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.

The Seeds of Distrust in the U.S.

During the COVID 19 pandemic of 2019-2021 government distrust has led to election fraud accusations & demonstrations, vaccination mandate protests and anti-mask movements, calling Government’s response to public health crises into question.

The results of the 2020 Presidential Election were marred by allegations of fraud leading up to the January 6, 2021 breach of the Capitol building by protestors, who were attempting to halt the counting of Presidential Election results. 

The count was disrupted by pro-Trump followers who broke into the building, forcing members of Congress to flee. This delayed the certification of the election results to the morning of Thursday the 7th of January, instead of the 6th as planned.

The box containing the Electoral College certificates had to be moved and secured, in order to prevent the results of the election from literally being stolen.

By the end of the day, 5 people were dead: a Capitol police officer who was beaten by rioters and sprayed in the face with a bear deterrent,  an air force veteran who was shot by police when climbing through a broken door, and three people who died in medical emergencies during the melee (one man due to a heart attack, a women who was crushed to death after being stampeded by demonstrators and stroke victim).

What is going on in America? Is this something new, or an old phenomenon that has simply increased in its intensity?

Those were the sounds from inside our nation’s capital on January 6, 2021. How did distrust of the US Presidential Election result in lawlessness, including trespassing and assault, not to mention highly threatening behavior?

To find the answers, we will be taking a trip back in time to the Colonial era, moving through the early crises of our young American nation, and leading up to the Secession of the Confederate States. We will discover that the very same themes playing out today, created distrust in the past leading to the birth of a new nation and war.

It is clear that distrust of the government is rising in the USA, and I hope that you enjoy this walk down memory lane to identify some of the causes.

As always, let’s start with the basics. How is Government Distrust defined ?

Government (definition 5(a) in Merriam-Websters Collegiate dictionary: the organization, machinery or agency through which a political unit exercises authority and performs functions and which is usually classified according to the distribution of power within it.

Distrust means: the lack or absence of trust 

Political: of or relating to government

Government distrust, then, is the lack or absence of trust in the organization, machinery or agency in which a political unit exercises authority and performs functions. I think that this definition is precisely what we want to discuss today. 

There is a significant amount of distrust in the government today among Americans, broadly through the office of the President, the Congress, the courts and all political units where they exercise authority and perform functions.

What I will show in this three part series is that distrust in Government has been around longer than our Republic, and that fraud, bribery and scandals are nothing new.

Let’s take a look at this issue from a historical context, beginning with colonial times, through to today.

Colonial America: Distrust created by unfair policies and taxes designed to extract value from one group, and give to another.

The purpose of American Colonies’ from their onset was to enrich Mercantilist England. In 1651 and 1660, the English Parliament wanted to increase revenue and passed the Navigation Acts. The Acts required that goods from America that were to be shipped to England, or to other English Colonies, would be transported solely upon English or Colonial ships. The main competitive target at the time was the Dutch. Certain goods, such as tobacco, sugar and cotton were to be solely traded with England, leaving out more competitive buyers. This severely impacted growers and merchants, since England could not absorb all of the exports that were produced.

The Navigation Acts were extremely unpopular, as colonial farmers would earn less for their crops and other raw materials, than they would gain on open markets. The response from colonial merchants was to smuggle goods to other markets, such as Dutch colonies, so that more more attractive prices could be gained for their goods. Ships and cargo ran the risk of being confiscated by the British Navy, but fortunately, it was far too costly for the Navy to enforce the Acts, and smuggling was largely ignored until 1776.

The colonists at the time did not view smuggling as a crime, and typically sailed with duplicated paperwork and charted courses to avoid patrols.

In 1763 after a resounding victory for Great Britain, the Seven Years War (1756-1763), or French and Indian War as it is also known, left England in debt. To help pay it off, Parliament enacted new taxes on the Colonies designed to reimburse Britain for costs incurred during war. These new taxes included the Stamp Act of 1765, a tax on all official documents and papers and the Townshend Act which went into effect in November 1767. The Townshend Act consisted of duties on certain imported goods that the British didn’t think the colonists could make, such as English China, Lead, Glass, and Tea.

