Hey! Randy

Scatter Shot

Posted by heyrandy on July 9, 2013

Hit List, Richard Belzer and David Wayne, 2013

Belzer and Wayne proceed upon the thesis that the deaths of so many of those involved in the JFK assassination as witness, no matter how peripheral, is evidence of a conspiracy. The authors point out that the statistical probability of this number of people dying in a group of about 1400 is almost too vast to calculate.

The book is a series of short chapters on many people who have died in a short time after the assassination. Some of the people are directly involved in the assassination, e.g., Lee Harvey Oswald, but many of those included in the book are not even tangentially related to JFK’s death. Francis Gary Powers (of U2 fame), really?

Even if we discount the extraneous inclusions, the book still suffers from a lack of real evidence. Yes, the deaths of people like JFK’s paramour Mary Meyer are unsolved, but this does not mean she was on the verge of blowing off the lid on the conspiracy.

The authors admit that some of the people they profile may have died for other reasons than to keep them quiet about the assassination. It is always difficult to interpret the murders of mob bosses. Jimmy Hoffa hated the Kennedy brothers, but Hoffa’s real enemies were the mob thugs who controlled the union. They wanted to keep Hoffa’s replacement in office.

If all the people mentioned by the authors were actually involved in the killing, just how big was this conspiracy? If the conspiracy was as large as the authors imply, it is amazing that we know so little of it. The old saying applies: it is not a secret when if more than one person know it. The authors believe that there were a lot of people involved.

The book is of little value even to the die-hard conspiracy theorists. I found their treatment of the evidence to be superficial. Many of the chapters end on a very tentative notes. There is little concrete here. The dead deserve better.

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Believable

Posted by heyrandy on July 8, 2013

Beyond Belief, Jenna Miscavige Hill, 2013

Jenna Hill gives us the inside view of a very unusual religion. Scientology is quite the rage among the Hollywood set. Tom Cruise, Kirsty Ally, and Pricilla Pressly are a few of its more famous adherents. These celebrities are only one side of Scientology. Hill gives the perspective of a third generation Scientologist. Not only is Hill a third generation Scientologist, she is niece to the current leader of Scientology, David Miscavige.

Hill’s account of upbringing in the church is a tale of mistreatment, misrepresentation, and tyranny. The system she reveals is one of total control over those within its ranks. Hill’s parents were on the staff of Scientology, so Hill attended the church’s boarding school, “The Ranch.” It was a place of extreme regimentation, unforgiving discipline, and constant spying.

Hill tells us that she seldom saw her parents. This is not unusual. The church routinely posts children’s parents to locations far from their children. The church often posts spouses apart from each other. The church denies it, but the church is very anti-family.

The church is also rich. Scientology is not free. It is not even low cost. Hill never had to pay for her Scientology training because she was the child of staff workers and also held a job with the church. But “public Scientologists, those who do not work for the church, pay plenty. Hill mentions courses that cost $4000-$6000 each. There are endless courses. There is always another step to take and pay for.

Hill’s parents left the church even though they held high ranking positions.This was a major embarrassment for the church. Her parents wanted to take Jenna with them, but she refused to go. She wanted to stay in the church.

The end of Hill’s love for the Church began when the gave her the run-a-round about her wanting to marry. She began to see through the lies. She finally married her husband, Dallas, in a Scientology ceremony. Her family could not attend because of the Church’s sanctions against them. She says it was not much of a ceremony.

After her marriage she and her husband were sent to Australia on an “impossible mission.” They were to raise money to buy choice property in Canberra to erect a Scientology center there. Since there were only a few Scientologists in Canberra, it was an arduous task. They did manage to raise some money before they came home. Hill thinks the real reason they were sent off was to preclude any embarrassment to the Church that might arise from her parents. Nothing in Scientology is straight forward.

When Hill announced she was leaving, she almost left without her husband. He was so enmeshed in the Church’s teachings that he could no let go. She was not about to let the Church win, so stayed a while to persuade her husband to go. It was actually the Church’s arrogance that changed his mind.

The Church wanted protect itself from Hill, and asked her to sign a confidentiality agreement. Hill tore up the paper in front of the woman who presented it to Hill. Hill had already signed a “billion year contract” when she was a child. She was not signing any more papers.

