9/11 Conspiracy Theories…by Phil Molé

July 16, 2007

O’Hare near Chicago, a crowd of approximately 400 people has gathered on a pleasant summer evening. Some are old and some are young; some are dressed in colorful tie-died shirts while others wear dress shirts and slacks, but most seem cheerful and friendly. We are all waiting for the opening of the main lecture hall for the evening’s event, the first of many scheduled talks during a weekend-long conference. We bide some time by looking at the items for sale: DVD copies of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, the anti-Karl Rove documentary Bush’s Brain, and the more recent Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price. There is nothing especially unusual here, since all of these areavailable at the Borders or Best Buy near you. But then as the doors to the main hall are about to open, one anxious attendee tries to start a chant of “9/11 was an Inside Job.” A few people join in before another attendee tells him, quite emphatically, “we already know!” The weekend conference is the Chicago meeting for 911truth.org, one of the most visible organizations within a larger coalition known as the “9/11 Truth Movement,” and most of the crowd believes that the United States government planned and orchestrated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The statement “we already know!” well summarizes the attitude of the conference attendees toward the material presented during the lectures. Many at the conference do not seem to be looking for new information that might lead to more accurate perspectives about the events of 9/11. A fellow sitting near me admits, “We already know this stuff; we’re here to reconfirm what we already know.” The conference is a way for attendees to consolidate their group identity, and try to bring their message to those people at home and abroad who believe the “official story” of 9/11. As someone who does not share the views of the 9/11 Truth Movement, I have another objective. I want to listen to their arguments and view their evidence, and understand the reasons why so many likable and otherwise intelligent people are convinced that the United States government planned the murder of nearly 3,000 of its own citizens. The Collapse of World Trade Center Buildings 1 & 2 When most of us recall the events of 9/11, we think of the image of those two seemingly indestructible World Trade Center towers crumbling to the ground. Not surprisingly, their collapse is also a central issue for the 9/11 Truth Movement. An overwhelming amount of the organization’s talks and publicity materials address the fall of Buildings 1 and 2. But as these materials show, 911truth.org does not believe the official story that the primary damage to the WTC occurred when two airplanes hijacked by terrorists crashed into the towers. Rather, they maintain that the towers fell due to a controlled demolition, planned in advance by the United States government. Why do they think this? A primary reason seems to be that the collapse of the towers looks like the result of a controlled demolition. Since there is no structural resistance to gravity in a controlled demolition, the building collapses straight into its own footprint, with each floor “pancaking” onto the floors below at or near the speed of a free fall. Many of the presenters at the Hyatt Conference compared videos of the collapse of the towers with videos of known controlled demolitions, noting the similarity in both the appearance and speed of collapse. 911truth.org maintains that if actually hit by an airplane, the steel structure of the WTC buildings should have provided at least some resistance to the weight of the floors above, causing the falling structure to pitch over to one side rather than pancake straight down. They further argue that fires caused by burning jet fuel from the crashed planes could not have caused the collapse, since jet fuel burns at a temperature of no more than 1500° Fahrenheit, while a temperature of approximately 2800° is needed to melt steel. David Heller makes the point in a widely read article: The official story maintains that fires weakened the buildings. Jet fuel supposedly burned so hot it began to melt the steel columns supporting the towers. But steel-framed skyscrapers have never collapsed from fire, since they’re built from steel that doesn’t melt below 2750° Fahrenheit. No fuel, not even jet fuel, which is really just refined kerosene, will burn hotter than 1500° Fahrenheit. Since burning jet fuel is not hot enough by itself to melt steel, reports that melted steel was observed at Ground Zero suggest to conspiracy theorists that some other incendiary substance must have been introduced. Finally, many of the leaders of the movement claim that demolition “squibs” can be seen in videos of the WTC collapse just before and during the time the towers began to fall. In professional demolition lingo, a “squib” is an explosive device used to weaken building structure during a controlled demolition. Several presenters at the conference pointed out small bursts of debris spraying out horizontally from the towers during collapse, and identified these as “squibs” secretly detonated to fell the buildings. What can we make of these allegations? First, let’s examine the similarity in appearance between the collapse of the World Trade Center towers and the collapse of buildings destroyed through planned demolitions. In controlled demolitions, detonating devices weaken or disrupt all major support points in a building at the same time. Therefore, once the collapse begins, all parts of the building are simultaneously in motion, free-falling to the ground. However, this is definitely not what happens during the collapse of WTC Buildings 1 and 2. Carefully review footage of the collapses, and you will find that the parts of the buildings above the plane impact points begin falling first, while the lower parts of the buildings are initially stationary.3 The parts of the towers below the impact point do not begin to fall until the higher floors have collapsed onto them. This is not what we would expect if the towers collapsed from a controlled demolition, but it is exactly what we would expect if the building collapse resulted from damage sustained by the impact of the planes and subsequent fire damage. A conspiracy theorist may counter that the buildings were rigged to begin falling from the top down, but what are the chances that those planning such a conspiracy1complicated demolition would be able to predict the exact location the planes would impact the towers, and prepare the towers to begin falling precisely there? Additionally, footage of the collapse of the South Tower, or Building 2 reveals that the tower did not fall straight down, as the North Tower and buildings leveled by controlled demolitions typically fall. Instead, the tower tilted toward the direction of the impact point, and then began to pancake downward with the top part of the building tilted at an angle. The difference between the two collapses can be explained by the different way each airplane struck the buildings. The first plane struck the North Tower (Building 1) between the 94th to 98th floors and hit it head on, burrowing almost directly toward the core of the building. The second airplane struck the South Tower between the 78th and 84th floors, but sliced in at an angle, severely damaging the entire northeast corner of the building. Compared with the North Tower, the South Tower sustained damage that was both less evenly distributed and significantly lower on the building’s frame, requiring the weakened point to support more upper building weight than the corresponding crash site on the North Tower. This explains both the tilt of the building as it fell toward the weakened corner, and the fact that the South Tower fell first despite being struck after the North Tower was struck. Again, this scenario makes good sense if the buildings fell due to damage inflicted by the plane crashes, but makes very little sense if the buildings fell due to a planned demolition. The 9/11 Truth Movement often states or implies that steel would have needed to melt in order for the structure to collapse at the speed of a free-fall. While there are varying assessments of the temperature of the fire at WTC, most agree that the temperature probably reached 1,000° Fahrenheit and possibly higher than 1,800° F. Flames of this temperature would be far short of the approximately 2800° F needed to melt steel, but they would have been sufficient to severely reduce the structural integrity of the metal. Best engineering estimates tell us that steel loses 50% of its strength at 650° F, and can lose as much as 90% of its strength at temperatures of 1,800° F. Even if we assume temperatures of no higher than 1,000° F during the fire, we would still have more than enough reasons to expect damage severe enough to result in eventual collapse. The unique structure of the WTC towers exaggerated the problems caused by the weakened steel. The towers had a lightweight “perimeter tube” design consisting of 244 exterior columns of 36 cm square steel box section on 100 cm centers, with 95% of the structure’s interior consisting of nothing but air .Within this perimeter tube design there was a 27m by 40m core, designed to provide additional support to the tower. Steel trusses, or joists, connected the outer beams to the core at each story, and provided much of the overall support to the weight of each floor. The impact and explosion of the airplane crashes probably knocked off most of the insulating material intended to fireproof the steel beams, considerably increasing their vulnerability to flames. The heat of the flames reduced the steel to a fraction of its initial strength, while also causing the steel trusses to expand at each end until they no longer supported the weight of the building’s floors, triggering the collapse. The expansion and warping of the steel would have been particularly significant due to temperature differences within the burning structure. Thus, the trusses went limp much like a slackened laundry line, providing little or no resistance to the weight of the floors overhead. What about the “melted steel” that 9/11 conspiracy theorists claim

