Thursday, 22 September 2011

Quantitative Easing for Dummies

On Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve announced another round of quantitative easing (QE), only they called it Operation Twist, because they've tried quantitative easing twice before and it didn't work, so they're hoping a change of name might bring better luck. This is intended to boost a flagging economy, so the markets predictably responded with blind panic. The UK is also set to follow the same strategy soon. In case you're wondering what this is all about, I've put together a handy little Q&A about QE:

A brief pictorial explanation by Eric Lewis

Q: What is quantitative easing?
A: It's when a central bank 'prints' money and then uses it to buy government bonds (government debt).

Q: You mean the government prints money in order to purchase its own debt? That sounds fishy.
A: Yes. Pretty cool, though, huh? Bet you wish you could do that.

Q: Quite. Also, when you say 'print', what exactly do you mean? Do they actually print banknotes?
A: No, silly. They just electronically credit the accounts of the people they buy the bonds from. They just conjure the money out of thin air, because money is imaginary stuff; it doesn't really exist. That's the beauty of it and it requires no thought whatsoever: just press a button and it's done! Even George Osborne can do it.

Q: OK. Who are the people they buy the bonds from?
A: Whoever happens to own them. In practice, it's mostly banks who already hold government bonds (gilts). It can also be pension funds or just wealthy individuals. Often, the government simply issues new bonds and promptly buys them from itself.

Q: 'Buys them from itself'? Presumably, the issuing bank also gets a cut on the deal?
A: Yes and yes.

Q: Wow! Aren't the banks doing rather well out of this?
A: Stunningly, awesomely well. They get a price premium on the bonds they already own and they get a commission on the deals for bonds they don't own. It also helps turn somewhat risky sovereign debt into risk free cash reserves. Win-win-win! For the banks.

Q: Great. How is this supposed to help the wider economy?
A: Hmm. Good question. Well, the hope is that the banks will use the new cash reserves wisely by lending it to businesses or to consumers for spending, so that will stimulate both investment and demand and get the economy growing. It also helps keep long term interest rates down by raising the price of gilts.

Q: What if the banks don't use the money wisely? What if they just gamble it in the commodities or derivatives markets? What if they just stoke up another asset-price bubble? What if their executives just use it to pay themselves multi-million dollar bonuses to buy yachts and villas in Aruba? What if they just sit on it?
A: Don't be silly. Banks are always wise and always do the right thing by the rest of us.

Q: I see. Haven't we done this before?
A: Yes. Twice in the US and once already in the UK since 2008.

Q: Did it work?
A: Are you kidding? Why do you think we're doing it again?

Q: Why ARE we doing it again?
A: Well, if a thing didn't work three times, do it a fourth time just to make really sure. Seriously, I don't know. The banks seem to love it, though.

Q: Is there any alternative?
A: No. Absolutely not. Never. I resent that suggestion.

Q: Are you sure there's no alternative?
A: Well, maybe. Instead of boosting banks' cash reserves, one could print money and invest it directly in the domestic economy. I suppose we could build much needed housing, improve the rail network, provide vocational training, invest in renewable energy, communications infrastructure, education, health care, get people back into work, etc etc. If you like that sort of thing. We could even create a mutualised National Investment Bank out of the banks we already own and give it a mandate to lend to small business and community projects.

Q: Why the hell don't we do that, then?
A: You just don't understand economic theory, do you? Private sector good, public sector bad. Private sector good, public sector bad. Private sector good, public sector bad. Thatcher is God! Baaaaah. Baaaaah. Wibble.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Dale Farm: Ethnic Cleansing in the UK

How close does a film have to come to 1930s  Nazi propaganda before it becomes appropriate to draw that comparison, without causing offence? I don't know, but I do know that watching last night's Dispatches programme on Channel 4 about the Traveller community at Dale Farm made me feel extremely uncomfortable and reminded me of nothing more than those vicious and ultimately successful attempts to demonise an entire population of 'undesirables'. Propaganda usually betrays itself by the sin of omission: it is what the film did not say and did not ask which proves without doubt the intention of its makers.

