A professor in physics from the University of Oxford, Dr. Robert Grimes, claimed earlier this year that massive conspiracies are impossible and he can prove it. Via an equation that he created.
As reported in Science Daily, Large-scale conspiracies would quickly reveal themselves, equations show:
Dr Grimes initially created an equation to express the probability of a conspiracy being either deliberately uncovered by a whistle-blower or inadvertently revealed by a bungler. This factors in the number of conspirators, the length of time, and even the effects of conspirators dying, whether of old age or more nefarious means, for those conspiracies that do not require active maintenance.
Based on these factors, he reviewed a few popular ‘conspiracies.’ For example, for the moon hoax theory, he ‘estimated’ that 411,000 people would have to be in the know for any hoax. If ‘climate change’ is a fraud, that would require 405,000 people to be in on it, according to Dr. Grimes. Where these numbers come from or how he estimates this is not known.
Then he fills in these numbers into his equation and determines that, on average, the moon hoax would have been discovered in less than four years.
I hope Dr. Grimes isn’t applying his intelligence to anything important.
Obviously, his equation consists of numbers he is pulling from thin air. He provides no rational justification for the number of people involved in the conspiracy, he doesn’t define what constitutes a conspiracy (rather than a difference of opinion, as in climate change), and he doesn’t explain what is meant by ‘discovery.’ Sometimes conspiracies are ‘discovered’ incorrectly.
Discovered incorrectly? This is what I mean. If you ask the average person what happened in the Watergate burglary – assuming they’ve heard of it – they will likely give you some version of the Woodward-Bernstein All the President’s Men version. Unfortunately, that is fairy tale, as has been written about at length by other authors, in books like Secret Agenda by Jim Hougan, Silent Coup by Len Colodny, and White House Call Girl by Phil Stanford. Frankly, if you want to spend a worthwhile afternoon, read the transcripts of the Nixon tapes. It will make you reevaluate John Dean and a lot of other things besides.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), the last official investigation into the Kennedy assassination, came to the conclusion that it was a conspiracy. The media, by and large, pretends this never happened and goes back to the Warren Commission at every opportunity. So is that conspiracy discovered? You tell me.
Finally, as Dr. Grimes should know, being that he is from Oxford, he has a counterexample staring him right in the face. His own government kept Enigma secret for forty years, as I wrote about in my review of The Imitation Game. And that was a relatively benign conspiracy. Imagine if it wasn’t.
In our own country, I would like to do more investigation into MK-ULTRA, but that is prevented by Richard Helms, who ordered most of the relevant documents destroyed in 1973.
I fear Dr. Grimes fits the cliché of the physics professor who thinks that his wrongheaded math produces insights into the real world. It doesn't. And when it comes to conspiracies, he is out of his depth.
Mild spoilers to follow.
Why is parody the easiest art form? Because somebody else does the heavy lifting. That’s not to say that writing a good parody is easy – it ain’t – but it is easier to make a joke about Star Trek than to create Star Trek. That’s why YouTube is full of people parodying pop culture rather than overflowing with original concepts.
I’ve been trying to figure out why Netflix’s current hit show, Stranger Things, didn’t quite connect with me, and I think that’s it. The series, while enjoyable – especially when the kids are onscreen – is essentially a parody. The show re-creates so many aspects from other films that it fails to pull its own narrative weight. The success of any particular scene depends upon how skillfully the re-creation is done. Whether the film is E.T., Alien, Firestarter, Donnie Darko, Stand by Me, or any of the other dozen works synthesized by Stranger Things, it only rarely transcends being a parody. Pinocchio never quite becomes a real boy.
This is also not to say that the things the show is borrowing were 100% original at the time either. John Carpenter remade the Howard Hawks western Rio Bravo at least twice (in Assault on Precinct 13 and Ghost of Mars) and the Hawks horror movie The Thing. Did he improve upon them? Assault is a terrific movie, although improving on Rio Bravo is an impossible challenge. I do think he vastly improved The Thing, his version being one of the all-time great sci-fi horror films.
All of our stories build on each other and it’s natural for this to happen. In talking about Stranger Things recently with a friend who directs theater, we ended up discussing J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, which is two-thirds of a great movie grafted onto a disastrous third act. With Super 8, the blatant Spielberg-isms distracted me for a few minutes until I got caught up in the characters and lasted until that script committed hari-kiri in the last reel or so. We also brought up Joe Dante’s Explorers, which is very similar: two-thirds of a charming movie until the WTF third act happens.
Third acts are hard. What can you do.
Please note I am not at all saying that Stranger Things is bad – I enjoyed much of it, especially under the surer directorial hand of Shawn Levy in episodes 3 & 4. (No, I am not especially a fan of Night at the Museum, but the difference in episode 3, from 1 and 2, was so immediately noticeable I checked IMDB while watching.) There are many good scenes, and there is some excellent writing in episode 6, by Jessie Nickson-Lopez, and the four central characters, played by Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, and Gatem Matarazzo, are engaging throughout. It is, by and large, a fun ride.