Even though the tax rate for the Colonists at the time equalled 1/20th of those paid by their counterparts in England, the Americans protested vehemently against the taxes and either refused to drink British tea, or instead chose illegally imported Dutch tea. 

The mounting effects of the boycott of English Tea, and smuggling, hurt the East India Company. After years of colonial protests, culminating in the Boston Massacre of March 1770, most of the taxes included in the Townshend Act were repealed by Parliament in April 1770, except for the tax on imported tea. The Tea Act was a symbolic gesture showing that Parliament had retained the authority to tax the colonies. The Tea Act was intended to force the colonists to buy tea only from the East India Company.

Protests continued arguing the unfairness of taxation without representation. Led by Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty, men boarded three ships in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773. (The Dartmouth, The Beaver and the Eleanor, two of which were Nantucket Quaker owned ships, and one was owned by a Bostonian). Ineptly disguised as Native American tribesmen, they split open casks of East India Company tea with tomahawks and dumped 45 tons of it, valued at $1,000,000 in today’s money, into the harbor. Young boys joined the festivities by climbing the mounds of tea, and pushing them over to be sure that the sea water spoiled all of it.

Parliament was outraged by the actions of the colonists and in retaliation, it passed the Coercive Acts: The Boston Port Act, The Massachusetts Governing Act, The Act for the Impartial Administration of Justice, and the Quartering Act. Not intended by Parliament to be punitive, the Quebec Act further inflamed Colonists’ sentiment against England. I will review each Act briefly

The Boston Port Act

Closed the port of Boston to all commercial trade, but allowed supplies to British Forces and necessary items for the Colonists such as fuel and food.

Thomas Paine used the suffering of Bostonians, including starvation or abandoning their homes to the British, as cause for American Independence. 

The Boston Port Act damaged the economy of Boston, causing loss of trade and unemployment.

The Massachusetts governing act

Removed the representative government of Massachusetts, and put in place a council, whose members had to be approved by the Governor. Essentially, the Governor would handpick the council. Judges and sheriffs could be appointed without the council’s approval. Sheriffs could appoint jurors, making the entire judicial system completely unfair.

The Act for the Impartial Administration of Justice

Enabled the Governor in Massachusetts to send individuals for trial to Great Britain, or another colony, where they were sure to be convicted. The right of Habeas Corpus had been removed, as was the right to a trial by peers, inalienable rights granted under the Magna Carta of 1297

The Quartering Act

Forced colonist to house British soldiers in uninhabited barns or houses at the expense of the colonists. This practice infuriated Americans.

The Quebec Act

Increased negative sentiment toward Parliament, but its passage was not linked directly to the Boston Tea Party. The Act extended the southern border of Quebec down to the Ohio River, granted religious freedoms to Canadian Catholics, reinstated French civil law, especially the seigneurial system which enabled a feudal system style of land grants by a privileged class, the seigneurs, and changed the loyalty oath to make it easier for Catholics to take positions in the government. The Colonists feared that Parliament could make similar changes in the American Colonies further eroding their inalienable rights.

In Conclusion the coercive Acts were designed to punish and control the Colonists, but ultimately they accelerated talk of rebellion and precipitated the revolution. The Quebec Act was viewed by the Colonists as a projection of Parliament’s power, stripping away their inalienable rights. Removing the checks and balances of government, taking away Habeas Corpus the right to a trial by jury of peers, and other punitive measures are sure to create distrust, ultimately leading to the American War of Independence. The Boston Tea Party still resonates today as an appropriate response to unfairness.

Power concentrated into one person or branch of government, without balance, leads to unrest and revolt. This reverberates through to modern times, where Governors in states like New York and New Jersey were heavily criticized for using their emergency powers to shut down businesses, force assisted living homes to accept COVID positive patients and effectively lock people in their homes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Nullification: Creating distrust through challenges to federal laws and authority

The year is 1798, in Post colonial, Independent America, Federalism is on the rise, French officials are demanding bribes (in what has become known as the XYZ affair) sparking a naval conflict with France and the concept of nullification is introduced by two of the framers of the Constitution.

