Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sleeping in Heavenly Pieces

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, everyone stirred. Consequently, I didn't sleep a wink.

So I'm up this Eve posting comics to the site. Happy Merry, or as the Fab Four would say, “Crisp and crisp and crispy.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mr. Ockham and Mr. Oswald

‘Occam's Razor’ which suggests that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct. Conspiracy theorists hate Occam's razor.
–Superconductor, Reddit post on the topic of conspiracy (2014)
If you go on the web and do a joint search for the terms “conspiracy theory” and “occam’s razor,” you’ll find quite a few statements similar to the above (which I selected on the basis of its pithiness).  Indeed, a number of self-described ‘skeptic’ sites and hard-copy publications depict the Razor as the garlic that wards off conspiracy vampires.   And, usually, they do so with a healthy dose of snark.  I have, for instance, a slick, glossy 2013 Media Source rag titled Conspiracies: Mysteries, Secrets & Lies, which leads off with the following observation:*
The theory of Ockham’s Razor suggests that the simplest most straightforward explanation to any issue is usually the best....Ockham’s Razor is the bane of conspiracy theorists everywhere.  Why keep it simple when a wacky, convoluted theory can be developed about almost anything.**
Put aside, for a moment, whether any of that is true.  The fact remains that anyone truly and exclusively believing in this interpretation of Occam’s Razor will lose his or her shirt within approximately one half hour after arriving in Manhattan.


Because within five minutes, he or she is bound to encounter either a three card Monte or shell game.   Both cons depend on sleight of hand.  They’re both designed so that the simplest, most straightforward answer is always wrong.

And here, we encounter the first problem with this version of Occam’s Razor.  It doesn’t take into account human guile.  Sure, scientists use it quite often to gain insight into natural phenomena.  But using the Razor to study rocks is quite different than using it to find anything meaningful within social interactions and individual motivation.  After all, the rock isn’t trying to deceive the scientist, or take her money.  It has neither will nor need.  It’s just a rock.  People, on the other hand, cheat, lie, steal, obfuscate, and deceive to augment or protect their social standing, privileges, power or wealth.  Doing these things successfully depends on the ability to complicate reality, knowing full well that fellow human beings will, if given the choice, usually opt for the simplest, most straightforward answer.

Here’s the second problem with this interpretation of the Razor:  it’s not what William of Occam actually said.  What he said, was this:
[1] Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitas [You must never assume plurality without necessity, and]

[2]  Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora [It’s folly to do with more when you are able to do with less].
In these two quotes, William of Occam’s telling us not to complicate the explanation any more than we have to.  In the three card Monte/shell game example, we go for the simplest, most straightforward explanation and lose everything.  So, we must, per the Razor, complicate the explanation of the pea or special card’s location in order to account for the greed and dishonesty of the dealer. The complications arise because of a compelling reason (necessitas).

On a more basic level, the application of Occam’s Razor discounts or downplays superfluous information or data that require additional proofs.  For example, let’s say that I drive down a country road, see a white cow in a nearby field, and say to myself, “There are white cows here.”

Ten minutes later, you drive by, see the same white cow in the same green field, and say to yourself, “There’s a white cow over there.”

According to Occam’s Actual Razor, who’s statement is most likely correct?  In this instance, your explanation wins out over mine.  Why?  Because I said “cows,” plural.  In order to validate my response, I would need to find another white cow in the vicinity.  In your statement, the white cow in the field is proof of itself.  No further evidence is necessary.
Of course, you could go hog wild overboard with this and say, “There’s a white cow over least she’s white on one side....during this time of day....when in this field.”  But you get the drift, right?

More importantly, you can probably see how this applies to the JFK assassination.

* A writer going by the name J. Lee Marks is credited with penning all the articles in this issue.

**’Occam’ and ‘Ockham’ are both commonly found spellings for William.

Scroll down or click here to read the second part of this post.


James Tague (1936-2014)

James Tague, the last surviving victim of the JFK assassination, died this past February. 

Tague, at the time heading for a lunch date with his girlfriend (and future-wife), had to stop halfway under the triple underpass because of motorcade traffic.  He got out, and just as he emerged, he heard a shot.  He then heard two more very close to each other.  Between the second and third shots, he felt a sting on his right cheek.  A bullet had struck some nearby concrete, which then flung abrasive debris towards his face.

Figure 1.  Tague’s recreation of the shooting

Tague insisted that his injury did not occur after the first shot, but most likely the second and before the third (hard to tell because the two shots were very close together).  This presents a severe challenge to the Warren Commission's findings, for the bullet’s trajectory would indicate that it came straight from the Texas School Book Depository.   Assume, for the sake of argument, that the Warren Commission was correct, and Oswald fired three bullets from the sixth floor.  The second shot had to be the magic bullet that caused seven wounds in Gov. John Connally and President Kennedy.  The third shot would have to be the fatal head wound.  In both of these scenarios, there would have been insufficient force to have blasted cement near Tague.  Thus, he would have to have been hit by the first shot.

Yet, Tague insisted that the first shot didn’t hurt him.

