Saturday, July 05, 2008

Junk science: How to lie with numbers

Epidemiology just sounds like the sort of thing you don't want to criticize in public without sounding like a fool. Who are you, mere mortal, to doubt the findings of someone with a title as impressive and as likely to cause your tongue to twist into knots as an epidemiologist? It's seven syllables long, for crying out loud. Anyone with a title that long must know what they are talking about, right?

That, at least, is what epidemiologists would like you to think. So, let's start by demystifying this mystical art. Although it is a branch of medicine, fear not. It ain't brain surgery. Yes, it does involve statistics, but we won't go so far into it that you'll have to do any math.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, epidemiology is

The branch of medicine that deals with the study of the causes, distribution, and control of disease in populations

To put that in simple terms, they try to figure out why it is that some people get sick with certain diseases and others don't. Cancer is a big one. We don't know, publicly at least, what the causes of cancer are. Of course, medical doctors and cancer researchers have to same something when people ask the question. Shrugging the shoulders and saying, “damned if I know” isn't exactly a recipe for research grants flowing in.

The answers they struggle to give border on the downright funny, at times. For example, Cancer Research UK has a page on their website with the question, “What causes cancer?” right at the top. Their introduction to the answers reads, “This page tells you about what actually causes cancer,” then goes on to say, “There is no single cause for any one type of cancer.”

Hmmm. That's sounds a bit like a dodge. Perhaps further down the page they'll get into the specifics. After all, if I asked a doctor “What causes the common cold?” she'd be able to tell me about rhinoviruses getting into the cells in my nose and my body's immune system reacting to the irritation with inflammation and increased mucus production. Solid information.

Not so with the cancer researchers. All they have, with the possible exception of some viral links to certain types of cancer, are epidemiological studies that say there is a statistically calculated risk of getting certain types of cancer if you engage in certain types of activities. Calculated risk, not cause and effect relationship. They aren't even willing to pin the calculated risks down. Hence, the statement, “There is no single cause for any one type of cancer.” Keep that statement in mind, by the way. It was published by serious cancer researchers with some serious funding. It will be important a bit later on.

In other words, you won't find anyone able to tell you that certain toxins, radiation or what have you cause specific changes in cells that get them growing out of control. The only thing they can tell you is, statistically you may be more likely to get these types of cancers if you do these other types of things.

Now, how do you figure out just what these types of cancer causing things might be? You can't do the typical scientific thing, with a double-blind study and control group. That would require you asking people to come in and be exposed to what you believe to be toxins to see if they get sick. The problem there is, unless you happen to work for the Nazi party or the CIA, a positive result in your study will land you in jail for reckless endangerment. Instead, you create an epidemiological study.

The best way to get a handle on exactly what one of these studies is, is to do your own. It's easy and it's fun, so dive right in. Please note, though, that we aren't going to do our instructional study on a disease, so it technically isn't an epidemiological study. That word stems from the word “epidemic” and you probably don't have any epidemics running rampant around your computer at the moment to work with. We are just going to do a simple statistical study so that we can understand the concepts involved. Ready? This won't hurt a bit.

Find a die, by which I mean the singular for dice, not the outcome of an epidemic. You just want a simple six-side die, not one of those bizarre sphere approximations from Dungeons and Dragons. Roll it and it stops with some number face up. Let's say the number is three. Roll it again. Let's say the number five. Roll it one more time. This time it lands on six.

At this point, do you have enough information to make any predictions about how often those numbers might come up in some arbitrary numbers of rolls? If you answered no, you are doing well so far. See, I told you this would be easy.

Take a closer look at the die. The numbers are represented by little divots carved into the sides of the die. The number one has only one divot taken out, while on the exact opposite side of the die there are six divots taken out. This might get you to wondering, is the one side of the die heavier than the six side of the die since there is more material removed from the six side? How would you find out? If you don't have the equipment available to suspend the die and see if it is balanced no matter how you turn it, you'll just have to do a whole lot of rolling of that die to see if number one shows up more often.

With this, we have introduced two very important factors in an epidemiological study: is the effect being studied physically plausible (in an actual epidemiological study this would read “biologically plausible”) and are their confounders? In this particular case, the difference we noted between the one side and the six side serves in both capacities, depending on how you look at it.

In our first series of rolls, which we stopped after three trials, you likely assumed that given enough rolls you would see a pretty even distribution of numbers come up, right? That's the theory behind dice, at least. The rolls are random.

If that is what you are seeking to show, that the rolls are random, the difference between the various faces of the die is a confounder. Simply put, confounders are the variations that can throw the results of your study off. They confound your study. If, on the other hand, what you are trying to discover is whether the die will land with the six side up more often than the one side and about how much more often, the difference between the sides is a test of plausibility. It seems to make sense that the one side would be a little heavier and so would end up face down (with the six side then face up) a little more often.

So you start to roll. You roll the die until your arm hurts. You stop and you tally up the number of rolls you've done so far. Is it enough? You don't know how much heavier one side might be than the other, so how do you figure out how many rolls you need to see the expected result? For instance, if the one side were twice as heavy as the six side, you would expect the one side to land face down quite a bit. You may well be convinced of the effect after only 100 rolls of the die or so. But that isn't the case. If the die you are using has a one side that is, indeed, heavier than the six side, it is by a very minuscule amount. So, how many rolls?

This introduces another important concept in epidemiological studies: what is your sample size? Or, how much data do you actually have to work with? That amount of data will be one factor in determining the confidence interval of your study.

Understanding confidence intervals is simple. If you've ever heard the results of a poll given in a news broadcast, you've heard a confidence interval given. Typically, in the political polls, the confidence interval is plus or minus 3%. That simply means that the numbers given are in the middle of a range of probable actual values that extend three percentage points above and below what is being reported. So, if they say that candidate A is leading candidate B by 51% to 49% plus or minus 3% (the confidence interval) what they are actually saying is that it is perfectly possible that candidate B is actually leading since the difference between them is only 2%.

What they never ever tell you is the confidence level used to calculate that range. They leave it to you to assume that they are 100% sure that the actual values are within 3% of what they are reporting, but that confidence level is impossible. The gold standard for confidence level, at least in epidemiology, is 95%. That means that when they give the range of possible values, the confidence interval, they are 95% sure that the real numbers are somewhere in that range. Put another way, they are saying that there is a 5% chance that the actual values could be something else entirely.

When you think about it, leaving out the confidence level is a pretty big omission. As far as you know, that confidence interval of plus or minus 3% represents a confidence level of 50%, which is to say there is only a 50/50 chance that the actual numbers are within 3% of reported, which is to say that the entire poll is really just a roll of the dice...give or take a few percent.

Now, get one more die. That should be easy to come by since they generally come in pairs. I mean, a lot of people don't even realize there is a singular form of the word dice. But we don't want matching dice. We want dice that have some obvious dissimilarity. We'll go with size. We want to know if size really does matter.

Imagine we have one normal sized die, the kind you'd find in any casino, and a one of those smaller die like you might find in a travel sized game of some sort. What we are going to study is whether size has an effect on how often the number six is rolled. You can already guess how we are going to do it. We are going to roll the dice a whole lot of times and tally our results. Since I'm not about to sit here and roll dice until my arm hurts, I'll make up some numbers.

Number of rolls: 100
Large die sixes: 15
Small die sixes: 18

Already, given the data we have, it wouldn't take an epidemiologist to figure out that it is looking like you want a small die if you want to roll a six, or a larger die if you don't. To put it in epidemiological terms, we have the data to calculate the relative risk or risk ratio of rolling a six with a particular size of die.

The math is simple. First, we need to determine the risk of rolling a six for each die. Since we rolled each 100 times, the risk for the large die is 15/100 or .15 (15%). Apply the same math to the small die and you get 18%. The relative risk (how much riskier is a six in a small die over a large die) is .18/.15, which equals 1.2.

So, in a study that was looking to see if you were at greater risk of rolling a six with a small die rather than a large die, an epidemiologists would state that there is a relative risk (RR) of 1.2, or a 20% greater chance of rolling a six with a small die. Because we were looking at the risk of throwing sixes with the small die, the small die risk was the top number in the division. If we were looking for the large die relative risk, we would have calculated the RR as .15/.18 = .83. That is a relative risk below 1, which means that you have a lower risk of throwing six with a large die. A relative risk of 1.0 would mean there was no difference between the two at all.

