Incompetence versus Conspiracy

#1
Alex I am a great fan of yours and have followed your journey from episode 1. I started listening to your podcasts because of an interest in NDEs that originated from reading Moody’s book ‘Life after Life’ and then discovering that my mother in law had experienced an NDE.
Your interviews have made me sensitive to and accepting of lots of things that I previously considered nonsense, such as UFOs and spirit mediums. Your guests’ reaction to your combative interview style has revealed the shallowness of materialist apologist arguments and the credibility of many researchers and experiencers of the paranormal. Your journey through Skeptiko has truly opened my mind. For this I sincerely thank you.
What I would like to do in this post is express an idea which I think you may find useful. It was given to me by a friend many years ago. While discussing a then topical conspiracy theory he told me that he found most conspiracy theories unsatisfactory because they relied on too high a level of competence being shown by authority figures or organisations for long periods. In contrast his personal experience was that these individuals and organisations commonly acted with a high degree of incompetence, particularly when viewed over the long term.
My friend’s credentials in this regard are impressive. As a consulting actuary he was responsible for bringing about the closure of a substantial life insurer as a result of actuarial insolvency. When asked to prepare a summary report of his actuarial analysis for the holding company board he drew a sketch of the Titanic sailing into an iceberg with caricatures of the life insurers CEO, CFO etc. on deck with voice balloons containing selected inane comments they had made drawn from board meeting minutes.
Having lived my entire life in Africa my experience of the actions of authority figures is similar to my friend’s. I find many, if not most authorities act with a high degree of incompetence, especially when viewed over the long term.
Recent international political events convince me that although African authorities may take the lead in incompetence, it is by no means limited to the shores of this continent.
My conjecture therefore is that incompetence rules, not conspiracy!
Thus I find the following entirely normal without requiring any complex secretive conspiracy:
  • That US security authorities had been informed of plans for the 9/11 attack before the event, probably by Israeli agents, but did nothing to prevent it.
  • That George Bush scuttled away to a place of safety instead of displaying national leadership when the attack was in progress.
  • That the formal structures of both Republican and Democrat parties in the US in 2016 were so out of touch with their electorate that Trump was able to win the presidential election.
  • That the Conservative party in the UK so mismanaged the Brexit debacle that they are only now realising what it has cost the country.
  • That, in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, the CIA should hit on the idea of importing and wholesaling heroin to feed their secret budget, at huge cost to the US population it is commissioned to serve.
  • That the overthrow of dictatorial rulers in the ‘Arab Spring’ has resulted in substantially worse conditions for most of their populations.
  • That the involvement of foreign forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria has catastrophically worsened the lives of inhabitants and merely replaced bad problems with worse ones.
  • That the populations of many rich western countries, who have never experienced the ravages of polio, measles and other infectious diseases, should protest against vaccination against covid 19.
It is not that I disbelieve in conspiracies. As you frequently point out, conspiracies are rife in business. However, in my experience, in business as well as politics, long term conspiratorial success is rare, most conspiracies producing, at best, only transient gains and often considerable loss and embarrassment when the conspiratorial parties break up and secrets are disclosed. This happened recently in South Africa when a ring of staple food producers were prosecuted for price fixing and rewarded with huge fines.
You made the point recently; “How could the US military have appointed a man to oversee the Stargate project who was totally unsuitable for the job?”. My reaction is ;“Ha-ha, that is entirely to be expected!”
I am not a particular fan of Nassim Taleb but I recently listened to his book ‘Skin in the Game’ in which he rants vehemently against the competence of the Federal Reserve, political pollsters, academia, and many other authority figures. This raises my expectation that he too will be a believer in incompetence and might be an interesting and unusual guest on your show.
 