Moreover, he heard the shots coming from the grassy knoll.  But after hearing about the Warren Commission findings, Tague backed off of that position, and deferred to the panel's opinion, explaining in a 1966 interview:
[Interviewer] Mr. Tague, on the 22nd, when the shots were being fired, your first impression was that they came form the area near the wooden fence.

[Tague] That’s correct.

[Interviewer] Where do you now think that the shots came from?

[Tague] I believe that they did come from the school book depository, because of the things I read about it, the evidence that’s been brought forth in newspapers, through the Warren Report and so on.

Figure 2.  Tague, 1966 interview

While the above would make it seem that Tague supported the Warren Commission, the truth is he didn’t.  He would eventually become a prominent JFK assassination researcher.  Last year, Trine Day came out with a paperback version of his book LBJ and the Kennedy Killing.  In this, and on his website, Tague made clear his criticism of the Warren Commission’s findings.


Mr Occam and Mr. Oswald

Scroll up, or click here to read the first part of this post.
I might say that the evidence exonerating Oswald is so complete that had he lived they could not have had a trial.  They would not have dared to come to trial.
--Jim Garrison, lecture (unknown date).

Figure 1.  Recording of the lecture quoted above.

We can see the JFK assassination in terms of a pop-culture understanding of Occam’s Razor, and we can see it in terms of Occam’s Razor.  We can see simplicity in terms of the most simple and straightforward explanation, or we can see it in terms of the explanation requiring the least plurality, or additional proofs.

According to this first viewpoint, the simplest, most straightforward answer is that a single shooter, Oswald, acted alone.  One person, one gun, one intended victim, and two accidental ones that got in the way.  You could also think that, with respect to plurality, one shot, specifically the fatal head wound, did the bulk of the damage.  Only one shooter needs to have performed this.  Thus, you need not have other shooters, or for that spotters or any other assistants in your explanation.

Yet when looking at the particulars of the case, one has to weigh, in terms of necessary proofs, which explanation contains less plurality:  the Oswald alone hypothesis, or the multi-shooter hypothesis.  Speculating about the motivations and the preparation behind the assassination might be interesting, but irrelevant for our purposes here, just as it would be irrelevant to speculate on Oswald’s motives were he the lone assassin.  Here, we’re simply talking about the physical possibility of explanation A versus explanation B.                     

A multi-shooter explanation requires the following proofs: (1) shooters having access to two or more positions, (2) one of the shooters having a relatively flat trajectory, and (3) positive identification of any and all shooters, spotters and assistants.   Fleshing this out a bit, we must first assess the value of this hypothesis.  President John Kennedy’s head jerked suddenly to his back and left.  The Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) loomed to his back towards his right.  The physical properties of inertia would lead one to suspect that had an assailant administered the fatal shot from that position, President Kennedy’s head would have moved sharply forward and to the left. But the Zapruder film clearly shows Jack's head going back and to the left, a fact clearly more consistent with a shot from the grassy knoll which was to the front and to the President's right.

Also, Parkland doctors observed that the fatal bullet entered from the front and exited toward the back (entrance and exit wounds usually differ in size).   A number of civilian and police witnesses heard or saw shots coming from the grassy knoll area in front of the President.  In later years, some would photograph, get testimony from and identify conspiracy suspects.  In 1969, Garrison won indictment and brought one of them (Clay Shaw) to trial.  Towards the end of his life, E. Howard Hunt detailed his involvement in the conspiracy.  So it’s not like these people are completely obscure, or unknown.

Meanwhile, witnesses not only saw a gun retract from the sixth floor of the TSBD, but heard it firing from there as well, among them Dallas Police officer Marion Baker.  The bullet that grazed bystander James Tague came from a direction inconsistent with that of the fatal head shot.    This  indicates at least two shooters from very different positions.

Conversely, if one explains the JFK assassination as Lee Oswald’s lone homicide then the number of necessary proofs begin to increase.  For starters, you would (1) have to place him on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting. You would subsequently have to (2) have him fire three times in 6.7 seconds with a cantankerous bolt-action rifle, the sight of which had not yet been adjusted.  Oswald would then have to have (3) hit James Tague with a bullet or fragment, (4) fired off the magic bullet that produced seven wounds in President Kennedy and Gov. John Connally, and (5) scored a shot to the head from behind that either hit Kennedy in the front, or left a much larger wound in the back of his head contrary to the typical patterns of entrance and exit wounds–and all of this through dense foliage.  You would have to (6) also show how Oswald could have fired the rifle without a trace of nitrate on his cheek and (7) have done so without leaving prints discernable by the FBI (but apparently not to local police, who found a five-point palm print match a week after the Bureau tests).  You’d then (8) have to prove that Oswald neatly lined up three shell casings side-by-side, stashed the rifle behind some boxes, and ran down to the second floor within ninety seconds.

