Sunday, July 24, 2005

Knowledge is Power

...said Bacon. He was thinking of Man confronting Nature. In the context of Man confronting Man, however, the saying should be "Unshared Knowledge is Power."

"All men by nature desire to know," said Aristotle. Following that up, Senator Bob Graham says (with the help of Jeff Nussbaum), "If there's one thing I've realized in my time serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee, it is that people like possessing information that is secret. They like not disclosing information to others." (Intelligence Matters, p. 35.)

There is nothing sinister or even unusual about unshared knowledge as such. Not even all mathematicians can share all mathematics with each other, much less with non-mathematicians. You can never share everything about yourself with another person, no matter how much time the two of you spend. Two people witnessing the same event do not share precisely the same knowledge of it, simply because they must be standing in different places. There are natural limits to the shareability of knowledge.

Nor is the limitation of shareability in itself a bad thing. Some knowledge shouldn't be shared, as privacy advocates point out, and sharing some knowledge is a matter of discretion. That is why we have blinds on windows. That is why we expect professionals such as doctors, lawyers, clergy, social workers, journalists, accountants and others to "maintain confidentiality." Perhaps that is part of the reason why not all information is to be disclosed to jurors; some information, indeed, must be kept from them, because they cannot be trusted to know how to handle it.

Nor is the shareability of knowledge just between individuals. There are different strata, within which some knowledge circulates freely, but not outside. Workers on the line know things that the CEO doesn't, and management knows things they don't. Magicians tend to be a tight-lipped fraternity, as do Masons, Mormons and Mafiosi. There are things the administration doesn't tell the faculty. There are things the faculty doesn't let on to the students, and there are things the students don't tell the faculty.

And there are things about you that everybody knows but you.

Of course, there are whistleblowers, snitches, spies and turncoats, who tell things to people they are generally expected not to, for many reasons. Bait and switch, the car salesman's checking with the manager to see if he'll OK the deal, and many other sales techniques are now "open secrets;" apparently, some people still don't know them. (Some people really were born yesterday, and tomorrow that will come true again.) All of which merely goes to show that it is a matter of common expectation in society that some information will be available to some people and not to others. The withholding of information is ubiquitous, and is recognized, if perhaps unconsciously, as a customary and legitimate exercise of power.

If knowing were an a priori matter, something that took no effort and was accomplished instantaneously, Aristotle might be right. But coming to know does take some doing. As Ian Hacking says, "One thing main-line bacteriologists do not want to hear about is sedimentary petrology! It will take quite a few voices to get them to listen." (The Social Construction of What?, p. 204.)

Another thing that might cast doubt on Aristotle's saying, and on its being accepted as a truism, is another candidate for truistic status: Cardinal Caraffa's saying, to his uncle Pope Paul IV: "Populus vult decipi. Decipiatur," ["The people wish to be deceived. Let them be deceived." He spoke Latin, you see.] which calls attention to the fact that some truths are unpleasant, at least compared with some pleasant untruths, and that people might very well prefer the latter to the former.

Isn't it becoming clear that "knowledge" by itself may be just too broad a concept to be useful here?

First come I; my name is Jowett.
There's no knowledge but I know it.
I am the Master of this college.
What I know not is not knowledge.

Have you ever heard, or used, the phrase, "How should I know?" Of course you have; and its very familiarity can be considered a form of legitimacy. Shouldn't we take a cue from Jowett's ventriloquist here and simply specify that some knowledge is too unimportant, or too spatio-temporally confined, to deserve the title? If we do, what's left? What knowledge is important enough to be called knowledge?

What's important for us here is knowledge of a very specific kind---knowledge of the actions of men, when those actions affect you---knowledge of the kind Senator Graham was talking about.

In an ideally efficient market, there is no such thing as insider trading because everyone has equal access to relevant information, i.e., natural limitations on the shareability of knowledge are ignored. (In practice, insider trading is subject to regulation.) In a so-called "democracy" the actions of government must be shared or shareable in order for the institution of voting to mean anything. How a democracy can contain an intelligence apparatus explicitly devoted to keeping government actions secret has been the subject of anguished deliberation in certain quarters for a long time.

What is not a subject for deliberation is the fact that the present Bush administration is by far the most secret and hermetically closed administration ever to occupy the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. continues to call itself a democracy, when in fact it is a National Security State. Anything the people do not "need to know" is not told them.

