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Fun with conspiracy theories

I collect conspiracy theories. The nature of what people are willing to believe about their neighbours tells us quite a lot about our attitude to the society we live in, our fears, our worries about deception, and so on. And the past half century has been a boom time for conspiracy theories, from the JFK assassination through the moon landings to the CIA introducing LSD/crack cocaine/AIDS/insert threat here into the USA, to Louis Mountbatten and MI5 trying to stage a coup against the British government in the 1970s ... wait, the last one was real. And, now I think about it, so was one of the CIA ones. That's the trouble with conspiracy theories: true history contains such weird lacunae of surrealism that it's very hard to sift the wheat from the chaff.

I ran across a new-to-me conspiracy theory today; on balance I think it's an urban legend, but it appeals to my credulity very neatly and I can't rule it out for sure. Let me explain why below ...

Hip hop, rap. They're not my preferred musical forms, I will freely admit. I like some, but dislike most: and I really don't like gangster rap, both for its form and for the whole lifestyle and aspirational model it's associated with. Misogynisticre, violent, crude, angry: well, what if it was all a conspiracy inflicted on us, not by the music industry, but through the music industry? And what if the motive behind it was to provide a social model for poor black urban teenagers that would land them in jail and thereby create money-making opportunities for the private prison industry?

Far-fetched?

Well, that's what this conspiracy theory would have you believe. And it ticks all the checkboxes. Pick a group everyone considers to be unscrupulous and corrupt, like the RIAA: check. Come up with an even nastier Big Bad, a shadowy cabal from the private prisons industry: check. Invite industry insiders to a private conference and bind them to strictest secrecy: check. Our leaker is anonymous: check. Dissidents are ejected at gunpoint and threatened: check. This all stays under wraps for nearly two decades but is leaking now due to an attack of conscience ...

Which is where it fails nearly fatally to maintain willing suspension of disbelief. Here's one smackdown pointing out that the crime rate went down from 1991, not up. (Which tends to undermine the conspiracy's effectiveness, if not its existence.) And then there's the content. Conspirators with guns let a witness with a conscience go? More crazily, we're expected to believe that conspirators with such a large project in mind didn't pre-screen the names on the invite list for the conspiracy?

Naah, doesn't work.

Nevertheless, hip hop did turn gangster-obsessed around that time, and the private prison industry in the United States is a gangrenous moral ulcer rotting away that country's judicial system. Linking the two in a superficially simplifying conspiratorial relationship is ... well, it appeals to our instinct to reach for consistent causal links between parallel phenomena in a complex world. It's the modern equivalent of ascribing bad weather or crop failures to the gods being angry (an activity still popular today among the superstitious).

Meanwhile, if you want to see a real life conspiracy unfolding, you need to look no further than this.

281 Comments

1:

Tangentially to this, the nature of weird beliefs being somewhat due to the time in question also occurs with the UFO phenomenon. Inexplicable lights in the sky? Must be angels. No, zeppelins. Ah, it's aliens. Depending on the period.

2:

"...the crime rate went down from 1991, not up..."

Not if you count crime by incarcerated citizens. And the crime rate figures do not include those. We just shifted crime inside.

3:

I blame Simon Cowell for most things.

Bloody Illuminati.

4:

In fact, we view all phenomena through the lens of our current techology. Steam Age? Freudian psychology of impulses kept in check by counter-forces but still bubbling to the surface in the form of symptoms. Information Age? Positive psychology and poor feedback loops. Etc.

5:

Baa. Call that barking? That's not barking. This is barking.

Interestingly, last time I checked, "apophenia" was not in the OED.

6:

All they had to do to provide warm bodies for the prison biz was crank up the War on Some Drugs.

7:

Just because it didn't work doesn't mean it wasn't tried. Given the position of a vocal swathe of the US right wing (who seem to be more involved in prison system in the US) that music makes people commit crimes and black people are subhuman I can easily see a bunch of them coming together to hatch this sort of plan. The smackdown you linked references institutional racism, why could a meeting of this sort not be part of it?