Frankly, 20% sounds like pretty good odds, doesn't it? Yet, if you'll remember the part about confidence intervals (how much plus and minus and how sure are we that somewhere in there is the actual risk) you'll realize that we don't have nearly enough information to draw any conclusions. For instance, if we say we want a confidence interval at a 95% confidence level, we might find that our confidence interval tells us that the actual number is somewhere between, say, 0.9 and 1.5.

That means that, despite the number reported of RR = 1.2 (a 20% greater chance with the small die) the study really shows that we are 95% confident that the small die will throw somewhere between 10% fewer and 20% more sixes than the large die.

Did you catch that? Our study shows absolutely nothing at all, despite reported numbers of a 20% greater chance of throwing a six with a small die. The only conclusion that can be drawn from our study is this: a small die may or may not land with the number six face up more often than a large die. That's all we have.

But is this relative risk number overblown?

Relative risk is an interesting beast. Pharmaceutical companies just love to put numbers in terms of relative risk because the numbers are larger than absolute risk (AR). Those of you who feel comfortable with numbers and have been following along closely probably already noticed that the 20% increase we reported seems grossly inflated. The fact is, according to the numbers you can expect to roll only three more sixes with a small die than with a large one. Without resorting to a calculator, I'd estimate that to be somewhere around 3%.

In other words, there is an increase in sixes of 3% (thee out of one hundred rolls) with the small die. That means that in order to see the effect, statistically speaking that is, we'd need to roll around 33 times. If our game includes fewer rolls than that, we are probably not going to see any sixes benefit from rolling the small die. In epidemiological circles, those 33 rolls are called the number needed to treat or NNT.

For a quick practical example, let's say a pharmaceutical company has put out a new blood pressure medicine, call Premazine. [Author's note: Premazine is not a real drug. Any resemblance to a real drug is purely coincidental. The numbers quoted are for the purpose of illustration only and are not meant to represent and/or imply actual studies of the effectiveness of any real medication.] They gave this medicine to 500 people and gave a placebo to another 500. Let's say that out of the group that got the medicine, 25 showed significant reduction in blood pressure. In the group that got the placebo, 15 showed a reduction in blood pressure.

That means that the medication seemed to have a positive effect on 5% of those who took it. Hardly a number that will get bottles of the stuff moving off the shelf, especially when you hear all of the potential side effects!

To get a number that will move some product, they will use the relative risk or, in this case it's inverse, the relative risk reduction. Out of the medicated group, 5% (.05) saw a reduction of blood pressure while 3% (.03) saw a reduction while only thinking they took the medication. Just put the medicine number on top of the division and you get .05 / .03, a whopping 1.67 or 67%! Now there is a number a marketing department can sink its teeth into. The sales pitch will probably read something like this:

Clinical trials have shown that taking Premazine resulted in as much as a 67% reduction in high blood pressure over taking no medication at all.

Boy howdy, that sure sounds impressive. If you didn't know anything at all about statistics, you might even be impressed enough to beg your doctor to prescribe Premazine before you keel over and die. But before you go running to your doctor, stop and think about what that 67% really represents. Out of the 1,000 people in the study, there was only a 2% difference in how many got better taking the drug as opposed to how many just got better. That means that the number of people that will have to take that drug before the statistics kick in and one of them gets a reduction in blood pressure is 500, our number needed to treat (NNT).

That's right. A 67% reduction in this case really means that out of 500 people taking the drug, only one will see some positive effects (statistically speaking) while 499 will see nothing but side effects, not the least of which is the lightening of their wallets.

Alright, now you know enough about epidemiological studies to look at some numbers and actually make sense of them. I'm sure quite a few people reading this never thought they could say that! Let's try out our new skills.

Oh wait, there is one more thing you should know. Despite some truly horrific studies by epidemiologists over the years, please don't think that all epidemiological studies are junk science--they aren't--or that these people have no standards. They do. They also have rules of thumb that they go by to determine if a study is likely to have any validity at all that will be helpful to us later on.

  1. A relative risk below 2 is unlikely to show a valid result, regardless of the confidence interval. A relative risk of at least 3 is preferred, 4 is best. Many peer reviewed journals, like the New England Journal of Medicine, would not typically publish a study without a relative risk of at least 3.

  2. Confidence level should be 95%. A lower confidence level is a sign that someone is cooking the numbers to prove something that isn't there.

  3. If the confidence interval includes 1.0, as our dice study did (0.9 – 1.5), there is no statistical significance at all. We've got nothing.

Just to recap before moving on, here are the terms we have learned:

  • Biological plausibility

  • Confounders

  • Confidence interval / confidence level

  • Relative risk or risk ratio

  • Absolute risk

  • Number needed to treat

Next episode: The case against smoking (and mirrors)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The assassination of Robert Kennedy, Part 5 -- Sirhan Sirhan

The 1966 Simon and Garfunkel album 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme', ends with a haunting track titled 7 O'clock News/Silent Night. On that track, the pair sing a pretty, though straight-forward, rendition of Silent Night as a sound clip from a 7 o'clock news broadcast plays in the background. The broadcast includes the following:

In Los Angeles today comedian Lenny Bruce died of what was believed to be an overdose of narcotics. Bruce was 42 years old.

Dr. Martin Luther King says he does not intend to cancel plans for an open housing march Sunday into the Chicago suburb of Cicero. Cook County Sheriff Richard Ogleby asked King to call off the march and the Police in Cicero said they would ask the national guard to be called out if it is held. King, now in Atlanta, Georgia, plans to return to Chicago Tuesday.

In Chicago, Richard Speck, accused murderer of nine student nurses, was brought before a grand jury today for indictment. The nurses were found stabbed and strangled in their Chicago apartment.

In Washington the atmosphere was tense today as a special subcommittee of the House committee on un-American activities continued its probe into anti-Vietnam war protests. Demonstrators were forcibly evicted from the hearings when they began chanting anti-war slogans.

Former Vice President Richard Nixon says that unless there is a substantial increase in the present war effort in Vietnam, the U.S. should look forward to five more years of war. In a speech before the convention of the veterans of foreign wars in New York, Nixon also said opposition to the war in this country is the greatest single weapon working against the U.S.

We know the news broadcast was made August 3rd, 1966 because that is the day Lenny Bruce died. Just two days earlier, Charles Whitman had climbed to the observation deck of the administration building on the University of Texas Austin campus and began a 96 minute reign of terror with a sniper rifle. Two months later, on October 30, 1966, Cheri Jo Bates would be found dead, her neck sliced so deeply that she was nearly decapitated, on the campus of Riverside City College. The murder would later be linked with the Zodiac, though his particular reign of terror would officially begin about three years later. The Riverside Police made the link, noting the similarity between the Bates murder and the Zodiac killing at Lake Berryessa in Napa County September 27, 1969.

Earlier that year, on April 30, 1966, Anton LaVey ritualistically shaved his head and formally declared the founding of the Church of Satan and that day as Year One, Anno Satanas - the year of Satan. Given all of the killing that year, he may have had a point.

The Zodiac wasn't the only one to find his killing stride in 1969. On August 8 and 9 of that year, the Manson "family" committed the famous Tate/LaBianca murders. The combination of the mind numbing gruesomeness of those murders along with the fact that they involved a very beautiful and popular actress, Sharon Tate, has tended to overshadow the other strangeness that went on around the Los Angeles area at the time. The LAPD would find themselves investigating a total of 29 homicides in just four days!

1969 also saw the release of the song The Age of Aquarius, recorded by The Fifth Dimension, stay in the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks. The Age of Aquarius was a proto-New Age sort of hippie idea that was largely promoted by San Francisco based astrologer and Gay Liberation leader Gavin Arthur. His full name was actually Chester Alan Arthur III. The similarity to the name of the 21st President of the United States is no coincidence. Gavin Arthur was his great-grandson. On an interesting note, Gavin Arthur's great-grandfather was the Vice President under James Garfield until an assassin's bullet made him President. On a bizarre coincidence note, Gavin Arthur is said to have predicted the assassination of John Kennedy before he even entered office. Go figure.