The book exposes Scientology for what it is: an avaricious, tyrannical fraud. For those interested in Scientology, start here. There is a lot more to this religion than smiling celebrities.

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Bull’s Eye

Posted by heyrandy on March 9, 2013

More Guns, Less Crime, John Lott, 1998

Gun restriction legislation, aka gun control, is always a topic of discussion. It becomes a passionately discussed topic when there is a mass shooting. What are we to think about the prevalence of guns? Are fewer guns in the hands of ordinary people something that will make us safer?

Lott has the answer. As the title suggests, gun restrictions are not the answer. Lott has the statistics to support the book’s title. He also has the strident critics to prove science doesn’t matter.

Lott’s thesis is that the carrying of guns, especially concealed handguns, are a great deterrent to crime. The presence of guns makes criminals look for easier victims. When a criminal is faced with the unknown, does this person carry a gun, the criminal often chooses another victim, often another type of crime.

The book is full of statistics Lott gathered for a scholarly paper he wrote. The paper is the basis of this book.  The numbers are necessary to support the book’s conclusion. What is interesting about the numbers is the reaction of Lott’s critics. The original study was vociferously criticized by  many who had not read it. Yes, facts don’t matter to gun control advocates, even if they are university professors.

While the numbers are important, they make the reading a little dull. I do not have the statistical training to re-crunch Lott’s numbers, so I spent my time looking at his conclusions.

What was that conclusion? The title says it all. Buy a gun.

 

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What Do I Do?

Posted by heyrandy on August 23, 2012

The Unthinkable Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, Amanda Ripley, 2008

The ship suddenly lists. The building shakes, The fire alarm sounds. Would you know what to do in any of those situations? Would do it, without hesitation? Most people would not act without hesitation.

The author examines many past disasters to give us a picture of how people react to a sudden disaster. Most people are initially like the deer in the headlights. They freeze. They do not comprehend what the situation is like. They do not understand the danger.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks give us a good example to study. The author recounts one woman’s actions after the plane hit her tower. She did not know why the building was shaking. She did not know what to do until someone said that an airplane had hit the building. Then she still did not know what to do. When she finally decided to leave the building, she first returned  to her desk to retrieve some trivial personal items. This cost her precious time. She was not the only one to do this. What is more stunning is that this woman was the designated disaster evacuation leader on her floor.

The real value of the book is in its analysis of human behavior in disasters and in its revelation that you are the only person that you can count on in a disaster.

Most people do not think any thing dangerous can happen to them. It never has, it never will. This leads to complacency and boredom. We ignore the pre-flight safety instructions flight crews give to the passengers. Yet such instructions can save lives.

However, safety instructions are seldom complete. We are told what to do but not the why. None of the pre-flight safety presentations I heard ever mentioned why you should leave your carry-on luggage. (Getting it slows down the exit of those getting of the plane last and blocks the aisles by taking up more space.)

The book also reveals that engineers do not understand how people react in an emergency. The World Trade Center Towers took twice as long to evacuate as engineers had estimated. The stairways, although meeting the building code, were too narrow. To make them wider would have meant losing rental space.

The prevailing model of human action is the water molecule. The idea is that people flow like water in pipes. Molecules are not emotional. They are passive. People quite emotional. They deny reality. They forget. They become irrational. Better models of human behavior are available, but getting the designers to use them is difficult.

The book should be required reading for every safety engineer. The book raises many questions about prevailing assumptions. Everyone else would benefit from the book because it leads one to think about safety. In a disaster you are often on your own.

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No Babies Here

Posted by heyrandy on August 14, 2012

How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too) David P. Goldman, 2001

This book is an eye opener. The book’s major thesis is that civilizations have throughout history died because they did not produce enough children. The birth dearth was death. This phenomenon is evident in most developed countries. This decline in fertility is a huge problem for many western countries. It is also a problem for most of the Islāmic countries.

People do not have children because they lose hope in the future. It becomes a matter of living one’s life for one’s self. There are many factors that bring this thinking about, but religion is the main one. When people lose their beliefs, they focus upon themselves. It is a case of “Live for today because tomorrow does not count.”