8:

If you want some really barking conspiracy theories may I point you in the direction of this big, sprawling mess of a website:

www.bilderberg.org

Only a couple of weeks until Bilderberg 2012, apparently.

9:

Your timing is great. This crossed my news aggregator this morning - the whole war on drugs is a waste of time and effort. Won't stop it though I'm sure...

I'm also fairly convinced conspiracy theories fulfil the "bread and circuses" or "opiate of the masses" slots for a chunk of people. Of course that could just be my conspiracy theory mentality taking over...

10:

No, the attempted manipulation only needs to seem reasonable to the attempting parties.

For a more fun theory, what if the selection of gangster rap was a subconscious rebellion against music piracy and the wider liberalism that brought it about?

11:

The problem I've got with the meeting, as described, is that it's too pat. The conspirators didn't pre-vet the invite list for bleeding heart liberals despite everyone on the right in the US "knowing" that Hollywood and the music biz are a hotbed of commie-sympathizing fags? And when they found some, they pulled guns (in a business meeting?!?) and ushered them out, then let them go, with or without NDAs -- which probably wouldn't have stood up in court, considering the point of the meeting was to commit a conspiracy to create a crime wave?

Does. Not. Compute.

While I can certainly see some authoritarian right-wingers with racist views seeing a pleasing synergy between encouraging a violent urban youth subculture and generating profits by locking up people they disapprove of, this particular account of a meeting is way too blatant. It's not just a conspiracy; it's a half-assed one! Yet we're expected to believe they maintained secrecy for 20 years?

12:

Agreed - this story's Big Bad only cares about the prison population, not the crime rate. In fact, a rising prison population and a falling crime rate at the same time would arguably be ideal from their point of view; they still have to live in the world to some extent, after all.

Aside: it'd be interesting to know whether people who make their money putting people behind bars are more or less likely to choose gated communities for themselves.

But, yes, the whole thing's obviously nonsense.

13:

Oh, and the notion of making money from something as a legitimating agent for something people wanted to do anyway... would make a great American comedy.

14:

That's not have you form conspiricies. You carefully manipulate the sales figures to indicate what people want, you mentor gangsta bands on how to appeal to the emotions of outrage, you help them. Then you ask the executives to give the people what they want.

Also, is piracy evenly distributed between political factions? Authoritan conservatives might well be more likely to obey blindly. So, what happened to the consumer pressure on the music industry?

15:

I'm amazed to run into people who believe that the moon landing was a hoax. For reasons I don't understand they're usually African American. There are several people I know well enough to have a serious discussion about why they or their friends believe this. I'm really curious. Maybe a general and legitimate distrust of the government and media.

16:

Come to think of it, racism is probably the undiscussed elephant in the room for US foreign policy over the last fifteen years.

17:

I'd like to tip-toe around discussion of racism on this topic, if you don't mind, because given the nature of the conspiracy theory in question it would be all too easy to dive down the rabbit hole. Let's just say, bigotry is fractal: it appears at all levels and among all self-defined groups, in superficially different forms that bear a troubling structural similarity. (And it's equally shitty in all its forms, too.)

18:

Yes, that makes sense. Also, oops, now I feel a little guilty. Sorry.

19:

One of my favorite persistent conspiracy theories is aliens at Area 51. I've had people with college educations say to me with a straight face that the US never could have developed all of its military technology alone, and that it was copied from a crashed spacecraft. It seems to be a widely held belief in the Southwest, where I heard it discussed as fact while visiting a friend in New Mexico who was a defense engineer.

20:

Part of why that's not that far-fetched is that there are very real examples of the shadowy effects of similar meddling -- not sure how much news it made across the pond, but the US state of Arizona passed this hugely strict anti-immigrant law several years back, and a variety of states have considered similar legislation. Turns out that both the passage of the original Arizona legislation and the process of spreading it as model legislation to other states has been driven by our friends in the private prison industry.