The Age of Aquarius idea would figure prominently in the Santa Cruz mountains, just south of San Francisco, where the Flower Children, disenchanted with the Haight-Ashbury, district would go to set up communes and grow marijuana. These same Flower Children were closely associated with the goings-on in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles around the same time, at least in terms of being considered a part of the same cultural movement. What is curious is that while the Los Angeles area was seeing veritable blood baths, the San Francisco area would become the spawning ground for serial killers, not to mention the home of the People's Temple. To quote from Dave McGowan's brilliantly researched book, Programmed to Kill,

To briefly recap, no fewer than six serial killers/mass murders--Charles Manson, Stanley Baker, Edmund Kemper, Herbert Mullin, John Lindley Frazier, and the Zodiac--were all spawned from the Santa Cruz/San Francisco metropolitan area in a span of just over four years, at a time when 'serial killers' were a rare enough phenomenon that they hadn't yet acquired a name. And another serial killer was said to be at work not far away during the same time frame. As [Ted] Bundy chronicler Richard Larsen recounts, the bodies of at least fourteen young women and girls were found, nude and with their belongings missing, in Northern California between December 1969 and December 1973. In the immediate vicinity of each of the bodies "was found an elaborate witchcraft symbol of twigs and rocks." Remarkably enough, the crimes collectively attributed to these men did not even account for all the ritualized homicides that occurred in the Bay Area during that time. For example, the murder of Fred Bennett, the captain of the Oakland chapter of the Black Panthers whose mutilated remains were found scattered in the Santa Cruz hills, was never solved. And many of the young students who were reported missing from local campuses were never found, either dead or alive, and were therefore never listed as homicide victims.

It is interesting to note that Ronald Reagan held the office of Governor of California between the years of 1966 and 1974. During those years, he would completely dismantle the California Mental Health System and turn mental health patients out into the streets.

Notice in the above quote that Fred Bennett's mutilated remains were found scattered in the Santa Cruz hills. I would leave open the possibility that Bennett was killed in a fit of rage. Rumor has it he had an affair with Bobby Seale's wife while Seale was in jail. However, something just doesn't feel right about the killing being an inside job. The Panthers were not known for that kind of behavior. Admittedly, the Panthers were armed and militant. They had a good reason for it, though. They had suffered at the hands of an armed police force that thought nothing of killing black people and walking away with a shrug of the shoulders. One could easily imagine a police officer in Oakland, after killing 16 year-old Bobby Hutton, unarmed and with his hands in the air, brushing the whole thing off with a disgusting remark like, "No big deal, just a dead nigger."

As a matter of fact, according to Terry Cotton, a Black Panther member who was there that day, the police did make statements like that. As he wrote on the website It's About Time, the police made statements like, "you niggers just lost Martin Luther King and if you make one move we will not hesitate to blow your heads off." Charming.

What the Black Panthers actually stood for was positive action to make life in the black community in the U.S. better, through programs such as the Free Breakfast for Children Program, which started in January, 1969 at St. Augustine's Church in Oakland, California, then spread across the country. It is because of that program, and what the Panthers really stood for, that I point out the killing of Fred Bennett. Following Anton LaVey's declaration of 1966 being Year One Anno Satanas, it seemed as if what could well be described as a satanic rage was let loose in the U.S., much of it focused on those who worked for peace.

Before we return to the story of Bobby Kennedy's assassination, I'd like to point out one other very curious case of a serial killer. This one was not in California but, rather, in Texas. His name was Henry Lee Lucas. Lucas claimed that he had been responsible for literally hundreds and murders, that he worshiped Satan and was part of a Florida Everglades cult called The Hand of Death. There is some controversy over whether Lucas was telling the truth or just saying these things for the attention he would receive. Whichever is the case, Lucas was clearly not the sort of guy you'd want your daughter dating.

Lucas was sentenced to death in Texas. His sentence was to be carried out under then Governor, now President George Bush. Bush, as is well known, holds the U.S. record for the death penalty, having presided over a grand total of 152 deaths. His unwillingness to commute the death penalty to life imprisonment is the stuff of legends. He refused to commute the sentence of an octogenarian woman who had killed her chronically abusive husband. He refused to commute the sentence of a mental retarded man who was, by Texas law, not eligible for the death penalty. According to Tucker Carlson, conservative journalist and the last person you'd imagine making this stuff up (aside from someone like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly), Bush even mocked Karla Faye Tucker when he was asked about her interview with Larry King. According to Carlson:

In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, a number of protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Karla Faye Tucker. "Did you meet with any of them?" I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet with any of them", he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. "I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with Tucker, though. He asked her real difficult questions like, 'What would you say to Governor Bush?'" "What was her answer?" I wonder. "'Please,'" Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "'don't kill me.'" I must look shocked - ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel - because he immediately stops smirking.

In fact, out of a total of 153 death sentences that crossed Governor Bush's desk, exactly one was commuted to life in prison. That one was, if you hadn't guessed already, Henry Lee Lucas.

That, my friends, has got to make you scratch your head and wonder just how wide this web really is.

The California death toll continued to climb well into the 1970's with Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi, known as the Hillside Stranglers, allegedly killing prostitutes in Los Angeles. I say allegedly because, as is the case with so many of these things, there was quite a bit of contradictory evidence. Neither of these two were exactly stand-up guys, so getting a jury to believe their guilt wouldn't be difficult. They probably were actually closely involved. The problem is, many people gave eye witness accounts of seeing a man who did not fit the description of either of them. And that is a common element in case after case. Someone who's life history and rap sheet make them an easy fall guy takes the blame for everything while others walk away.

There were two witnesses that saw Judith Ann Miller, murdered on October 31, 1977, get into a car with a man just before her death. The first witness who, interestingly, had worked as the subject of a stage hypnotist, described the man as black with light skin. The other witness was a bounty hunter named Marcus Camden, whose description of the car definitely did not match Bianchi's car. He described the driver as dark with curly hair.

Why we care about conflicting reports of an abduction and murder that happened nine years after the RFK assassination is this: after Camden gave his description of the car and the driver, one of the LAPD investigators on the case had him checked into Cedars-Sinai Hospital for tests. That is a strange enough thing for an investigator to do with a crime witness. Even stranger, though, is that Camden much later altered his testimony by positively identifying Angelo Buono. This happened while Camden was a voluntary resident at a state psychiatric hospital in Indiana.

Now, here is the weird and coincidental part of it all. The hospital Camden voluntarily checked himself into was Richmond State Hospital, in Richmond, Indiana. In case you don't remember from Part 3, Richmond just happens to be the home of that most notorious CIA agent Dan Mitrione, and the founder of The People's Temple, Jim Jones.

Now, back to our story.

Sirhan Sirhan

Sirhan Sirhan
Sirhan Bishara Sirhan

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was born March 19, 1944 in Jerusalem. Three years later, the state of Israel was created, turning Sirhan's childhood, along with many others, into a living hell. According to interviews with Sirhan and his family, Sirhan was only 4 years old when he first witnessed a bomb leave "the street strewn with the bloody, mutilated bodies of Arab victims." His childhood went downhill from there. He remembers seeing an explosion that resulted in "a little girl's leg blown off, and the blood spurting from below the knee as though from a faucet." His mother, Mary, and brother, Adel, remember Sirhan once screaming as he ran into the family apartment carrying a bucket half full of water with a human hand floating in it.

On top of this daily horror, Sirhan was regularly beaten and abused by his father. His father had been witnessed many times beating Sirhan with his hand and with sticks, calling Sirhan "too emotional." The family managed to emigrate to the United States in 1956. After seven months, Sirhan's father abandoned the family there and returned to the Middle East.

In an interview with documentary filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan for his film RFK Must Die, Sirhan's brother Munir describes Sirhan as being an incredibly gentle soul, the sort who would literally lead a fly out the door of the house rather than kill it. His career goal was to be a United Nations translator until, inexplicably, he suddenly found an interest in horses around 1965 and decided he wanted to be a jockey. That dream ended in September of 1966 when Sirhan fell, causing an injury to his head and the loss of nerve around horses that is required of a jockey.

Following his fall from the horse, Sirhan's personality seemed to change. The once sociable Sirhan became something of a recluse. In 1967, Sirhan mysteriously disappeared for three months without telling his family where he had gone. When he returned, he had developed a strong interest in the occult.

No one has ever been able to prove or even produce direct evidence of Sirhan being a victim of the CIA's MKULTRA mind control program. What we do know of Sirhan is that he would be an ideal candidate for hypnotic suggestion and the sort of mind control that the CIA claimed they only investigated with MKULTRA but, most assuredly, actually practiced. A childhood filled with shocking violence combined with an abusive father left Sirhan an almost uniquely talented hypnotic subject by virtue of the fact that dissociation had become a well established defense mechanism for him. This was noted by Dr. Bernard Diamond, who was called to hypnotize Sirhan in his jail cell following the assassination in the hope of eliciting a remembrance of the events and a confession from Sirhan. Diamond noted that Sirhan achieved a deep trance almost instantaneously, suggesting that Sirhan had been hypnotized many times before.