President John Adams and the Federalists had come to believe that a strong Federal Government was necessary to the survival of the Republic. The Adams Presidency and Federalists in Congress began to enact policies that expanded the Federal Government’s powers. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison held that the Federal Government had no right to powers that had not been delegated to it under the Constitution. If the Federal Government assumed such powers, then the states had the right to declare them unconstitutional and invalid. This was due to the belief that the Constitution was a compact among the states, and the fact that judicial review system was not yet well developed.

The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 were highly controversial and labeled unconstitutional by some. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson argued that the states had the right and duty to declare them so.

The Alien Acts gave power to the government to deport foreigners, and make it harder for them to vote. This was mainly aimed at French and Irish immigrants, who were mostly pro-French.

The Sedition Act effectively prohibited public protest against the Government. Newspapers could not publish articles critical of the government. It was a clear violation of the first amendment of the US Constitution.

In response, Kentucky and Virginia passed Resolutions that rejected the Acts and declared them invalid in their states. The resolutions were secretly written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, two of the original framers of the Constitution

Some other States did not agree, and believed that such powers to determine what rights the Federal government was granted under the constitution was to be determined by the Judiciary.

Regardless, with the threat of War and Republican Democratic party winning control of the Federal Government in 1800, most of the Acts either expired, or were appealed, except for the Alien Enemy Act, which was expanded to include women in 1918, and provides the Federal Government with the power to deport aliens from a country with which the US is at war.

All told, there were 25 prosecutions, of the Alien Act, resulting in 10 convictions of the Alien Act.

Led to the Nullification Crisis of 1832-33

After the war of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars, British Manufacturers began to offer goods at prices that American producers could not match. The Northeastern states wanted the Tariff Act because as manufacturers, their economies were negatively impacted by low cost foreign goods and raw materials.

In response, Congress passed the Tariff act of 1828 raising tariffs on imported goods to 38%, and 45% on imported raw materials.

In December 1828, John C. Calhoun anonymously published a pamphlet entitled, “South Carolina Exposition and Protest” which argued for nullification of the Tariffs and secession of South Carolina. As a primarily agrarian state, it relied on imports for manufactured goods and certain raw materials and would be unfairly impacted by the Tariff Acts. 

The executive branch was split with Vice President John C. Calhoun (Vice President under John Quincy Adams, and later under Jackson) supporting nullification, and President, Andrew Jackson supporting the power of the Federal Government to enact Tariffs. Jackson argued that nullification would give a state the ability to resist all laws and collapse the Federal Union.

In July, 1832, Congress enacted the Tariff Act of 1832, but it did not go far enough to address the grievances of the Southern States.

On November 24, 1832, South Carolina adopted the Ordinance of Nullification, and declared the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 “null and void”.

Congress authorized the use of force against South Carolina to enforce Federal law and South Carolina prepared to defend itself against federal forces. 

The situation was defused by The Tariff of 1833 which gradually reduced tariffs down to 20%.

Conclusion: Rising Federalism leading to new powers for the Federal Government, stripping away rights guaranteed under the first amendment, the responding theory of nullification (validated by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison), protectionist Tariffs and their unequal effect on the Southern States vs. Northern, led to crises, and eventually the Civil War.

Secession: The belief that States are free, independent and sovereign states with all the powers of Statehood.

The conflict between the interests of the Northern States, the Southern States, the issue of slavery and the Territories came to a head in 1860 and 1861.

On  December 20, 1860, South Carolina issued the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. In that document, the assembly argued that:

The Declaration of Independence declared that the thirteen colonies were “free and independent states” and that as free and independent states, they have full rights to operate as states:

  • Levy war
  • Contract alliances
  • Make peace
  • Establish commerce
  • And do everything else a state can do

Further they argued, since the Declaration of Independence was made in response to the abuses of Great Britain, the colonies were absolved of all allegiance to the British Crown and political connection. On September 3rd, 1783, a treaty was signed by Great Britain acknowledging the independence of the Colonies and naming each Colony as a free, sovereign and independent state. The articles of the Union were agreed to by Colonies who entered it, and those who did not ratify, remained free and independent.

