Loose Screws

"Don't portray us as a bunch of wackos," 9/11 "truth" activist Kent Knudson warned this Walter Winchell of warblers during a recent interview. "We have our facts. We have evidence. We have witnesses. The government has nothing."

Nothing but, like, some science 'n' stuff.

Knudson's one of the main wacktivists behind the PHX-based 911TruthAz.org, part of the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement, a patchwork of Web sites and groups that generally believe 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government, a modern-day Reichstag fire meant to place the country on a war footing and give Republicans the upper hand.



This cavalcade of cranks boasts a cottage industry of homemade documentaries supporting their cause. The most brilliantly twisted of the lot is the incendiary Loose Change, made for a few grand on a laptop by a trio of newbie filmmakers in upstate New York. Since its first posting on the 'Net in April 2005, this propaganda pic has been downloaded millions of times, earning ardent admirers and detractors worldwide.

The Bird first saw Loose Change months back at a Tempe java joint ("Goofball Shockumentary," April 27) and squawked at how freakin' credulous most folks were in the face of the filmmakers' cracked theories — theories right up there in loonydom with the Flat Earth Society, Bigfoot, and the latest from the Weekly World News.

Knudson and his cuckoo comrades (400 or so in Greater PHX, he claims) are constantly screening celluloid canards such as Loose Change in places like Bookmans, public libraries, coffee houses — anywhere that'll have 'em.

"We're the new patriots," insisted Knudson, a photographer by trade, whose demeanor reminded this worm-eater of a slightly younger Andy Rooney. "I passionately believe this stuff."

Thing is, it's easy to regurgitate a tangled fur ball of distortions about 9/11. Disproving them almost requires a Ph.D. in structural engineering. Fortunately, the editors of Popular Mechanics are on the case, as well as blogosphere balloon-poppers like screwloosechange.blogspot.com. In a March 2005 cover story, PM first addressed the conspiracy claims, and recently followed up with a more extensive investigation in its new book Debunking 9/11 Myths, with a foreword by our own Senator John McCain.

Knudson said he's never read the PM book, and doesn't care to crack its cover. So in honor of the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, this skeptical sandpiper decided to read the book for him, and rebut some of the bull he and his fellow moon-howlers spew.

Loose Change and Knudson claim there was a military stand-down order in place on September 11, 2001, that kept fighter jets from responding. Their proof? None, natch. It's an assumption conspira-nuts make based on the fact that military aircraft failed to intercept the four hijacked planes.

"That year, 67 times some plane had gone off course," asserted Knudson. "Instantly, some interceptor went up to find out what was going on. Here on 9/11, four planes are hijacked, and no plane managed to get up in time to do anything."

This "67 times" factoid hails from a 2002 Associated Press story. A subsequent Knight-Ridder article pointed out that these 67 times (from June 2000 to September 2001) weren't over the continental United States. Sadly, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) didn't pay as much attention to the Lower 48 pre-9/11. It expected threats to originate outside the country.

"In the decade before 9/11," states the PM book, "NORAD intercepted only one civilian plane over North America: golfer Payne Stewart's Learjet in October 1999."

Fighters were scrambled on 9/11, but hijackers turned off the seized airliners' transponders, devices that transmit coded radio signals to air-traffic controllers on the ground. This made it incredibly difficult to separate the doomed flights' radar blips from the thousands of other commercial flights in the air that morning. (Stewart's Learjet had its transponder on, by the way.) By the time the military knew where to send its pilots, it was too late.

With the gall of Holocaust deniers, Knudson, et al., claim the collapse of the Twin Towers was because of a secretly implemented "controlled demolition." Temperatures from fires resulting from the crashes of two Boeing 767s were not hot enough to melt the towers' steel columns, they argue. Videos of the towers falling supposedly show a controlled demolition under way.

PM makes Swiss cheese out of this crackpottery. Basically, the steel columns didn't need to melt. PM quotes the National Institute of Standards and Technology as stating the fires reached 1,000 degrees Celsius. This was enough to soften and buckle the core columns, causing collapse. The towers' fall was the result of both the impact of the planes and the subsequent infernos.

Conspiracy kooks claim puffs of detritus emitted from windows are explosive squibs going off. Experts explain it as a phenomenon known as "pancaking." As each floor collapsed, one atop another, "concrete, drywall, and other debris pulverized by the force of the blast" were ejected.

So, there was no controlled demolition with Dick Cheney on the detonator end of a fuse, like Wile E. Coyote in some Saturday-morning Road Runner 'toon. Sorry, Kent.