Officer Marion Baker of the Dallas Police Department heard shots ring out from the Texas School Book Depository.  He raced inside and found Oswald’s boss, Roy Truly.  Baker asked Truly to escort him to the roof, where the cop believed a sniper would be.  They try taking one of the two working elevators, but they’re both on the fifth floor.  Truly started rushing upstairs, but Baker stayed behind after catching a glimpse of Lee in his peripheral vision.  Drawing his weapon, the officer asked Truly to identify Oswald when Lee and the officer came face-to-face, only a yard or two apart.  Baker specifically noted that Oswald was neither mussed nor sweaty.*

Before coming to this point in the story, Baker painstakingly retraced his steps for the Warren Commission, even going go far as to go on site to recreate the events.  Both parties determined that this took 90 seconds.  In a 1992 interview, Former Orleans Parish DA Jim Garrison outlined the difficulties Oswald would have had to have overcome in order to accomplish this: 
Furthermore, it was a physical impossibility for Oswald to get downstairs in that short of time.  Especially if he had to wipe off the fingerprints, and hide the gun under the boxes, go to the sixth to the fifth, fifth to the fourth, fourth to the third, third to the second in the same time that Roy Truly and Marion Baker went from first to second...If he had been able to do that, he would have been the decathlon champion of all time....In conducing their tests to see if he could do it....they found...that if the man ran fast enough--I think they got somebody, some track star from recent track events and had him run him down the steps [sic].  They found that they could get him down there at maximum speed to reach the Coke machine, but could not get the Coke out of the Coke machine.
Note, Oswald was no track star.  By the same token, he was at best a mediocre shot, according to his Marine Corps records.  Although Oswald tested positively for nitrate residue on his hands, the same tests on his cheeks were negative.  If Oswald fired a rifle, he would have shot from the hip or chest, thus delaying the manual loading mechanism necessary for that rifle, and seriously compromising his aim.  Still, according to the single-shooter hypothesis, he had tremendous luck on that time, managing to squeeze off not only the magic bullet, but the anomalous head shot was well.  I’ve read in some sources where this might be theoretically possible.  But after fifty-one years and millions of trials and simulations, no one has ever replicated this shot under ideal circumstances with ideal weapons and training, much less under the conditions Oswald faced, and with the limitations that he had.     
When Baker and Truly arrived at the fifth floor, they noticed that only one of the elevators remained on that floor.  The other one had descended.  So they took the first one to the roof to look for evidence or culprits, completely bypassing the sixth floor.  Whoever might have been in that second elevator would have had ample time to finish their business and head downstairs without much notice.

Of course, the point here isn’t to rehash evidence that every JFK assassination researcher and her Aunt Mathilda already knows.  Rather, it’s to demonstrate a few things about the application of Occam’s Razor to conspiracy issues, starting with the JFK assassination.  First off, the public understands this tool to be something different than what it actually is.  Second, while the Razor might be useful for many things, it might not be useful in subjective matters, in no small part because of how the individual using it understands the phrase sine necessitas.  Some scholars and scientists have developed anti-razors in order to challenge complacent, comfortable allusions to Occam.  As Fr. Ernesto Obregon wrote in a post dated 19 November 2012, exclusive use of the Razor, even when not misapplied, could be problematic: 
...the anti-razors are most often warnings to scientists, mathematicians, and secularists, against the dangers of over-simplifying the data to the point where they actually misunderstand what is the actual explanation of the data or the events.
Later, Fr. Obregon quoted science philosopher Dr. Dieter Gernert (Technische Universität München) as saying: 
The philosopher of science Henry H. Bauer...disputes the common view that scientists are open-minded and strive for new cognition and insight. By way of contrast, he states that open-mindedness for the new exists only as long as the new things are not too new. Bauer makes a distinction between the ‘known unknown’ which can be derived from secured knowledge (and hence is suitable for research proposals), and the “unknown unknown” that cannot be expected on the basis of the state of knowledge.
One can extend the concept to any skeptic or cynic.  I would disagree that scientists–or for that matter debunkers, some of whom are actually compelling and helpful–are so overtly biased that they indiscriminately filter out any and all dissonant information.  At the same time, we have to acknowledge that for all the strengths of the scientific process, its practice is often relegated to human beings who bear the same emotions, and some of the same prejudices, as the population in general.

And I’m not alone in thinking this way.  Such academics as Drs. Thomas Kuhn (Princeton) and Norwood Hanson (University of Indiana) have written about the social context of science.  (One could easily broaden this to include many of the other liberal arts, including the soft sciences and the humanities.)  All in all, most professionals are actually pretty good at maintaining objectivity and not falling into groupthink, but only in relation to the rest of us.  Consequently, over-relying on such things as Occam’s Razor might be problematic in the best of skilled hands.  Imagine the havoc it could wreak in the hands of the dilettante.

But here’s the weird thing about applying Occam’s Razor to conspiracy hypotheses in general, and the JFK conspiracy hypothesis specifically: when weighing the simplicity of conspiracy and non-conspiracy explanations, the latter might not be a shoe-in to win.  While J. Lee Marks and others might see the Razor as “the bane of conspiracy theory,” that’s not always--or perhaps not even often--the case.  If someone truly believes this, then he or she might have a bias, a predetermination that the conspiracy explanation is always going to be less accurate.  Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t.  But pre-judgments and over-generalizations won’t show this any more than they would show that conspiracies lurk around every corner.

*Baker gave three separate accounts of this incident.  The above is the one given in his testimony to the Warren Commission.  In previous versions he said that Oswald had approached from the opposite directions, or that he was in the back of the lunchroom taking a Coke out of the vending machine.  Obviously, this one is most favorable to the single-shooter hypothesis, but it’s still good enough to prove the unlikeliness of Oswald being on the sixth floor, especially given that he has not been sweating.  Even the track star sweated.

