Category Archives: Conspiracy

Grand Conspiratorial Fantasies

Other98

The image at right was culled from a friend’s Facebook wall a few years back. It is merely the introduction, the building 7 of this rabbit-hole of a conspiracy post.

You might well ask, what does the image mean? Anyone who doesn’t recognize Morpheus from The Matrix movies really needs to go back and do some homework before reading this. The Matrix is its own introduction to conspiratorial thinking, a rabbit hole of its own metaphorical making. However, the  text on the image is misleading. Anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns.  If the candidates from the party do not pander to the big spenders (i.e. the corporations) then the party will not get the funds they need to win, meaning their ideology will never take root directly in the politics of the nation. All parties work for corporations, even the third parties. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable.  This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple. There is no other way to fix the problem of corporations buying the parties and the candidates for office.

I have no problem with the image. I probably don’t have a problem with the website the image came from, although I haven’t spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild after it was released. I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall.  Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends do indulge in conspiracy fantasies though, and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.

Grand conspiracies are ludicrous, starting with the phrase conspiracy theory. Grand conspiracies aren’t theories.  A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error.  The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community. The fact that nearly half of Americans reject the theory of evolution merely serves as a painful reminder of just how misinformed most of us are.

Grand conspiracies aren’t conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address.  A hypothesis has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation. Grand conspiracies tend to ignore all evidence and instead look for anomalies that can be held up as examples of failure for explanations the grand conspiracy believer doesn’t like. Phrases like magic bullet get thrown around, as if the unexplained will remain inexplicable forever.

Grand conspiracies are conspiratorial conjecture, nothing more. They are stories that are told to entertain. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies.  When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you. When the Facebook friend (mentioned previously) made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his post, I recognized the reference immediately (Rothschild Skeptoid episode) It is an old anti-Semitic/white supremacist fabrication. Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews, which says more about you than about anyone else.

I’ve argued with this guy and his friends over beers before. I know there is no convincing him that his pet fantasies were meaningless. Rather than hopelessly resign to having to ignore him once again, I tried to tangent into a discussion of the gullibility of conspiracy fantasists. I linked this video of Rebecca Watson discussing a recent study on that subject,


Rebecca Watson May 18, 2015, No Shit Study: Scientists Show Conspiracy Theorists Will Believe Anything

Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated was that “the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren’t real”  which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real. Well, they aren’t real. Of course chemicals are delectable in airline contrails. The planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn’t that hard to figure out.

…Unless there is a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All that is required is to entertain your curiosity without engaging your critical thinking skills. If you ever learned to think critically in the first place. Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.

If you, dear reader, think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then you are probably also a conspiracy fan, lack critical thinking skills, and are as gullible as the study she talks about shows. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into, just like Alex Jones does. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They’ll never know you’re pulling their legs.

The conversation with the Facebook friend proceeded to spiral down the rabbit hole, into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales, immediately following my attempt to explain their gullibility to them. Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn’t anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is.  Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time, and I really didn’t want to have to hear about Building 7 one more time. I didn’t want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they believe at me one at time, each time certain that it can’t be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.

So why are grand conspiracies fantasies? Scale. That’s really all there is to it.  Fantasists who support whatever conspiracy I sent you here to inoculate yourself against (if you got here without my linking this article in a discussion, well done!) will likely talk about the Gulf of Tonkin incident or Watergate or more recently, Edward Snowden. Well, Watergate wasn’t a grand conspiracy. It relied on about ten people keeping their mouths shut, and that conspiracy not only failed because ten people couldn’t keep quiet, it failed because Nixon was taping everything said in his office. He was that paranoid.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, like the revelations of NSA spying, are the very stories that illustrate the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them.  The NSA spying was anything but secret. Oh, it was officially denied like Tonkin was denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret.  Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.

It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true.  The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there. They certainly don’t point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact. The NSA’s spying program, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tuskegee experiment, Project MKUltra, etcetera, are all hallmarks of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.

After once again being forced to ignore an old friend, I’m left wondering why is the US such a misanthropic nation? Why do we obsess over these silly fantasies that cannot possibly be true? Perhaps the reason why so many Americans believe conspiracy fantasies is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray.  Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there “Them! They did it! It wasn’t me!” rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics.  I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?

However this willful blindness to the state of US politics on the part of the people whom the government supposedly represents does have a cost. It is not all fun and games as we pretend that lizards run our country and that we narrowly missed being governed by a pedophile in the last election. Conspiracies do exist, yes. And when they are represented in plots hatched by a foreign government, especially on that speaks a different language and is on shaky ties with the US to start with, they can be quite large and even link to the leadership of that government, and still take years for us to catch wind of it.

It turns out that the Jade Helm 15 fantasy that took the nation by storm during the Obama administration came from somewhere, and that somewhere wasn’t inside the United States. It was created by Russian operatives as a testbed to see if they could alter US politics by sowing discord.

If you think the president can just wave his big Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo and declare martial law, you really don’t understand how your government works – but then again that’s not even a little bit surprising given a sitting US senator such as Ted Cruz apparently doesn’t understand how the very government he is part of works either.–  Stonekettle Station, Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas

So the answer was yes. Yes Russia could and did interfere with our politics; and they continued to do it from that point straight on through the 2016 presidential elections that gave us the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) as president.


TEXAS STANDARD|Michael MarksMay 4, 2018 12:38 pm|SECURITY EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA IS WINNING THE DISINFORMATION WAR

Texas Tribune

A former director of the CIA and NSA said Wednesday that hysteria in Texas over a 2015 U.S. military training exercise called Jade Helm was fueled by Russians wanting to dominate “the information space,” and that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation gave them proof of the power of such misinformation campaigns.

Michael Hayden, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast, chalked up peoples’ fear over Jade Helm 15 to “Russian bots and the American alt-right media [that] convinced many Texans [Jade Helm] was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents.”

Abbott ordered the State Guard to monitor the federal exercise soon after news broke of the operation. Hayden said that move gave Russians the go-ahead to continue — and possibly expand — their efforts to spread fear.

“At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying, ‘We can go big time,’” Hayden said of Abbott’s response. “At that point, I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process.’” – Texas Tribune, Hysteria over Jade Helm exercise in Texas was fueled by Russians, former CIA director says

Does this mean that the OHM is a Russian stooge? No. No it doesn’t. Why? Because those links are tenuous and unproven. Likely unprovable. He is a money launderer and a client for Russian oligarchs, but he isn’t an invisible bomb-throwing ninja of the scale necessary to pull off that kind of spy intrigue. He’s just another conman who was used in a con that targeted the American people. The sooner we figure that out and get him out of office, the better everything will be.

However, he is one of the people who believed the Jade Helm story at the time. Just like Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Just like Ted Cruz. This is the cost of believing this conspiratorial fairytales. The cost being that these people have been shown to be unfit for office. They are far too gullible to be trusted with handling the daily business of our government. Unfortunately for the average American, they’re still caught up in so many other conspiratorial fantasies that they probably haven’t noticed that their leaders have been shown to be just as clueless as they are.

A previous version of this was originally posted here.

Fear Mongering in the Anti-GMO Age We Live In

Real Bullshit

The attached image was posted on the Snopes Facebook group with the usual question attached, is this true? No. No it’s not true, but it sounds emotionally true to anyone who thinks farming is a clean business, or that food is somehow sanctified by nature when it grows wild somewhere. Even in 1913 farmers bought seeds from seed producers, and if you are doing science you use the tools of science like the bunnysuit pictured in the bottom half of the image in order to avoid cross-contamination between the various test crops you are working on. If you want clean food you have to engage in cleanroom practices. The fact that the 1913 farmer who is grinningly sweating all over the food he’s offering you doesn’t seem to phase anyone screaming about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Farmers want to buy seed from seed manufacturers because, and most farm raised people know this, the hybrid seeds are hardier and produce better crops. My farming Uncles in Kansas proudly wore their Dekalb caps, announcing they used Dekalb’s proprietary hybrid seeds. They could afford to buy good hybrid seed because of the demand for corn crops to feed the nearby beef producing industry. If you are a smart farmer you grow the crops that other industries demand in bulk quantities, because farming to meet corporate demands will pretty reliably produce profits for the farmer.

Hybrid seeds are the end product of crossbreeding which has to be duplicated every year by the seed producing corporations. Hybrid seeds cannot be harvested and then replanted the next year, and most farmers do not have on site storage to hold the seed volumes they would need to replant what they sowed the previous year. Nor is that a good farming practice, to replant the same crop year after year. Most farmers with an understanding of soil fatigue will rotate crops from one field and one season to the next field and season. It is a dance that takes decades of work to understand, and patience that daunts the imagination to comprehend.

The problem here is not the ownership of the seed technology or that it is GMO based. The problem is a yawning chasm of understanding between people raised on farms and familiar with farming practices, and the city dwellers who don’t know the gory details involved in getting their food to the market, and aren’t actually interested in learning about them. Most organic food consumers would decide to starve to death rather than put the stuff that is produced in their mouths in the first place; or would if they actually did understand just how dirty the entire farming process really is.