Remember the end of Dr. Strangelove where Slim Pickens' character rides the nuclear bomb from his plane, waving his cowboy hat and yahoo-ing? That's the sorta scenario conspiracy fruitcakes envision, sans Pickens, in the case of the 9/11 Pentagon attack. Specifically, they believe a cruise missile or a drone plane hit the side of the fortresslike office building, not American Airlines Flight 77.

Knudson calls the Pentagon crash "a side issue, a diversion." For him, it's all about the World Trade Center. But Loose Change claims the holes in the Pentagon walls were not big enough for a Boeing 757, and there was nothing left afterward of the plane itself.

"Why is there absolutely no trace of Flight 77?" wonders filmmaker Dylan Avery in the movie's voice-over.

Holy Pinocchio, Batman! Hundreds of eyewitnesses spotted the plane as it approached the Pentagon, and scores identified it as an American Airlines craft. Parts of the plane were left after impact, as well as partial remains of the victims. "All but five of the 189 people who died on the aircraft and in the Pentagon were later identified through DNA testing," states the PM tome.

Perhaps Loose Change's pinheaded producers would care to run their fingers through the gore — that is, exhume what little's left of the corpses?

As for the holes in the exterior and interior walls, neither of which exactly match the 757's 124-foot wingspan, a Purdue University simulation using IBM supercomputers showed that when the plane hit the Pentagon's dense, reinforced concrete structure at 531 miles per hour, it melted into the side of the building "in a state closer to a liquid than a solid mass."

Hello, conspiracy wing nuts, so there would have been no cartoon-punch shape of a plane in the Pentagon's wall!

For every paranoid wet dream, there's an explanation. Yes, cell phones worked on airplanes before 9/11. No, none of the 19 hijackers is still alive. And on and on. Why, Knudson even told this incredulous ibis that he doesn't believe al-Qaeda even exists! Maybe we should drop the guy in the mountains of the Afghani-Pakistani border and have the towel-heads introduce his infidel ass to some old-fashioned Islamo-fascism.

Why do the Loose Change loonies thrive? Because, let's face it, Duh-bya & Co. have repeatedly lied to the American people, exploiting 9/11 for political benefit and leading us into the Iraqi quagmire. For these sins, the Bushies deserve to be hung up by their heels à la Benito Mussolini. But like the Good Book says: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Constructing conspiracy castles in the sky only makes the architects look like the kooks they are.

Meth Mouths

Are AZ Attorney General Terry Goddard and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors sucking the glass dick?

This feathered fiend figures they must be tokin' on a meth pipe or the good ganja after hearing that Goddard and the Supes are attempting to import the Montana Meth Project to the Zona even after New Times scribe Sarah Fenske revealed that this proposed $6 million anti-meth ad campaign is a complete effin' failure in its state of origin ("Meth Madness," April 27, 2006).

You heard The Bird: It's a loser, a boondoggle, a way for politicians to pat themselves on the back while millions of your tax dollars flow down the drain.

Launched last fall, the ad campaign features slickly made TV spots showing teens with bad teeth and scabby skin turning to prostitution and thievery to support their crank habits. The over-the-top Reefer Madness-type message is that if you smoke ice "just once," you'll end up strung out and looking like you stepped out of the latest Rob Zombie flick.

This "Just Say No" bull-hockey didn't work in Nancy Reagan's day, and it doesn't work now. As Fenske detailed in her story, research shows that Montana teens associate less risk with meth after seeing the ads. Worse, their meth use didn't drop after a year of getting bombarded by the campaign. It actually increased!

That's right, the anti-meth spots achieve the opposite of their desired effect.

But when Tom "Wrong Way" Siebel, the software billionaire behind the ads, visited Arizona in June to pimp his project to pols, he blithely boasted that only one negative story had been run about his MMP — and that it had since been retracted.

Wishful thinking, Tommy-boy. There's no need to retract a story when it's correct, dillweed.

True, until recently, Siebel's Folly had garnered blowjobs aplenty from other media outlets, with Fenske's piece standing alone. But the worm turned August 3, when the Missoula Independent published its own lengthy report echoing Fenske's findings. Even Utah, once keen on the project, appears to be backing away from the flawed campaign.

This peeved pelican can hardly believe it, but Goddard and MC Supervisor Don Stapley are still trying to drum up support for the crappy commercials, hoping to raise the $6 mil through taxes and private donations.

Initially, they thought they could shake down the Arizona Legislature. But instead of providing cash to bring the Montana scam here, lawmakers passed an $8 million anti-meth bill, granting AZ counties $3 million to spend on anti-meth projects of their choosing.

Seems the ass-backward results in Montana — and the project leaders' attitudes — killed Goddard and Stapley's chances for full legislative funding.