Truly said he had started going to the third floor when he noticed Baker not with him.  Moreover, he saw that Baker had drawn his weapon at someone in the lunchroom.  This would imply that Oswald was already there, and jibes best with the Coke machine version of Baker’s stories.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sitting Here Watching the Wheels Go ‘Round and ‘Round

Don’t worry.  This isn’t another post on the Fab Four.

First off, thank you all for your support and company during the weeks of my recovery.  I can’t tell you how much it meant to hear from all of you.  Some of you I’ve corresponded with, and IM’ed, but hope to do more in the future.*

I’m still kinda written out, so I thought I’d take more time to research a few things.

(1)  The Murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman

Think this is an open and shut case?  Well, it has its strangeness.  For example, biological material scraped from underneath Brown’s fingertips indicates that she struggled with her attacker.  This DNA does not belong to O.J. Simpson. 

Also, autopsy photographs of Goldman’s right hand show myriad cuts and other damage.  Of course, he was a martial artist; hardly a pushover.  So it shouldn't surprise us that he valiantly fought against his attacker.  Even though his skilled fists were no match against a sharp knife, it’s highly unlikely that his killer got away completely unscathed.  The murderer would thus bear marks from punches Goldman threw, punches that damaged the young waiter’s hands.  Yet, jail nurse Thanos Peratis personally witnessed LAPD Detectives Tom Lange and Philip Vannater telling Simpson to strip so they could photograph his nude body.  Thanos told private detective/writer William Dear that he saw no marks on Simpson except for a very small cut to one of his fingers. 

And these two data come nowhere close to scratching the surface.

Of course, none of the above would mean anything to me unless there were political or parapolitical undertones to the story.  Indeed some have proposed them.  Were I to do a series on this, you’d best believe I’d look into them.

(2)  The Death of JonBenet Ramsey

You’ll note that I wrote ‘death,’ and not ‘murder.’  While the latter is more probable than not, some evidence actually suggests manslaughter.  In either case, everyone agrees that the child died as a result of homicide.

In their memoir, The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet’s Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth, John and Patsy Ramsey said that a 1999 grand jury refused to hand down an indictment against them.  But years later, we would find this wasn’t true.  The jury did, in fact, indict them.  Yet Boulder County DA Alex Hunter refused to sign off on the indictment and pursue a criminal case.  Moreover, the District Attorney’s office kept mum on the grand jury’s findings until 27 January 2013, prompting a reporter named Charlie Brennan to file a lawsuit to release them--in order to verify that such an indictment really existed.  On 25 October 2013, a judge finally ordered the indictment’s release to the public.

The case is intriguing because, on the one hand, there’s no solid evidence proving the Ramseys murdered or accidentally killed JonBenet.  On the other hand, there’s evidence that John and Patsy attempted to thwart a meaningful investigation.  The infamous ransom note is especially damning, and for numerous reasons.  But here, I’ll cite just one, namely this passage:
You will withdraw $118,000.00 from your account. $100,000 will be in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills.
First off, $118,000 is a rather strange amount.  It’s not a round figure like $100,000, or $125,000 or even $120,000.  Second, this sum happened to equal John Ramsey’s annual employment bonus for the year 1996.   One would thus have to wonder how many people, among their family and friends (or for that matter professional contacts), knew this exact figure.  It’s quite possible that only the Ramseys would have had that information at their fingertips.

As for the political significance of this case, it’s difficult to express in a few words.  But I began looking into it when I saw similar stories cropping up in conspiracy lore.  Most of the allegations I’ve come across surfaced well after public awareness of the Ramsey case.  Yet, some of them predate JonBenet’s death by at least ten years.   And while the facts don’t point to a specific chain of events, they are nevertheless consistent with these outre stories, and offer a quantity and quality of evidence that other conspiracy allegations cannot.

(3) The Zodiac Murders

I went into some depth with this story, and have only recently begun to back away from it.  It’s one of those mysteries that develops an intense interest within a small group of people.  At some point, it begins to take over their lives.  I don’t know if I want to delve into anything that deeply yet.

The political ramifications of the case are quite obvious, and concisely outlined by Mae Brussell, in her constant reference to “The California Violences.”  In a nutshell, she felt that a lot of brutal actions, starting in 1968, were designed to discredit leftist dissent and support police excesses against law-abiding activists by depicting them as run-amok marauders.  Believe it or not, there were two counter-cultural figures implicated in these assaults, not to mention former Manson associate Bruce Davis.** 

This case has drawn in so many amateur sleuths, each championing a specific suspect.  But here’s the problem: there are five slayings that everyone attributes to Zodiac.  These are often referred to as the “canonical” murders: Betty Lou Jensen (20 December 1968), David Faraday (20 December 1968), Darlene Ferrin (4 July 1969), Cecelia Shepard (27 September 1969), and Paul Stine (11 October 1969).  If Zodiac killed one, the presumption is that he killed them all.  But we can exclude the most popular suspects from at least one of the slayings.  For example, Stine’s murderer left behind DNA evidence that police preserved and posthumously compared to their prime suspect, Arthur Allen.  But the DNA did not belong to Allen.   According to witnesses, another popular suspect, Richard Gaikowski, wasn’t even in the US during at least two of the murders. 