was at Ground Zero? Dr. Steven Jones’ popular article cites several anecdotal sources speaking about flowing or pooled samples of melted steel found at Ground Zero. However, the sources in question are informal observations of “steel” at Ground Zero, not laboratory results. To many people, any grayish metal looks sufficiently like steel to call it “steel” when speaking informally. To actually establish that the substance in question is steel, we need analytical laboratory results using atomic absorption (AA) or another suitable test. It seems far more likely that the metal seen by the contractors was aluminum, a component of the WTC structural material that melts at a much lower temperature than steel and can look superficially similar to it. As for the “squibs” conspiracy theorists claim to see in videos of the WTC collapse, these are plumes of smoke and debris ejected from the building due to the immense pressure associated with millions of tons of falling towers Videos of the WTC collapse show that these plumes do not begin until after the towers begin falling and increase in intensity as the collapse continues — this is not the scenario one would expect if the plumes were actually explosives used to cause the buildings to fall. The Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 .“Not so fast,” the 9/11 Truth Movement might conspiracy2say. How do you explain the collapse of WTC Building 7, which was not struck by an airplane? Many 9/11 conspiracy theorists maintain that the collapse of this building at about 5:20 pm on 9/11 would not have occurred unless it was already prepared for demolition. The conspiracy theorists assume that damage sustained by WTC 7 during the attack was not sufficient to trigger its collapse. The site wtc7.net claims that “fires were observed in Building 7 prior to its collapse, but they were isolated in small parts of the building, and were puny by comparison to other building fires.” They further claim that any damage from falling debris from WTC 1 and WTC 2 would have needed to be symmetrical to trigger the pancaking collapse of WTC 7.These arguments only reveal the assumptions of their authors. First, the fires burning in WTC 7 were extremely extensive, as Figure 3 shows. The reason this is not obvious from 9/11 Truth Movement presentations and documentaries is that they tend to only show the north side of WTC 7, selectively causing the building to appear both far less ravaged by fire and structural damage than it actually was . Firefighter Richard Banaciski notes the difference in appearance between the north and south sides of the building in his first-person account: We were told to go to Greenwich and Vesey and see what’s going on. So we go there and on the north and east side of 7 it didn’t look like there was any damage at all, but then you looked on the south side of 7 there had to be a hole 20 stories tall in the building, with fire on several floors. Emergency response workers at Ground Zero realized that extensive damage to the lower south section of WTC 7 would cause collapse as early as 3 pm on 9/11, a fact reported on news broadcasts at the time. Video footage shows that when collapse occurred, the south wall of the building gave in first, which is exactly what we would expect based on the location of the most extensive damage. As noted for the collapse of the South Tower, the mechanics of the building’s fall are completely consistent with the nature of the damage sustained. The planned demolition hypothesis, on the other hand, fails to explain why collapse would begin at exactly the point where damage was inflicted, since the conspirators would have had to been able to predict exactly where debris from the fallen North and South Towers would strike WTC 7. And while the makers of the documentary Loose Change comment that WTC 7 “fell straight down, into a convenient pile,” the truth is that the pile of debris was 12 stories high and 150 meters across, hardly the kind of “convenient pile” described by conspiracy theorists. For those who believe that Building 7 fell due to controlled demolition, some of the most powerful “evidence” seemingly comes from WTC leaseholder Larry Silverstein’s alleged “confession” that he authorized the tower’s destruction. The quote in question comes from a September, 2002 PBS Special called America Rebuilds, in which Silverstein says: I remember getting a call from the, er, fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were gonna be able to contain the fire, and I said, “We’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.” And they made that decision to pull and we watched the building collapse.To conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones at prisonplanet.com, this quote seems to be a “smoking gun” because they interpret the phrase “pull it” to be “industry jargon for taking a building down with explosives.” Silverstein seems to be saying that he and the firefighters decided to pull (destroy) Building 7, and watched it fall after authorizing the demolition. No building could be controllably demolished so quickly, the conspiracy theorists go on to argue, so WTC 7 must have been prepared for demolition long in advance. On closer inspection, this supposedly devastating evidence does not seem to mean what the 9/11 Truth Movement thinks it means. There is far from unanimous industry agreement that the phrase “pull it” always signifies a controlled demolition with explosives — more specific phrases such as “pull away” would be used to designate the specific operation to be performed. And of course, “pull” has many common language uses quite separate from demolition lingo. But if Silverstein wasn’t describing a decision to destroy WTC 7, what could the words “pull it” mean? A good place to seek the answer is this September 9, 2005 statement by Mr. Dara McQuillan, a spokesperson for Larry Silverstein: In the afternoon of September 11, Mr. Silverstein spoke to the Fire Department Commander on site at Seven World Trade Center. The Commander told Mr. Silverstein that there were several firefighters in the building working to contain the fires. Mr. Silverstein expressed his view that the most important thing was to protect the safety of those firefighters, including, if necessary, to have them withdraw from the building. Later in the day, the Fire Commander ordered his firefighters out of the building and at 5:20 p.m. the building collapsed. No lives were lost at Seven World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. As noted above, when Mr. Silverstein was recounting these events for a television documentary he stated, “I said, you know, we’ve had such terrible loss of life. Maybe the smartest thing to do is to pull it.” Mr. McQuillan has stated that by “it,” Mr. Silverstein meant the contingent of firefighters remaining in the building [emphasis added]. McQuillan’s response also indicated that firefighters were present at WTC 7 to evacuate tenants, and worked at the site until late in the afternoon shortly before the collapse occurred. There is in fact abundant evidence that firefighters were present in and around WTC 7 in evacuation and rescue missions until late in the day on 9/11. As one account describes: The most important operational decision to be made that afternoon was [that] the collapse [of the WTC towers] had damaged 7 World Trade Center … It had very heavy fire on many floors and I ordered the evacuation of an area sufficient around to protect our members, so we had to give up some rescue operations that were going on at the time [emphasis added] and back the people away far enough so that if 7 World Trade did collapse, we [wouldn’t] lose any more people. We continued to operate on what we could from that distance and approximately an hour and a half after that order was [given], at 5:30 in the afternoon, World Trade Center collapsed completely. Another first responder adds that there were “tremendous, tremendous fires going on. Finally they pulled [emphasis added] us out.” The first-hand accounts of rescue operations at WTC 7 tell a consistent story, and the latter quote also uses the word “pull” to describe the removal of firefighters from the vicinity of the building, just as McQuillan’s statement does. Indeed, there is large agreement between McQuillan’s response and the testimony of the firefighters, including the fact that:

  1. firefighters were in fact in the vicinity of WTC 7 on 9/11;
  2. their activities involved evacuation and rescue missions;
  3. firefighters remained near WTC 7 until late in the afternoon of 9/11;
  4. firefighters realized that WTC 7 would probably fall by approximately 3 pm on 9/11; and
  5. firefighters pulled back from the building shortly after this realization, and watched the building collapse at approximately 5:20 pm. Despite the objections of conspiracy theorists, the “official story” is both logically coherent and supported by evidence.

By contrast, the story told by the 9/11 Truth Movement is riddled with holes. It assumes that Larry Silverstein destroyed WTC Building 7, presumably in order to claim a huge insurance payoff. But if this is so, why would he tell the world of his plot on a PBS special? Furthermore, what relationship does Silverstein have with the United States government who, according to conspiracy theorists, destroyed the WTC buildings in order to terrorize its citizens into accepting domination by a police state? And if the government controlled the demolition of the WTC buildings in order to strike fear into its citizens, why one this one case would it wait until all of the tenants were evacuated from WTC 7 so that there were no reported casualties?The government’s strategy appears wildly inconsistent in the Truth Movement account — killing nearly 3,000 people in the destruction of the two main towers, while allowing an entire afternoon for the tenants of WTC 7 to escape. We should also note that the alleged 9/11 plot was needlessly complicated, since the building was wired for a controlled demolition and targeted to be hit by airplanes — why not just do the controlled demolition, ditch the airplanes and blame it on the terrorists of your choice? There’s also the problem that, as even the 9/11 Truth Movement admits, prepping a building for demolition takes considerable time and effort. Usually a building targeted for demolition has been abandoned for considerable time and partially gutted to allow explosives intimate contact with the structure of the building. But since all of the WTC buildings were occupied right up to 9/11, how did the government gain access to wire 3 towers for complete demolition without anyone noticing? Imagine trying to sneak wires and bombs into buildings while thousands of people are working in offices, riding the elevators and milling about in the halls — that scenario is unlikely in the extreme.                                                                                                                                                                     

