100 Years of Failed Policy: The Jones Act


The Jones Act was a US protectionist policy fashioned after The Navigation Acts passed by British Parliament in the colonial era. The Act  passed in June, 1920 as Part of the Merchant Marine Act of the same year. Although it has been revised a number times, it remains law to this day.

Named after Washington Senator Wesley Jones, its goal was to develop and sustain one of the greatest merchant marine fleets in the world. 

There was surprisingly little public debate on the matter. 

The Merchant Marine Act was passed by a Republican controlled Congress and signed by President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat.

Surely after 100 years, the effect of this act will have been to have created the strongest merchant marine fleet on the planet, with a robust ship building economy and vast armies oif merchant marine crews.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case. The US merchant marine fleet has grown weaker year after year. In 1960 the US Merchant Marine had 2,926 vessels, making up 16.9 percent of the world’s fleet, but today our fleet has been reduced to 182 vessels, which is 0.4 percent of the world’s vessels. Out of those 182, only 95 are “Jones Act Compliant”.

Listen here:

The Jones Act has been criticized as a protectionist policy, cloaked as necessary for strategic defense. However the Biden administration has been consistent it’s support of the Jones Act, stating, “Biden has been a consistent and strong advocate for the Jones Act and its mandate that only U.S.-flag vessels carry cargo between U.S. ports.”

How successful has the Jones Act been in attaining its goals?

How successful has the Jones Act been in achieving its goals of: strengthening America’s Merchant Marine, Shipyards and Ship repair capacity?

Due to such low demand, most US ship building has been reduced to the construction of barges and tug boats. The annihilation of the US Merchant Marine and US Shipbiulding has been the result. 

Your questions are how, what and why. How did this happen, what impact does the Jones Act have on our merchant marine and shipping and why does this disastrous piece of legislation continue its life?

Who was Wesley Jones?

Let’s start off with the Act’s main proponent, Wesley Jones.Wesley Jones was born in 1863 in Illinois. He grew up working on farms. His father was killed in the Civil War. Wesley went on to study at Southern Illinois College for his Bachelor’s Degree, and passed the bar after studying law in Chicago.

Wesley Lively Jones
Source: U.S. House of Representatives

In 1883 he moved to North Yakima, Washington to work as a lawyer. He was also involved in Real Estate. Jones served five terms in the House of Representatives from 1898 to 1909. He then served in the US Senate from 1909 until 1932, the year of his death.

Jones frequently accused anyone opposing his initiatives of supporting foriegn enemies. For example, he:

  • Believed that those that were against the Jones Act were in league with foreign powers looking to profit from American Commerce, at a cost to America’s security.
  • Charged that beer brewers were secretly financing newspapers in the interest of liquor and accused them of being pro-German.
  • Complained that loans by brewers to Arthur Brisbane for the purpose to buy The Washington Times demonstrated Brisbane’s pro-German agenda. Arthur Brisbane was a highly successful newspaper editor and journalist. Brisbane worked for William Randolph Hearst and was a close associate.

Why was the Jones Act made into law?

The Jones Act was positioned as necessary to build and maintain a strong US Merchant Marine after the shortcomings of the US fleet was apparent when the US engaged in, and eventually joined, war against Germany in 1917.

Prior to World War I, the US had about 1,000,000 gross tonnage across its merchant fleet. 

However, there were only three commissioned Navy vessels capable of transporting troops: the transports Hancock and Henderson, and the seized German auxiliary cruiser SMS Prinz Eitel Friedrich, renamed the DeKalb after the Revolutionary War hero.

The US was so short of transport vessels to transport men and cargo, that the British Empire offered use of their ships but demanded in exchange that US servicemen be placed under British control.

In response the US resorted to confiscating enemy flagged ships in US ports, which included 91 German vessels. The army  hitched rides with allies or payed foreigners for transit to Europe. 

Germany then unleashed its U-Boats, inflicting great damage to the US Merchant Fleet, in order to prevent as much of  the Army and matériel from reaching Europe. During the period before and during the war, the US Merchant Fleet lost 339,0691 gross tonnage across all vessels. By comparison, the British empire lost over 7,662,0001 gross tonnage, making the losses of the US Merchant Fleet trivial by comparison. Today, the British Merchant Fleet numbers over 30 million gross weight tonnage.

World War I demonstrated the vulnerability of not having sufficient merchant marine strength. By not being able to move troops and supplies to the theater of war, the US was reliant on Allies and Foreign fleets.

Senator Wesley Jones,  chair of the US Senate Committee on Commerce from 1919 to 1930,. introduced the Bill that would later become known as the Jones Act. The Act itself was part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It’s been revised many times and has been waived in times of emergency to deliver aid.

What were the goals of the Jones Act?

Jone’s stated reasons for the Act were:

  • It was in the strategic interest of the US to support US shipyards and to maintain repair capability
    • Maintain a US merchant marine workforce & US crews
    • Control a  commercial fleet to supplement the military in the event of a conflict2
  • Jones asserted that costs to build ships in the US were comparable to England, and thus was commercially viable

Although the US public was virtually unaware of the Jones Act, there were those opposed to the bill. Among those were:

  • Businessmen and chambers of commerce of all stripes who feared that shipping costs would increase. Turns out that they were right
  • Ports and harbors feared that the Jones Act would drive foreign ships from US ports, and take profits with them.
  • Many Politicians were against the idea of Government getting into the business of owning ships. The Emergency Fleet Corporation, established by the United States Shipping Board, would directly acquire and own US merchant fleet vessels.
  • Foreign fleets, such as Norway, that would lose routes between the West Indies and US Ports, as well as passenger service between US ports and Norway, were also against the Act.

    Jones responded to his detractors by Accusing them to be supporting foreign countries. He claimed that Government ownership of ships was less burdensome than Government ownership and operation of the railroads.. President Wilson had taken over the railroads as part of the Railroad Control Act. The railroads were returned to their owners in March 1920.

    Jones didn’t try to hide his protectionist leanings, however, and even went so far as to state in August 1920, “It is said that this bill will drive foreign ships from our ports. Granted. I want to do it.”

    We see this type of attacks  from Democratic Party leaders in 2022, most notably President Biden who blames “Extreme MAGA activists” for opinions he and the Administration don’t like. He assaults free speech and wants to outlaw it under the guise of “hate speech’. 

Enough of the parallels between 1920 and 2022.

What’s been the impact?

So what has happened since the Jones Act was signed into law over 100 years ago? One would imagine that the US Merchant fleet would be the largest, strongest and best equipped in the world. 

Certainly eclipsing the British Merchant Fleet of 30 million tons. The UK economy has a Gross Domestic Product of $3.3 Trillion against the US’s GDP of 25 Trillion. By simple back of the envelope math, our Merchant Marine should be at least 225 million tons .

Well, unfortunately, this has not been the case. Today, the number of Jones Act ships has declined to a miniscule 95 vessels.

Chart displaying the number and type of Jones Act Complaint Vessels
Number of Jones Act Compiant Vessels – 2022

Intended to give advantage to American ships over US trade with other countries, the share of our Nation’s international trade carried out today on U.S.-flagged ships has been reduced to 2%. According to the Cato Institute, that is a decline from a high of 92.5 percent in 1826

What about US shipbuilding, surely that is still strong? Well, not exactly. Most US shipbuilding is focused on barges and tug boats. This has come about because it costs 8 times more to build a ship in the US than other countries. For example, a coastal ship built in the US can cost a staggering $190 to $250 million. A comparable vessel can be made in a foreign country like China or South Korea for $30 million,.

The effect of the Jones Act has been to make our most dangerous enemy, China, a world leader in shipbuilding, while reducing the US ship industry to a joke.

How about shipping costs? Surely the Jones act has been able to help us with port to port shipping costs, because we can keep low cost foreign competitors out of our markets? (Haha, that was a joke). Well, as you would expect, no. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration, “Comparison of U.S. and Foreign‐​Flag Operating Costs,” September 2011, US flagged ships cost over $21 thousand per day to operate, as compared to $9,500 per day for a foreign flagged containership. What have our administrations done for the last 100 years to correct this imbalance? Nothing except to make it worse.

As a result of these higher costs, and lack of vessels due to the Jones Act, most cargo today is transported by land across America via rail or truck. The costs and impacts for rail and truck transport are enormous, and higher than by water routes. These costs are born by American consumers and tax payers. Rail and truck traffic cause  majority of wear and tear on our bridges, highways and railways due to their high gross vehicle weight capacity.

Although trucks make up 10% of vehicle traffic, they are responsible for 70% of maintenance and repair costs.  This is in contrast to the cheaper and less polluting way to move freight by water.

  • According to the World Shipping Council, Maritime shipping produces approximately 10–40 grams of carbon dioxide to carry one ton of cargo one kilometer. Rail transport produces 20–150 grams, and trucking produces 60–150 grams.
  • Ready for some more horrendous facts about the Jones Act:
    • Although the US has a vast reservoirs of Natural Gas, we have zero Liquefied Natural Gas tankers to transport LNG from the Gulf of Mexico ports, where the LNG is, to the east or west coasts where LNG is needed. In addition, the Biden Administration shut down all pipeline construction, including the Keystone XL which would have brought plentiful Canadian oil to refineries in the US.
    • Another fact. The US has closed over 300 shipyards since 1980.

Today 1% of ships are made in US. 9 out of 10 of those are barges or tug boats

  • How about transit of troops during war? One of the key lessons coming out of WWI was that we needed a strong Merchant Marine to move  our fighters to the parts of the world where they are needed.

    During operation desert shield and desert storm, foreign flagged vessels carried twice the amount of cargo as did us flagged ships. In fact, US requested the use of two ships from Moscow?

When has the Jones Act been waived?

  • The Jones Act has been Waived in times of emergency, when politicians receive pressure from constituents to solve supply chain disruption caused by diasaster. Here are some examples:
    • 2005 for 18 days the Jones Act was waived following Hurricane Katrina (by then Republican President George Bush.
    • In 2012 the Jones Act was suspended for three weeks in response to Superstorm Sandy. Per Secretary Janet Nepalitano, “Jones Act was suspended immediately to allow additional oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports, to provide additional fuel resources to the region” This was part of a deal Barack Obama made with Republican NJ Governor Chris Christie, who for some reason, hosted the Democratic President who was running for re-election at the time. This PR campaign helped ensure the re-election of Barack Obama, and defeated Mitt Romney.
    •  The Jones act was waived again 5 years lanter, in 2017 for Puerto Rico by Republican President Donald Trump. This was in response to the need for Hurricane relief to the island.
  • Given the state of affairs in the US in May of 2022, surely the Jones Act should be waived? With the current supply chain woes, inflation, war with Russia and high fuel prices,  pressure would be relieved with the supply of plentiful oil and natural gas from the gulf coast to the refineries on the East and West coasts.
    • Instead, The Biden Adminstration, has doubled down on the Jones Act.
    • The truth is that the Biden Administration have no interest in lowering fuel prices. If they did, they would waive the Jones Act indefinitely, speed approve needed pipelines and encourage oil and gas producers to drill more wells. Instead, the Biden Administration has terminated badly needed pipelines and refused to renew oil leases, and cancelling all new drilling permits.
  • The Biden administration does not care about the environment – if they did, they would support port to port shipping, as it is greener than rail or highway transport. In fact, the US’s bridges and railways would be in far better shape with less reliance on trucking. The reality is that the Biden administration prefers the support of unions and special interests over the needs of everyday AMericans. That’s what they care about. The environment is immaterial to them – simply a useful pawn to gain votes from the green constituency.

Who else benefits from the Jones Act? A very small minority of the population:

  • Maritime workers
  • Unions such as the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association
  • US Shipyards, such as Bollinger Shipyards and Edison Chouest Offshore
  • US tank barge operators such as Kirby Corp.

It’s time for Americans like you, dear listener, to call your congressional representatives and request that the Jones Act be removed from law immediately so that we can rebuild our merchant marine, get needed oil and gas to our refineries and end the daily misery of Americans who are paying too much at the pump.

Or you can ignore this warning, and continue to support Chinese shipbuilding, reduce our capability to move troops and increase fuels costs. Its not as if there is a land war in Europe.

Check out more posts regarding the history of U.S. Government failures here


1 Salter, J. A. Allied Shipping Control, pages 355-359. Oxford (Clarendon Press), 1921.

2 https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45725


U.S. Congress. United States Code: Merchant Marine Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 861-889 1958. 1958. Periodical. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/uscode1958-009046024/>.

World Shipping Council, “Industry Issues, Carbon Emissions,” 2015, http://​www​.world​ship​ping​.org/​i​n​d​u​s​t​r​y​-​i​s​s​u​e​s​/​e​n​v​i​r​o​n​m​e​n​t​/​a​i​r​-​e​m​i​s​s​i​o​n​s​/​c​a​r​b​o​n​-​e​m​i​s​sions.

The Cato Institute: https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/jones-act-burden-america-can-no-longer-bear#

Figure 1: Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017, EIA US DOE, Russian Energy Ministry



Music provided by Zapsplat

Water And The Origins Of Life

Water, water every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink

Words from Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner written in 1798.

Welcome to Episode 2 of Season 2 of the Paul Kristoffer Show. Thank you for joining. To To join the conversation, Please tweet me @Kristoffershow or visit Paul Kristoffer.com

Listen to the podcast, here:

In this episode, you’ll learn about water and the origins of life, including:

  • What is water?
  • What are the properties that make water so special?
  • Why is water needed for all life on earth?
  • How abundant is water in the Solar System? In the Universe as a whole?
  • How did water get here?
Hurricane season 2022
Source: NASA

Its not an exaggeration to say that water is life! We all know that we need water to survive, and without it, we can die in a matter of days. Water is required for all life processes, but for most of us, we take it for granted.

Specifically, water molecules are formed when two hydrogen atoms bond with one oxygen atom, with the well known chemical formula of H2O. The atoms share electronss in a special bond called a covalent bond.

Water is a relatively lightweight molecule, but is liquid at room temperature. Most lightweight compounds are gasses at room temperature.

Water has the rare property of expanding and becoming lighter, less dense, when it freezes. Most compounds become more compact, and denser, when moving from liquid to a solid state.

Ready for more? Water’s solid, liquid and gaseous states exist within a relatively narrow temperature range that we regularly experience on earth. In fact, water vapor is a major greenhouse gas.

Like distant galaxies amid clouds of interstellar dust, chunks of sea ice drift through graceful swirls of grease ice in the frigid waters of Foxe Basin near Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Sea ice often begins as grease ice, a soupy slick of tiny ice crystals on the ocean's surface. As the temperature drops, grease ice thickens and coalesces into slabs of more solid ice.
Ice Stars  – August 4th, 2002 Source: NASA

Solid water, ice, floats on liquid water. This is a relatively rare occurrence among compounds, but brings significant advantages to life. The first being that aquatic life can remain relatively warm under lake or sea ice, and thus flourish under harsh atmospheric conditions.

Another important  property of water is that it absorbs a lot of heat before it warms up. The scientific term for this is specific heat capacity. The concept is expressed as the amount of heat need to raise one gram of substance by 1 degree Celsius. The specific heat of water is higher than many other substances, including metals, sand, rock or the land in general. In fact water has one of the highest specific heat of natural substances.

Water does a lot to help regulate temperatures on earth by smoothing out atmospheric temperature changes. This is a major factor that explains why coastal areas remain cooler in the summer, and warmer in the winter. The ocean absorbs heat during the summer, and releases it over winter.

Water is required all life on Earth. Most scientists agree that living organisms are defined by their common attributes, such as the ability to grow, reproduce, maintain an internal homeostasis, respond to stimuli and carry out metabolic processes. All of these processes require water, whether the organism is a single celled bacterium, fungi or a blue whale.

Why is water so critical to many biological processes? It’s because of another property of water. Known as “the universal solvent”, water dissolves more substances than any other liquid. Solvent is the scientific word for a substance, usually a liquid, that other materials dissolve into. Like when salt or sugar dissolves in water. This is an important property to life, because wherever water goes, important chemicals, nutrients and minerals are brought along with it. The chemistry of life,  the processes in our bodies and almost all biological processes, cannot take place without it. This is true for all life on earth. 

Why does water have all of these unique properties? The answer is simple. Hydrogen bonds. Hydrogen bonds come into play because of the structure of the water molecule. Water has a unique shape and polarity. This is because of the way the Oxygen and two Hydrogen atoms bond together to form the molecule. Oxygen has 6 electrons in its outer shell, but it wants to have 8 to form a complete shell to achieve stability. Hydrogen has one electron, but wants two in its outer shell.

Hydrogen Bonds attracting water molecules

The Hydrogen atoms need to achieve stability by sharing one of its electrons with the oxygen, and recieves one from the Oxygen atom, to achieve two electrons in its outer shell.. The Oxygen atom, achieves stability by sharing two of its electrons with the two Hydrogen atoms. In turn, the Oxygen atom “receives” one electron from each Hydrogen atom, leaving the Oxygen atom with 8 electrons in its outer shell. Now all the atoms are happy with complete electron shells – 2 for each Hydrogen atom, and eight for the Oxygen.

These are very strong bonds, called covalent bonds

Simple right?  That’s where the story ends for most of us, but there is a lot more to water than meets the eye. Understanding how water molecules interact with each other, and other substances can help us to understand this wondrous chemical compound and its properties.

Hydrogen bonds are formed in water because Oxygen  is highly electo-negative. Electronegativity is a scientific word to describe how attractive an atom is to electrons. Oxygen is the second most electronegative element in the Periodic Table. Fluorine is the highest. Oxygen has 8 protons in its nucleus, which attract electrons and causes this high electronegativity.

