Monday, September 17, 2007
Is there such a thing as the direction to Mecca?
I learned from Post Gazette reporter Paula Ward last year that the editors of the Post Gazette knew about the Mecca orientation of what was originally called the Crescent of Embrace way back in September 2005, when the design was first unveiled. A half dozen bloggers, myself included, had independently verified this startling revelation at the time, posting our methods and our results online. Paula says the Post Gazette reviewed all of this information, but decided not to publish it. “We decided that because the world is round, it didn’t make any difference,” said Paula: “you can go any direction to get to Mecca.” (Crescent of Betrayal, download 3, p. 108.)
At the same time that they were suppressing explosive evidence that the crescent design is not innocent, the Gazzeditors were depicting critics of the crescent as paranoid:
But like those who look at innocent kids trick-or-treating at Halloween and see only the devil's work, a few small and suspicious minds couldn't look past the crescent to see a remarkably sensitive design.When Tom Burnett Sr. recently insisted that Tom Jr.’s name not be used in the design, pleading with the American people to take seriously his and my warnings about the crescent design, the Post Gazette disrespectfully declined, publishing an editorial titled: “Efforts to sully Flight 93 memorial deserve scorn.”
Paula Ward recently found wackademic support for the Post Gazette’s no-such-thing-as-the-direction-to-Mecca claim:
Daniel Griffith, a geospatial information sciences professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, said anything can point toward Mecca, because the earth is round.Neither is Paula putting words in Dr. Griffith’s mouth in order to cover the Post Gazette’s rear. Kirk Swauger of the Johnstown Tribune Review also talked to Griffith. “He said you can face anywhere to face Mecca,” Swauger told me over the phone.
Worst of all, Griffith is acting as a consultant to Families of Flight 93, duping the families as well into thinking that there is no such thing as the direction to Mecca. And the Post Gazette is abetting this deception. Can our major newspapers really get away with pretending that you can face anywhere to face Mecca? Will Pittsburghers obediently accept that there is no such thing as a direction on planet earth?
The world’s largest mosque
For those who are new to this story, the original Crescent of Embrace design was a bare naked Islamic shaped crescent, with the crash site situated between the tips of the crescent, in the position of the star on an Islamic crescent and star flag:
Bottom: original Crescent of Embrace publicity photo, released by Paul Murdoch architects in September 2005. Top: Wikipedia’s typical Islamic crescent and star, colored red and viewed from a similar angle. The copse of trees that sits roughly in the position of the star on a crescent and star flag marks the crash site.
Shock at this likeness to an Islamic crescent and star flag caused an uproar that forced the Memorial Project to agree to make some changes, but the changes were only superficial. Every particle of the original Crescent of Embrace design remains completely intact in the Bowl of Embrace redesign. The only change was to disguise the crescent and star configuration with some surrounding trees.
Anyone can verify in a couple of minutes that a person standing at the crash site and facing into the center of the crescent will be facing almost exactly at Mecca. A crescent that Muslims face into to face Mecca is called a mihrab and is the central feature around which every mosque is built. The Crescent of Embrace was to be the world’s largest mosque, and all the redesign did was plant some trees around it. You can plant as many trees around a mosque as you want. It is still a mosque.
Whether or not one accepts my explanation of the significance of a Mecca oriented crescent, we all ought to be able to agree on the need to be honest about whether the Flight 93 crescent is in fact oriented on Mecca. This is what the Memorial Project and the newspapers are lying about, and they are invoking the phoniest possible evasion to do it, claiming that there is no such thing as the direction to Mecca.
"But wouldn't it be on the news if it were true"
It is actually helpful to have the press engage in such blatant dishonesty, because many people think that if the Mecca orientation of the giant crescent were true, this explosive information would surely have been confirmed by reporters and would be all over the newspapers.
No it wouldn’t, and the refusal of the press to be honest even about whether there IS a direction to Mecca proves it. Our news media is not interested in the truth. It seeks to create maximum partisan advantage for its own side of America’s political divide: the Democrat, “multi-culturalist,” anti-war, feminist, global-warmist, anti-gun, anti-school-choice, illiberal “liberal” side.