The Pentagon                                           Pentagon                                                                

Many people in the 9/11 Truth Movement believe that the Pentagon was not actually struck by Flight 77, as the “official story” claims. Instead, they believe that the United States government somehow staged the damage, perhaps through the use of a bomb or strategically fired missile. This claim first attracted attention in French author Thierry Meyssan’s book, Pentagate, which claims that the damage done to the Pentagon was too limited to have resulted from the crash of a Boeing 757. The documentary “Loose Change” claims that the hole left in the Pentagon by the alleged airplane was “a single hole, no more than 16 feet in diameter,” and that no remains whatsoever of Flight 77 were found at the crash site. To dramatically support this last point, conspiracy theorists cite CNN correspondent Jamie McIntyre’s report from the crash site on 9/11, which says, “From my close-up inspection, there’s no evidence of a plane having crashed anywhere near the Pentagon.” Like the previously discussed arguments about WTC 7 not being damaged enough to fall on its own, complaints about the size of the hole in the Pentagon left by Flight 77 rely on selective choice of perspective. 9/11 conspiracy theorists like to reference pictures of the damaged Pentagon in which the hole made by the plane appears to be small, but aren’t as fond of the pictures accurately showing the full extent of the damage. Some conspiracy theorists also don’t seem satisfied that the shape of the hole matches that expected for a crashed airplane. But the expectation that the plane should have left an immediately recognizable hole in the building is delusional — a speeding Boeing 757 will not leave a snow-angel style impression of itself in a concrete building (versus the mostly-glass exterior of the WTC buildings, which did leave an outline of a plane). And the contention that no remains of Flight 77 were found at the crash site is simply absurd. Many pictures taken of the area around the Pentagon crash site clearly show parts of an airplane in the wreckage. In an excellent article about 9/11 conspiracy theories in Popular Mechanics, blast expert Allyn E. Kilsheimer describes his own observations as the first structural engineer to arrive at the Pentagon after Flight 77 crashed: I saw the marks of the plane wing on the face of the building. I picked up parts of the plane pentagon2with the airline markings on them. I held in my hand the tail section of the plane, and I found the black box. Kilsheimer’s eyewitness account is backed up by photos of plane wreckage inside and outside the building. Kilsheimer adds: “I held parts of uniforms from crew members in my hands, including body parts. Okay?” But if there is so much evidence that a plane crashed into the Pentagon, why did CNN correspondent Jamie McIntyre report that he could find none? The answer is that McIntyre did not report this at all, and the 9/11 Truth Movement is once again selectively manipulating evidence to fit their conclusions. When McIntyre noted that no debris from a plane was observable near the Pentagon, he was responding to a specific question asked by CNN anchor Judy Woodruff during the segment. Flight 77 came in flying very low, and there had been speculation that the plane might have struck the ground shortly before reaching the Pentagon. McIntyre’s response, when quoted in full, makes clear that he is saying that there was no evidence that the plane hit the ground before hitting the Pentagon, but he certainly does not deny that the plane struck the Pentagon itself. WOODRUFF: Jamie, Aaron was talking earlier — or one of our correspondence was talking earlier — I think — actually, it was Bob Franken — with an eyewitness who said it appeared that that Boeing 757, the American jet, American Airline jet, landed short of the Pentagon. Can you give us any better idea of how much of the plane actually impacted the building? MCINTYRE: You know, it might have appeared that way, but from my close-up inspection, there’s no evidence of a plane having crashed anywhere near the Pentagon. The only site is the actual site of the building that’s crashed in [emphasis added], and as I said, the only pieces left that you can see are small enough that you can pick up in your hand. There are no large tail sections, wing sections, fuselage, nothing like that anywhere around, which would indicate that the entire plane crashed into the side of the Pentagon and then caused the side to collapse [emphasis added]. Note that McIntyre never questions that an airplane crash damaged the Pentagon, and indeed describes seeing many pieces of the aircraft around the crash site in an earlier section of the CNN transcript. Of course, this has not stopped conspiracy theorists from picking and choosing the evidence to push their own agendas. Flight 93 and Other Alleged Anomalies On April 5, 2006, the creators of the 9/11 conspiracy documentary “Loose Change” and their supporters decided to attend the premiere of the film “United 93,” about the hijacked airplane that crashed on 9/11. They wanted to take the opportunity to expose the alleged lies about this flight, and in the words of one “Loose Change” forum member, to “bite these bastards where it hurts, and have this Fight 93 movie backfire on them.” To many Americans, the passengers on United 93 who fought back against the terrorists and caused it to crash before it could reach its target are heroes, but the 9/11 Truth Movement sees things differently. Depending on which conspiracy theorist you ask, you will either learn that Flight 93 actually landed safely, or that a US military jet shot the plane out of the sky.The first claim stems from confusion in the initial Associated Press (AP) reports between Flight 93 and Flight 1989, the latter of which did land at Cleveland’s Hopkins Airport on 9/11. The AP subsequently corrected the error, but many conspiracy theorists have not followed suit.The second claim rests largely on unsupported assertions that the main body of the engine and other large parts of the plane turned up miles from the main wreckage site — too far away to have resulted from an ordinary crash. This is incorrect, because the engine was found only 300 yards from the main crash site, and its location was consistent with the direction in which the plane had been traveling. Furthermore, the black box for the flight records the struggle onboard preceding the plane’s crash. Conspiracy theorists are left with not only an evidentially worthless theory, but also a confusing one. Why would the same U.S. government that allegedly destroyed the WTC shoot down Flight 93 before it could cause similar damage to other buildings? Of course, this question assumes a standard of logical consistency that the 9/11 Truth Movement seems to lack. Another alleged flight anomaly concerns the supposed “stand down” order given by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on 9/11 to allow the hijacked airplanes to reach their destinations without interference. The 9/11 Truth Movement believes that NORAD had the capability of locating and intercepting planes on 9/11, and its failure to do so indicates a government conspiracy to allow the attacks to occur. To support this assertion, they claim that NORAD could have quickly neutralized the hijacked planes because flight interceptions are routine, with 67 such intercepts occurring before 9/11. Significantly, this claim does not specify the length of time over which these alleged intercepts occurred, or tell us whether they took place near major cities or over, say, miles of open ocean. More specific and accurate information comes from the Popular Mechanics article, which states: In the decade before 9/11, NORAD intercepted only one civilian plane over North America: golfer Payne Stewart’s Learjet, in October 1999. With passengers and crew unconscious from cabin decompression, the plane lost radio contact but remained in transponder contact until it crashed. Even so, it took an F-16 1 hour and 22 minutes to reach the stricken jet. Rules in effect back then, and on 9/11, prohibited supersonic flight on intercepts. It is not a quick or easy matter to locate and intercept a plane behaving erratically. NORAD personnel must first attempt repeated communication with the planes in question to rule out more mundane problems, and then must contact appropriate military personnel to scramble the planes and direct them to the appropriate location. The situation on 9/11 was further complicated by the fact that terrorists on the hijacked jets had turned off or disabled the onboard radar transponders. Without a transponder signal identifying the airplanes, each hijacked airplane would have been only one moving blip among many others on NORAD’S screens, making it much harder to track. Thus, even a direct NORAD decision to intercept any of the hijacked planes on 9/11 would have still entailed a significant amount of time to reach the jet — time that was simply not available on 9/11. Various other conspiracy theories focus on the government’s alleged foreknowledge of the terrorist attacks. One popular theory suggests there was a suspiciously high volume of “put” trading of airline stocks in the days just before 9/11. Since “put” trading is effectively a gamble that the price of a stock will decrease, conspiracy theorists surmise that trading “insiders” knew about the coming events of 9/11 and placed their bets accordingly. While this may look suspicious in isolation, the general volume of put trading on these stocks reached similar levels at earlier points in the year. The spike in American Airlines trading was the highest of the all airline companies involved, but that’s hardly surprising considering that the company had just released a major warning about possible losses.Indeed, general bad news about the airline industry prompted investment companies to advise their clients to take the put options, removing any need to blame the trading options on foreknowledge of the attacks. Another theory alleges that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived at the World Trade Center on September 10, 2001, thus showing that the government knew about the coming disaster. This claim is based on a statement by Tom Kenney of the Massachusetts task force, who told CBS news anchor Dan Rather on September 13, 2001, “We’re currently, uh, one of the first teams that was deployed to support the city of New York for this disaster. We arrived on, uh, late Monday night and went into action on Tuesday morning. And not until today did we get a full opportunity to work, uh, the entire site.” The rather mundane explanation for this quote is that Mr. Kenney confused his days — not an unusual occurrence for someone who had been working for more than two long days in emergency response activities. Thus, a straightforward interpretation of Kenney’s response is that he arrived at Ground Zero on 9/11 (which he incorrectly identified as Monday, rather than Tuesday), went into action on 9/12 (mistakenly identified as Tuesday) and did not get a chance to work the whole WTC site until “today” (the day he was speaking to Rather, or Thursday, 9/13). Additionally, many sources document the arrival of FEMA on 9/11, and Kenney’s wife confirmed the day her husband was dispatched to Ground Zero as 9/11. The degree to which the 9/11 Truth Movement will exaggerate and exploit simple misunderstandings does not speak well of their concern for truth. Much of this discussion has focused on explanations given by the 9/11 Truth Movement, but we should note that the explanations they don’t give are just as problematic. I have not been able to locate any significant discussion of al Qaeda, radical Islamic terrorists or the modern history of the Middle East in any of the 9/11 Truth Movement’s writings. The most likely reason for this is that, like most other Americans, many of them simply didn’t pay very much attention to the Middle East before 9/11. Yet, it is impossible to understand the threat of terrorism unless we also understand how the fall of the Ottoman empire, the fragmentation of much of the Middle East into new nations with largely arbitrary boundaries after WW II, Muslim reaction to the creation of the state of Israel, the birth of Islamic fundamentalism, conflict with and influence by Soviet Russia, and frustration over America’s support for Israel have shaped the ideology and mission of groups like al Qaeda. Islamic terrorist groups arose in this context, and have actively and repeatedly targeted American interests for over two decades. The idea that Islamic terrorists would target U.S. buildings for attack fits well with recent events over the past two decades, including:

  • an attack by the radical Hezbollah faction on Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983;
  • the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985;
  • a truck bomb attack on the World Trade Center in 1993; killing 6 people and injuring over 1,000 more;
  • a thwarted attempt to blow up 12 planes heading from the Philippines to the U.S. in January, 1995;
  • an attack on Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, killing 19 U.S. military personnel and injuring hundreds more;
  • the bombings of U.S. Embassy buildings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1995, killing 12 Americans and 200 Kenyans and Tanzanians;
  • a thwarted attempt by Ahmed Ressam to attack Los Angeles international airport in late 1999;
  • a suicide boat bombing against the U.S.S. Cole on October 12, 2000, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others.

Additionally, there is well-documented evidence that Osama Bin Laden has repeatedly organized and prompted attacks against the United States. His role as a financier for major terrorist organizations and the leader of al Qaeda is well-established. Bin Laden issued a 1996 fatwa officially declaring a jihad against the United States, and a second fatwa in 1998 declaring “to kill the Americans and their allies — civilian and military is an individual duty for any Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.” Since bin-Laden and al Qaeda have officially claimed responsibility for the attacks of 9/11, there is no point in seeking alternative theories. The best explanation for the events of 9/11 is that it was the latest and most damaging attack yet in a series of attacks by radical Islamic terrorists who wish to end what they believe is an evil U.S. foreign policy. As a nation, we were psychologically and strategically unprepared for this attack due to our failure to acknowledge the seriousness of the threat. Sadly, the 9/11 Truth Movement continues to divert its gaze from the real problems, preferring the solace of delusions to reality.

Claims that cell phone calls were impossible

 During the flight of Flight 93 passengers made a number of calls to both family and emergency personnel. It is argued by some that connecting a cell phone to a tower’s signal would have been near to impossible from the air. Based on this assumption, economist Michel Chossudovsky suggests the calls were fabricated or never made at all.

  • In 2003 a Canadian team conducted experiments to determine if cell phones could be used from civilian aircraft flying at cruising speeds and altitudes. Their results show a 75% success rate at 2000 feet, 25% at 4000 feet, and 17-18% at 6-8000 feet.
  • Carnegie Mellon researchers published results of a study in which they monitored spectrum frequencies generated by cell phone use during commercial passenger flights. They concluded that one to four cell phone calls are made during each average passenger flight, contrary to FCC and FAA regulations. The study makes no mention of the length of the calls or whether a successful air-ground connection was actually made during the monitored transmissions.
  • According to official accounts, at 9:58 a.m., moments before Flight 93 crashed, Edward Felt dialed 9-1-1 from his cell phone from the lavatory of the aircraft and his call was answered by dispatcher John Shaw. Felt was able to tell the dispatcher about the hijacking before the call was out of range and subsequently disconnected. At the time of the call, the aircraft had descended to 5,000 feet, over Westmoreland County, which together with Somerset County has the highest summits in Pennsylvania, at ~3,000 feet in elevation.                 

Aside from Ed Felt’s call, and another made by flight attendant CeeCee Lyles also at 9:58 a.m, all the other calls were made with onboard airphones and not cell phones. Norman Mineta 9/11  

Commission testimony

 During the 9/11 Commission’s public hearings, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta offered the following testimony:There was a young man who had come in and said to the vice president, “The plane is 50 miles out. The plane is 30 miles out.” And when it got down to, “The plane is 10 miles out,” the young man also said to the vice president, “Do the orders still stand?” And the vice president turned and whipped his neck around and said, “Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary? Several conspiracy theorists have posited that the orders spoken of must have been an order to not shoot down the plane that was approaching the Pentagon. They conclude that expected action would be to defend the Pentagon and the unusual nature of the order explains the young man’s disbelief. 