The Oxygen nucleus attracts the shared electrons from the Hydrogen atoms towards itself. This results in a di-polar molecule, where one end of the molecule, the oxygen “end,” is more negatively charged, and the other “end”, where the Hydrogen atoms are,  is more positively charged. Sort of like a magnet.

Hydrogen bonds are weak bonds, never more than 1/12 the strength of the covalent bond.  These weak bonds continually form and reform in liquid water. when water molecules bond to each other (positive to negative), and to other substances.

In ice, each water molecule  can form four permanent hydrogen bonds. The oxygen atom can attract two Hydrogen atoms from a neighboring molecule. Each hydrogen, likewise, can bond with the oxygen of two neighboring molecules. The molecules form a hexagonal structure.

As ice warms and becomes liquid, meaning that there is enough heat energy to break the hexagonal crystal structures, the hydrogen bonds are continuously broken and reformed.  In liquid water, each water molecule forms at least one Hydrogen bond and there are effectively no free molecules in your glass of water.

This is the reason why liquid water is more dense than solid ice. Ice is made up of a hexagonal structure of molecules, due to the four permanent hydrogen bonds that form. 5 water molecules are bonded together in a repeating hexagonal structure. Molecules in liquid water bond with at least one partner, but the structure is not as rigid and open.  More molecules can fit into a smaller space. This means that there are more water molecules into any given volume – higher density – then the solid form.

Water is actually most dense at 4 degrees C, and then gradually becomes less dense as the water cools into a crystalline solid. This property is very helpful to aquatic life, as the warmest water in winter may be found at the bottom of a pond, where the 4 degree celsius water has settled to the bottom of the pond, and cooler water will rest on top in layers.

Water is such a good solvent because of? Yes, you got it. Hydrogen bonds. The dipolar molecule, water, dissolves many ionic compounds readily, because the positive ions are attracted to the negatively charged, Oxygen, end of the molecule, and the negative ions are likewise attracted to the negative end. This attractive force is stronger than the ionic bond itself. However, this is not universally true. Before you run out and try to dissolve Calcium Carbonate in water, you may be disappointed to learn that there are many ionic compounds that do not dissolve in water. This is because the attractive force of the hydrogen bonds is less than the strength of the compounds ionic bond, or  lattice energy.

How abundant is water in the universe? Is our Earth, largely a water planet, unique,  unusual or rare?

According to NASA, Hydrogen and Oxygen are among the most abundant elements in the Universe. Astronomers can detect water signatures as light, and other EM waves,  pass through interstellar clouds,  protoplanetary disks (the nurseries of new solar systems and planets), and in the atmospheres of giant planets orbiting other stars.

Scientists use radio telescopes to pick up water signals in early galaxies, as far back in time as 11 billion years ago, when the universe was one fifth of its current age.

In our solar system, water is found almost everywhere astronomers look: in three of the rocky inner planets, Mercury, Mars and Earth.  (Venus has lost almost all of its water to space, due to runaway greenhouse gas effects and Venus’ lack of a protective magnetic field). Water is also found in asteroids, comets, moons, and dwarf planets like Ceres. Water is thought to exist in massive quantities within in the gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

On a Paul Kristoffer Show side note, Ceres is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres plays a role in the book series, “The Expanse” written by James S. A. Corey (a pseudonym for the two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank). The Expanse was made into a television series released by SyFy in 2015 and later picked up by Amazon in 2019.  The Paul Kristoffer Show highly recommends.

How did water get on Earth?

Scientists believe that the inner rocky planets would have been too hot for water to condense in the early stages of our solar system’s formation. Temperatures would have been much warmer than the melting and boiling point of water. The earth also did not have an atmosphere – meaning any water droplets in the would have been blown into space by the solar wind. The solar wind is a continuous stream of charged particles cast off from the sun’s corona. The particles are mostly electrons, protons and alpha particles with enough energy to blow our atmosphere, including water vapor,  into space. Our magnetic field deflects these particles around the atmosphere, and ejects them around the magnetic poles, causing the stunning aurora borealis, or northern and southern lights.

The magnetic field extends around 10 earth radii on the dayside of the earth (facing the solar wind) and hundreds of earth radii beyond the earth to the nightside.


Back to our story of the Earth’s formation and how water got here. During the early period, known as the Hadean , many impacts occurred that resulted in surface temperatures hot enough to melt rock. The earth was in the process of clearing its orbit – and there was a lot more matter in the area that eventually cooalesed into the rocky planets and moons. It is thought that a sister planet to ours collided with the earth, discharging about one third the mass of each planet into space, releasing  enormous amounts of energy. The resultant cooling and gravitational forces formed the planet earth and our moon.  As you can imagine, no water could have existed in such an environment, so water had to have been brought here. In huge quantities. But from where?

what are the likely sources?

We know that Earth has been subjected to many strikes from Asteroids (rock debris left over from the dust that formed the rocky, inner planets) and Comets (snowballs of ice and dirt from the most distant, outermost edges of the Solar System known as the Oort cloud, or closer in from the area known as the Kuiper belt, which is located beyond the orbit of  Neptune. The kuiper belt is where the dwarf planet Pluto is in orbit around the sun).

Its is theorized that asteroids and comets brought water to earth, via impact. Scientists have sent probes to measure the ratio of isotopes in the water on asteroids and comets to compare them to those found on earth. Isotopes naturally occur when atoms, such as Hydrogen, have one or more additional neutrons, but same number of protons and electrons. “heavy water” is water containing deuterium. Deuterium is a Hydrogen atom with a neutron and proton in its nucleus, instead of the most common configuration of Hydrogen, called protium, whose nucleus contains only a proton. 

One of the more infamous naturally occurring isotopes, Uranium 235, can sustain a nuclear chain reaction. Uranium 235 occurs 0.72% of the time. Uranium 238 is the more predominant isotope found in nature. 

Getting back to water, and how it arrived here on earth, When the ratios of isotopes from samples gathered from asteroids and comets are compared to those found in the water of our oceans, lakes and rivers, we find the ratios to be similar, although not always exact.. Scientists generally conclude that this is how water arrived on Earth, through comets and asteroids.

Let’s take off our tin foil hats for a minute. I want to discuss why its important to know that water was brought to earth by bodies such as asteroids and comets. It has to do with how life may have begun. All life on earth started once. The amazing diversity of life we see today, is from that first, ancestral organism.

But there is a problem with the amount of time. There is not enough for the required building blocks of life, as we know it, to have formed and to have become self replicating. We know that our solar system is around 4.6 billion years old. Dating of rocks and minerals on earth is done by measuring the lead isotopes found in the oldest rock formations. Lead is a reliable “clock” for dating rocks because there are two lead isotopes, PB 207 and PB206,  that are the end result of the decay process of U238 and U235

Timeline of life

By knowing the radioactive decay process and half lives, reasonably accurate dating of rock formations can take place. What is radioactive decay? Radioactive decay is what happens when an unstable nucleus loses its energy by emission of radiation or a particle. Material containing an unstable nucleus is considered “radioactive”.

This fact relates to how life may have originated on planet earth, as well as answer the question about life on other worlds (planets, and moons). Life originated once. And from that one spark, the entire diversity of life on earth sprang.

The best theories on how life may have originated has been discussed and promoted by evolutionary Biologists, such as Richard Dawkins. One idea is that comets may have brought the building blocks of life to earth. These would be self-replicating structures that hitchhiked on celestial bodies that crash landed. This could answer the question of how self replicating proteins RNA  could have developed so quickly and evolved onto DNA. I am speaking in geological terms when I say quickly. The earliest known fossils of life on earth are dated to 3.42 Billion years ago. Since scientists estimate that the earth is 4.6 Billion years old, that means life emerged in a time frame of less than 1.18 Billion years. Remember, there was no water on earth at first, and all life here relies on water.  By most scientific models, that is not enough time for self replicating structures to form RNA and then DNA and single celled organisms.

RNA Molecule, the possible pre-cursor to the origins of life, displaying its complexity
An RNA Molecule. Scientists still cannot explain how such a structure to formed in 1.18 Billion years.

These self-replicating structures could, conceivable, have sprung into existence through chance. Given the number of possible habitable worlds in the universe, something that is so unlikely that most of us would say “impossible” actually becomes possible given the age of the universe and the number of habitable worlds with water. 

However, most scientists are not satisfied with such an explanation.

Do you think that this is an outlandish idea? Are there other structures that replicate, but do not have life? We are all familiar with crystals, which replicate a pattern based upon the underlying structure of the material.

There are also self-replicating proteins called prions, that are responsible for Mad Cow Disease and Jacob-Creuzfeld disease in humans. Prions are not alive, but are protein structures that cause the protein structures in our cells to deform, these deformed proteins then cause other normal proteins in our body to deform and so on.,..and that is how the disease progresses with 100% fatality rates. What other self-replicating structures will we discover in the future? I am sure many….

This exciting insight means that life very well can be more common than thought. That life may exist in other worlds, Mars, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn where salty oceans may exist, warmed by the massive tidal forces of those gas giants.

If comets could seed the earth with the building blocks of life, then why not these other worlds?

Of course, these theories need to be validated by evidence.

NASA has several missions underway to attempt to gather evidence, including:

Perseverance Mars Rover, which landed on the red planet on February 18, 2021. Perseverance can drill and collect soil cores that can be returned to earth for analysis in a future mission.

The Europa Clipper Mission, targeted to launch in 2024 will visit Europa, a moon of Jupiter, to determine whether conditions to sustain life exist on the frozen world.

“The Dragonfly mission will deliver a rotorcraft, an aircraft with rotary wings or rotors,  to visit Saturn’s largest and richly organic moon, Titan. Slated for launch in 2027 and arrival in 2034, Dragonfly will sample and examine dozens of promising sites around Saturn’s icy moon and advance our search for the building blocks of life.     This revolutionary mission will explore diverse locations to look for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how prebiotic chemistry under these conditions may have progressed”

I hope that you have enjoyed this episode of The Paul Kristoffer Show podcast. Many of us often take water for granted, me included, and overlook its special qualities, properties and beauty. Next time you take a drink, think about the amazing journey of the water in your glass, and the miracle of hydrogen bonds. Water is the reason why the Earth is known as the Blue Planet, and I hope it stays that way for millennia to come.


USGS: https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/water-universal-solvent

The Journal Nature: https://www.nature.com/articles/356428a0

NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/jpl/the-solar-system-and-beyond-is-awash-in-water




Music by Zapslat

Timothy McVeigh and The Turner Diaries

On April 19, 1995 the Alfred P. Murrah building in downtown Oklahoma City, was rocked by a powerful car bomb, collapsing walls and floors. The blast shattered glass windows in storefronts blocks away.

 It took a while for investigators to realize it, but the day marked the second anniversary of the FBI assault on the Branch Davidian Compound, near Waco Texas.

168 people were killed, including 19 children in the deadliest terrorist attack made on US soil at the time. Many in the media jumped quickly to the conclusion that the bombing contained the hallmarks of middle-eastern terror.

Connie Chung, on the CBS Evening News, said “This is the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil ever. A U.S. government source has told CBS News that it has Middle East terrorism written all over it.” 

They were completely wrong.

Days later, it emerged that decorated Gulf War Vet Timothy McVeigh, was a lead suspect in the case. Most Americans, me included, could not understand how a military vet could commit such an attack. In addition to McVeigh, Terry Nichols was also a top suspect.

What had caused this madness?

The FBI sieges at Ruby Ridge and Waco, TX had triggered an anger amongst many Americans that leaders in the government simply did not understand. Because they did’nt understand it, they couldn’t prevent this anger from following its terrible course.

Rage was directed at the U.S. Marshals Service, the ATF and FBI. It spurred the formation of militia groups, whose thinking was influenced by “The Turner Diaries” – a progun, anti-government and racist work of fiction. Gun shows were a place where second amendment advocates could share ideas about the federal government, and link current events, such as the talk about gun control, to events described in the Turner Diaries.

For those who aren’t aware, the Turner Diaries was a book written in 1978 by Andrew Macdonald, a Pen name for William Luther Pierce. Pierce founded the National Alliance, an atheist organization with the goal of building a whites only society in America. 

To understand what drove Tim McVeigh to go to war against his own government, its important to understand what the National Alliance is, as well as the themes featured in the Turner Diaries.

The National Alliance counts amongst its beliefs that the white “race” is superior to blacks, due to natural selection. They assert that a hierarchy of races exists.  And that white Europeans are superior to blacks. This happened  because whites had to adapt to harsher environmental circumstances in Europe, like cold winters. This led to the development  of higher intelligence among whites. No scientific proof is offered to back up these assertions, as far as I could tell on the National Alliance web page entitled, “What is the National Alliance”. As discussed in my episode, “Belief”, the brain often makes links where none may exist. Thus, without scientific proof, we must discard the theories of the National Alliance. Their ideas are hurtful and will increase human suffering and misery, therefore the National Alliance is a dangerous and harmful organization.

The National Alliance promotes the concept of “white Living Space”, and calls for neighborhoods, towns and cities to be places where whites only can live. This sounds very similar to Hitler’s “Lebensraum”. In alignment with their intolerance for blacks and jew, there is also no room for gays or bisexuals in this aryan land. 

So, we have established that the author of The Turner Diaries was a very dangerous man. Pierce died in 2002.

Now lets move on to the themes in the book, “The Turner Diaries”. I have only read a few passages, and that was enough.

The Turner Diaries opens by talking about gun control. That the government, called the System, takes steps to remove guns from the population to eliminate resistance towards its aims.  “The Cohen Act”, is a law that makes the private ownership of firearms and ammunition in America illegal. Teams of black people are empowered by the Government to raid and rob the homes of white families, while raping the women. The initial pages of the book immediately speak to the themes of racists – that Jews are going to take your guns away, and then empower the blacks to steal, beat and sexually assault your families. The book also describes the bombing of the F.B.I. headquarters with a homemade truck bomb.

These themes apparently captured the attention of Timothy McVeigh, who had become disillusioned with the US Government during his service in the Gulf War. His thinking was further influenced by gun rights advocates he had met at gun shows. 

He had traveled to Waco Texas, to view the siege from a hill about three miles away from the compound. He sold pro-gun and anti-government bumper stickers while there. After the Waco siege, Tim worked the gun show circuit, and traveled to 40 of the 50 states during that time. He became familiar with various conspiracy theories, and became further convinced that action must be taken against the government.

Gun control laws, such as the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, signed by President Bill Clinton, which made certain semi-automatic “assault weapons” illegal. This was the final straw for Timothy McVeigh. His mindset shifted to ‘taking the offensive.’

In late September, 1994, Tim McVeigh and Army buddy, Terry Nichols, began stockpiling materials to make powerful explosives. 

They purchased at least 86 bags of fertilizer, totalling more than 4,000 lbs spreading out their buys across multiple locations to avoid any red flags.

In October, 1994, Tim bough three drums of nitro-methane, race car fuel,, paying $950 per drum. Terry  Nichols had sold gold to raise money for the purchase.

Terry and Tim robbed a firearms dealer in Arkansas on November 5, 1994, to acquire firearms that would be sold to raise money for their plot.

Terry and Tim stole dynamite, blasting gel, det cord and blasting caps from a quarry in Kansas, acquiring over 350 lbs of explosives and 600 blasting caps.

The duo then buy large plastic barrels to make the bombs. They test  the bombs in miniture  by mixing jet fuel with fertilizer in a gatorade bottle, and topping it with a blasting cap. According to witnesses, the test was successful.

With the bomb making recipe complete, selection for the site became McVeigh’s priority.  According to witness testimony, McVeigh chose the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, because that was where the orders for Waco Texas came from.

On April 18, 1995 Terry Nichols and Tim McVeigh mixed their bombs by combining seven 50 pound bags of fertilizer with seven 20lb buckets of nitro-methane per 55 gallon drum. These were loaded into a rented Ryder Truck. Tim had rented the Truck from a body repair shop in Kansas under the alias of Robert Kling. 

Tim then drove from Geary Lake, where the fertilizer and fuel were mixed,  to Oklahoma City, and slept in the rented Ryder Truck overnight.

The next morning, Tim parked the rented truck next to the Murrah building and lit the two-minute fuse. The bombs detonated at 9:02 am, killng 168 people, including 19 children who were in the second floor day care center at the time of the blast.

Tim McVeigh was arrested at approximately 10:20 am by a state trooper on I-35, when driving a vehicle with no plates. Upon making the stop, the trooper noticed the outline of a concealed weapon on Tim’s person. The weapon turned out to be a .45 caliber Glock, and McVeigh was arrested and taken into custody.

Tim sat in jail, until investigators gradually became aware that McVeigh was their lead suspect.

An identifying number on the axle of the Ryder Truck was found, enabling investigators to track down the repair shop where McVeigh made the rental. McVeigh was positively ID’d by the shop’s owner. McVeigh was caught on a McDonald’s security tape while buying a pie, further confirming that he had rented the Ryder truck used in the bombing.

Federal investigators suspected a wider criminal conspiracy. Through investigation, they turned up Michael Fortier, who was friends with Nichols and McVeigh. Fortier provided testimony, in exchange for a deal. The investigators must have been surprised that three men were able to pull off such a devastating act.

Terry Nichols was hundreds of mile away from Oklahoma City at the time of the blast. When he heard that he was a suspect, he turned himself in to local police for questioning. Nichols agreed to a search of his home, where all kinds of evidence was found – blasting caps, detination cord, ammonium nitrate (fertilizer), and plastic barrels similar to fragments found at Oklahoma city. He was held as a material witness, until formally charged on May 10th.

Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols were tried separately, and found guilty. McVeigh was convicted of his crimes on June 2, 1997, by a jury of seven men and five women in Denver, CO. He was sentenced to receive the death penalty 11 days later.  McViegh waived his right to appeal, and his execution was scheduled for May 16, 2001. However,  on May 11, five days before his scheduled execution, the Justice Department disclosed that the FBI withheld some 4,000 pages of evidence from the defense.  A judge found that the FBI’s behavior was “shocking” but that the evidence would not change McVeigh’s guilt or sentence. 

Nichols was found guilty, and sentenced to 161 consecutive life prison terms.

McVeigh was executed for his crimes on June 11, 2001. He was killed at a federal prison in Terre Haute, IN. by  lethal injection. He had no final words to say, but left the poem, “Invictus” to speak for him. The poem was handed out to the 232 witnesses that viewed the execution.

The poem, “Invictus” speaks to overcoming adversity, being unconquerable by circumstances and to being the master of one’s own fate. This is how McVeigh viewed himself in relation to his war on the Government. In contrast to McVeigh, who brought this war on himself, the poem’s author wrote Invictus from a hospital bed where he was recovering from a leg amputation and surgery on his remaining foot, due to disease. 

McVeigh’s execution was the first non-military execution by the federal government since Victor Feguer in 1963. 

For those who are curious,

Victor Feyguer was executed by hanging for the crime of murder. You might ask why a murder was tried in Federal Court? The reason is that Victor kidnapped a physician in Iowa, and then transported the victim to Illinois where the poor doctor was killed and dumped him in a cornfield. 

On a further Paul Kristoffer Show Side note, You might also ask, why was there a 38 year hiatus in federal executions between 1963 and 2001? You might already know the answer, but for those (like me) who need a refresher, there was a moratorium on executions due to a decision in the case of Furman vs. Georgia. The supreme court ruled that states were inconsistent in the application of the death penalty.  Thus it was cruel and unusual punishment – something prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution.

The death penalty moratorium was ended in 1976 by the case of Gregg v. Georgia.  The case upheld the death penalty punishment of Troy Leon Gregg. Troy Gregg was convicted of murdering two men that had given Gregg, and another man, a ride. 

Georgia, in common with other states including Florida and Texas, had established a bifurcated trial process that the supreme court accepted. 

First, guilt of a capital offense is established. Then a separate trial follows to review aggravating, and mitigating, circumstances in order to establish a death penalty conviction.  This meant that racial bias could be accounted for, before the defendant could receive the sentence of death.

Troy Gregg, however, was not executed by the state of Georgia. He escaped death row along with three other inmates. They escaped by sawing through the bars of their cells, and made their way into a car left by the aunt of one of the inmates. Later that night, Gregg was beaten to death, either by an angry biker at a bar where Gregg was drinking, or by one of his companions. Gregg’s body was found dumped in a river. 

Utah was the first state to execute a person following the Gregg decision. In 1977 Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad at the Utah State prison in Draper, UT. For those, like me, who want to know how a firing squad in UT works, I’ll explain it here.

The person sentenced to execution is seated in a chair and restrained. He is then hooded. Five volunteer law enforcement officers are selected to be the shooters. They stand behind a curtain with five holes, made for the purpose of aiming at the convict. The distance between the firing squad and the convict is twenty feet.

The rifles are .30 30 bore – meaning that the caliber is larger than the .357 magnum, or .44 magnum bullet. The bullets handed out for Gilmore’s execution were Winchester 150 grain silver tips. Let’s just say that from a distance of twenty feet, the bullets will do their job. Four of the riflemen are given live ammo, and one a blank. 

Allegedly, Gary’s brother Mikal, found five holes in Gary’s shirt after the execution, indicating that the state of Utah was taking no chances. 

Getting back to McVeigh, in conclusion:

Timothy McVeigh was driven by anger at the institution of the U.S. Government. Through his belief that the events in the Turner Diary were coming to pass, McVeigh was driven to take action against those he held responsible for Ruby Ridge and Waco. In this respect, McVeigh was similar to David Koresh. David Koresh believed that he could open the seven seals, as described in the book of Revelation.

McVeigh simplified the act of killing innocent civilians and reduced their deaths to “collateral damage”. He rationalized that innocent deaths were part of a criminal Government. 

McVeigh was wrong to break the law and use violence to kill innocent people. He committed an evil act that was as worse than the ones committed by federal agents who were at the center of McVeigh’s anger.

As discussed in my episode entitled, “David Koresh and The Seven Seals”, Federal agents did not break any laws during the final assault at Waco. They were irresponsible and negligent in their acts which directly led to the burning of the compound by the Branch Davidians, but there are no reports that show that  laws were broken.

At Ruby Ridge, yes, the FBI Rules of Engagement were unconstitutional and resulted in the death of Vickie Weaver. Samuel Weaver was killed in a shootout with U.S. Mahshals – but no one knows who fired the first shot.

Timothy McVeigh will be remembered not as a freedom fighter, who was justified in attacks on the U.S. Government, but as a home grown terrorist driven by a racist piece of trash fiction. He and Terry Nichols callously killed and wounded innocent men, women and children out of a misplaced anger toward the government and belief in a book. He was a mass murderer, driven by rage at a faceless State.


The New York Times

60 Minutes, March 12, 2000: Timothy McVeigh speaks

Music by Zapsplat

David Koresh and the Seven Seals: Disaster at Waco, TX

On a Sunday morning in late February 1993, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) raid commenced near Waco Texas. The objective was to search the Branch Davidian Compound, named Mount Carmel, and arrest its leader, David Koresh, also known as Vernon Howell. The crisis began when ATF agents hid in covered horse trailers to surprise and cut off the Branch Davidians. They didn’t get far before a gunfight erupted. Koresh was the charismatic leader of the Branch Davidians, a religious offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists, and suspected of firearms violations.

For some background regarding the ATF raid, as early as June 1992, the Austin, TX Office of the ATF opened a formal investigation into members of a religious group, known as the Branch Davidians. They were suspected of modifying weapons to enable automatic fire and of being in possession of illegal explosive devices. The ATF were tipped off when a UPS driver reported delivery of a box of grenade shells that had broken open.

The ATF infiltrated the Branch Davidians by posing as college students. Agents occupied a house across from the property to gather evidence. The undercover agents pretended to be interested in joining the group, and collected evidence from within Mt. Carmel. The evidence was used to receive an arrest warrant for Koresh, and a search warrant for the premises from a federal judge. 

But who were the Branch Davidians?

The Branch Davidians were an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists. The Seventh Day Adventists include among their beliefs, a literal interpretation of the prophecies written in the Bible’s book of Revelation

David Koresh believed that he could open the Seven Seals as described in the Book of Revelation. Opening the Seven Seals brings about a series of plagues, woes, wars and cosmic calamities, resulting in a war in heaven involving St. Michael the Archangel and all the faithful angels in heaven against the Dragon, with his army of fallen angels.
Christ’s ultimate victory over Satan is prophesized. Christ rules on earth for a thousand years. Once the millenium is completed,  the kingdom of heaven and earth are joined together.

I will describe the seven seals, to give us insight into the mindset of David Koresh and his followers. The book sealed with seven seals is described in chapter five of the book of Revelation. 

A slain lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, takes the book, and opens the first seal. David Koresh believes that he is this lamb. People who believe that they are biblical figures are very dangerous.

When the first seal is opened, a man seated on a white horse appears. He wears a crown and carries a bow, goes forth to conquer territory and, presumably, to kill lots of people.

The second seal releases a rider of a red horse, with the power to take peace away from the Earth and make everyone war with each other. This rider wields a great sword. 

The third rider sits astride a black horse, with a pair of balances in his hand, which are used in reference to merchants and how much wheat and barley are sold for a penny, or dinari (depending upon translation) meant to represent a day’s wage. Many people refer to this rider as a personification of Famine.

The forth horse is pale in color, and the rider’s name that sits on the horse is named Death, and Hell follows. Power is given to Death and Hell over a quarter of the earth to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death (not sure what killing with death is supposed to mean) and the power to kill by beasts of the earth (which sounds nasty).

So, by now, we are getting the strong impression that opening these seven seals are not good for humanity!

The fifth seal opens the martyrs that were slain for the faithfulness God. All the martyrs are given white robes and told to hang out until their fellowservents and brethren on earth are killed, as the martyrs were. Sounds like fun.

The sixth seal unlocks calamities of the physical world. A great earthquake takes place, the sun turns black and the moon red. The stars fall to earth (which although impossible, would of course completely destroy everything on earth, and the earth itself). Whoever narrated this story to John on the isle of Patmos did not understand Gravity, or chose to leave it out completely for some reason. As we know from Physics, stars will never fall to earth, it is the earth that will fall into a star, as our own star is 330,000 times the mass of earth! (never mind the mass of all of the stars!).

So, it should be becoming clear to any reasonable person that the reader should not take this writing literally. However, David Koresh and his followers were not reasonable people. 

The seventh seal, when unlocked, triggers seven angels to be given seven trumpets. When each trumpet is sounded, something happens. 

The first trumpet blown brings hail and fire, mingled with blood. A third of the trees are burned up, and all of the green grass!

The second trumpet causes a burning mountain of fire to be cast into the sea, and one third of the sea becomes blood. A very bad result, indeed because one third of sea life dies, and one third of ships are destroyed.

After the third trumpet is sounded, a star called wormwood falls to earth (I thought all the stars had already fallen!) and it contaminates a third of the rivers and mountains, making the water undrinkable. Wormwood is associated with bitterness, poison and death in the old testament.

The fourth angel sounds their trumpet (not sure if they are male or female angels), and this causes the sun to be smitten by a third, the moon and stars likewise to be smitten, so that the light of day was reduced by (you guessed it) a third, and that there were less stars shining at night. (I am assuming that John of Patmos, the author, was not aware that the moon reflects the light of the sun, and does not generate light of its own). 

The fifth angel’s trumpet causes a terrifying army to emerge from a bottomless pit, led by a horrible king. The way this unfolds is that a star falls from heaven, and the star is given a key that it uses to open the bottomless pit. I’m not sure what kind of star John is talking about here. But, once the pit is opened, a lot of smoke emanates from it that darkens the sky. Then comes a vast hoard of locusts that attacks anyone on earth who does not have the seal of God on their head. Only 144,000 people have the seal, 12,000 for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. That means a lot of us are going to be attacked by these locusts!

Now these are not ordinary locusts, which would be bad enough, these are terrifying locusts with the faces of men, lions teeth, hair of women, tails of scorpions and armored breastplates of iron. The locust are commanded by a king, who is, in fact, an angel of the pit whose name is A-bad’don.

Now, locusts are insects, and scorpions are arachnids. Lions, men and women are mammals. It is impossible for such a creature to exist. Just so we are clear.

The next trumpet, blown by an angel, is your standard run of the mill event that we are getting used to. Yes, we know its bad, and yes it releases four angels who were somehow bound to the river Euphrates, located in modern day Iraq. They slay, you guessed it, a third of humankind (how many people are left now? Someone else will have to do the math, but I guess you can keep chopping by a third for a long time). 

For an unknown reason, these angels need to prepare for the oddly non-random time period of one year, one month, one day and one hour. I do not know the significance of these non-random numbers. A quick internet search reveals that no one else knows the significance either. These four angels have an army of two hundred thousand, thousand, which I think means two hundred million which would be a very large army. 

Then an angel descends from heaven, clothed in a cloud with a rainbow on his head. His face is like the sun (gas and plasma, I assume, hahaha), and his feet like pillars of fire. John is told by this angel to eat a small book, or scroll, that tastes sweet, but is bitter in the stomach. A whole bunch of more bad things take place, that I won’t cover (otherwise we’ll be here all day). Essentially two witnesses are introduced that cannot be killed by humans. The pair have the power to smite the earth with plagues. Not very pleasant at all. These two witnesses eventually are killed by the beast that rises from the bottomless pit. 

But after three and half days, the pair will be resurrected and they will ascend to heaven.

Then the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, and the kingdom of earth becomes the kingdom of Christ and he will rule for ever and ever. But first, a woman, Mary, with twelve stars above her head forming a crown, gave birth to a son. Satan is also there in the form of a red dragon, having seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns. 

A war in heaven breaks out and it’s Michael and his angels, against the red dragon and his army. There is more in the book of Revelation, but you get the general idea.

 David Koresh was preparing for the day that he will open the seven seals. He also believed that he was the lamb, descended from King David and Cyrus the Great, named Messiah in the old testament,

If you listened to my first podcast, Belief, you may note that I use science and facts to detect false beliefs. The beliefs taught in the book of Revelation are very dangerous if taken in a literal sense. No one should think that these are real events being described, as they are most likely impossible. Instead, they are metaphors or symbols to be used in teaching.

This will take us back to David Koresh. He was a very dangerous man that should have been avoided at all costs.  Born Vernon Wayne Howell in 1959 to a teenage mother, and raised by his grandparents, Vernon dropped out of high school his Junior year and joined the Seventh Day Adventists. After being thrown out by the pastor, due to an illicit relationship with the pastor’s fifteen year old daughter, Vernon moved to Waco, Texas and joined the Branch Davidians in 1981.

By 1989, Vernon had become leader of the Branch Davidians. He proceeded to take over the group’s compound, known as  Mt. Carmel. In order to prepare for the times prophesied, they built work areas, a gym, chapel, swimming pool, sleeping quarters and guard towers. 

In 1990, Vernon Howell changed his name to David Koresh – after King David in the bible, and Cyrus the Great, whose name was pronounced as Koresh in ancient times. David Koresh began preaching that he could take “spirit wives” among women or girls of any age as chosen by god. He was allegedly taking wives as young as 11 years old. 

In addition to forced marriages, pedaphilia and rape, the Branch Davidians were suspected of modifying rifles to enable fully automatic fire, a federal weapons offense. In order to prepare for a raid on the Branch Davidian Compound and obtain training, the ATF falsely stated that they believed that the Branch Davidians were operating a meth lab. This enabled the ATF  to free training provided by the military at Ft. Hood. Ft. Hood is the training ground for U.S. Army special forces. 

Further trained in special forces tactics, but having learned little from the bungled reconnoiter at Ruby Ridge, ATF agents stormed the Branch Davidian complex on February 28th, 1993. A gunfight ensued, lasting ninety minutes. The ATF was outgunned and result of the fighting was four ATF agents killed, sixteen wounded. Six Branch Davidians were killed, with more wounded, including Koresh.

By 6 am the next morning, the compound was surrounded by almost 900 Law Enforcement Officers, including the FBI’s Hostage Response Team, or HRT.

Richard Rogers, who failed miserably in his leadership at Ruby Ridge, resulting in the killing of Vickie Weaver, was in charge of the elite HRT. It is inconceivable that such an incapable person remains in his post after already having led his team to kill an innocent person. This failure falls on the FBI leadership, including deputy director Larry Potts and FBI Director William Sessions. Richard Rogers should have been fired from his job at the FBI, and tried for murder. If anyone thinks that I am being unfair please send me a comment via my website, PaulKristoffer.com so that I may understand your argument.

The scene at Waco Texas had high exposure, as newly appointed Attorney General Janet Reno was personally aware of and involved in all of the actions taken at Waco Texas.

For context, the Attorney General is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The AG leads the Department of Justice, and is the principal advisor to the President on legal matters. The attorney general is also a member of the Cabinet. As attorney general, Janet Reno would have final and complete authority over the FBI. 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was under the Department of the Treasury at the time of the Waco raid. Today, the ATF is under the Justice Department, a change made in 2003.

Getting back to the scene at Waco, the HRT team was focused on action, especially when a crime had been committed. The murder charges against the Branch Davidians were strong, based upon the killing of federal agents in the line of duty.

However, The HRT was at odds with the other teams onsite at Waco, especially the Hostage Negotiations Team. Richard Rogers was in charge of the HRT and continued his pattern from Ruby Ridge, by repeatedly overriding the site commander. Each team had different training and approaches that were often at odds with each other. 

While negotiations were taking place, the HRT would take their own actions, such as cutting off electric power to the compound, playing loud music and demolishing vehicles. These actions were a result of incompetant leadership.

There were successes, however. Between February 28th and March 23rd, the Hostage Negotiations Team was able to successfully secure the release of 35 people, including 21 children. However, none of the remaining Branch Davidians left the residence between March 23 to April 18.

Janet Reno asserted that she believed reports of children being abused and beaten within the compound. An assertion that she could not validate, and later she backed away from. However, after weeks of failed negotiations with the Davidians, Attorney General Janet Reno signed off on a FBI assault plan on the compound, which included the use of CS gas. Why not wait? Janet Reno herself cannot give a compelling answer. Here is what she said to a congressional hearing in 1995:

What is CS gas, also known as tear gas? CS gas is a powerful nerve agent which is banned in warfare by the international Geneva Convention as a chemical weapon. 

CS gas is not really a gas. It is composed of a solid compound that is turned into an aerosol, by a pyrotechnic charge or liquefied in a solvent. This is important to note, as the FBI plan centered on the idea of spraying CS liquid into the compound and launching pyrotechnic grenades into the Davidian’s wooden compound. The CS nerve agent is highly electrophilic, meaning that it attracts electrons, activating pain receptors. 

CS causes coughing, increased mucous secretion, severe headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, difficulty breathing, skin reactions, and excessive salivation. CS also affects the eyes, causing watering of the eyes, blinking,  twitching,  burning sensations, and visual problems.

