The Burdens of Success

Successful v Unsuccessful 1

That’s a nice fantasy, isn’t it?  People who have been successful in life want others to succeed.  They cheer when others triumph, and they always pitch in and lend a helping hand, right?

As much as I’d love for it to be true, this statement is utter bunk.  First, there are plenty of successful people who have no interest in making other people successful.  We heard them griping when people started pushing for higher minimum wages.  Oh sure, they tried to disguise their discontent as concern for the lower-middle-class workers on whose backs their mansions were built.  They said things like “Increasing the minimum wage will force us to eliminate jobs.”  But we know what they were really saying, don’t we: “This hurts my bottom line, and I’m not interested in helping those who have been less fortunate than me if it eats into my profits.”

While we’re at it, I’d like to talk about the confusing and conflicting definitions of success presented in each panel of this meme:  In the left panel, the indicator of success seems to be standing on a rectangle.  In the second panel, the Schadenfreude-possessed man is clearly standing on a rectangle, and has therefore met the implied definition of success established by the left panel – and yet the meme implies that this man is not successful.  So now I’m confused: is standing on a rectangle a necessary condition for success, or isn’t it?

Successful v Unsuccessful 2

If I may offer a counter-example, Dan Rather has had a long and very successful career talking about people.  Oh sure, he has talked about ideas as well, but a large portion of his job has been sitting in front of a camera and talking about people: who they are, what rotten stuff they’re doing, and what other people are doing about it.

I get the impression that this series of memes is less concerned about making you successful, and more concerned about making you a generally decent human being.  I would have no issue with these memes if they would just come out and say that; but I’m irritated by the insinuation that being a decent person will automatically make you successful (or, by extension, that successful people are all decent).  These memes seem to say “Look, if you just wouldn’t be so terrible, you’d be successful”, which comes perilously close to poor-shaming.

Successful v Unsuccessful 3

Okay, I have a lot of problems with this one.

First: the “successful” man is going to develop back problems if he keeps sitting like that.  No amount of success is worth constant lumbar pain.  Maybe he should use his computer to search for padded office chairs.

Second:  being asleep is not synonymous with being unsuccessful.  Everybody needs to sleep, successful or otherwise.

Third: Unsuccessful people do not necessarily think they know it all.  That’s an unfair generalization.  The implication is that unsuccessful people are complacent in their ignorance; in fact, there are lots of people who haven’t met the society-approved definition of success, yet who are nevertheless working determinedly to improve themselves.  Sometimes the going is slow; sometimes they are stymied by social barriers.  Sometimes the burden of being “unsuccessful” is a vicious cycle.

Successful v Unsuccessful 4

I have heard this exact same argument being used against disadvantaged minorities; to wit, poor black people need to take responsibility for their problems instead of blaming the white man.  It’s so easy to assume that an unsuccessful person got that way because he lacks motivation, talent, and perseverance.  It’s much harder to cast aside prejudices and consider the fact that some people are systematically prevented from tasting anything like success.  If a person is poor and comes from a poor neighborhood, certain opportunities are not available to him – at least, not without an unfairly steep struggle and a liberal helping of good fortune.  When you look at two people – one who has met only minor resistance in his rise to the top, and one who has had to strive for every inch of ground gained, only to have it snatched away at the whims of the elite – you might understand why the “unsuccessful” person would become bitter.  And yet this meme seeks to punish him for his bitterness, as if it’s not right for him to be angry at constant, systemic injustice.

What a blessing – nay, what a privilege it is to say “I alone am responsible for my failures”.

If I were to make a meme depicting what successful and unsuccessful people look like, it might read like this:

  • Successful People  They generally have a strong work ethic, yes, but also an ethnicity, religion, family background, and contacts that are highly suitable for the society that nurtured them.
  • Unsuccessful People  Take away any one of those things, and you’ve got an unsuccessful person.

