communist Party USA, whose official newspaper lauded the 9/11 Commission's finding that al Qaeda's responsibility for 9/11 was not shared by Iraq.
I criticize the conspiracists for indulging in selective explanation -- for focusing on an accumulation coincidences and minor mysteries instead of advancing a comprehensive hypothesis that is consistent with the most evidence and leaves no glaring anomalies or contradictions. So what is my hypothesis for the existence of the 9/11 "Truth" movement? Read it in an upcoming posting on my blog.