This is what Janet Reno approved for use in a closed space, wooden structure, filled with innocent women and children that had already suffered sexual abuse.

I say this because the report issued by the Justice Department indicated that Janet Reno was fully aware of the risks, which would bring absolute terror and panic to the children and women held in the compound, let alone an absurdly high amount of risk to their lives. 

Nowhere written within the 500+ page FBI assault plan was a fire protection plan, even though agents noted upon how flammable the building appeared to be. I wonder at the incredible stupidity of the agents in charge, who were planning to use pyrotechnic grenades. 

The FBI should have considered bringing civilian hostage negotiators into the conversation, to bring the situation to a close, as had been done in Ruby Ridge.


On the morning of April 19, 1993, at 6:00am the assault on the compound began with CS gas  being sprayed into the compound via booms delivered by armoured vehicles.  These vehicles look just like tanks. The fact that these vehicles were unarmed, was likely lost on the Branch Davidians who had been preparing for the Apocalypse, and here it was.

At 6:07 am, Richard Rogers ordered the HRT to fire over 400 pyrotechnic canisters into the complex with grenade launchers. Did Janet Reno read the part of the plan about grenade launchers? I think any reasonable person would stop the plan right there, and search for alternatives than firing grenade launchers into a wooden building filled with women and children, who had committed no crime, and were themselves, victims.

As noted earlier, to call CS gas grenades canisters is a polite metaphor. These were pyrotechnic charges packed with dangerous nerve agents, banned by the Geneva Convention. During this time, the Branch Davidians responded with gunfire. 

The conclusions of Justice Department review of the events dated April 19, 1993 indicated that the Branch Davidians started the fire that eventually consumed them, and may have, in fact, shot people attempting to leave the fire. However this account is disputed as the FBI used incendiary canisters that certainly could have ignited the fire. The report further concludes that the FBI acted with extraordinary restraint and great professionalism. Really? What would have been the outcome had the FBI not acted with great restraint and professionalism. Probably the same, meaning that the pat on the back received from the Justice Department report is a sham. Federal agencies should first and foremost protect the lives of the innocent – including children and abused women. If that goal is not achieved, then nothing else matters.

Ultimately seventy five Davidians died during the FBI assault, twenty-five of which were children. Only nine people had escaped. David Koresh, and others, had suffered gunshot wounds to their heads, possibly self inflicted. Most of the women and children were huddled in an underground bunker. Some died of smoke inhalation, but other children were shot, and at least one child was stabbed to death. This unspeakable horror was triggered by the FBI assault that morning.

Janet Reno claimed accountability for the event, but was defiant and unrepentant in her testimony to congressional committees investigating the event. She stood by every decision that had been made, and pointed her finger directly at David Koresh. 

Since David Koresh was clearly mentally unstable, and believed in the literal meaning of the book of Revelation, and further, believed that he actually played a role in the scenes described by John, Ms. Reno ought to have reconsidered the terrible plan and adopted a different approach.

Congress, and Ms. Reno, failed to understand the public’s anger at the federal authorities that caused the disaster. Federal authorities should have acted to de-escalate the situation. Instead, the FBI ensured that complete destruction would occur by attacking the compound using tanks, chemical weapons and indiscriminate grenade attacks using military launchers.


A Justice Department report dated April 19, 1993, issued less than two months after the siege began, concluded that the Branch Davidians started the fire that destroyed the compound, and possibly shot children and people that may have attempted to escape. Further, the report found that David Koresh suffered a gun shot wound to the head, that was likely self-inflicted. The report concluded that the deaths of the Branch Davidians were not due to the gas attack plan, or the negotiation strategy. The report clarified that the FBI did not shoot into the compound during the entire 51 day standoff. The main conclusion of the report was that David Koresh had orchestrated the events to bring about the apocalypse as prophesied in the book of Revelation. This statement was intended to somehow ameliorate the blame from the FBI, as though the organization played no role in the deaths of the Branch Davidians.

The actions taken by the ATF and FBI were not illegal, but irresponsible and neglectful. The lives of innocent people were lost in the final assault on the compound, who were convicted of no crime. Law Enforcement needs to be able to do their job, but the lives of innocent people must take precedence.

The civil rights of the innocent people were stripped away and their lives lost. 

Janet Reno knew, or should have known, that the plan she approved would put the lives of children in jeopardy. It was the wrong plan and pre-mature. If not for the pressure of HRT leader Richard Rogers, there was no reason to assault the compound on April 19th.


The Holy Bible, King James Version

Justice Department Reports:


THIRTEENTH REPORT, by the COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM AND OVERSIGHT prepared in conjunction with the COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY together with additional and dissenting views dated, August 2, 1996

Randy Weaver and Ruby Ridge

On August 21, 1992, on a remote hilltop cabin in northern Idaho, known as Ruby Ridge located 30 miles from the Canadian border, U.S. Marshals attempted to serve Randy Weaver bench warrants on a Firearms charge and arrest him.

By the end of the first of what became an eleven day siege, US Marshall Deputy Agent William F. Degan, Sammy Weaver (the Weaver’s fourteen year old son)  and the Weaver’s dog, Striker, all lay dead. 

Weaver, his wife, Vickie, three living children (including newborn infant Elisheba)  and friend Kevin Harris were holed up in the Weaver’s cabin.

Randy Weaver was labelled a white supremacist in the media, and later as a “white separatist”. Newspapers used aspects of his Army service during the Vietnam conflict to cast him as mentally unstable. The Weavers religious beliefs and desire to live off grid were used to substantiate the view that they were “crackpots”,

Randy Weaver, forty-four years of age in 1992, was highly suspicious of the U.S. government and of federal agents.  Given the facts of the case, which you are about to hear, you may find that his fears were well founded.

Randy was a target of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, investigation due to Weaver’s connection with the Aryan Nations, a white supremicist movement. Randy had attended four meetings of the Aryan Nations. The ATF wanted to turn Weaver into a Confidential Informant, or CI. 

As part of their plan to turn Weaver, the ATF charged him on a bogus weapons charge, alleging that Weaver had manufactured and possessed an unregistered firearm. For those who might not know, a CI is an individual who gives information to law enforcement, usually in exchange for reduced charges or immunity.

The ATF planned to use the weapons charge against Weaver as leverage to force him into agreeing to become a CI. Weaver refused to be a snitch. In response, the ATF had a federal grand jury indict him for making and possessing the unregistered firearm.

The ATF thought it would be too dangerous to serve the warrant at the Weaver residence on Ruby Ridge. Instead, they staged a vehicle breakdown to inform him of his charges.Weaver and his wife Vickie stopped to provide assistance.

Suspicious of the ATF, and due to a mix up of hearing dates, Randy did not show up to court.Randy Weaver was indicted for failure to appear for trial and the judge issued a bench warrant for Randy’s arrest. On March 14, 1991 

The US Marshall’s service tried to get Randy to surrender, and had failed. By August, 1992, over a year had passed since the warrant for Weavers arrest had been issued. 

The Marshalls Service was under pressure to conclude the matters with Weaver. Fearing armed resistance, the US Marshals Service determined that an undercover operation was the best way to proceed. 

Six federal Marshals planned to reconnoiter the property on August 21, 1992.During the scouting, Stryker, the Weaver’s dog, alerted the family to the presence of the strangers by barking. US Marshals shot Striker, and a gunfight ensued. Randy’s son, Sammy, returned fire. 

I’m pretty sure that if someone shoots your dog, on your property, the appropriate set of responses would include firing back. Its clear that you are under attack and that you need to defend yourself.

Sammy was shot in the arm and back while retreating to the cabin. He died of his wounds. Family friend Kevin Harris shot back and killed a US Marshall. 

In the aftermath of the first day, a seige commenced as the State Police, and later FBI arrived on scene.Larry Potts headed up the FBI team from headquarters, and decided to send the Hostage Response Team, or HRT.  Special Agent Eugene Glenn was assigned as Commander on the scene. Richard Rogers, was in charge of the elite and hard charging HRT surrounding the cabin and out buildings. According to witnesses, but later denied by Potts, Potts and  Danny Coulson, Potts’ deputy, re-wrote the Rules Of Engagement, or ROE, on the flight out to Idaho.They did this in order to give the HRT snipers more flexibility to fire on targets. 

The controversial ROE, gave orders that the HRT could and should shoot any armed adult male on sight. Ordinarily, deadly force is approved only in self defense. 

The fact that the HRT was on the scene brought a high level of seriousness to the situation that might not have been felt otherwise. The presence of an armed personnel carrier also changed the demeanor of the agents on the scene.

The access road to the Weaver’s cabin was blocked off by law enforcement, about two miles away. Neighbors, attracted by the activity, began to occupy the roadblock to gain information about the events in what would become a major site of demonstration. The blockade attracted an assortment of skinheads, nazis and other characters that were unsympathetic to law enforcement, and in support of the Weavers.

During the next day, August 22nd, Weaver went to check on Sammy’s body, which was being stored in a shed at the time. While outside the cabin, Randy was shot by FBI Sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi, who fired two rounds in quick succession. 

The second bullet went through Harris and into Vicki Weaver’s head, killing her. Vicki had been holding her infant daughter in her arms at the time, while standing in the doorway of her home.

Following this shooting, the FBI spent the next eight days attempting to convince Weaver to surrender. He had been convicted of no crime. 

Weaver was given an ultimatum that if he did not surrender, federal agents would crush the cabin with earthmoving equipment and push it off a cliff. These threats did not change Weaver’s inclination to surrender, but it did make him more wary of the potential actions of the FBI.

The day after the killing of Vickie Weaver, on Aug. 23,   agents moved closer to the Weaver cabin during the night and they discovered Sammy Weaver’s body in an outbuilding, known as the “birthing shed”. This was the place were Elisheba had been born 10 months earlier

On Monday August 24th, FBI Deputy Assistant Director Danny Coulson, allegedly wrote a memo with the following content:

Something to Consider

1. Charge against Weaver is Bull S___.

2. No one saw Weaver do any shooting.

3. Vicki has no charges against her.

4. Weaver’s defense. He ran down the hill to see what dog was barking at. Some guys in camys [camouflage] shot his dog. Started shooting at him. Killed his son. Harris did the shooting. He is in pretty strong legal position

Coulson did not know that Vickie Weaver had been killed at the time of writing the memo. Coulson was the creator and head of the HRT.

On Aug. 25, Five skinheads were arrested on a nearby road, while attempting to reach Weaver’s cabin in a vehicle is loaded with weapons.

Since the Weavers did not have a phone, or phone service or electrical service, the FBI used a robot to deliver a phone to Randy and began communicating with the cabin.

Civilian hostage negotiators, including Bo Gritz, brought the siege to a close with Harris surrendering on August 30th, and Randy Weaver and his daughters on August 31st. Randy had agreed to speak with Bo Gritz because the pair knew each other from their Army days during the Vietnam Conflict.

Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris were arrested, and taken into custody.

As a Paul Kristoffer Show side note, Bo Gritz was the leader of the “militia movement” and would go on to train numerous militia members in special forces tactics. Bo attempted to kill himself in September 1998, 10 days after his wife filed for divorce. He was dressed in his military Uniform, decorated with medals and ribbons, and found in his driveway next to his GMC pickup after shooting himself in the chest with his .45 caliber pistol. 

Gritz survived his wounds.

As a result of the Ruby Ridge Seige, the FBI “forever” changed the rules of engagement that determine how deadly force is to be used. ROE is currently determined by the Department of Justice, and the FBI does not, and can not, determine its own ROE.

In 1995, three years after the incidents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, then F.B.I. Director Louis Freeh suspended five high-ranking officials and disciplined agents for their role in the incident including:

  • Larry Potts, who received a letter of censure.
    A letter of censure is a minor rebuke in the FBI’s disciplinary system,
    on the order of an oral reprimand.
    A letter of censure is the penalty for minor offenses, such as engaging in an argument, or losing a pager.
  • Eugene Glenn, Commander in charge, was removed from his post,
    suspended for 15 days
    and received a letter of censure for approving the shot that killed Vickie Weaver.
  • Richard Rogers, head of the HRT, was suspended for 10 days and censured for writing the flawed and unconstitutional ROE
  • Michael Kahoe destroyed FBI analysis of the seige and lied about what had happened. He was suspended for 15 days and censured for not knowing that the rules of engagement were flawed.
  • Danny Coulson, was put in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office. During the standoff, he was Potts’ deputy and he also received a letter of censure.

Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris were acquitted of charges stemming from the killing of a federal officer(federal agents shot the Weaver’s dog Striker and murdered the boy Sammy).

In August 1995, Randy Weaver was compensated $3.1 million by the Justice Department to settle his legal claims, and $1 million went to each of his three daughters.

The public questions resulting from the incident led to a hearing before the  Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information in October 1995, leading to a call for reforms.

Conclusion: Federal agencies, like the FBI and ATF do not have adequate ability to police themselves to prevent illegal and unconstitutional actions. Top amongst these unconstitutional actions would include killing innocent civilians, illegal wiretaps and other unconstitutional actions. 

It is only through transparency and Congressional oversight that federal agencies can be held accountable. It is important to create positive reforms and further prevent unconstitutional and illegal activities of federal law enforcement agencies.

Sources: https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opr/legacy/2006/11/09/rubyreportcover_39.pdf

  • The Spokesman-Review
  • United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security
  • Music by Zapsplat

The Iran Contra Affair

On November 3, 1986, Lebanese newspaper Al-Shiraa reported that the United States secretly sold arms to Iran. The Iran Contra affair broke into the news cycle during the dawn of CNN and 24 hours a day news coverage. The story brought to light the illegal  sale of arms to Iran by the CIA and use of the proceeds to fund the Contra’s in Nicaragua. Both actions were unlawful, and prohibited by Congress. An Iranian arms embargo was in place, through executive orders of both Presidents Carter and Reagan. The Boland Amendment ended monetary support of the Contras and made illegal, the “supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua”. Undaunted by Congress, the Reagan Administration continued its support of the Contras.

Full Episode Transcript:

On November 3, 1986, Lebanese newspaper Al-Shiraa reported that the United States secretly sold arms to Iran. The Iran Contra affair broke into the news cycle during the dawn of CNN and 24 hours a day news coverage. The story brought to light the illegal  sale of arms to I

The Iran-Contra scandal held America’s attention, and rocked support of President Reagan. According to Gallup, Reagan’s job approval rating dropped from 63% in late October 1986, right before the scandal broke, to a low of 47% percent by December ‘86. Although Reagan’s approval rating remained low through all of 1987, Americans’ perceptions of Reagan improved steadily after he left office. In 2002, 73% of Americans approved of the way Ronald Reagan had managed his presidency.

Although it was never proven that Reagan had knowledge of the illegal aspects of the scheme, President Regan famously used the “I don’t recall defense” under testimony. It defies all but the most byzantine logic that these actions could have taken place without the President’s direct knowledge and approval. If, however, we are left to believe that the National Security Council undertook and approved of the arms sales and support of the Contras, outside of explicit Presidential assent, then even more serious concerns are raised about controls in place to prevent illegal and unauthorized actions by rogue NSC members and the CIA.

The events of the Iran-Contra affair are bookended by the Iranian Islamic Revolution, of 1979 through to November 1986, and transpired during the terms of two Presidents, Carter and Reagan.

There are four revelations that immediately jump out as the most egregious transgressions:

  1. The Regan administration violated its own executive order barring the sale of weapons to Iran, in order to free US hostages and to provide support to the Contras. He also did not live up to his own ideals or promises to the American people when he famously quipped in 1985, “The United States gives terrorists no rewards. We make no concessions, we make no deals.” .
  2. The secret, and illegal, mining of Nicaraguan harbors by the CIA, in violation of international law. How dare the CIA, outside of Congressional approval, mine the ports of an independent state?
  1. Allegations that the CIA was involved in Cocaine trafficking as a source of revenue for the Contras in Nicaragua. This became the subject of Congressional investigations, and the allegations were never proven. These alleged events took place during the time of Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” campaign, aimed at reducing drug use in the United States, and President Regan’s renewed “War of Drugs” agenda.
  2. Conspiracy to violate tax laws. As lawful taxpayers, we all find this very offensive. Illicitly gained monies from arms sales to Iran were transferred to Swiss bank accounts under fictitious company names.

As always on the Paul Kristoffer Show, lets start with the basics:

Who are the Sandinistas? 

The Sandinista National Liberation Front, or known as the Frehn-te Sandinista de “lee-beh-rah–syohn” Nacional in Spanish, The Sadinistas, were Cuban and Soviet backed marxists active in Nicaraugua that took power in January 1979. Named after Augusto César Sandino, a revolutionary who led the fight against  American occupation of Nicaragua during the 1930’s. The Sandinstas took away private property and businesses, nationalized the banks, mines, and transit. They abolished the court system and constitution, and replaced them by Civil Defense Committees, which were staffed by peasants and workers. 

Who were the Contras? 

The Contras were various US and Saudi backed groups fighting in opposition to the Sandanista Government in Nicaragua. Made up of farmers, peasants and ex-military, the main contras group was the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN).

Why were the Iranians involved? 

For a refresher, the Iranian Revolution bagan in January 1979 when muslim clerics, led by Ayatolla Khomeini, swept to power and ousted the U.S. backed Shah of Iran, Shah Palavi who ruled as an absolute Monarch. The U.S. had long term strategic interests in Iran, as it is the site of oil rich lands.