Briefly…

God ends your struggles

Is it just me, or does this come across as kind of menacing?  I mean seriously, substitute any other name for God and this is an out-and-out threat.

“Soon Venus and Serena Williams will end all your struggles.”

“Soon Quentin Tarantino will end all your struggles.”

“Soon the barista at the Starbucks down the road – you know, the one with the red hair and a scar over his right eye – no, not the one who smells like waffles, the other one – the one with a limp…yeah, THAT one – will end all your struggles.”

Creepy.

On Police Brutality, Part 2

Wonka Cops

I found this execrable meme on the Facebook wall of a physician.

A physician.

If this is an indicator of the depths of his compassion, may you never find yourself under his care.

How stupid, how uncompassionate, how hateful is this meme?  Let me paint you a picture: If stupidity were a skyscraper, this meme would be the Burj Khalifa times five.  If naïve privilege were a lizard, this meme would be Godzilla.  If an utter disregard for due process were a puddle, this meme would be the Noachian Flood.

I think you get my point.  This meme sucks.  Allow me to explain why.

You’ve probably seen a lot of news lately about folks who have died while in police custody as a result of police actions.  I think that qualifies as “being treated poorly by police”.  Contrary to this meme’s implication, many of these victims had broken no law prior to their encounter with an overly aggressive police officer.  Sure, some did break laws, but their infractions were typically minor.  In each of the cases labeled “police brutality” – excuse me, where the suspect was “treated poorly by police” – the police response was far in excess of what was called for.

Most people have heard about Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Baltimore man who was arrested for possessing an illegal switchblade*.  Gray was loaded into a police van after an arrest that witnesses described as unnecessarily violent.  He may have been injured at this point, but at least he was still alive and breathing.  Less than an hour later, however, Gray was in a coma, having suffered severe injuries to his head, neck, and spine.  A week later, Gray was dead.

A follow-up investigation into Gray’s death revealed that his injuries were probably sustained during a “rough ride”.  A rough ride is when a prisoner is placed into a police vehicle without a seat belt, although his hands and possibly legs are bound.  The vehicle is then driven recklessly, with lots of violent starts, stops, and turns.  The prisoner is prey to his own inertia; his body is flung around like a rag doll, and in his handcuffed state he is powerless to prevent it.

Rough rides are not officially sanctioned by the Baltimore Police Department (or by any police department, one hopes), but it has been an unspoken part of police procedure for several years.  Gray is by no means the only person to be seriously injured in a rough ride, not even in Baltimore:

  • In 1980, John Wheatfall suffered a broken neck and became paralyzed in a police van.  He sued the department for $3 million, but was only awarded $20,000.
  • In 1997, Jeffrey Alston‘s neck was broken during a rough ride, paralyzing him.  Seven years later, a civil jury awarded Alston $39 million.  Alston settled with the city for $6 million, but unfortunately died in 2005 from complications related to his injuries.
  • Also in 2005, Dondi Johnson Sr suffered a broken neck in a police van.  Johnston died two weeks later from pneumonia associated with his injuries.  His family successfully sued the BPD for $7.4 million; the award was then reduced to $219,000.
  • In 2012, Christine Abbott was allegedly assaulted by Baltimore police officers responding to a noise complaint.  The officers arrested Abbott, whose clothing had been torn during the scuffle and who sustained minor injuries, and threw her in a police van for a rough ride.  Abbott described the experience as being “like a roller coaster”, although presumably not in a fun way.  Abbott was further injured during the ride and later sued the police department.