Found in the wild on the internet. 

GMO’s are a good thing. GMO crops are the answer to several of the health problems we face today. Problems like vitamin A deficiency in areas that subsist on rice giving rise the the Golden Rice project, one of several positive GMO developments I listed in this article. GMO saved the Hawaiian papaya industry, and Hawaii promptly banned all new GMO’s from the island. Tellingly, the GMO papaya is one of the few organisms they didn’t ban. If we are going to have bananas on the table in the near future, we will have them because we will Genetically Engineer a banana that is resistant to the fungus currently wiping out banana crops. The list goes on and on and on.

Consumer ignorance of exactly what GMO is (one third of people surveyed did not realize that all food has genes in it) is causing massive problems in the sugar industry because the roundup ready sugar beets they are relying on are the subject of targeted boycotts by ignorant consumers. There are no substitutes for these beets which can replace them without massively larger pesticide spraying regimens, but the farmers will doggedly attempt to switch back to the products that sell even though their farming operations are not set up for the kinds of demands that older methods of farming requires. Only big agri can swing that hammer, and they have regulations written (like organic regulations) specifically to allow the kinds of farming they find profitable and available.

Organic foods are not any better for you, nor are they more organic than any other product on store shelves. Every living thing we’ve ever encountered or created is organic. Nearly every chemical we produce was discovered in nature first and is therefore natural. Nine tenths of the loud, shouty, feary statements about GMOs and food are baseless and indefensible and yet they continue to spread.

How quickly we forget as a species that people still die of hunger all over the world every single day. Someone died of hunger in some city in the US in the short time it took me to write this article. In the early 1900’s there was a crisis looming on the horizon. The human population on the planet was increasing at a rate that farming practices of the time could simply not match. People in Europe and America were going to start starving to death in ever increasing numbers if something wasn’t done to increase the crop yields that farmers produced. The Green Revolution solved that crisis by enabling farmers to meet the growing food demands of the population.

We are facing another crisis in food today and it will take new technologies to bridge the gap between what we can produce now in the relatively stable climate we’ve enjoyed throughout human history, and what we will be able to produce tomorrow as the climates change and the need to produce food with fewer byproducts drives the research into lab-grown meat and aeroponic and hydroponic plant farming techniques. We will either have to embrace these new kinds of food, or we will starve. Choose wisely.


Here’s a fun test. Type “Natural Food” into your favorite search engine and look at the images that come up. Now look at all those organic and natural food images. Red apples. Giant tomatoes. Bright yellow bananas. Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? With these images in mind, understand that none of the images are of naturally occurring fruits and vegitables. Not a single image is of something found in nature unmodified by man. No really, they aren’t natural foods.

a Daily Mail article on this subject.

This image shows a natural plant, a plant found in nature before humans altered it, and what foods we created from it. That is a natural plant, the food we get from it is man-made in the sense that most people use. If what we create is natural then all foods are natural and organic and the labels attached to them are nothing more than marketing. The idea that foods are natural? That Adam and Eve ate an apple in the Garden of Eden? The idea that there were recognizable apples in the beginning of human evolution some hundreds of thousands of years ago? This is the depth of misunderstanding that is encouraged in the average consumer.

Caveat Emptor

the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. – Google search result

A few days ago it was announced that Hillary Clinton will attend the inauguration of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States. Of the groups I belong to where this was posted, almost no one took the tack that I would think made sense in the kind of weather we are about to be facing. Most people lauded her for being big enough to go to the swearing in for the victor in the election she most wanted to win. I believe the complete opposite. I don’t think she should go. I don’t think anyone should go. Trump should have to pay attendees to show up. He should have to pay for the judge to swear him in. That is how we should hold him to account for all the bills he’s never paid, and for all the bills he’s going to make us pay.

We have reached that point in US politics. That precise political instant where it will profit us to understand what the words Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware really mean.  Donald J. Trump is a successful businessman as so many of his supporters insist. He is his own biggest booster. He talks about himself incessantly, Tweets pictures of himself constantly, congratulates himself publicly for things that he thinks he’s done whether he has actually done them or not.

But he is a businessman, that much is true.

There are many different kinds of businesses. One might easily argue that there are as many different kinds of business as there are people doing business; however the real estate developer is a special kind of business animal. They ain’t quite like any other form of business on the planet, these real estate developers. Their business is selling their delusions. Delusion is an essential part of the psyche of the real estate developer, and it helps if he is a charismatic delusional because he has to infect the people he talks to with his delusion. He has to infect them with his delusion, or they won’t give him their money, their property, their effort.

Let’s say you want to re-purpose a downtown Washington D.C. post office, just to pull a random location out of thin air. We’ll pretend we’re going to take this random location and turn it into a hotel. Not just any hotel, but the most fabulous hotel you’ve ever seen. I mean beautiful, you know? The first thing you need to do to start this project is actually not what you might think. No, the first thing you do, before anything else, is get money for the project. If you have money, then you can influence people to see things your way. You can say “you see my investors over here? They believe in me. They’ve promised me money, so this is going to happen one way or the other and I know you want to be part of this.”

The problem is getting the money for the stake, for the start of the process. People don’t give you money for nothing, not even if you are trustworthy and you ask real nice. No, you only get money if you have collateral, something you can promise to the lender in exchange for their capital investment. Now, depending on who has the money and where the money came from, what your collateral can be is very flexible.

It is a dirty little secret in the real estate business, especially development and construction, that a large portion of real estate development is done for the purposes of laundering money. It isn’t merely happenstance that some of Donald J. Trump’s business partners are a little on the shady side. That is the kind of money that a big developer needs access to. Liquid capital, and lots of it. The people with dirty money know they are going to lose at least half of their money just making it clean anyway, so they really aren’t interested in tight accounting practices. They just want their share when the clean money starts coming back in.

In New York City back in Trump’s starting days, you didn’t do business in real estate without being friends with several of these types of people, and Trump knows and dealt with them for as long as he was active in real estate there. What do I know precisely? Nothing. I don’t know anything about his business and the sad part that fact is this; all of us should have demanded we know before electing him to the highest office in the land.

Sign the petition

I can tell you that the reason we never saw his tax returns is he doesn’t want anyone to know how much money came in, how much money went out, and who the money went to. How much money he currently has, and how much debt is stacked against it. Those are the things no one can know aside from his bookkeeper, and I guarantee you that person isn’t talking to anyone. The one thing bookkeepers are paid for is discretion and they know it.

When Savings & Loans were a thing, I worked for a few different real estate developers. I was the guy who had to make the developer’s delusions look real. I was the draftsman/graphic artist and eventually a staff architect in several different firms of architects. But back in the S&L days I was just a flunkie newb draftsman and what I did was what the developer told me to do. If he wanted letterhead for a new company, I made new letterhead. If he wanted art for a cover, I drew or found better artists to draw convincing art to sell his delusions, his dreams. My drawings were my stock in trade and my drawings were masterpieces of illusion, because very few of them were ever built. But damn they did look good when I was finished with them.

I have actually lost count of the number of different proposals I worked on back then. It was one every few months at least for several years. The number of sales pitches I’ve heard really aren’t important for this story. But the charisma? Oh, yeah. They all had it in spades. You’d believe any damn thing they told you while they were talking to you. It was only later that you would kick yourself for agreeing to do whatever stupid thing they asked you to do. But invariably the dream of getting paid would be too much and you’d do the thing on the off-chance that the crazy guy could sell it, and damned if they didn’t generally get something for their effort.

When I say they got something for their effort, I mean the real estate developer got something to show for our efforts. They usually made off like bandits. As a paid flunkie draftsman I punched a clock and I got paid, even paid time and a half for time over forty hours a week. You don’t work less than forty hours a week if you are drafting for someone who wants drawings ASAP.  So the pay wasn’t bad compared to the minimum wage I had been making previous to studying drafting. But what I made was chickenfeed next to what they banked, and you’ve never heard someone whine so hard about writing you a check until you’ve had a developer by the balls, him needing his next drawings, and you won’t give them up till the check is in your hand.

That is rule number one when dealing with a developer. You don’t do jack shit until at least half the money is in your hand. If you do work on contingency for a developer, you are working for free.  You are working for free because he never has to tell you whether he made money or not, which generally means not. Not for you, anyway.

So let’s say you’ve been around the block a few times. You’re pretty savvy. You know your contracts and your in’s and out’s. You know to get money up front and to get signed contracts before doing any work and all that business school stuff they teach you or you learn from hard knocks along the way. None of that means a thing to a developer like Donald J. Trump.

Nope. That’s what shell corporations are for. The best (and when I say best, I mean wealthiest) architects in the business also use shell corporations. You create this legal fiction and you make it responsible for all the contracts you sign as a businessman. This is all completely legal and above board even though it is a fiction you are engaged in. You pay all your employees and rent and utilities on your place of business through that corporation; but don’t forget the important part of this equation. You also pay yourself a salary.

In fact, you can be paid a salary from all the corporations you own at the same time. All you have to do is justify the expense to the board, and if it is a shell corporation the board is probably you or someone you appoint to say yes to the things you want. So spend a half-hour a month, make a half-million dollars. No one will complain because no one will know except you and your bookkeepers.