On November 5, 1979, students at the University of Tehran became swept up by clerics in anti west anger, and set about burning and razing all symbols of the West.

Unfortunately, President Jimmy Carter continued his support of the Shah, even after the Shah abandoned his country, under the pretense of requiring medical care. 

Why were sales of arms to Iran illegal? 

The Sale of arms to Iran were illegal due to an arms embargo that was first put in  place by President Carter and later during the Regan administration. President Carter used the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to empower the executive order. The Act is a United States federal law authorizing the president to regulate international commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to any unusual and extraordinary threat to the United States. First enacted on November 14, 1979 and renewed most recently in March 2021 by President Joe Biden Jr., it is the longest and oldest “existing state of emergency.” 

After Reagan, more crushing sanctions were signed by President Bill Clinton, also via executive orders.

Why was support of the Contras illegal?
Congress passed the Boland Amendment, in multiple versions, to explicitly prevent the use of funds or resources to overthrow the government of Nicaragua, or start a war between Nicaragua and Honduras.

For some background: US President Jimmy Carter sent the Sandinista’s $99 million in aid in 1979 in the hope of making the Sandinista government more pro-USA. By early 1980 Carter’s attempt to curry favor with the Sandinistas had failed.  Instead of continuing to build an alliance with the Sandinista’s, President Carter authorized CIA support of forces in Nicaragua opposed to the Sandinistas through propaganda and by providing assistance, but not armed action.

In March 1980, violence in opposition to the Sandinistas broke out in Nicaragua, led by the Nicaraguan Democratic Force,  or FDN Fuerza (fwehr-sah) Democratica Nicaraguense (nee-kah-rah-gwehn-seh),   the main Contras group.

When Ronald Reagan becomes President in January 1981, he quickly ends support to the Sandinistas, and begins a covert policy of supporting opposition groups. The public policy of the US at the time is to interdict, or prevent, arms trafficking in the region. However,  Reagan signs approval for the CIA to provide arms, equipment and money to the Contras by the end of 1981 and in early 1982, which is hidden from the public.

In June 1982, as the Sandinistas continue to support revolutionaries in nearby El Salvador, President Reagan makes the policy of supporting opposition groups to socialist revolutions public. Known as the Reagan Doctrine, the policy was designed to stop the spread of Soviet influence globally by supporting and arming guerilla fighters opposed to Soviet/Cuban style marxism, without the use of US military personnel. Key groups supported by the Reagan doctrine were, the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, the UNITA’s in Angola, the Contras in Nicaragua and the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front in Cambodia, a group opposed to the Khmer Rouge.

Although widely viewed as successful in stopping Soviet aggression, The Reagan Doctrine supported and continued war in foreign countries where the US may not have held long term national security interests. It is against our key belief here at the Paul Kristoffer show to break the laws made by Congress (or any laws, for that matter) or to support groups which have violated the human rights of individuals. It is immoral and wrong. Since this podcast is focused on the reduction of human suffering and misery, in general we would be opposed to any support of such groups through arms, equipment, money or training.

What is the National Security Council, and who were the key people on it at the time of Iran-Contra?

The National Security Council was established in 1947, to advise the President on domestic, international and military security issues. In 1981, President Ronald Regan headed up the NSC, with his VP, George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State, George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. The Director of the CIA, William Casey, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, William Crowe were advisors to the NSC at the time. Vice Admiral John Poindexter served in multiple capacities, including Deputy National Security Advisor to the President.

What was the Iran-Contra Affair?
The Iran-Contra Affair was a scheme by which the NSC and CIA illegally sold weapons to Iran, and then used the proceeds to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Both actions were illegal, and violated acts of Congress, and the trust of the American people.

Let’s talk about Iran first:

Iran was in need of weapons during its war with Iraq, in the period between 1980 and 1988. Iraq wanted to prevent a similar Shia Islamic revolution in Iraq. Shia muslims are the majority in Iraq, with the ruling Sunni Baath party members being in the minority. Iraq also had visions of being the dominant power in the Persian gulf. The U.S. actively sought to prevent US made weapons from getting into the hands of the Iranians during this period, a program known as operation Staunch.

In July 1983, moderate groups in Iran indicated to Robert Macfarlane, an advisor to the NSA,  that they would be amenable to better relations with  America, if supplied with arms. This message was communicated via a Saudi Arabian man named Adnan Kosshoggi.  Robert McFarlane, and a CIA Officer met with a number of Iranians, including arms dealer Man-ucher Ghorb-ani-far. As a major oil producer, good relations with Iran was a strategic US interest.

Fifty-three hostages, who were taken by University Students in November 1979, were released on President Reagan’s inauguration day, January 20, 1981. However, a group named the Islamic Jihad took more U.S. hostages beginning in March 1984.

It was Iran’s interest in gaining weapons, and the U.S.’s desire to gain better relations with the new government in Iran, and access to oil, that drove interest in the arms deal. The U.S. also had an interest in gaining the release of hostages that had been captured by Islamic Jihad.

On July 1, 1985 President Ronald Reagan was quoted in The New York Times stating, “The United States gives terrorists no rewards. We make no concessions, we make no deals.” He was being completely inauthentic as three days later Robert McFarlane, an advisor to the NSA, met with the Iraninans and the Saudi arms dealer, Khashoggi.  Ronald Reagan approved a sale of 100 TOW missiles to the Iranians, through the Israelies, from his hospital bed a mere thirteen days after The New York Times quote. TOW missiles are designed as anti-tank weapons, but can be used to destroy many targets. TOW is an acronym and stands for “Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided missiles.”

On August 20th 1985, 96 TOW missiles were shipped to Iran, from Israel and $1 Million in funds was paid to cover the transaction. Lt. Colonel Oliver North was brought in to help manage the logistics.

On September 15, 1985, an additional four hundred eight TOW missiles were sold, and hostage Benjamin Weir was released. Benjamin was a missionary active in Lebanon, and was kidnapped off the street by Islamic Jihad. The profits from this sale went to the middlemen. 

Air Force Major General Richard Secord, who was known for excelling in the execution of covert operations, was brought in to facilitate future shipments of arms to Iran. On a side note, a Major General in the Air Force is a two star general rank, and awarded to highly regarded individuals. Secord was recognized for his duty during the secret war in Laos, which took place during the Vietnam conflict, and for the only successful POW rescue mission conducted during the conflict.

In November 1985, a second sale of arms to Iran was agreed, which provided the first source of funds that went to support the Contras. Secord, and another co-conspirator, created a shell company named, the Stanford Technology Trading Group International. The Enterprise, as it was known, was used as a front to receive the monies and establish a swiss bank account. $150,000 of the money was actually used to cover the cost of the arms, in this case 120 HAWK missiles,  and $850,000 was going to go to the Contras. 

As is the case with the Paul Kristoffer show, we will spend a brief moment detailing what HAWK missiles actually are. As you might expect, HAWK is a military acronym that stands for “Homing-All-the-Way-Killer”, and the weapon is a  medium range, surface to air missile designed for defense. You can access  links for more information about these weapons at PaulKristoffer.com 

When you take a look at the HAWK system, its hard to believe that these weapons cost only $1,250 a piece. Even if one were to assume that the vehicles needed to transport and launch the system were not included, it still seems like a low cost.

Getting back to our main story, the second shipment of HAWK missiles to Tehran, Iran’s capital city,  turned into a logistics nightmare, and the correct weapons were not delivered.

After experiencing problems with the second shipment, President Reagan signed a Presidential Finding authorizing US arms sales to Iran. A Presidential Finding is also known as a Memorandum of Understanding and it is way for the President to authorize the CIA to do something covertly, while notifying Congress.

The resulting agreement with the Iranians was that the US would provide 1,500 TOW missiles, in exchange for $3.6 million USD and the release of “1 ½ hostages”, which meant one hostage for sure, possibly a second. Out of the $3.6, $2.0 million went to the CIA to cover costs, and $1.6 million was funneled to the Contras. The resulting cost of $2,400 per TOW missile makes these weapons almost twice as expensive as the HAWK, surface to air missiles.

Getting back to Nicauragua and the Contras, President Reagan wanted to support the Contras with money, weapons and advice, but he had to get around the Boland Amendment. In order to circumvent it, CIA chief Willam Casey and National Security Advisor, Robert McFarlane, evaluated the possibility of getting money from other countries to support the Contras. Saudi Arabia had already funneled millions, and support was sought from the Israelis.

In the Spring of 1984, an uproar and backlash commenced when congress found out that the CIA had mined the harbors in Nicaragua in 1982, which Colonel North knew about and allegedly had the President sign off on.

Conservative Fundraiser Carl Channell raises $12 million from private donors in 1985 and provides $2.7 million of it to the Contras. As a Paul Kristoffer show side note, Channell was struck and killed by a car in 1990, as he stood on a street in Washington D.C..

Secord is asked by Oliver North to help in getting supplies to the Contras. Oliver North, in his capacity as adviser to the NSC, solicits funding from foreign entities to support the Contras, including the Tawainese, Saudis and other groups. The Taiwanese provide $1 Million USD for the Contras in 1985. By then the initial Saudi contribution ran out, but they donated more. In total, they gave $32 million.

In October of 1986, a Contras plane was shot down in Nicaragua, with an American captured. Although this would imply direct US involvement with the Contras, in violation of Congress and the Boland Amendment, Congress did not look into the plane downing too much, otherwise they would have learned that the CIA had been continuing to carry  out sabotage in Nicaragua, without first informing Congress and in violation of the Boland Amendment.

The scandal was finally brought to light by Lebanese newspaper Al Shiraa. 

The individuals responsible for the Iran-Contra scheme all violated the U.S. Constitution, which specifies that Congress must appropriate funds for government operations. The Reagan administration, including the NSC and CIA, circumvented Congress and the Boland Amendment which banned US Aid to Nicaragua from 1982 to 1986, when the Contras were attempting to overthrow the Marxist regime in Managua, the capital and largest city in Nicargua.

Further, the Iran Contra affair violated the National Security Act. which required that the administratio notify Congress about any arms sales to Iran.

The Presidential Records Act was violated when John Poindexter destroyed a finding by President Reagan.

Fawn Hall, secretary to Oliver North, Oliver North himself and John Poindexter all lied to Congress, violating Federal Law when trying to cover up their illegal activities.

  1. Here is a list of five of the guilty parties and their sentences:
    1. Oliver North was convicted in federal court of destroying official documents, accepting an illegal gift and of aiding and abetting the obstruction of Congress in November 1986. His punishment did not include jail time, but 1,200 hours of community service, $150,000 fine and three years’ suspended sentence. These convictions were reversed on appeal.
    2. Fundraiser Carl Channell pleaded guilty in 1987 to one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and received two years’ probation in return for full cooperation with ongoing investigations
    3. Casper Weinerger and McFarlane were Pardoned pre-emptively by President George Bush prior to trial, in 1992
    4. John Poindexter was found guilty of five felonies. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment on each charge, to be served concurrently, for a total of six months. However, because of the issue of potential contamination of the trial by the immunized testimony Poindexter gave to Congress, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed his convictions,

Conclusion: The Reagan Administration and CIA purposefully bypassed the Boland Act to support the Contras in Nicaragua and illegally sold arms to Iran, in violation of President Reagan’s own executive order. A governmental agency, such as the CIA, whose budget, operations and assessments are all conducted under secrecy, that deliberately bypassess the law of Congress to undertake illegal activities is in serious violation of the Constitution, and infringes on the inalienable rights of the Citizens of the United States of America.

Sources: The New York Times, Brown University, Gallup, Military Today

Music: Zapsplat

For more information:





The Watergate Scandal: Distrust of the White House and Governmental Organizations

On July 17,1972 burglars connected to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign were arrested after breaking into the office of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Complex. Their goal was to steal documents, wiretap phones and other illegal acts. 

Nixon denied the affair was connected to him. His story was believed by the American people and Nixon was re-elected to office by a landslide, winning 60% of the popular and 520 electoral college votes. 

There was one faithless elector, Roger MacBride, of Virgina who cast his ballot for the Libertarian ballot of Hospers/Nathan, marking the first electoral college vote cast for a practicing Jew and woman (Toni Nathan). 

After evidence was brought to light by Washington Post reporters, Nixon resigned in August 1974.  The reporters were leaked information by whistleblower ‘Deepthroat’.

Deep Throat’s identity was maintained in secrecy for over 30 years. In 2005, Deep Throat was revealed to be W. Mark Felt, Associate Director of the FBI. Mark Felt revealed a world of Presidential Powers oversteps, including wiretaps, burglary and money laundering (funds to pay for the operatives conducting the breakin were transferred from Nixon’s re-election campaign, through a Mexican bank).

Mark Felt was no freedom fighter, however, and his motives to turn informant included spitefulness of being passed over for the #1 job at the FBI, in favor of another Nixon loyalist who worked to block the FBI Investigation of the Watergate breakin.

Conclusion: Presidential powers are increasingly likely to be abused, and we cannot trust the Justice Department, FBI or even the CIA to keep abusive President’s in check, as the leaders of these organizations are appointed by the President themselves. 
As discussed in the earlier section of this podcast in reference to the Royal Governors, when such power is concentrated in one person, who appoints those who are supposed to provide oversight ensuring that the law is followed, the government is fundamentally flawed and the rights of citizens are taken away. To have a system in place that relies upon the integrity of an individual, against the awesome power of a sitting US President, is hopelessly optimistic. We must address how political appointees are monitored to make sure that they are not breaking US laws in the process of conducting their duties.

Further Evidence:

June 1975, The Rockefeller Commission uncovered the illegal activities of the CIA, including:

  • Large scale and illegal spying on American Citizens in the US
  • Intercepting and opening mail
  • Illegal wiretaps and break ins
  • Infiltration of domestic dissident groups

April, 1976, The Church committee highlighted the following illegal programs, including:

  • A CIA biological agents program, whereby the CIA intentionally disobeyed direct orders from the President, and in violation of international treaties, continued to store illegal items including:
    • Toxin weapons such as cobra venom, and paralytic shellfish poisons found in a storage room in the Ft. Detrick Army Biological Agents Lab
    • Suicide pills intented to replace the standard issue cyanide capsules used by agents as a final evasion to capture. This was the alleged purpose of the shellfish toxin, and allegedly the only time it was used was by Gary Powers during his U-2 flight over Soviet airspace. He was issued a deadly needle hidden within a coin. When Powers’ plane was shot down by a Soviet Ground to Air Missile, and Power’s parachuted into the hands of the Soviets, he choose to not use his suicide pill, or self destruct the plane. Instead, the incident became an international embarrassment for President Eisenhower, and the United States, when the cover story was proved wrong by the Soviets who recovered evidence from the plane.
    • A device named a Microbionoculator, which was a dart that could be used to deliver a lethal biological agent, and would be difficult to detect later during examination
    • Dart launchers to deliver biologic agents and incapacitate guard dogs and humans (temporarily). 
    • Hallucinogens, narcotics,  riot control agents (such as tear gas and mace), herbicides and animal control materials.
    • The ability to transmit the bacteria causing tuberculosis to a target
    • The CIA claimed that the President’s orders were not followed out of decisions made by by low level personnel, and that higher ranked middle managers had no knowledge that the illicit items were retained in a storage closet.
  • A White House domestic surveillance program initiated by President Nixon on June 5, 1970 to get better information on political dissenters of the Vietnam war. Options developed by J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI,  and Richard Helms of the CIA were recommended by White House aid Tom Charles Huston to the President. Recommendations included programs that violated the civil liberties of American Citizens.
    • The Huston Plan would enable the Federal Government to reach all the way to, “every mailbox, every college campus, every telephone, every home”
    • 5 days after it was approved, the President revoked its approval based upon the advice of the FBI Director and Attorney General, however, intelligence agencies paid no attention to the President’s directives.
  • Illegal IRS intelligence activities:
    • Citizens furnish their most private information to the IRS, and further, the IRS can collect more information when conducting an audit without a subpoena, and seize property or money. With such great powers, that possibility to abuse them increase substantially and can be misused to accomplish goals outside of the IRS’s duty to insure everyone pays the correct tax. The Church Committee found
      • The IRS Special Service Staff investigated political activists.
      • IRS investigations of anti-IRS groups, and groups with extremist views and philosophies, anti-draft groups, including those that organize May Day deminstrations, sales of firearms to the IRA, Arab terrorist groups, and those that travel to Cuba, North Vietnam and Algeria in violation of existing acts and those that resist authority by encouraging armed services members to defect to the enemy.
      • IRS investigations of “Rock Festivals”
      • Included on the IRS investigations list were:
        • Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling
        • Mayor John Lindsay
        • US Senators Charles Goodell and Earnest Gruening
        • Congressman Charles Diggs
        • Writer Jimmy Breslin
        • James Brown
        • Shirley McClaine
        • Jesse Jackson
      • As part of its improper investigations, the IRS intercepted mail and communications without probable cause, used paid informants with the object of finding something of interest.
  • The FBI’s program to disrupt the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movement, known as COINTELPRO
    • The FBI’s illegal activities first came to light as a result of a break in to an FBI office in Media, PA by the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI on March 8, 1971. The group sent copies of the files to certain individuals in Congress, and newspapers.
    • The documents highlighted orders from the FBI Commissioner, Herbert Hoover, to infiltrate and spy on student groups, civil rights activists and war resisters.

Conclusion: Governmental intelligence agencies, including the FBI, CIA as well as the IRS and USPS, engaged in illegal activities that deprived US Citizens of their rights. When Governmental agencies ignore the law, direct orders of the President and mislead Congress, distrust of Government is deepened.