The Gazzeditors are perfectly clear that they identify critics of the crescent design as conservative Christians, objecting to the paganism of Halloween. They knew full well that criticisms of the crescent were legitimate, but it made no difference to them. Perceived partisan advantage is the only thing that registers in these people’s brains.
And so it has gone through the entire memorial debacle, with person after person imagining it could somehow be right or in their interest to suppress the truth: a perfect anti-spirit of Flight 93. Instead of uniting to confront harsh truth, the defenders of the crescent design embrace any dishonesty that supports their presumptions.
“But the Park Service investigated this. Surely they would have verified the Mecca orientation if it were true.”
The Park Service did indeed conduct what they called an investigation, but they refused to check a single one of my geometric claims. Instead, they made a prima facie argument that my claims were not valid because the crescent plans had not yet been geo-referenced, making any geometrical claims pre-mature, and un-checkable. Nonsense.
The Crescent of Embrace site plan that I analyzed is drawn on a topo map, which is a geo-referenced map. North was specified, and the coordinates of the crash site are known. The pretense of there not being enough information to analyze the orientation of the crescent is a transparent deception. (The story of the phony internal investigation is in download 3, Chapter Nine, of Crescent of Betrayal. The letter I received from the Park Service summarizing the findings of the internal investigation is Exhibit 5 in Addendum 10, download 7.)
The Memorial Project is still deflecting questions with this absurd claim that the crescent plans cannot be analyzed because they are not geo-referenced. Mountain Goat, commenting at the PJ Country blog, called the Memorial Project about my information The person he talked to:
He made the sensible point that the precise calculations made by errortheory guy were not possible with the information that has been released.It would be sensible, if it were true. But like everything else the defenders of the crescent are saying, it is an easily verifiable falsehood.
The project also likes to say that my claims are invalid because the plans are still undergoing final revisions. But my claims are not about their final revisions. My claims are about the original Crescent of Embrace and Bowl of Embrace design plans that were released to the public, and everything I am saying about these plans is trivially easy to verify.
“Wouldn’t the top conservative bloggers be linking this if it were true?”
Another revelation from this story is a glaring weakness in the vaunted fact-checking powers of the conservative blogosphere. Yes, there is a part of the blogosphere that has thoroughly fact checked this story. I have fact checked the whole thing, and a bunch of us fact-checked the Mecca orientation of the crescent back in September 2005.
Doug Hagmann fact checked some of my claims this summer. Curt, Pamela, Robert Spencer, Ace of Spades, and a dozen others have helped raise the alarm. But none of this is trickling up to the small number of high-traffic bloggers who channel 90% of the eyeballs.
Michelle Malkin and Charles Johnson brought initial attention to this story in 2005, and Charles contributed another link last year, but while the defenders of the crescent are more determined than ever to suppress the truth, the blogosphere has flagged.
The reason seems pretty clear. Look at the range and number of players who are calling my assertions bogus: the Memorial Project, the Park Service, Families of Flight 93, numerous newspapers, and numerous academic blowhards. Our reputation-conscious high-traffic bloggers can’t touch this story unless they fact check it themselves, but fact checking takes time, and these people don’t have it. They are ridiculously busy with their own efforts.
Glenn Reynolds does this part time, as do most top bloggers, and while Michelle Malkin and Charles Johnson are full time media professionals, they only have a sliver of time for appeals that they receive via email. Just the fact that a small number of people are directing most of the traffic makes for an incredibly thin resource that has very little capacity to do its own fact checking of other people’s stories. In a controversial case like this where fact checking is the price of admission, the conservative blogosphere is not up to the task.
What else should we expect when the editors and reporters who are getting paid to investigate this story are overwhelmingly trying to suppress the facts? The mostly unpaid blogosphere is already at a huge disadvantage. Throw in any extra obstacles, like the need to personally fact check a story, and the unpaid resources are just not sufficient.