And sadly, there have been numerous other people harmed by excessive police violence.  It’s not an easy list to read, but it’s something we have to acknowledge.  It’s something the creator of this meme sorely needs to acknowledge:

  • Phillip White of Vineland, New Jersey, died on March 31, 2015, while being arrested by police for being disorderly and resisting arrest.  According to witnesses, White was already handcuffed and unconscious when police let their dog out of the car to attack him.
  • Victor White III of New Iberia, Louisiana, died under suspicious circumstances on March 2, 2014.  Here’s the story: A Sheriff’s deputy was responding to a report of a fight between two black men in a gas station parking lot.  He spotted White about six blocks away, and since White matched the extremely detailed description of the combatants, the deputy asked if he could perform a pat-down search.  White agreed, and was found to be carrying a small baggie of cannabis.  That’s all…just weed.  White was arrested and transported to the police station, where he allegedly refused to get out of the police car.  At that point, according to police reports, White produced a gun (that the deputy had somehow missed during the pat-down) and proceeded to shoot himself in the back…all while his hands were cuffed behind him.  The autopsy ruled his death a suicide, but said that the bullet had entered his chest instead of his back.
  • Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic man in Fullerton, California, died on July 10, 2011, five days after being severely beaten by police.  His crime: looking into car windows and pulling on their handles.  A bystander recorded the brutal assault by multiple police officers, during which Thomas can be heard frantically apologizing to the police and begging for his father to help him.  On at least one occasion, Thomas moans “They’re killing me.”  Heartbreakingly, he was correct.
  • Jorge Azucena ran a red light and led police on a chase on September 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.  When he was finally apprehended, he suffered from a severe asthma attack.  He tried to tell police that he could not breathe; they ignored him.  By the time he reached the station, he was too weak to walk.  Officers dragged him into a holding cell and began to process him; his heart stopped before help could arrive.

And what about the completely innocent people killed by police?

  • On March 7, 2006, Joseph Hamley was shot and killed by Arkansas State Trooper Larry Norman, who mistook him for escaped convict Adam Lee Leadford, despite the fact that Hamley was four inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Leadford.  Norman plead guilty to negligent homicide and served 54 days of a 90-day sentence.  He was later granted a full early medical retirement at the age of 40.
  • On October 7, 2009, a 15-year-old special-needs student named Marshawn Pitts from Dolton, Illinois, was slammed against lockers and the floor by his school’s safety officer, resulting in a broken nose.  Prior to the altercation, the officer reprimanded Pitts for not having his shirt-tail tucked in, a requirement of the school’s dress code.  Pitts allegedly made a rude comment to the officer, then tried to walk away.  In the aftermath of the incident, the officer resigned his position.
  • Back in Baltimore, a Marine veteran named Tyrone Brown was shot and killed on June 5, 2008, by off-duty police officer Gahiji Tshamba, after Brown allegedly made inappropriate sexual advances at Tshamba’s girlfriend.  Tshamba pushed Brown away, drew his service weapon, and shot Brown…twelve times.  Tshamba would later claim that Brown caused him to fear for his life, but witnesses at the shooting say that Brown had turned to leave when Tshamba shot him.  Tshamba was convicted of manslaughter and is serving a 15-year sentence.
  • On April 2, 2005, police from Golden Valley, Minnesota, handcuffed, pepper sprayed, and arrested Al Hixon for a local bank robbery, despite numerous reports that the suspect was a white man driving a white van, and Hixon was a dark-skinned black man driving a Jaguar.  Although no officers were charged in his false arrest, Hixon was awarded the largest police brutality damages in Minnesota history.

Want to know the saddest thing about this list?  It wasn’t that difficult to compile.  I literally had hundreds of cases to choose from, and that’s what makes it so baffling that anybody could create or pass on a meme like this one.  It should be so obvious that our country has been plagued, especially lately, by unjust arrests and police brutality.  We can no longer afford to believe that every arrest is called for, that every use of force is justified, that every shooting is necessary.  We can no longer blame the victims.  We can no longer assume that everybody who falls under a group of police officers’ punishing clubs is in fact a hardened criminal.  We have lost the luxury of naïvety; now we must be realists.