They then argued that the Constitution had been breached by the Federal Government, and since the States had the ability to agree and ratify the Constitution, they could certainly dissolve their relationship with the Federal Government, as evidence South Carolina cited:

Article 4, clause 3, the fugitive slave clause which the free states had bypassed or nullified. 

South Carolina argued that the clause was so vitally important, that they would not have agreed to the Constitution without it.

Jefferson Davis, and the leaders of the Southern States, believed that States were sovereign entities and could secede if they wanted to. He believed that the States should each make their own decision about Slavery.

Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Davis felt that the abolition of slavery was inevitable. The Mississippi house of representatives had voted to secede on January 9, 1861 (South Carolina had already voted to secede).  Davis argued in the Senate that that Mississippi had been deprived of rights bequeathed to her that:

  • Cited that all men are free
  • All races are equal
  • Believed that the above two points only applied to men of the political community

The Northern Free States had Nullified the Fugitive Slave Law – by passing laws to bypass or nullify the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. He believed that this was an attack on Mississippi’s social institutions.

Cited that the Constitution specifically stated that slaves were equal to 3/5ths, and thus not equal to white men. Specifically, the Constitution referred to “other Persons”, ie slaves, in Article One,Section 2, Clause 3. This was in reference to how many Representatives each state could send to Congress, and how taxes can be apportioned.

Conclusion: The belief that States had the Sovereign Right to decide to enter the Union, and also the right to decide when and how they wanted to leave led to the secession of the Southern States from the Union. They formed the Confederate States of America, and ultimately brought about the US Civil War. The wealth of the Southern states was locked up in the value of slaves, and their resource as cheap labor.  Southern State assemblies were not about to give up their economies that were based upon cheap labor and slave ownership.

The Southern states were criticized for nullifying the Tariff laws – that protected the North, but at the cost the Southern agrarian states. Southerners found it to be inconsistent when many northern states nullified or passed laws to bypass, the Slave Act of 1850.

Conclusion of this episode:

When the British Parliament attempted to use revenues collected from the Colonies to pay for war debts incurred by England, and prop up enterprises like the East India Company,  many colonists objected. They developed a deep sense of distrust, because no one likes to be manipulated or treated unfairly.

When frustrations boiled over into protests, Parliament tried to reign in the colonies through punitive acts, that backfired. Ultimately, the War for Independence resulted, giving birth to a new nation.

When the United States formed, out of the free and independent colonies, some states believed that they had retained rights, such as nullification or the right to own slaves. This lead to the nullification crisis and, ultimately, the US. Civil War.

Government distrust was a huge issue that resulted in the American War for Independence and the Civil War, conflicts that define us as a nation.

The ideals of fair tax treatment, and the powers that States have retained and those granted to the Federal Government by the free and independent states, resonate today.

Recent initiatives in 2022 of President Joe Biden to pass federal election laws flies in the face of the US Constitution. President Biden recently commented that state voting laws “are election subversion” and that “its simply unconscionable. Unfortunately for the President, he is completely wrong. The Constitution provides powers to the States, to determine “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives. Its curious that he would criticize States for exercising their powers. Let’s remember that following the War of Independence, the Colonies were free and independent states, able to make their own treaties and alliances. The document that defines how our nation operates clearly gives this power to the states, which was agreed to at the time of our nation’s founding.

The Constitution does state that Congress can pass laws to alter voting regulations. However, in 2022 President Biden failed to convince the Senate to create federal voting laws to supersede State rules. Joe Biden seems to be acting as a modern day federalist, a James Madison. One could argue that federalism reduces liberty by taking more powers away from the State Assemblies, which are elected by the local citizenry.