Stranger Things also sets its story (about a young girl called Eleven, played by Brown) in a backdrop of real history. It’s a background that people are probably more aware of than previously, but not likely in the kind of detail to make them truly appreciate its scope.
The fact of the matter is that the types of experiments depicted in Stranger Things are not oversold. If anything, the show soft-pedals the experiments. The program, MK-ULTRA, did involve people being dosed with LSD without their knowledge and experiments on prison and mental health populations. They did perform ESP and “remote viewing” experiments designed to investigate whether there was a way to weaponize the human mind. There were experiments designed specifically with the goal of mind control.
The key figure in much of this research, and the person who seems to be a rough model for Matthew Modine’s character, is Dr. Sidney Gottlieb. Dr. Gottlieb became the main operational head of MK-ULTRA in 1953, having been put into that position by CIA Director Allen Dulles. Dulles had placed Richard Helms in a position to oversee the overall project, while Dr Gottlieb ran the various experiments. (This is of particular interest to me, since Dulles and Helms were very likely key players in the Kennedy assassination as well.)
The most recent biography of Allen Dulles, The Devil's Chessboard, written by David Talbot, describes the program like so:
In one particular experiment, LSD was given to patients, some of whom were lobotomized, so that researchers could compare the effects of the drug on different patients. (Potash, 34) In one particular instance, Dr. Gottlieb targeted against Frank Olson, a scientist who also worked for the CIA. Olson’s death came after Olson had stated that he had personally witnessed people being tortured to death under the program. (Albarelli, 686).
Unfortunately, we don’t know the total extent of MKULTRA crimes, because Richard Helms destroyed most of the relevant documents in 1973. What little we do know comes from surviving documents as well as congressional hearings that were held.
Take a look at this exchange between Senator Ted Kennedy and then-CIA Director Stansfield Turner:
Senator KENNEDY. Well, do I understand you have not contacted the Justice Department about this particular case since the development of this new material about Gottlieb?
There is more – much more. Dr. Ewen Cameron, another scientist backed by the CIA, developed a technique he called “psychic driving.” It involved taking people – mostly women – and keeping them in beds where they would listen to tapes feeding suggestions into their heads, after they had experienced electroshock.
At the time he was conducting these experiments, Dr. Cameron was the President of the U.S. and World Psychiatric Association, as well as the American Psychopathological Association.
Stranger Things uses these experiments as background – but if you get curious about them, there are some excellent resources to look at. It should also help to understand that this didn’t begin with MK-ULTRA; in my own book, Dissenting Views II, I note that Fort Detrick, which played a role in the 9/11 attacks, employed a man named Dr. Hideyo Naguchi, who deliberately injected 146 children with syphilis in 1911. Fort Detrick was begun by Dr. Cornelius Rhoads of the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research. (68) For a good survey of this subject, also see War Against the Weak by Edwin Black.
The paranoia experienced by the characters has an excellent basis; as William Burroughs said, the paranoid man is the one with all the facts. Unfortunately, unlike the show, in real life there are few happy endings.
A new story in the UK Guardian newspaper revealed that the musician Prince had pills in his bag that were mislabeled fentanyl. Fentanyl is an opioid "50 times stronger than heroin." The pills were marked Watson 385, which is hydrocodone with a little acetaminophen in it. There has been an uptick in fentanyl overdoses, according to another Guardian story.
There's an interesting paragraph tucked into the story:
Tests on Prince before his death did not show fentanyl in his system, which means he was not a long-time abuser of that drug, but probably took the fatal dose in the 24 hours before he died, the official said.
Prince was not a fentanyl addict, in other words. He did take a number of pills to help with pain and anxiety, and he took a lot of Vitamin C. And yet he had a large number of fentanyl pills that were labeled so that someone would think they were taking hydrocodone instead. So if Prince didn't know what he was taking because the drugs were falsified, that would tend to rule out both accidental death and suicide.
Who would have a motive for killing Prince?
I don't know, but in the last couple of years something happened which is reminiscent of Michael Jackson just before he died. He got his publishing back:
...privately some label executives have also said that in some instances the wiser course might be to negotiate the reversions and retain control of issuing artists' catalog eligible for copyright terminations.
In cutting what appears to be a landmark deal, Prince has chosen to remain with the label that was the subject of his ire back in the 1990's avoiding a risky and costly legal battle and still regains ownership of his catalog.
There was also a recent article in the New York Times discussing his battles with the industry in maintaining ownership over both his material and venue to release it:
In recent years, he took full control of his music rights. That included ownership of his music publishing — the copyrights for songwriting — and his recordings, which led to a new deal with Warner Bros. in 2014...
For fans, one of the biggest questions is what will happen to his fabled “vault” of unreleased recordings.
