Friday, October 28, 2011

Stephen King's New SciFi Tale: Fun, But Not Historically Accurate!




Science fiction tales dealing with time travel are among my favorites. Perhaps the most authentic ever written, but not given enough attention, is L. Sprague de Camp's 'Lest Darkness Fall', (1939), about a 20th century professor - Martin Padway - who finds himself suddenly hurled back to the Roman Empire in the sixth century by encountering a "time slip" in Rome. (Time slips are theorized to be interphased time warps in our own space-time wherein a person who happens into them can be transported to the past.) Physicist Michael Shallis in his book, On Time, explores a few such incidents.

More recently other time travel stories have revolved about going back to the Kennedy assassination in an attempt to alter the outcome. The most recent TV version of actual physical intervention in the past, based on the new Twilight Zone series (which ran from 1985-88) was entitled "Profiles in Silver" about a 23rd century history professor (and descendant of John F. Kennedy) who attempts to go back to Nov. 22, 1963 and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from firing from the Texas School Book depository 6th floor. In another case, the early 1990s 'Quantum Jump' featured a similar attempt to stop Oswald - with Scott Bakula's character's consciousness projected into Oswald, since time travel via quantum jump didn't allow actual physical transfer to the past.

Now, in novel form, horror author Stephen King deals with a similar scenario in his '11/22/63' just out. In this case, we follow his character, school teacher Jack Epping, as he attempts to travel back in time to stop the nasty, "snarling" (in one perp walk photo) Lee Harvey Oswald from carrying out his foul deed.

The problem with all these scenarios is they are predicated on a false historical presumption that Lee Harvey Oswald was the perpetrator and sole assassin. (Thanks to the Warren Commission, which was really a creature of Lyndon Johnson, as opposed to an official government investigation such as the 1978-79 House Subcommittee on Assassinations which found a "96% probability of conspiracy") This is abject nonsense, and mainly was perpetrated on an unsuspecting (but shocked) American public in the fall of 1963, in order to placate the lords of power and cop to political expediency rather than truth telling.

The poisoned and deceitful core of the Warren Whitewash inhered in the (Nov. 25, 1963) memo from then Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach that preceded it. The key memo segments that bear on the way the Warren Commissioners were to conduct their business are as follows:

"It is important that all facts surrounding President Kennedy's assassination be made public in a way which will satisfy people in the United States and abroad that all the facts have been told and that a statement to this effect be made now.

1. The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin, that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial."

The last is especially fell and egregious, an insult to the whole concept of justice and being innocent until proven guilty. Indeed, Katzenbach's injunction goes under the rubric of a fundamental logical no-no called: 'Affirming the consequent' - i.e. affirming ab initio that which you need to prove. Taking the expedient shortcut - avoiding the process, more: ensuring the outcome of the process blends with one's own agenda!

The proof was in the pudding, as documented by former federal special agent Walt Brown, in the proportion of serious questions attended to or asked by the Commission (Treachery in Dallas, p. 281):

Preliminaries - 805 (2.1%)
To the point - 1,537 (4.1%)
Not vital - 16,073 (43.3%)
Clarification - 7,354 (19.8%)
Leading/hearsay 9,676 (26.0%)
Conclusionary - 922 (2.4%)
Foregone conclusion 323 (0.80%)
Nonsense - 407 (1.09%)

Most appalling is that the 'to the point' (questions materially contributing to the investigation) category comprised an insignificant 4.1 % of the total for which the Commissioners were present. For the percentage of all the questions asked - with or without the Commissioners present, that went up a mighty three tenths of a point, to 4.4% (op.cit., p281). Even more appalling is that 52.05% of the total Commission questions were directed at people with no direct knowledge of the crime!

At the same time, 200 material witnesses- "each with knowledge at least as valuable as that given by the 488 commission witnesses" were not asked questions. These included :


- Tom Alyea (who allegedly first filmed the sniper's 'nest')

- Charles A. Crenshaw (Parkland surgical resident at the time – who observed the gaping rear head wound)

- Julia Ann Mercer - spotted a truck on the triple underpass with a rifle inside

- William Harper - found the occipital bone fragment 25’ behind the limo

- Guy Banister - ran the Camp St. office in New Orleans from which Oswald distributed leaflets;

- Joseph Milteer -the right wing zealot who predicted the assassination by sniper

- Sergio Archacha Smith -believed to be the person who fired at Gen. Edwin Walker