© 2022, Paul Kristoffer

Music by Zapsplat

Superbowl LXI Commercials Specials

If you were one of the millions of people who watched the Super Bowl, you no doubt saw the plentiful commercials from the minds at Madison Avenue (or Silicon Valley – more on that later) and while you may have your favorite, today I’d like to talk about 4 of my personal picks.

These each aired during the 56th Superbowl, that took place on Sunday February 13th, 2022. The themes I noted have bearing in our joined mission to reduce human suffering and misery. In this episode I am going to cover why these four ads stood out, why they were, or were not effective and what they mean to you in the broader context.

Full Transcript:

The Paul Kristoffer Show: Bonus Episode: Four Superbowl LXI commercials that stood out


Welcome to the Paul Kristoffer Show, this is Paul Kristoffer. Today, we are going to talk about Superbowl Commercials, and in particular, four that stood out to me. If you were one of the millions of people who watched the Super Bowl, you no doubt saw the plentiful commercials from the minds at Madison Avenue (or Silicon Valley – more on that later) and while you may have your favorite, today I’d like to talk about 4 of my personal picks.

These each aired during the 56th Superbowl, that took place on Sunday February 13th, 2022. The themes I noted have bearing in our joined mission to reduce human suffering and misery. In this episode I am going to cover why these four ads stood out, why they were, or were not effective and what they mean to you in the broader context.

View the ads that are under discussion in this episode via links below (subject to change by the owner of the advertisement’s copyrights):

Let’s start off with the best commercial, Coinbase, and why it resonated:

  • What it was:
    • A bouncing QR code, reminiscent of a DVD player screensaver, as seen in the comedy series, “The Office”. Electronic Background music played, which was very reminiscent of rudimentary 1980’s video games, such as pong. Notably, the song was created by musician Com Truise. As the QR bounces about the screen, the audience naturally begins to anticipate the magical moment when the symbol will precisely strike a corner of the screen and bounce. Incredibly, the QR code hits the exact upper right corner, recalling the television comedy series, where the office staff remain transfixed for hours to see a real DVD screensaver hit the corner of an old cathode ray Television screen.
  • Why it was effective:
    • The commercial evokes both a popular a meme and an episode of a classic, comedy, tv show. The team used music that reflects and enhances the vibe of the DVD era, and rewarded fans by having the QR code bounce precisely into the top right corner of the screen. The ad was highly effective in capturing the attention of their target audience. Naturally, the viewer becomes curious about where the QR code will lead them. That curiosity was rewarded with $15 worth of Bitcoin for opening an account with Coinbase. How great is that!
    • Converting their target customer, in real time, during the Superbowl by having them open an account was brilliant. The same mechanism that attracted attention (the bouncing QR code), became the vehicle to convert new customers, via the landing page which was invoiced by the users smartphone. Of course, today almost everyone has their smartphone in their hands during sports events (it used to be a beer, or soda, in the old days).
  • Why is cryptocurrency important in the broader context of reducing human suffering?
    • Cryptocurrency can help reduce the harmful effects of inflation. Inflation lowers our buying power and wreaks havoc on our savings:
      • Cryptocurrency is, at least in theory, far less susceptible to manipulation by central banks and Inflation. The economies of The Wiemar Republic, Zimbabwe, Argentina, the United States in the 1980’s and 2022, have all suffered from runaway inflation that destroyed the savings of everyday people. Inflation creates a wage / price race where wages try to keep up with price gains, but they never quite seem to succeed in keeping pace. This creates misery for millions of people who need to spend an ever increasing percentage of their income and savings on necessities like fuel, food and health care or medicine.
      • Inflation occurs when central banks attempt to rescue their economies by infusing more cash into the system. It usually results in runaway inflation that is difficult and very painful to tame. Often, inflationary periods result in recession or depression, when central banks inevitably raise interest rates.
      • Cryptocurrency is different, because no single person, or group, controls the amount of currency that is produced by the system. In the case of Bitcoin, the total number of  coins that can be minted is capped at 21 million. By contrast, US Dollars, can be ‘minted’ at will by the US treasury. For example, there are currently an estimated $1.2 trillion dollars in circulation, but in the period of 2020-2021, the U.S. Government paid out or committed about $10 trillion dollars to stimulate the economy. What effect did that have on buying power? Well, current dollars have about 7.5% less spending power. Unfortunately, that rate is still rising and we don’t yet know what the peak will be.
    • Cryptocurrency is easier to transact and no banks or governments can control who has access to the system:
      • Crypto can be sent and received by anyone using the blockchain and a crypto wallet. This avoids the need to pay excessive fees to baks, or to fill out detailed and invasive application forms that violate one’s right to privacy.  Ultimately, this makes transacting faster, lower cost and easier. 
      • It’s very helpful to the most vulnerable in our society – including low wage earners who otherwise cannot get a bank account. Often, these groups and are forced to rely on check cashing companies or payday loan operations that charge high rates and fees.
      • Crypto eliminates reliance on banks and the banking system. In the credit crisis of 2008, the U.S. Treasury bailed out many banks that participated in the credit bubble through The Credit and Stabilization Act of 2008, but left adrift millions of people who fell into the trap of taking out more loans than they could pay back.
  • Here are some steps that you can think about:
    • If you haven’t already, learn more about cryptocurrency. Do your own research. If it makes sense to your financial portfolio, and you have funds for speculation, try buying cryptocurrency. I am currently buying Bitcoin and Ether. Ether is the currency of the Ethereum platform.

Let’s move on to the second commercial, Toyota, featuring the McKeever Brothers and their story:

  • What was it:
    • A video about two brothers, one of whom is diagnosed with an untreatable form of macular degeneration. His eye disease results in reduced vision. We are led to believe, through the video, that the brother suffering from vision loss is essentially blind. The other brother dedicates himself to helping the visually impaired sibling to train for cross country skiing, and they win several medals together. 
    • After this emotional story, that continues for almost a minute, we learn that the commercial is for Toyota.
  • Why it was not effective:
    • The commercial was not effective because the story literally had nothing to do with Toyota. The emotional story of the brothers was linked to their love for each other, and how neither gave up in the face of many obstacles. It is a beautiful story.
    • The fact that Toyota would use disabled people to try to sell cars to millenials, or burnish their brand is not appealing. Toyota should focus on building great cars for their customers. If Toyota wishes to support the paralympics as part of an authentic, altruistic endeavor, that is great. But to tie Toyota branding to the story of the brothers without any further context, is appalling.
  • What it means in the broader context of reducing human misery:
    • Using the emotional stories of disabled persons who overcome their limitations to accomplish great deeds, to sell cars is highly disingenuous. It is inauthentic and abusive. Its inauthentic because Toyota has nothing to do with this story whatsoever. Its abusive because Toyota is pulling on our heart strings through this beautiful story of filial devotion, and then abruptly presents their logo – as if Toyota had something to do with motivating the brothers to attain their impressive accomplishments. 
    • The most valuable automaker in the world does no advertising whatsoever, and is focused on transitioning the human race to a world of electrically powered vehicles. Toyota ought to learn more, and preach less.
  • What you can do about it:
    • You can think about choosing to not buy a Toyota, and tell Toyota why you are making this choice. Post on social media, and be sure to give me a shoutout.
    • Donate to a charity supportive of those with disabilities, and support disabled athletes directly through the paralympics organization.
    • Volunteer to support disabled persons and perform acts of community service.

Onto ad number three, BMW, Zeus and (Hera) ??? retire

What was it?

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the role of Zeus, the chief deity of the gods. Slema Hayek plays…., well we do not know who she is supposed to play as the character is never named in the clip. I guess BMW thinks that female gods are merely nameless sex objects that hang out with the powerful male god?

The story is hard to follow as a superbowl ad, but essentially, the couple decide to retire from being gods. They relocate to Palm Springs where Zeus’ annoying neighbors ask him to charge different electric devices, like a hedge trimmer and golf cart. Zeus accommodates the requests  by pointing his finger and shooting electricity into the device or battery (I am not sure which). They have a pet, named Peggy, which looks like a miniature flying horse. I assume it is supposed to be a pegasus, which Zeus takes out on walks.

Zeus gets frustrated by the microwave, and to save the day, Hera brings home a new electric BMW, that Zeus can charge to his delight. Zeus happily drives down the road with a new lightness, while also, very selfishly, changing all the traffic signals to green through his finger lightening.

My summary is making the ad sound much funnier than it was, because I have now watched it four times. It is much less funny in the middle of the Superbowl.

Why was it ineffective? There are an incredible five main reasons!

  1. The first, and most important, is the regressive use of Ms. Hayek as a nameless sex object. Women deserve to be named, and have power beyond being a foil to a male person. We know that Mr. Schwarzenegger is playing the role of Zeus but who is Ms. Hayek playing in the ad?, Is it Hera, Zeus’ wife or someone else? Zeus was fictionalized and idolized for his misogynistic treatment of women. Are these the ideals of BMW? Why did BMW  choose such a storyline that features a character whose mythology includes tricking women into sex, rape and abuse? Haven’t women suffered enough? Why should we be impressed by this, and how has our society progressed since the well known accusations against the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Roger Ailes?
  2. The second reason why the ad is ineffective is that the whole segment is meant to be a parody of the gods, and a supposed retirement of Zeus. Parodies are supposed to be humorous, but the storyline is droll and boring. The viewer doesn’t really have time to process the supposed story that Zeus wants to retire, and that when he does, he hates his retirement and wants to leave Palm Springs (or at least I didn’t).
  3. The third point is the choice to hire Hollywood actors and celebrities to help sell a car. Are we supposed to think, wow, there’s Arnold Schwarzeneger and Selma Hayek, this must be a good car? Give us all a break, BMW and, don’t insult our intelligence.

    Celebrities are not necessary to sell a good product. Tesla, does not do any advertising at all and certainly doesn’t use Hollywood film stars. I have nothing against Mr. Schwarzenegger or Ms. Hayek, or their right to earn money, but do they really need additional millions for this work?
  4. The fourth fact is that most of the electricity in the United States is generated by fossil fuels, typically coal or natural gas. To avoid stating this inconvenient fact, and to deliberately make electricity look as though it is sent by the gods, is completely misleading, and disingenuous. In other words, a lie.

    The overwhelming majority of electric cars on the roads today,. rely on fossil fuels to charge their batteries.
  5. The fifth and final reason why this ad is not effective has to do with the pet, Peggy. We know from science that horses cannot have four legs and wings because horses are mammals, and mammals don’t have four limbs plus two extra that can form wings. Mammals with wings do exist, they are mainly ‘bats’. But it is their “arms” which have formed into wings. Bats do not have arms, legs plus two additional limbs sprouting from their spines to be used as wings.

    The fictional pegasus creature is anomalous and does not fit in at all, and is misleading, its also an insult to DNA science, Charles Darwin, genetic theory and people with common sense everywhere.

    The story would have been better if Zeus had adopted a rescue pet. Aren’t there millions of animals that need good homes? It would have been nice if BMW could actually have helped the world when creating this ad, instead of foolishly depicting a Pegasus. If a Pegasus did exist, which it doesn’t, people would line up to adopt such a creature. Let’s help out those animals that desperately need a home, but don’t resemble fictional, fluffy, flying creature.

How does the BMW ad relate to the focus of this podcast, which is all about reducing human suffering?

  • As discussed in my first episode, belief, to attribute physical phenomena to the gods is false, and regressive. The commercial is not funny, and perpetuates a bad idea for no value.
  • The fact that Ms. Hayek’s character is a nameless sex object to Zeus, is regressive and harmful. During a Superbowl where we witnessed the great Billie Jean King flipping the game coin, this ad comes across as tone deaf to a womens’ right to be respected and given an identity. What happened to Selma Hayek’s involvement in the the “times up” movement?

What can you, the listener, do about it?

  • Don’t buy a BMW. There are plenty of good quality cars available, that are not run by misogynistic loving organizations, who pretend to believe in Greek god fantasies, like to ignore evolution and need celebrities to sell their cars.
  • Let BMW know that you don’t appreciate the fact that Zeus, the powerful male deity was named, and Ms. Hayek’s character was nameless.
  • Support renewable energy and clean, safe nuclear energy.

Now we have come to the fourth, and final, in my list of notworthy Superbowl Ads that have to do with my theme of reducing human suffering and misery. What I want to talk about are Ads that roasted Elon Musk: namely from Polestar and Salesforce

What were they?

The Polestar ad for their EV’s. described, through text bullets, what it was not. Among the “no’s” was “No conquering Mars”, a clear jab at Elon Musk.

The Salesforce ad features a voice over by Matthew McConaughey, who poses as an astronautic, high altitude balloon operator. The narrater takes aim at the Metaverse and Mars, while claiming to want to fix things on earth.

Why they don’t work? I have three main points to discuss with you, deal listener:

The first point: We are all allowed to dream, including Elon Musk. The difference with Mr. Musk, however, is that he has the ability to make his dreams come true in ways that help humanity. One of his goals is to make Humans a multi-planet species. While we can question whether spreading humanity like a virus across the solar system is a worthy goal, or not, I truly believe that the innovations and new technologies created by a manned mission to Mars will generate dividends for the future of Humanity, similar to the technologies developed by the mission to send astronauts to the moon.  Most will be good.

The fact that Polestar and Salesforce chose to deride such a worthy goal, to score cheap “points” or to be talked about, is a low trick to build awareness and gain recognition. When organizations, in this case, Salesforce and Polestar, attempt to take value away from Mr. Musk’s dreams, and gain in a one sided way, distrust is created and that is harmful to humanity. Its also inauthentic.

Mr. Musk has already created the world’s most valuable car company, and is transforming space missions to benefit all of humanity. Tesla is focused on a future where cars can operate without the use of fossil fuels, and is skating to where the puck will be, not to where it is right now. Tesla also provides solar panels/solar roof, by way of its acquisition of Solarcity, and manufactures whole home batteries to store generated electricity.

Salesforce is doing none of the kind. What we hear from Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff are the latest buzzwords and acronyms which he throws about in conversation like a chef scatters seasoning. How is Salesforce preparing for a world without electricity generated by fossil fuels? I would like to hear that story.

Point number two: Use of celebrity spokesperson (Salesforce): Per my earlier comment, why does Salesforce need a celebrity to read the script? Why does Salesforce think that paying a Hollywood actor millions of dollars will convince people to buy, or renew, their Salesforce license? Why doesn’t Salesforce re-invest money into their products, instead, and make them better?

The third and final point on this ad: Salesforce slips in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion activism.  A gauche attempt to normalize this idea. I will be researching and delivering an entire episode dedicated to the topic of DEI initiatives in my next season, but helping one group of humans, at the expense of another group, harms both groups. There will be more discussion on this very important topic.

What can you do about it? There are three actions you can take

One: Tell Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff what you think and don’t pay attention to Mr. McConaughey, whether he is trying to sell you a car, or CRM software.

Two: I challenge the developers out there to create a true cloud based solution that can throw Salesforce.com off the podium. We need a new solution to today’s challenges, and Salesforce has reigned far too long as the default CRM choice for businesses. I would tell you to not buy Salesforce.com software, but the dirty secret is that everyone uses it, and no one can get off it.

Three: Ask Polestar what they do believe in. Saying what you are not, is reactionary and not defining.

To summarize the four ads we discussed today were:

  1. Coinbase, also known as the bouncing QR code screen saver.
  2. Toyota commercial featuring a disabled cross country skier and his brother.
  3. BMW commercial starring Arnold Shwarzenegger as Zeus and Selma Hyeck as an unnamed partner to Zeus.
  4. Polestar and Salesforce taking aim at Elon Musk’s dream to send a manned mission to Mars.

That concludes this bonus episode. I hope that you all enjoyed it. Please partner with me in my movement to reduce human suffering and misery!

Distrust enters pop culture: The JFK Assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald

Listen to my podcast episode where we uncover the reasons why the JFK Assassination spawned many conspiracy theories. The Paul Kristoffer Show also takes a deeper look at the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, the actions for the FBI, CIA and KGB.

Full Transcript:

Episode 5: Government Distrust in the US Part 3 – Lee Harvey Oswald & the Assassination of JFK

The JFK Assassination:

At 12:30 pm Central Time,  Friday, November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm, President John F. Kennedy was shot twice, once through the back exiting his neck, and another shot though his head, while riding in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza, in Dallas Texas. The President was declared dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital thirty minutes later.

The JFK Assassination has spawned many conspiracy theories. Multiple official investigations into the incident, including the Warren Commission in 1964 and the House Select Committee on Assassinations of 1978-1979, have been greeted by public distrust and skepticism due to the investigations being conducted in secrecy, and that many records were sealed. Without being able to judge for themselves, the American people did not believe the findings of the Warren Commission, which completed its investigation in September 1964, 10 months after the President was assassinated. It concluded that Oswald acted alone. However, The House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978-79,  concluded that Oswald acted in conspiracy.

The public never trusted either investigation, culminating in the Oliver Stone movie, “JFK” which alleged disturbing conclusions, not the least of which was that the public could not trust investigations conducted in secrecy.

Other commissions followed that further increased public distrust of government agencies that conducted business in secret, uncovering illegal activities of the FBI, CIA, IRS and U.S. Post Office. It was revealed that these governmental organizations had deliberately ignored direct orders of the President, and carried on illegal activities even after being ordered to not to.

These commissions demonstrated that the FBI and CIA hid files from each other, and deliberately misled the Warren Commission. This brought to light the fact that many governmental organizations were working illegally through mail intercepts, wire taps, the infiltration of political groups without probable cause and in violation of constitutional rights.