The gangsta rap connection sounds a little tenuous, but it's not unbelievable that an industry that does better the more people are locked up is going to have some perverse incentives. Far-fetched theories aside, we definitely can see the prison-industrial complex's hand behind much of state and federal penal law in the highest-incarceration-rate-in-the-world United States...

21:

The crime rate went down, but the incarceration rate -- especially for young men of color -- soared. The folks at the Sentancing Project have documented this: even with other factors taken into account, young men of color are more likely to be arrested. Even with other factors taken into account, young men of color are more likely to be charged. Even with other factors taken into account, young men of color are more likely to be convicted. Even with other factors taken into account, young men of color are more likely to get longer sentences.

A conspiracy would be redundant. At most, it would only need to deflect any attempt at correcting institutionalized injustice and set its members up to take advantage of the results.

22:

So which bit of Leveson is the conspiracy? The illegal activities of the tabloids over the years, or the alleged attempt at trying to ensure it doesn't harm the current government by setting a wee enquiry to white wash everything. Only Leveson turned out to have more integrity than they thought and the tabloid conspirators are even more inept.

23:

As for surrealism, I'm also intrigued by the case of Dr. Gerald Bull the ballistician. "Canadian with US citizenship and CIA connections assassinated in Brussels at the end of the Cold War for designing satelite-launching gun for Arab dictator; Mossad suspected of the killing" sounds like something from the briefing at the start of a bad spy movie, but it really happened.

24:

It occurs to me that the Rap Music/Private Prisons conspiracy thing could be tested pretty easily. Since most stock ownership and all board memberships are a matter of public record, just check into wether there is a fiscal and oversight connection between the record companies and private prison operators.

Are there holding companies in common? Board seats? Anything other than institutional investors with lots of other unrelated holdings.

25:

It remains to be seen how Leveson will play out, however, as with Watergate, the main damage appears to be self-inflicted by the attempt to cover up the bugging ...

I'm just waiting for Rupert Murdoch to publicly fire the Prime Minister for corruption.

26:

Yes, there's a story that I'm semi-inclined to believe that an enterprising Soviet bloc spy made significant inroads into the SoCal aerospace community during the 1980s by playing on the aliens-at-Area-51 theme.

27:

If such a meeting were to occur, I'd have to assume that our (slight) parody of the racist-right-wingers in the US would be pushing music which extols the virtues of working uncompensated overtime for the Man.

After all, in order to put all these black people in jail, they'd have to commit (or be alleged to commit) crimes. This requires some crime to occur which the law-and-order bunch don't want to have happen in the first place. The social conservative bunch don't want all the men locked up because then you have all of the kids out of wedlock which clearly must mean that the the whole family will be messed up and on welfare, thus irritating the fiscal-conservatives.

Finally, for this to be a real conspiracy (as opposed to a meeting which noted some disturbing but profitable trends), it should be something which wouldn't happen organically. However, from my recollection, this genre of music tends to be one of the better selling and probably thus more profitable ones. If they were losing money on each album sold you might have evidence of a conspiracy. When they're raking in the cash instead, I think it's just the market at work.

28:

A report by the American Civil Liberties Union stated that private prison companies have influenced legislation to increase prison sentences through the business lobbying group ALEC. In some cases they have written model legislation that has been adopted by states nearly verbatim.
And wouldn't they have to? The method is there, it's legal and it increases shareholder value.

29:

Keep in mind that I'm writing this while listening to E-40's new triple album. Arguably the Warren Ellis of gangsta rap.

I'd apply Hanlon's razor "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

Unfortunately I can't find the reference online, but the 11/11/1991 cover story in The New Republic "The True Face of Rap" argues that the transition from the broad range of rap styles of "The Daisy Age" to all gangsta all the time was a deliberate effort by the industry, because the formula sold well to white suburban kids. From an article by the same author "The Rap on Rap":
'Hank Shocklee says. "If you're a suburban white kid and you want to find out what life is like for a black city teenager, you buy a record by N.W.A. It's like going to an amusement park and getting on a roller coaster ride-- records are safe, they're controlled fear, and you always have the choice of turning it off. That's why nobody takes a train up to 125th Street and gets out and starts walking around. Because then you're not in control anymore: it's a whole other ball game." This kind of consumption-- of racist stereotypes, of brutality toward women, or even of uplifting tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King-- is of a particularly corrupting kind.'