The local council (Basildon, Essex) is trying to evict a community of Travellers who, they say, do not have planning permission to occupy the land which they own and keep their trailers there. The council say this is because it is Green Belt land which no one should be allowed to use for this purpose. This is very strange, since the land was originally concreted over by the council themselves many years before, when the land was allowed to be used as a scrapyard by its previous owner. Here is Ray Bocking, the man who sold his scrapyard to the Travellers, explaining the history of the site:

Clearly, the land is a brownfield site, but curiously, last night's Dispatches film failed to mention any of this. For a film purporting to investigate the issues, this is extremely odd. They also failed to ask the most obvious question of all: why does the council refuse planning permission for Travellers to park their trailers and live on a site which was previously a scrapyard? Surely the council would have been delighted to explain exactly why they are happy for Dale Farm to be used for disposing of cars for scrap metal but not happy for a community of Travellers, having bought it, to live on it in their non-scrap-metal caravans? Even the United Nations has criticised Basildon Council's position and called for the evictions to be halted, whilst the UK government has blocked attempts at mediation. This is nothing to do with protecting Green Belt land, nor is it about interpretations of the law: it is simply a matter of what is right or wrong.

The film's glaring refusal to ask this most obvious of questions, or even to mention that the site had been a scrapyard, clarifies its real intention: to justify Basildon Council's ethnic cleansing of an unpopular group of people. The Dispatches film did everything it could to feed anti-Traveller prejudices, which are already ubiquitous. The film insinuated that Travellers generally were prone to criminal and anti-social behaviour, even though many of the examples they used to illustrate this had nothing to do with the particular community at Dale Farm. The narrator even interviewed a police officer about criminality among Travellers but waved away his very reasonable attempts to bring some balance and nuance to the discussion.

It is not only TV news and documentaries that spew poisonous propaganda about unpopular minorities, of course. The Daily Mail was up to its usual game today, with absolutely no regard for facts, totally inventing a quote from a friend of mine who is at Dale Farm to show solidarity with the community there.  

As far as most people in Britain are concerned, Travellers are anti-social criminals. Full stop. This is precisely what most non-Jewish people thought about Jews in the 19th century. Anti-Semitism was rife then and Jews tended to live in inner-city immigrant ghettos such as the East End of London, where crime was also high. The same attitudes prevailed towards black and Irish immigrants in the 1950s through until very recent times. Thankfully, few people today can get away with making sweeping generalisations about the 'black community' being prone to criminality, even though many people still think that way and the fact remains that crime is always higher in poor areas, where ethnic minorities tend to live.

What is most worrying is that there is absolutely no taboo on stereotyping and defaming Travellers. They are seen as fair game and it is open season all year round. It only takes a single member of the Travelling community to commit a crime and everyone seems happy to see that as part of a general tendency towards criminality in everyone labelled as a Traveller. Anti-Traveller sentiment covers a wide spectrum. I have otherwise intelligent liberal-minded lefties telling me that Travellers are homophobic, misogynistic, traditionalists who have nothing in common with us more enlightened folk, although they wouldn't describe Muslims in the same terms. I don't know for sure but if this is true of some of them, to some degree, I find it ironic that Conservative Basildon Council is trying to evict such natural Tory voters, who must have a lot in common with their neighbours there in Essex.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are undoubtedly those who see Travellers as sub-human vermin, to be expelled or even eradicated. Films like last night's Dispatches only serve to legitimise the most extreme hatred. Anti-Semitism started simply as unchallenged day-to-day prejudice which became received wisdom, the logical conclusion of which was the Holocaust. It is no coincidence at all that European gypsies were also among those groups exterminated by the Nazis during World War Two, suffering a quarter of a million deaths - proportionately more than any other group except the Jews. We seem to be taking our first small steps down the same path here today, at Dale Farm. That path leads eventually to Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor. Gypsies have travelled it before, when they were forced to wear black badges, whilst the Jews wore yellow.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

9/11 Still Matters

Unseen Enemies, Hidden Agendas

Approaching the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US, the BBC and other elements of the corporate media served up a steady diet of tripe on that subject. The main purpose of this seems to be to remind us why we have to be in a constant state of war and why we must continue to give up ever more of our hard-won civil liberties for the sake of security from an unseen but still deadly enemy. Given all the wars, death, destruction, surveillance and curtailment of freedom that has followed from 9/11, it is surely surprising that no one has yet been tried in a court of law for the attacks, despite the supposed 'mastermind', Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, having been in US custody for 8 years (now in Guantanamo Bay), his 'confession' extracted by waterboarding - a technique well known for making victims tell the exact truth rather than whatever their interrogators want them to say.