"I got the sense they thought everything was perfect, that they hadn't studied their own results," said state Senator John Huppenthal, R-Chandler. "Nobody ended up comfortable with Montana Meth."

The ostrich-like Maricopa County Supes, however, continue to bury their heads in Sandland.

They've already voted to spend $2.5 million on some version of the Montana campaign. Now the Legislature's gift will give the county another $1.5 million to play with. Sources tell this stogie-chompin' starling that Stapley's intent on using the extra green on Montana-style ads.

The county's special projects manager, Linda Mushkatell, confirmed that the supervisors are looking to "replicate" the Montana project in some way, but insists no decisions have been made.

"If we do go down this road, we're going to be looking at it in a very quantitative way," she reassured.

Gee, Linda, would you buy a used car if your mechanic told you the wheels were about to fall off? And pay millions of bucks for it? Um, don't answer that.

For-Profit Prophet

If Jay Beswick's marketing scheme works, recently popped polygamy prophet and alleged kiddy-diddler Warren Jeffs could become the next Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, or Pastor Joel Osteen. That's right, you too can listen to the soothing monotone of this Pope of Plural Marriages, and draw warped inspiration from his FLDS-inspired Biblical teachings.

See, Beswick's a longtime anti-polyg activist who's come into possession of about 450 audio cassettes of Jeffs' preachin' on everything from the tribulations of Mormon saint Joseph Smith to why the fundamentalist Mormon church isn't fond of African-Americans.

Beswick bought the tapes off ex-FLDS members, and is selling them on eBay, along with a variety of Jeffs-inspired merch like Warren Jeffs playing cards; a Warren Jeffs baseball, so you can give the alleged Chester the Molester a few whacks; and a "racist coffee mug," which starts out gray-black, but then turns white to reveal Jeffs' smiling face and the slogan: "Make a Profit From a Prophet!"

Neither Jeffs, 50, nor the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receives any of the ducats from these transactions. Not that it sounds like Jeffs needed any of the scrilla on the lam. The other day, after the Nevada Highway Patrol apprehended the religious fanatic during a routine traffic stop near Las Vegas, the red 2007 Cadillac Escalade in which Jeffs was riding was found to contain $54,000 in cash and $10,000 in gift cards, as well as 15 cell phones, several laptops, and three wigs.

Jeez, you'd think the prophet would've had the sense not to be riding around in a red car. Even this witless woodpecker knows cops are most likely to stop a red vehicle. To boot, red's a hue that, ironically, Jeffs had banned among his followers — along with the evils of music, sports, and miniskirts.

Betcha the Mormon mullah wishes he'd listened to his own dictates as he cools his heels in a Nevada cell, awaiting extradition to Utah to face charges. After Utah finishes with Jeffs, it's expected Mohave County, Arizona, will get a crack at the zealot.

Even a greater irony than Jeffs' red SUV is the fact that both Attorney General Terry Goddard and Governor Janet Napolitano could've put the prophet in the pen long ago if they'd gotten off their fannies and freed women and girls forced into sexual slavery by Jeffs' Taliban-like cult up in Colorado City. For too long, both Goddard and Napolitano wrung their hands and offered excuses, afraid of what Mormon power brokers in the AZ Legislature might do if they messed with the Mormon Church's bastard offspring, the FLDS.

Napolitano, especially, is always bragging about everything her administration's doing for "the children." But rather than barnstorm Colorado City herself, she was too busy kissing the rings of Mormon leaders, a situation John Dougherty wrote about in these pages many times (for example, see "Janet's Missed Opportunity," October 7, 2004).

Maybe this mockingbird will order up some of Beswick's swag for the Guv. After all, judging by her inaction, she's practically a member of the Warren Jeffs Fan Club! Or perhaps the next time this winged wisenheimer attends one of the Guv's weekly press conferences, he'll give her one of the Jeffs tapes Beswick sent along. Surely Janet will find Jeffs' banal drone relaxing. He sounds like a cross between Mister Rogers and the Reverend Jim Jones!

"The tapes range in date from about 1994 to 2002," Beswick explained. "Jeffs was selling these to the faithful. They were honor-bound to buy them from him for about $6 each. As he got more rigid, he required his faithful to sit and listen to these things all day long."

Shucks, once the producers of HBO's Big Love get wind of the tapes, they'll prolly write 'em into the show. They've already stolen many of their plot elements from Dougherty's New Times articles on the perversion and thievery rampant during Jeffs' reign. You watch, Harry Dean Stanton's prophet character will be requiring members of his congregation to listen to loony yet mesmerizing tapes in a coming season.

And if Janet's lucky, she might even cop a walk-on role as a do-nuthin' politician. No acting required.

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