I left the best part for last. When you pay yourself too well (and Donald J. Trump does this in spades) you just get to walk away from your contracts. The business you created and hopefully sold beforehand (that is the important part) will go bankrupt, sure. But that really isn’t your problem. You paid yourself a salary and that debt comes before paying contracts. Designers and craftsmen, engineers and architects; everyone who signed contracts and aren’t working for a wage, they get the scraps. You and the investors walk away smelling like roses with freshly laundered money in your pockets.

It is a neat financial trick, one that Donald J. Trump has repeated 6 times now. He has been sued more than 4,000 times. You don’t rack up that many bankruptcies or get sued that many times unless you are doing something bordering on illegal. Bordering on illegal is still legal though, and that is what counts.

Ruthlessness and business acumen only get you so far. You still fall prey to the same failures to predict the future that everyone else does. The crash of the gaming industry nearly did him in. Even he didn’t understand just how big the financial bubble we were all sitting on was, and got caught flat-footed just like everyone else as the Wall Street money dried up and Atlantic city’s gaming industry cratered. But hey, that is when the charisma that someone like the Donald has really comes in handy.

If you’re good at it (and Trump is very good at it. Just ask him, he’ll tell you) you can turn yourself into a TV star if you work hard enough at it. He hawked himself onto every media outlet that would have him, spending so much time on radio that he became the butt of several jokes in the New York area radio business. But it paid off in the end, just like he knew it would deep in his delusional heart. The only reason he has any money today is because The Apprentice and its spin-offs have made money, and he made money just like everyone else who works in TV does, successful or not. If you are working you are making money in television. And if your show has ratings you make lots of money. Producers can make more money than anybody and they do less work if they know what they are doing. The Donald talked his way into a producer’s percentage, and he still gets paid to this day for producing the show that he no longer works on.

But down deep in his rotten heart, Donald J. Trump is still that delusional little kid that thought a million bucks gifted from his father was a pittance. The same guy who took dirty money from shady characters in NYC to finance his early projects. The same guy who believes every single lie he’s ever told just to make the next buck in a nearly endless line of billions of bucks. Believes those lies and every single conspiracy fantasy he’s asked to put stock in by people like Alex Jones and Breitbart news. He believes them but knows they are false. It doesn’t matter, because the charisma makes him the next buck, and the next buck is what really matters.

That is why we as citizens of the United States need to understand caveat emptor, and we need to understand it now. It would have been better if we had understood it before November 8th, but that deadline passed and we were #MAGA in a big enough percentage in the wrong places. He’s going to be sworn in as the leader of our country on January 20th, with a congress willing and able to do his bidding, if actions and trends are to be believed.

h/t @JuddLegum

He will have the keys to the White House soon, and we need to understand that this life-long con artist is about to pull off the biggest con of his life.

…and that he has no idea how to do the job we’ve given him.

The wealthy believe that they shouldn’t be governed by the same laws as the rest of us. The lives they lead are almost unbelievable to those of us who have never had more money than we could spend on a single purchase.  Trump is one of these people. He has always lived that lifestyle.

Trump has no intention of doing any of the things his predecessors in office have done in order to earn our trust while they are in office. He will not be selling off his businesses, he’s pretending his children will run them without consulting him. He will be in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution from the moment that he takes his oath of office; because he will be paid by someone staying in one of his hotels, visitors from foreign governments, on the same day (probably within the same hour) that he swears his false oath.

His contempt for our system goes far beyond simple greed, his need for more money and more fame. He’s hired relatives to run parts of the administration in violation of nepotism laws. He’s named appointees for cabinet seats that have clear conflicts of interest. He’s named appointees who have declared their intention to destroy the department they will be in charge of, pretty much across the board. He’s been bought and paid for by billionaires across the country who are counting on him to deliver on the promises he’s made to roll back clean energy and approve expanded drilling and pipeline proposals.

Robert Reich asked Facebook What do you think? in the wake of Trump’s pick of former Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. What do I think? I find it impossible to take anything about this election seriously; which is weird, because I was one of the people who took Trump seriously from the beginning and discounted his chances with the voting public because he was demonstrably unqualified for the office he was seeking.

Every. Single. Thing. Every Single Thing. Everything that he has done since the election has demonstrated, again and again, just how unqualified he is financially, mentally, temperamentally.

He can’t be president.

…and still the media people act like he can be president and “aren’t you outraged about this?” I’m well beyond outraged now. The surreality of the approaching cataclysm, surrounded by the same old news organizations parroting the same old garbage news as if there would be a United States for us to live in if this dangerously deranged person were to be allowed to take and hold the office of the president for the next 4 years has me all but convinced I’m the only real person in a video game gone horribly wrong.

He can’t be president. If they make him president anyway the US won’t be here for long if we don’t remove him and may not survive his removal if we do. You may well say “that can’t happen” but I guarantee you the average inhabitant of the USSR never thought that they would be reliant upon the truncated government of Russia and the other severed states of the former Soviet Union, either. But they did all the same; and if you think that isn’t Vladimir Putin’s favored dream, the end of the USA, then you really don’t understand the mind of a former KGB agent turned dictator like Putin.

Caveat Emptor; Buyer Beware

Donald J. Trump is going to step up to take that oath in less than 24 hours now, and you as an American citizen need to understand that you are about to buy into something with no warranty and no guarantees, and you had best inspect each and every proposal put forward by these delusional people as if your very life depended on it because it very well might.

He will come into office with a House of Representatives packed with delusional people who think they can spend money and cut taxes at the same time (it worked for Bush. Temporarily) and there is only so much more of our debt that the Chinese will be willing to buy. Willing to buy from His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump, that is. He has insulted the Chinese more times than I can count now. Apparently no one has told him that the Chinese have been the biggest buyer of American debt for several years now.

That debt load the country has been carrying? That is about to come due. Guess who will have to foot the bill for paying it? We will, the citizens of the United States. That bill and all the money Trump spends or puts in his pocket during his brief term in the White House. We have to pay that. Us, our children, or grand children and their grandchildren. But not Donald J. Trump and his family. No, they don’t pay taxes, because they are smart. So they won’t be paying the bills, at least not directly and not in a way they would notice. The currency will inflate and those of us with the least will go hungrier than we are now. We’ll lose property to foreign investors spending dollars we’ve convinced them to buy as debt. Federal lands will be privatized and sold. Federal programs will be privatized in the name of cost-cutting.

The latter will go as well as the private prisons did; private prisons that will once again be approved by the Justice Department under its new leadership. Public schools will disappear into voucher programs which won’t cover the cost of teaching poor children who won’t even be able to feed or cloth themselves properly because there won’t be jobs for their parents (automation being the reasons low wage, low skill jobs are disappearing. It isn’t outsourcing and immigrants #MAGA once again) and there won’t be welfare for them to rely on. There certainly won’t be any healthcare unless you are wealthy or lucky enough to qualify under the newly restrictive measures imposed on that program.

Don’t believe me? Remember that wall the #MAGA wanted Trump to build, the wall he said he’d make Mexico pay for? We’re going to pay for it. But trust Donald J. Trump when he says he’ll bill Mexico for the cost of the wall. The wall that there will already be tunnels under when it is built.

Illusions are important when you are trying to sell someone on your dream of pocketing that next dollar.

In reality, Trump’s administration is a rebuke to the very notion that the public interest diverges in any way from private ones. The Labor Department will be run by a man whose interest in the field is dominated by a mania for cheap labor; the Environmental Protection Agency will be run by a virtual pass-through for fossil-fuel interests. Trump’s government will make policy by and for the rich and well-connected. As Politico reports, “the extent to which donors are stocking Trump’s administration is unparalleled in modern presidential history.” As Kudlow makes clear, Trumpism regards the fear that government might favor capital over labor or some other public interest as inherently nonsensical.  

New York Magazine ‘The Wealthy Would Never Steal’ — A Credo for Trump’s Party By Jonathan Chait


Waking Up With Sam Harris #54 – Trumping the World (with James Kirchick)

Since Obama’s election in 2008 it has become fashionable amongst the conservative elite to pretend that they never were in favor of anything government might do. Anything a government headed by a black Democratic president might do which equates to not in favor of government, embracing anarchism from behind. Too bashful to look anarchy in the face, but heading down the road to anarchism all the same.

Now they find themselves with the reigns of power, all of the reigns of power, unexpectedly in their hands. These people have clearly voted for what they believe is a strong leader. People who want that leader to ignore the constitutional limitations on the office of president. People who want desperately to pretend that their opponents are the bad guys. The brownshirts. The people who want to destroy America. The truly surprising thing about the current crop of conservative Republicans isn’t that they are ignorant; as in, they don’t know that fascism was a right-wing ideology. That strong central leadership is one of the defining attributes of dictatorship. No, the surprising thing is that they know what the truth is, but simply deny it because they want the opposite to be true.

Willful ignorance.