One would at least expect there to be some irrefutable evidence in the public domain, connecting the 9/11 attacks and especially the hijackers, to the organisation referred to as Al-Qaeda and to Osama Bin Laden in particular. Unfortunately, there is none, which is perhaps why Bin Laden was never officially wanted by the FBI for the 9/11 attacks and why he himself denied responsibility for them. It was only long after the US invasion of Afghanistan that Al Jazeera were given (by whom?) a video tape (supposedly found in Jalalabad after it fell) in which a chubby fellow with a big beard (who might be Bin Laden) talks a lot about dreams and obliquely suggests he had some foreknowledge of 9/11 and may (just possibly) have had some connection to the hijackers, although it is never very clear. The authenticity of the tape is hotly disputed, even in academic circles, but even if we assume it to be genuine, it does not provide enough evidence to convict anyone in a court of law, let alone invade an entire country. The US and NATO did not need any evidence to start that war, in any case. Ten years on, perhaps we should remind ourselves of these inconvenient facts, which the corporate media appear to have forgotten. After all, there is no bigger conspiracy theory than the idea that a fiendish global terror network called Al-Qaeda is behind virtually every terrorist plot in the world today.

Sad Liberty: Photo (edited) from NWO Observer.

So, if there is virtually no evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11, who was really responsible for those attacks? There is good evidence, albeit disputed, that Mahmud Ahmed, head of Pakistan's ISI (secret service) at the time had ordered $100,000 to be wired to one of the hijackers, Mohamed Atta. Who, then, is the real unseen enemy? Surely, this is a question worthy of investigation. Unfortunately, merely asking that question can get you labelled as a 'conspiracy theorist', since it is now no longer deemed acceptable to question the truthfulness of official accounts in the corporate media. There was a time when things were different and even the BBC spoke truth to power:

In 1992, the BBC produced a three-part Timewatch documentary exposing Operation Gladio, a secret NATO network of agents connected to far-right organisations, which was created by the CIA after World War Two, which had strong connections to an Italian elite secret society called (in Italian) Propaganda Due (aka the P2 masonic lodge). As the documentary makes clear, Gladio was largely under the control of the CIA and was responsible for unleashing a wave of terrorist attacks in Europe (especially Italy) during the so-called 'years of lead' from 1968 to 1988. Many of the attacks were initially blamed on left-wing revolutionaries such as the Red Brigades, although it later transpired that most, if not all of them had been carried out by the Gladio network of far-right operatives with CIA approval. Hundreds of people were killed, including 85 in the infamous Bologna train bombing.

Most of these outrages are now acknowledged, with the benefit of hindsight and declassified information, to have been 'false flag' terror attacks, almost certainly sanctioned by official state intelligence or security agencies, for the purpose of discrediting the Italian Communist Party and maintaining a state of fear (the so-called 'strategy of tension') in which people would willingly trade freedom for security. No doubt, if anyone had suggested such a thing before 1990, they would have been ridiculed and labelled as a 'conspiracy theorist'. Could it be that some of today's 'conspiracy theories' will become tomorrow's declassified history? Gladio involved hundreds, if not thousands of operatives across Europe and was successfully kept secret for over 40 years. If nothing else, it shows the willingness of certain elements within governments and security services to murder their own countrymen for political gain. It also shows the extraordinary global reach of the CIA and its deep connections to numerous extremist groups as well as to other security services. Above all, it shows that we cannot take official government pronouncements about terrorism at face value.

In fact, a former chief of the Los Angeles FBI, Ted Gunderson, states plainly (in April 2011) that the CIA were behind numerous false flag terrorist attacks on US soil, including the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11. Apparently, this is not a news story, although Gunderson seemed perfectly sane and as a former FBI chief, presumably knows more than your average BBC producer.

There are many reasons why 9/11 still matters. One of them is that history tends to repeat itself, so we must try to learn from the past. It seems we have still not yet made a serious attempt to understand 9/11 and therefore have learned nothing from it. Another reason is that it still casts a huge shadow over domestic and global politics. What is the real reason why our soldiers are still dying in Afghanistan? How many more of our civil liberties must we lose before we begin to question the whole premise of the War on Terror and its domestic consequences?