Alex

Administrator
#3
Alex I am a great fan of yours and have followed your journey from episode 1. I started listening to your podcasts because of an interest in NDEs that originated from reading Moody’s book ‘Life after Life’ and then discovering that my mother in law had experienced an NDE.
Your interviews have made me sensitive to and accepting of lots of things that I previously considered nonsense, such as UFOs and spirit mediums. Your guests’ reaction to your combative interview style has revealed the shallowness of materialist apologist arguments and the credibility of many researchers and experiencers of the paranormal. Your journey through Skeptiko has truly opened my mind. For this I sincerely thank you.
What I would like to do in this post is express an idea which I think you may find useful. It was given to me by a friend many years ago. While discussing a then topical conspiracy theory he told me that he found most conspiracy theories unsatisfactory because they relied on too high a level of competence being shown by authority figures or organisations for long periods. In contrast his personal experience was that these individuals and organisations commonly acted with a high degree of incompetence, particularly when viewed over the long term.
My friend’s credentials in this regard are impressive. As a consulting actuary he was responsible for bringing about the closure of a substantial life insurer as a result of actuarial insolvency. When asked to prepare a summary report of his actuarial analysis for the holding company board he drew a sketch of the Titanic sailing into an iceberg with caricatures of the life insurers CEO, CFO etc. on deck with voice balloons containing selected inane comments they had made drawn from board meeting minutes.
Having lived my entire life in Africa my experience of the actions of authority figures is similar to my friend’s. I find many, if not most authorities act with a high degree of incompetence, especially when viewed over the long term.
Recent international political events convince me that although African authorities may take the lead in incompetence, it is by no means limited to the shores of this continent.
My conjecture therefore is that incompetence rules, not conspiracy!
Thus I find the following entirely normal without requiring any complex secretive conspiracy:
  • That US security authorities had been informed of plans for the 9/11 attack before the event, probably by Israeli agents, but did nothing to prevent it.
  • That George Bush scuttled away to a place of safety instead of displaying national leadership when the attack was in progress.
  • That the formal structures of both Republican and Democrat parties in the US in 2016 were so out of touch with their electorate that Trump was able to win the presidential election.
  • That the Conservative party in the UK so mismanaged the Brexit debacle that they are only now realising what it has cost the country.
  • That, in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, the CIA should hit on the idea of importing and wholesaling heroin to feed their secret budget, at huge cost to the US population it is commissioned to serve.
  • That the overthrow of dictatorial rulers in the ‘Arab Spring’ has resulted in substantially worse conditions for most of their populations.
  • That the involvement of foreign forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria has catastrophically worsened the lives of inhabitants and merely replaced bad problems with worse ones.
  • That the populations of many rich western countries, who have never experienced the ravages of polio, measles and other infectious diseases, should protest against vaccination against covid 19.
It is not that I disbelieve in conspiracies. As you frequently point out, conspiracies are rife in business. However, in my experience, in business as well as politics, long term conspiratorial success is rare, most conspiracies producing, at best, only transient gains and often considerable loss and embarrassment when the conspiratorial parties break up and secrets are disclosed. This happened recently in South Africa when a ring of staple food producers were prosecuted for price fixing and rewarded with huge fines.
You made the point recently; “How could the US military have appointed a man to oversee the Stargate project who was totally unsuitable for the job?”. My reaction is ;“Ha-ha, that is entirely to be expected!”
I am not a particular fan of Nassim Taleb but I recently listened to his book ‘Skin in the Game’ in which he rants vehemently against the competence of the Federal Reserve, political pollsters, academia, and many other authority figures. This raises my expectation that he too will be a believer in incompetence and might be an interesting and unusual guest on your show.
thx for this great post Robin. I completely agree with your point... incompetence is always at play. but I would suggest that incompetence is also a key component of the conspiracy Playbook :)

for example, I imagine many of the compromised individuals in Jeffrey Epstein's blackbook often looked unexplainably incompetent.

another way I think this pops up is when we see systematic, "non-self-correcting incompetence." the military is supposed to be a hard-ass meritocracy, right? so consider 9/11:
https://911truth.org/9-11-promotions-failures-cui-bono/

Richard Myers, in charge of the Pentagon on 9/11 — Promoted
Who was in charge at the Pentagon? Richard Myers,[20] who gave several contradictory accounts of his actions on 9/11,[21] was promoted as a new Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on August 24, 2001 by President Bush.[22] As Jim Hoffman notes, “General Richard Myers was Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 11th… As Acting Chairman, Myers was the highest-ranking military official, and the principal military advisor to the President.[23] On 9/11, Myers was in charge because Chairman Henry Shelton[24] was out of the country.[25] Amazingly, just three days after 9/11, following NORAD’s stunning failure to intercept any of the planes on 9/11, he was promoted from Vice-Chairman to Chairman, replacing Henry Shelton.[26] A few months after this second promotion, Myers curiously said that “the goal has never been to get Bin Laden.”[27]