Something Jowett really did say is: "Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Eyewitness Reports at Odds With Official Scenario

By Christopher Bollyn
INDIAN LAKE, Pennsylvania—Eyewitness testimonies have generally been excluded from the official version of 9-11. In the Shanksville area, where many residents believe Flight 93 was shot down, there are scores of eyewitnesses whose testimonies contradict the government’s claim that courageous passengers fought hijackers, forcing the jetliner to crash rather than be flown into a building. Some local residents here are deeply offended by the official explanation of what supposedly happened to United Airlines Flight 93, calling it a patriotic pack of lies. Fearful of retribution from federal agents, many eyewitnesses who spoke with American Free Press asked that their names not be published. While differing on some details of the plane said to be Flight 93, which passed over Lambertsville, eyewitnesses agree that unexplained military aircraft were in the immediate vicinity when a huge explosive “fireball” occurred at the reclaimed coal mine near Shanksville. Viola Saylor saw Flight 93 pass very low over her house in Lambertsville, which is a mile north of the official crash site. She was in her backyard when she heard a very loud noise and looked up to find herself “nose to nose” with Flight 93, which she says was flying “upside down” as it passed overhead. It was blue and silver, she said, and glistened in the sunlight. It was so low that it rustled the leaves of her 100-foot maple tree in her yard. It flew southeastward for about three more seconds and even gained elevation before it crashed over the hill with a “thud,” she said.“ It was really still for a second,” she said. “Then all of a sudden” she saw a “very quiet” and low-flying white “military” plane coming from the area of the crash site, flying toward the northwest. “It was flying very fast, like it was trying to get out of here,” she said. “A second or two” behind the “military” plane were two other planes, which Saylor described as “normal” planes. Shown a photograph of a Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II, a low-flying combat aircraft commonly referred to as a “Warthog,” Saylor identified it as the military plane she had seen. She said she recognized the two engines on the rear and the distinctive shape of the cockpit and nose of the plane. Similar eyewitness reports of military planes over Shanksville on 9-11 remain censored by the U.S. corporate media, although they were reported in two leading British newspapers. Susan McElwain, a local teacher, also reported seeing a white “military” plane at the scene of the crash before witnessing an explosion. Ms. Mcelwain told The Daily Mirror what she saw: “It came right over me, I reckon just 40 or 50 feet above my mini-van,” she recalled. “It was so low I ducked instinctively. It was traveling real fast, but hardly made any sound. “Then it disappeared behind some trees. A few seconds later I heard this great explosion and saw this fireball rise up over the trees, so I figured the jet had crashed. The ground really shook. So I dialed 911 and told them what happened. “I’d heard nothing about the other attacks and it was only when I got home and saw the TV that I realized it wasn’t the white jet, but Flight 93. “I didn’t think much more about it until the authorities started to say there had been no other plane. The plane I saw was heading right to the point where Flight 93 crashed and must have been there at the very moment it came down. “There’s no way I imagined this plane—it was so low it was virtually on top of me. It was white with no markings but it was definitely military, it just had that look. “It had two rear engines, a big fin on the back like a spoiler on the back of a car and with two upright fins at the side,” Ms. McElwain said. “I haven’t found one like it on the Internet. It definitely wasn’t one of those executive jets. [However,] the FBI came and talked to me and said there was no plane around.” The plane Ms. McElwain describes is similar to the Warthog seen by Saylor over Lambertsville. “Then [FBI agents] changed their story and tried to say it was a plane taking pictures of the crash 3,000 feet up,” she said. “But I saw it, and it was there before the crash, and it was 40 feet above my head. They did not want my story—nobody here did.” The U.S. media has only reported what Bill Crowley, FBI spokesman from Pittsburgh, said about other planes in the area: “Two other airplanes were flying near the hijacked United Airlines jet when it crashed, but neither had anything to do with the airliner’s fate.” In an apparent slip of the tongue, Crowley said one of the planes, “a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet,” had been directed to the crash site to help rescuers. The Falcon 20, however, is made by Dassault of France while Fairchild made the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the plane described by Ms. Mcelwain and identified by other eyewitnesses. The Daily American of nearby Somerset did not want Ms. McElwain’s story. In fact, the local paper has never reported that at least 12 local residents saw several unexplained aircraft at the time of the crash. Asked why the paper has not mentioned these eyewitness reports, managing editor Brian P. Whipkey told AFP “They could not be substantiated.”
THE SCREAMING THING At the horseshoe-shaped Indian Lake, about a mile east of the official crash site, several eyewitnesses recalled hearing “a screaming thing” that “screeched” as it passed over the golf course and lakeside community immediately before a huge explosion shook the ground. Chris Smith, the groundskeeper at the golf course, said something with a “very loud screeching sound” passed over in the immediate vicinity of the golf course before he heard a huge explosion. “It was like nothing I’ve ever heard before,” Smith said. The explosion that followed sounded like a “sonic boom,” he said. Smith and others said they felt the shock wave from the explosion. Smith said he was used to seeing a variety of military aircraft from the nearby Air National Guard bases in Johnstown and Cumberland, Md. Another groundskeeper said he saw a silver plane pass overhead toward the crash site from the southeast after hearing the loud “screeching” sound. The large silver plane was at an elevation of several thousand feet, he said.A local veteran who flew combat helicopters in the Vietnam War told AFP that the high-pitched screeching sound was indicative of a missile. Shown a photo of an A-10 Warthog, the groundskeeper identified it as the kind of plane that circled the crash site at a very low altitude three times before flying away. He recognized the two vertical fins on the rear of the plane. “Nobody was interested in what we saw,” he said. “They didn’t even ask us.” Mobile telephones and satellite televisions in the Indian Lake area did not work at the time of the crash, he said. Paul Muro was in his yard in Lambertsville when Flight 93 passed overhead. Muro, who lives a half-mile closer to the crash site than Saylor, said the plane was flying rightside up and normally, although it was very low. Muro told AFP that he also saw a large silver plane approaching from the south, the opposite direction of Flight 93, above the crash site at the time of the explosion. The silver plane then turned and headed back in the direction from which it had come, he said. Tom Spinelli works at the Indian Lake Marina. After 9- 11, he told a Pittsburgh television news reporter about the unexplained aircraft he saw. “I saw the white plane,” he said.“It was flying around all over the place like it was looking for something,” he said. “I saw it before and after the crash.” AFP visited the marina and asked Spinelli about the planes he saw on 9-11.“I’m sorry,” Spinelli said. ‘No comment’ is all I can say.” An Indian Lake resident told AFP that federal agents had visited the marina after Spinelli had spoken to the Pittsburgh news channel, TV 4, and told him to stop talking about what he saw. Local firefighters were also told not to talk about what they had seen at the crash site.
(Issue #30, July 25, 2005)