Goldman cites population statistics to make his case. The fertility data track well with the decline in religion. Quebec, Canada is an example. Catholicism in Quebec went from a high of 88% Mass attendance in 1960 to 20% in 1980. Today Catholicism in Quebec is largely dead. The form remains, but it is hollow. The birth rate fell with the religion. Quebec’s birth rate is well below replacement, and declining.

It worse in Iran. There the birth rate is lower. But what makes it so terrible is the fact that many young women are financing their college education by prostitution. Iran is an Islāmic republic run by hardcore theocratic mullahs. The young don’t care. To them Islam is true, but so what?

Goldman writes a column under the name “Spengler.” Throughout the book he postulates “Spengler’s Laws.” The one that I find most incisive is “A country isn’t beaten until it sells its women, but it’s damned when its women sell themselves.” This to obtain a degree from a university Western schools regard as a diploma mill.

Education of women is the single most accurate predictor of the decline in fertility. The data are consistent in all societies. The more educated the women, the fewer children they will have. The population bomb was defused in the classroom.

It is not all gloom. The two bright spots are Israel and the United States. Here the birth rates are at or above replacement. Religion is the reason. It is Orthodox Judaism in Israel and Evangelical Christianity in the U.S. Both of these religions offer transcendence and a hope in the future.

Goldman spends some time discussing Islam’s conflict with Modernity. It is an abrasive relationship that Islam is losing and is going to keep losing.  The reasons are the structure of the Islāmic family and the attitude toward the Qur’an.

Islamic society is a copy of the paterfamilias of ancient Rome. The father was the head of state with power of life and death over the rest of the family members. It becomes a matter of family, clan, and tribe. The individual has no rights. This system works only in a largely agrarian, illiterate world. The internet exacerbates the problem.

The Muslim view of the Qur’an is the second problem. This view sees the Qur’an as being dictated to Mohammed. Therefore any disagreement, doubt, or question is not allowed. Goldman cites one Arab Jesuit as saying that it is a case of “The Word became Paper.” Muslims are against any textual or historical criticism of the Qur’an. Unlike the Old and New Testaments which have withstood several centuries of the most rigorous criticism, the Qur’an has never be subjected to such scrutiny. Scholars who attempt such work do so at physical peril.

The book is filled with historical references which the author uses to explain the current situation. He makes much of the Thirty Year’s War to explain the decline of Christianity in Europe. Read this book to understand the problem most countries are facing but ignoring.

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It Has Begun

Posted by heyrandy on August 13, 2012

Uncommon Dissent Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, William Dembski, ed., 2004

This is an amazing collection of essays. It is an academically fired shot at the most sacred doctrine of the West’s secular religion. To criticize Darwinism is heresy. These authors are genuine heretics. They have looked at Emperor Darwin and seen that he is ugly when naked.

Not long ago it would have been impossible to get a serious, intellectually based critique of evolution. The only people who criticized evolution were “them,” the creationists. They were dismissed as kooks. Creation was (and still is) dismissed as not being science. The evolutionists appeared to have won the battle. Wasn’t the decisive shot fired in the Scopes trial? Had not the Genesis account been discredited? Had not evolution been vindicated? Not quite.

The evangelical wing of Christianity has emerged from its self-imposed isolation. It is on the attack. The evolutionist’s free ride is over. There is mounting dissatisfaction with evolutionary theory. Advances in every field of science are raising doubts. There are cracks in the façade. Dembski’s book is evidence of this.

The essays in the book address evolution from a variety of perspectives. Some of the writers are creationists but some are secular. This variety of perspectives gives the book a broad face with which to address evolution’s weaknesses.

Perhaps the best thing the essays do is establish the religious nature of evolution. By exposing the rhetoric that conceals the lack of physical evidence and by pointing out the things that evolutionary theory did not predict and cannot explain, the authors bring real criticism to bear on this holy theory.

Nancy Pearcey’s essay, “Darwin meets the Berenstain Bears: Evolution as a Total Worldview,” address the matter of evolution’s becoming a universal explanation. Evolutionists are Darwinizing everything. What ever humans do, it is because of evolution. We are no longer free agents. We are merely products of natural selection. Ethics is no more. Given the premises of evolution, how can one disagree? If there is only naturalism we are not guided by anything but naturalism. The evolutionists, except for those who advocate this theory, disagree. They have no case. The logic is against them. They protest; they command; but the tide rolls in. They must retreat or drown.