Ralph Eberhart, in charge of NORAD on 9/11 — Promoted
On a day in which routine procedures should have prevented 9/11 from even happening, the attacks were mirrored in military drills.[28] NORAD commander-in-Chief Ralph Eberhart[29] was asked by the 9/11 Commission if these war games “helped” response to the 9/11 attacks and responded nonsensically, “sir, my belief is that it helped because of the manning, because of the focus, because the crews—they have to be airborne in 15 minutes and that morning, because of the exercise, they were airborne in six or eight minutes. And so I believe that focus helped.” This was clearly a false statement since none of the planes were intercepted during the attacks. In fact, there is very strong evidence that these drills coordinated by Dick Cheney hindered the response since they moved air defenses away from New York and Washington,[30] added “injects” to radar screens, and created general confusion.[31] Like Richard Myers, Eberhart was promoted[32] shortly after 9/11; “nominated by President Bush to command the… U.S. Northern Command,”[33] a new creation of the Department of Defense which Eberhart said was “needed” after the attacks.[34]

The lack of response to the off-course aircraft could be clearly seen in the case of the Pentagon strike. Over an hour into the attacks, Norman Mineta reported that a plane was flying towards the Pentagon while tracked from a NORAD-equipped bunker where Dick Cheney was in charge.[35] When an aide periodically reported the incoming aircraft’s distance from the Pentagon, he finally asked Dick Cheney “Do the orders still stand?[36] Cheney responded angrily, “of course the orders still stand, have you heard anything to the contrary!?[37] This embarrassing testimony, completely left out of the 9/11 Commission report, strongly suggested that the hijacked aircraft were deliberately allowed to hit their targets without response. Despite knowledge of this aircraft by the FAA, Dick Cheney, and NORAD with its superior radar capability, no obvious action was taken to intercept or shoot down the planes. Instead, while NORAD was nowhere to be seen, a C-130 cargo plane was sent by civilian air traffic controllers to intercept and observe the incoming aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base.[38] This base was 10 miles away from the Pentagon and had fighter jets available on 9/11.[39] Why weren’t fighter jets scrambled to intercept the incoming plane and defend the Pentagon? Were civilian air traffic controllers left in charge of defense and intercepting planes on 9/11 in place of NORAD’s responsibility? Why wasn’t the Pentagon evacuated when the White House was evacuated?[40] Why was Ralph Eberhart promoted?

Captain Charles J. Leidig, acting NMCC Director — Promoted
Captain Charles J Leidig was asked by Brigadier General Montague Winfield the day before 9/11 to take over his responsibilities.[41] Leidig “assumed duties as the Deputy for Command Center Operations in the J3 Directorate of the Joint Staff… responsible for the maintenance, operation, and training of watch teams for the National Military Command Center (NMCC).[42] In testimony given to the 9/11 Commission, Leidig explained that “the Command Center then became a focal point for coordinating information flow… I convened a conference called a Significant Event Conference. And what that does is that brings leadership and combatant commanders into the conference to start discussing what actions should be taken or might be taken… I… [controlled] the conference that gets all these folks on the phone.[43] Leidig was not reprimanded and was later promoted in 2004 to Admiral.[44]

Brigadier General Montague Winfield — Promoted
Brigadier General Montague Winfield was in charge of the National Military Command Center (NMCC).[45] But as Nick Levis observes, “Montague Winfield was originally scheduled to be at his command post on morning of Sept. 11. But on Sept. 10, he arranged for his deputy to relieve him the next morning at exactly 8:30 a.m. This turned out to be just eight minutes before the military was alerted to the diversion of the first flight.[46] Winfield’s absence was significant because the NMCC was responsible for coordinating information on the 9/11 attack. In May of 2003, he was promoted to the two-star rank of major general.[47]