I didn’t want to have to make excuses for the high traffic bloggers, who I regard as heroes for the amount of mostly unpaid work that they take on, but there is no avoiding it at this point. The failure of the conservative blogosphere to raise much alarm about what will be one of the biggest scandals in American history is now just a fact.
Can the blatant dishonesty of my critics knock the fact-checking hurdle down? Nobody needs to weigh in on the solidity of my claims in order note that my critics are telling the baldest possible lies. There is no such thing as the direction to Mecca? It is impossible to analyze the orientation of a crescent structure that is set at known coordinates and drawn on a topo map? Even the lawyer-careful Glenn Reynolds ought to be able to take a poke at that.
Where is Popular Mechanics?
As Doug Hagmann put it, “something’s wrong,” and that ought to be enough to solicit some of the fact checking that is needed for the blogosphere to back and to break this story. C’mon y’all. Fact check some of my claims and post your results. Sic the Popular Mechanics fact checkers on me. They fact-checked the toxic stupidity of the “9/11 truth” movement. Why aren’t they fact checking my 9/11 conspiracy theory?
The America-hating mendacity of the “truthers” undoubtedly adds to the reluctance of decent people take any 9/11 conspiracy theory seriously, but look at how perverse that is. 9/11 was our wake up call, demonstrating the need for vigilance. We have enemies that we haven’t been paying attention to, enemies that hide amongst us, pretending to be trustworthy friends, while plotting acts of war. Can we really let the hateful insanity of the truthers overturn that lesson and make us scared to be vigilant for fear of our reputations?
I say Popular Mechanics has a RESPONSIBILITY to fact check my claims. They present themselves as having comprehensively debunked the 9/11 conspiracy theories, without even looking at mine, and Pennsylvania newspapers are using that. One if their favorite tricks is to lump my claims together with claims that Bush was behind 9/11, then ask psychologists why some people adopt theories that normal people, looking at the same evidence, regard as outlandish.
Tell these Popular Mechanics to get off their asses. If they are going to claim to be comprehensive, then need to be comprehensive. Otherwise, they are helping the truther morons to make America less vigilant.
Pittsburgh’s second major newspaper
The Tribune Review is even more responsible than the Post Gazette for abetting the no-direction-to-Mecca nonsense of Daniel Griffith. That is because the Tribune is in possession of a formal report written by Dr. Griffith that contradicts all of his recent public statements, including those quoted in the Tribune Review itself.
Last year, the Tribune Review commissioned Daniel Griffith to analyze the blogosphere’s half dozen claimed verifications that the Crescent of Embrace points to Mecca. When the Tribune Review quoted Griffith last year as denying that the Crescent of Embrace is oriented on Mecca, I called him at the University of Texas and he insisted that he had written no such thing. I asked him to send me a copy of his report so that I could try to get the Tribune Review to run a correction, and indeed, Griffith’s report starts out by confirming the Mecca orientation of the crescent.
Paragraph one reports that “the blog-reported data” is accurate about the longitude and latitude of the crash site and of Mecca (to within 0.02%). Griffith then reports the direction from the crash site to Mecca:
I computed an azimuth value from the Flight 93 crater site to Mecca of roughly 55.20°.“Azimuth” is the technical term for “direction,” measured in degrees clockwise from north. I get that the direction to Mecca from the crash site is 55.19° clockwise from north. Griffith and I both calculate the direction to Mecca by the “great circle” or “shortest distance” method, the same method that Muslims use when they face Mecca for prayer.
Next Griffith accepts that the crescent is oriented almost exactly along this Mecca line, limiting his reservations to whether this orientation should be regarded as intentional, when the likelihood that it could happen by chance is not insignificant:
Third, a circle is restricted to 360°. A random selection of some value within an interval of width .62° is roughly 1 in 581. Although this is a small probability, it is much greater than lottery players enjoy.Despite having commissioned this report, the Tribune Review has now published three different articles, quoting Griffith making statements that contradict his own report, without noting that he is contradicting his own report. The latest was last week:
[Here Griffith is accepting Jonathan Haas’ method of defining the upper and lower tips of the crescent. Haas used the last red maple trees at top and bottom to define the upper and lower tips of the “red maple crescent,” yielding an orientation .62° north of Mecca. I define the crescent tips as the most obtruding tips of the entire Crescent of Embrace structure, which on top is the end of the towering Entry Portal Wall, yielding an orientation 1.8° north of Mecca.]