This explanation is contemporaneous, and involves mendacity driven by short sighted pursuit of profit without regard to consequences. Which makes it far more likely.

Arguably, the same mechanism (short sighted profit seeking abetted by groupthink) is what drives the U.S. comics industry to fixate on superhero comics to the virtual exclusion of any other genre.

30:
this particular account of a meeting is way too blatant. It's not just a conspiracy; it's a half-assed one! Yet we're expected to believe they maintained secrecy for 20 years?

Agreed - realistic conspiracies look exactly like the phone hacking mess: a tiny number of people acting out of narrow self-interest do something immoral or illegal, and then the number of people grows as others find out, one at a time, and still acting out of narrow self-interest, seek to cover up what was done. Once inside the group and thoroughly implicated, people tend to endorse repeating the same behaviour. There's no organised plan to these things, just a snowball of crime and coverup from a group of people who are acting independently to avoid being caught.

It's worth noting that the "phone hacking" business has moved on from charges of communications intercept to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - and I expect that charges relating to bribery and destruction of evidence will end up vastly outnumbering actual instances of phone hacking.

31:

Actually, I think the NDA *would* have stood up in court. It's not illegal to encourage people to talk about committing crimes. And I don't believe that "vetting the list" is all that guaranteed to be successful. The guns at a business meeting are a bit over the top, but I can imagine people being ushered out of the meeting by armed security guards who were threatening, and possibly threatened them with violence after they were out of sight.

So perhaps it's all down to details.

That is doesn't seem to have been successful doesn't argue that it didn't happen. And, FWIW, I, personally, believe that there are **LOTS** of conspiracies. Some of them are illegal. And saying that, e.g., the CIA was in a conspiracy isn't saying that the upper management of the CIA knew anything about it. Only that some agents of the organization did, and presented themselves as agents of the organization while doing so. (Unless you are thinking of agent provocateurs, in which case even that last qualification isn't necessary.)

When rich people gather together why would you doubt that they conspire against the rest of us? When plumbers gather, they do. Every union is a conspiracy against the rest of society. So is every corporation, and nearly every company. Management conspires against the workers. Etc. Very few of these are illegal, and even when they are you usually can't prove it.

OTOH, conspiracy is, by it's nature, secretive. So you usually don't hear about them. This doesn't mean they don't exist, it means you don't hear about them.

FWIW, a conspiracy is just people with common goals getting together to try to advantage their goals over the rest of society. This happens all the time.

32:

I thin you are assuming more corherence in viewpoint than actually exists.

Various different groups each have their own agenda, and while we might label them all as "right wingers", this doesn't mean they all have the same concerns. The people in favor of locking people up in prison (who also have an economic incentive to want this) don't really care whether there's a lot of crime or not, as long as there are a lot of prisoners. The "law and order" types want lots of draconian laws, but don't want to pay for the police. The social conservatives want a principled adherence to the law (ala Heraclitus) without caring too much what the laws are. These groups have conflicting action agendas, but their rhetoric is quite compatible, so most of them don't notice.

P.S.: I could have done an analogous job on the "left", or, actually, on any other major political or religious grouping. (E.g., most surveys have shown that most Roman Catholic women in the US either use or have used birth control, and don't feel guilty about it. But some do feel guilty, and some don't/didn't use it.)

33:

You want to "tiptoe around discussion of racism", while discussing people who say that black people are brainwashed by rap music? Your blog, your rules, of course, but that's a big pachyderm...