I’ve seen this type of willful ignorance applied to atheism, to evolution, to climate change. But I never thought I’d see the day when they denied their own political ideology, their worship of the strong leader as being anything other than what it truthfully is. This is newspeak/newthink on a really frightening scale. They have to know that they are being false, but they simply lock that knowledge away and blithely pretend that white is black and black is white. I don’t know of any way to deal with this level of insincerity (I first noted in conservative pundits like William Kristol and Pat Buchanan) no way to deal with this level of denial of reality short of eradication. Open warfare. I’d love to hear a way to get through to people who have voluntarily shut their brains off. Please let me know if I’m missing something here.

I mean, they can’t be reasoned with. They simply redefine everything to mean the opposite of what it is for their own convenience. They not only lie to everyone around them, they lie to themselves and believe the lies. This is why Donald Trump is their current leader. He is the king of liars, leading a host of liars.

After eight tedious years of one wild-assed glassy-eye conspiracy theory after another, after nearly a decade of endless birthers and a parade of truthers and more goddamned lame-ass Benghazi reboots than the Batman franchise, after robot alien reptiles in rubber human suits, after Obama is a Muslim, Obama is gay, Obama went to Mars (no really, there are people who believe the CIA teleported Obama to Mars as a teenager, twice, and those silly sons of bitches write me letters), Obama killed Antonin Scalia, Obama has 39 different Social Security numbers, Obama secretly worships Satan, Obama is going to invade Texas, Obama was adopted, Obama’s wife is a man, Obama’s kids were stolen from Africa (because Obama’s wife is a man), Obama is a commie, Obama is a Nazi, Obama refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Obama is a time traveling super-villain here to gayify white Christian babies with his Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo, and etcetera, and etcetera, and etcetera up to the part where conservatives are actually floating the idea Obama is conspiring with Hillary Clinton to kidnap kids for some world-spanning Soros-funded pedophile wholesaler operating out of a pizza joint in Washington D.C (which they’ve figured out from “clues” they “deciphered” by reading John Podesta’s emails which were stolen by Russians and fenced via an international criminal organization run by a guy who actually is  wanted on sexual assault charges), after 8 years of that, let’s not resort to the same defective Creation-Science based reasoning here. Please.  

Jim Wright, StonekettleStation – Resolutions

The problem with #MAGA, this indefinable need to take America back to a previous era; is that America was never the place they believe it was. The problem is also deeper than that. America has a near-terminal case of amnesia when it comes to its own history.

America became someplace else after WWII. Before WWI, before the crash in ’29; before all of that, the US was mostly farms and light industrial manufacturing focused on delivering products to Americans who needed them. There were no interstates, no giant airports, no Military Industrial Complex. There were just farms and farmers and a few scattered cities that corresponded to centers of government or industrial manufacturing.

After WWII we became aware of our power. More importantly, our leaders became aware of it and used it to throw our weight around the globe, influencing other nations to enter our circle of friends, the people who would get rich off of our prosperity with us. Today we consume most of the production that the world generates, while paying little to nothing for it aside from letters of credit. Demanding what we want at the point of a gun, as we have done since the 80’s, is getting old now. The rest of the world is beginning not to care what we whiney Americans want, and they aren’t going to keep buying our debt.

The system which worked following WWII has come to it’s functional end. It is time for a new system to be born, and I don’t think the world is ready to take on that herculean task. I don’t think we can afford to wait, either. This change since WWII, this focus on the Military Industrial Complex and it’s servants in Washington D.C. are why Philip K. Dick’s stories have played so well in the last few decades. There is a madness there in his stories, a madness that the man himself suffered from profoundly. That madness is echoed in the world around us, the disconnection between what is real and what we want to be real. It is almost as if we didn’t win WWII. It is almost as if we… lost?

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”
— Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951)

Don’t be shy. Step right up. And tell me in detail, point by point and line by line, why I have set an impossibly high standard. Tell me why liberals can’t compromise their sacred principles when it comes to abortion or gay rights or the goddamned endangered snail darter or some pipeline in North Dakota, but you just can’t bear the thought of not being able to call Melania Trump an orange cum-guzzling whore on my Facebook page. 

Jim Wright, StonekettleStation – No Middle Ground

If the Democrats had not let the Clintons control the party the way they did, if Hillary had allowed real competition at the top of the party and ticket, not forced an outsider to challenge her, if the people who want justice and equality from their system get up and join their local precinct meetings now, if the Democratic party itself embraces new technology to ramp up inclusion; then we’ll get candidates with a broad base of grassroots support rather than the crop of power brokers we currently have to pick through.

But that just deals with the open question of who to vote for in 2018 and 2020. That doesn’t get us through the next two years. Doesn’t get us through the harrowing times that await us on the other side of January 20th.

With The Art of War firmly in mind; Rather than meeting your enemy on their battlefield, pitch your tents where you want to fight. Make them fight on your battlefield, out in the open where greater numbers (and we have greater numbers than they do) will turn the tide of battle and we will be able to win handily.  That observation relies on the vast majority of Americans to take an interest in their own government. I’m not holding my breath on this occurring since Americans getting off their couches and doing anything proactive in the realm of politics would be an unprecedented act in the history of human governance.

Which is why I repeat the title of this post again, one last time.

Caveat Emptor; Buyer Beware

I have practiced this principle almost by rote for most of my adult life, having pretty much always been poor since leaving my hometown in Kansas. I can’t afford to be taken to the cleaners by shady dealers. I prefer to think of caveat emptor more as due diligence; ensuring that what is being promised is reality, making sure that what you are buying is actually what the seller claims it is. When money is tight and purchases are made on promises and shoe strings, you have to know that what you are buying is actually going to do the thing you want it to do.

I say all this, every single word of it that I’ve written on the subject of Donald J. Trump or his 3am rage tweeting alter-ego The Orange Hate-Monkey over this past year with the personal knowledge I have gained through experience. That we have elected a con-artist to the presidency.  That when you are forced to deal with a con-artist you keep your hands on your wallet and don’t agree to anything without seeing it first in writing; and even then, don’t let go of those purse-strings. Keep your legal representation on retainer and make a point of running every single thing the con-artist says to you past your counselor before responding in any fashion to him.

Above all, understand that you’ve already bought whatever it is he does while he has the office of the president in his control. If that knowledge keeps you up at night, then you are just beginning to glimpse the nightmares I’ve been having since November 8th.

I’ll see all of you at the polls in 2018. I hope.

On Flat Earthers

Flat earthers are a outgrowth of modern man’s separation from the physical world.

Ancient man spent a lot of time around sea shores and lake shores. Spent hours at a time being forced to contemplate the horizon. They had direct visual confirmation that the surface they were on was curved. Boats sailed (and still sail if you can pay attention long enough) visibly over the horizon. This is probably what motivated Eratosthenes to try to work out what the actual distance around the Earth was, and he did it in the 3rd century BCE.

Modern man, wrongly informed that ancient man thought the world was flat; and especially modern religious zealots already prepared to discard all of science in exchange for heavenly salvation (or at least willing to sacrifice evolution) finds it quite easy to never notice the curvature of the Earth that he still can see if he simply looks.

That is why they call it “wilful ignorance”.

The Orange Hate-Monkey

There is a definite sense of the surreal in my reality this week. I was behind in most of the podcasts I listen to, because I was trying to follow the news right up to election day. I have blissfully ignored most of the news since Tuesday, with a few glaring exceptions that I will get to shortly.

I mentioned the podcasts for a reason. I have been wading into the swamp of audio that has flooded my feed in the last two weeks, putting off listening to episodes of Waking Up, as one example. I’m saving those for when I have the capacity to concentrate on serious philosophical subjects again. I’m tossing out the dross that is no longer relevant now that reality has shifted post-election. Don’t really need to keep abreast of the latest tech, so no TWiT.tv for awhile. The science podcasts are my bedrock, though; which is why the last episode of Inquiring Minds has deepened the surreality I’ve been experiencing since Tuesday.

(the eyeless, open-headed logo for the show is creeping me out as it stares at me now)

Listening to the people who attempt to defend their affinity for the Orange Hate-Monkey in the podcast isn’t helping. Oh poor, misunderstood me whining by rural whites strikes me as just this side of pathetic. As if urban blacks don’t have problems, haven’t had worse problems for the better part of two hundred years. The fact that the researchers on this podcast are so divorced from the truth of the matter, that the reality-disconnected people they have been interviewing actually turned out to be the ones who had the last laugh, that they got their American Psycho candidate on a collision course with the White House, in the face of the researcher’s own blithe belief that Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in for the presidency, isn’t helping with the surreality of this moment in time.

When I coined the phrase Orange Hate-Monkey, I wasn’t just being mean or childish. Repeating Chris HayesBirther-in-Chief label is something I do mean and childishly. Like the label for his profession, Real Estate Developer, which is just another form of epithet for an architectural design professional like myself, Orange Hate-Monkey is an attempt to describe the particular type of reality disconnect I perceive when this dangerously psychotic man speaks.