Griffith told the Tribune-Review that Rawls' math does not prove the design points to Mecca, noting that because the Earth is round, a person can be pointing to Mecca from anywhere on the globe.Yes my math does prove that the design points to Mecca, and so does Griffith’s math, and the Tribune Review knows it, because I have been explaining it to them, and demanding corrections, for over a year.
Enough slack already
I have cut the Tribune Review a lot of slack because Griffith included a bunch of obfuscating nonsense in his report, making it understandable that reporters would be confused about the substance of his remarks. After confirming the almost exact Mecca orientation of the crescent, Griffith's report goes on to make the following three irrelevant observations:
1. Griffith notes that there are lots of different possible map projections. That is true, but no matter where you look at the world from, the direction to Mecca is still the direction to Mecca, just as Griffith calculated it. The map projection used is irrelevant.From these misleadingly stated but ultimately innocuous considerations, Griffith arrives at a totally illogical conclusion:
2. He says that if the memorial structure were circular, you could form a bisector that points anywhere. Yes, but the Crescent of Embrace is not a circle. It is a crescent.
3. He says that you can always rotate a crescent so that it faces Mecca. Yes, that is exactly what I am claiming that architect Paul Murdoch has done: he has rotated his crescent around the crash site (keeping the crash site between the crescent tips, in the position of the star on an Islamic crescent and star flag), until a person facing into the crescent is facing Mecca.
In conclusion, I am not convinced that the mathematical arguments put forward by the bloggers have much merit. In other words, the mathematics involved does not bolster a case for conspiracy, oversight or insensitivity.He has verified that the mathematical arguments put forward by “the bloggers” are accurate. What else does “merit” in a mathematical argument refer to? The only logical reservation Griffith expresses is that the near-Mecca orientation of the Crescent of Embrace could be a coincidence. Griffith’s conclusion contradicts his own findings.
My request for a correction last year was as much a warning, explaining how in conversation with me, Griffith had insisted that he had confirmed the Mecca orientation of the crescent, the opposite of how the Tribune Review had quoted his findings, and I told them that if they would look closely, they could see this in his report.
Now Griffith is going even further, telling everyone who will listen that there is no direction to Mecca, and the Tribune Review is now refusing to even tell its readers that this person actually calculated the direction to Mecca for them last year. They are fully in bed with this fraud, duping all of Pittsburgh and the Flight 93 families. Managing editor Bob Fryer defends this behavior to the last.
“Do you think all Muslims are bad?”
I sent the Tribune Review a letter to the editor last Monday (see below) and called managing editor Bob Fryer last Thursday. He said he had seen my letter and he opined that it was obviously time for me to give up, when all these authoritative figures--Professor Griffith, the government, the Flight 93 family group--were all stating that my claims have been debunked. How many people have to tell me that I am wrong before I will listen?
“Is there really no such thing as the direction to Mecca?” I asked Mr. Fryer. “Are you unaware that one billion Muslims face Mecca every day for prayer?”
“Of course I know that Muslims face Mecca for prayer,” he answered. “Then how can you let this guy Griffith say there is no direction to Mecca,” I continued, “when he wrote a report for your newspaper last year that calculates the direction to Mecca?”
Mr. Fryer said he did not know anything about Griffith denying there is a direction to Mecca, indicating that he had not read my letter to the editor, and it was clear that he was not going to. He told me that he was not going to debate the facts with me because he does not accept my conclusion: that the planned memorial is a memorial to the terrorists.