34:

As someone who also collects conspiracy theories, this is one of the better ones I've seen as well. At the very least, it's full of plausible deniability: the music industry is fairly insular and integrated, and individual actors have a fairly large amount of power over making or breaking acts (especially before the internet made it much more feasible for unsigned artists to get any kind of distribution). There's very little oversight as well. So, if a meeting like that which has been described occurred, a very small number of people could agree and it would have a major effect (assuming for a moment that gangster rap would not have otherwise appeared and would not be promoted outside of the cabal). Taking into account ladder conspiracies (regardless of the original intent, gangster rap became popular, and more people sign on to milk profit out of popular things independent of any contact with the original conspirators), this is entirely feasible.

What breaks plausible deniability for me is that the meeting was so big. Meeting independently with a handful of pre-screened music industry people would be just as effective.

That said, fuckups are what add verisimilitude to conspiracy theories. Of the ones I've seen, the ones that ended up being true are the ones that had the most unbelievable errors. MK-ULTRA was full of things like operation midnight climax (wherein CIA agents paid prostitutes to take naval officers into rooms with two way mirrors and then spiked their drinks with LSD, with apparently no controls and no particular experimental goals).

So, let me propose an alternate interpretation of the story:
The meeting happened as described, and was by all accounts a failure. No one actually agreed to be a part of the project, and most left in disgust as the storyteller did. Two or three people implemented the plans suggested. One or two people implemented similar plans in other places independently. Other parties copied elements of the plans of the conspirators and those acting similarly prior to their becoming particularly popular, for arbitrary reasons. The parties involved began to profit, or to seem to profit, and copycats began (again independently) copying the style. The private prison cabal may then have attempted a similar project again with similar levels of apparent failure. Some elements of this cabal probably never decided that the project actually was going ahead. Presumably, this cabal is not representative even of the private prison industry. Presumably, the plan as described would not have worked very well anyhow. Few of the conspirators profited directly, because most of the money went to copycats or independent and seemingly unrelated third parties.

Tangentially, if I recall, PKD's Radio Free Albemuth hinges on a similar record industry conspiracy of an arguably more morally defensible form.

Also, for an idea of record industry clusterfucks from the early 90s, read the story behind Mondo Vanilli. The short form is that Innerscope Records had given Trent Reznor a vanity label (Nothing Records) and led him to believe that he had full control over signing artists. He proceeded to sign Marilyn Manson (successfully), and later tried to sign Mondo Vanilli (a group formed of the Mondo 2000 crew -- R. U. Sirius, Saint Jude, and other names that probably mean nothing to most of the antipope reader base but important in the early 90s cyberpunk aesthetic cohort, and specifically the 'new edge movement' composed primarily of a synthesis of 60s-70s hippie ideas and nihilistic punk ideas). They produced a record but Innerscope refused to allow it to be released, leading to a falling out between Innerscope and Trent Reznor, culminating eventually in the transition to self-publishing in the last few albums Nine Inch Nails put out. It may have influenced the Broken EP, which is famously noted to be a 'fuck you to the record industry', but I'm not sure -- I don't think it fits the chronology.

35:

You want to "tiptoe around discussion of racism", while discussing people who say that black people are brainwashed by rap music?

Your reading comprehension is lacking and you're in danger of getting yourself banned for derailing.

But let me put it to you that I am not discussing "people who say that black people are brainwashed by rap music".

I am discussing the enduring appeal of conspiracy theories that conflate correlation with causation, with specific reference to an urban legend about an attempt to brainwash black people by way of rap music. (Which, by inference from the drop in crime figures, either did not happen or did not succeed.)

I could have kicked off with a discussion of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion instead but hey, not so topical, yes?

36:

Bloody 'eck, I know those names! That's a real blast from the past. I'd be fascinated to hear the Mondo Vanilli album, if a copy of it still exists anywhere.