My favorite essay is the one that inspired the book. David Berlinski’s June 1996 essay in Commentary, “The Deniable Darwin.” is reprinted in the book along with some of the letters the essay generated. The letters are quite revealing. Berlinski responds to the letters, showing the evolutionary establishment does not tolerate heretics.

I recommend the book for all who think that evolution is a settled matter. Dembski says best: “In commending this book to the reader, I wish to leave the Darwinists with this closing thought: You have had it way too easy until now. It is no longer credible to conflate informed criticism of Darwinism with ignorance, stupidity, insanity, wickedness, or brainwashing.” (p. xxxvii, italics in original). The battle is joined.

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Misplaced Tessera

Posted by heyrandy on August 8, 2012

Mary’s Mosaic, Peter Janney, 2011

The only thing certain is that Mary Meyer was murdered on October 12, 1964. The rest is a mass of confusion involving the power élite of Washington, D.C. One of those elite was the author’s father.

The author’s thesis is that Mary Meyer was killed to silence her. She was about to tell the world that the CIA killed President Kennedy and then engaged in a huge cover-up to hide its involvement. She has put all the tiles in place and so knew the truth the mosaic told.

Mary Meyer was the wife of Cord Meyer, a senior CIA official. Unlike other CIA wives, Mary hated the CIA. She thought that it was an impediment to world peace. Mary was very vocal about it. This animosity towards the agency and especially its director, Allen Dulles, cost her her marriage. The author thinks it cost her her life.

The author claims that Mary had put all the pieces together and concluded that the Agency murdered Kennedy to protect itself from Kennedy’s anger about the Bay of Pigs failure. Kennedy was rumored to want the agency disbanded. He was to do it after he was re-elected.

The author gives us a lot of information about the players in this mystery. Included are Philip and Katherine Graham, owners and publishers of the Washington Post;
Ben Bradlee, managing editor of the Post and husband of Tony Pinchot, Mary’s sister; Cord Meyer; Wistar Janney, the author’s father; and some JFK assassination researchers.

The real  problem with the book is that it relies upon unsupported statements. One of the witness at the trial of Ray Crump, the man charged with and acquitted of Mary’s murder was a mysterious William Mitchell.  Mitchell said that he was a Lieutenant in the Army stationed at the Pentagon. Janney checked the 1964 Pentagon telephone directory and found a William Mitchell listed. The 1965 edition did not list him. Mitchell also said that he was a mathematics instructor at Georgetown University. The University said they had never heard of him. But Janney says that while he was talking to an assassination researcher, Leo Damore, Damore said that he used to live in Mitchell’s apartment building and knew Mitchell. Mitchell left no forwarding address, but Damore would try to find him. Janney says that Damore wrote a letter to Mitchell’s last address asking Mitchell to call. Janney never saw the letter, but it must have persuaded Mitchell to call because Damore says Mitchell did.

This is not believable. If Mitchell was a CIA assassin why would he answer the letter? It had been 30 years since the killing. How did the letter get to Mitchell? But the real stunner is that Mitchell confessed to being the killer! Over the phone to a stranger. Why? Why is this considered evidence?

There is no real evidence that Mary had completed her mosaic. Even if she did, so what? Who would believe her? She would have been ignored, or she would have been laughed at and dismissed as just a conspiracy nut. This is usually how such things handled. It is a safe and effective method of dealing with the problem.

One of the things that come through in the book is the Ivy-League elitism. All of these people were the “right sort.” They all went to the right schools. They came from the right families. They were educated, polished, promiscuous. They could not keep their pants on. Mary was JFK’s paramour (his favorite, according to the author). In this role Mary learn many secrets via pillow talk. All the players were all corrupt, self-centered, and vain. There was nothing to like about any of them.

The book’s back cover betrays the book’s flaws. The back cover show several jig saw puzzle pieces, each with a name of a person or thing written on it. Some of the pieces fit, some are loose. The loose one don’t fit.

If you want a few insights into the machinations of the power-elite whoring, read the book. Otherwise go to the art museum. They have real mosaics.

