January 26, 2006, 1:18 pm
From the Clerk-Register. Last Monday's message to my staff.
It has happened to all of us: an alarming message arrives in email.
Often, it is forwarded by a friend or relative. Sometimes it warns of a
dangerous new computer virus, or a scary new scam used by criminals.
Other times, it brings news of a previously unknown threat to our health,
or warns that the government is about to do something really nasty to us.
Frequently, it calls upon the reader to pass along the message to
Experience with email and the Internet has taught most of us not to
trust such messages, or to check it on an urban legends web site like
snopes.com. But millions of
people do take these messages seriously, and are motivated to forward them
on to alert their friends and relatives, spreading false information and
As Mark Twain is supposed to have said, "A lie can travel halfway
around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes" —
and that was long before the Internet was created.
But even without email, rumors — true or not — spread with
astonishing speed among a population that is interested and willing to
believe them. We would all, I think, be surprised if we could hear all
the things others are saying about us. In the process of passing from
person to person, the interesting or alarming aspects of any story become
exaggerated little by little, and something which started out as a piece
of factual news can become distorted almost beyond recognition.
We don't have a useful web site like Snopes to check out rumors about
the county government or our co-workers. But a little common sense goes a
long way. The more interesting a rumor is, the more important it is to
ask the teller how he or she knows. Remember that your own personal
credibility is hurt when you disseminate a rumor that turns out to be
The temptation to share news about our co-workers' lives can seem
irresistible, but imagine the person who is the subject of the rumor
listening in on the conversation. How would you feel if you were in his
or her shoes? Even if it has a grain of truth, is it something you'd want
people to be talking about?
Just as we are with email, let us be calm, sensible, and skeptical
about unverified news we hear from our friends, co-workers, and
The chief deputies and I are in East Lansing until Wednesday, meeting
with other county officers from around the state.
Let's have a great week!
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum.
January 9, 2006, 5:11 pm
From the Clerk-Register. Today's message to my staff.
I know the holidays are really over now, because my daughter Sarah is
back in school this morning.
Her current fascination is the Harry Potter series of books by J. K.
Rowling, and the movies based on them.
The books are set in the present, but portray life in an insular
"wizarding" subculture with little interest in new technology. The title
character attends a boarding school for witches and wizards. Writing is
by quill on parchment; chemistry is done in iron cauldrons instead of test
tubes; messages are delivered by carrier owls rather than by the Postal
Service; computers are not even mentioned. They have their own bank (run
by goblins), their own sports champions (a game like soccer played on
flying broomsticks), even their own brands of candy.
The wizards of the story are careful not to attract the attention of
"Muggles" (non-wizards). But conflict in the magical world has a way of
Almost the same could be said of almost any group or subculture in
society, whether ethnic, religious, professional, fraternal, social,
cultural, or even family. Each has its own jargon, its own peculiar rules
and norms. Humans are social creatures, and in-groups satisfy innate
needs for belonging. But more than that, the people who work together on
a specific kind of specialized task tend to become an in-group as
And just as our physical infrastructure is invisible to most people
until it breaks down, we don't even notice most of the in-groups around us
until conflict breaks out. Even then, or perhaps especially then, the
group is likely to be misunderstood.
One such subculture we all know well is the legal profession.
Like the fictional wizards, lawyers use archaic language and
old-fashioned manners, make a sharp distinction between insiders and
outsiders, spend hours in libraries in search of obscure knowledge, and
share a value system founded on ritualized combat.
Most lawyers read the same specialized magazines and newspapers, and
like to socialize and talk with other lawyers, all of which help propagate
characteristics that distinguish lawyers as a group from other people.
These same differences foster widespread resentment toward lawyers, who
are seen not only as cliquish but mysteriously powerful. In past
centuries, people suspected of engaging in witchcraft (thought to be
mysteriously powerful) were put to death; our culture is still full of
murderous fantasies about lawyers. Shakespeare's famous line — "The
first thing we do, we kill all the lawyers" — is echoed by
innumerable lawyer jokes which deny the humanity of lawyers — like,
"What's 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start."
Lawyers take an oath to abide by a fairly stringent standard of ethics.
In practice, however, the public is dubious, because lawyers are nimble at
taking advantage of exceptions and loopholes and interpretations. A lot
of lawyer jokes take the dishonesty of lawyers for granted, such as this
riddle: "How can you tell a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving."