In case we should think that nullification is a dead concept, recent laws by several States, including New York and New Jersey, were designed to subvert federal cap of State And Local Taxes, SALT,  deductions, (kept to $10,000 for most W2 wage earners), and exempt small business owners through a loophole. These States have helped small business owners evade the payment of federal taxes by passing Acts allowing small business owners to deduct SALT payments from their personal income. When states pass laws to bypass federal laws, at the expense of others, (W2 wage earners), distrust results. State laws designed to bypass federal ones, such as the fugitive slave acts, were significant contributing factors to the Civil War.


Host: Paul Kristoffer

Topics discussed:

  • What are beliefs, and how are they formed?
  • Why do we humans have beliefs?
  • How can we determine if our beliefs are true or false?
  • How can we discuss important topics as a community without anger, violence or lawlessness?

Full Transcript:

There is a struggle in the world today. A conflict older than history. It’s a competition of ideas, and their proponents. Its  about who is right, and who is wrong and how major decisions are being made. But is it, really, and how can we change this dynamic?

The stakes are high because the outcomes are of great consequence for families, careers, industry, society and government. The vast majority of us are quietly going about our daily lives, while this war is being waged across all forms of media, the educational system, [from pre-K through high school and college], religious & social cause organizations, government and corporate offices.

Whether we acknowledge it, or not, we are all involved.

Episode 1: Belief

This episode is inspired by a man I met last summer from Idaho. He was visiting family in Vermont and he told a story about his neighbor, who believed in a certain religion and commented about his neighbor that, “I don’t care what you believe, as long as you believe something.” I have thought about this since, and did some of my own research to determine whether this fellow was saying something I could agree with, or not.

As we have seen recently in American culture, the conflict between different beliefs can cause us to argue, shout, damage property, storm buildings and break laws.

But why are discussions about government, taxes, spending, what rights individuals should or should not have, that are of great importance to everyone, so emotionally charged; marked by shouting, hatred and violence. Surely there is a better way to move towards meaningful progress in society where all voices can be heard, and ideas shared with respect.

If we want to get to this future, it is crucial to talk about beliefs, what they are, why we are so tied to them, how they are formed and how to change them. We all have beliefs, but how much time have any of us spent understanding how those beliefs were formed, and how valid are the underlying assumptions? Are we taking someone else’s word for it, like a favorite news anchor, tv personality, organization or politician? Ans why do we give an outsized degree of power to our beliefs and let them dominate our behavior, attitudes and mood?

How much pointless human suffering is taking place today because of our beliefs, or the beliefs of others? The purpose of this podcast is to make human society better, by questioning dangerous beliefs and reducing suffering. 

Let’s start with the basics. What is a belief?

Most people will define a belief as that which we have accepted as true, genuine or real.

Simple enough, but how to we come to believe? And why do we humans believe at all? Where did this capability come from? And how does belief impact our lives and well being?

Well, fortunately, beliefs have been a study of psychologists for a long time. There is strong evidence, based upon research, that beliefs are vitally important to our survival, for the following two reasons:

1. Faster Decision making

2. Energy savings

Research has shown that beliefs are shortcuts created in our brains to save time and energy, especially for routine tasks. This enables us to react faster to opportunities and threats.

Our brains do this by recognizing patterns and using existing structures to make decisions and react to circumstances. Our brains are continually on the lookout for patterns and associations. We are making cause-and effect relationships all the time, whether one exists, or not.

This has been the cause of much human suffering. For example, over 200 people were accused of Witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. By the end, 30 people were found guilty, 5 died in jail and one man was pressed to death, which apparently involves the barbaric practice of being placed under a huge weight until dead. The Pilgrims had a long list of death penalty crimes, including the crime of following other religions. Today, most people don’t believe that  withcraft  is real, and that its a mis-placed phobia or paranoia that sprang from the dark minds of people living in harsh conditions. We should not judge them too harshly, however, as any of us can fall prey to the exact same traps in the labyrinth of the human mind, unless we stay disciplined and ever vigilant against them.