The man (and I use that term loosely. I assume he has working male parts because he has children he claims as his own. He isn’t a man in any other fashion that I can determine) does love to talk, and other people seem to find his blather endlessly amusing for reasons which I cannot fathom. No matter how many times I yelled at my television screen “why are you asking this liar questions when you know he will just lie to you?” in the last year, no one ever seemed to stop and ask if this person they were talking too was really all there, mentally.

All I ever heard in his voice was deception and hatred. All real estate developers have a looser than average grip on reality. It is a hazard of the job, sizing up the real estate you can afford and then putting lipstick on that pig so that you can get the best price. Sincerity sells, so they learn to believe their own bullshit more fervently than anyone else around them, more fervently than used car salesmen, even though they know it is all bullshit. As a real estate developer, these delusions are an asset to be utilized.

You sell the delusion. The delusion is all you sell, as a real estate developer. The sales receipts go in your own pocket, the development bills go to the corporation you create as a front. When the time comes you walk away with the cash, leaving the corporation on the rocks to soak up the costs your delusions incurred. This is the business model of the real estate developer in question, the Orange Hate-Monkey. Theft of service, his standard of practice. He is still in the same business.

Politics is almost pure delusion, stories we tell ourselves and each other to further a social agenda. Every single one of us creates a narrative in our heads that is mostly false, except to us. That we are more important than we are. That our opinions matter. That our votes count. That we know what is real and what isn’t. That what we think is real is real, as if our thinking it makes it real. That our leaders think of us when they do their jobs. That our leaders value us beyond the vote we cast, the duties we can perform. None of this is true, except to us individually. Internally. As a part of our narrative.

The notion that eleven million people can be deported from the United States, as the Orange Hate-Monkey stated when he launched his campaign, is pure delusion. No matter how many racists and sociopaths work the numbers in pretense that this is an exercise divorced of prejudice or bias, the fact is that Hitler wanted to deport the Jews prior to having to institute the final solution, and he only had to get rid of six million people. All the hand-waving in the world will not change what it is they want to do when they actually embark on the road to doing it. He and they are the American fascists we have been warned about, and that isn’t even touching on the promise to exclude Muslims from the country.  The corollary with the holocaust is even firmer there, and so is pointless to belabor.

The great wall he wants to build, can’t be built. This is also a delusion. Engineers have weighed in on this. It would alter climate (explain that one away, please) and render several bird species extinct, even if it could be built. Mexico won’t pay for the wall that can’t be built, either.  Insisting otherwise is just that much more evidence of mental instability, not a firmness of resolution.

Then we get to the real subject of his mental instability, aside from the beliefs about the place of Obama’s birth. That would be his blatant denial of science.

Science is almost the opposite of politics. Science is one of the very few things which we can say for certain is real. Science is quite likely our only link to objective reality; and that only briefly, in glimpses. Science can determine when someone is lying or not. Science can determine when the globe is warming, and what those warming effects might be. Science can say that evolution is a fact, even though I’ll lose half of American’s attention asserting this fact as fact.

I add that last point consciously, just as I crafted the phrase Orange Hate-Monkey consciously. It’s all well and good to talk about being able to establish facts, it is another thing to start telling people they might need to get an electric car, or that they are related to their dogs and cats far more closely than most religious people are comfortable accepting. But those are facts all the same, and denying those facts sets you on the trail to madness, to insanity.

Like the moniker Orange Hate-Monkey, I crafted the phrase Conspiracy Fantasist for a reason. I have consciously rejected grand conspiracy theories and derided them as fantasies ever since I started noticing the woo, the craziness, which is rampant in health discussions. Almost without trying I can summon a dozen arguments I’ve heard concerning Big Pharma and GMO’s and I could spend all day and all night for the rest of my life arguing fruitlessly with science deniers on these subjects, but that isn’t why I bring this subject up. I bring it up because once you start questioning science as a basis for determining the likelihood of truth, all logic goes out the window and anything can be real. Everyone has a conspiracy fantasy that they hold dear including yours truly, but if you don’t know that what you are harboring is a fantasy you leave yourself open to manipulation by people who do that for a living.

A real estate developer is one of those kinds of people. A real estate developer that appears to believe every single conspiracy fantasy that comes along, believes it right down to his soul, will use those fantasies to sell you on what they want you to buy and they will drink that koolaid right along with you, because they believe just as strongly as you do.

Therein lies the problem.

As much as I am ignoring the news this week, I can’t help but notice certain facts that rise to the surface. The Birther-in-Chief is floating cabinet appointments and Supreme Court nominees and the disconnect with reality that is present in these selections begins to be painfully obvious. Ben Carson for Health and Human Services? Yeah, the guy who is in the back pocket of an MLM (read that as Pyramid Scheme) he’s got his own problems with perceiving reality. A fracking billionaire for Department of Energy. An oil man for Secretary of the Interior. Bridgegate Christi as the Attorney General. That will be pretty hard to pull off after he is disbarred. Serial philanderer Giuliani is even less attractive. Flynn for Defense. A climate denier for the EPA.

Big Bang Theory card, pre-election

As you go down this list, this basket of deplorables, you begin to notice that all of those names, all of them, are vociferous supporters of the Orange Hate-Monkey’s conspiracy fantasies. Nearly all of them are climate deniers, birthers and other types of fringe-thinking lunatics. The dangerous disconnection with reality that he already displays will not get any better with any of the names he offers up as his advisors.

Our problems just get worse.

There is no requirement that the president be of sound mind, even if we wanted to advance the Birther-in-Chief’s soundness of mind as a basis for disqualification. Here is the passage from the Constitution,

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

The oath of office doesn’t mention it,

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Big Bang Theory card, post-election

Although any attempt to imprison a person without due process, as he has threatened to do on the campaign trail several times, would be an impeachable offense. Consequently anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton should go to jail can just sit down and shut up now, unless they want him impeached. Go ahead and goad him, I will not stop you.

Our last hope to keep this dangerously deranged person, this person who is only going to get more deranged in office, is the electoral college, and I see little hope in that. As Robert Reich noted recently, Hillary Clinton only needs forty-two electors to change their vote to her, and we avoid the cost, pain and violence that will be required to pull the Orange Hate-Monkey out of our government by the short-hairs. As much as I will be right there with Senator Sanders when the Stormtrumpers show up for minorities and Muslims, it would be so much simpler if the electors just did their jobs and made sure the person who won the popular ballot is named as the president-elect. That the person they name isn’t under federal indictment. That the person isn’t currently awaiting trial. That the person isn’t actually dangerously psychotic, mentally deranged and a sexual pervert to boot.

#TrumpNotMyPresident

I’d settle for it being Hillary Clinton, but I think you get the point. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2,000,000 votes. She is the third Democratic candidate to do this and not win the election in the last twenty years. City residents, people who tend to be more liberal, are clearly at a disadvantage electorally. What is needed is a change in state laws, something like this. Maryland is the latest state to say #TrumpNotMyPresident 11 other states have also passed this. Let’s see if we can get all 49 to pass it. It is either that, or we liberals will have to occupy all the state houses until they do. State houses which are all inside large cities. Where the liberals are.

In any case, I’ll see you on the other side of December 19th, at least when it comes to the subject of someone officially becoming the President-Elect, which the Real Estate Developer is not and hopefully will never be. Maybe the world will look brighter then.

Challenger 30 Years Later

“Everyone knows how they died, we want people to remember how they lived.” – June Scobee-Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee

(author unknown)

At 10:40 am on January 28th 1986 the space shuttle Challenger was issued the command “go for throttle up” and the subsequent explosion ended space’s age of innocence. I remember where I was that day. Like most of our memories of those kinds of events, it is probably full of holes and exaggerations.  But I do remember it.  I also remember honoring the Challenger crew’s sacrifice with the crew of the (can you remember the name before you read it?) Columbia.  For quite some time my personal page at ranthonysteele.com had a memorial page for the Columbia and Challenger as a tribute to the sacrifice of both crews.

High Flight
(the pilot’s creed)

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth 
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; 
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds,
–and done a hundred things 
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung 
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, 
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung 
My eager craft through footless falls of air… 
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue 
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace 
Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew– 
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod 
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space, 
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee

The above was found in a particularly moving article by Nigel Rees (on another now dead website) describing how the poem came to prominence and caught the attention of Ronald Reagan (or one of his speechwriters) who later remembered it and uttered it in memoriam for the Challenger crew. It was the words of Columbia commander Rick Husband that caused me to go looking for the poem back in 2003, when he unknowingly forshadowed his impending death by observing;

It is today that we remember and honor the crews of Apollo 1 and Challenger. They made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives and service to their country and for all mankind 

Four days later, his shuttle burned up on re-entry.  I was awakened from an uneasy sleep that Saturday morning, by the ringing of the phone.  One of our fellow space enthusiast friends calling to tell us to turn on the news.  Columbia had been destroyed.

Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia, whose crews were all killed within the space of a week on the calendar, if over 36 years in elapsed time. That is the way it has been for ten years and more for me.  I’ve kept notations on my calendar since the Columbia disaster, so that I could remember these crews and their sacrifices on the anniversaries of their deaths.