That is a perfect statement of backwards thinking, starting with the conclusion that one presumes to be right or in one’s interest, and finding excuses to dismiss contrary reason and evidence. This is how partisan dishonesty works. It takes sides first and is hostile to contrary reason and evidence. Fryer is just one more poster boy for the willful blindness that is allowing Murdoch’s plot to succeed.
He will assign reporters to quote every critic of my warnings that they can find, but he will not read my letter to the editor.
“Do you think all Muslims are bad?” Bob Fryer asked me. “Of course not,” I answered. “I distinguish the good from the bad. That is exactly the issue here. This is a memorial to the terrorists.” Fryer hung up the phone.
Griffith is a pathological liar
The conclusion of Griffith’s report misrepresents his own analyses. The man lies even to himself. But it is his with lies to the public that really comes out of the closet. Consider this beauty, published by the Johnstown Tribune Democrat:
Griffith studied Rawls’ assertions for Families of Flight 93. [He] said the geometry used for a sphere such as the earth is different than the geometry for a two-dimension surface, which Rawls is using as the foundation for his arguments.Griffith knows full well that I calculated the direction to Mecca by the great circle method, which gives the path of shortest distance between points on a globe. Griffith knows that I used this three dimensional geometry, not some two dimensional geometry, because he replicated it and came up with the same Mecca direction that I did, to within one one hundredth of a degree. Now for the Families of flight 93 and for the public, he pulls this bizarre lie off the top of his head.
Griffith’s opportunistic dishonesty is really on display with a Nazi concentration camp example that he also retailed to the Tribune Democrat:
Griffith said Rawls could use the same premise to prove any number of theories. For instance, while Griffith said Rawls suggested memorial organizers would be outraged if the crescent pointed to a Nazi concentration camp instead, the professor said it actually could be done.A look at Griffith’s 2006 report for the Tribune Review explains in what sense the Crescent of Embrace can be seen as pointing to a concentration camp. Griffith claims that there is an infamous camp that happens to lie almost exactly on the line between the crash site and Mecca:
The possibility of coincidence may be illustrated by considering the location of the notorious Darcey Nazi concentration camp … which renders a value [a deviation from the calculated orientation of the crescent] … of 51.79°… suggesting a seemingly small error of 0.79%.Griffith admits that the crescent points to this supposed Nazi concentration camp [I can’t find it on Google], but wants to deny that the crescent points to Mecca, when by his calculation the two fall on essentially the same line! That is the definition of cant: interpreting the same facts in opposite ways depending on which interpretation favors one’s presumptions. Look up “Pecksniff” in the dictionary and you will find a picture of Daniel A. Griffith. (Thanks to Tom Burnett Sr. for the “Pecksniff” reference, though his dictionary has a different picture.)
In the Tribune Democrat article, Griffith is perfectly explicit about wanting people to think that my analysis could be used to point to ANY Nazi concentration camp: "There are many arcs they could draw that satisfy what they’re saying.” As usual, he is flat out lying about his own analysis. There is only one great circle arc from the crash site to Mecca, and Griffith certainly knows that this is the only arc I am saying anything about.
As for Griffith’s claim that I said I would be outraged if the crescent were to point to a Nazi concentration camp, it isn’t just a lie, but an impossibly stupid one. Why would anyone care if the crescent points to a Nazi concentration camp? Is there a religion whose adherants face into crescents in order to face Nazi concentration camps for prayer? Was it claimants of such a religion that hijacked Flight 93? Just how much peck has this idiot been sniffing?
Addendum: Letter to the editors of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 9/10/2007
Dear Editors:In a P.S., I reminded the Tribune Review that I had been trying to get them to correct their mis-characterizations of Griffith's findings for over a year:
Thank you for reporting my claim that a person facing directly into the giant central crescent of the planned Flight 93 Memorial will be facing Mecca. (“Conspiracy Buffs," 9/9/07.) In response to this claim, you cited Daniel Griffith, a professor of “geospatial information,” apparently denying that there is any such thing as the direction to Mecca: “Griffith told the Tribune-Review … that because the Earth is round, a person can be pointing to Mecca from anywhere on the globe.” Three weeks ago Griffith was more explicit, telling the Post Gazette that “anything can point toward Mecca, because the earth is round.” (“Memorial draws new round of criticism,” 8/18/07.)