Lest you think I’m calling for the total expulsion of police officers everywhere, that is certainly not the case.  Police serve an invaluable purpose when they do their jobs well.  In an ideal situation, police are the knots that hold society’s threads together.  But there is a lot of power in those knots, and the rest of us must be hyper-vigilant and critical of the people we trust to wield that power.  And so should the police.  The police must clean up their own ranks if they want to regain the full trust and good faith of the public they serve.  It would benefit them well to do so.  No more excuses.  No more cover-ups.  No more lies.  Police departments must acknowledge the cancer that is slowly devouring the public’s faith in them, and then work to excise it, swiftly and totally.  Whenever a police officer ignores or excuses the problem, instead of acknowledging it and dealing with it head-on, he endangers himself and all other honest cops.  He increases the likelihood of difficult encounters between the police and the public.  By refusing to treat the wound, he allows it to fester.

I’ll close by amending the meme that inspired this post:

Antipolice


*For what it’s worth, Freddie Gray’s knife was deemed legal in the state of Maryland, although a police task force claimed that it was illegal within Baltimore city limits.

No More Monkey Business

Apes and Monkeys

Except that’s not true either.

Humans are not monkeys.  Humans are apes.  Apes are not monkeys.  Look, it gets complicated.

Let’s start at the top, shall we?  Humans are primates; and on this point just about everybody agrees (neglecting Creationist arguments that humans are somehow distinct from all animal orders and are a clade unto ourselves).  Primates are divided into two sub-lineages:

  1. strepsirrhines, which include lemurs, lorises, bush babies, and pottos.  The streppies (an unofficial name which I have just now coined for them) are characterized by their wet noses and by their ridiculously adorable large eyes.
  2. haplorhines, which include tarsiers and simians.  Happies have dry noses (except during pollen season, am I right?) and the all-important ability to make comical facial expressions.  I’m totally serious about that: haplorhines have a lip adaptation that enables them to contort their faces into all sorts of goofy shapes that are, sadly, beyond the reach of strepsirrhines.

Humans are haplorhines and simians.  Imagine what Jim Carrey’s career would have been like if humans were streppies.  Anyway, as is often the case in the biological classification game, each hierarchy has hierarchies above and below.  Simians are divided into even more specific groups:

  1. The flat-nosed, or New World monkeys (from Central and South America), which include: marmosets; tamarins; capuchins and squirrel monkeys; night or owl monkeys; titis (snicker); sakis and uakaris; and howler, spider and woolly monkeys.  As the name implies, New World monkeys are all part of the nefarious New World Order, which, with the help of the Illuminati, are poised to take over control of the entire world.
  2. The down-nosed simians, which include Old World Monkeys (from Africa and Asia) and the apes.

Now let’s pause for a moment and reflect on what we’ve learned.  Humans, apes, and monkeys all share a relatively recent (by geological standards) common ancestor, and we’re all part of the same order.  But let’s wave goodbye to the monkeys, for it is at this point that humans and our ape brethren take an evolutionary detour.  Once we start down the path of apeness, ne’er another monkey shall we see.  So what is it that distinguishes apes from monkeys, structurally speaking?

As this page explains, apes tend to be larger than monkeys (although there is a slight overlap in general body sizes).  Apes also lack tails, have a broader chest than monkeys, and are often able to walk upright (and in the case of humans, do so almost exclusively).  The apes belong to a superfamily called Homonoidea, and (surprise!) this group may be further divided into smaller groups.

  1. The lesser apes – a hurtful epithet if I’ve ever heard one – include the gibbons of India, China, and Indonesia.
  2. The great apes: chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, bonobos, and yes – humans.  Great apes are generally larger than all other primates, have a more upright posture, exhibit some degree of sexual dimorphism (meaning males and females differ markedly in appearance), and have nimble fingers that can be used to make and wield tools.

So here we are, at the tail end of a hierarchy of hierarchies (as are all other extant species; I didn’t mean to imply that humans occupy a position of evolutionary superiority).  Humans are apes, and apes are not monkeys.  Apes and monkeys are related, but the relationship is more like that of very distant cousins.  The meme’s second line should properly read “Think of yourself as a beautiful ape.”