So, why does the brain need shortcuts and belief systems at all? Well, we are limited by the amount of time and information we have available to us. As a result, we are forced to rely on biases and beliefs to make decisions. Further, these shortcuts reduce the amount of mental effort required. Do not assume, however, that the choices made are right. In fact, more frequently than not, we are making incorrect decisions faster – saving energy along the way! In business, it is not whether a decision is ultimately right or wrong that matters. Speed, and the ability to make corrections quickly, are favored over lengthy indecision.

In 2014 Geoff P Lovell, Ross Newell and John K Parker in, “Research in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences” magazine, decided to determine whether English Premier league soccer referees had a bias for home teams over visiting ones. The study was to confirm what fans and media had always suspected, that referees did in fact make calls in favor of the home team, especially in contentious or close calls. Soccer referees train to make fair and unbiased decisions all the tim, but their unconscious biases, over-ride what they are perceiving through their eyes (which is actually the brain doing the ‘seeing’) to make the wrong call. If the people whose job it is to remove bias from their decisions can’t do it, then what hope does the average citizen have? Without science, data and facts? None.

If they are often so hopelessly wrong, why are the brain’s shortcuts, important from a biological perspective? If we are incorrect more often than right, how does this help us in the wild?

The sound of a twig snapping in the forest at night could well be a dangerous predator. With little time before an attack, “Run!” would be our brains immediate response, saving our lives.  The faster the action is taken, the more likely an individual is to survive. If it turns out that the sound was made by a fallen branch, or a harmless small mammal, it hardly matters, However, most of us do not face ‘life or death’ situations today, unless we are crossing a busy street in a noisy city, meaning that many processes of the brain are remnants from our development as a species, not necessarily 100% helpful in the modern world.

The advantages of these shortcuts is that they take less brain processing power and time. It’s much easier to skip all of the thinking and take the right action, or make a decision. But these built in pathways do not always work, which is why we make mistakes all the time. Thinking is hard!

So, how are beliefs formed, and what are they actually? At the simplest level, our brains make associations that may, or may not, exist based upon our lived experience, or perceptions. For example, if “b” follows “a”, then our brian makes a connection that “a” causes “b”. Knowing that game animals are attracted to acorns in the fall increases a hunter’s chance at a meal by staking out the area beneath a mature oak tree that is dropping its fruit. This then forms a belief in the hunters mind that hunting near oak trees in the fall will increase the chances of finding game. An essential survival trait. These associations are neural connections, or circuits, that are created in the brian.

When these circuits are “hard coded”, the neural pathways are reflexive and unconscious – like the famous Pavlov’s dogs. The ring of a dinner bell brought about a salivary response through learned conditioning. The dog does not need to think – the response occurs reflexively. This happens to us humans all the time – and some are very dangerous and harmful.

However, this is not the entire story from a biological perspective. Making faster decisions is only one aspect of survival. In order to survive, an individual must not die of starvation or dehydration. Therefore, saving energy and operating efficiently are also competitive advantages.

The brain is the part of our bodies that powers these capabilities. It is a complex and awesome organ, however, it does not come cheaply. It is our body’s most energy intensive organ. According to Simon Laughlin, professor of zoology at Cambridge University, a typical adult brain consumes 20% of the body’s energy at rest, but only makes up 2% of the body’s mass and contains one hundred billion nerve cells, called neurons,

What is driving the need for all of this energy? Well the bulk of the energy is consumed at the synapses, the gaps between cells, to pump ions exchanging potassium and sodium to create electrical charge. This pumping action is key to the brian’s activity, but it’s extremely energy intensive.

Certain activities, such as hearing, require faster, real time processing, and are more energy intensive. Others, such as smell, are slower requiring less energy.

The body’s main source of energy is glucose but the brain has no ability to synthesize or store it. The brian must be continuously supplied with fresh nutrients through the blood. This is why low levels of glucose in the blood can lead to impaired brian function, or  even brain death over a few hours time.

Beliefs, then, are an adaptation to help the brain conserve energy by making faster, automatic decisions that require less processing power.  Less neurons need to be involved, less synapses and less ions to be pumped equate to energy savings. However, what a mess these beliefs have caused us in society today, and throughout history.