Your readers need to know that these statements contradict the report that Griffith wrote for the Tribune-Review last year. Griffith’s report, which readers can find at my website CrescentOfBetrayal.com, first verifies that myself and others have specified the coordinates of the crash site and of Mecca correctly (to within 0.02%). Griffith then affirms the direction to Mecca: “I computed an azimuth value from the Flight 93 crater site to Mecca of roughly 55.20°.”
“Azimuth” is the technical term for “direction,” measured in degrees clockwise from north. I get that the direction to Mecca from the crash site is 55.19° clockwise from north. Griffith and I both calculate the direction to Mecca by the “great circle” or “shortest distance” method, the same method that Muslims use when they face Mecca for prayer.
Now Griffith is denying that there is a direction to Mecca, and as your article notes, this dishonesty is being foisted on the Families of Flight 93, who asked Dr. Griffith for his expert opinion. Everyone in the country knows that Muslims face Mecca five times a day to pray, and this professor is duping the families into thinking that there is no such thing as facing Mecca.
Why does the Mecca orientation matter? Because a crescent that Muslims face into to face Mecca is called a mihrab and is the central feature around which every mosque is built. The Bowl of Embrace redesign left every particle of the original Crescent of Embrace design 100% intact. All it did was plant some trees around it. You can plant as many trees around a mosque as you want and it will still be a mosque.
This particular mosque is a terrorist memorial mosque, with the 9/11 date inscribed on a separate section of Memorial Wall, centered on the bisector of the giant crescent (exactly in the position of the star on an Islamic crescent and star flag). There are 44 inscribed translucent memorial blocks emplaced along the flight path (equaling the number of passengers, crew AND terrorists), and much much more. Tom Burnett Sr. has asked Pennsylvania newspapers to start fact checking these easily verifiable claims. Pennsylvanians are still waiting.
Sincerely, Alec Rawls
Palo Alto, California
Jennifer Reeger refused to issue a correction last year [after she cited Griffith as denying the Mecca orientation of the crescent], and now you have twice more abetted Griffith. In July of this year, when Paul Peirce came out to the presentation I did in Mount Pleasant (leaving before the presentation, you ought to know), I told him very explicitly that that if he was going to use Griffith’s denials of the Mecca orientation of the crescent again, he had to go back and look at the report that Griffith gave to Jennifer last year and see that it actually confirms my factual assertion that the Crescent of Embrace is oriented almost exactly on Mecca. Instead, Peirce’s article repeats Griffith’s denials that there is anything to the Mecca orientation claim, without reporting that Griffith actually confirmed this orientation. Now Robin Acton has done the same thing, without ever talking to me.Acton sent me an email noting that her article was double bylined with Richard Gazarik, who she says wrote the Griffith portion of the article.
I suspect Griffith is behind this however--that it is HE who is positioning these statements as rebuttals when they are not--because that is exactly what he did in his formal report for the Tribune Review, and it is what he has done in his statements to other newspapers.
Griffith flat out told the Post Gazette and the Tribune Democrat that you can face anywhere to face Mecca, and he told the Tribune Democrat that really devious deception about the Nazi concentration camp: claiming that the crescent DOES face the concentration camp while denying that it faces Mecca, when his own calculations put the concentration camp and Mecca on essentially the same line.
Whoever said that the site would point to Mecca whatever its orientation is talking absolute, complete, rubbish. They either have no idea what they are talking about or, more likely, they are lying.
Unless the points are antipodes (exact opposite points on the Earth) then there is only one great circle connecting two points. There are only two directions then that point from one point to the other, and one is longer than the other, so the short one is the logical definition of "pointing towards". It is simple non-euclidean geometry to equate a great circle arc on a sphere to a straight line on a euclidean, planar surface.