This has led some to speculate that there wasn’t a Zodiac killer, per se, but rather Zodiac killers (or ‘Team Zodiac’).  In this scenario, the police are always chasing their tail because they assumed that one person not only committed all the canonical homicides, but also mailed taunting letters to them and the press.  It never apparently dawned on them to look for a murder conspiracy where different people took on different roles.

One point of contention, with respect to the canonical murders, is the connection between each of these individuals.  While police maintained that these were five random people who had no connections, some researchers insist that one of these five victims, Ferrin, knew all of the other four.  If true, that would give strong evidence to the supposition that these murders were anything but random. 

*There's something else I just received from a much beloved canine, but I wanna post about that later.

**As I and others (e.g. Vincent Bugliosi and Stephen Kay) have pointed out numerous times, the Mansonites weren’t hippies, a group they outwardly despised.  Yet, numerous sources continue to depict them as such.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Ask for Natasha

Cyberpal Deanna Meske (left) has just posted the third episode of her Web series Government Lies. She not only conceived of the show, but produces and stars in it as well.

I'm quite excited for her. If you click on the above link, you'll see this is a bit more than the I've-gotta-barn productions that I normally promote. Deanna not only established her own production studio, but is an accomplished actor. Moreover, everyone else in front of and behind the camera has professional experience, most notably soap star Lane Davies. And for something shot on absolutely no budget at all, it looks really good.

Best of all, Government Lies centers around one of my favorite subjects: conspiracy. So, grab some popcorn, and a drink of your choice. Click on the link and enjoy the show.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In the End, Pt. II

What in the world you thinking of?
Laughing in the face of Love?
What on Earth you trying to do?
It’s up to you.

Yeah, you....

Who on Earth do you think you are?
A superstar?
Well, right you are!

Well, we all shine on.
–John Lennon, "Instant Karma" (1970)

And in the end,
The love you take
Is equal to the love
You make
–John Lennon and Paul McCartney, "The End," Abbey Road (1969)

Western Communism

Capital, in both a Marxist and classical sense, narrowly refers to the money used in the exchange and production of hard goods and services. Here, the term ‘money’ is loosely defined to include not only cold hard cash, but also the thought or appearance of cash, such as debt obligations (i.e., cash in the future) and so on. But over the years, the notion of capital has expanded to include a number of things that can either define, create or add value to a good, service or sometimes to a relationship (e.g., a partnership, joint venture or corporation).

What we’re primarily looking at here is ‘social capital,’ or the wealth accrued in public/social position, identity or overall goodwill. As the World Bank describes it:
The broadest and most encompassing view of social capital includes the social and political environment that shapes social structure and enables norms to develop. This analysis extends the importance of social capital to the most formalized institutional relationships and structures, such as government, the political regime, the rule of law, the court system, and civil and political liberties. This view not only accounts for the virtues and vices of social capital, and the importance of forging ties within and across communities, but recognizes that the capacity of various social groups to act in their interest depends crucially on the support (or lack thereof) that they receive from the state as well as the private sector. Similarly, the state depends on social stability and widespread popular support. In short, economic and social development thrives when representatives of the state, the corporate sector, and civil society create forums in and through which they can identify and pursue common goals.
The Beatles were not economists. With the possible exception of Neill Aspinall, it’s not likely that they could have defined ‘social capitalism’ if you asked them.  On the other hand, it’s quite evident they undersood that they had something in overwhelming abundance; in fact, way too much of it, more than they could use. Moreover, this something that they had was a perfect example of social capital.

The Beatles obviously had tremendous amounts of capital in both the Marxist and classical sense when comparing them individually to Joe Schmo on the streets. But in the grand scheme of things, it was, and continues to be, peanuts. For an individual, or several individuals, to attempt to eliminate such things as poverty simply by redistributing his or her tangible assets would be folly. For example, we know that Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire. Were she to redistribute her wealth to the rest of humanity, then everyone else’s income would increase about twenty US cents. That’s hardly something that would effect social change, and would only result in penury for Winfrey.

On the other hand, the Beatles had a social capital that was unique to them: namely, their fame. As US radio personality Jean Shepherd characterized his experience with them, this fame came with a lot of perks--ardent adulation, money, sex, and the ability to practice the crafts that each truly loved. Yet, it became quite evident in the early days of Beatlemania that it had a severe downside: they had forfeited a good deal of their privacy; they became alienated from the rest of humanity, for they couldn’t securely go anywhere in public; they faced constant, unyielding demands for their attention; many of their relationships, most notably to each other, were jeopardized, and in some cases torn asunder.* 

What’s worse, as the saga of the band continued, they paid steeper and steeper prices for that fame. First off, there was the machinations of the Kray twins and later Allen Klein to gain control of them. There were the untimely deaths of many of those associated with either them or Brian Epstein: Joseph Meek, Joe Orton, Ken Halliwell, David Jacobs (their attorney), Sir Dr. Richard Ashur, Macdonald, Browne, ex-Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe, and even Epstein himself. It’s clear that the Beatles held no culpability in the demise of these men. Moreover, the band consciously realized this. Still, one might suspect in the backs of their mind they wondered if their fame played a role in these premature passings. What if, for example, they one day thought that the Kray twins murdered Epstein and Jacobs to take control of them? If so they might have lived with the nagging suspicion that at least these two would have lived longer lives had Beatlemania never existed.