While under a trance, Sirhan was asked to climb the bars of his cell like a monkey. He dutifully obeyed. He was asked to recreate pages from his journal. Again, he dutifully obeyed, writing over and over, "RFK must die." He could remember every detail of that evening, including talking to the woman in the polka dot dress, but could not be induced to remember actually shooting Bobby Kennedy. Diamond even attempted implanting the memory in Sirhan's mind via a post-hypnotic suggestion. Even that failed with this amazingly adept hypnotic subject.

Sirhan hypnotized
Sketch of Sirhan being hypnotized in his jail cell. Even under deep trance, he could not remember details of the shooting

The fact that Sirhan had disappeared for three months in 1967, a time in which he was working with horses and was, according to witnesses, likely spending time with Jerry Owen, puts Sirhan in a position to have been intensively worked on by a hypno-programmer. The fact that Jerry Owen and William Bryan, the self-confessed CIA mind control expert, both worked the same fundamentalist preaching circuit, along with the fact that Sirhan seemingly makes reference to Albert DeSalvo, the alleged Boston Strangler and one of Bryan's most famous subjects, in his journal would make the connection between Bryan and Sirhan not unlikely at all.

George Plimpton, the journalist famous for, amongst other things, donning a Detroit Lions football jersey and actually taking part in a NFL game, was one of the men who helped subdue Sirhan the night of the assassination. He described Sirhan as having a very peaceful look in his eyes and a sickly smile on his face. Rosey Grier, part of the "fearsome foursome" which was arguably one of the best defensive lines in professional football history, had a difficult time getting the gun out of Sirhan's hand. This peaceful, detached look and the amazing feats of strength Sirhan displayed are classic signs of a deep hypnotic trance.

So, it appears quite possible that Sirhan could well have been hypno-programmed by William Bryan, having been brought to Bryan by fellow fundamentalist preacher Jerry Owen. Even if those links in the web were to be proven, the question would still remain as to whether Sirhan actually fired the bullets that killed Bobby Kennedy.

As Kennedy entered the pantry area of the Ambassador Hotel he stopped to shake hands with staff members who lined up to meet him. The last person he was to shake hands with was busboy Juan Romero, who's face has been memorialized cradling Kennedy's head after having placed a rosary in his hand following the shooting. According to multiple witnesses, including Romero, Kennedy had finished shaking Romero's hand and was moving on when Sirhan appeared, raised his .22 caliber Iver Johnson eight shot revolver and fired two of those shots toward Bobby Kennedy. The first shot seems to have hit Paul Schrade in the head. In fact, Bobby Kennedy seemed to have been well aware of the fact that Schrade had been hit as multiple witnessed claimed that, while on the floor in a pool of his own blood, Bobby asked, "How is Paul?" If Schrade had not been hit first and Bobby hadn't witnessed that fact, it seems very unlikely that Bobby would have been asking about him particularly. I have spoken with Schrade, personally. He has no memory of seeing Bobby getting shot, giving further credence to the idea that Schrade was shot first.

Three bullets entered Bobby Kennedy's body. A fourth passed through his clothing. The bullet that killed him was fired into the right side of his head at point blank range, as evidenced by the power burns on his skull. The bullet that passed through his clothing was also shot at point blank range as evidenced by the powder burns at the entrance point of the bullet. Yet, not a single witness at the time of the shooting would put Sirhan any closer than about 1 ½ feet from Kennedy. Even if, as Dan Moldea has hypothesized, Sirhan was able to fire point blank into Kennedy's head due to Kennedy being pushed by the crowd toward Sirhan following the first shot, we would still be left with the inexplicable point blank shot through his jacket.

We are also left to ponder the question of why Sirhan would have been in the pantry, of all places, waiting to murder Bobby Kennedy. Kennedy was not originally scheduled to pass through the pantry. The decision was made at the last minute to go through the pantry, apparently by aide Fred Dutton. There is no way that Sirhan should have known that he would be able to shoot Bobby Kennedy in the pantry, yet that is where he had placed himself. And, according to John Pilger - a man who has been very outspoken in his criticism of Kennedy and, so, would seem to clearly have no vested interest in promoting a conspiracy theory concerning the assassination - stated in an interview with Democracy Now that he and other reporters were told before the decision would have been known that Kennedy would go through the pantry that the kitchen staff had reported Sirhan's presence in the pantry area.

As it happened, however, there is one recording of the assassination, an audio recording, that was inadvertently made and has survived to this day.

Stanislaw Pruszynski was a freelance reporter covering the Kennedy victory in California that night. His Telefunken Model 4001 tape recorder was on the podium as Kennedy spoke his last words in public, "Now it's on to Chicago and let's win there." As Kennedy was lead into the pantry area, Pruszynski gathered up his recording gear and followed, slightly behind the entourage. Fortunately, for the sake of historical evidence, Pruszynski forgot to turn off his recorder, leaving us with the only record of the actual shooting.

Unfortunately, Pruszynski's recording is of very poor quality. His recorder was not professional grade and he was approximately forty feet from the scene when the shooting began. A casual listening of the recording reveals what sounds like eight shots being fired. That would be completely in line with the official account of Sirhan being the lone gunman and firing all eight shots from his Iver Johnson revolver. No doubt, it is because of this apparent confirmation of the official account that the recording was allowed to reach public hands. However, a more careful and scientific examination of the recording reveals something else entirely.

Philip Van Praag was given permission from the California State Archives to make duplicate copies of the Pruszynski recording for analysis. The very thorough work he conducted to verify the authenticity of the recording, calibrating his tests using an identical model of recorder and precisely timing the moment of the apparent gun shots recorded by matching Pruszynski's recording to overlapping timestamped network video is covered in his book An Open & Shut Case, coauthored with past President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Robert Joling. What Van Praag and Joling found shoots holes (pardon the pun) with solid forensic evidence in the official story of the assassination.

Van Praag's analysis reveals a total of thirteen shots that can be positively identified on the tape. It is possible that there were more, but the noise of the crowd following the shooting would rule out identification of them. Two pairs of shots, shots 3-4 and 7-8, come only 149 milliseconds and 122 milliseconds apart, respectively. To put this in perspective, the world record for quick shooting is 140 milliseconds between shots. That record was set using a competition grade firearm. The Iver Johnson Sirhan used was a very cheap, heavy triggered revolver. In tests conducted by Van Praag and Joling on a firing range with a world class shooter firing a revolver identical to Sirhan's was 366 milliseconds between shots. That is three times slower than the pacing of shots 7 and 8 in the Pruszynski recording.

Already, with the identification of thirteen shots fired, we can see that it is not possible for Sirhan to be the sole shooter that night. From the data gleaned from the recording, it would appear that Sirhan fired eight shots and someone else fired five. The next question would be, does the count of thirteen shots make sense given the other evidence? It does.

As mentioned before, the LAPD destroyed critical pieces of evidence before they could be critically examined by experts. Key amongst that evidence were pieces of a door jamb that had clear bullet holes in it and two tiles from the drop ceiling which had also clearly been pierced by bullets. While the destruction of that evidence made any direct analysis impossible, enough information from the evidence collection was left intact to correlate with Van Praag's findings.

Remember that three bullets entered Kennedy's body, all from behind, while Sirhan was shooting from in front of the Senator. Another bullet passed through Kennedy's jacket, fired from point blank range. It was clear from analysis at the crime scene that two bullets entered the ceiling space and one ricocheted out. The other was never recovered. At least, not officially.

According to the official account, naturally, the two bullets that entered the ceiling space were fired from Sirhan's gun. Even a cursory analysis of that account reveals how ridiculous it is. Sirhan was subdued after firing only two shots, one of which hit Paul Schrade in the head. His remaining eight shots were fired with multiple men holding his hand against the steam table in the pantry. It would have been impossible for him to have twisted his hand upward enough to shoot into the ceiling. A deeper analysis virtually proves the presence of a second gunman.

The police records of the crime scene show detailed analysis of exactly where everyone was standing as Sirhan began to fire. Reenactments of the crime, placement of the victims and eye witness testimony were all used to precisely mark the position of Sirhan as he began firing. Of course, his positioning in the LAPD analysis necessarily has him close enough to potentially fire at least one shot at point blank range. And therein lies the rub, because police photographs taken at the crime scene also show the precise location of the bullet ridden ceiling panels in relation to Sirhan.

The panels were behind Sirhan.