Not Copyrighted. Readers can reprint and are free to redistribute - as long as full credit is given to American Free Press - 645 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Suite 100 Washington, D.C. 20003

Sunday, July 17, 2005

"Left" and "Right"

I have seen the political views of Arnold Schwarzenegger, before he became himself a politician, described as "somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun." I am less concerned with Arnold himself than with this description, and what it says about the meaning of the terms 'left' and 'right'.

What possible sense could it make? Attila left no body of political theory describing the proper functions and limits of government. He did not, like Hayek, deny that he was a conservative. Of his recorded sayings, perhaps the most insightful is, "Some Huns have solutions for which there are no problems." Why is there such a phrase as "bleeding-heart liberal" but not such a phrase as "bleeding-heart conservative?"

Trudy Govier says, "A further moral corollary emerges when we consider the sorts of persons who are likely to be or become adherents of a cause pursued by violent means. Many sensitive and conscientious people will be unwilling to join, while some of those attracted are likely to be callous to the point of criminal thuggery. For example, in Poland and Czechoslovakia, in the 1970s, those organizing in opposition to the governing communist regimes declared themselves to be nonviolent and interested in developing a more humane society respectful of human rights. As nonviolent movements, these movements attracted certain sorts of people. In Poland in the 1970s and 1980s, many oppositionists were highly religious Catholics inspired by the fact that the Pope was Polish; others were workers; still others, writers and intellectuals. Had the oppositionists used terrorist tactics, they would have no doubt attracted some adherents, but not the same ones." ("Physical Violence in Political Contexts: Grounds for a Strong Presumption against Violence," in Philosophy 9/11, (124f.)).

To understand the difference between political right and left I think two ideas will be helpful in the future: the psychologists' ideas of a characteristic emotion and the idea of cognitive salience.