As mentioned in the previous post, they also felt pressure as representatives of their generation and the emerging ethos it symbolized. In some cases, they experenced this as attempted manipulation by those within the counterculture. In the most horrific sense, however, the introduction of their lyrics into evidence at the Tate-LaBianca murder trials in Los Angeles demonstrated their powerlessness to prevent others from perverting the intent of their music.**

At the same time, the group had become keenly aware of the disparity of this particular capital when looking at their support staff, especially Evans and Aspinall. As Shepherd pointed out in his monologues chronicling his time with the Beatles, he too was seduced by this fame. A legendarily cynical curmudgeon, Shep laughed at himself for basking in the glow of this fire, the giddy feeling that came about not only because of the fact that the individual band members knew him, but seemed to genuinely like him. He also realized that he would have loved to have had just a piece of that particular fame for himself.

I would suspect that the band itself was quite aware that Evans and Aspinall shared Shepherd’s feelings in this regard, but to a much greater extent. After all, those two faced much of the same suffocation that the Fab Four did, on a daily basis, yet didn’t fully enjoy the benefits of their famous friends.

I would also suspect that this played a role in prompting Lennon and McCartney to help their friends and supporters set up Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots. In a sense it was a sharing of this fame, a chance for their unknown staff to be rock stars, or at least play at being rock stars. While not wholly successful, the composition, recording and release of "Sgt. Pepper," and "Fixing a Hole" gave this effort a last hurrah, and a pretty triumphant one at that, although all parties preferred to keep that secret.***

Although Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots never became household names, they did perhaps demonstrate a method for actuating a western communism where the social capital chiefly manifested itself as the Beatles brand, which not only liquified into money, but also, hopefully, Love.

I’m a Beatle, He’s a Beatle, She’s a Beatle, We’re a Beatle; Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Beatle Too?

A report in the 12 February 1976 issue of Rolling Stone disclosed that Evans was set to deliver the manuscript of his memoirs to Grosset and Dunlop on 12 January, exactly a week after his death. Titled Living the Beatles’ Legend, it presumably would have spent most of its ink talking about his connection with the group. As to what it actually said, no one knows. The manuscript went missing. Despite the above report, some have express doubts as to its existence. 

Whether it existed or not, the title seemed particularly appropriate. After all, we know that Evans, Aspinall, Derek Taylor, Tony Bramwell and others received some prominence during their lives because of their association with the Beatles. But on a deeper level, Evans and Aspinall also got to live out a Beatles fantasy in the form of the pseudo-knockoff band, the Pepperpots. Aspinall might have also played out a more intimate Beatles fantasy.

Figure 1. McCartney Imposter (left), Neil Aspinall and John Lennon (right)

One can tell that the person on the left looks like McCartney, but is not him. Indeed, the facial shape, with the elongated and pointed chin, does not belong to Paul, but to Aspinall. Since I’ve seen this disguised face in several different photographs, and moving in film footage, I’m fairly confident that this wasn’t simply photoshopped, but an actual, raw image. Nothing Is Real poster Apollo C. Vermouth stressed that in addition to two voice doubles, there was a visual double. If Vermouth and Aspinall are one and the same, as claimed by the board’s moderators, then he should know, especially if he were the visual double.****

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that everything stated in the previous paragraph is not speculation, but fact. In that case, it seemed to represent the same mindset that created Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots. The band offered Aspinall a chance to be like a Beatle. The disguise, however, offered Neil a chance to be a specific Beatle:  McCartney.

Stepping out of the speculative, we can see that the Beatles actually took concrete steps to share the social capital afforded by Beatleness. The most interesting example of this: when Apple Corps Ltd. first hung out its shingle, it put out a call to the great unwashed for films, scripts, visual art and music, presumably to be published/released by the new company. The strong association between the band and the corporation would effectively given any previously unheard of artist produced within this process the Beatles’ imprimatur. They would bear the Beatles’ brand. They would become part of the Beatles legend. Such would be a perfect example of redistributing social capital within the context of business, or in other words a perfect example of a Western communism. 

This aspect of the plan didn’t work out that well, for reasons you’ve most likely already surmised. The volume of submissions completely swamped the company, which couldn’t physically look at all of these entries, let alone consider them and develop them.

What’s worse, by the fall of 1969, the Beatles would effectively dissolve, with Apple Corps now under the direction of Allen Klein, a man who, frankly, couldn’t care less about the company’s ideological underpinnings. Thus, there would be no practical way to make this dream of a Western communism a reality.

At the same time, both Lennon and McCartney still seemed supportive of democratic celebrity, as it were. John gave voice to the notion in the song "Instant Karma." More interestingly, in the Playboy interview he and Yoko Ono recounted an incident involving their son, Sean. They explained that they tried to shield him from their fame, never telling him that they were celebrities. But when Sean stayed overnight at a friends house, whereupon they watched the movie Yellow Submarine on television, the younger Lennon couldn’t figure out why his father was a cartoon on television, and a Beatle. His father explained that he was a Beatle. His mother was a Beatle. In fact, everyone was a Beatle.