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The Technology Made Me Do It

Posted by heyrandy on August 6, 2012

People walked down my street today. It was early evening. The sun was setting and the weather pleasant. It was a good time for a walk. A man and a woman came by together. They were pushing baby strollers. Family time. Taking a walk with the young ones.

What made this unusual was the woman was looking down at her smart phone while walking. I suspect an urgent text had come in. Or perhaps a tweet was going out: “wlk w hub and kids.” For knowing this vital message, the world is forever changed. I was mowing the grass at that time, so it was hard to tell. I am careful when I mow. Detaching body part will not make me look better.

I normally don’t care what people do when they walk. If someone texts while he walk and walks into a telephone pole because he did not see it, too bad. It is his fault even if the pole was in the wrong place. Since these people were walking in the street there was the matter of vehicle traffic. And cars are more mobile than poles. Blame the technology.

So don’t push a baby stroller and text unless it is really important–like when you just have to tweet how good that latte is.

 

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The Fed at 50

Posted by heyrandy on July 27, 2012

Fifty Years of Managed Money, Elgin Groseclose, 1965

2013 will be 100 years since Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act.  The Federal Reserve (the Fed) has professionally managed our money ever since. The author give the history of the first fifty years of the Fed. Given what the author says, Congress should have stayed home.

The author’s contention is the Fed has done nothing to help the country. The Fed’s policies have steadily devalued the American dollar. The Fed has been the source of funding for all the bad programs this country has produced. The Fed is evil.

The Fed’s proponents pitched the idea to the American public and its congress as a panacea. It would regulate the money supply so there would be no booms or busts. All would be steady. The Fed failed. The Fed did worse than fail. It caused most of the problems. Instead of a panacea we got a toxic nostrum.

The Fed claims that it is independent of politics. This is a lie. The author shows that the Fed was a political tool since its creation.

There were only a few voices who spoke against the Fed’s creation. Many politicians fell for the sales pitch. Most of the politicians just went along. So did President Wilson. He was clueless about economic matters. Most Presidents are. They just believe what they were told.

The Fed is coming under attach. There have always been Fed critics, but recently there are many more. The Fed is getting a lot of publicity, all bad and all deserved. Fed critics are no longer considered members of the tinfoil-hat set.

This is a good book to read if you are just getting started in Fed studies. It is especially valuable in tracking the course of public opinion about the Fed. The Fed has come a long way since “the Fed what?” was the average American’s knowledge of the Fed. This book is amazing in that it was published. There was very little thought given to the Fed in 1964. That has sure changed. Get this book along with The Creature from Jekyll Island and you will be able to give the Fed a proper birthday party next year.

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I Saw It

Posted by heyrandy on July 26, 2012

Yesterday morning at work we had a communications meeting. Usually these things are a lot of dull graphs showing the trends of things most of us do not care about nor could influence if we did. Still, it is time in an air-conditioned conference room with comfortable chairs.

Today was a little different. We had a video before we saw the charts and graphs. It was only a few minutes long, but it was packed with the banal. The video was a pitch for someone’s success-you-can-obtain books. We were all trapped. The video began with a computer-generated image of a human head with the brain visible. The image was on the screen when we all entered the room. There were the usual jokes about this being “your brain while working here.” Once the meeting began the image began to rotate around the spinal axis. You can do this when there is no neck. I would liked it better if the image rotated around its nose. The message of the video was “your brain is your most valuable  tool, so be positive.” Now you know as much as I do, but you escaped the meeting.

There was no voice to the video, just text and music. The text was in sentence fragments. I guess this builds suspense. It built tedium. The video was not well received: there was total silence when it ended. This is good, since it made the meeting shorter (we were getting close to pre-lunch slowdown.)

The only thing I found interesting in the video was its claim that both baseball pitcher and batters do better if they have a positive attitude. Team A’s pitchers with great attitudes verses Team B’s batters with great attitudes must mean that both groups do better. And opposing gears can turn in the same direction. I am sure the books explain this antimony.

I do not know if this video was the boss’s idea or if he was merely obeying the You Will Show This edict. Whatever the reason, the video did not improve the charts and graphs. I’m positive!

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