The President’s behavior

President Bush was promoting the passage of his education plan at Emma E. Booker Elementary School on the morning of September 11. Two aspects of his behavior have been offered as indications that he had privileged access to the planning and execution of the events of 9/11. First, software engineer and 9/11 researcher Jim Hoffman believes that neither Bush nor his security personnel responded to the terrorist attacks in a manner that indicated that the President might be in danger, though he would presumably be among the targets of a coordinated terrorist attack. His remaining in the classroom with schoolchildren reading him The Pet Goat, a fact criticized in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, would be understandable if he knew what the plan was in advance. A response is that Bush’s intention was to “project strength and calm”, i.e., that he did not want to cause more panic by fleeing the room, as the footage would likely have been replayed over and over on news coverage. This specific point of evidence would, by virtue of the allegation, presume that Bush’s security staff also had prior knowledge of the attacks and reacted the way they did because of this knowledge.Second, Bush made statements on two separate occasions, in late 2001 and early 2002, that suggested he had seen the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Conspiracy theorists claim that unless President Bush had some special access to the events of that day, he could not have seen the first plane hit the tower live on commercial television, since no television stations were covering that area when the first plane hit; however, skeptics insist President Bush was referring to the aftermath and not the actual jetliner impact at 8:46 a.m. The White House explained his remarks as “a mistaken recollection”.Footage of the first plane crashing was captured by filmmaker Jules Naudet while making a documentary about a new firefighter. The video was broadcast on CNN and President Bush may have even seen the footage. The video begins with a firefighter and a few people looking up at the source of overhead noise before the camera quickly tilts up and pans left to capture the first plane’s crash. The video bears text in the top left that says “GAMMA PRESS.”

Allegations of cover-up

Conspiracy theorists say they detect a pattern of behavior on the part of officials investigating the September 11 attack meant to suppress the emergence of evidence that might contradict the “official account”.News stories they associate with that pattern include:

  • “Bush asks Daschle to limit Sept. 11 probes”
  • “Bush Opposes 9/11 Query Panel”
  • “Whistleblower Complains of FBI Obstruction”
  • “9-11 Commission Funding Woes”
  • “Bush: Documents sought by 9/11 commission ‘very sensitive’”
  • “9/11 commission finishes Bush, Cheney session”

Cockpit flight and voice recorders

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) or flight data recorder (FDR) were not recovered from the remains of the WTC attack.

  • The Chicago Tribune reported that experts believed the recorders would not be found simply because of the massive scope of the damage and debris. NTSB and FBI have both publicly stated the recorders were never recovered. The 9/11 Commission and federal authorities say that none of the cockpit voice recorders (CVR) or the flight data recorders (FDR) from the two planes that crashed into the Twin Towers were ever found.
  • Two men who worked extensively in the wreckage of the World Trade Center say they helped federal agents find three of the four “black boxes” from the jetliners; this is cited to support the claim there was a government cover-up at Ground Zero.

“At one point I was assigned to take Federal Agents around the site to search for the black boxes from the planes. We were getting ready to go out. My ATV was parked at the top of the stairs at the Brooks Brothers entrance area. We loaded up about a million dollars worth of equipment and strapped it into the ATV. There were a total of four black boxes. We found three” (Ground Zero, p. 108). “It’s extremely rare that we don’t get the recorders back. I can’t recall another domestic case in which we did not recover the recorders,” said Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Other points

  • U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney led a Capitol Hill hearing on July 23, 2005, into “what warnings the Bush administration received before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.” Panelist and former CIA official Melvin Goodman was quoted as saying “Congresswoman McKinney is viewed as a contrarian and I hope someday her views will be considered conventional wisdom.” Many 9/11 conspiracy theorists testified at the hearing, including Michael Ruppert, Peter Dale Scott, David Ray Griffin, Wayne Madsen and several others.
  • Between 1993 and 2000, Marvin Bush (President Bush’s brother) was a principal in a company that provided security for both the World Trade Center and United Airlines. According to an article by David Ray Griffin “from 1999 to January of 2002 their cousin Wirt Walker III was the *CEO.” According to its president CEO, Barry McDaniel, the company had an ongoing contract to handle security at the World Trade Center “up to the day the buildings fell down”. This last statement has been used by some conspiracy theorists to say that the contract “expired” on September 11, 2001. Barbara Bush allegedly confirmed this theory in her book Reflections (ISBN 0-7432-2359-4) also stating 9/11 was the day the contract expired. However, no specific quote is provided to support this allegation, and a search for the words “contract” or “expired” yields no results. Mr. Bush was also a former director and now is an advisor to the board of directors to a firm called HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc., which had what it called a “small participation in the World Trade Center property insurance coverage and some of the surrounding buildings”. Marvin Bush was on a subway under Wall Street when the attacks happened.
  • The day before the 9/11 attacks, President Bush’s father former President George H.W. Bush and several members of his cabinet had been present at a Carlyle Group business conference with Shafig bin Laden, a half-brother of Osama bin Laden, at the Ritz-Carlton hotel located several miles from the Pentagon. The conference was continuing with the remaining cabinet members and Bin Laden’s brother at the time of the Pentagon attack. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), along with conspiracy websites, have suggested that Carlyle’s and Bush’s ties to the Middle East made them somehow complicit in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.[169]. In June 2001, a “high-placed member of a US intelligence agency” told BBC reporter Greg Palast that “after the 2000 elections, the agencies were told to “back off” investigating the Bin Ladens and Saudi royals
  • The New York Times reported that members of the bin Laden family were driven or flown under Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) supervision to a secret assembly point in Texas and then to Washington from where they left the country on a private charter plane when airports reopened three days after the attacks. The official 9/11 commission later concluded that “the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals who left the United States on charter flights” and that the exodus was approved by special advisor Richard Clarke after a request by Saudi Arabia who feared for the safety of their nationals. On June 20, 2007 the public interest group Judicial Watch released FBI documents that it says suggested that Osama bin Laden himself may have chartered one of the flights. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton accused the FBI of conducting a “slapdash” investigation of the flights It should be remembered that the Bin Laden family is quite large and Osama has numerous half brothers who in recent years may have had little or no contact with him.
  • Although it had distanced itself from their relative and former company employee Usama, the Saudi Binladin Group’s corporate website, expired on September 11, 2001, the same day as the attacks in the United States.A new website within the .sa top-level domain appeared later.
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a letter to President Bush said, “September eleven was not a simple operation. Could it be planned and executed without coordination with intelligence and security services – or their extensive infiltration? Of course this is just an educated guess. Why have various aspects of the attacks been kept secret? Why are we not told who botched their responsibilities? And, why aren’t those responsible and the guilty parties identified and put on trial?” He also wrote, “Some believe that the hype paved the way– and was the justification– for an attack on Afghanistan”.
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in remarks delivered on September 12, 2006 said that it was plausible the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks and that “The hypothesis is not absurd… that those towers could have been dynamited”. The motive might have been “To justify the aggressions that immediately were unleashed on Afghanistan, on Iraq”
  • The Washington Post reported in its August 3, 2006 edition that “For more than two years after the attacks, officials with NORAD and the FAA provided inaccurate information about the response to the hijackings in testimony and media appearances” and that “Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon’s initial account of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public” and that “Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. In the end, the panel agreed to a compromise, turning over the allegations to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments, who can make criminal referrals if they believe they are warranted”. Sources told the Post this was done to hide a bungled Pentagon response.
  • The Times reported on September 18th that investigations were under way into the unusually large numbers of shares in insurance companies and airlines sold off before the attack, in London, Italy, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, France and the US.

Claims that some of the hijackers are still alive

Initial news reports shortly after 9/11 indicated that some of the hijackers were alive, fueling speculation that others were responsible.The BBC News reported on September 23, 2001, that some of the people named by the FBI as hijackers, killed on the crashes, were actually alive and well. One of the hijackers was Waleed al-Shehri, and according to the BBC report he was found in Casablanca, Morocco.

  • However, al-Shehri’s father says he hadn’t heard from his sons in ten months prior to September 2001. An ABC News story in March 2002 repeated this, and during a report entitled “A Saudi Apology” for Dateline NBC on August 25, 2002, NBC’s reporter John Hockenberry traveled to ‘Asir, where he interviewed the third brother Salah who agreed that his two brothers were dead and said they had been “brainwashed”.
  • Furthermore, another article explains that the pilot who lives in Casablanca was named Walid al-Shri (not Waleed M. al-Shehri) and that much of the BBC information regarding “alive” hijackers was incorrect according to the same sources used by BBC.

According to the BBC report, Abdulaziz Al Omari, Saeed Alghamdi, and Khalid al-Midhar, three other hijackers, were also living in the Middle East.

  • A man with the same name as Abdulaziz Al Omari turned up alive in Saudi Arabia, saying that he had studied at the University of Denver and his passport was stolen there in 1995. The name, origin, birth date, and occupation were released by the FBI, but the picture was not of him. “I couldn’t believe it when the FBI put me on their list”, he said. “They gave my name and my date of birth, but I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive. I have no idea how to fly a plane. I had nothing to do with this.” This individual was not the same person as the hijacker whose identity was later confirmed by Saudi government interviews with his family, according to the 9/11 Commission Report.
  • On 23 September, 2001, the BBC and The Telegraph reported that a person named Saeed al-Ghamdi was alive and well. His name, birth date, origin, and occupation were the same as those released by the FBI, but his picture was different. He says that he studied flight training in Florida flight schools from 1998 to 2001. The journalist involved with the story later admitted “No, we did not have any videotape or photographs of the individuals in question at that time.”
  • After the attacks, reports began emerging saying that al-Mihdhar was still alive. On September 19, the FDIC distributed a “special alert” which listed al-Mihdhar as alive. The Justice Department says that this was a typo.

