There are two sides to every story. Judges rightly admonish juries to check out both sides before coming to a conclusion. Our entire system of adversarial justice is built on this principle. But under surveillance by FBI in the 2001 anthrax mailings case, U.S. Army scientist Bruce Ivins committed suicide. So only one side got to tell its version of the story.

Upon closing the case on February 19, 2010, FBI issued an Amerithrax Investigative Summary that concludes that Ivins was the anthrax mailer. The Summary contains serious errors as well as minor ones. It also omits crucial information. So, to ensure a fair outcome, we need to look at it through the eyes of a defense attorney, to make sure that the American people can check out both sides of the story before coming to a conclusion.

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In World War I Imperial Germany faced the daunting task of fighting Great Britain, France, and Russia at the same time.  Mindful of the unfairness inherent in passing judgment in hindsight, we can usefully ask whether Germany might have won the war even against these odds had it not made too many serious mistakes.  “What if?” history of this sort can help us understand better what actually happened, and it can provide precautionary lessons for the future.  Here is a list of key German mistakes, omitting errors at the battlefield level, in this colossal human tragedy.

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Hitler and Generals

By all accounts, Nazi Germany made serious errors in waging the Second World War that kept it from achieving much greater success, though whether it could have won the War remains open to doubt, given the American effort to develop nuclear weapons.  Also, Japanese mistakes need to be taken into consideration.  At any rate, asking “What if” questions about German strategy can help us better understand what actually happened.

Here is a list of key German mistakes that can guide our thinking about the many lessons we can learn from this greatest of wars (not included are significant errors at the battlefield level such as at Dunkirk and Stalingrad).  Of course, this list assumes that Germany’s decision to go to war in the first place and with the goals it had for doing so made sense.  I thank my students for their contributions to the list.1

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japanwwiiWhen Japan went to war against the United States in 1941, its chances of winning were slim, indeed.  But it is worth asking what steps Japan might have taken, or what mistakes it might have avoided, to increase the likelihood of greater success and possibly even victory.

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stonehenge3One of the world’s most famous monuments, Stonehenge abounds in mysteries and anomalies.

Why was Stonehenge built in the first place?  Why was it radically transformed shortly before 2500 BC into a masterpiece of megalithic architecture?  What explains the intricate, changing patterns of the stones over time?   Why the extraordinary effort?

We now have answers to these and other questions, but to get to them we need to set aside preconceptions and come to terms with something that isn’t simple.

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 Mary Pinchot Meyer

On October 12, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer was murdered on the canal towpath in Georgetown1. A divorced artist from a prominent family, Meyer was known by insiders to have been President John F. Kennedy’s senior female consort during his White House years, though the story never leaked to the public.

Her murder and the ensuing trial of Raymond Crump, Jr., an African-American laborer found by the police in the vicinity of the murder, drew a good deal of attention at the time. Crump had been identified by a gas station attendant helping start a car on a road overlooking the canal. Hearing cries of “Somebody help me. Somebody help me” and two shots, the attendant ran to look.

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ST-C310-87-63Sometimes a storyteller misses the real meaning of the story.

By all accounts, the Cuban Missile Crisis was the most dangerous episode of the Cold War.  The United States and the Soviet Union came frighteningly close to launching nuclear attacks at each other.  Only fear, luck, and occasionally inspired negotiating moved them onto the path of resolving the crisis−via a humiliating Soviet withdrawal in the face of U.S. nuclear superiority.

Historians have identified many motives for the initial Soviet decision to place missiles in Cuba. 

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April 4, 1968.  Civil rights leader Martin Luther King was killed by a single bullet as he stood on the second floor balcony outside his hotel room in Memphis.1   The shot came from high on his right, not on a horizontal trajectory from the rooming house behind the hotel of the alleged assassin, James Earl Ray.  Ray, a mediocre shot, would have needed to stand on the edge of the common bathroom tub to see out the window, and a wall (since conveniently removed) would have kept him from aligning the rifle.  Ballistics, forensics, and medical evidence all rule him out.  The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that there had been a conspiracy, with Ray as the patsy.

Critical researchers have argued that the federal government, especially FBI or perhaps CIA, carried out the assassination

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June 8, 1968.  Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in the crowded “pantry” (actually, a food preparation area) of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after his primary election victory.1   His alleged killer, 24-year old Palestinian-American Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, never got close to Kennedy.  He fired shots that hit five bystanders as Kennedy supporters struggled to subdue him; but none of his shots hit Kennedy.  The fatal shot behind Kennedy’s ear came from just 1-3 inches away, according to Thomas Noguchi MD, who performed the autopsy.

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August 4, 1962.  Celebrity actress Marilyn Monroe died in her bedroom in Los Angeles (or in the guest house near her house, from which she was carried back to her bedroom).1

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On April 27, 1996, 76-year old William Colby, former director of the CIA, disappeared from his vacation home on the water at Rocky Point, Maryland.  Colby had spent the day at a marina fixing his sloop.  He returned home after 6 pm, phoned his wife, who was visiting her mother in Texas, and told her he was tired and would eat supper, then go to bed.  He watered his trees, met with his gardener and his visiting sister around 7:15 pm (sunset was at 7:57), and fixed himself a meal.  The next day there was no sign of him.  Eventually, a neighbor phoned the police.  They found his supper half-eaten.  The computer and radio were on.  His canoe was missing.1

By the next day a full-scale search with helicopters and divers was under way.

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In his Worlds in Collision (New York:  Macmillan, 1950), Immanuel Velikovsky argued that Venus emerged as a red-hot comet from Jupiter and passed Earth every 52 years, causing the Bronze Age catastrophes, before settling into its current orbit.  His claim set off a controversy in which his theory was rejected and stigmatized.  But over the years, new findings have changed the picture.  Here are eight new reasons to accept a Revised Venus Theory, based on the evidence and reinterpretation in The Knowable Past (2nd edition, Washington, D.C.:  Scientia Press, 2019).

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