I don’t know when or why it happened, but it would seem that at some point in the 1970s that McCartney began to take a second look at the pesky rumor that had once gotten on his nerves. We can see he had it somewhere in his mind when commissioning famed sci-fi author Isaac Asimov to write a screenplay based on a direct Paul-Is-Dead theme: namely the secret replacement of a Beatles-like band by doubles.

As mentioned earlier, Asimov commented on this effort, and why it was scrapped, cryptically saying, "It’s tempting to imagine that the project collapsed because McCartney knew subconsciously that he was aligned with the losing side." In terms of a plotline for a screenplay, the remark would make little sense. A writer can manipulate the story in any number of ways to allow justice to prevail, or for the white knight to rescue the damsel in distress, or so on. With respect to winning or losing at the box office, again, the writer and production team can tinker with the project to attract a larger audience.

In this statement, Asimov implied that there was more at stake here than simply a movie. The winning side or losing side could not be determined by a screenwriter or production team, but by reality itself.

Maybe it’s not what they had in mind, but the Paul-Is-Dead rumor brought with it a wealth of intrigue, mystery, curiosity, et cetera. In showbiz parlance, it’s a sexy story, a narrative that invites the reader to engage in not just the history of McCartney, but of the other three band members, their wives and kinfolk, their support staff, their friends, and, now, other researchers of the Paul-Is-Dead story (e.g., Iamaphoney). The fact remains that people (and I’m not counting myself as one of them) have devoted a lot of thought, energy and research into resolving the potential hidden mysteries this narrative has yet to reveal, the "Final Chapter" as Vermouth would call it.

If Aspinall and Vermouth were indeed one and the same, it’s clear, especially given that during the bulk of his contributions to the Nothing Is Real board, that he is affirming the existence of a specific narrative.  More important, he's averring that the Beatles stated it consciously through subtext.  And he has an interest in seeing that it’s either revealed or developed:
The story line? In all truth, about 65% of what is written [regarding the Paul-Is-Dead rumor] is based on things that actually happened. The remainder, sheer fantasy. Now, to figure what is, and what isn't. It was agreed, BY ALL INVOLVED, that once the ‘story’ is told, not to deviate from any previous statements. You know, and I know, that there ARE clues to be found on Pepper. Just what those "clues" allude to, has not yet been figured out. But, when asked of John, George, or Ringo, there was always the ‘total rubbish’ response. That is the story line. Deny! I have been accused of ‘jerking you all off’ with my cryptic responses. Truth is, you've been jerked off from day one! THAT was part of the ‘story line.’ A little mystery for you to figure out.

When things began to turn a bit ‘beyond the beyond,’ I tried to get the loonies back on the right path.

The theories of CIA, KKK, UFO's, Paul in space, Don Knotts....fucking hell!!! I'M JERKING YOU OFF????? Keep it simple, follow the clues, have a spot of fun, That is the ‘story line’ NOW. There is a method to my madness.
What Vermouth is actually describing in the above passage is a culture jam. And that’s exactly what it still looks like to me after examining this story.  Thus, we would have to look to see what the culture jam actually was, and its purpose.

As I mentioned earlier, the specific Paul-Is-Dead narrative occurred independently of the Beatles, but became entangled with the deliberate message the band first put out. Instead of continuing to fight it, McCartney and the others most likely acquiesced and embraced it in an effort to continue what they had begun as a Western communism, the endeavor to redistribute the social capital of a brand that has now thrived for a half-century and counting.

In other words, the power of the Paul-Is-Dead mythology lies in its ability to entice the curious, the researcher, or the Beatlephile to explore the mystery, and as a result take on a role that many--including Evans and Aspinall--played for years: the expansion and development of the Beatles legend, and consequently the growth of the social capital built up by the Beatles fame. In this sense, the Paul-Is-Dead rumor is the hook, a request for interested parties, especially those who never saw the Sixties, or who had only a passing knowledge of the Beatles, to dig deeper. While all the Paul-Is-Dead stories and their variations are inaccurate, they will eventually acquaint the seeker with the actual subtext that the Beatles deliberately incorporated into their music and art.

While we can’t say that those partaking in the dissemination of PID info and opinion have become Beatles per se, we can see them as taking part in the legend, in a sense partnering with the Beatles in this effort. Or to put it another way, those lurking and posting on The King Is Naked and Nothing Is Real Boards, Iamaphoney, our friends Dr. Tomoculus and Redwell Trabant, and anyone else exploring this mythology have all become part of the Beatles story. If Redwell’s speculation is true that Iamaphoney partnered with Apple subsidiary Standby Films to produce his/her YouTube videos, then that would demonstrate an even more intimate partnering and support in a manner identical to the intent of Apple’s initial call for submissions.

In that light, we can see Asmiov’s comments as his own cynicism that a Western communism, such as the one his screenplay tried to stoke, could never come to pass. Of course, if he’s correct, then it could have also reflected McCartney’s doubts that he could include large swatches of humanity under a Beatles tent. Nevertheless, it would seem clear with McCartney’s--and to a lesser extent Harrison’s, Lennon’s and Starkey’s--constant references to the rumor over the following decades that they weren’t about to give up on that dream.

