Six questions about the JFK Assassination

As some of you know, I have done research into the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

My interest began as I was forming political opinions early in my childhood. That wasn’t too unusual given the circumstances: we lived in Montgomery County during Watergate, and my dad worked for U.S. Customs as a lawyer. Among the things he did was review FOIA cases. FOIA wasn’t brand new then (it passed in 1967) but was novel enough that experts on it were more rare than they are today. Again, this was the time of Watergate, and most people in the area were familiar with the workings of the U.S. government and took it for granted that it represented a conspiracy at the highest levels of government. When you then do a bit of research and find out that roughly ten years before (at that time), a popular Democratic Party President was assassinated, then his alleged assassin was himself killed two days later while in police custody…well, it would be unusual not to be suspicious.

My feeling is that there was a conspiracy that resulted in the assassination of Kennedy. It’s only a feeling, however; one thing I have discovered in my research is that the definitive evidence — for any theory, including the “lone gunman” — simply isn’t there, due to secrecy, meddling, incompetence, and disinformation. Listening to the “lone gunman” accounts being discussed by believers, you’ll find that they descend into the same tropes that “conspiracy theorists” do: conjecture, cavalier dismissal of sources, ad hominem, circular reasoning, the lot.

(Subsequent conspiracy allegations against the government in the decades since have also caused me to realize that most people, regardless of their supposed professionalism, prefer to champion a point of view based on their politics and then search for specific information to support them, rather than form an independent theory. 9/11, Benghazi, Russiagate, Jeffrey Epstein…all suffer from a huge degree of nonsense that’s deliberately thrown about to push a political advantage.)

So, denied the ability to verify primary evidence, I’ve concentrated on a more detached and philosophical approach. As part of that, I came up with six yes/no questions several years ago which I believe detail the best case for a conspiracy in the assassination of John Kennedy. I would submit that if any one of these questions can be answered “yes”, then the door is open for the possibility of conspiracy. I’d go so far as to say that anyone who asserts strongly that all of these can definitely be answered “no”, then we are dealing with a “coincidence theorist” — and I don’t countenance coincidence theory any more than conspiracy theory. (My definition of coincidence theory: The belief that in a world where elites are highly placed in global affairs, are highly interconnected, and capable of personal or coordinated decisions which affect the public at large, all significant events without exception are attributable to impersonal, random, and unconnected forces.)

So here are the six questions. They can be a bit dense, especially the fifth one, but I think if they are contemplated honestly, one can see that there are some undisputed assertions which, when considered as a whole, make a conspiracy the simplest explanation for the assassination.

1. Was Lee Harvey Oswald a CIA asset?
2. Was Jack Ruby involved with the mob?
3. Has evidence of this crime been fabricated, destroyed, suppressed, or altered to present a particular theory – either in favor of or against a lone gunman?
4. Is there evidence of other contemporary plots to assassinate the President?
5. Is there evidence of collusion between any two of the following elements in conducting secret or illegal activities — including assassination plots, either inside or outside the United States — prior to or contemporary with the assassination: the CIA, or IC in general; the mob; extreme right-wing organizations; anti-Castro Cubans?
6. Did the U.S. Government have the means, motive, and opportunity to conceal factual information concerning the assassination from the public?


Why I Hate This Current Timeline, Volume LXXVIII

Trump, in his campaign speech from the White House lawn — which is a very serious problem right there, and I am literally nine words into this — promised a vaccine for the coronavirus before the year is out. News media, like here on ABC, were very quick to point out the obvious challenges of this promise; many of them literally built the skepticism into their ledes.

There are in fact a huge number of things wrong with this scenario, and they are absolutely not the ones that anybody else seems to be concentrating on. Continue reading

Forget the doctor, get me a mathematician

MathChalkboardTwo other articles, and some brief commentary about them:

It appears that the earlier predictions regarding coronavirus cases and fatalities in the U.S. and U.K. are being revised downward in light of the analysis of data from Italy, China, and Spain (as seen here and here). This isn’t a result of deliberate misinformation; it’s updated information based on more certain data from the other countries.

An unforeseen consequence regarding our health care system being overwhelmed is that non-virus-related deaths are increasing, as folks aren’t going to the doctor or the hospital unless it’s for the virus.  I’m guilty of this myself, although obviously I’m not dealing with any health problems which are life-threatening.

More dispatches from the ether

nerd powerA few more articles for today:

Yes, there are variant strains of this particular coronavirus out there.  (I’ve heard eight different ones, but I don’t have a confirmation for that particular number, nor is it entirely relevant at this point.)  To be honest, it would be more of a surprise if there weren’t.  It is unknown at this point whether immunity to one strain makes you immune to all of these; however, the article referenced gives reasons for being optimistic, as the novel coronavirus is not as genetically complex on this score as, say, influenza.  (The article gets much further into the technical side of matters — which is good if you are like me and want to see the science underlying the news.)

So it may be that once a vaccine is developed, you’ll need to have a new one every so often, like with influenza, where you get a new flu shot every year, but it doesn’t seem to be the case just yet.

Pathogens — viruses and bacteria — can and do mutate, so we’re going to have to be careful in the coming years…but that is true of a host of diseases we have to stay ahead of.

We also have a case of a tiger at the Bronx Zoo catching CoViD-19 (likely) from an asymptomatic human zookeeper.  This is a surprise to me, as viruses usually target physiologies more narrowly than this, but apparently dogs and cats can get this from humans (the latter moreso than the former).  There isn’t any evidence of transmission from cats or dogs to humans…but this is yet another item for the “wait and see” file, as I also haven’t yet seen what the theorized mechanism was for infecting the tiger in the first place.  The American Veterinary Medical Association has released a statement, which was updated as of 1800 EDT yesterday, April 5.