In other words, it was physically impossible for Sirhan to have both shot Bobby Kennedy from point blank range and, while subdued, fire bullets into the ceiling where bullets had clearly penetrated. There was another gunman. Further, the math works out perfectly. Van Praag found thirteen shots recorded on the Pruszynski tape. Eight shots were fired from Sirhan's gun, three bullets entered Kennedy from behind and two bullets entered the ceiling behind Sirhan - a total of thirteen bullets.

A frequency analysis of those thirteen shots also shows the grouping of eight from one gun and five from another to be correct. Van Praag developed a specialized forensic technique that he called frequency selected integrated loudness envelope analysis. In essence, what Van Praag did was to look at the sound of the gun shots at discrete frequencies (in this case, you can think of frequency a bit like a note on a piano, each note being a distinct frequency) to get a picture of the loudness of the shot sounds at each frequency. What he found was that in exactly five of the shots, including one each of the doubles, the volume of the sound noticeably jumped up at 1,600 Hz - Hz, or Hertz, being a measure of frequency. So, here we still have a group of eight shots that display one set of frequency characteristics and five that display another.

Test firing a weapon identical to Sirhan's and recording that firing with various equipment, including a recorder identical to Pruszynski's did not reveal a spike at 1,600 Hz. However, they did find a .22 handgun that showed exactly that frequency characteristic. They also found something else interesting about that particular firearm: it's rifling characteristics.

Gun rifling
Rifling in the barrel of a gun and the corresponding marks left on the bullet

Rifling refers to helical grooves cut into the inside of the barrel of a gun that will cause a bullet to spin. The spin imparted adds stability to the bullet and improves accuracy, much the way a quarterback will put spin on a football as he throws it. In general, the rifling of each make of firearm is unique. This makes it often possible (assuming the bullet isn't too damaged) to identify the make of gun that fired a particular bullet by comparing the rifling characteristics with the known characteristics of various firearms. Typically, this is most difficult to do with .22 caliber bullets, yielding an accuracy of only 20-30%, which is why the .22 is the preferred weapon of professional killers. It has the least traceability. Still, 20-30% of the time it is.

The distance between the grooves in a bullet due to the rifling of an Iver Johnson Cadet Model 55-SA, the gun Sirhan used, is .054". At least until 1975, the Crime Laboratory Information Service, or CLIS, reported that the only handgun with those rifling characteristics was that particular model Iver Johnson. However, by 1987, the CLIS database had been updated and now included a second handgun with precisely the same rifling characteristics. It happened to also be a handgun that produced a frequency anomaly at 1,600 Hz. That gun is a Harrington & Richardson (H&R) Model 922, a nine shot .22 caliber revolver.

To save you the time of looking back, allow me to reproduce for you here the text of the sales slip for the gun Thane Eugene Cesar claimed to have sold to Jim Yoder three months prior to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy but actually sold three months after the assassination. "On the day of Sept. 6, 1968 I received $15.00 from Jim Yolder [sic]. The item involved is a H&R pistol 9 shot serial no. Y 13332. Thane E. Cesar."

Before we close the matter of the Bobby Kennedy assassination for now, we need to tie up one glaring loose end. In part one, I said that there was evidence pointing to the possibility that Sirhan was firing blanks the night of the shooting. Indeed, that evidence does exist. Yet, that evidence is clearly contradicted by the audio analysis made by Philip Van Praag. For the number of bullets fired that night to correspond to the number of shots he can identify on the Pruszynski tape, Sirhan must have been firing live rounds.

In short, the evidence for the blanks is this. It has been shown that Sirhan had spent several hours firing at a shooting range the day Kennedy was shot. The bullets recovered from the scene of the crime were copper coated bullets. Hence, the ballistics expert employed by the LAPD, DeWayne Wolfer, to examine Sirhan's gun and the bullets found also fired copper coated bullets in his test firing.

On June 11, 1968, Wolfer noted in his Analyzed Evidence Report a gun with the serial number H18602 as Sirhan's gun and the gun he had test fired. Later evidence documents would assign a different serial number to Sirhan's gun. According to Wolfer, the original H18602 serial number was simply a clerical error.

A July 1968, LAPD teletype tells an interesting story of bizarre coincidence and happenstance, however. It reads as follows: BUR FILES REVEAL A .22 CAL IVER JOHNSON SERIAL H18602 REPORTED DESTROYED 7-00-68 BY PD LOS ANGELES. In other words, an Iver Johnson revolver with the precise serial number that Wolfer claimed was Sirhan's gun in a "clerical error" was destroyed the following month, a full nine months prior to Sirhan's trial.

When Sirhan's gun was reexamined by a panel of ballistics experts appointed by Superior Court Judge Robert Wenke in 1975, they found the inside of the barrel heavily coated with lead, which would have obfuscated any identifying marks. To clear the lead, they fired two copper coated bullets first. Given that the bullets recovered from the Ambassador were copper coated and Sirhan had definitely spent hours firing at a range that day, it would be logical to conclude that Sirhan had been firing uncoated bullets at the range and only blanks the night of the shooting. If he had fired any of the copper coated bullets, the lead would have been cleared from the inside of the barrel of his gun.

There is one answer that matches all of the available evidence. That is simply that the gun provided for test firing by the Wenke experts was simply not Sirhan's gun, that Sirhan's gun had been destroyed, as evidenced by the LAPD teletype above, along with other critical evidence, long ago.

And that ends our story about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. There is far more to tell, but the fact is, there are more important things to discover than who, specifically, murdered Bobby Kennedy on June 5, 1968. I would certainly hope that the man who almost assuredly fired the shot that killed Bobby, Thane Eugene Cesar, could one day be extradited from his current home in the Philippines and brought to trial for this horrific crime. But that won't change the fact that the real criminals, the masterminds behind the assassination of Bobby, John, Martin Luther King and many others, are still at large and will likely never be brought to justice.

Even if some of them were brought to court and convicted, justice would not be served. There is no justice in either locking up or putting to death a murderer or a conspirator in a murder. More will follow in their footsteps. The carnage, the lies and the manipulation will continue. No new evidence, no new trial and no new elected leader will change the fact that these murders have been given tacit approval by us, through our silence, inaction and acquiescence to continue in their murderous ways in perpetuity.

On September 11, 2001 they committed their biggest political assassination to date. Despite a wealth of information that contradicted the official story, we remained silent. We accepted an absurd verdict, turned our heads and told ourselves that everything would just work itself out. Emboldened, they moved on to an even bigger political assassination. They blatantly and demonstrably lied, forging intelligence documents to justify the invasion of a defenseless country, namely Iraq. Again, after a brief whimper of protest, we shut up and continued on with our lives.

The lies and the killing continue, and will continue to continue. Soon, the victims will be you and your children if you dare to utter the obvious truth. There will be no one to come to your defense. Any review of the evidence after the fact will mean as much to you as this series of articles has meant to Bobby Kennedy.

Barack Obama will not change the course of this country. John McCain will certainly not change the course of this country. No leader, even another Bobby Kennedy, can do a single thing to change the course of this country. There is only one hope, and it is a slim one given the evidence of the past several decades. We, the citizens of the U.S., will have to pull our heads from the sand, or some other place where the sun doesn't shine, and look the truth of what we have become straight in the eye.

We must acknowledge certain unassailable facts. First and foremost amongst those is the fact, well established in psychological circles yet virtually ignored in public discourse, that there is a portion of our population that is genetically without conscience. That difference makes them capable of performing acts of unthinkable cruelty, including torture, child abuse and mind control, while maintaining a facade of seemingly complete normalcy.

Another key to the puzzle is the realization that their influence spreads far wider than we have imagined or would really like to allow ourselves to believe. This brief overview of Bobby Kennedy's assassination is only emblematic of a situation that is typical, rather than extraordinary. A nearly identical story can be told from a thousand different starting places, from alleged "serial killers" and child abuse/pornography rings, right up through the events of 9/11 and all that this Pathocracy* has been able to achieve in its wake.

This web stretches through every part of society. The LAPD is notorious for its cover-ups and abuse, but they are hardly alone. The web includes police departments, judges, politicians, celebrities and corporate executives from all over the country and all over the world. What works in favor of keeping this web, and the unbelievable depravity of the actions of its inhabitants, hidden is the incredulity any normal person feels when faced with even a hint of its size.

It is not even remotely possible to see the web for what it is without critical pieces of the puzzle. Yet, if we can't see the web, we will become the spider's next victims. This is the end of the Bobby Kennedy portion of the series, but there is more to come...things you'll have to see for yourself to believe.