The BBC and The Guardian have since reported that there was evidence al-Mihdhar was still alive and that some of the other hijackers identities were in doubt. This was commented on by FBI director Robert Mueller. Der Spiegel later investigated the claims of “living” hijackers by the BBC and discovered them to be cases of mistaken identities. In 2002, Saudi Arabia admitted that the names of the hijackers were in fact correct. The editor of BBC News Online has said the identity confusion in the original BBC article that sparked the theories may be due to the hijackers’ names being common Arabic names, and that the BBC has later superseded the original article. None of the hijackers have turned up alive since the September 11, 2001 attacks. MotivesTheories as to why members of the US government would have allowed the attacks to occur, perpetrated the attacks, and/or obstructed the investigation generally involve one or more of the following:

  • Michel Chossudovsky in an article entitled “The Criminalization of the State” suggests a simple motive in a plan for a New World Order. This particular theory takes root in a David Rockefeller Statement to the United Nations Business Council in September 1994: We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order.
  • An article on whatreallyhappened.com entitled “The 9/11 Reichstag Fire” suggests that the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) may have been responsible. It cites as evidence a statement from page 51 of a document titled ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century’ published by PNAC: “Further, 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.”
  • The Web site OilEmpire.us proposed that 9/11 was allowed to happen and given technical assistance by a faction of the U.S. government in order to benefit the arms manufacturing and oil industries.
  • The Web site 911Review.com listed several other benefits of the attacks as possible motives, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and President Bush’s surge in popularity, Halliburton’s defense contracts for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a $2.2 billion insurance payout to the owner of the World Trade Center.

Claims related to Jews and Israel

Some conspiracy theories hold that Israel or “organized Jewry” played a key role in carrying out the September 11 attacks. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have not been accepted in mainstream circles in the U.S.,” but “this is not the case in the Arab and Muslim world.”. The Anti-Defamation League has published a paper, Unraveling Anti-Semitic 9/11 Conspiracy Theories, identifying the claims made and responding to them. Several websites of the 9/11 truth movement have also worked to debunk such claims and expose websites and individuals engaging in Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. A claim that 4,000 Jewish employees skipped work at the WTC on September 11 has been widely reported and widely debunked. This claim originates with Al Manar television. The number of Jews who died in the attacks–typically estimated at around 400–tracks closely with the percentage of Jews living in the New York area. Five Israeli citizens died in the attack. Ariel Sharon, in 2001 Prime Minister of Israel is said to have cancelled a planned trip to New York around the time of the attacks. Some have interpreted this as evidence he was warned to stay away. In fact, the event that Sharon had been scheduled to appear at was actually a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly originally scheduled for September 23 to October 5 but postponed to November 10-16, while the rally scheduled for September 23, 2001 and canceled on September 12, 2001  was likely intended to coincide with the meeting of the General Assembly.On September 17, 2001, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz’ reported that four hours after the attack the FBI arrested five Israelis who had been filming the smoking skyline from the roof of their company’s building for “puzzling behavior.” The Israelis were said to have been videotaping the disaster with cries of joy and mockery.  On June 21, 2002, ABC reported that the FBI has not reached a consensus on whether they were Israeli intelligence operatives but concluded they had no advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks. The five were released and deported to Israel on November 20-21, 2001, claiming later in a newspaper interview that their arrest was done following a false accusation due to a personal conflict with a neighbour According to The Daily Telegraph (September 16, 2001), Israel had sent two Mossad agents to Washington in August to warn both the FBI and CIA of an imminent large-scale attack involving a cell of up to 200 terrorists. The Telegraph quoted an unnamed senior Israeli security official as saying “They had no specific information about what was being planned but linked the plot to Osama bin Laden and told the Americans that there were strong grounds for suspecting Iraqi involvement.” On December 12, 2001, Fox News reported that some 60 Israelis were among the hundreds of foreigners detained since the Sept. 11 attacks. Federal investigators were reported to have described them as part of a long-running effort to spy on American government officials. A “handful” of these Israelis were described as active Israeli military or intelligence operatives. Federal investigators said that some of them failed polygraph questions inquiring about alleged surveillance activities in the United States. Investigators suspected that they may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance and not shared it, shadowing the hijackers in Florida and in California. As many as 140 other Israelis were reported to have been detained or arrested as part of an investigation into espionage by Israelis in the United States. Investigators were also reported to have been focusing part of their efforts on Israelis who said they were art students from the University of Jerusalem or Bezalel Academy, and repeatedly made contact with U.S. government personnel by saying they wanted to sell cheap art or handiwork. Indeed, in March, 2001, the US Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive had actually issued a warning about people identifying themselves as “Israeli art students” attempting to bypass security and gain entry to federal buildings, and even to the private residences of senior federal officials. Subsequently, the Telegraph newspaper (UK), the online magazine Salon, and the Sunday Herald (UK), among other sources, ran similar stories, elaborating in greater detail.

Conclusion: The Power of Conspiracy Theories

 This article has analyzed the arguments of the 9/11 Truth Movement and found them lacking. Yet, the 400 people who attended the conference and the thousands of others who support their efforts find these theories convincing, and the reason does not necessarily seem to be grounded in common political ideology. Based on my informal survey of the crowd at the Hyatt conference, I noted that attendees seemed to come from each extreme of the political spectrum. There were representatives of the far right who decry any form of government authority, but there were also members of the far left waging a tireless campaign against the perceived evils of capitalism and imperialism. We need to return to a question posed near the beginning of this discussion: Why do so many intelligent and promising people find these theories so compelling? There are several possible answers to this question, none of them necessarily exclusive of the others. One of the first and most obvious is distrust of the American government in general, and the Bush administration in particular. This mistrust is not entirely without basis. The American government deceived its citizens about the real human costs of Vietnam, and resorted to military tactics that were ethically questionable even by the standards of war. The revelations of Watergate, the Iran-Contra scandal, and other nefarious schemes great and small have understandably eroded public confidence in government. Couple that with an administration, that took office after the most controversial presidential election in more than a century, and one that backed out of international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, misled citizens about the science of global warming and stem cell research, initiated a war in Iraq based on unsupportable “intelligence” about weapons of mass destruction, and failed to respond in adequately to the effects of a hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, and you have strong motivations for suspicion. (Suffice it to say, admiration for George W. Bush is not my motivation for defending him against the claims of conspiracy theorists). However, there are a few things to be said about suspicion. First, there is the simple philosophical point that suspicion alone demonstrates nothing — any theory needs evidence in its favor if it is to be taken seriously. Second, the mistakes made by our government in the past are qualitatively different from a conscious decision to kill thousands of its own citizens in order to justify the oppression of others. Most importantly, there is the fact that most of what we know about the bad decisions made by our government is only knowable due to the relative transparency with which our government operates, and the freedom to disseminate and discuss this information. The full irony of this last point hit me while I was at the conference. Here was a group of about 400 people gathered to openly discuss the evil schemes of the U.S. government, whom they accuse of horrible atrocities in the service of establishing a police state. But if America really was a police state with such terrible secrets to protect, surely government thugs would have stormed the lecture halls and arrested many of those present, or would at the very least have conducted behind the scenes arrests and jailed the movement’s leaders. Yet even the most vocal leaders of the 9/11 Truth Movement are still going strong, and no one at the conference seemed very worried about government reprisals. This fact seemingly indicates that at some level, the conspiracy theorists themselves don’t really believe what they are saying. Another reason for the appeal of 9/11 conspiracies is that they are easy to understand. As previously mentioned, most Americans did not know or care to know much about the Middle East until the events of 9/11 forced them to take notice. (The brilliant satirical newspaper The Onion poked fun at this fact with its article “Area Man Acts Like He’s Been Interested In Afghanistan All Along”). The great advantage of the 9/11 Truth Movement’s theories is that they don’t require you to know anything about the Middle East, or for that matter, to know anything significant about world history or politics. This points to another benefit of conspiracy theories — they are oddly comforting. Chaotic, threatening events are difficult to comprehend, and the steps we might take to protect ourselves are unclear. With conspiracy theory that focuses on a single human cause, the terrible randomness of life assumes an understandable order. The great writer Thomas Pynchon memorably expressed this point in his novel Gravity’s Rainbow: “If there is something comforting — religious, if you want — about paranoia, there is still also anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long.” The promiscuity of conspiracy theories toward evidence thus becomes part of their appeal — they can link virtually any ideas of interest to the theorist into a meaningful whole. This point was illustrated nicely during the Q & A session following the conference screening of Rick Siegel’s Eyewitness: Hoboken. An attendee wanted to know what role the Freemasons played in the plot, and seemed very concerned that Siegel’s account had neglected them. After waffling on the answer for a few moments without appeasing his questioner, Siegel finally relented and said, “Sure, they’re involved.” And why not? With the standards of evidence used by conspiracy theorists, there is no reason why the Freemasons, the Bavarian Illuminati, or the Elders of Zion cannot also be involved in the 9/11 plot — it just depends on what you find the most solace in believing. As it turns out, some conspiracy theorists do throw one or more of these other parties into the mix, as a popular and bogus rumor that 4,000 Jews mysteriously failed to come to work on 9/11 shows. Solace is something all of us needed after the horrible events of 9/11, and each of us is entitled to a certain degree of freedom in its pursuit. However, there is no moral right to seek solace at the expense of truth, especially if the truth is precisely what we most need to avoid the mistakes of the past. Truth matters for its own sake, but it also matters because it is our only defense against the evils of those who cynically exploit truth claims to serve their own agendas. It is concern for the truth that leads us to criticize our own government when necessary, and to insist that others who claim to do so follow the same rigorous standards of evidence and argument. 9/11 was a powerful reminder of how precious and fragile human life and liberty are — the greatest possible rebuke to those who would live in service to delusions. Courtesy:wikipedia and Phil Molé  

Re rising: How to play IT stocks now?