Conspiracies: Theory, Fact or Paranoid Fantasy?

To be sure, there are many outlandish, wild or utterly crazy ideas about 9/11 floating around and not just on the internet. These include the idea that the towers were destroyed with lasers or 'mini-nukes', that the hijacked jetliners were holograms or that 'the Jews' did it. These patently ridiculous notions make good straw-man fodder for self-styled 'debunkers' to tilt at on their internet forums and serve mainly as entertainment to distract us from the real issues. These bizarre straw-man theories are useful to the media, since the official theory is only marginally less strange and speculative itself. The official narrative is also a conspiracy theory, so whatever you believe, we are all conspiracy theorists now. In fact, to say that 'Al-Qaeda' did it is tantamount to saying 'the crazy Muslim extremists' did it, since 'Al-Qaeda' is far from being the precise notion that the media would have us believe.

There are also many interesting questions and hypotheses still waiting for good answers or objective appraisal. The corporate media tends to lump them all together, making no attempt to distinguish between valid questions and wild speculation, labelling all unconventional ideas as 'conspiracy theories', thereby absolving themselves of any need to think rationally or objectively about any of them. This is a dangerous state of affairs.

Last week, there was an article in the Guardian purporting to debunk 9/11 conspiracy theories, together with  another insinuating that those who doubt the official narrative of 9/11 were mostly anti-semitic Holocaust deniers. These slurs do not stand up to scrutiny, since none of the most prominent advocates of serious alternative 9/11 narratives has ever denied the Holocaust or said anything anti-semitic. The most prominent members of the so-called 'Truth Movement' (which I prefer to describe as the  9/11 Sceptics Network) include eminent academics with impeccable humanitarian credentials, such as Prof David Ray Griffin (theologian), Prof Steven Jones (physicist), Prof Niels Harrit (chemist) and Richard Gage (AIA). The latter is a phlegmatic and affable practising architect of over 20 years experience, who has designed numerous steel-framed buildings and founded Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth in 2006, having been a die-hard Republican supporter up to that point. Gage's organisation continues to grow and now numbers over 1,500 verified professional engineers and architects who are calling for a proper independent investigation into the collapses of the three towers to fall on 9/11. The suggestion that most of these people are tinfoil-hat-wearing, irrational, gibbering loons is as laughable as it is offensive. Yet, that is exactly how the corporate media still attempt to stereotype them. This is nothing but the very crudest form of propaganda.

Even more offensive is the suggestion that the 9/11 sceptics are somehow dishonouring the memory of the victims and their families. Nothing could be further from the truth, since the Truth Movement began with the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, including the Jersey Girls (aka Jersey Widows) and their struggle for an independent investigation into the attacks, which was initially denied to them by the US government. They wanted answers to numerous legitimate questions about those attacks which killed their loved ones. Public pressure eventually forced the President to announce the setting up of the 9/11 Commission. The Commission was beset with controversy from the outset and its final report was widely considered a whitewash, containing numerous omissions and outright falsehoods. The victims' families were far from satisfied and commented that it did not even touch on most of their questions, let alone answer them satisfactorily. Their story is well told in the acclaimed documentary, Press for Truth. The victims' families, as well as survivors and rescue workers (e.g. Firefighters for 9/11 Truth) remain among the most active and prominent members of the Truth Movement today. Many of the rescue workers are now dying of cancers most likely caused by inhalation of dust and a lot of them have suspicions that the truth about 9/11 is being suppressed by their government, which is also denying them the compensation and medical care they need. Their perspective is covered in another award-winning documentary called The Elephant in the Room.

Film about the struggle of victims' families for answers to their questions

Hard Evidence and Unanswered Questions 1: The Collapse of Building 7

There is a huge amount of hard evidence contradicting the official account of what happened on 9/11; far too much to document in a single article, but I will attempt to draw attention to just two issues which I believe are sufficient to refute the official story and support a particular alternative hypothesis which can now be established beyond reasonable doubt.