Finally, a quick tip from a helpful veterinary assistant on Twitter: how to keep your glasses from fogging up while wearing a protective mask.  (It involves medical tape — the kind you use on wound dressings.  Should still be fairly easy to get.)

Adding it up

The pandemic appears to be affecting African-American communities disproportionately. This is not so much about the virus itself, but about inequality in the treatment of the health of African-Americans in general. I would also suspect you would find a similar stratification in the treatment of the rich versus the poor in the U.S. This pandemic is serving as a tremendous indictment of the entire socio-economic system in this country; it remains to be seen whether anything will change as a result.

As far as the local spread, the numbers for my county are published here.  They seem to echo other numbers from other locations in terms of proportion, at the very least, which lends them credence.

I hate to say this, because it sounds callous.  It is callous, really, but it’s also true and it’s something I believe we all need to keep in mind for our own individual sanity.  We are hearing a lot about various cases of this disease which make it sound extremely scary and unbelievably lethal.  These stories are true: it is possible to contract and to die from this disease if you are younger; if you have no underlying health conditions or compromised immune function; if you are taking reasonable precautions.  Our media, because they are click-driven, is full of such stories.  We are attuned to listen to stories as human beings, and stories do matter.  But we also need to remember that these are anecdotes.  They represent one person each — a person whose death, had it been from any other disease or accident, you would have remained blissfully unaware of.  The statistics for this disease are telling a different story than the media accounts, and it is those numbers you need to be paying attention to.  They are what you need in order to assess the risk that you are under, and take appropriate actions.

They are also what you need for peace of mind.  Another less-popularized consequence of this situation is the mental and emotional toll it is taking on each of us.  We aren’t robots — we’re going to respond to the suffering around us even if we aren’t directly affected.  But going with an emotional response could put you in the wrong frame of mind to protect yourself and your loved ones.  People in fear don’t always make logical decisions.  And you do obviously have reasons to be seriously concerned — but keeping a cool head and evaluating things from a more detached perspective, while not a method to ensure your perfect security, is the best way to get through this safely.

The masked ball

There are now conflicting and changing recommendations regarding the use of masks to combat the novel coronavirus. I’m attempting to summarize the pros and cons here, but as I have said before, and I wish to emphasize strongly to begin: I am not a health professional. I’m an individual with an interest in science and public policy. Please check with professional health sources to verify any information that I present here. If you have any other information on this topic, please post it in the comments, along with the verifiable source of where you got it and when, if at all possible.

Continue reading

More data points and stories

Some new data out there today: Iceland’s aggressive testing program — about 3.4% of the entire population of the country — has revealed that about half of those testing positive are without any symptoms.

The BBC radio show More or Less took a look at the (admittedly incomplete) statistics regarding mortality from CoViD-19 related to age and discovered that it closely mirrored what your normal risk of dying would be ordinarily — except the risk that you would die in the next year became the risk that you would die in the next week.  Both of these stories are simultaneously terrifying and comforting, and I’m not sure at all how I pulled that off.

Also, an encouraging story: a 10-minute test for the virus which costs US$1 is being developed in Senegal; validation trials on this solution begin this week.

The deadly strain

Quick question: has anyone seen any updated statistics on infection and/or mortality rates by age group? Earlier global profiles (from only a week or ten days ago) suggested the mortality rate went up significantly due to both age and underlying health conditions. News media in the U.S. are highlighting cases which are not following this pattern — that it is killing younger and fully healthy individuals — however, they have not come with any supporting data. They’re all anecdotes.

Looking at what might account for this, I can think of one main difference: as opposed to other countries, there is no extensive testing regime in the U.S. Based on this, my guess is that the numbers in the U.S. — whatever they may actually be — are skewed in presenting a more deadly form of the virus.

As well, there is, as I mentioned in my last article, a tendency for media to catastrophize, partly in order to achieve a particular result in public safety. This is very much the case in the U.S., since 1) media tends to be centered in the cities, which are being hardest hit; 2) media is still a business and is going to get clicks based on the most sensational aspects of a story, even if that story is a pandemic; and 3) the United States’s response is fractured among Governors and Mayors, given the ineffectual nature of the Federal Government under Donald Trump and the general national demeanor that goes against any kind of collective, mutually beneficial action.

So I’m more inclined that we have a uniquely poor information (and health) system in this country than that we have a uniquely deadly form of the virus…but it may be confirmed otherwise by better actual data.

Trying to ease up a bit

A Nobel laureate Stanford biophysicist is sounding some calming notes in the middle of this crisis.  Worth it to note that he was correct about the number of cases in China — remember my previous article; if they are right once, they are more likely to be right again.  He’s also “showing his work”, to an extent: commenting on the provenance of the data he’s received.

This does bring up an interesting point.  Most people will not evaluate a threat correctly without something sensorally direct as evidence; for example, hiding in your basement because you see a tornado as opposed to hiding in your basement when someone on the news tells you there is a tornado approaching.  So the tendency is to catastrophize when reporting a serious threat to the public in order to get people to take it seriously.  Consider the case of the NWS warning on Hurricane Katrina in 2005…the “foreboding language used” was credited with saving lives.

However, when you are looking for accurate information around which to base risk assessment, you then have another layer of guesswork to unravel: how much is this information being exaggerated for the safety of those who can’t gauge risk properly?

I don’t exactly know the answer to that, but I can recommend that if you have a question concerning this crisis, it might be best to get both the best- and worst-case scenarios and figure that the best guess is somewhere in the middle.

Medical information from a teaching physician

Dr. John Campbell is a retired medical instructor in the UK. He’s been giving his information and advice concerning the coronavirus on YouTube.  It is very informative and well worth a watch.