May 17, 2007

The rupee breached its nine-year trading high recently and is currently trading at around 40.95.
The appreciating Indian unit is giving exporters, who receive payments in dollars, sleepless nights. The fortunes of many Indian tech companies are connected to the variances of the rupee-dollar movement.
To add to this, two US Senators from the Republican and Democratic parties have sent letters to nine Indian IT companies including TCS, Infosys, Wipro, Patni and Tech Mahindra, among others on Tuesday.
They have asked these companies to explain whether they use the H1B visa to fill worker shortage for a temporary period or completely outsource American jobs. This comes just before the US Senate is expected to debate the Immigration Reform Bill.
Indian IT body Nasscom does not see this as an immigration-related issue, but as an issue related to international trade. It said work permits and intra-company transfers should not be intermingled with immigration. Constraining H-1B supply when demand is high, will give rise to problems for both the US and Indian IT firms.
In light of these developments how should one play the tech sector? CNBC-TV18 asked some analysts on how they would play the IT sector.
Anand Tandon of Gryffon Investment Advisors feels the appreciating Indian unit has impacted IT companies quite badly. “The business is reasonably clear. The issue is how much can the rupee hurt and right now it looks like it has hurt quite badly. Usually you find IT stocks rallying from May-June onwards.”
“It’s also the time when you would actually start to see next year’s results beginning to flow through into stock prices and the subsequent sell off that usually happens after the earnings announcement. I wouldn’t be surprise if you see the same kind of scenario playing out this year, especially with the latest forecast on the rupee saying that it will probably go back up rather than becoming stronger from these levels,” he added.
Raamdeo Agrawal, Managing Director of Motilal Oswal Securities, said the rupee will bounce back to around Rs 42-43.
“Investors seemed to be concerned about the rupee’s volatile movement. I think the rupee, which is currently moving around Rs 40.82, will bounce back to a more reasonable Rs 42-43. US investors don’t think the Indian unit is going to stabilize at 40 odd levels, so in their mind it is more of a temporary phenomena related to liquidity rather than a permanent rupee appreciation,” he added
Source: Moneycontrol.com

India’s GDP touches $1 trillion…

May 2, 2007

India’s gross domestic product has topped $1 trillion, thanks to a strengthening rupee, making it the 12th country to achieve the milestone, Credit Suisse said on Thursday.
“Indian GDP at the current price level is 41 trillion rupees. With the rupee appreciating to below 41 against the US dollar, yesterday was the first day for the economy to be a trillion dollar economy,” the Swiss investment firm said in a note.
The rupee, which is trading around 40.76 to a dollar, has appreciated about 8.4 per cent this year and is up 15.4 per cent from a three-year low of 47.04 in July last year.
Stock markets in eight out of 10 countries had risen in the one year after their economies first crossed $1 trillion.
However, India’s $944 billion stock market should probably drop because of slower earnings growth for sectors such as autos, banks and cement, before picking up as inflows pick up into fast growing economy.
“Given our outlook… it is likely to go down again in the near future before it sustainably stands above this mark,” it said, referring to $1 trillion.
Bust the basic question is Should India stop accumulating reserves so rapidly and let the rupee appreciate against the dollar?

The answer for this must be YES, as a similar advice was given to all emerging Asian economies at the annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF. It is noted that reserves in the region had risen by an astonishing one trillion dollars, vastly in excess of any prudential norm. Countries were stockpiling dollars to prevent appreciation of their currencies. This aimed at a mercantilist maximization of exports, ignoring the considerable costs involved.

What are the benefits?
First, preventing rapid rupee appreciation reduces the shock to exporters.
Second, reserves are protection against trade shocks (like high oil prices), financial shocks (like the Asian financial crisis) and political shocks (like war with Pakistan). Yet India has actually weathered, at far lower reserve levels, a tripling of oil prices between 1998 and 2003, the Asian financial crisis of 1997-99, and the Kargil war of 1999. The Asian financial crisis also proved that the right way to combat such crises was through capital controls, not large reserves. Meanwhile, the costs of reserve accumulation are rising, especially when accompanied by sterilisation. Reserve accumulation means a poor country is lending money very cheaply to the US and Europe. If the same resources were harnessed for investment, economic growth would accelerate, inflation would diminish, and the welfare gains would run into billions. Reserve accumulation involves an interest loss. If India’s foreign debt carries an average interest rate of say 5% and Indian reserves consist of foreign securities yielding an average of say 2%, that entails an interest loss of 3%. At a reserve level of $100 billion, the cost will be a whopping $3 billion a year.

Sterilisation entails further serious losses. Government securities held by the RBI are really interest-free: the nominal interest is offset by the rise in RBI profits. But sterilisation means that the entire interest on these securities, which may average 5-6%, is a net drain. Preventing the rupee from appreciating creates a serious moral hazard. For starters, it encourages importers not to hedge their imports. This actually increases our vulnerability. Preventing rupee appreciation only strengthens expectations that the rupee will rise soon. This induces an ever larger inflow of dollars, worsening reserve accumulation in a vicious cycle. This can lead to unsustainable and potentially destabilizing inflows. So, there is a case for greatly reducing RBI intervention in the forex market(foreign exchange market). That may mean a sharp rise of the rupee followed by volatile ups and downs. This will reduce moral hazard and complacency, reduce unwanted and unsustainable inflows, and oblige traders to hedge currency risks. If sterilisation is also greatly reduced, it will mean a sharp increase in money supply that translates partly into higher demand and partly into higher prices. At a time when the economy is more open than ever, imports made cheap by appreciation will check prices. So will the bumper monsoon. The matter of timing remains. When should Reserve Bank of India let go of the rupee? One possible trigger could putting pressure on China. We like to think of reserve accumulation as an Indian problem, but it is a general Asian problem. And it is most acute in the case of China.Looking at the present situation we can infer rupee has appreciated more against the dollar more than most Asian currencies. Whatever India’s shortcomings on this score, they pale in comparison with those of some Asian neighbours, above all China. This is because a revaluation of the Chinese yuan by say 10% will allow India to let the rupee rise without eroding the ability of Indian exporters of manufactures to compete with the Chinese. The prudential argument for reserve accumulation is losing all credibility. But there remains a case for managing shocks to Indian manufacturer-exporters who have just become internationally competitive after years of painful restructuring. India competes head on with China in a wide range of manufactures, and will do so even more after textile quotas are abolished in 2005. An undervalued yuan will hurt us more than the US.Whether or not Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore appreciate matters little to us. Malaysia is a small economy competing in very limited areas with India. Hong Kong and Singapore are post-industrial economies with very high wages. Other countries like Indonesia and Thailand having been feeling the pressure of Chinese competition, and want yuan revaluation. We should not openly gang up with these countries and need to demand the authorities (like IFM) for Chinese revaluation. Rather, we should support the idea that reserve accumulation beyond a point is poor policy, for the countries concerned as well as the world economy. A tacit agreement to let the rupee rise freely the moment the yuan is revalued could be excellent economic diplomacy.
(Courtesy : CNN-IBN)

Thomas L. Friedman – "Listen to Your Heart."