I am an applied mathematician, with a PhD from an engineering department. My specialism is statistical modelling and machine learning, having published a number of papers in these areas as a post-doctoral researcher at Imperial College. I also have first degrees in physics and psychology. The rapidity of the towers' collapses had always surprised me, as had the fact that a third tower also collapsed on 9/11, apparently due to fire, despite not having been hit by any aeroplane. The collapse of the third tower has always been the most troublesome anomaly of 9/11; so much so that the 9/11 Commission Report did not even mention it at all, despite the fact that it remains the only case in history of a steel-framed skyscraper collapsing completely and symmetrically due to fire alone.

The only total collapse of a steel-framed skyscaper from fire in history

There are numerous examples of steel-framed buildings being utterly consumed by uncontrolled fires for many hours. Although it is normal for parts of those buildings to collapse, particularly the concrete floors, roof and walls, the bulk of their steel frames always remains intact, albeit often twisted and buckled. A good example is the Windsor Building in Madrid. Building fires (max. air temp 800 deg C) are never anywhere near hot enough to melt steel (melting point 1540 deg C) and the frame tends to act as a heat sink, so it is rare for structural elements to be weakened sufficiently to collapse. It is virtually impossible for a steel-framed building to undergo a sudden, global collapse due to fire. Steel does lose a lot of its strength at around 600 deg C but it is always fireproofed and rarely reaches this temperature in normal fires. Even the official reports agree that almost none of the steel in the towers would have come close to this temperature. In fact, 99% of the steel in each of the towers would have been totally unaffected, since the fires were isolated to a few floors. Even an aircraft impact should not cause more than localised damage. These buildings are designed to withstand far more destructive and energetic natural phenomena, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, compared to which the impact of an airliner would be no more than a pin-prick.

Until recently I had always assumed that there was a rational, non-conspiratorial explanation for these unprecedented events and that the official report on the third tower, World Trade Centre 7 (WTC 7), would clear up any lingering doubts. Most professional engineers would probably think the same. Without reading the official report, produced by NIST, they would just assume that it was a good, thorough piece of work and take its conclusions at face value. Those who actually take the trouble to read it, however, will see that it is methodologically unsound, factually inaccurate and contains astonishing omissions. It explains nothing, provokes further questions and looks very much like a deliberate cover-up, designed to pull the wool over the eyes of non-engineers, in the hope that real engineers will be too busy to bother reading it.

My doubts about the official report were first raised by watching an analysis of the dynamics of WTC 7's collapse by the physics teacher, David Chandler. This analysis blew a huge hole in NIST's draft report and forced NIST to revise its earlier assertion that the building did not descend in free fall (i.e. with no significant resistance whatsoever). NIST's final report was therefore forced to accept that WTC 7 was in free fall for over two seconds immediately after the onset of global collapse. Even half a second of free fall would be enormously significant and defies any explanation of fire-induced collapse. The reason is that even buckled columns must offer some resistance to the collapse (they retain roughly 25% of their strength) and that buildings are highly over-engineered in order to support loads far in excess of their own weight. The maximum rate of global collapse for a typical steel-framed skyscraper would therefore be no more than about half the acceleration due to gravity. The Twin Towers descended at around 64% of free fall acceleration. WTC 7 was 100% in free fall for over two seconds. This implies that all of its 82 steel columns must have been completely severed almost simultaneously, as they would be in a controlled demolition using explosives. Note: some 'debunkers' still claim that the building was never in free fall (since this is what NIST had originally said before they changed their story). This just proves that 'debunkers' rarely even know what the official account says and tend not to read primary sources.

Floor plan of WTC 7 showing positions of columns and beams. Coumns run the entire height of the building in both core and perimeter. From NIST NCSTAR 1-A official report on WTC 7.

NIST simply refused to acknowledge the significance of free fall for WTC 7. Instead, they proposed a 'new kind of progressive collapse' initiated by thermal expansion of a single beam by a few centimetres, which caused a single column to buckle, followed by all the others over a short period. Their explanation is based almost entirely on computer simulations and they even published a video explaining their theory, which is worth watching. They cut short the part of the video showing their computer simulation of progressive collapse, but the full version was previously available and can be compared to the actual collapse. Clearly, the NIST simulation bears absolutely no resemblance to the actual visually recorded collapse of WTC 7 and is therefore a work of fiction.