Perhaps the most telling lawyer joke is the one about the wealthy man
on his deathbed who wants to be buried with his money. He puts all his
cash in three envelopes; before dying, he gives them to three trusted
professionals, to drop into his casket during his funeral. Afterwards,
the doctor and priest both admit that they found more important uses for
the money (medical research, helping the poor of the parish), and dropped
empty envelopes into the casket. The lawyer scolds them for breaking
their promise and disregarding the man's last wish. So what did the
lawyer do? "I wrote him a check," he says.
Most lawyers don't make as much money as most non-lawyers assume. The
glamorous image of lawyers in the popular culture is belied by the surplus
of people contending for jobs in the profession. Even lawyers who have
plenty of work can find themselves very pinched: in every economic
downturn, the first thing people do is to stop paying their lawyers. I
think Border's has a whole rack of books about alternative careers for
Many of the customers we see every day are lawyers, and not just in
Circuit Court. Indeed, two of our leadership team (Chief Deputy Karen
Edman and myself) are lawyers. We are all accustomed to their quirks, and
know many of them as individuals. We uphold many of the values important
to lawyers: the rule of law, due process, freedom of speech, preserving
records, fair trials for persons accused of crimes, and so on.
Just a few weeks ago, I participated as Clerk in the swearing-in of a
large group of new attorneys. I was impressed with their seriousness and
dedication, and with the varied credentials and experience each bring.
But all of them face the daunting task of getting established and making a
living in the profession, starting out with hard work and very long
I know that deputy clerks who work in this office often know a whole
lot more about courts and civil procedure than some brusque young lawyer
across the counter. Arrogance and ignorance can be a really irritating
But it's our job to refrain from fighting fire with fire. A lawyer is
not some species of cockroach, nor a pampered member of the elite. Think
of the lawyer, instead, as being a harried working person trying to make a
living. Like all customers, the key is to treat them with courtesy and
respect. And, who knows, maybe next time, they'll reciprocate.
Let's have a great week!
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum.
- Temple Stark, 1/19/2006: Ah this is where you are !!!.
Hope you're looking back at PolState as we are officially
(without the stuffiness that "official" implies*) hopping.
I'll have to read around later.
This jump to Quick topic is rather interesting, too.
* Just pulling your elected official leg.
January 1, 2006, 11:50 pm
More on the 9/11 narrative. As mentioned in the postscript to
earlier posting about 9/11 (December 30), Adam de Angeli has
My original posting was not a smackdown of any notion that there is
more to the 9/11 story than was originally reported in the media.
Rather, I'm saying that the advocates of alternate versions will have to
come up with a story that makes sense if they want to be taken
I'm not looking to debate over this, but I do want to respond to some
of his points. Where I don't respond, that means I have nothing further
to add, not that I concede.
A "contrarian" is one who disagrees with people for the
sake of disagreement. People are not questioning the official explanation
because they enjoy doing so...
No, I don't accept that characterization. I'm a bit of a contrarian
myself. What contrarians really enjoy is being proven right.
[Kestenbaum] is assuming that I am being
No clinical diagnosis of anyone was intended or implied. Rather, I'm
saying that the critique of the mainstream narrative of 9/11 fits into
paranoid style in American politics, in seeing major historical
events driven by secret acts by a single, huge, powerful, evil or amoral
People ... are questioning the official explanation because
it is full of internal contradictions, factual errors, physical
impossibilities, and countless other reasonsable doubts ... the arguments
against the official explanation are not "emotional pulls," they are
Life is untidy. History is a mess of contradictions, loose ends, and
unexplained circumstances. A paranoid view has a simple answer which
explains it all, and as such, is immensely appealing on an emotional
level. That emotional appeal often overrides logic, so the logic claimed
to support a paranoid view should always be scrutinized carefully.
Just because Serendipity has a more complex and sometimes
speculative theory than other sites does not mean everyone in the 9/11
Truth Movement believes it.... it's assumed that Serendipity speaks for
all 9-11 research.
I quoted two different critics with differing points of view —
specifically the two who had been brought to my attention recently. Any
assumption that either one "speaks for all 9-11 research" is Adam's, not
The amount of hard evidence of government perpetration of
the events makes it irrelevant as to whether or not the hijackings were
Adam disclaims Serendipity's theory that military drones, rather than
hijacked planes, hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And
certainly there are difficulties with that idea: the drones would be
incriminating if discovered in the rubble, as would be personal effects or
dental work of passengers from the other flights discovered among the
wreckage of Flight 93.
Moreover, I know someone in the building trade who, that morning, was
working on a swing stage, 60 floors up, on the exterior of the former Pan
Am Building (above Grand Central Station in midtown Manhattan). Here's an
excerpt of what he wrote a day or two later:
Tiny (who weighs 275) breaks conversation and sez "Getta load of this
With that all eyes focus on this incoming 757 wagging its wings coming
over the Pan Am just 200 feet from our deck.