There's a lot we don't know, of course. But it's enough to raise some questions.
Last night I was trading emails with researcher and author Joseph McBride when he sent me this interesting piece of a video: an interview with Rabbi Hillel Silverman. That got me poking around, and the end result is this article, so he gets credit for that and no blame: if there are mistakes, they are mine.
Let's start with the video itself.
Zapruder, of course, took the most famous home movie in the world, recording the fatal shot that struck President Kennedy on 11/22/1963. He has his own unusual connections. Born in Russia, Zapruder worked for years with Jeanne LeGon, who would later marry George de Morenschildt, otherwise known as Lee Harvey Oswald’s best friend. We do know that George de Morenschildt was a good friend of George H. W. Bush, and wrote him a rather panicky letter in September of 1976 asking for help from his buddy.
Bush answered the letter but provided no help. In March of 1977 de Morenschildt decided to kill himself by blasting his own head off with a shotgun. With Bill O’Reilly listening, according to Bill O’Reilly. (And no one else.)
Anyway, back to Silverman.
The good rabbi appears in the record: Warren Commission Exhibit # 2281, in which he advised that sometime after the evening service on 11/22/1963, Ruby “appeared to be in shock” and spoke briefly to him, although not about the assassination.
Later, after Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald and was arrested, Rabbi Silverman made regular visits to Ruby. Silverman continues to insist (as he does in the video) that Ruby told him there was no conspiracy.
According to Philip Shenon, in his book A Cruel and Shocking Act, Warren Commission (and later Rockefeller Commission) attorney David Belin approached Rabbi Silverman during the time that he had been making these regular visits to Ruby. Belin asked Silverman to get Ruby to agree to a polygraph.
Although I don't endorse Shenon's ultimate conclusions in his book, this is interesting.
Two questions immediately arise: (1) Why did Belin think that he could convince Silverman to convince Ruby to get the polygraph? And (2) Why did Belin want Ruby to take a polygraph?
The answer to (1) is that Belin and Silverman knew each other. They had met in the summer of 1963 on a trip to Israel, and become friendly. Belin had a level of comfort with him.
We’ll come back to (2) in a minute. First let’s look at some biographical information on Rabbi Hillel Silverman.
As a young man, Hillel enrolled at Yale. However, in 1947, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group the Haganah. (Yizthak Rabin, incidentally, was also serving in the Haganah at this time.)
In 1950 the United States went to war with Korea and Hillel joined the Navy.
Although he remained in the Naval Reserves, in 1954 he needed a civilian job as a rabbi. At this time, something remarkable happened:
A friend and mentor from the great Warburg family of Wall Street whom he had worked for at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York put him in touch with a Dallas lawyer for Del Charro’s Clint Murchison, who arranged an interview with Shearith Israel, a prosperous conservative congregation that wanted to build a new synagogue in the burgeoning suburbs of North Dallas. He got the job. That’s where he would find himself face-to-face with Jack Ruby.
After Ruby shot Oswald, and Silverman delivered his testimony, he decided he needed a change of scenery.
He moved from Dallas out to Beverly Hills.
BACK TO (2)
Okay, so why would David Belin want Rabbi Silverman to convince Ruby to take the polygraph? For that, I think we need to go to the best description of this entire episode, which is in Jim DiEugenio’s Reclaiming Parkland.
DiEugenio notes that Ruby insisted on having the polygraph done to the Warren Commission, and Earl Warren still didn’t want to do it. Arlen Spector convinced Warren. The Commission then drew the polygraph operator from the FBI: one Bell Herndon. And it appears that Herndon did his utmost to get Ruby to pass his polygraph.
DiEugenio notes that the HSCA report that was done on Ruby’s polygraph is actually quite good, notable because this wasn’t always the case:
In order to get the full analysis, see pages 243-246 in Reclaiming Parkland.
The question becomes, is it possible that a fourteen-year special agent – a polygraph supervisor at the DC FBI lab – screwed up the most important lie detector test of the 20th century so badly? Or was he in fact doing his job – covering up the conspiracy?
I think part of the answer comes back to Belin. Belin always leaned on the polygraph and Rabbi Silverman’s testimony that Jack Ruby claimed no conspiracy, including in his own book, Final Disclosure. Belin also brought it up again when Oliver Stone’s film JFK released. Stone brought up (and countered) Belin’s use of Silverman’s testimony in his own response.
I draw no conclusions from this material, although I think it is interesting. In the main, researchers have generally treated Rabbi Silverman as a witness, and given him the deferential treatment reserved for the clergy and such. And perhaps that is warranted. However, there are enough nuggets of information to call that treatment into question.
He’s still alive, apparently, and still a part-time rabbi at a highly conservative synagogue. And he’s also the father of Jonathan Silverman, star of Weekend at Bernie’s and the even more immortal Weekend at Bernie’s 2. But I don’t think you should hold that against him.
This is Joe Green's blog.