The single column failure supposed by NIST to have initiated a global collapse. Diagram from NIST NCSTAR 1-A official report on WTC 7

NIST refused to consider a hypothesis of explosive demolition, citing their opinion that explosives would have been very loud and audible up to a mile away. This was based solely on a consideration of one of the loudest available explosives (RDX) being used without any sound-proofing. Strangely, they asserted that there was no eyewitness testimony for explosions and that none were recorded. Both assertions are patently false, since there are numerous statements by fire-fighters (original source here) and survivors claiming to have heard multiple separate explosions at all three towers before and during their collapses. At WTC 7, the main witness is Barry Jennings, who is not mentioned at all in the official report, perhaps because his testimony completely contradicts that report. Some explosions were even caught on film. This is the kind of irrefutable evidence that 'debunkers' and official reports have the barefaced cheek to deny outright. Sadly, Barry Jennings is now presumed to have died just a few days before the publication of the official draft report, although no one appears to know where he is buried, what he died from or even the whereabouts of his family. He joins the legion of 9/11 witnesses and whistleblowers who have died in mysterious circumstances, although in Jennings' case it seems he has simply vanished without trace, having been airbrushed out of official history.

There can be very little doubt that WTC 7 was demolished using explosives. Not only is it more likely than the fire hypothesis on a priori grounds, all the known evidence and data also support the theory of controlled demolition. Even so, I was not fully convinced of this until I had read the official report and seen how thoroughly inadequate and mendacious it is. Therefore, I urge everyone to read it, with a critical and open mind, in the light of all the data. In case you think it outlandish to conclude that WTC 7 was destroyed in a controlled demolition, it should be remembered that from a purely scientific and engineering viewpoint, this is actually the mainstream interpretation of the data. It is the simplest, most conservative theory, not a maverick view at all. The consensus among engineers and architects has always been that steel-framed buildings cannot collapse completely and symmetrically at free fall due to the effects of fire. Such an event would be utterly unprecedented and would require extraordinary evidence to be believed. The burden of proof really should be on those who believe that WTC 7 was destroyed by some mechanism not involving explosives.

Controlled demolitions are big jobs. WTC 7 would be the tallest building ever demolished this way, beating the J L Hudson department store in 1998, although the Hudson building had a bigger footprint. These projects cannot possibly be carried out in one day. They require weeks of preparation, which implies foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. The evidence concerning the twin towers (also owned by the same man, Larry Silverstein) is less clear cut but still points towards (a much less conventional) controlled demolition, in which case they would be by far the largest buildings ever brought down this way. That would possibly have taken months of preparation, but it is perfectly feasible and there was a supposed elevator modernisation programme taking place in the buildings which could act as cover.

Hard Evidence and Unanswered Questions 2: Molten Iron and Explosives in the Dust

The official investigation never looked for evidence of explosives in the rubble piles and dust from 9/11. Indeed, the evidence was quickly destroyed, as the steel was carted away for recycling abroad before much of it could be analysed, in defiance of federal law. Nonetheless, some pieces of steel from the towers were examined in the first report by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). What they found was extraordinary and is documented in Appendix C of their report. The steel had undergone sulfidation and melting due to a high temperature corrosive attack, possibly from thermate or a similar incendiary. The report does not consider explosives or incendiaries but recognises the otherwise inexplicable nature of the attack on the steel and recommends further research. That further research never happened.

There is another inexplicable phenomenon to be found in every sample of dust from 9/11 which has ever been studied. In 2003, an insurance report by RJ Lee showed that nearly 6% of the dust consisted of microscopic elemental iron spheres. The report concludes that these spheres were formed from a molten state during or prior to the collapse of the towers, since the spheres are found in dust from all over Manhattan and elemental iron is very rare in the natural environment. Iron can be found in concrete, when mixed with so-called 'fly-ash' but largely in the form of oxides and not exclusively spherical. Elemental iron in such abundance is hard to explain, except by reference to very high temperatures during the collapses of the towers: temperatures far higher than those from office fires. Yet, this does not deter the self-appointed champions of the official narrative from claiming that elemental iron spheres are abundant everywhere. There is not much one can say about such ignorance, except that the only place one would expect to find iron spheres in their elemental form in great abundance would be volcanic ash or a meteorite. The history of metallurgy is an illuminating aside.