* Pathocracy (from Gk. patho "disease" + kratos "rule, strength") According to Andrew M. Lobaczewski in his book Political Ponerology, "Pathocracy is a disease of great social movements followed by entire societies, nations, and empires. In the course of human history, it has affected social, political, and religious movements as well as the accompanying ideologies... and turned them into caricatures of themselves."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The assassination of Robert Kennedy, Part 4 -- Deeper down the rabbit hole

In Part 3 we looked at one way in which people, manipulated by beliefs that have been programmed into them throughout their lives, can become unwitting accomplices in a conspiracy. However, that is the soft side of this thing. There is a hard side, too. Many more people that hold positions of trust are very willing accomplices.

From the Carl Bernstein article CIA and the Media, published in Rolling Stone on October 20, 1977,

“One of the things we always had going for us in terms of enticing reporters,” observed a CIA official who coordinated some of the arrangements with journalists, “was that we could make them look better with their home offices. A foreign correspondent with ties to the Company [the CIA] stood a much better chance than his competitors of getting the good stories.”

This is what embedded reporters was all about. The program was an offshoot of a CIA program of using reporters as agents, a secret project begun in the late 1940's called Operation Mockingbird, but with a twist. This program would be carried out in the open. Rather than secretly recruiting key reporters from mass media outlets, virtually every reporter allowed access—nearly 800 of them, by some reports—to the “inside story” of the war would be carefully controlled by military and intelligence agencies. Not only would these reporters look good by getting the “inside” story, they would be bound to show only what the military and intelligence communities would allow for fear of losing their position.

The rabbit hole goes deeper and deeper. The infiltration of the CIA, recruiting agents and operatives to work covertly for them, touches virtually every aspect of society. An idea like that might be hard to get your head around, but it is in fact well documented. Some have even been surprisingly frank about their association with the CIA. For example, in an editorial for National Review on November 1, 2005, William F. Buckley wrote:

When in 1951 I was inducted into the CIA as a deep cover agent, the procedures for disguising my affiliation and my work were unsmilingly comprehensive. It was three months before I was formally permitted to inform my wife what the real reason was for going to Mexico City to live. If, a year later, I had been apprehended, dosed with sodium pentothal, and forced to give out the names of everyone I knew in the CIA, I could have come up with exactly one name, that of my immediate boss (E. Howard Hunt, as it happened). In the passage of time one can indulge in idle talk on spook life. In 1980 I found myself seated next to the former president of Mexico at a ski-area restaurant. What, he asked amiably, had I done when I lived in Mexico? "I tried to undermine your regime, Mr. President." He thought this amusing, and that is all that it was, under the aspect of the heavens.

It is easy to dismiss someone like Chuck Barris and his Confessions of a Dangerous Mind as mere delusions of a deranged mind (which is possibly the point of the book/movie), but not so with someone of Buckley's stature.

Buckley's admitted boss, E. Howard Hunt (allegedly the spy for whom Tom Cruise's character in Mission: Impossible, Ethan Hunt, is named) shortly before his death implicated David Atlee Phillips in the assassination of JFK, chronicled in an April 5, 2007 Rolling Stone article. He wrote out the cast of characters for his son, Saint John Hunt, putting Lyndon Johnson at the top of the list. David Atlee Phillips worked closely with another CIA operative by the name of David Sanchez Morales. Bradley Ayers, a retired US army captain who had worked closely with Morales, identified him in film of the event at the Ambassador Hotel along with two other know CIA agents. One has to wonder just what someone like Morales would have been doing there that night.

The rabbit hole goes deeper still. As one explores the depth and breadth of CIA involvement in every aspect of culture, one is left with the unnerving feeling that the CIA almost literally defines every aspect of culture. That, in fact, seems to be their goal.

The best known CIA mind control operation, which involved the well documented torture of hundreds of adults, most notably the patients at Allan Memorial Institute in Canada by Dr. Ewen Cameron, was called MKULTRA. By the time the program was discovered and investigated by Congress, it had allegedly been terminated without positive results. That, at least, is what was claimed by the CIA. What else were they expected to say? What they did to the unwilling participants in MKULTRA was unconscionable and revolting. They were physically tortured, given psychotropic drugs like LSD, hypnotized and forced to listen to countless hours of the same recorded messages over and over, what Cameron called psychic driving.

While MKULTRA allegedly spanned the 1950's and 60's, George Estabrooks, a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard PhD, wrote the following in an April 1971 article for Science Digest.

One of the most fascinating but dangerous applications of hypnosis is its use in military intelligence. This is a field with which I am familiar though formulating guide lines for the techniques used by the United States in two world wars.

Communication in war is always a headache. Codes can be broken. A professional spy may or may not stay bought. Your own man may have unquestionable loyalty, but his judgment is always open to question.

The "hypnotic courier," on the other hand, provides a unique solution. I was involved in preparing many subjects for this work during World War II. One successful case involved an Army Service Corps Captain whom we'll call George Smith.

Captain Smith had undergone months of training. He was an excellent subject but did not realize it. I had removed from him, by post-hypnotic suggestion, all recollection of ever having been hypnotized.

First I had the Service Corps call the captain to Washington and tell him they needed a report of the mechanical equipment of Division X headquartered in Tokyo. Smith was ordered to leave by jet next morning, pick up the report and return at once. Consciously, that was all he knew, and it was the story he gave to his wife and friends.

Then I put him under deep hypnosis, and gave him -- orally -- a vital message to be delivered directly on his arrival in Japan to a certain colonel -- let's say his name was Brown -- of military intelligence. Outside of myself, Colonel Brown was the only person who could hypnotize Captain Smith. This is "locking." I performed it by saying to the hypnotized Captain: "Until further orders from me, only Colonel Brown and I can hypnotize you. We will use a signal phrase 'the moon is clear.' Whenever you hear this phrase from Brown or myself you will pass instantly into deep hypnosis." When Captain Smith re-awakened, he had no conscious memory or what happened in trance. All that he was aware of was that he must head for Tokyo to pick up a division report.

On arrival there, Smith reported to Brown, who hypnotized him with the signal phrase. Under hypnosis, Smith delivered my message and received one to bring back. Awakened, he was given the division report and returned home by jet. There I hypnotized him once more with the signal phrase, and he spieled off Brown's answer that had been dutifully tucked away in his unconscious mind.

The system is virtually foolproof. As exemplified by this case, the information was "locked" in Smith's unconscious for retrieval by the only two people who knew the combination. The subject had no conscious memory of what happened, so could not spill the beans. No one else could hypnotize him even if they might know the signal phrase.

Estabrooks is claiming—and keep in mind that this is no “conspiracy theorist” saying this to a bunch of tin foil hat wearers, but a Harvard PhD and Rhodes scholar publishing in Science Digest—that the techniques for hypnotically getting someone to do something with absolutely no recollection of having done it were already perfected during World War One! While the example he gives is from WWII, he says that these are techniques used by the United States in two world wars.

It is easy to see how it could well be the case that the CIA did indeed, as they claimed, end MKULTRA in the 60's. By that time, they likely had all of the data they needed from that experiment. Today, what they are involved with is even worse: children.

There are claims that more than 200,000 children disappear without a trace in the United States each year. The number is impossible to verify because, bizarrely (or curiously), the FBI does not keep track of this statistic. Despite an concerted effort to discredit such stories, the evidence points inescapably and painfully to the fact that ritual abuse is commonplace, not only in the United States but around the world. In countries across the globe, investigations have uncovered pedophilia rings that involve not merely photographs of children engaged in sexual acts, but the torturing, mutilation and killing of children and infants. In many cases, young children have reported being forced to either watch or participate in the murdering of small babies.

Of course, stories like these are nearly impossible to accept. These kinds of things must only happen is horror films. Detective Robert Simandl of the Chicago Police Department answer that natural incredulity with this. “It's difficult for us to believe such crimes are occurring, but they are, all over the United States.” But it is not just in the United States. Each time one of these rings is uncovered, high profile political figures are involved. And each time, the perpetrators are either not brought to trial or are given suspended sentences.

Many of these can be linked to the CIA. Their involvement makes sense. Hypnosis, which they have perfected as a means of controlling the mind of another, is a form of dissociation. Dissociation occurs with everyone. The process of become so engrossed in a book or a movie that you forget your surroundings is a form of dissociation. Some are more prone to dissociate than other, which makes them better hypnotic subjects. One thing that can lead one to be more prone to dissociation is severe childhood trauma.