The brain is continually searching for and creating causal relationships where none may exist. We now understand these connections to be hard coded circuits, or connections, between neural pathways that can be quite subconscious. Often, however, our brains can’t tell the difference and we are fooled into thinking “a” causes “b” when the assumption is not true. Pavlov’s dinner bell did not cause the dog’s food to appear, but to the dogs brains, it certainly did. There are many examples of incorrect, or false, beliefs starting with early man’s explanation of natural phenomenon as the actions of gods, or medieval medicine being thought of based upon flowing “humors” in the body, or the theory of spontaneous generation of life. The only way, though, to be sure of a causal relationship is through observation and statistical analysis. This eliminates the powerful biases of our brains and enables data based decision making, vs. emotional or biased decisions.

As an example, as ice cream sales increase, so do murder rates. However, not many people believe that ice cream causes murder, although this can’t be ruled out entirely. It’s most likely a correlation, not a causal relationship.

Another example are superstitions. Let’s say a friend gives you a rabbit’s foot for good luck, and nothing bad happens to you that day, you are likely to associate the rabbit’s foot with good luck (although undoubtedly, bad luck for the rabbit).

We are pre-wired by our brains to develop beliefs, to save time and energy. We get beliefs from our parents, teachers, cultures and society. Further, we will develop our own beliefs through lived experience.

This problem is bad enough when individuals are making poor decisions based upon false beliefs, but is magnified when considering groups.. We seen how people with common beliefs form groups, or the reverse, people in groups start to organize themselves through beliefs that are then shared to new individuals, such as cults or secret societies. These groups can exert more power and influence when acting together, then as individuals. There are clear advantages, but how exactly do shared beliefs strengthen the group and how would this help from an evolutionary perspective?

Well, they  increase the competitiveness of the group and, therefore, the survivability of individuals. Robert Boyd, professor of Human Behavior and Social Change at Arizona State University argues in his book, “A Different Kind of Animal”, that norms amongst a group provide a scaffold for sharing decisions, limiting the scope of internal and external conflict, making the group more competitive.

Cultural norms and taboos are generally created and spread by individuals deemed to have knowledge by the group, rather than by individuals trying to figure out how stuff works. How many of us have seen this in the workplace, where people at the top make major decisions based upon their own beliefs, not necessarily the best thought out solution. This is how tribes have ended up with behaviors such as:  dietary taboos, food distribution rules, and unique codes of behavior governing courtship, marriage and war.

These socially accepted rules and taboos were not developed through observations and testing, but through imitation. Since we know that humans create a lot of mistaken connections or assumptions, a lot of maladaptive behaviors result. Maladaptive behaviors are those that stop us from adapting to new or difficult circumstances. Its ironic that a trait we’ve inherited to make us more competitive, can result in behaviors that do the opposite and make us less adaptive to new circumstances. This is how major civilizations in the past collapsed, circumstances changed, but their ideology and practices did not.

OK, so why do humans get it wrong, and follow incorrect beliefs even to destruction?

Unfortunately, it is perfectly natural. Our brains and central nervous system are the result of millions of years of evolution, and what improved the survival of an individual, may not apply well to civilizations over the long term, or modern society at all. The brain evolved along with every other organ, and cell, in the body. The biological traits which are archaic remnants of the past create unnecessary stress and anxiety today.

Just take a look at one of the most fundamental questions that has been answered by cultures across the world and time is the story of creation. All civilizations that we can think of  have developed their own stories. Typically,  the world, stars and planets were created by a deity, deities or character that already exists out of nothing, or a god or gods created the world out of themselves or something that was already created.

These stories are universally not in alignment with measurements and observations taken from Earth, but nevertheless those people believed and billions of people still believe in literal stories of creation, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Early humans, lacking the ability to record observations, track data and review, are unable to develop a reliable theory of creation. Instead, early astronomers were persecuted because of their observations which ran contrary to accepted dogma. Observations, data, evidence and practical applications of science to the contrary do not dissuade people who believe in their culture’s stories of creation. These are durable, multi-generational beliefs that are transmitted through the millenia.