As the huge jet approached it veered slightly to the right; the sparkle
of the sun glistened its wings and the rays warmed its fuselage
our men who hang precariously off the sides of buildings are outraged
at the total disregard for safety; stand and yell obscenity at the pilot
shaking their trowels as the jumbo careens over Broadway just broadside of
The sun is very bright just now we can see the white shirt of the
pilot(?) and in the direct sun we can see the heads of passengers at their
assigned windows. I distinctly see a blond woman at her seat.
My friend is not part of any conspiracy, so that puts the drone theory
to rest as far as I'm concerned.
But if it is conceded that the planes were hijacked by terrorists and
crashed, then different problems arise.
Two fully loaded jumbo jets colliding with the World Trade Center
surely did grievous damage even without any collapse. The towers would
still have been gutted by fire, unsafe to enter or re-use, and seen as a
total loss. The political effects would have been the same.
So, why would a hypothetical conspiracy have needed to run huge risks
to plant explosives in the tower, and coordinate timing with the
terrorists, in order to bring about a collapse that seemed to be
caused by the plane crashes?
Adam answers as follows:
Because the frame-up couldn't have worked any other
But if Islamic terrorists really did hijack the planes — even if
they were put up to it by the CIA — then it wasn't a "frame-up".
There is no easy way to blow up the World Trade Centers. If they had
demolished the buildings without crashing the planes, nobody would be
gullible enough to think the terrorists had the ability to coordinate such
a complex task on such high-security buildings. Even since 9/11 it's
become abundantly clear that the terrorists do not have large bombs
sufficient to demolish the Twin Towers. All of the Al Qaeda attacks have
used much smaller bombs.
Using the plane crashes, they've gotten the public to believe and
accept the myth that plane crashes could have knocked down those
skyscrapers. It's a much easier myth to swallow than Al Qaeda having
access to the necessary demolition points for weeks on end.
The traumatic event was the deliberate crashing of planes; collapse of
the damaged structure was ancillary. Most of the tens of thousands of
people who worked in the WTC complex had evacuated before that
Referring specifically to Serendipity's theory about faked hijackings,
I wrote: "Yow. If true, that would be the crime of the century." Adam
The illegal invasion of Iraq was the crime of the century.
But, the 9/11 attacks were an essential component of the pretext for it
(and so much else). More importantly though, 9/11 was a crime of
historical proportions whether or not the Serendipity theory about it is
correct or not.
No, military invasions, even if horrible and wrong, are not "crimes".
Even at Nuremburg, Nazi leaders were not charged with the invasions of
Poland or Czechoslovakia or France as such. In general, national leaders
who send their troops into another country to kill and be killed, even if
in defiance of national or international laws or treaties, do so openly
and with the support of their constituents.
By contrast, if George W. Bush were ever to be shown convincingly to
have had explicit foreknowledge of 9/11, let alone to have brought it
about, he would instantly become the most reviled man in all of American
history. "Criminal" would be one of the milder words used for him.
Everyone in his campaign, Administration, and party would be disgraced,
whether they were complicit or not.
That kind of downside risk, for a temporary political gain, would be
pretty daunting to even the most amoral White House. And the risk is
multiplied as the number of people involved rises.
It's a necessary article of faith for theories of vast conspiracies
that large organizations (such as governments) are capable of keeping big
secrets. Sometimes they can for a short time, especially in a crisis.
But people change over time. If dozens or hundreds or thousands of people
know some terrible secret, pretty soon word of it is going to leak
And because this is such a predictable result of a conspiracy to
secretly do some monstrous evil deed, it's pretty unlikely that any
rational president would get involved in one.
Adam takes me to task for not personally examining evidence, but that's
not my department. There are lots of experts who examine blast shards and
metal fragments under microscopes and understand what they mean, thousands
of others who match burnt pieces of teeth with dental records, still more
thousands who know all the ins and outs of aircraft and transponders and
radio frequencies and flight trajectories and many, many other things.
No one has enough money to buy silence from all of those experts, or
enough force to intimidate every one without anyone noticing.
A thousand different "loose ends" or claimed contradictions don't add
up to very much, if few of them are taken seriously by experts. On the
other hand, a dozen clues raised by amateurs could be the key to a hidden
truth — if they point to a consistent, plausible theory of what
happened and why.
A revisionist theory of events with no coherent story line and little
expert support isn't going to convince many people.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
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