In other words, the CIA appears to be abducting children and subjecting them to unthinkable abuse for the purpose of creating hyper-talented hypnotic subjects that can be programmed to do virtually anything.

And that brings us to the next part of our story.

The Walking Bible

Jerry Owen was a freelance preacher of the bible thumping variety with a long rap sheet (police list of arrests). Owen seems to be one of those sorts that found his way out of trouble with the law by “finding Jesus.” His claim to fame was that he claimed he had memorized the entire Bible, Old Testament and New. For this he gave himself the moniker The Walking Bible, since taken over by that purveyor of fundamentalist fantasy and fear, Jack Van Impe.

The night Bobby Kennedy was shot, Owen made a trip to visit the police. That seems like a strange thing for a man with a long rap sheet to do. The story he had to tell was even stranger. Owen claimed that he had picked up Sirhan, RFK's alleged assassin, as a hitchhiker before the assassination. According to Owen, Sirhan was in the market for a horse and Owen had a horse to sell. They agreed on a price of $300. Owen was to deliver the horse for Sirhan to the back of the Ambassador Hotel at 11:00 on the night that, as it turned out, Kennedy was shot.

Already, you are probably thinking that Owen was nothing but a nut case trying to get a little free publicity for his “ministry.” That is exactly how the LAPD passed off his story. Unfortunately, Owen was not so easy to dismiss. For one thing, while the claim that Sirhan had wanted to buy a horse from him seems far-fetched and almost random, it betrays a knowledge of Sirhan that Owen should not have had immediately following the assassination. Sirhan did, in fact, make a living working with horses. And when Sirhan was apprehended that night, they found four $100 bills in his pocket, this despite the fact that Sirhan was unemployed at the time. Yet, when Owen arrived at the police station, nothing was known about Sirhan beyond the fact that he had been subdued in the kitchen area of the Ambassador Hotel with a gun in his hand.

Owen seemed to know about what would later be reported about that night at the Ambassador., too He claimed that as he drove Sirhan around, Sirhan directed him to stop so that he could talk to a man and women on the corner of Wilshire and Vermont, only a couple of blocks from the Ambassador. The man and woman suspiciously mirrored the story told by Sandy Serrano of the woman in the polka dot dress. But again, this was not a detail Owen should have known at the time he gave his report to the police.

While those aspects of Owen's story rang true, others did not. Why, for example, would Sirhan ask Owen to deliver a horse for him to the Ambassador Hotel at 11:00 on an evening when not just one but three political rallies were taking place, and on a night when Sirhan had apparently intended to shoot Bobby Kennedy? Details like this made it easy for the LAPD to simply dismiss Owen as a nut looking for publicity. The problem is, Owen did not seek publicity with his story. If he had wanted publicity, he would have gone to the press, who were all too willing to take any story at the time. Instead, he contacted the police and asked that his name not be used.

Owen claims that the day after he made he police report, he received a threatening phone call. “Are you Shepherd? The man with the horses? Keep your motherfucking mouth shut about this horse deal, or else!” Owen's name, of course, was not Shepherd, but his business card read, “SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS, Free Pony Rides for Boys and Girls Who Go To The Church Of Their Choice, Learn a Bible Verse, and Mind Their Parents.”

While Owen claimed that his only acquaintance with Sirhan was picking him up and attempting to sell him a horse, there were witnesses who knew Sirhan that testified they had seen Owen with Sirhan several times well before the assassination. Chief amongst these was Bill Powers.

Bill Powers ran Wild Bill's Stables in Santa Ana, California, boarding horses, hiring them out and giving riding lessons. Owen had a home close to Wild Bill's and often visited the stable. When asked in court if he had ever heard Owen use the name Sirhan, Powers replied that he had.

Powers had an employee named Johny Beckley who worked breaking horses that belonged to Owen. As Powers would testify, “Well, he didn't like the way Johnny was handling the horses and cowboying around, and he said he had other people at the track and stuff that could handle in the right manner, and the name Sirhan was mentioned.” When asked how he could be certain, he responded, “Well, because it was an unusual name, and then shortly after the I heard Sirhan's name again. And Mr. Sirhan was a horseman too, and that's why I remember.” Other witness corroborated, making for a very high likelihood that while Owen may have picked up Sirhan, he did not do so as a random hitchhiker but as someone with whom he had an ongoing relationship.

Keep in mind as we move on that we are looking at a web. The threads that make up this web can seem tenuous and might even seem invisible until the catch the light just right. In many cases, that light comes in the form or realizing that two people in a story have something in common that was not suspected.

William Bryan

The journals found in a search of Sirhan's house read like the ramblings of a lunatic. Sirhan himself claimed this. Though he admitted that the writing in the journals was his own, but had absolutely no memory of having written them. Under hypnosis, however, Sirhan would recreate the writing in the journals, compulsively writing over and over, “RFK must die,” giving credence to the idea that Sirhan actually wrote the journals under a hypnotic trance.

While much of the writing in those journals is repetitive, there is a curious line written once that seems to bear no relationship to anything else around it. Seemingly inexplicably, Sirhan wrote, “God help me...please help me. Salvo Di Di Salvo Die S Salvo.” While we can't know for certain what it means, one likely explanation is that it is a reference to Albert DeSalvo, the infamous Boston Strangler.

The Boston Strangler case was solved by use of hypnosis. Attorney F. Lee Bailey had hired a Los Angeles hypnotist William Bryan in an effort to extract a confession from Albert DeSalvo. Under hypnosis, DeSalvo gave such a detailed description of the murders, including information that was not known by the public, that his guilt was immediately presumed. At the time, the Boston police were on the tail of a prime suspect, not DeSalvo, who they were convinced was the killer. After DeSalvo's hypnotically induced confession, the case was closed and the other suspect dropped.

Bryan billed himself as “probably the leading expert in the world” in the use of hypnosis in criminal cases. Bryan actually claimed many things that are difficult to verify. There is no doubt that he was considered one of the top hypnotists in the country. He also claimed to be a one-time drummer for the Tommy Dorsey Band, a technical consultant for the movie The Manchurian Candidate, the grandson of William Jennings Bryan and, tellingly, a consultant to the CIA for their mind control programs.

Bryan was also a sex addict. He reportedly hypno-seduced up to a dozen women a day in his practice and still found a need to hire prostitutes. Two of the girls he hired regularly allegedly did not have sex with Bryan but merely indulged him by listening to the stories of his accomplishments while dressed seductively. So they claim, Bryan came right out and told them during one of these sessions that he had hypno-programmed the infamous assassin of Bobby Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan.

One curious thing about Bryan that does not seem to be in keeping with his work as a world-renowned hypnotists but does potentially shed a little light on a thin sticky thread. Like Jerry Owen, Bryan was also a fundamentalist preacher.

It seems preachers and ministers where not uncommon in the field of hypnosis in those days. While William Bryan was the founder of the American Institute of Hypnosis, the head of the International Society of Hypnosis was headed by a man by the name of the Reverend Xavier von Koss, also of Los Angeles.

James Earl Ray, the man who was convicted of assassinating Martin Luther King about two months before the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, had lived in Los Angeles before that assassination. As more bizarre and inexplicable coincidence and happenstance would have it, he had been hypnotized by the Reverend Xavier von Koss.

Four years after the assassinations of MLK and RFK, an assassination attempt was made on George Wallace. Wallace, the Governor of Alabama, had run for President before, but it was not until 1972 that he became a formidable candidate. Then, at a sparsely attended appearance at the Laurel Shopping Center, Arthur Bremer pushed through the crowd and fired all five shots from a five-shot revolver at Wallace, point blank. While Wallace lived, a bullet that had lodged in his spinal column left him paralyzed for the remainder of his life.

Bizarrely, Wallace's fingerprints were not found on the gun, though Wallace was not wearing gloves. Just like Sirhan, Bremer was described as having a sickly smile and very detached demeanor at the time of the assassination attempt. While Bremer's gun only held five rounds, Wallace was wounded in nine places. Three others were also wounded in the shooting, each taking one bullet apiece.

According to Bryan's secretary, moments after the shooting of Wallace was announced, a call was made to Bryan's office. He announced that he had to leave on an emergency that involved the shooting of Governor Wallace.