The illegal actions of some of these groups has continued to current times, often violating the constitution of the United States by stepping on the inalienable rights of US Citizens, acting in violation of the Congress and the President.

In order to address public distrust over the sealed files and multiple investigations, Congress passed the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 to gather and re-open all records related to the assassination of the President.

Here are the facts of the JFK assassination case which we believe we know to be true:

On Friday, November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm, at Dealey Plaza, in Dallas Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from the sixth story, southeastern corner window of the Texas School Book Depository, killing John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the USA, firing from a distance of approximately 265 feet. The President’s limousine was travelling at an estimated 11.2 mph at the time of the shots, away from the shooter’s position.

Oswald’s first shot missed, and is believed to have bounced off the arm of a traffic signal. 

The second bullet fired struck Kennedy in the upper back,exiting the front of his neck and continuing on to hit Governor Connally, who was sitting in front of Kennedy, entering the Governor’s back, just below right armpit and exiting below the right nipple of his chest. It then shattered the radius bone of the Governor’s right wrist and caused a superficial wound to the left thigh. 

The third bullet entered the rear right side of the President’s head, by the right ear, and exited the right side of his head, causing a large wound. It is believed that this was the fatal shot.

Three spent bullet casings were found in the School Book Depository, on the sixth floor by a corner window, along with the rifle. A nearly whole matching bullet was found on Governor Connally’s stretcher, and mqatching bullet fragments sfound in JFK’s limousine. Ballistics experts later confirmed that the bullets and bullet fragments were fired from the bullet casings and rifle recovered at the scene.

Several witnesses attested to the Warren commission that they heard shots emanating from the Texas School Book Depository, and saw the visible barrel of a rifle projecting from the sixth story, corner window. Others in the building itself heard Oswald’s bolt action rifle re-loading, and the sound of the spent casings falling to the ground.

Ballistics experts demonstrated that the exact angle of the shots from the sixth story window of the School Book Depository matched the paths of the bullets as they passed through the President and Governor Connally. Experts also tested whether the sound of spent casings could be heard from where Oswald and the witnesses were located. It was established that, in fact, the sounds could be heard confirming the plausibilty of the witness’s testimony.

Oswald himself could not be interrogated further as he was shot by Jack Ruby at 11:21 am on November 24, 1963, as Oswald was being transported from Police Headquarters to the County Jail. Jack Ruby was a nightclub owner, and suspected of being involved in prostitution, narcotics and illegal gambling. This has lead to suspicions that Oswald was involved with the mafia, and executed before he could reneal any evidence linking the assassination to organized crime members, the teamsters union and Jimmy Hoffa.

Despite the evidence of the Warren Commission and that the official FBI investigation found that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, on his own initiative, more than half of Americans today believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted in a conspiracy and was: an agent of the Soviet Union, part of a pro-Fidel Cuba group, working with organized crime members connected to Jimmy Hoffa, the head of the Teamster’s union, or even that the assassination was ordered by the CIA.

Why is this, and why is does the JFK Assassination loom so large in the world of conspiracy theories, and what impact has it had on our perception of Government?

Let’s start off with highlights of the very interesting life of Lee Harvey Oswald:

Lee Harvey Oswald was born on October 18, 1939, to Marguerite and Robert Edward Lee Oswald. Lee’s father died two months before he was born, due to a  massive heart attack.

Lee’s childhood was marked by instability and financial troubles. Marguerite moved residences frequently, and Lee often changed schools. Between Lee’s birth in 1939 and 1948, Lee had moved 11 times, and attended 7 different schools. His mother made it known to the boys that they were a burden.

The closest thing he had to a father figure was Edwin Ekdahl, whom Oswald’s mother had married in May 1945.  But the marriage quickly broke down and the couple divorced in 1948.

Marguerite Oswald moved to New York City in 1952, after  Lee’s older brother Robert had joined the marines. Lee’s half brother, John Pic was stationed in New York with the Coast Guard. Lee would have been 12 years old when he arrived in New York and was most likely first exposed to the ideas of Socialism, Communism and Marxism during his stay there. His time in New York was marked by truancy and turbulence. Due his unbridled truancy, Lee underwent a psychological evaluation in April / May 1953 and was found to be emotionally disturbed, with aggressive tendencies, deprived of attention and rejected by his self-involved mother.

The Oswald’s left New York before Oswald’s truancy case could be resolved by the court system and they returned back to New Orleans in January 1954. Lee was 15 years old.

The Warren Report points out the lack of relationships in Lee’s life: the fact that he had no close friends, a remote mother who demonstrated little affection and left Lee with the feeling that he was a burden.

Roughly two years later, on October 8, 1956, Lee wrote to the Socialist Party of America to join as a youth leader. Then on October 24, 1956, sixteen days later, Lee enlisted in the Marine Corps. It a few days after his 17th birthday. Lee was following the example of his older brother, Robert. Lee was unpopular in the Corps, and most of the men avoided his company.

During rifle training as a Marine, Lee scored as a sharpshooter in a marksmanship test, but then scored at a lower rating on the subsequent test.

Oswald was court martialed twice (once for firing a .22 handgun he was prohibited from possessing on base, and again for punching a sergeant who Lee thought was responsible for the Court Martial, in a drunken incident).

Upon his discharge in 1959, for an alleged hardship, he promptly defected to Russia via Helsinki, Finland. He had studied Russian in the Corps, but he was a poor student and his Russian was unimpressive.

Oswald arrived at the Berlin Hotel in Moscow on October 15, 1959, three days before his 21st birthday, and applied for citizenship in the USSR the next day. His request was denied, and Oswald was ordered to leave by October 21st. On the 21st, Oswald opened his veins, in a dramatic suicide attempt, and was brought to a hospital for treatment.

On October 31st, he publicly renounced his US Citizenship at the US Embassy in Moscow, allegedly throwing his passport onto the ambassador’s desk. It turns out that Lee, in fact, held on to his US Passport during his entire stay in the Soviet Union, and never became a Soviet Citizen.

Oswald was viewed by the KGB as mentally unstable, and possibly a US Agent. Since the Russians did not want any negative publicity associated with Oswald and any actions he might take if refused residency in Russia, he was granted temporary permission to remain in the Soviet Union in November 1959. Oswald was ordered to live in Minsk – a city loaded with Soviets where Oswald’s actions could be more easily tracked. He would be kept out of the view of the US Embassy. Since the KGB assumed that Lee could be a US agent, his home was bugged and all his moves were monitored so that he could reveal himself. Interestingly, Lee was never interrogated by the KGB, who did not find him interesting enough. However, every bar, party or social event that Oswald attended was monitored and staffed by KGB agents.

According to testimony of Yuri Nosenko in front of the House Select Committe on Assassination, the KGB refused to meet with him. According to Nosenko, a KGB agent who defected to the US in 1964, only three Americans defected to the Soviet Union in the period between 1955 and 1960.

Although defections from the US to Russia were rare at the time, Nosenko stated that Oswald was not of interest due to his low rank, Private, and due to his interest in Marxism. Ironically, the KGB was ordered to not recruit members of a foreign country’s communist party during the 1950’s. In all likelihood, this was due to the fact that the Communist Party of the United States of America was infiltrated by plants working for the U.S.

Lee was assigned a job at the Gorizant Radio Plant, to work as a metal worker at the lowest skill level.

Almost two years later, on March 17, 1961, Lee met a 19 year old Pharmacy worker named Marina Prusakova. It is hard to believe that Marina was not a KGB agent, but no evidence has surfaced to support this.

In May, 1962, Oswald planned to return to the US with his wife, Marina Prusakova and their daughter, June. They lived very poorly in the Soviet Union, and hoped for a better life. They arrived back in the US in June, 1962.

Although Oswald was originally honorably discharged from the marines, Oswald’s status was later changed to undesirably discharged after his defection to the Soviet Union. Lee wrote then Navy Secretary, John Connally, in January 1962 about his perceived injustice and requested that the discharge papers be corrected. John Connally, was then leaving the Navy Department, to run for Governor of Texas. He informed Oswald that his letter would be forwarded to Connally’s successor.

Oswald took the matter up with the Navy Discharge Review Board, which refused to modify the discharge status. John Connally was later seriously wounded by Oswald in the JFK assasination. This connection created the theory that Connally was Oswald’s real target, not Kennedy.

Despite financial troubles, lack of proper clothes and food for himself and his family, Lee began to acquire firearms. He ordered a .38 revolver from Los Angeles in January, 1963. On March 12, Oswald ordered a rifle from Klein’s Sporting Goods of Chicago, IL using a coupon clipped from a Rifle magazine. The rifle was a surplus Italian Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5-millimeter ridle. The rifle was shipped to an “A Hidell” to a PO Box opened up by Oswald. The alias was one that Oswald had used previously.

In April 1963, Oswald attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker at the General’s home.  Walker survived when a bullet struck a window frame and fragmented. Walker was known for his conservative political views, and was a staunch anti-communist. Walker had been previously criticized by President Eisenhower for sharing political opinions while in uniform.

Interestingly, Walker resigned from the Army in 1961, after being accused of links to the John Birch Society, claims that Walker denied. An Army investigation exonerated him of the claims.

By resigning, Walker gave up $12,000 a year in retirement benefits, which he claimed was due to a matter of principle. Later in life, General Walker was arrested for public lewdness in a Dallas city park on July 8th, 1976.

Lee moved back to New Orleans on April 24, 1963 when he was fired from his job at the time. Oswald believed that he could find work in his hometown. Lee had trouble holding down any job as he quickly lost interest, and typically spent time loafing around, reading magazines and discussing guns. It was reported by eyewitnesses at the time that Lee abused his wife, Marina. He became violent at times and hit his wife, leaving her with visible bruises.

By June 1963, in New Orleans, Lee planned to begin a chapter of “Fair Play for Cuba Commitee”, a pro-Castro marxist organization founded by journalist Robert Taber. Oswald ordered leaflets to be printed to support the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro. 

On August 9,1963, Oswald attracted the attention of local police and the FBI when an altercation erupted with anti-Castro Cuban refugees and Oswald, who was dispersing “Hands Off Cuba” pamphlets. The FBI sent information over to the CIA, since Oswald was a former resident of the Soviet Union.

The place that Oswald was distributing pamphlets was near 544 Camp Street, New Orleans – formerly an address of a CIA front organization called the, “Cuban Revolutionary Council.” He engaged in an altercation with Carlos Bringuier, a Cuban exile, who was a former member of the CIA backed Council which was dedicated to overthrowing Fidel Castro.

Lee wanted to go to Cuba, and explored options to obtain a visa. He thought about hijacking a plane and flying directly.

Interestingly, after the CIA left the 544 Camp Street address, a person named Guy Bannister, a former FBI agent, occupied the office. This led the FBI to believe that Oswald was not a pro-Castro activist, but was in fact working for Banister or some other agency.

Aware of this link, the FBI hid the association of the address from the Warren Commision by giving the address of the building as “531 Lafayette St.” which was the same corner building as 544 Camp St.

  • On September 25th 1963, Oswald left New Orleans for Mexico City via bus, where he planned to visit the Cuban embassy and obtain permission to travel to Cuba. He had sent his wife Marina and daughter June to Irving Texas to stay with a family friend a couple of days prior.
  • Two days later, Oswald arrived at the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City on September 27th to request permission to travel to Cuba, ostensibly to continue on to Russia. He also visited the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City, but the agents there wanted nothing to do with him. Oswald got into a verbal argument with the Cuban Ambassador, who felt that people like Oswald were harming the Cuban revolution, and as far as he was concerned. The Soviets would not be issuing a Visa for Oswald. The Cuban embassy would not issue a visa, without Oswald first acquiring a Russian Visa. Therefore, Oswald was left dead in the water and left Mexico City on October 2nd, arriving in Dallas,Texas on October 3rd and began job hunting, as he and Marina had a second child on the way.

Due to Oswald’s poor job record and references, he had difficulty in finding work. A neighbor of family friend Ruth Paine, knew of an open position at the Texas School Book Depository and referred Oswald there.

After an in person interview, Oswald was hired and began work on October 16. His job was to fulfill book orders.

Kennedy’s planned route on November 22nd was printed in at least two new papers in advance. It is reasonable to assume that Lee would have realized that the President was going to be passing by the Book Depository.

We can imagine that Lee’s fellow employees would also be excited by the opportunity to see the President and the Governor, along with the President’s wife, Jackie Kennedy. One can imagine that Kennedy’s campaign against Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and hardline stance against Marxism would have angered Lee. I am sure that he had no love for Governor Connally either, who had not taken action on Lee’s discharge papers as Secretary of the Navy. It must have been a tempting target. Lee had already tried to assassinate General Walker, wouldn’t a President and Governor be an even greater triumph? Lee was an emotionally unstable 24 year old, who had already defected to Russia, and attempted to travel to Cuba.

How did Lee Harvey Oswald transport his guns to the School Book Depository?

On Novermber 21st, 1963, one night before the President’s planned visit to Dallas, Lee asked a friend, Buell Frazier, for a ride back to Lee’s home in Irving Texas, to ostensibly pick up some “curtain rods”. This was an unusual request because Lee usually stayed at a rooming house in Dallas during the week. 

After spending the night with his family, Lee was seen the next morning carrying a heavy brown bag towards Buell’s car. The two drove to work that morning. Lee’s rifle, normally kept in the Irving house’sx garage, was missing. The FBI later demonstrated that the rifle could be broken down and reassembled quickly, using a 10 cent coin. The best theory that we have is that Lee was not carrying curtain rods in the large paper bag, but the rifle used in the assassination.

His landlady in Dallas affirmed that Lee would not need curtain rods for his room, as the room he rented was decorated with a curtain and curtain rod, making Lee’s story less plausible.x x

As I summarized earlier, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at the President. The first missed, the second and third struck the President, with the third one being the fatal shot.

Not everyone agrees that Lee was the sole shooter. Based upon a fim made by dressmaker Abraham Zapruder, on a 35mm Smith & Howell movie camera, JFK’s head appeared to snap back, possibly indicating that the bullet entered from another angle and giving rise to the theory of a second shooter, who fired a fourth shot from the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza.  Based on analysis conducted by Mark Weiss and Ernest Aschkenasy, Computer Scientists from Queens College of the City University of New York, on a Dictabelt recording of a Dallas police radio channel, Weiss and Aschkenasy determined that there was a 95% chance of a second shooter who fired from the grassy knoll on Dealey Plaza. 

A Dictabelt was a recording media formed of a length of vinyl that was engraved by a blunt stylus when recording. The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1979 that a second shooter must have been involved, and that Oswald had acted in a conspiracy. This was in contrast to the Warren Commission, which concluded that Oswald had acted alone in 1964.

The theory of a second shooter was later discredited by the FBI, which criticized  the analysis conducted by Weiss and Aschkenasy.

  • Oswald was shot two days after the assassination, on Sunday November 24th,  by Jack Ruby. Ruby was a shady, violent and unpredictable nightclub owner, who shot Oswald when Oswald was being transported from Dallas Police Headquarters to the county jail. The shooting was captured by photographer Bob Jackson. Ruby said that he killed Oswald to save the first lady from having to sit through a trial.

    Ruby was found guilty of murdering Oswald and sentenced to death, however he died died of a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot blocking the pulmonary artery) while appealing his conviction.

    Ruby was known by the police to run prostitution, narcotics and illegal gambling out of his nightclubs, with ties to organized crime.

In 2018, the CIA released a file writing in 1975 stating that the CIA misled the FBI and the Warren Commission regarding the CIA files. The CIA claimed that an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro may have backfired against President Kennedy.

Among other revelations in the CIA file:

The FBI misled the Warren Commission about intelligence gathered on Oswald through letter intercepts to left wing political groups.

The FBI misled the Commission about Jack Ruby being a Potential Criminal Informant.

The acts alone in this case are sufficient to spawn a multitude conspiracy theories, let alone conflicting conclusions by the HSCA and FBI about the number of shooters and number of shots fired. The fact that the FBI did not conduct their analysis on the tape to determine whether a second shooter had fired leaves enough doubt for skeptical minds to speculate that the FBI is part of a cover up.


The lack of transparency and information regarding investigations into the JFK Assassination revealed the extent of lawlessness at the FBI and CIA. The fact that these organizations often operated in secrecy, withheld information from each other and deliberately attempted to mislead senate and house investigations has created deep and long lasting distrust of the governmental organizations involved.

Movies such as Oliver Stone’s, “JFK” and 1998’s “Enemy of the State”, exemplify how distrust of governmental organizations has seeped into the psyche’s of everyday Americans and American pop culture.

The fact that the CIA and FBI have engaged in illegal activities that have deprived Americans of their inalienable rights justifies a lack of trust in these organizations, and in fact, increases the need for transparency and accountability that is still lacking today.

Government Distrust in the US Part II, Scandals, Schemes and Failed Conflicts

Full Episode Transcript

In episode 3, Government Distrust in the US Part 1, we began with the protests of January 6th 202. Our goal is to identify if Trump Supporters were justified in suspecting that election results were incorrect, and in fact, Donald Trump was the true elected President in 2020. We looked at the extreme distrust in the election results that moved a large group to protest in front of the Capitol and, eventually, break the law by trespassing, assaulting law enforcement officers and other crimes. Our question was, is this something new, or merely a continuation of the American Experience?