Space.com

The space program means a lot to the Wife and I.  She’s become so heartbroken that we still don’t have a permanent lunar base for her to immigrate to that she refuses to discuss the subject of space in any other form than as a betrayal by the US government of the people of the nation, especially people like she and I who dreamed of going to space someday.  My balance issues convinced me long before I became disabled that I would never have made it to space anyway, so I don’t take the betrayal personally.  But it is hard to argue that we weren’t lied to when the ISS is a shadow of its promised size and scope, and that moon vacations still aren’t a thing we can experience.  Not to mention the complete abdication of NASA’s involvement in space as it pertains to getting supplies to and from the ISS, the reliance on Russia to transfer astronauts to and from the station via 1960’s Soyuz technology.  These are dark days for space enthusiasts when it comes to manned space missions.

So I was a little surprised that I hadn’t noted that today was Challenger day until listening to the BBC World News podcast. As I frequently do, I paused the program and went over to the browser on my phone and inquired about current articles on the Challenger disaster that might be worth sharing.

Top of the list was this piece over at Gawker. It is probably worth mentioning that I have a love/hate relationship with Gawker, the name of the website itself recalls miles of freeway made impassable by hundreds if not thousands of people who just have to look at automobile accidents. Maybe I’m weird, but I can still summon up images from my high school drivers education classes, so I don’t need a refresher on just how we lemmings die encased in steel on US freeways.

The subject of the article was even more enraging than a freeway pile-up that keeps you from getting where you need to be until several hours late, though;

…after the disaster, over time, a different and more horrible story took shape: The Challenger made it through the spectacular eruption of its external fuel tank with its cabin more or less intact. Rather than being carried to Heaven in an instant, the crippled vessel kept sailing upward for another three miles before its momentum gave out, then plunged 12 miles to the ocean. The crew was, in all likelihood, conscious for the full two and a half minutes until it hit the water.

This particular bit of conspiratorial fantasy really isn’t news.  The briefest perusal of the wiki entry on the subject of the Challenger disaster will reveal that it has been premised that the astronauts survived the initial breakup. It isn’t even controversial anymore. There is little evidence either way on the subject, and knowing they survived (or that the crew of the just as tragic Columbia disaster survived) the initial breakup only to be killed later really doesn’t prove anything, or provide any great insight into either tragedy.

I remember picking up at least one supermarket tabloid in the months after Challenger went down that purported to have written transcripts of the last moments of the crew as preserved on the flight recorder.  That concoction was a total fantasy, beneath even the satirical minds of the writers of the Onion today; and the grisly nature of interest in the last moments of the life of a person about to die tragically is something that I’ve never had the stomach for.  That there would have been panic from trained military flyers even in the face of certain doom is very doubtful. As more than one pilot has mentioned to me over the years, the most common last words on flight recorders is oh, shit.  That is because trained pilots are too busy working the problem to realize that ultimate failure is about to kill them until the last moment. When it is too late to panic and have that panic recorded for posterity.

NASA image STS 107 launch
Some of the experiments survived

The pilots of Challenger and Columbia were both powerless to save themselves and their crews. That is the true nature of these tragedies.  The decisions that cost their lives were made by people above them in authority, people who were willing to risk the lives of others even when the engineers who designed those systems stood solidly against launching under the weather conditions present at the time.

Failure of the O-rings caused the Challenger disaster. It is doubtful that a parachute system or some other secondary contingency could have worked in the specific scenario the evolved in that launch. There was a way to decouple the shuttle from the tank and glide home, but that contingency failed with the explosion of the central fuel tank.

Ice and foam chunks damaged the leading edge of the wing of Columbia during its last launch.  There was no way to rescue the crew once they were in space without risking another crew flying under similar conditions, if the next shuttle could have even been made ready in time. Thinking back to the steely-eyed missile men who brought Apollo 13 back home, one wonders what they might have done if they had still been in charge when Columbia was in space.  Would they have risked an EVA to check the wing? Probably. Would they have found a way to get a rescue mission up to Columbia in time to get the crew off?  Maybe. Was there some way to seal the wing in space so it could survive re-entry? People familiar with the mission said no, still say no.

Hindsight is always 20/20. There would have been no need for a parachute contingency (and the added weight/cost) had NASA listened to its own engineers in 1986, because they recommended a scrub and were over-ruled on the subject.  A similar discussion occurred just prior to the launch of Columbia as well.

I have recommended this book several times on the blog, Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War.  If you really want to understand just how stupidly large human systems fail, read that book.  You will come away with a completely different view on history and on current events.  The failures of the shuttle missions in particular remain haunting to the American psyche in ways that so many of our other failures do not. Perhaps this is because they touch on the hopes and dreams of so many. Perhaps because they remain the most visible black marks on the aspirations of this country.

New York Daily News

Personally they represent the end of manned space exploration missions in my lifetime. That is what I think of most bitterly when I recall the aftermath of the Challenger disaster. I remember the teacher Christa McAuliffe and her brave, hopeful words.  Her energetic wave as she boarded the transport heading for the shuttle.  I remember thinking upon hearing of the shuttle’s destruction there goes my chance to get into space.  Because that is what it meant, what the tragedy still means to me to this day. The end of hope for a brighter future.  With that knowledge comes acceptance of our limitations as human animals and a greater understanding of just how fragile we creatures are. How fragile our home is.

We may be stuck on this rock for awhile yet, so we probably should figure out how to keep it safe for the time being. Try to avoid that next big thing heading our way.  What is it? Only the future knows.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
– Hanlon’s Razor

JFK Assassinated 52 Years Ago Today

Originally posted here, radically enlarged and embroidered here, I’ve copied this to the day it should have been published on, and will be published on in the future if the wild hair suits me. Conspiracy fantasists are getting on my nerves these days, and I don’t feel like cutting them any slack.


One of the most widely accepted conspiracy theories in the US remains the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Just last week I heard someone suggest that Oswald didn’t act alone.  Statistics show that more than half of US residents agree with this statement, and are convinced to this day that Oswald was a patsy, silenced by Jack Ruby a few days after the assassination.

For many, many years I was one of those people. I read several books on the subject, watched every documentary, even went to Dealey Plaza once simply to stand next to the spot where Kennedy was shot. In many ways the assassination of JFK was the lynchpin for all of my conspiratorial thinking; it was the first conspiracy theory I had ever heard, it was the most solidly defensible of any of the many popular conspiracies that cropped up later (so much so that even the US government has agreed there was a conspiracy, contradicting the findings of it’s own commission that investigated the assassination) and once I was led to question that theory, my belief in all those other theories also crumbled.

Why shouldn’t they, when they didn’t even have a magic bullet to hide behind?

The trip to reality was long and arduous for me. It started about the time I started writing this blog, and continues to this day.  Every single thing I read these days sends me off looking for corroborating sources and counter-arguments, just so that I can be sure I’m dealing with real facts and not some fever dream of the magical thinking majority.

I wish I had access to Case Closed when I was a young man looking for facts on the JFK assassination.  The depth of investigative research that Gerald Posner has gone to is unequaled amongst the many different authors on the subject.  Here is an interview with Posner from 2013, discussing the mountains of evidence linking Oswald to the killing, and detailing the kind of man Oswald was.

If Case Closed had been available to me when I first started looking into this subject, I never would have started down that rabbit hole of conspiratorial thinking in the first place.  Would have simply come to the conclusion ah, Oswald shot Kennedy and left it at that.  But I didn’t have access to that book back in the 70’s when I was into the subject.  I don’t even remember the titles of the books I did read; but I do remember The Men Who Killed Kennedy documentary being something I watched and rewatched many times, as well as the Oliver Stone film JFK which I remember receiving quite credibly.

Except for one thing.  The repeated mantra back and to the right which Stone puts in Garrison’s mouth in the film. I actually went back and reviewed the Zapruder film because of this, and discovered that the motion he insists is there really isn’t there at all.  The film clearly shows the headshot coming from the back and above, just as Posner says in the video.

But I didn’t have Posner.  Never ran across his book until recently, while listening to back episodes of the SGU (like so many good skeptical habits I have picked up) what I had was my own inability to ignore evidence when it is presented to me. What I stumbled across was this re-enactment (one of several) proving that the magic bullet was nothing of the kind. That the trajectory of the bullet is mappable and repeatable given an accurate reproduction of the events of that day.

First off is The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy clips of which are assembled here;

The second source of video was a very detailed recreation of the exact poses of the victims taken from Zapruder film footage, that were mocked up by Anatomical Surrogates Technologies for the  documentary JFK: Beyond The Magic Bullet .  (full video available in three parts here) While the shot does appear to strike too low, the trajectory is almost identical to the bullet on that fateful day.

Lastly we have the recreation of the headshot showing that the direction that Oswald fired from was indeed the only direction where the damage seen to the President’s head can be replicated.  For those who simply aren’t convinced by the replication of the magic bullet’s trajectory.