More to come...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The assassination of Robert Kennedy, Part 3 --
The woman in the polka dot dress

The Woman in the Polka Dot Dress

Sandy Serrano, a young campaign worker for Kennedy, was there at the Ambassador Hotel that night. Needing a break from the heat and the crowd, she found a little quiet on the steps that lead from the back of the kitchen area. Somewhere around 11:30pm, she encountered three people, a woman and two men, entering the kitchen from the back, using the stairs she was sitting on. The woman she would described as wearing a white dress with dark polka dots and having a “Bob Hope” type nose. The two men with her were described as,

White male (Latin extraction), 5'5” tall, 21 to 23 years old, olive complexion, black hair, long—straight, hanging over his forehead and needed a haircut. [The other was] white male (Mexican American), about 23 years of age, 5'3” tall, curly, bushy hair and wore light colored clothes. She said after seeing a picture of Sirhan Sirhan in the newspaper she felt certain that this was the same person she saw go up the stairs with this woman. [Turner and Christian; The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, The Conspiracy and Coverup]

Sometime later, seconds after Serrano heard what she described as sounding like automobile backfires, the woman and one of her male companions came running back down the stairs. According to Serrano, the woman was yelling, “We shot him, we shot him.” When asked who they shot, she replied, “Senator Kennedy.”

Serrano was not the only one to describe the woman in the polka dot dress and associate her with Sirhan and/or the assassination. Amongst them was Kennedy campaign worker Darnell Johnson and the son of an Ambassador Hotel maƮtre d', Thomas Vincent DiPierro. DiPierro said that the only reason he noticed Sirhan was that there was a very good looking girl next to him. According to DiPierro,

I would never forget what she looked like because she had a very good looking figure—and the dress was kind of looked like a white dress and it had either black or dark-purple polka dots on it.

Minutes after the shooting and well before any of the stories of the woman in the white dress had been made public or could have been shared, LAPD Sergeant Paul Sharaga heard news of the shooting on his police radio. Already in the vicinity, he arrived at the scene within a minute. An older couple approached Sharaga and, as he tells it,

They related that they were outside one of the doors of the Embassy Room when a young couple in their early twenties came rushing out. This couple seemed to be in a state of glee, shouting, “We shot him, we shot him, we killed him.” The woman stated that she asked the lady, “Who did you shoot?” or “Who was shot?” and the young lady replied, “Kennedy, we shot him, we killed him.”

The only defining characteristic of the young lady that the witnesses could give was that she was wearing a white dress with polka dots. Sharaga immediately put out an all point bulletin for police to be on the lookout for a woman in a polka dot dress in the company of a man.

And then something very strange happened that, as far as we know, has never happened before or since in the history of the LAPD. For about 15 to 20 minutes, all police radio communications were lost on all frequencies. This was ample time for the woman in the polka dot dress and her companion to get off the streets and out of reach of the police.

The elderly couple Sharaga had interviewed were lost and have never come forward. Serrano, being the sole witness to the woman in the polka dot dress claiming, “We shot Kennedy” was brought to the notorious Rampart Division of the LAPD for extensive questioning. I encourage you to follow the link on the Rampart Division. The story of the ongoing corruption in the LAPD and the Rampart Division in particular is very informative. The Bobby Kennedy assassination is not the only one in which the Rampart Division has taken part.

In this case, however, the witness was not so much questioned as she was browbeaten and verbally tortured into renouncing her testimony. The “questioning” was performed by Sergeant Enrique “Hank” Hernandez who, according to his resume, played a key role in “Unified Police Command” training for the CIA in Latin America. As is clear from the questioning, Hernandez had one goal in mind—to discredit Sandy Serrano and anything having to do with the story of the woman in the polka dot dress.

Here, for your listening pleasure, are two excerpts from that taped session which, amazingly, survived after the LAPD had attempted to destroy all evidence that would discount the official story of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Keep in mind as you listen that Sgt. Hernandez is allegedly questioning a material witness who has nothing to gain from lying.

Serrano and Hernandez part 1

Serrano and Hernandez part 2

A piece of the web

Hernandez played a key role in the special LAPD task force created to investigate the Kennedy Assassination, called Special Unit Senator, or SUS. SUS was headed by LAPD Lieutenant Manuel Pena.

Interestingly, Pena had officially retired from the LAPD in November of 1967, less than a year before the Kennedy assassination, to take a position with the Agency for International Development Office of the State Department, or AID. AID, a known cover agency for the CIA for its counter insurgency and torture operations in South America. AID is probably best known for one of its most infamous agents, a man who Pena allegedly had worked with, Dan Mitrione. From 1960 to 1967, Mitrione worked with the Brazilian government under the cover of AID, torturing then killing, without trial, political dissidents.

Though Pena's farewell was a well attended and publicized event, sometime around April 1968 he returned to the LAPD quietly, without fanfare. His explanation was that the job with AID had not turned out to be what he had hoped. Within two months, he would find himself in charge of the most important murder investigation every conducted by the LAPD, the man who would have the final say on virtually everything that would happen in the investigation.

And here, we have an interesting piece of web to examine. Two of the most important investigator's of the case, Hernandez and Pena, are both ex (or perhaps current at that time) CIA operatives, both involved in CIA operations in South America. Pena, the man running the entire investigation, had just returned from duty with AID, a CIA front organization that specialized in crushing political dissidents and likely worked with Dan Mitrione.

In 1970, Mitrione was kidnapped by the Tupamaros, a leftist guerrilla organization fighting against the U.S. sponsored dictatorship in Uruguay. Though his name was changed, that event was the basis of the movie State of Siege. Mitrione's funeral, much like Pena's “retirement” from the LAPD, was a well publicized and attended affair. Following his funeral, a benefit concert was held in his home town of Richmond, Indiana, headlined by none other than Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis (go figure).

Sinatra, as you may remember, was one of the stars of the John Frankenheimer film The Manchurian Candidate. The film is a fictional account of a man, played by Lawrence Harvey, who is hypnotically programmed to perform assassinations without conscious knowledge of doing so. Following the Kennedy assassination, Sinatra purchased the rights to The Manchurian Candidate and removed it from circulation until 1987.

On June 3rd, Bobby Kennedy had dinner with his friend John Frankenheimer (who, coincidentally, drove him to the Ambassador Hotel that fateful night) along with a pretty actress named Sharon Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski.

Now, please bear with me as we descend into something of an abyss. When trying to see the web, we run across strange coincidences that may seem on the surface to be tenuous, improbable or even downright laughable. It's the nature of the beast. If you want to know what is really going on, these things must at least be put on the table, even if they are discarded later. Remember, though, webs are tenuous things made from very delicate threads. Often times, the most obvious and easily accepted data turns out to be nothing more than something caught in the web—an artifact, if you will, rather than the web itself. That said, here we go.

In August 1969, Tate was murdered by members of the Manson Family, who had strong connections to the Laurel Canyon music scene. Curiously, the year Kennedy was shot Sharon Tate was in the process of making a film entitled The Wrecking Crew, which costarred Dean Martin. That same name was taken by a group of Los Angeles studio musicians associated with Phil Spector, who were also closely connected with the Laurel Canyon music scene. And Dean Martin, her costar in that film, was of course a long time collaborator with Jerry Lewis, who shared billing with Frank Sinatra at the Dan Mitrione benefit concert following his funeral. During the filming of that movie, Tate would be trained to do her own stunts by the martial arts expert Bruce Lee, with whom she would become close friends and who also later died under mysterious circumstances.

Tate, it should be noted for those who don't remember her, was a movie star on a meteoric rise. She was beautiful and talented. As the Hollywood Reporter stated concerning her role in The Wrecking Crew, "Sharon Tate reveals a pleasant affinity to scatterbrain comedy and comes as close to walking away with this picture as she did in a radically different role in Valley of the Dolls."

Tate, it should also be noted, had taken a keen interest in Bobby Kennedy's campaign. She was a frequent attendee at Kennedy campaign dinners. It's funny (and not in a humorous way) how often it seems that those in the public eye who take a political stance that is in favor of human rights, human dignity and simply doing the right thing are found in a pool of their own blood.

As for Dan Mitrione, he was not the only famous former resident of Richmond, Indiana. For a fairly small town (the 2000 census shows a population of only 39,124) it has had more than its fair share of celebrity. Richmond can boast at least four NFL players, one of whom was a rookie of the year, an NFL coach, two NBA coaches, an Olympic gold medalist, Margaret Landon (the author of The King and I), Orville and Wilbur Wright, the legendary and cutting edge R&B singer Baby Huey and actress Polly Bergen along with Mitrione and a street preacher there who Mitrione befriended while he was Chief of Police in Richmond. A man by the name of Jim Jones.

But that is another story for another time.

More to come...