Because you know what?  You are a beautiful ape.  You really are.

A Devil of a Misconception

Heat Doesn't Rise

Okay, ha ha.  This is kind of funny, but it merits discussion because of the Stupid phrase “heat rises”.  That’s utter nonsense, and we’re going to talk about why.

People often use heat as a synonym for hotness or temperature, but it’s not the same thing.  From a physics standpoint, temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of the molecules in a body.  When an object is hot, its molecules move around faster than they do when the object is cold.  Heat is the spontaneous transfer of thermal energy from a region with high temperature to a region with low temperature.  If you have a block of, say, iron, with a temperature of 400º Celsius, and you place it right next to an iron block with a temperature of 20º Celsius, heat will flow from the 400º block to the 20º block until their temperatures are the same.  (This example ignores heat lost to or gained from the surroundings, which will complicate the issue somewhat.)

Why does heat flow from the hot block to the cold block when they touch?  The hot block’s atoms are vibrating faster, with more energy.  When the atoms of the hot block vibrate against the atoms of the cold block, vibrational energy gets transferred primarily in one direction; from hot to cold.  The hot block loses energy while the cold block gains it.  The hot block’s atoms decrease their wiggling, while the cold block’s atoms increase.  The situation reaches equilibrium when both blocks’ atoms have the same average kinetic energy; i.e. when they have the same temperature.

So heat itself – as a transfer of thermal energy – does not have a natural tendency to move upward; it follows the temperature gradient, whatever direction that may be.

But perhaps you know from experience that the attic of a house is warmer than the lower levels, or that steam rises from the surface of boiling water to form droplets on the lid of a pot.  And of course hot air balloons soar above the countryside.  Aren’t these textbook examples of heat rising?

Well, they may be textbook examples; however, any textbook that parrots the phrase “heat rises” is contributing to a widespread misconception.  But now we’re no closer to understanding the problem:  If heat has no natural tendency to rise, why is it that, especially in gases, hot regions tend to rise up while cold regions tend to sink?

Slightly more sophisticated textbooks use density and buoyancy as a tool to explain why, say, a hot air balloon is capable of soaring above the countryside.  As a parcel of air is heated, its molecules move faster, they correctly point out.  As the molecules move faster, they tend to expand a bit, which lowers the overall density of the parcel.  The surrounding air, which is cooler and therefore more dense, buoys the hot air parcel skyward, in much the same way that dense seawater buoys up an ocean liner.

This explanation is better than the perfunctory “heat rises” account, and it would probably suffice for an introductory physical science class, but the sharp student will see through it.  Sure, it makes sense to claim that the air in a hot air balloon rises because it is more-or-less thermally isolated from the surrounding air, but that doesn’t explain why an unconstrained warm air mass tends to rise or why a similarly unconstrained cold air mass tends to sink, as in weather systems.  After all, there is no envelope or barrier between these two air masses.  Shouldn’t they interact and exchange heat, thereby equalizing their temperatures and preventing any net movement of the air?

In the absence of gravity, they might.  We have to dig deeper if we want to really understand why a warm air mass would rise above a cool air mass (or why the first level of Hell would be the hottest).  We have to get all the way down to the molecular level.

All molecules are subject to gravity, and they experience a downward force that is proportional to their mass.  But molecules – particularly gas molecules – also bounce around randomly and collide with other molecules.  Now this might sound bizarre, but in a body of colliding molecules, there is a net tendency to transfer momentum upwards – in other words, the bazillions of collisions that happen with a typical gas parcel tend to work against the pull of gravity.

When a parcel of air gets heated, its molecules speed up (on average) which means there are more frequent collisions within that parcel; ergo, there is an increase in the net upward momentum of the parcel’s molecules.  Heating a gas actually increases its parcels’ ability to bounce themselves away from the ground.  The molecules in a cold air parcel collide less frequently, ergo, the molecules tend to bounce around less vigorously.  When a cold air mass meets a warm air mass, the molecules in the warm air mass naturally tend to bounce off of and above the molecules in the cold air mass.

