Jesse Ventura Packs Mesa Convention Center for Political Gabfest, on 9/11, Immigration and Legalizing Pot.

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The gang was all there, and then some, to hear Ventura speak in Mesa.

You'll have to await next week's Bird column for a full accounting of Jesse Ventura's appearance at the Mesa Convention Center Thursday night. As you can see from the photo above, the Peter Boyle-lookalike packed the joint. Practically every screwball in the Valley was there, from John Birch Society recruiters and outgoing state Senator Karen Johnson, to the Guy Fawkes-mask-wearing anti-Scientologists of the "Anonymous" movement and the nutty Ron Paul-obsessed "Ronulans." Why, I haven't seen this many crackpots in one place since I worked the kiln in my college ceramics class. Ba-dum-pa.

I keed, I keeed, as Triumph the Insult Dog was wont to say. Actually, I found the evening both interesting and at times mildly amusing. I went expecting Ventura's address to be all about 9/11 conspiracy theories, since it was the anniversary of 9/11 and because the event was sponsored by a "troofer" group. But 9/11 took up only a fraction of Ventura's entire speech. Most of it was a rambling, extemporaneous recounting of Ventura's history, and his thoughts on a number of subjects, such as the legalization of marijuana (he's for it), immigration (he digs Mexicans), Al Franken's run for Senate in Minnesota (Ventura thinks he'll lose), and surfing (he wouldn't mind dying that way).

We've prepared a little podcast with some highlights and color commentary. (My first, so be gentle, people.) As for the hardcore 9/11 stuff, he says the error-ridden Internet flick Loose Change got him caught on the troofer bug. (For a thorough debunking of the film, check out Screw Loose Change's blog.) Also, the collapse of WTC building 7 convinced him that things weren't right in the official story of 9/11. He says this is because WTC 7 wasn't hit by plane.

Yeah, but it was hit by tons of falling debris from WTC 1 (the North Tower), which, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's recent report explaining the collapse, ignited day-long fires on at least 10 floors of the building, with the sprinklers out of commission due to a cut water main. Eventually the heat from the fires weakened the structure of the building and led to a progressive collapse. A controlled demolition was ruled out by the researchers.

The NIST press release on the WTC 7 report lays it out thusly:

Determining the probable collapse sequence for WTC 7, NIST found that the impact of debris from the collapse of WTC 1 ignited fires on at least 10 floors of WTC 7, and the fires burned out of control on six lower floors. The heat from these uncontrolled fires caused thermal expansion of the steel beams on the lower floors of the east side of WTC 7, damaging the floor framing on multiple floors.

Eventually, a girder on Floor 13 lost its connection to a critical interior column that provided support for the long floor spans on the east side of the building. The displaced girder and other local fire-induced damage caused Floor 13 to collapse, beginning a cascade of floor failures down to the fifth floor. Many of these floors had already been at least partially weakened by the fires in the vicinity of the critical column. This collapse of floors left the critical column unsupported over nine stories.

“When this critical column buckled due to lack of floor supports, it was the first domino in the chain,” [NIST WTC Lead Investigator Shyam] Sunder explained. “What followed in rapid succession was a progression of structural failures. Failure first occurred all the way to the roof line—involving all three interior columns on the most eastern side of the building. Then, progressing from east to west across WTC 7, all of the columns in the core of the building failed. Finally, the entire façade collapsed.”

But such conclusions, arrived at by scores of scientists over a span of three years, are a lot less sexy than a conspiracy theory, and a lot more complicated. That's why 9/11 conspiracy theories persist, and probably will indefinitely, right along with the belief in UFO abductions, Bigfoot, leprechauns and organized religion.



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