RJ Lee's report assumed that the iron spheres had come from fires within the towers, but they overlooked the fact that office fires cannot possibly burn hot enough to melt steel or release iron from its oxide. I imagine they simply did not want or need to offer a genuine explanation for the microspheres. That had to wait for a peer-reviewed scientific paper published in 2009 by Prof Niels Harrit's team of professional chemists, physicists and engineers. They found highly engineered microscopic red-grey chips in four independent dust samples. They first tested to see if the chips were from primer paint as painted onto the steel structure of the towers but rejected that idea conclusively, since the chips did not dissolve in MEK (an industrial solvent) and didn't contain the elements one would expect to see in paint. Nonetheless, you will often find detractors, such as (Conspiracy Files producer) Mike Rudin at the BBC, still claiming that what Harrit's team found was merely paint. This only goes to show that most of the critics have not even read, let alone understood, this paper. Another rather un-paint-like property of these nano-particle chips is that they ignite in a highly energetic explosive reaction at around 430 deg C, producing tiny elemental iron spheres, exactly like those found in the dust. This confirms that the chips are a form of unreacted nano-thermite: a high explosive which slices easily through steel. This is the kind of material only made in a handful of laboratories in Europe and the US.

The findings of Harrit's team have been independently replicated by a chemical engineer, Mark Basile. The mainstream academic community has remained strangely silent on this subject, although no one has offered any serious criticism of the paper's methodology or its findings in an academic context. Privately, when I speak to physicists or engineers about these matters, I find those who are familiar with the evidence tend to accept that the official story is probably wrong and that the explosive demolition hypothesis is the strongest theory, worthy of serious consideration. However, no one is willing to jeopardise their career for the sake of pursuing this line of research. When Prof Steven Jones started questioning the official narrative by drawing attention to strong contrary evidence, he was relieved of his academic position at Brigham Young University. Most of those (rather few) scientists or professional experts who actively support the official narrative are either paid consultants to government agencies or derive the bulk of their research grants from government or military sources. Another obstacle to independent research is the fact that access to primary evidence (e.g. most of the dust samples, video and photographic evidence, CCTV footage, black box flight data, building blueprints and data sheets) is controlled by government and security agencies who only allow it to those who can be trusted to draw acceptable conclusions. The odds are very much stacked in favour of those with a vested interest in promoting the official story. In spite of that, its supporters have offered very little by way of good explanations and even less by way of evidence.


The corporate media continues to ignore or trivialise the complex issues brought up by those who legitimately question the official account of 9/11. Often, media disinformation takes a particularly crass form which can even be self-defeating, such as the recent BBC 9/11: Conspiracy Road Trip programme. This was such transparently awful nonsense that I would recommend it to an impartial observer, just to confirm that the mainstream media has no interest at all in rational perspectives on 9/11 and would rather insult the intelligence of viewers by peddling pseudo-science - with the aid of lego and eggs! At one point, the programme attempted to show that ordinary thermite (not nano-thermite) was incapable of cutting through a steel beam, by staging a laughably incompetent demonstration. For those interested in a proper scientific demonstration of how to cut through steel using thermate (thermite plus sulphur), I refer you to this video by professional engineer, Jonathan Cole.

Clearly, that BBC pseudo-documentary was pure propaganda aimed at the gullible, as is virtually all coverage of so-called 'conspiracy theories' in the corporate media; even outlets I sometimes respect, such as the Guardian, New Statesman and so on. Crude stereotyping of anyone with a minority view is the order of the day. Of course, this has always been the case and extends well beyond those who pursue the truth about 9/11, as Muslims, immigrants, single mothers and the disabled can also testify. If an idea is truly absurd, why waste time, effort and money attacking it? On the other hand, large sections of the media do promote genuinely weak and harmful ideas such as climate change denial. The media war on truth is intensifying because, fortunately, we live in an age in which there is an explosion of information sources, some of which are more reliable than the traditional ones controlled by state and corporate interests. Let us turn the tables for a moment and enjoy this light-hearted pastiche of the official conspiracy theory of 9/11, which the media wants us to believe:

Never stop asking questions. Demand non-trivialising answers. Distrust authority. Beware of bullshit. We will never be free of tyranny until we first free our minds of illusion.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Deep Dark Web in Mainstream Media Nightmare Shock!