(On a related note, when powerful solar flares strike Earth, they dump lots of energy into Earth’s atmosphere, causing it to expand outward.  This can increase the drag on Earth-orbiting satellites and shorten their useful lives.)

So to sum up:

  • Heat has no inherent tendency to rise, even in Hell.
  • Heat is the transfer of thermal energy from regions of high temperature to regions of low temperature.
  • The molecules in a hot air mass move around faster, which means they collide more frequently than the molecules in an adjacent cold air mass.
  • The increased frequency of collisions in the hot air mass enhances the molecules’ upward momentum compared to molecules in a colder air mass, therefore:
  • A hot air mass tends to rise above a cold air mass.

I find it inexcusable that the devil is lecturing Joe about his lack of science knowledge, especially when he doesn’t quite get it himself.  According to some theologies, Old Scratch was present almost from the beginning of Creation (in fact, some sects hold that Satan is the author of the physical world.)  You’d expect him to be more well-versed in the physics of the atmosphere.  Then again, Satan has been called the Father of Lies; maybe he delights in spreading scientific misconceptions?

One more thing before I sign off…and this is really just a nitpick:  How is it that Satan did not know Joe’s name, but was able to determine that this was the same Joe that cheated on a test in 3rd grade?

Water We Fighting For?

Water Restrictions in California

While this meme aims at a real imbalance that needs to be addressed, it is Stupid and Bad enough to miss the mark.  Allow me to explain.

Recently California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order to address dwindling water supplies across the state.  Governor Brown’s executive order includes a sweeping set of restrictions on water usage; sweeping, that is, to everybody except the two largest water-using industries in the state of California: agriculture and oil.

Agriculture alone uses 80% of California’s water and produces 69% of the nation’s commercially available fruits and nuts.  The oil industry uses about 2 million gallons of water a day, some of which is used in the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  One can certainly appreciate why the average citizen, being part of the minority in terms of water usage, bristles at the thought of being asked to make the majority of the sacrifice.  It does smack of unfairness, which is why attention ought to be paid.

But this meme…this is no good.  The data in this meme are mismatched, and therefore incompatible without some number crunching.  Since I’m not a Californian, I’d like to review this meme with a somewhat more objective eye (if I can fairly use that word – objective – to describe what I do in this blog).

Let’s start by assuming the meme is correct in its assertion that it takes 1.6 gallons of water to flush the average Californian commode.  Let’s further assume that every Californian flushes only once per day (and to be honest, it’s probably more than that).  There are about 39 million people living in California, and if we multiply 39 million by 1.6 gallons, we get…carry the five…about 62.4 million gallons of water being used every day to flush toilets.  Over the course of a year, that’s…hang on, let me get out my slide rule…about 23 billion gallons of water!  That’s considerably more water than two of the examples the author picked for his meme.  And remember, I gave everybody in California only one flush per day.  Also, I didn’t account for any water that might be used for showering, cooking, brushing teeth, et cetera.

The author of this meme is trying to make a point, and as I said before, I think it’s a valuable point:  if John Q. Public is going to be restricted in terms of water use, then so should the largest water users in the state.  But the author is going about it the wrong way.  By bizarrely choosing to focus on some specific points in California’s water usage profile, the author has missed the big picture.  This is why memes seldom work for complex topics; in an effort to cram your opinions into a small, digestible meme, you have to gloss over a lot of complexity and thoughtful consideration.  When you do that, you lessen the impact of your arguments, and you make it easier for your critics to dismiss them.  I agree with the author’s implied statement that the water restrictions mandated by Governor Brown’s executive order are lop-sided, but if I didn’t agree, it would only take me 30 seconds with a calculator to determine that I could safely ignore the content of this meme…and its author.