The only way, then, to reliably evade the bias and flaws of our own thinking is the scientific method, and to look for facts to disprove our own theories vs. looking for ways to prove our own theory. Through science, we are able to develop questions, make predictions, observe measurements, form hypotheses that are then tested and shared. Only then can we develop reliable theories and gain knowledge.

So why are human beliefs formed without the scientific method usually, but not always, so flawed? According to Ralph Lewis, writing  in Psychology Today :

“All of us are working under beliefs that are prone to error, because we have a preference for familiar conclusions over unfamiliar ones.

When we receive new information, our strong preference is to fit it into an existing framework, rather than repeatedly constructing the framework from scratch.

Think about it. Have you ever been accused of doing something, just because you have done something similar in the past, such as eating the last cookie; or have you ever jumped to a conclusion, only to find out later that you were wrong? I think all of us have experienced this in life to one degree or another.

Due to these cognitive assumptions, our own thinking actually prevents us from coming up with accurate beliefs, unless rigorously tested and treated with skepticism.

To make matters worse, many beliefs work together, and are strengthened by, inter-related belief networks across social groups. For example, those people interested in conspiracy theories in general, are more likely to believe in the flat-earth theory, faked moon landings and outlandish JFK assasination plots.

Belief networks made up of those people who believe in conspiracy theories in general and strengthen beliefs in individual conspiracies.. This brings more people together into social groups and validates their individual beliefs. It is much easier to agree as a group, then to stand up as an individual and question beliefs.

When extended through social networking platforms, geographically distributed people can reach out to each other and easily share and spread ideas. Today, almost no idea is too radical or, “off the charts crazy” to gain proponents. This is precisely because the ideas can quickly find traction amongst a group of geographically dispersed individuals with the flimsiest of evidence. Given the billions of people on the earth, this phenomena would seem to continue to accelerate at the speed of internet adoption globally – a scary proposition.

Why are our brains so easily fooled? Unfortunately, we all have a built in bias to accept beliefs based upon culture, what our social group tells us is true, parents, charismatic people and we form our own beliefs and theories. From there, most of us will filter out information that demonstrates our beliefs and theories are untrue or incomplete, and only favor positive information that seemingly reinforces our belief.

Unfortunately, most people will not change false beliefs that are core to their identity throughout their lifespan, due to this phenomenon. They will continue to look for evidence that reinforces their belief, and throw out evidence contrary to them.

Since we have invested personally into our beliefs, and it would be quite embarrassing and painful to admit that we were completely wrong and change, it is much easier to simply dig in deeper and defend our beliefs as correct, even if we ourselves suspect that the foundations of our beliefs rest on shaky ground.

However, this is precisely what we must do. Those of us who have seen new facts or information that we have not considered before must change our beliefs. This should be celebrated, not ridiculed or judged harshly. Those of us who are able to change and grow based upon the facts are contributing to a better society by moving away from harmful beliefs. It is those who are too hidebound to change that should be admonished. 

It is important to remember, also, that we need to have love and compassion for those who ardently hold to false beliefs, as we are all susceptible to the same condition

To sum it up, we are pre-wired to accept false beliefs, maladaptive behaviors, and many of these can and do lead to harm. 

However, when presented with evidence and data, we must make the conscious decision to shift. Or continue to value false beliefs, which is a detriment to society and often ourselves.

About my well meaning friend from Idaho who doesn’t care what people believe, as long as they believe something; I can now state (with love and affection) that I do not agree with this statement. I do care about what people believe because false or incorrect beliefs can and do lead to creating human misery. My goal in this podcast series is to take a fact based review to determine what beliefs we are discussing as a culture are valid, meaning their underlying assumptions are true, and the belief structures are relevant and helpful, and which ones are not and lead to harm.


The focus is to apply this lens to some of today’s biggest hot button issues, to eliminate bias as much as possible, and come to a conclusion based upon data or scientific evidence.
Please leave me your feedback, positive, negative or neutral, it will be used to help improve. 

Thank you for listening and here are some upcoming episodes to keep on the lookout for:


Distrust of the Government in US