May 2, 2007

Thomas L. Friedman “Listen to Your Heart.”
Commencement address at Williams CollegeWilliamstown, Massachusetts USAJune 5, 2005
Tom Friedman is an award-winning author and foreign affairs columnist of The New York Times.
It is an honor to stand before you this morning — you the class of 2005. I’ve been a journalist all my life. It’s been a great ride. And what I thought I would talk with you about today is not the stories I’ve covered but some of the lessons I accidentally learned along the way about getting through life. As Yogi Berra once said, “You can see a lot by just listening,” or maybe it was “You can hear a lot just by watching.” Either way, the reporter’s life has allowed me to do a lot of both, and for the past few months I’ve been jotting down a few of the things that might be relevant advice to you all on graduation day.
Lesson #1 is very simple. As the writer Dan Pink noted in New York Times just yesterday, it is a piece of advice that graduation speakers all over the land will be giving to graduates today, and it goes like this: Do what you love. But the reason that advice is no longer, what Pink called “warm and gooey career advice'” but actually a very “hard-headed'” survival strategy, is because, as I like to put it, the world is getting flat. Yes, mom and dad, you have paid tens of thousands of dollars to have your child get a Williams education only to have their graduation speaker declare on their last day on campus that the world is flat.”Gaining speed, she went on: ‘You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder, I make them question, I make them criticize, I make them apologize and mean it, I make them write and I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math and hide it all on their final drafts in English.’ Susan then stopped and cleared her throat. ‘I make them understand that if you have the brains, then follow your heart. And if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make in money, you pay them no attention.'”
What is flattening the world is our ability to automate more work with computers and software and to transmit that work anywhere in the world that it can be done more efficiently or cheaply thanks to the new global fiber optic network. The flatter the world gets, the more essential it is that you do what you love, because, as Pink notes, all the boring, repetitive jobs are going to be automated or outsourced in a flat world. The good jobs that will remain will be those that cannot be automated or outsourced; they will be the jobs that demand or encourage some uniquely human creative flair, passion and imagination. In other words, jobs that can only be done by people who love what they do.
You see, when the world gets flat everyone should want to be an untouchable. Untouchables in my lexicon are people whose jobs cannot be outsourced or automated. They cannot be shipped to India or done by a machine. So who are the untouchables? Well, first they are people who are really special — Michael Jordan or Barbra Streisand. Their talents can never be automated or outsourced. Second are people who are really specialized — brain surgeons, designers, consultants or artists. Third are people who are anchored and whose jobs have to be done in a specific location — from nurses to hairdressers to chefs — and lastly, and this is going to apply to many of us, people who are really adaptable — people can change with changing times and changing industries.
There is a much better chance that you will make yourself special, specialized or adaptable, a much better chance that you will bring that something extra, what Dan Pink called “a sense of curiosity, aesthetics, and joyfulness'” to your work, if do you what you love and love what you do.
I learned that quite by accident by becoming a journalist. It all started when I was in 10th grade. First, I took a journalism class from a legendary teacher at my high school, named Hattie Steinberg, who had more influence on me than any adult other than my parents. Under Hattie’s inspiration, journalism just grabbed my imagination. Hattie was a single woman nearing 60 years old by the time I had her as a teacher. She was the polar opposite of cool. But she sure got us all excited about writing, and we hung around her classroom like it was the malt shop and she was the disc jockey “Wolfman Jack.” To this day, her 10th grade journalism class in Room 313 was the only journalism class I have ever taken. The other thing that happened to me in 10th grade, though, was that my parents took me to Israel over the Christmas break. And from that moment on I fell in love with the Middle East. One of the first articles I ever published in my Minnesota high school paper was in 10th grade, in 1969. It was an interview with an Israeli general who had been a major figure in the ’67 war. He had come to give a lecture at the University of Minnesota; his name was Ariel Sharon. Little did I know how many times our paths would cross in the years to come.
Anyway, by the time 10th grade was over, I still wasn’t quite sure what career I wanted, but I sure knew what I loved: I loved journalism and I loved the Middle East. Now growing up in Minnesota at that time, in a middle-class household, I never thought about going away to college. Like all my friends, I enrolled at the University of Minnesota. But unlike my friends, I decided to major in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. There were not a lot of kids at the University of Minnesota studying Arabic back then. Norwegian, yes; Swedish, yes; Arabic, no. But I loved it; my parents didn’t mind; they could see I enjoyed it. But if I had a dime for every time one of my parents’ friends said to me, “Say Tom, your Dad says you’re studying Arabic; what are you going to do with that?” Well, frankly, it beat the heck out of me. But this was what I loved and it just seemed that that was what college was for.
I eventually graduated from Brandeis with a degree in Mediterranean studies and went onto graduate school at Oxford. During my first year in England — this was 1975 — I was walking down the street with my then-girlfriend and now-wife, Ann, and I noticed a front-page headline from the Evening Standard tabloid. It said, “President Carter to Jews: If Elected I Promise to Fire Dr. K.” I thought, “Isn’t that interesting?” Jimmy Carter is running against Gerald Ford for president, and in order to get elected, he’s trying to win Jewish votes by promising to fire the first-ever Jewish Secretary of State. I thought about how odd that was and what might be behind it. And for some reason, I went back to my dorm room in London and wrote a short essay about it. No one asked me to, I just did it. Well, my then-girlfriend, now-wife’s family knew the editorial-page editor of the Des Moines Register, and my then-girlfriend, now-wife brought the article over to him when she was home for spring break. He liked it, printed it, and paid me $50 for it. And I thought that was the coolest thing in the whole world. I was walking down the street, I had an idea, I wrote it down, and someone gave me $50. I’ve been hooked ever since. A journalist was born and I never looked back.
So whatever you plan to do, whether you plan to travel the world next year, go to graduate school, join the workforce, or take some time off to think, don’t just listen to your head. Listen to your heart. It’s the best career counselor there is. Do what you really love to do and if you don’t know quite what that is yet, well, keep searching, because if you find it, you’ll bring that something extra to your work that will help ensure you will not be automated or outsourced. It help make you an untouchable radiologist, an untouchable engineer, or an untouchable teacher.
Indeed, let me close this point with a toned down version of a poem that was written by the slam poet Taylor Mali. A friend sent it to my wife, who’s a schoolteacher. It is called: “What Teachers Make.” It contains some wisdom that I think belongs in every graduation speech. It goes like this: “The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued this way. ‘What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher? You know, it’s true what they say about teachers: ‘Those who can do, do; those who can’t do, teach.’ To corroborate his statement he said to another guest, ‘Hey, Susan, you’re a teacher. Be honest, what do you make?’
“Susan, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness, replied, ‘You want to know what I make? I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could and I can make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence. I can make a C-plus feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor and an A feel like a slap in the face if the student didn’t do his or her very best.’ Susan continued, ‘I can make parents tremble when I call home or feel almost like they won the lottery when I tell them how well their child is progressing.’ Gaining speed, she went on: ‘You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder, I make them question, I make them criticize, I make them apologize and mean it, I make them write and I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math and hide it all on their final drafts in English.’ Susan then stopped and cleared her throat. ‘I make them understand that if you have the brains, then follow your heart. And if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make in money, you pay them no attention.’ Susan then paused. ‘You want to know what I make?’ she said. ‘I make a difference. What about you?'”
Lesson #2. The second lesson I learned from journalism is that being a good listener is one of the great keys to life. My friend and colleague, Bob Schieffer of CBS News used to say to me, “The biggest stories I missed as a journalist happened because I was talking when I should have been listening.” The ability to be a good listener is one of the most under-appreciated talents a person or a country can have. People often ask me how I, an American Jew, have been able operate in the Arab/Muslim world for 20 years, and my answer to them is always the same. The secret is to be a good listener. It has never failed me. You can get away with really disagreeing with people as long as you show them the respect of really listening to what they have to say and taking it into account when and if it makes sense. Indeed, the most important part of listening is that it is a sign of respect. It’s not just what you hear by listening that is important. It is what you say by listening that is important. It’s amazing how you can diffuse a whole roomful of angry people by just starting your answer to a question with the phrase, “You’re making a legitimate point” or “I hear what you say” and really meaning it. Never underestimate how much people just want to feel that they have been heard, and once you have given them that chance they will hear you.
I went to Saudi Arabia after 9/11 after having written a series of extremely critical columns about the Saudi regime. And I was always struck by how Saudis received me, Saudis who weren’t prepped to receive me. The encounter would often go something like this:”Hi, I’m Tom Friedman.””The Tom Friedman who writes for The New York Times?””Yes, that Tom Friedman.””You’re here?””Yes, I’m here.””They gave you a visa?” “Yes, I didn’t come illegally.””You know, I hate everything you write. Would you come to my house for dinner so I could get some friends together to talk to you?”
If you really want to get through to people as a journalist, you first have to open their ears, and the best way to open their ears is to first open your own — show them the respect of listening, it’s amazing what they will let you say after that, and it is amazing what you might learn.
Lesson #3 is that the most enduring skill you can bring to the workplace is also one of the most important skills you always had to bring to reporting — and that is the ability to learn how to learn. I have always thought that the greatest thing about being a reporter was that you just get to keep getting Master’s degrees. Each time I took a new beat, from Beirut to Jerusalem to Diplomacy to the White House to the Treasury I got to get the equivalent of a Master’s degree in each of those subjects — just by reporting on them for an extended period.
So while I hope that you all came out of here with some specialty, I hope even more that you came out of here having learned how to learn. That too is going to be really important if you want to be an untouchable, because jobs are going to change faster and faster in a flat world. Believe me, I know. You see, about 18 months ago I went to Bangalore, India to do a documentary about outsourcing. We shot about 60 hours of film in ten days, and across those ten days I got progressively sicker and sicker. Because somewhere between the Indian entrepreneur who wanted to do my taxes from Bangalore, and the one who wanted to write my new software from Bangalore and one who wanted to read my X-rays from Bangalore, and the one who wanted to trace my lost luggage on Delta airlines from Bangalore, I realized that people were doing things I could not explain or understand. I realized that my own intellectual software needed updating. I came home and told my editors I need to go on leave immediately. That is why I wrote “The World is Flat.” I was retooling myself. None of us is immune from that.
Now, while I have been on book tour these few months talking about the flat world, several parents have come up to me and said, “Mr. Friedman, my daughter is studying Chinese, she’s going to be OK, right?” As if this was going to be the new key to lifetime employment. Well, not exactly. I think it is great to study Chinese, I told them, but the enduring skill you really need in a flat world is an ability to learn how to learn. The ability to learn how to learn is what enables you to adapt and stay special or specialized. Well then, a ninth grader in St. Paul asked me, how do you learn how to learn?
“Wow,” I said to him, “that’s a really good question.” I told him that I think the best way to learn how to learn is to go around and ask all your friends who are the best teachers in your school and then just take their classes, whether it is Greek Mythology or physics. Because I think probably the best way to learn how to learn is to love learning. When I think back on my favorite teachers, I am not sure I remember much anymore of what they taught me, but I sure remember enjoying learning it.
Lesson #4 is: Don’t get carried away with the gadgets. I started as a reporter in Beirut working on an Adler manual typewriter. I can tell you that the stories I wrote for the New York Times on that manual typewriter are still some of my favorites. Ladies and gentlemen, it is not about the skis. In this age of laptops and PDAs, the Internet and Google, mp3s and iPods, remember one thing: all these tools might make you smarter, but they sure won’t make you smart, they might extend your reach, but they will never tell you what to say to your neighbor over the fence, or how to comfort a friend in need, or how to write a lead that sings or how to imagine a breakthrough in science or literature. You cannot download passion, imagination, zest and creativity — all that stuff that will make you untouchable. You have to upload it, the old fashioned way, under the olive tree, with reading, writing and arithmetic, travel, study, reflection, museum visits and human interaction.
Look, no one is more interested in technology than I am, but the rumor is true: I was the last person in my family and on my block to get a mobile phone, and I still only use it for outgoing calls. Otherwise, as my daughters will tell you, I never keep it on. And don’t leave me a message, because I still don’t know how to retrieve them and I have no intention of learning. Because I can’t concentrate if people are constantly pinging me. You may also have noticed, I do not put my email address on my column. Unless readers go through all the trouble to call the paper to get my web address, if they want to communicate with me, they have to sit down and write me a letter. That is mail without an “e.” And yes, I only converted to Microsoft Word when I started my latest book a year ago and that is because Xywrite, the stone-age writing program I have been using since the 1980s, just couldn’t interface anymore with my new laptop. I am not a Luddite, per se, but I am a deliberately late adopter. I prefer to keep my tools simple, so I focus as much of my energy on the listening, writing and problem solving — not on the gadgets. That is also why if I had one fervent wish it would be that every modem sold in America would come with a warning label from the surgeon general, and that warning would simply say: “Judgment Not Included.”
Lesson #5 is this: Always remember, there is a difference between skepticism and cynicism. Too many journalists, and too many of our politicians, have lost sight of that boundary line. I learned that lesson very early in my career. In 1982, I was working in the Business section of The Times and was befriended by a young editor there named Nathaniel Nash. Nathaniel was a gentle soul and a born again Christian. He liked to come by and talk to me about Israel and the Holyland. In April 1982, The Times assigned me to cover the Lebanese civil war, and at my office goodbye party Nathaniel whispered to me: “I’m going to pray for your safety.” I never forgot that. I always considered his prayers my good luck charm, and when I walked out of Beirut in one piece three years later, one of the first things I did was thank Nathaniel for keeping watch over me. He liked that a lot.
I only wish I could have returned the favor. You see a few years later Nathaniel gave up editing and became a reporter himself, first in Argentina and then later as the Times business reporter in Europe, based in Germany. Nathaniel was a wonderful reporter, who was one of the most un-cynical people I ever knew. Indeed, the book on Nathaniel as a reporter was that he was too nice. His colleagues always doubted that anyone that nice could ever succeed in journalism, but somehow he triumphed over this handicap and went from one successful assignment to another. It was because Nathaniel intuitively understood that there was a big difference between skepticism and cynicism. Skepticism is about asking questions, being dubious, being wary, not being gullible, but always being open to being persuaded of a new fact or angle. Cynicism is about already having the answers — or thinking you do — answers about a person or an event. The skeptic says, “I don’t think that’s true; I’m going to check it out.” The cynic says: “I know that’s not true. It couldn’t be. I’m going to slam him.” Nathaniel always honored that line.
Unfortunately, Nathaniel Nash, at age 44, was the sole American reporter traveling on U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown’s airplane when it crashed into a Croatian hillside in 1996. Always remember, real journalists are not those loud mouth talking heads you see on cable television. Real journalists are reporters, like Nathaniel Nash, who go off to uncomfortable and often dangerous places like Croatia and get on a military plane to chase after a visiting dignitary, without giving it a second thought — all to get a few fresh quotes, maybe a scoop, or even just a paragraph of color that no one else had. My prayers were too late for Nathaniel, but he was such a good soul, I am certain that right now he is sitting at God’s elbow — taking notes, with skepticism not cynicism. So be a skeptic, not a cynic. We have more than enough of those in our country already, and so much more creative juice comes from skepticism, not cynicism.
Lesson #6. Nathaniel’s untimely death only reinforced for me the final lesson I am going to impart to you this afternoon. It’s very brief. It’s “Call Your Mama.” For me, the most searing images and stories of 9/11 were the tales of all those people who managed to use a cell phone to call their loved ones to say a last goodbye from a hijacked airplane or a burning tower. But think of the hundreds of others who never got a chance to say goodbye or a final “I love you.”When you were just in elementary school there was a legendary football coach at the University of Alabama named Bear Bryant. And late in his career, after his mother had died, Bell South Telephone Company asked Bear Bryant to do a TV commercial. As best I can piece together from the news reports, the commercial was supposed to be very simple — just a little music and Coach Bryant saying in his tough coach’s voice, “Have you called your Mama today?” On the day of the filming, though, when it came time for Coach Bryant to recite his simple line, he decided to ad lib something. He looked into the camera and said, “Have you called your Mama today? I sure wish I could call mine.” That was how the commercial ran, and it got a huge response from audiences. My father died when I was 19. He never got to see me do what I love. I sure wish I could call him. My mom is 86 years old and lives in a home for people with dementia. She doesn’t remember so well anymore, but she still remembers that my column runs twice a week. She doesn’t quite remember the days, so every day she goes through The New York Times, and if she finds my column, she often photocopies it and passes it out to the other dementia patients in her nursery home. If you think that isn’t important to me than you don’t know what is important.
Your parents love you more than you will ever know. So if you take one lesson away from this talk, take this one: Call your Mama, regularly. And your Papa. You will always be glad you did.
Well, class of 2005, that about does it for me. I’m fresh out of material. I guess what I have been trying to say here this afternoon can be summed up by the old adage that “happiness is a journey, not a destination.” Bringing joy and passion and optimism to your work is not what you get to do when you get to the top. It is HOW you get to the top. If I have had any success as a journalist since I was sitting down there where you are 30 years ago, it’s because I found a way to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. I had almost as much fun as a cub reporter doing the overnight shift at UPI, as I did traveling with Secretary of State Baker, as I do now as a columnist. Oh yes, I have had my dull moments and bad seasons — believe me, I have. But more often than not I found ways to learn from, and enjoy, some part of each job. You can’t bet your whole life on some destination. You’ve got to make the journey work too. And that is why I leave you with some wit and wisdom attributed to Mark Twain: Always work like you don’t need the money. Always fall in love like you’ve never been hurt. Always dance like nobody is watching. And always — always — live like it’s heaven on earth.
Thank you.