Conspiracy theorists will of course come up with reasons why this proves nothing. Personally I see no reason to continue pretending that Oswald did not kill Kennedy.  If you feel the forensic tests are simply not enough evidence, then I encourage you to pick up a copy of Case Closed.  If none of this suffices, then I suggest you look to your own mental barricades. If your beliefs cannot be falsified, it says as much about your failings as a critical thinker as it does the indefensibility of your opinions.


h/t to NeuroLogica

New this year, the long derided photo of Oswald displaying the same model rifle as the one that killed Kennedy has been scientifically analyzed and found to be genuine.

As Dr Novella goes into on his blog entry, conspiracy theorists attempt to discredit evidence that would seem to destroy their preferred fantasies by picking apart the details of the evidence, looking for the slightest anomaly that they can then use to discredit it.

Having watched The Men Who Killed Kennedy I remember the attempts to discredit this photo and the autopsy photos quite vividly. I remember wondering at the time why anyone would go to such lengths to hide evidence, marveling at the scale of the conspiracy required to perpetrate such a massive hoax.

It is with a wry chuckle that I remember my own gullibility on the subject.  The understanding of the scale of the conspiracy should have been my first clue as to the implausibility of the conspiracy itself.  That understanding would take years to mature, though.

The computer simulation embarked upon to validate this photo is as much of an over-the-top effort to show the solidity of the evidence for Oswald being the shooter, as the series of videos I linked above was.  In the study linked here, you can see the many points of data used to determine if Oswald is actually standing in a stable position, and that the shadows in the photo match the shadowing that would have been present at that time of day and season of the year.

This is the kind of thorough analysis that is required to refute the claims of conspiracy fantasists who continue to insist that it simply wasn’t possible for such a insignificant little man to have killed the most powerful man in the world single-handedly.  At least the computer modeling techniques showcased here can be used for many other instances of questionable photographic evidence, so that their validity can also be certified.

Texas Trying to Secede. Again.

Hanging around the fringes of Texas politics as I have off and on over the last 20 years, you hear a lot of strange ideas. Texas is conspiracy fantasy central in many ways, and Austin being the capitol of Texas means that the conspiratorial currents all lead to the vortex located at 15th and Congress.

Since the clean sweep that the GOP experienced in 2014, the wackos have come out of the woodwork and aren’t embarrassed to let their freak flag fly. Over the last year we’ve had the whole Jade Helm 15 teapot tempest, the newly elected governor calling out the Texas Guard to defend Texas against the largest military on the face of the planet; the US military, with troops already stationed in Texas (not to mention Texas citizens in the service of the US Army) included in the training exercises.  We’ve seen the governor’s replacement in the office of Attorney General arrested and booked while embroiled in a scheme to deny marriage certificates to gay couples who wanted to get married in the wake of the SCOTUS decision.

Texans are also suffering due to continued resistance to the ACA by our sitting legislature and governor.  It may be the law of the land according to the federal government, but the overwhelming majority of Texans spit at it as Obamacare; while at the same time whole segments of the Texas population who can’t afford to buy health insurance are left without any healthcare options because they make too much money to get Medicaid under the old rules, but are still supposed to have health insurance or face penalties.

Since all of this is Obama’s fault, it should be no wonder that a perennial favorite of the Texas conspiratorial fantasists is making the rounds again. Yes dear readers, we are faced with the dreaded initiative to secede from the Union. Again.

As I said previously, those of us who’ve been paying attention are not surprised to learn that the beast has raised it’s ugly head again. The history of the Texas secession movement is both long and checkered. I’m not going to go through all of it (the wiki page does a decent enough job of it) but it bears mentioning that many shady people for many long years have declared not only that Texas should secede, but that it probably isn’t legally a state of the Union. 

Help, help we’re being repressed!

Texas not being a state would be news to the rest of the United States since Texas manages to pretty much have its way with all sorts of things that affect other parts of the country. Make no mistake, the rest of the US knows that Texas is a state, much as many of them might rather it wasn’t.

The problem is, most Texans can’t be bothered to read;  and those that do read really can’t make heads or tails out of the Texas Constitution.  Or maybe it isn’t a problem with reading.  Maybe it’s a problem with who writes the books, especially the text books. In any case, these factors have lead to a number of interesting fantasies considering the nature of Texas’ relationship to the rest of the nation, as well as its status as a state.

Most Texans have heard the 5 states story, I’m sure.  The theory that Texas could be split up into 5 different states? The first time I heard it, the provision was in the Texas Constitution; which would be quite a feat I quickly discovered.  Upon the briefest of searches I learned that Texas has had seven constitutions since she left Mexico. So it isn’t in the Texas Constitution, not that we can tell among the nearly 500 amendments that have been passed (second only to Alabama. Saved again, Texas) The provision was actually imposed by the US Congress (those imperialists!) in their legislation which annexed Texas into the Union.

“Wpdms republic of texas” by Ch1902 – Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

This is the tidbit that most people have probably never realized.  Texas has already been split into 5 states. There are pieces of Texas in Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Wyoming; and while this may not have been the intention of the drafters of the legislation, Texas was paid for the severance of these lands, and they are no longer part of the state.

So, yes. Texas could be subdivided; and those crazy plans to have Texas dominate the Senate by breaking itself into 5 or 6 more states that would somehow still vote in lockstep are all too late.  It has already been done.

Another one of these fantasies is that Texas has permission to secede from the union.  This feature would be a truly curious development considering that all the slave states re-acquired by the union after the civil war were required to renounce any intention to leave the union again as a condition for re-admittance as states, as well as adopt the 13th and 14th Amendments. Most scholars agree that there is no basis to assume that a State could secede from the Union; it would be hard to see how this would be possible outside of the failure of the United States as a political entity and a military power.  These facts didn’t stop Governor Rick Perry from voicing his opinion that Texas could secede at a rally full of supporters chanting for secession.  This wouldn’t be the first time that Rick Perry was in error, especially when it comes to the subject of law.  I wouldn’t put too much stock in his remembering facts about secession, or evolution, or whatever that third thing was…

…in hindsight Rick Perry’s governorship feels like a walk at the wildflower center compared to the level of crazy currently ensconced in the capitol building. Between Governor Abbott’s blatant hypocrisy as a disabled person who was uniquely situated to keep other disabled person’s from taking his road to wellville, his trumped-up war on Planned Parenthood, his initiative to remove local control from Texas cities, and the legislature’s rejection of a minimum wage hike, it’s hard to imagine how life could get more grim than it currently is for the average Texan.  Which goes a long way towards explaining the desperation present in movements to secede as a political entity from the United States. Again.

A side word here for my fellow Texans;  Ya’ll might want to go back and read my piece on Greece in Perspective (hint, it really isn’t about Greece) and ponder at the level of desperation that you feel today and just who really is to blame for that.  Is it at all possible that that blame currently resides in a white house a good bit closer to you than Washington D.C.?

I’ll end with the words of Governor Sam Houston as he was forced out of  office by confederate zealots;

Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas….I protest….against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.

Texans have once again been lied to and betrayed; not by Washington, but by the leadership of the conservative religious power base that dominates all of Texas politics.  They are lied to nightly by the talking heads at FOX news, in the hopes that we will blame each other rather than the leadership in this state that has brought us to this impasse. From the moment that conservatives declared that science was a matter of opinion, that critical thinking was something to be avoided,  their entire ideology became a house of cards which could be blown down by the slightest breeze.

Imagine Sam Houston’s outrage at the knowledge that in a park that bears his name, in the city that bears his name, stands a monument to the folly that he gave up the leadership of Texas for rather than embark upon.  What would he think of the even more foolish notion that Texas could or should leave the union again?

I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. – Sam Houston

Conspiratorial Fantasies

Other98

Going to dive right into this. The image at right appeared on a friend’s Facebook wall recently.

The correct interpretation of facts currently on the ground is that anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns.  If they do not pander to the big spenders in the current climate (i.e. the corporations) then they will not get the funds they need to win.

Winning is key. Without a winning strategy, what occurs is just;

a tale [t]old by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

All of them are working for the corporations, even the third party candidates. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable.  This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple.

I really have no problem with the image.  I probably don’t have a problem with the website it came from, although I haven’t spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild.

I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall.  Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends indulge in conspiracy fantasies though; and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.

Let’s start with the phrase conspiracy theory. It really isn’t a theory at all.  A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error.  The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community.

They aren’t conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address.  It has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation.

What we are left with is conspiratorial conjecture. They are stories that are told to entertain, for the most part. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies.  When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you.

When my friend made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his Facebook post the image was attached to, rather than argue with his conspiratorial mindset directly, I linked this recent video discussing scientific studies showing that the conspiracy fantasists were more gullible than other people;

Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated was that “the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren’t real”  which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real.

Well, they aren’t real. Of course chemicals are delectable in contrails. The planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn’t that hard to figure out.

…Unless you have a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All you have to do is go look and leave your critical thinking skills behind.  That is, if you ever learned to think critically in the first place.

Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.

The Rothschild thing? That is an old anti-Semitic/White supremacist fabrication.  Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews. Which again, says more about you than about anyone else.

If you think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then conspiracy theorists are as gullible as the study she talks about shows.  They lack the ability to detect when they are being subjected to satire and ridicule, and repeat satirical posts as if they are real. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans (and I don’t) I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They’ll never know you’re pulling their legs.