Ben Sliney, in charge of FAA on 9/11—Promoted
9/11 was Ben Sliney’s first day on the job as National Operations Manager, described as “the chess master of the air traffic system.”[48] He successfully accomplished the landing of all commercials aircraft—an unprecedented event carried out “flawlessly”.[49] David Ray Griffin observes, “[is] it plausible that FAA personnel, on the same day that they carried out an unprecedented task so flawlessly, would have failed so miserably with a task that they, decade after decade, had been performing routinely?[50] While the 9/11 commission attempts to shift the blame away from NORAD to the FAA by completely omitting Laura Brown’s statement and other evidence from their final report,[51] the interception of aircraft was a routine protocol as noted previously. Perhaps it was a bad day to start his job, but Sliney was not reprimanded and was later promoted.[52]

Steven Abbot, coordinator of Dick Cheney’s task force on problems of national preparedness — Promoted
Admiral Steven Abbot was appointed by Dick Cheney to lead the domestic terrorism task force in June 2001.[53] After 9/11, Abbot was promoted to become deputy director of the office of Homeland Security headed by Tom Ridge in October 2001.[54]

Marion (Spike) Bowman, blocked FBI investigations into the alleged hijackers before 9/11 — Promoted
FBI director Robert Mueller awarded Bowman with a presidential citation and cash bonus of about 25 percent of his salary.[55] Bowman, who was head of the FBI’s National Security Law Unit, was given an award for “exceptional performance” after a 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report claimed that his unit gave Minneapolis FBI agents “inexcusably confused and inaccurate information” that was “patently false.”[56] As well, Bowman’s unit “blocked an urgent request by FBI agents to begin searching for Khalid Almihdhar after his name was put on a watch list.”[57]

Pasquale D’Amuro, in charge of counterterrorism in New York — Promoted
Pasquale D’Amuro,[58] was the FBI’s counterterrorism chief on 9/11 in New York City, and was promoted to the top counterterrorism post after the attack.[59]

Michael Maltbie, the supervisor handling the case at the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit—Promoted
According to FBI Agent Harry Samit, he “wrote FBI headquarters about 70 memos about Moussaoui’s likely terrorist plans between his arrest on Aug. 16 and Sept. 11, all to no avail.” He was warned by his supervisor Michael Maltbie that pursuing this could be “bad for his career”, and that he should not pursue this to “preserve the existence of his advancement potential” in the FBI.[60] Instead of being reprimanded, Michael Maltbie was promoted to the Joint Terrorism Task Force at the FBI’s Cleveland office after 9/11.[61]

David Frasca, head of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit—not fired
It has been observed that when it came to the success of the 9/11 attacks, “most roads lead to counterterror chief’ David Frasca”,[62] head of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit.[63] Interestingly, he came into the job a week before 9/11 and was not fired for his performance after the 9/11 attacks.[64] Paul Thompson observes that, “The Phoenix memo, which was addressed to Frasca, was received by his unit and warned that al-Qaeda terrorists could be using flight schools inside the US…[65] Two weeks later Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested while training to fly a 747, but Frasca’s unit was unhelpful when local FBI agents wanted to search his belongings—a step that could have prevented 9/11.[66] Time Magazine reported that, “The Phoenix memo was buried; the Moussaoui warrant request was denied.[67] The New York Times indicates that Frasca, “[threw] up roadblocks” even after 9/11 in the Moussaoui investigation.[68]

Apparently, the FBI was so “incompetent”, that some of the alleged hijackers lived with an FBI informant without intervention.[69] The Able Danger program similarly identified some of the alleged hijackers.[70] Not only this, some of the alleged hijackers trained on US military airbases.[71] Despite this, the hijackers themselves were widely described as “incompetent”,[72] and several were reported to be “alive” after the attack.[73]

FBI: “Incompetent” then Suddenly “Competent” after the Attack?
Immediately following the attacks, the FBI suddenly changed from being “incompetent” to very competent. Family member Kristen Breitweiser in testimony to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry asked, “[how] did the FBI know exactly where to go only a few hours after the attacks? How did they know which neighborhoods, which flight schools and which restaurants to investigate so soon in the case? …How are complete biographies of the terrorists, and their accomplices, created in such short time? Did our intelligence agencies already have open files on these men? Were they already investigating them?[74] Most of the hijackers were identified within hours of the attacks.[75] While the attack at the Pentagon was not prevented despite observations of an incoming aircraft on radar, videos of the Pentagon strike were confiscated from multiple locations by the FBI minutes after it happened.[76]