On Thursday night I watched a scary Channel 4 news report about the 'Dark Web', whatever that is. It sounded like something new and scary, which would probably creep into my bedroom to rape and murder me and all my loved ones in the dead of night. According to the report, the Dark Web operates beyond the purview of governments and law enforcement agencies; a kind of anarchic, 'Mad Max' world where you can find anything from drug deals to human trafficking and child pornography. Much was made of the fact that the Dark Web is not indexed by search engines. In addition, the denizens of the Dark Web and the website owners are untraceable due to the use of proxy servers in the Tor network, which exists to provide web users with anonymity.

Photo by soulrider.222

Sounds pretty shady, but is the Dark Web really a danger to civil society, as the news report and some politicians would have us believe? First, does it matter that there is a portion of the web not indexed by search engines? Well, no. It turns out that most of the internet is not on any search engines, simply because its content is not in html or maybe it's just not well connected to other sites. This has always been the case. So the Dark Web is just a tiny corner of what's called the 'Deep Web', which simply refers to the unindexed part of the internet. Most people have accessed the Deep Web, whether they know it or not, since it contains government and academic databases, documents, private web pages and forums. Much of it is owned by government agencies, corporations, the military and security services:

This video gives you an interesting tour of the Deep Web.

No one is very sure how big the Deep Web is, but most observers agree that it is by far the biggest part of the internet: much bigger than the bit you can search through Google and so on. The Dark Web appears to be that tiny portion of the Deep Web that isn't currently owned by official agencies but has been set up by various groups which the media or authorities consider to be subversive, criminal or ne'er-do-wells, such as hackers, political activists and genuine criminals (apart from rogue bankers and CIA agents). As a friend of mine put it, the Dark Web is just the internet equivalent of the back streets of Camden after dark, but probably a lot safer. After all, no one has actually died or been physically raped on the internet - except in online games - unless you count frape.

Cool, so there's an E-Bay for cocaine! Let's buy some! Oh, hang on. How do you know you're not buying it from the police? You don't. If you're anonymous, then so are they. At some point, a real-world transaction has to take place. You have to give them an address. You'd have to be pretty naive to give your home address to some totally faceless entity on the 'Dark Web', so you'd better have a false one in order to take delivery and you'd better make sure that isn't under surveillance. Frankly, I wouldn't bother.

In fact, if I were a law enforcement agency or intelligence service, I'd be all over the Dark Web like an outbreak of herpes in a brothel. I'd be setting up trojan web pages and false fronts all over the shop to entice the unwary. That's because I'm a devious little bastard - and so are they.

The Channel 4 report also mentioned bitcoins, as if they were some kind of criminal device which needs to be banned, because transactions on the Dark Web are usually made using this internet currency. Bitcoins are mostly used for perfectly legitimate transactions. Being anonymous, they are basically the internet version of cash. In the real world, cash is also anonymous and actually less traceable than bitcoins, but no one suggests we need to ban cash, although most shady deals seem to involve suitcases full of the stuff.

So, this report seems to fit into that category of news reports which seek to undermine public trust in the internet generally and feed a desire for greater regulation and control. The timing is interesting, since both Dark Web and Deep Web are as old as the internet itself, but there has been a great deal of publicity about hackers from Anonymous and Lulzsec recently, as well as much hand-wringing by legislators eager to exert more control over the internet.

However, I do know of another kind of dark web that exists in the real world, which is used exclusively by the powerful and wealthy, beyond the purview of state regulation, in a domain of near total secrecy. It is used to facilitate tax evasion and avoidance, human trafficking, drug running, arms deals, fraud and all manner of criminal activity. Colonel Gaddafi used it to rape his country and stash the proceeds in secret trust funds which may never be uncovered. Other tyrants use it to do exactly the same and our own Chancellor, George Osborne uses it too. In fact, most wealthy people use it to keep their financial affairs secret and avoid paying tax. It is the web of offshore tax havens, many of which are strongly connected to and largely controlled from the City of London. The UK itself has some of the most secretive trust laws in the whole world, making it a magnet for Russian oligarchs and petty dictators from all over the place.

This is why a more precise term for a tax haven is a 'secrecy jurisdiction'. They rely on secrecy and that is what makes them perfect for shady dealing. Most importantly, unlike the Dark Web, law enforcement and tax authorities have almost no access to this network. You see, anonymity is considered a good thing, if you happen to be really wealthy or one of the world's political elite. Openness, like tax, is for the little people.