In our last episode, we found that the themes which led to extreme distrust with the Parliament in Great Britain in Colonial times, and ultimately the War of Independence, not only reverberate today, but are still being experienced. We also looked at Tariffs, the Nullification Crisis and Secession. Instead of these events being relics of the past, we identified and discussed the current examples of states passing legislation to bypass federal SALT (State And Local Tax) deduction limits to benefit small business owners (at the expense of W2 wage earners, who cannot participate in the same scheme), as well as  President Biden’s failed attempt to pass Federal voting laws to bypass State laws. States have the power document in the Constitution to develop their own election regulations, timing and practice.

We also saw how nullification and state laws passed to bypass federal one were key causes for the Secession of the Southern states from the union. Another main reason for secession was that the southern states wished to preserve the institution of slavery, a terrible practice that caused great misery and robbed the enslaved people of their liberty, to benefit slaveowners and other beneficiaries.

As we continue our journey through the history of our nation, let’s see what additional themes experienced in the past that apply to current times, starting with The Credit Mobilier scandal of 1872.

Post Civil War Corruption: 1872 – The Credit Mobilier Scandal – a financial scam enabled through bribery of top government officials.

The late 1800’s was the era of the railroad. Built by immigrants, but run by capitalists, the railroads were a great bubble, similar to the internet bubble of the late 1990’s, in that there was a speculative stock price runup and bonds fueling the expansion of railroad companies, in an accelerating land grab for money. Many of the railroads were unprofitable and when the bubble burst, in 1873, two decades of economic depression followed, defined by a steep and steady drop in economic activity, and high unemployment.

In other words, a very painful period.  But lets back up to 1872, the year before the bubble burst.

In 1872, The Union Pacific was building the railroad in the vast unpopulated territories between Omaha and the Great Salt Lake. Mere operation of the railroad alone, iwould unlikely to be profitable. The railroad companies knew that they could gain profits by sales of lucrative bonds, land contracts and government contract.

Exposed by The Sun, Credit Mobilier, a shell company formed by representatives of the Union Pacific Railroad, who used stock to bribe representatives in Congress, including​​ Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House and later Vice President, by selling them shares at a low price. The shares would then be used at a later date as a mechanism to dispense profits.

In return, congressmen would support the interests of the Union Pacific Railroad in government construction contracts for the railroad, awarding lucrative bonds and millions of acres of land.

Oakes Ames, a representative from Massachusetts, was a chief participant, as was James Brooks of New York. Both were censured by the House for their role in the scheme.

Censure is a mark of the house’s extreme displeasure, but does not meet the threshold for expulsion. Expulsion is the gravest punishment. A reprimand is a lighter rebuke than censure.

The scandal highlighted how public officials could be bought off by outside influences to benefit themselves and corporations, at the expense of the people,  through the illegal manipulation of construction contracts. The railroad companies believed that construction contracts would be more profitable than operation of the railroad once in service.

Conclusion: The average person would lose confidence in their elected government officials, increasing distrust and the sentiment that the powerful. The timing of this scandal, taking place after the Civil War, led to distrust in Reconstructionist policies at the time.

1921-1923: Teapot Dome scandal involved bribery of high level government officials to lease oil reserves to private companies at low prices, without competitive bids.

Teapot rock is a distinctive sedimentary outcropping that once bore a resemblance to a teapot. Over time, further erosion caused the rock to lose some of its distinctive features, including the “handle” and “spout” that formed the “teapot”. The “teapot dome” is an oilfield a few miles away that took its name from the famous teapot landmark.

In 1901 oil was first discovered in Texas. By 1910, the US Navy had converted its ships from coal powered to oil, an innovation over using relatively inefficient coal.  Which was notoriously difficult to handle.  An oil boom, then, spread rapidly throughout the American west.

Oilfields under Teapot Dome were used by the Navy for fuel oil to power ships, an innovation over using relatively inefficient coal. The oil rich lands were under the control of the Department of Navy until 1921 when President Harding transferred the control of oil rich lands from the Navy to the Dept. of the Interior. He did this through an executive Order. 

Interior Secretary Albert Fall, a cabinet level position, then leased the lands at a very low price to two private oil companies, without a competitive bidding process.

Although the leases themselves were not illegal, the oil companies paid Fall a total of around $500,000 or around $7 million in today’s money, which was illegal.

The matter was initially brought to the attention of Wyoming Senator John B. Kendrick by a Wyoming oilman who noticed Sinclair trucks hauling drilling gear into the teapot Naval Reserve.

The scandal was further exposed by Carl McGee, later the founder of the Albuquerque Tribune, who noticed a change in Fall’s fortunes. Fall paid up his ranch taxes, that had been overdue for 10 years, and McGee brought the matter to the attention of the Senate investigation.

Civil and criminal lawsuits followed. The Supreme Court found that the leases were illegally granted, and the control of the lands was returned to the Navy Department. Fall was fined and imprisoned.

Conclusion: Cabinet level corruption for personal enrichment and the benefit of oil companies created lasting mistrust. As a example of this, The First Gulf War, where Iraq had invaded Kuwait and threatened the Oil Fields of Saudi Arabia was viewed by critics as “A War for Oil”.

The Vietnam Conflict: Long term Involvement of US forces without Congressional Declaration of War. Loss of confidence in the leaders in Government to extricate US Armed forces from impossible situations / positions.

The Vietnam conflict was a tragic failure for the United States. President Truman and Eisenhower were motivated by the fear of the spread of Communism. Their fear was greater than the actual threat and the medicine ended up being worse than the disease. 

After 100 years of failed French Colonial policy, Truman and Eisenhower let their emotions about Communism affect their decision making, but so did three following Presidents.

Prior to US Involvement, the idea of using tactical nuclear bombs to support French forces at Dien Bien Phu was proposed. Thankfully, Eisenhower rejected the idea.

President John F. Kennedy (JFK)  initially assessing the situation in French Indochina correctly in 1954 stating, “I am frankly of the belief that no amount of American military assistance in Indochina can conquer an enemy which is everywhere and at the same time nowhere, “an enemy of the people” which has the sympathy and covert support of the people.”

JFK later changed his position to support South Vietnam against the North during his Presidential campaign, in order to address the perception amongst Americans that he was ‘soft’ on Communism.

Just so that we can all understand the situation the US was wading into, let’s back up and understand some of the history of the region:

Indochina was part of the Khmer Empire,  A Hindu/Buddhist Empire of South East Asia. France became involved through French Jesuit Priests that established Missions in the area during the 17th Century. The French East India Company, a company set up to establish trade and spread Catholicism, became active in the area beginning around 1668. In late 18th Century and early 19th, the French became involved in land disputes and to protect missionaries.

Local leaders became threatened by rising Catholicism, which sparked conflict. The French, with Spanish support, increased support through ships and men to consolidate control over the provinces.

By 1864, most of Vietnam fell under French control. The French were interested in increasing revenues and selling French good to the Vietnamese. Through until the late 1890’s, the Vietnam was costing the French more than the revenues that were being collected. In order to grow revenues, the French Colonial Governor encouraged opium use, and then raised taxes on Opium once enough people were addicted.

Heavy taxes were also raised on Rice and Rice Wine / Alcohol. Vietnamese who could not, or would not, pay their taxes, often lost their houses and lands and were forced to become day laborers. The French took over the lands of these poor farmers, and then paid them to plant and harvest rice. Through these economic policies, Vietnam became the third largest rice exporter, after Burma and Thailand.

From 1940 through 1946, Ho Chi Minh helped create the Viet Minh. After the French were forced out by the Japanese in 1945, the Viet Minh resisted the Japanese influence and control of the region.

During WWII, the US provided support to Ho Chi Minh through the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the CIA’s predecessor) to help locate downed aircraft. The US was popular for having helped repell the Japanese occupiers.

Harry S. Truman supported French colonial involvement and helped them to restablish in Vietnam. No sooner had the French arrived back in Viet Nam, then fighting broke out with Ho’s Minh’s forces.

A major defeat of the French occurred at Dien Bien Phu, which was a battle that took place from 13th March, 1954 through 7th May. Dien Bien Phu was intended as a trap created by the French to lure Ho’s forces into a killing field. Instead, General Giap of the Viet Minh turned  tables on the French. The French believed that they could be re-supplied by Air, thinking the North Vietnamese did not have any anti-aircraft guns.

However, the Viet Minh brought up artillery, including anti-aircraft guns, up the side of a mountain, and then tunnelled through to train their guns on the French position. There were ground battles, and after a two month siege, the French surrendered their position in a major defeat, and the French government in Paris resigned.

While the siege was taking place, the Pentagon recommended  the use of three nuclear weapons to support the French position, the National Security Council recommended one, but Eisenhower refused

Following the French withdrawal, an independent North and South Vietnam were created in 1954. The states were divided by the 17th parallel, according to the 1954 Geneva Accords. A unifying election was to take place in 1956. However, the elections never took place, as CIA Director Allen Dulles believed the people would overwhelmingly vote for the Viet Minh.

President Eisenhower believed that Vietnam was in the US’s strategic interest, and that it must remain democratic. He asserted Viet Nam’s right to choose their form of government, but privately worried about letting Vietnam, fall to communism. 

Under President Eisenhower, the US’s involvement in Vietnam began to escalate in 1956 and grew into the Vietnam conflict (although technically not a war as although Congress authorized the use of armed force in 1964, following the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Eisenhower was influential in the thinking of JFK, LBJ, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

JFK, in 1954 commented, “I am frankly of the belief that no amount of American military assistance … can conquer an enemy which is everywhere and at the same time nowhere.”

His tune changed in 1960 when running for President, as he was viewed as being soft on communism. Once President, JFK supported South Vietnam with men, material including Napalm, Agent Orange and 16,000 ‘military advisors’ that began engaging directly in contact with the North Vietnamese.

Following JFK’s assination in 1963, President Lyndon Baines Johnson continued support of the South Vietnamese.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident, taking place in August 1964, resulted in Congress granting the President expanded war powers, which LBJ used to support the South Vietnamese. The South was on the verge of falling at that point. This marked a new stage of direct US involvement in the Vietnam conflict.

Troop levels in Vietnam increased to 400,000 by 1965, 500,000 by 1967.

By March 1968, President Johnson announces that he will not run for re-election, after facing a withering backlash against America’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict.

Republican Richard Millhouse Nixon wins the 1968 U.S. Presidential election, prevailing over Democrat Hubert Humpfrey and third party candidate, George Wallace (Governor of Alabama who wanted to bring back segregationist policies to America). Intrestingly, Wallace’s campaign addressed:

Federal government powers and control of people’s daily lives.

Criticized the civil rights bill as taking away the ownership of private property and making it available for public use. This was a reaction to federal anti-discrimination laws that applied to both public and private property. The idea that federal law would apply to private property is not a new concept, as laws apply to everywhere in the nation (violence, sexual assault, fraud etc). The Civil Rights bill adds another crime to the list of things that people cannot do on their private property.

Religion in schools – Wallace opposed the idea that no prayers or mention of God can be made in public schools. The belief in a God, from which all good things originated, is not a religion, according to Wallace.

When Richard Nixon assumed the office of the Presidency in January, 1969, the US had suffered more than 48,736 KIA’s (Nixon stated 31,000 KIA’s. Nixon believed that he could conclude America’s involvement in the Vietnam Conflict within a year, but it took four years in actuality. What happened during those four, long years?

In order to demonstrate his toughness, Nixon ordered an increase of military activity and secret bombing campaigns in Cambodia during the early months of his term. The North Vietnamese had been using areas in Cambodia to establish base camps and enable the transit of supplies and men.

In June 1968, Richard Nixon met with President Thieu at Midway to discuss the withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam. From that point forward, the US withdrew forces.

Public negotiations were mere political theater, and and serious discussions would take place in private. Nixon wanted to deliver a number of “short, sharp blows” to coerce the North Vietnamese back into negotiations, but the idea never progressed beyond the planning phase. Having failed by the end of 1969 to make progress in negotiations, Nixon delivered a speech to buy time for a protracted conflict, invoking the “silent majority”. 

In his speech, Richard Nixon claimed that the unilateral withdrawal of US forces would be a disaster for the United States.

For the US, Nixon claimed that US defeat and humiliation in South Vietnam would cause allies to lose confidence in the US, and its leadership and encourage our enemies in the Middle East, Europe and eventually the West.

Ultimately, Nixon claimed that a precipitous withdrawal from Vietnam would cost more lives and would not bring peace. The North Vietnamese were holding out for the US to surrender before negotiations would begin – terms that Nixon would not accept.

Conclusion: By 1969, the North Vietnamese were in a strong position to with the peace, and thus were negotiating on their terms. Nixon incorrectly assessed the situation and thought that the US could win the peace, after being defeated in the war. 

In 1970, Richard Nixon authorized US troops to move into a 30 km strip over the border into Cambodia to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines and supply bases. This set back the North Vietnamese, giving time for the “Vietnamization” of the conflict.

In Spring 1971, the US launched a major Spring offensive. This was combined by a diplomatic effort to weaken China and Russian support for the North Vietnamese. This failed.

In 1972, negotiations failed to bring about terms that South Vietnam would accept.

Finally, in January 1973, Richard Nixon ended America’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict, following an extensive bombing campaign of North Vietnam in December 1972, known as Linebacker II.  It was the heaviest bombing campaign since WWII and its goal was to target major complexes in Hanoi and Haphong to bring the North Vietnamese back to the bargaining table.

The Nixon administration applied pressure on South Vietnamese President, Thieu to accept the peace deal negotiated in January 1973. President Thieu had misgivings that the North Vietnamese would honor the agreement, which Nixon addressed by providing personal assurances that the US would support the South Vietnamese should the North violate the agreement.

Upon US withdrawal of troops, neither side abided by the peace treaty and the war continued in Vietnam until 1975, concluding with the fall of Saigan.

Nixon never supported the South Vietnamese as promised, due to reluctance of Congress to re-enter the war and the Watergate scandal.

Conclusion: Rhetoric and the fear of the spread of communism propelled four US Presidents foolishly to engage in Southeast Asia. The war was conducted without the declaration of war, which is an overreach of power of the Executive Branch of government according to Article 1, Section 8 Clause 11 which states:

Congress shall have power to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

The Constitution of the United States

A significant amount of distrust is created when a series of 4 elected Presidents in the Executive Branch commit US forces into a conflict that spans three decades without a Congressional declaration of war. There is a check and balance that is missing that our framers intended to be in place to prevent catastrophes like the Vietnam conflict. 

LBJ left office with the US’ in a weak position, begging for a peace agreement to save face. Sensing complete victory, the North Vietnamese would have nothing of it. LBJ left the conflict in a shambles for his replacement and  his failure was complete.

President Nixon ignored the will of the American people, and carried on the war for an additional 4 years based upon his false beliefs costing an additional 9,414 unnecessary deaths. Richard Nixon’s assertion that he had a ‘secret plan’ was false.

The US ultimately proved to be a weak ally, when compared to Chinese and Russian support of the North Vietnamese. This makes sense when thinking about the existential threat presented to the Chinese mainland in the form of  a strongly U.S. allied Vietnam.

This lesson bears significance today as we think about Taiwan and the Korean peninsula, both considered of existential importance to China.

Following the Vietnam Conflict, Americans have become more suspicious of the Executive Branch war powers, and the commitment of US forces without a Congressional declaration of war. There would be little to separate executive war powers from that of a dictatorship without congressional oversight.

The Vietnam Conflict was unwinnable from the beginning, as Russia and China were committed to the cause of the North Vietnamese communists. The US did not want  to fight an open war with China or Russia, and was too cautious when attacking North Vietnam in order to not cause the Chinese to flow over the border to fight alongside the North Vietnamese, as they had done so in the Korean War.

The domino theory was ultimately the fear that engaged the US into the conflict, ignoring the lessons of a hundred years of French Colonialism in the region, and the will of the people to decide their own form of government.

Richard Nixon mistakenly believed that the North Vietnamese would negotiate a peace that favored US and South Vietnamese interests, while North Vietnam was winning the war and the propaganda campaign. They know that Americans wanted a withdrawal, and would stop at nothing less than a unified, communist, Vietnam.

Upon US withdrawal of troops, neither side abided by the peace treaty and the war continued in Vietnam until 1975, concluding with the fall of Saigan.

To sum up this episode, we walked through the Credit Mobilier Railroad scam, that involved a speaker of the house, and eventual Vice President. We reviewed the Teapot Dome scandal, in which a member of the President’s cabinet engaged in corruption by selling oil land leases through an illegal insider process for his private benefit. We then discussed the crisis of the  Vietnam Conflict, which involved four presidents and the deaths of almost 58,000 members of the US armed forces and an estimated two-hundred to two-hundred fifty thousand South Vietnamese – all conducted without a Declaration of War by the Congress. President Eisenhower did not trust the people of Vietnam to decide their own fate through an election in 1956, fearing that Communism would win. JFK began the involvement of the US in order to to look tougher on Communism domestically. LBJ further escalated the war, but ultimately admitted defeat and withdrew early from the Presidential election of 1968. Richard Nixon misled the American people by continuing the conflct for another four years and escalating it through offensives and bombing campaigns, instead of withdrawing the US swiftly. 

Going back to the story that precipitated this review of our history of Government Distrust in the U.S.:  the January 6th protest and storming of the Capital, it seems that there is plenty of justification for the public to suspect manipulation of elections, based upon the misdeeds of our leaders in the past. 

Before coming to any final conclusions,  we will continue our investigation by taking a detailed look at the assassination of an American President, the FBI, CIA, IRS and even the Post Office in my next episode. Those government agencies violated the Constitution, the liberties of American Citizens and at least one agency even went so far as to disobey the direct orders of a sitting US President.