How do I know all this?

I don’t. At least entirely. I’m simply having a "spot of fun" with the topic, as per Vermouth’s instructions.

And maybe that’s the point of the Paul-Is-Dead rumor. Maybe we haven’t read the last chapter because it hasn’t been written yet. Fans have to do that. After all, it would be pointless to include the public in a partnership, to offer it part of the Beatles’ brand/identity, only to give it a passive part to play. For the exercise to be meaningful, everyone would have to have a piece of the action.

Then again, even after the last chapter’s completion, there could be other chapters down the road. In short, the point is the same as when Apple first put out the call for submissions; for the public to exercise its artistic, intellectual and spiritual muscle in order to create a more positive culture, and to find success under the power of the Beatles’ aegis.

Or to put it crassly, it’s an invitation to be a Beatle--although it’s not really an invitation, and the band has been defunct for forty-five years.

Sound nuts?

Well, consider this. In the past seven years, I’ve seen an amazing evolution in the Nothing Is Real board as posters have more or less stopped, as Doc T. would say, looking for a body, and have instead begun to delve into the subtext that Vermouth (whom they generally consider to be Aspinall) said existed in the first place. I’ve also witnessed the emergence of art inspired either directly by the Paul-Is-Dead culture jam, or indirectly by it’s memes. In addition to the aforementioned YouTube series by Iamaphoney, there’s also Redwell’s 2012 book The Sgt Pepper Code and documentary, as well as numerous others on YouTube. I could point to such books as Alan Goldsher’s 2010 novel, Paul Is Undead, Lissa Supler’s short story "The Mysterious Disappearance of Paul McCartney" and Andru Reeve's 2004 nonfiction paperback Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Beatles and the "Paul Is Dead" Hoax

Just by chance, I came across Greg Taylor’s 2011 teen novel The Girl Who Became a Beatle, which incorporated the two of the critical memes mentioned above.*****  In this story, a twenty-first century high-school musician and her three bandmates suddenly become the Beatles. In this we can see the theme of replacing the Fab Four with what most of us would consider to be imposters. More important, it’s the story of someone literally becoming a Beatle.

And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t know, really, how much capital these efforts have accrued in either a Marxist or classical sense. But I would suspect that those works published by major houses would have gotten some. Perhaps Iamaphoney and Redwell have, or will, find some kind of monetary remuneration for their efforts. If not, they have both achieved a certain prominence on this "interweb."

If nothing else, those searching for the "Last Chapter" could honestly say that they participated in the legend, and if nothing else received at least a tiny measure of the fundamental currency in this "social capitalism": Love. We’re not just talking about the flutter-your-eyelashes, big sloppy Valentine, mushy kind of love, but the love that enures through pain and tragedy despite or in conjunction with the type of animosity that the Beatles often had to each other, and that they sometimes had for their fans.

Okay, that sounds sappy. Truth be told, a number of writers peg McCartney as a sentimentalist. But then again, as Lennon said in "Instant Karma," who are we to laugh in the face of Love?

If any of this is true, then it would seem that the degree to which Love can transfer, or liquidate (in economic terms) into other forms of wealth would depend on how ardently or smartly one engages in the subject. What one gains personally for embarking on this search would depend on how much effort, skill and merit their individual project entails.

Consequently, it would literally be the case where the love one takes, would be equal to the love he or she makes.


*A former employer told me that she attended a 1964 Los Angeles party, at which the Beatles were the guests of honor. She expressed her surprise when she saw them emerging from the limo chained together. She later asked Harrison about the shackles, and he explained that there was always a constant fear that fans might pick one of them off, and, in the throes of mania, cause great physical injury. They felt that if they were chained together, it would be harder for a mob to spirit off with one of them.

**As mentioned earlier, Iamaphoney stated in one of his/her videos that McCartney met Charles Manson at the home of Dennis Wilson when visiting Los Angeles in late-June 1968. I have found no confirmation of this meeting yet, although I have verified that McCartney was in LA at the time in question. I did find another source quoting Terry Melcher as saying he introduced Paul to Charlie during a party at the home of Papa John Phillips. This too I have not been able to corroborate by a second source.

***In the 2003 book The Beatles off the Record: The Dream Is Over, Keith Badman quoted an audiotaped interview where Evans claimed:
"[Paul told me] ‘We are really a hot item and we don't want to make it [songwriting credit for ‘Sgt. Pepper’] Lennon-McCartney-Evans. So, would you mind?’ I didn't mind, because I was so in love with the group that it didn't matter to me. I knew myself what had happened.
****From the picture, you’ll notice that Aspinall stands about two or three inches shorter than Lennon. Lennon and McCartney both stood at 5'11". I bring this up because some cite a difference in height between Paul and the Faux Paul (Faul).  

*****Feiwel and Friends, the novel’s publishers, are an imprint of Macmillan.  Doc T. could very well tell you that former PM Harold Macmillan, who succeeded his father as head of the family publishing firm, was a friend and political ally of Viscount Northcliffe, grandfather of McCartney’s friend, Kevin MacDonald.


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