37:

It may be that the arc of the prison-industrial complex in the USA has reached its nadir (or zenith, if you're a part of it). At least 2 prisons have been taken away from their corporate operators and returned to the governmental agencies that controlled them previously. One, a juvenile facility here in Oregon, was found to have been run largely for the convenience of sexual predators on the staff: hundreds of cases of sexual misconduct up to and including forcible rape by guards and other staff have been alleged. Of another, a high security adult institution in Louisiana, IIRC, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation said (paraphrase), "This may be the worst and most corruptly-run prison we have ever investigated."1

1. Note that after Katrina, the FBI investigated the New Orleans police department and its jail and holding system, and found so much wrong with it that they took over both policy and operational control of the entire system. They've been running it for years, with no signs of it improving enough to let go. So the sample population of prisons to compare with has some really egregious examples.

38:

Conspiracy theories always seem to fall foul of Occam's Razor: entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. Conspiracy theories are never the simplest possible explanation of the facts: they always bring in additional actors and objects - secret societies, futuristic technologies, extra bombs, more gunmen, complicit media, etc. etc. Most 9/11 theories would require a cast of thousands to execute.

The growth of gangsta rap can be explained perfectly adequately by the record companies seeing a market for 'transgressive' music. Someone said "This is selling well. More like it, please." And society doesn't seem to have any problems finding reasons to put young black men in prison without any help from the RIAA. So positing another shadowy cabal in the background is a case of 'multiplying entities without necessity'.

Meanwhile, the private prison industry's eagerness to keep the supply of detainees flowing - and its methods for doing so - are pretty much a matter of public record. Some of the major players make significant donations to sympathetic politicians and to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which pushes 'model' legislation favorable to its corporate donors - including various 'tough on crime' acts that seem designed to keep the prisons filled. That seems like a more direct way to get what they want.

The RIAA/private prisons theory is a fun example, but to my mind it could be improved further. For gangsta rap to take off, competing forms of music popular with black people should be eliminated. And that means targeted assassinations. Who really killed Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson? Did disco die a natural death … or was it murdered? Take it away, conspiracy theorists ...

39:

If it doesn't involve black helicopters (or other craft capable of transnational operations) and the United Nations (or other international bodies) I'm not interested.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:OH-6_Cayuse.jpg

I've had several overdoses of conspiracy theories thanks to my regular readings of French BDs. The French love conspiracy theories. They believe in them, they dissect them, they over-analyze them to find still more conspiracy theories.

And it's not just the BDs, the hardbound comics, it's also the novels and the non-fic. Sometimes I get the impression that JFK assassination books are a cottage industry in France.

Sure, the nature of conspiracy theory production might very well be interesting to serious students of human nature and novelists, but I'm neither of those. I'm bored to death with nearly all conspiracy theories.

The problem is that nearly all of them focus on specific national or regional obsessions. They don't travel well from one culture to another or from one society to another.

So please, if you're going to write about conspiracy theories please focus on the rare ones that do have an international flair. Or make up ones that have an international flair. Something like secret families of dimensional-travelling drug runners who secretly influence all politics.

40:

And just because a putative CIA conspiracy sounds as if it was run by incompetents doesn't mean it isn't real. The CIA has been responsible for a long string of screwups, circular firing squads, and star-class clusterfucks. For brevity and in no particular order, I will only mention the Bay of Pigs invasion, the infamous attempted assassination of Fidel Castro by poisoned and/or exploding cigar, the complete cockup of intelligence about the Lockerbie bombing, the failure of intelligence around Clinton's strike on a "chemical munitions plant" in Libya, and the paranormal / LSD experiments of the 1960's (no, the goats didn't die).

41:

The goats may not have died, but alas, poor Tusko the elephant did.

I've read the paper describing their [lack of] experimental methodology. All I could do was shake my head and ask, "what were they on?"

42:

Still, the RIAA/Rap conspiracy theory is much more entertaining than most of the extant theories. In fact, there are so many dull and unimaginative theories around that the more agressive nutbars have been forced to resurrect old and obsolete ones like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.1


1. Charlie, I think the Laundry ought to discover a copy of the Protocols of the Elder Gods as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN approaches.