- Mary Moorman -took the Moorman photo at the instant of the head shot

- Aquilla Clemons - observed the Tippitt shooting, and saw another man – not Oswald, doing it

- Silvia Duran - consul employee who could have testified to the identity of the ‘Oswald' seen in Mexico City;

Gordon Arnold : stood on the grass in front of the knoll's picket fence when a shot tore past hie ear, and made him hit the dirt – he was subsequently sent to duty in Alaska)

All of these in concert disclose the Warren Commission was not a fact-finding body, but a deliberately designed Whitewash body, enjoined to find the expedient solution to the crime of the century. That King hasn't investigated all these aspects and issues before setting out on his novel - which essentially endorses the PR-framed "official version" - doesn't say much for his boldness, historical acumen or investigatory skills.

In the three images attached to this blog - under King's visage - are the three primary indicators that Oswald had nothing to do with killing JFK on November 22, 1963.

First, to the left, we see a critical Zapruder photo (second after frame Z-313), which clearly shows Jackie lurching over the limo trunk. What was she doing? Why did she lurch in that particular direction? Her own special testimony delivered in secret and not formally printed with the main volumes of the Warren Commission Hearings (but in their Appendices), is telling: she was trying to retrieve a dislodged piece or fragment of JFK's skull. (Note: This is also affirmed by her in recently released audio tapes she made, dated from 1964, in interviews with historian Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr.).

But here's the problem: If this is indeed so (and a number of other films, photos, e.g. the Nix film shown in the Italian documentary The Two Kennedys, appear to bear it out), then it could not have been Lee Oswald firing from the Texas Book Depository to the REAR of the limo! The reason is linked to basic physics, specifically Newtonian mechanics and the transfer of linear momentum. Hence, if a piece of skull fragment is displaced over the rear of the limo, it could not have been from a bullet fired to the rear of the limo, but rather from the front. But the front is not where Oswald is claimed to have been by the Warrenites! In other words, the account of the Warren Commission is exactly 180 degrees opposite to the principles of basic physics.

Let's even leave out for now, the fact that a trained team of expert marksmen was unable to replicate Oswald's alleged feat! Oswald was presumed to have fired from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, so effectively six stories up or 60’ in altitude. However, the experts were allowed to fire from a tower only half this altitude (30’)[1]. In addition, while Oswald had to have fired at a limousine moving at 11 mile per hour, the experts fired at stationary targets. Anyone who's ever fired a high powered rifle will tell you it's much easier to hit a stationary target than a moving one!

[1] The Warren Commission Report, p. 137.

The target area was also magnified for the experts, to the whole upper torso of the target prop’s body – while Oswald was limited to the head and neck. More to the point, the rifle was altered away from the one Oswald used. The rifle sight itself was rebuilt and “metal shims were fitted to provide a degree of accuracy previously absent’. When Ronald Simmons, the Chief of the Infantry Weapons Evaluation Branch of the Army’s Ballistics Research Division was asked about this he replied: “Well, they could not sight the weapon in using the telescope" (Op. cit. ,Vol. II, p. 250.)

He added that the aiming apparatus had to be rebuilt by a machinist with two shims added, one to adjust for the elevation, the other for the azimuth. In other words, had they actually used the rifle in the same condition Oswald was alleged to have had it, then they’d likely not have hit the side of a barn. (Maybe one reason the Italians dubbed their Norma Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 mm bolt action rifle that Oswald was supposed to have used as "the rifle that never killed anyone")


At the end of the test trials, these Master Marksmen each fired two series of three shots each (18 rounds in all) at 3 stationary targets placed at distances of 175’, 240’ and 265’ (the last coming nearest to the distance from the Texas School Book Depository to the head shot). Even Chief Simmons admitted that the targets were not placed where they ought to have been to emulate conditions on November 22, 1963.

Just one of the three expert riflemen was able to get off three shots in under 5.6 seconds – the designated time interval for total shots declared by the Warren Commission. And most to the point: none of the total 18 shots fired struck the targets in the head or the neck. In other words, from a technical standpoint of duplicating Oswald’s alleged shots- this trio of experts failed. Another key aspect: for the duration of the 18 rounds, two of the “master” riflemen were unable to reload and fire at the stationary target as rapidly as Oswald purportedly did for the moving limo.

Again, the facts don't add up, and that non-addition gets compounded when one factors in another little detail the Warren Whitewashers never bothered to disclose: that the purported assassin window on the 6th floor of the TSBD (see image at far right - below King's image)was nearly totally blocked by the branches of an oak tree at the time. Only a fool or half idiot would have attempted such a shot. The preferred shot then would have been out from the window facing and overlooking Houston St. as the limo was approaching the steep turn around the TSBD, not going out onto Elm St.!