Thomas L. Friedman won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, his third Pulitzer for The New York Times. He became the paper’s foreign-affairs columnist in 1995. Previously, he served as chief economic correspondent in the Washington bureau and before that he was the chief White House correspondent. In 2005, Mr. Friedman was elected as a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board.Mr. Friedman joined The Times in 1981 and was appointed Beirut bureau chief in 1982. In 1984 Mr. Friedman was transferred from Beirut to Jerusalem, where he served as Israel bureau chief until 1988. Mr. Friedman was awarded the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Lebanon) and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Israel).Mr. Friedman’s latest book, “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century,” was released in April 2005. His book, “From Beirut to Jerusalem” (1989), won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 1989 and “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” (2000) won the 2000 Overseas Press Club award for best nonfiction book on foreign policy and has been published in 27 languages. Mr. Friedman also wrote “Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism” (2002) and the text accompanying Micha Bar-Am’s book, “Israel: A Photobiography.”

Born in Minneapolis on July 20, 1953, Mr. Friedman received a B.A. degree in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis University in 1975. In 1978 he received a Master of Philosophy degree in Modern Middle East studies from Oxford. Mr. Friedman is married and has two daughters.Labels: commencement, friedman, infosys, listen to your heart, speech, thomas, world is flat

Steve Jobs "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish"

May 2, 2007

A famous speech, by Steve Jobs.
Thank you. I’m honored to be with you today for your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. Truth be told, I never graduated from college and this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation.
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first six months but then stayed around as a drop-in for another eighteen months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out? It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife, except that when I popped out, they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking, “We’ve got an unexpected baby boy. Do you want him?” They said, “Of course.” My biological mother found out later that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would go to college.
This was the start in my life. And seventeen years later, I did go to college, but I naïvely chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and no idea of how college was going to help me figure it out, and here I was, spending all the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out, I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me and begin dropping in on the ones that looked far more interesting.
It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms. I returned Coke bottles for the five-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example.
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer was beautifully hand-calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me, and we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts, and since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.
If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on that calligraphy class and personals computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.
Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever–because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.
My second story is about love and loss. I was lucky. I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was twenty. We worked hard and in ten years, Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We’d just released our finest creation, the Macintosh, a year earlier, and I’d just turned thirty, and then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew, we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so, things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge, and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our board of directors sided with him, and so at thirty, I was out, and very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down, that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure and I even thought about running away from the Valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me. I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I’d been rejected but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods in my life. During the next five years I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer-animated feature film, “Toy Story,” and is now the most successful animation studio in the world.
In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT and I returned to Apple and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance, and Lorene and I have a wonderful family together.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful-tasting medicine but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love, and that is as true for work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it, and like any great relationship it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.
My third story is about death. When I was 17 I read a quote that went something like “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important thing I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctors’ code for “prepare to die.” It means to try and tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next ten years to tell them, in just a few months. It means to make sure that everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope, the doctor started crying, because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and, thankfully, I am fine now.
This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept. No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there, and yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. right now, the new is you. But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalogue, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stuart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late Sixties, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. it was sort of like Google in paperback form thirty-five years before Google came along. I was idealistic, overflowing with neat tools and great notions. Stuart and his team put out several issues of the The Whole Earth Catalogue, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-Seventies and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath were the words, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” And I have always wished that for myself, and now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay hungry, stay foolish.
Thank you all, very much.
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Pursuit of Happiness

April 4, 2007

Well just few days back I happened to seen this superb movie “The Pursuit of Happiness” and thought it would be the most appropriate topic for me to write about…

“…All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…
– as quoted in Declaration of Independence”

Thomas Jefferson had summarized the ideals of individual liberty, the line which grabbed my attention was everyone is bestowed with some unalienable rights and those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Well he could have quoted just “Happiness” but it was written as “pursuit of happiness” ….

Happiness is an emotional state that is characterized by enjoyment and satisfaction. But this definition comes into picture only after one experiences it, Happiness is generally preceded by (though it not always like this, In my case it has always been this way) a lot of efforts, hardwork, toil.
Well one does experience short term happiness in everyday life …it can be when we hear a song which we like, might be something to do with our favorite food or a touchy movie. Though this is important in life I guess we should not be carried away thinking that’s the end. Short term happiness is something which keeps us in a dynamic state and keeps us in high spirits…so that we accomplish our goal…

Well I wud complete this blog later my PL is snaring at me..

I guess it better for me to write some fiction stories possibly you guys might feel good to read those instead.

Calvin Vs Me

March 12, 2007

Ha finally I get time to write about my alter ego(well I tell this because I used to act more or less like him when I was at his age)….

Calvin is an impulsive, overly creative(Haha this reminds me of my child hood when I used to imagine my teachers as aliens who everyday make kids work like hell at school and as if that is not enough they give lot of home work to keep them busy at home also)
, imaginative, energetic, curious, intelligent six year old…

Well describing him reminds me of my child hood ,when I used to ask a lot of questions to my parents teachers and whom so ever I find…I was always fascinated with everything thinking in a different dimension was my trait (thou others felt it was foolish) once I was asked to write a story and I came up saying “there was a plane flying and all of a sudden it was disappeared…later it was found the plane was gobbled by a UFO…ha that’s just an example for heights of my imagination)….well calvin also has a similar kind of thoughts but a bit more exaggerated …he has a stuffed toy(Hobbes) which he thinks is a real tiger n his best friend( well hobbes is not to be underestimated his levels of sarcasm are too high for a tiger: – ))

The best part is calvin makes his stuffed toy(hobbes) to do his maths and they finally end up giving genius answers like 1+ 1 =11 …also when he trys to copy in exams his classmate Susie(who is his first crush…gosh I never had or hav any crushL) gives the same answer for every question and this genius identifies tat 1+4 =infinty so 5+6 cant be infinity…well I guess I cant explain these but once you get to see the cartoon strips one would understand….

Ha there are many things which are similar …..calvin never cared for grades because the its always difficult to maintain them …to a certain extent my ideas were also same because I always felt its proper to learn things which are necc for life …I mean the basics must be learnt and rest of them are crap…because I don’t find myself using algebra or newtons laws or organic chemistry and most of all writing hindi daily ….what I need Is a basic idea and approach and rest of them are all crap…

Well finally I want to end it with this….in my TCS interview I was asked what kind of a person would Calvin become when is big…I don’t remember exactly what I told the interviewer then but I know that he would become like me…its like when we are small we try to learn a lot of things this learning mechanisms is different for different ppl ….some learn it by observing, some are forced and taught ,some ask countless questions (I fall in this category : – )) …later they learn to get adjusted with the society and try to work together thou there are differences to get things done….

Well I guess I wud end it here….i wud see if I can write something better next time…