43:

it all seems very plausible, I would expect nothing less of the US "entertainment industry", which has been stitching up its performers and customers for years, in a far more venal, corrupt and racist way than the UK record industry could ever manage.

most of the consumers of gangsta rap were and are white, and there are complete regional sub-cultures of black music in the US that are more associated with a black audience that mainstream rap [Go-go, Bmore Club, Detroit Techno to name but three]

The recent death of go-go pioneer Chuck Brown probably got more coverage in the UK than anywhere outside his native DC

however, prison general populations in the US are mostly black...so any conspiracy of this was likely to have unpredictable outcomes...as do all alleged conspiracies...what gangsta rap is however, is a conspiracy to culturally reinforce the pre-existing stereotype than African-American = criminal

44:

Well, here's a conspiracy concerning the distribution of Iron Sky. It's distributors are only putting it on cinema release in the UK for one day.
http://www.ironsky.net/site/iron-sky-in-the-uk-for-one-day-only-bollocks/
This is despite showings being sold out.

45:

Time to post my occasional Conspiracy Nut rant:

Seems like not a sparrow farts these days that isn't part of a global conspiracy orchestrated by the New World Order, The Illuminati, The Jews, The Nazis, The Freemasons, Satanic Occultists, Aliens... the list
goes on.

Surely a dozen people with Stanley knives could not have brought down the WTC on 11/9? It must have been blown up the the US Govt, which is controlled by....

Astronauts never went to the moon - it was all faked.

People who "know too much" are stalked by "Black Helicopters", but just manage to evade the clutches of evil to spread their "truth" on the Net (interminably).

What about those cattle mutilations and alien abductions, supposedly part of a selective breeding program by aliens? Did you know that Hitler escaped after WW2 in a Nazi UFO and the Nazis actually have a moonbase? Of course, much of this is due to captured Roswell aliens, reverse engineered UFOs and dirty deals to sell Humans to the aliens for experimentation in exchange for their technology (to be used exclusively by the NWO, Illuminati etc).
Indeed, our own Queen Elizabeth II is not Human, but a reptilian alien who is right at the heart of the conspiracy to crush Humankind beneath its tentacles. Or so David Icke might have you believe.

Apparently the world's energy problems could be solved overnight through the use of "free energy" or "overunity" devices. However, these invention are suppressed by Big Oil, or the NWO, or whatever.
Nevertheless, you can buy plans for these devices on the Net, so all is not lost. The fact that they never quite seem to work just proves how effective the conspiracy to suppress them actually is.

And those secret government programs, usually prefixed by "MK" weren't scrapped because they failed in their objectives, but because every part of their evil plans succeeded and are now used by... the NWO, Illuminati... etc. People who hear voices are no longer mad, but the victims of inexplicable persecution by MI5, CIA and other sets of sinister initials using... wait for it...Mind Kontrol!

Did you know that the governments of the world are spraying nanoparticles, or bioweapons, (there is a difference of opinion on this) from high altitude aircraft? They are called "chemtrails". You can tell
the evil ones because you get a headache soon after seeing them.

The (often intelligent) people who lap up this crap live in a world where absolutely nothing of any importance happens by chance. It's all part of the conspiracy, and the more proof they look for the more they find. It is the most modern and up to date form of superstition.

Google any of the stories above and you will find reams of "evidence" proving that you live in a world where you are the ultimate powerless victim. Indeed, the world is nothing at all like what "normal" people
(the dupes) believe it to be. It's an horrific cosmic conspiracy of overpowering evil. In fact, the only thing Lovecraft got wrong was his overly optimistic universe.

Of course, many of us "insiders" in Transhumanism know this is true because we are part of this Satanic/Masonic/Nazi/Illuminati /Jewish/NWO etc conspiracy. One only has to listen to Alex Jones (he knows too much!).
Apparently H+ has a sinister history linking us to eugenics and (of course) the Nazis. Where would any conspiracy be without Hitler (or any history program for that matter)?
Good job that killing imperfect people was finally stopped after WW2, apart that is, from places like Sweden where they still got locked up or sterilized. It cannot be a coincidence that H+ is headed up by two blond Swedish Aryan supermen, Anders and Nick. Still, I have to wonder why we "only" have "sinister links" to eugenics when thousands are murdered every year by the good old NHS on pure eugenics grounds.
I wonder how Alex Jones missed that? Maybe it's because it's hidden by sinister powers using euphemisms like "amniocentesis" and "a woman's right to choose".