The conversation spiraled into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales.  Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn’t anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is.  Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time.  I didn’t want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they’ve heard of at me one at time, each time certain that it can’t be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.

Perhaps the reason why so many American’s subscribe to conspiracy theories is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray.  Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there “Them! They did it! It wasn’t me!” rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics.  I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?


I really should have mentioned the latest conspiracy fantasy that has taken Texas (my state) by storm. Ever ready to believe anything said of President Obama (except this) when the military announced their latest round of training exercises Operation Jade Helm 15 the entirety of conservative Texas lost its collective mind.

My favorite clown head politician, Ted Cruz, took to the internet and the news to predict dire consequences if these maneuvers were allowed to happen (as if they don’t happen pretty much every year) Even our sitting governor had to get in on the act, saying he would call up the Texas State Guard to protect the state from the federal military. (h/t to Skeptoid for a link to Abbott’s letter)

I’ve been to Camp Mabry. I have a lot of respect for soldiers, but if that’s what is going to protect us from the US military, I think we’d be better off pleading for mercy from the feds and then asking for reconstruction aid, rather than rely on the Texas Guard to fend off the largest military the world has ever seen.  No offense fellas, but you’re just a bit outnumbered and outgunned. Just a bit.

I’d like to second the observation of a friend that suggested the US government should simply offer to pull all military bases out of Texas as a gesture towards non-aggression. All those tax dollars in the form of soldier’s pay, base construction, etc going to another state instead of Texas.

What was that? You weren’t serious? No, no I think you were serious. Seriously deranged, anyway.  You might want to get some help with that.

“Paranoia is a mental illness, not a super power.” – Jim Wright Stonekettle Station


The latest fantasist appears to be Seymour Hersh; which is too bad.  Too bad because the guy really had a marvelous resume. Not too long after his revelations on Abu Ghraib, he seemed to lose his grip on what we colloquially refer to as reality, mistaking his desire to see grand conspiracies everywhere for the demonstrable facts in a story;

Perhaps the most concerning problem with Hersh’s story is not the sourcing but rather the internal contradictions in the narrative he constructs.

Most blatant, Hersh’s entire narrative turns on a secret deal, in which the US promised Pakistan increased military aid and a “freer hand in Afghanistan.” In fact, the exact opposite of this occurred, with US military aid dropping and US-Pakistan cooperation in Afghanistan plummeting as both sides feuded bitterly for years after the raid.

Hersh explains this seemingly fatal contradiction by suggesting the deal fell apart due to miscommunication between the Americans and Pakistanis. But it’s strange to argue that the dozens of officials on both sides would be competent enough to secretly plan and execute a massive international ruse, and then to uphold their conspiracy for years after the fact, but would not be competent enough to get on the same page about aid delivery. 

From: The many problems with Seymour Hersh’s Osama bin Laden conspiracy theory by Max Fisher

Don’t get me wrong here.  I’ve never accepted Pakistan’s denials of knowledge concerning Osama Bin Laden’s location, since he was living near their military training academy. What surprises me on that subject is we haven’t been able to demonstrate what classes he was teaching there.  Which high-ranking official in the Pakistani government helped him take up residence in Abbottabad.

That aside, not even the Obama administration accepts that Zero Dark Thirty is anything aside from a Hollywood fantasy attempting to make sense of the disparate narratives that could have lead to OBL’s killing. They have denied that torture lead to information on OBL’s whereabouts, and have maintained that key evidence was provided by a walk-in source voluntarily, not through any kind of intense interrogation.  Only Cheney and his ilk insist that torture produced anything useful, and I’ve already said my piece on that subject. So the accusation that Hersh himself levels at the Obama administration is largely incorrect.

I offer the previous as an attempt to disarm the fantasy believer, so that when I observe that Hersh is engaging in conspiratorial fantasies it in no way means I accept any other particular narrative on the subject.  Rather it is an observation like this one detailed over on Slate;

It’s this commitment to counternarrative totality—the idea that a few legitimate questions make the entire official narrative a lie, accompanied by a certainty in a counterhistory based on theory, suggestion, and a relatively negligible amount of secondhand evidence—that make Hersh’s account reminiscent of what you might see from the professional conspiracy theorists at InfoWars. It privileges the accounts and suggestions of a few vaguely connected ex-insiders over other, more exhaustive accounts based on the testimony of people who are in a much better position to know at least some of the facts. 

It is Hersh’s tone and his spittle-flecked denunciation of the US government’s complicity and cooperation with Pakistan in the killing of OBL as a publicity stunt that gets him marked as a fantasist, not the content of his counter-narrative.  Most of what he has to say on the subject really isn’t even news, if it is at all believable on its face.

This story is a baseline for conspiratorial fantasies. A gateway drug.  A building 7 in 9-11 truther language. If you can get past the point where you stop wondering how hundreds of civil employees and soldiers could have been motivated to keep silent on this subject, then you can get busy embroidering Hersh’s revelations with details of your own.

The detail of size is what makes the likelihood of this conspiracy being true so improbably remote.  Fantasists who support Hersh point to the Guardian / Edward Snowden revelations as proof that massive conspiracies can and do exist. However, it is that very story that illustrates the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them.  The NSA spying was anything but secret.  Oh, it was officially denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret.  Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.

It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true.  The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there at some point. They certainly don’t point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact.

The NSA’s spying program is the hallmark of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.  The fact that Hersh’s fantasies concerning OBL contain so little new reliable information proves that they are just that.  If they weren’t, he’d have solid witnesses willing to swear to the veracity of his complete story.  Those simply don’t exist outside of his imagination.

JFK Conspiracy

One of the most widely accepted conspiracy theories in the US remains the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Just last week I heard someone suggest that Oswald didn’t act alone.  Statistics show that more than half of US residents agree with this statement, and are convinced to this day that Oswald was a patsy, silenced by Jack Ruby a few days after the assassination.

For many, many years I was one of those people. I read several books on the subject, watched every documentary, even went to Dealey Plaza once simply to stand next to the spot where Kennedy was shot. In many ways the assassination of JFK was the lynchpin for all of my conspiratorial thinking; it was the first conspiracy theory I had ever heard, it was the most solidly defensible of any of the many popular conspiracies that cropped up later (so much so that even the US government has agreed there was a conspiracy, contradicting the findings of it’s own commission that investigated the assassination) and once I was led to question that theory, my belief in all those other theories also crumbled.

Why shouldn’t they, when they didn’t even have a magic bullet to hide behind?

The trip to reality was long and arduous for me. It started about the time I started writing this blog, and continues to this day.  Every single thing I read these days sends me off looking for corroborating sources and counter-arguments, just so that I can be sure I’m dealing with real facts and not some fever dream of the magical thinking majority.

I wish I had access to Case Closed when I was a young man looking for facts on the JFK assassination.  The depth of investigative research that Gerald Posner has gone to is unequaled amongst the many different authors on the subject.  Here is an interview with Posner from 2013, discussing the mountains of evidence linking Oswald to the killing, and detailing the kind of man Oswald was.

If Case Closed had been available to me when I first started looking into this subject, I never would have started down that rabbit hole of conspiratorial thinking in the first place.  Would have simply come to the conclusion ah, Oswald shot Kennedy and left it at that.  But I didn’t have access to that book back in the 70’s when I was into the subject.  I don’t even remember the titles of the books I did read; but I do remember The Men Who Killed Kennedy documentary being something I watched and rewatched many times, as well as the Oliver Stone film JFK which I remember receiving quite credibly.

Except for one thing.  The repeated mantra back and to the right which Stone puts in Garrison’s mouth in the film. I actually went back and reviewed the Zapruder film because of this, and discovered that the motion he insists is there really isn’t there at all.  The film clearly shows the headshot coming from the back and above, just as Posner says in the video.

But I didn’t have Posner.  Never ran across his book until recently, while listening to back episodes of the SGU (like so many good skeptical habits I have picked up) what I had was my own inability to ignore evidence when it is presented to me. What I stumbled across was this re-enactment (one of several) proving that the magic bullet was nothing of the kind. That the trajectory of the bullet is mappable and repeatable given an accurate reproduction of the events of that day.

First off is The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy clips of which are assembled here;

The second source of video was a very detailed recreation of the exact poses of the victims taken from Zapruder film footage, that were mocked up by Anatomical Surrogates Technologies for the  documentary JFK: Beyond The Magic Bullet(full video available in three parts here) While the shot does appear to strike too low, the trajectory is almost identical to the bullet on that fateful day.

Lastly we have the recreation of the headshot showing that the direction that Oswald fired from was indeed the only direction where the damage seen to the President’s head can be replicated.  For those who simply aren’t convinced by the replication of the magic bullet’s trajectory.

Conspiracy theorists will of course come up with reasons why this proves nothing. Personally I see no reason to continue pretending that Oswald did not kill Kennedy.  If you feel the forensic tests are simply not enough evidence, then I encourage you to pick up a copy of Case Closed.  If none of this suffices, then I suggest you look to your own mental barricades. If your beliefs cannot be falsified, that just means that you dare not have them refuted.