Failures Promoted, Whistleblowers Silenced?
While not one single individual was reprimanded for the 9/11 “failures”, many whistleblowers were punished for speaking out. Coleen Rowley,[77] Sibel Edmonds,[78] Robert Wright,[79] Kevin Ryan,[80] and many others were silenced, fired, punished, and ignored for speaking out about what happened behind the scenes before and after the 9/11 attacks.[81] As well, many credible professionals, scientists, professors, and others have expressed their doubts about the 9/11 “official story”.[82] The mainstream media has been curiously silent about these facts.
 
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#4
Thus I find the following entirely normal without requiring any complex secretive conspiracy:
  • That US security authorities had been informed of plans for the 9/11 attack before the event, probably by Israeli agents, but did nothing to prevent it.
  • That George Bush scuttled away to a place of safety instead of displaying national leadership when the attack was in progress.
  • That the formal structures of both Republican and Democrat parties in the US in 2016 were so out of touch with their electorate that Trump was able to win the presidential election.
  • That the Conservative party in the UK so mismanaged the Brexit debacle that they are only now realising what it has cost the country.
  • That, in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, the CIA should hit on the idea of importing and wholesaling heroin to feed their secret budget, at huge cost to the US population it is commissioned to serve.
  • That the overthrow of dictatorial rulers in the ‘Arab Spring’ has resulted in substantially worse conditions for most of their populations.
  • That the involvement of foreign forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria has catastrophically worsened the lives of inhabitants and merely replaced bad problems with worse ones.
  • That the populations of many rich western countries, who have never experienced the ravages of polio, measles and other infectious diseases, should protest against vaccination against covid 19.
I baulk at just 2.5 of those observations!

I think that if we get over the COVID crisis without becoming a total police state run by China, then Brexit was an excellent thing - indeed my reading of the current situation is that the EU is actually falling apart. I helped campaign for 'Leave' (in a minor way) and we are well out of that mess. My number one reason for wanting out of the EU was that they encouraged the breakaway movement in The Ukraine - thus bringing about the civil war, which could easily have spread into something global. The EU acquired the lust to expand like all empires.

I have personally experienced polio as a kid, and still have the limp to prove it, yet I turned down my opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID, and so did my partner. I also had measles, and chickenpox as a child. Both were mild diseases in my recollection.

Item 3 implies (perhaps) that you thought President Trump was a bad leader. Maybe he wasn't perfect (but show me one that was), however, I am sure President Hillary Clinton would have been infinitely worse. She was on record for wanting to ramp up the war in Syria, even as Russia was getting control of the country and stabilising it. As with the EU, that could have been extremely dangerous.

David
 
#5
so consider 9/11:
I agree. 9/11 is probably the largest successful conspiracy in our lifetimes.

However, Covid could turn out to be even more lucrative.


[ edit 20210401] ---------------

I changed my mind. Covid will only win Big Pharma a couple Trillion dollars and the Human Farmers slightly accellerated social control. 9/11 won them Hundreds of Trillions in taxpayer loot world-wide, and huge increases in the destruction of privacy and liberty.
 
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#7
I think further, that my feeling is that incompetence is fairly common, but some people recognise the incompetence and exploit that incompetence in a very conspiratorial way.

David
 
#15
anyone who bothers to check can easily see that Robin has been a member of the skeptiko-Forum since 2013.
With all due respect Alex, my response would be, so what?

I know it's your forum, and I respect that, but I don't understand the point you are making.
 
#17
Am dedicated to a free speech way of life and I think unless a general platform (not like a specialised discussion forum here) such as Twitter, Google and the rest of it who are providing sevices which equate to a modern phone line, not only should they be mandated to accept free speech as company policy if they want to be based or to operate in the western/modern world but also that if any laws of any particular country have been broken it is NOT up to private companies to enforce the law. Am sure a lot of people would have preffered a week in prison even if they had been wrongly convicted than to be deplatformed (for ridiculous and anti constitutional reasons), losing not only their social life but businesses too which were feeding their family etc
 
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