Someone Needs a Debris-fing

Pentagon Debris

We’re going to be talking about plane crashes, obviously.  If you’re particularly saddened by news of the recent crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 into the French Alps (and I can’t blame you if you are), you may wish to scroll on by.

This crash was tragic, not only because of the loss of life but also because co-pilot Andreas Lubitz’s mental illness may have pushed him to intentionally drive the airplane down.  This meme claims that the debris from Flight 9525 was spread over 215,000 square feet, or roughly the same area as two city blocks.  I suspect the terrain surrounding the impact site may have constrained the spread of debris, but it’s hard to say for sure.

The second part of this meme is utter nonsense.  There were many pieces of airplane debris found in and around the Pentagon in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, crash of American Airlines Flight 77.  What this meme’s author means is “I can’t personally see any airplane debris in the pictures shared by the 9/11 ‘Truther’ websites I frequent; therefore, none was ever found.”

What kind of debris should one expect to see in the wake of a plane crash?  Of course it depends on many factors, not the least of which is the intent of the pilot.

When a pilot is trying to avoid a catastrophic crash, he focuses on reducing the plane’s speed (if possible).  With less speed, the plane has less kinetic energy.  It may break apart on impact, but the pieces will be larger.  Whole engines or sections of fuselage may survive the crash.  Since most airplane crashes are accidental, we’re accustomed to seeing debris fields featuring large, mostly-intact sections of the airplane – evidence that the pilot saw what was coming and did his or her best to mitigate the damage.

But when a pilot is intentionally trying to wreck the plane, he does not slow down.  The hijackers aboard Flight 77 intended to hit the Pentagon with full force; as a result, the destruction of the plane was total.  The plane’s body was ripped into tiny shreds by the crash and ensuing explosion.  If you can’t look at post-crash photos of the Pentagon and see huge chunks of airplane littering the lawn, it’s because the airplane was thoroughly reduced to small, twisted, scorched shards of metal.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, complaining that no wreckage is visible in the post-attack photographs of the Pentagon’s west lawn is similar to complaining that no pine cones are visible in the same photographs.

Furthermore, most of the wreckage would have been carried inside the building by the momentum of the airplane.  There’s a well-known law in physics (well-known to everybody but 9/11 “Truthers”, apparently) called the Law of Conservation of Momentum.  The Law of Conservation of Momentum states that the momentum of an object tends not to change, unless that object is acted upon by an outside force.  If the object splits into smaller parts, each part carries a fraction of the original object’s momentum proportional to its mass.  Furthermore, if that object collides with something else, the total momentum is spread out over all the bodies involved in the collision.  In any case, overall momentum is conserved.

When American Airlines Flight 77 struck the western face of the Pentagon, it had a lot of momentum.  That momentum was spread out to millions of tiny pieces, each of which tended to keep moving in the same direction as the original airplane.  Most of the airplane’s wreckage would be found inside the Pentagon building, because that’s the direction the plane was going.

Are there photographs of plane wreckage taken inside the Pentagon building?  Yes, but they’re not easy to come by.  Most of the early photographs are private or government property and are not open for public viewing.  By the time FEMA captured the first public domain images on September 14, much of the debris had already been cleared from inside the building.  The remaining debris was torn, twisted, and charred to the extent that it was virtually impossible to distinguish from the rubble of the Pentagon itself.  Sarah Roberts, writing for Rense.com, presents some of the publicly-available images.  They show the chaos that can only result from an airliner deliberately being flown into a building.  Debris is clearly visible; including a wheel hub characteristic of an airliner’s landing gear.  The website 911review.com offers another critical analysis about why “Truthers'” claims vis-à-vis the Pentagon are all wet.

The fact that the meme’s second statement can be so easily debunked by a moment of searching demonstrates “Truthers'” violent allergy to the actual truth.  When their claims are shown to be flagrant falsehoods, many “Truthers” respond that they are “just asking questions.”  What’s wrong with asking questions, man?  Nothing’s wrong with asking questions, if you’re honest enough to accept the answers.