One's characteristic emotion is the emotion which one spends most time experiencing. Salient is the characteristic of a thing, or the idea of a thing, which is most likely to strike one on presentation. The relationship between these putatively different aspects of humanity should be obvious. We notice what our feelings incline us to notice. To the child with a new hammer, as perhaps to the Hun, many things need pounding.

[Added September 5, 2005] Since writing this I have found that the subject I was puzzled about has been well studied. See

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Philosophy 9/11 --- Fiala

In his contribution to Philosophy 9/11, "Defusing Fear: A Critical Response to the War on Terrorism," Andrew Fiala notes helpfully that Roger D. Congleton has concluded that: "Even the terrible death toll of September 2001 implies a risk of death from terrorist attack that is well below that of death from ordinary murder or traffic accident in the United States. Indeed, even in that year, the probability of being killed by terrorism in the United States was less than that of being run over by a car while walking." (103).

Less helpfully, he also says: "After September 11, cynics have argued that the Bush Administration has cultivated fear in an Orwellian bid to gain support for its foreign and domestic agenda. Such a conspiracy theory approach is ultimately a matter of unfounded speculation that itself requires careful analysis. It has not, then, been my intention to engage in such speculation." (104). Perhaps this approach is unfounded if we automatically discount the "conspiracy theory" itself, as Fiala seems to do. But that theory, far from being unfounded, is very well founded indeed. Fiala, like many others, seems unaware of the evidence for it.

Four of the contributors to the volume are military personnel as well as philosophers, and perhaps this explains their inability to conceive of war as anything but an attempt to obtain a victory. Apparently none of the contributors have read 1984, in which Orwell says:

"But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction -- indeed, in some sense was the destruction -- of a hierarchical society. ... If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. ... The problem was how to keep the wheels of industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they must not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this was by continuous warfare.
The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built."

"In past ages, a war, almost by definition, was something that sooner or later came to an end, usually in unmistakable victory or defeat."

"But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous. "

"The war, therefore, if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are set at such an angle that they are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word 'war', therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist."

Today, (August 25, 2005) the Associated Press carried a story by Liz Sidoti, in which we read the following: "For weeks a federal commission has fretted that the Pentagon's plans to close several major bases in New England could leave that region vulnerable to security threats.On Wednesday, the nine-member panel voted to keep a large military presence in every part of the country.Commissioners voted to spare a submarine base in Connecticut and a shipyard straddling the Maine-New Hampshire border. The decisions preserve a major military presence in New England and 12,000 defense-related jobs."Yahoo!" exclaimed Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. "Submarine Base New London lives, and I think that it will live forever."Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who urged the commission to save the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, added: "This is a sweet victory." ...Some analysts have said closing both the shipyard and the submarine base would devastate the economy along the coast from Maine to Rhode Island. Loss of the submarine base would have cost about 8,000 jobs. "Philip Dine of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the same day wrote: "The commission also voted to move the Tank Automotive and Armaments Command and its 1,100 jobs from the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois to the Detroit Arsenal.Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said of the decision, 'This is going to waste precious defense dollars while providing very limited military rewards. While we were successful in keeping the bulk of the arsenal intact, we will continue our fight to keep this mission and others located at this historic military installation where they belong.' "

Monday, July 11, 2005


This blog is intended for a variety of readers, from 9/11Truth activists to those just discovering the subject. In this latter category I include myself. From experience I know how much time can be spent with relatively little profit wandering the literature, and so I list here a selection of recommended websites, in no particular order. I antcipate that it will be updated from time to time.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Philosophy 9/11

The new book edited by Timothy Shanahan, Philosophy 9/11: Thinking about the War on Terrorism (Open Court, 2005) is must reading for all concerned with 9/11, whether 9/11 Truth activists, aficionados, or antagonists.

Though two of the contributors contend that there can be no such war, none gets so far as to actually consider 9/11 Truth; but the book is very valuable in potentially raising the level of discussion of 9/11 and its sequelae.

Of the fifteen contributors, four are U.S. military personnel and all have degrees in philosophy.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Considered Judgment on 9/11

Catherine Z. Elgin's Considered Judgment (Princeton, 1996) has several features of interest to 9/11 activists. Some salient instances are her use as an example, "conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy" (144), her recognition of the importance of emotion in the process of inquiry (146-169), and her discussions of Wittgenstein, Kuhn and Rorty, or what she calls "pure procedural epistemology" or "Knowledge by Consensus" (60-100), which more or less says that what is true is determined by common consent, since common consent determines what words mean. (One seems to encounter this position fairly often in broaching 9/11 Truth.)