Finally, we have the LIFE cover photo of Oswald, from its Feb 21, 1964 issue, which was essentially to be the coup de grace for the framing of the man. Little did anyone bother to say or analyze that the shadows disclosed in this and other photos purportedly taken from Oswald's Neeley St. address in Dallas didn't match the astronomical aspects for the alleged date taken.

As it turns out, on March 31, 1963 (the documented date from FBI files for the backyard photo), one can compute (using a specialized computer program[2]) the maximum solar altitude on the local meridian at noon (for lat. 32 deg 47’ 09” or Dallas, TX) as 57.0 deg. For example, in the LIFE photo, let x2 be the near edge of the 3rd fence picket and x1 be the position of the heel of Lee’s boot, and (x2 – x1) = 1.5 m. Let (y2 – y1) be the distance of Lee in front of the picket fence, or 3m. (See also: http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2009/11/hany-farids-pixelated-illusions.html)

Then the distance d1(x,y) ought to approximately yield the length of his shadow, in this case:

d1(x,y) = {3m)^2 + (1.5^m )2}^1/2 = 3.35 m.

A first cross-check can be applied via using the computed value 3.35m, in conjunction with a known physical construct that can yield independent information. Now, Lee’s height is know to have been 5’ 9” or 1.74m. We also know from basic astronomy that the height of an object in the Sun is related to its minimum shadow length (L_s = d1(x,y)) by:

tan (a) = H/ L_s

where (a) is the altitude of the Sun.

Thus:

tan (a) = (1.74)/ (3.35) = 0.464, or a = 24.8 deg

However, what if d1(x,y) is off by 50%? And therefore, d1(x,y) = 1.17 m instead of 3.35m? Then, the altitude of the Sun would be:

tan (a) = (1.74)/ (1.17) = 56.0 deg

Or, within 1 degree of the maximum solar altitude on the local meridian at noon or Dallas, TX as on that date! This means that if the photo is legit, and conforms to the correct solar meridian crossing on that date, Oswald’s shadow can be no longer than 1.12m, which sets limits on how far he can be located from the picket fence. But estimated measurements shows a disparity, significant - so the LIFE photo cannot be legit, but obviously confected to frame him.


According to a gushing Wall Street Journal review (natch, as the WSJ always detested Kennedy's "statist" proposals) of King's effort ('Stephen King's New Monster', p. D1, today) King:



"studied various conspiracy theories. He ultimately dismissed them, drawing the unsettling conclusion that a single person with no political power or charisma managed to alter the course of history by himself"

All well and good, except that neither the ballistics, as evidenced in assorted reactions captured on film (such as that shown with Jackie above), the post-event efforts at expert replication of the shots, or even the astronomical aspects for shadow configurations (in the purported LIFE Oswald photo) support King's dismissal. Does this mean King was lazy? Not necessarily! But as any fiction writer knows, the writiing (and reading!)of any novel is enhanced by simplicity of plot not additional concatenations (even if lending to a greater historical accuracy) that may try the readers' patience, especially in today's tweeter-ipad, sound bite age. Thus, one may regard King's dismissal of conspiracy for his novel as more in concert with justified artistic license than deliberately ignoring the fact that Oswald as assassin doesn't add up. Or to put it more bluntly, King opted for go for an expediently written novel, as opposed to one that reflected history more faithfully (such as Don deLillo's excellent, 'Libra'.)



Leaving out a non-historian fiction novelist's ruminations and choices, I will refer readers to Prof.. David R. Wrone's take, in The Journal of Southern History(6), February, 1995, p. 188:


"I believe that irrefutable evidence shows conspirators, none of them Oswald, killed JFK. A mentally ill Jack Ruby, alone and unaided, shot Oswald. The federal inquiry knowingly collapsed and theorized a political solution. Its corruption spawned theorists who tout solutions rather than define the facts that are locked in the massively muddied evidentiary base, and released only by hard work.”


So, read and enjoy King's latest novel, but do so while retaining a little cautionary reservation in the back of your mind. The real guys that King's protagonist Jack Epping needed to get were obviously so clever that they got Epping (and King by extension) to go after the wrong man!

[1] This is the “Astronomy Lab” software program which enables one to fix a location by latitude and longitude, then obtain the maximum solar altitude at those coordinates for the date.

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