But through the book a theme recurs; the theme of composition and division of evidences.

"Justification is holistic. Support for a conclusion comes not from a single line of argument but from a host of considerations of varying degrees of strength and relevance. Indirect evidence and weak arguments, which alone would bear little weight, may be interwoven into a fabric that strongly supports a conclusion. Each element derives warrant from its place in the whole." (130).

"In forging connections among initially tenable claims, we integrate them into a mutually supportive network. This enhances their tenability, each being more reasonable in light of the others than it was alone. It also confers tenability on the sentences we annex, transforming initially doubtful claims into integral parts of an acceptable system of thought." (104).

"It [constructionalism] can adopt considerations too poorly supported for perfect procedural epistemologies to countenance, secure in the knowledge that unwise admissions can later be rescinded. ... It requires weak reasons to be more tightly woven into the fabric of commitments than strong ones. But it allows that this can be done, that collective action can compensate for individual shortcomings.
A constellation of weak reasons sometimes constitutes a strong case." (121).

Compare this with what an older book says: "For the two pieces of information, visual and (say) acoustic, taken together [original italics] contain the information ... , information that neither signal, taken by itself, contains."----Fred I. Dretske, Knowledge and the Flow of Information, pp. 95f. Dretske caters to a well-known fact when he says that, "This constitutes a relativization of the information contained in a signal because how much information a signal contains, and hence what information it carries, depends on what the potential receiver already knows about the various possibilities that exist at the source. " (p. 79).

(Cf. "compound argumentation" in Frans H. van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst, A Systematic Theory of Argumentation: The pragma-dialectical approach, pp. 120f.)

Since the emotional resistance which 9/11 Truth encounters is so strong, any one part of the case for it is subject to being overwhelmed, and its rejection is subject to being used as a justification for refusing to consider the rest of the case. That is why the 9/11 Truth Movement is currently looking for a "smoking gun" (a concept also discussed by Elgin) or a way to "open a cut" (as mentioned in "Ruppert's Approach II"), and compiling "top ten" or "top twenty" lists of anomalies in the official coverup.

The conspirators at some level of consciousness must have counted on their ability to control the media in order to prevent the presentation of all the evidence together, while not absolutely preventing the revelation of many individual incriminating facts. Putting apparently harmless facts together to reveal surprisingly useful, unsuspected information is what CIA analysts do, and the conspirators know that the public has relatively few such persons working for them.

When facts are presented piecemeal and never together, there is a sense in which everything has been revealed, and there is another sense in which it hasn't.

In a media context, presenting "too many" incriminating facts in the same place can be construed as bias. Result: automatic, seemingly legitimate protection for the coverup.

Another way to hide in plain sight is long familiar to anyone exposed to advertising, or contract-signing: it is the institution of the fine print. Any marketer knows that you must make it as easy as possible for the prospect to buy. There is effort involved in everything, and that includes the acquisition of knowledge. "I buy it" is one way to say "I believe it." How easy is it to know what is in a headline, as opposed to what is in the fine print? The headline giveth, and the fine print taketh away. The daunting prospect of actually reading the stuff makes attractive the thought that it isn't important anyway.

And what if the great bulk of it isn't important? What if the crucial sentence is surrounded by a million words worth of twaddle? Induction leads one to think that since most of it is like this, all of it is like this. Or what if the information promised just is not there? In that case the unread and unreadable mass can be used as "proof" of something that, when examined by the skeptical, turns out to be "beyond the scope of the inquiry."

The published recommendations on how to build buildings so that in future they won't undergo "progressive collapse" when hit by airplanes, and how to minimize loss of life in such a case ("have fire drills") are promised to be 10,000 pages long. I think Popkin claimed to have read the complete Warren Commission Report. I greatly doubt that any human being will ever read those 10,000 promised pages. Our legislators commonly don't read the bills they vote on; they take someone's word for what's in them. How can the public be held to a higher standard?

I think these are considerations almost as important as the topos of composition and division, and susceptible of likewise weighty philosophical treatment.