Seriously though, I have given some thought to why people prefer to live in a world of evil conspiracy rather than one that's generally doing OK and getting better.
My conclusion is that they would rather live in such a bleak world because it makes sense. That is, not because it is the reality but because they can understand it. Otherwise, it's "shit happens" on one hand, or a science and technology that might as well be magic (that they cannot grasp) on the other. Better the Devil than the absence of God.

46:

Dirk, you have no idea about the true extent of the conspiracy.

If you want THE TRVTH, you need to go investigate the curious history of Mr Francis E. Dec, author of such monumental exposés as GANGSTER COMPUTER GOD SECRET WORLD-WIDE CONTAINMENT POLICY.

No, seriously: you will not be disappointed!

47:

ENKI-2 @ 34 the record label in question was Interscope

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interscope

sound like nice people don't they ;-)

the Broken EP by NIN was a big fuck you to Reznor's label before that, TVT

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TVT_Records

that Trent Reznor, he can't pick the wrong people to release his records

48:

More "Air Loom":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Tilly_Matthews

What I do find fascinating is the technological consistency of the paranoia across centuries. Pretty weird eh?
As for the guy in your URL, FFS don't tell him about the Simulation Argument!

49:

In these comments, I have seen references to the dropping US crime rate. This is in part because of the aging population, in part due the large number of criminals currently locked up (as noted), and in part due to another conspiracy. Every US police department is under huge pressure to “cut crime.” The easiest way to do this is to under report it. Many city police department have been caught doing this. They make it hard to file reports, lower the severity of incidents, and just do their best to make the city, county or state look as crime free as possible.

50:

It would be interesting to try to plot over time the level of conspiracy theory activity.

Does activity dip when something amazing, like moon landings, happen and does it spike when nothing much happens, for instance during economic crisis ?

Or is the activity level almost constant background noise, conveniently helping people who do think critically spot those who dont ?

One aspect of post WW-II conspiracy-theories which I have not seen researched, is how much of it has its origin in the propaganda and mis-information campaigns hurled over the iron curtain. (Check out 1950-1970 Popular Mechanics if you wonder what I'm talking about)


51:

The prison industrial complex doesn't have to be private to be corrosive. Here in California, the (state) prison guards' union is extremely powerful (prisons are the largest expense in the state budget along with education), and they self-interestedly advocated for punitive measures like the three strikes law (mandatory life imprisonment on the third felony, even if the first 2 were minor infractions). Interestingly, it is the dire budget crisis caused in no small part by the prison guards' princely pensions that is causing the policy to be revisited.

As for Americans feeling smug about the British and their anti-democratic intelligence services, search for "Smedley Butler" to find out about a conspiracy against Roosevelt not dissimilar to the ones against Harold Wilson.

52:

My new favorite conspiracy theory is that somehow the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" indicates not only that Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing (that's old "news") but that Saturn's moon Iapetus contains a real Stargate and is also the home of the Antichrist(!)... and that Lee Harvey Oswald is involved in this somehow....I'm not making this stuff up!

53:

Francis E. Dec died more than a decade ago.

This was probably a mercy. The 21st century is a really bad time to be a paranoid schizophrenic. Especially with the controlling-machine delusion complex.

54:

Charlie @ 25
Too late Citizen Kane Murdoch has had his chips (we hope) Camoron will survive (this time) if only because Tony B Liar was even deeper into the shite....

Angus M @ 38
Exactly, which is why many people can't cope with real science - Occams Razor is a very sharp instrument (and thanks for giving it in the original) ... see also my last comment at the end!
Ditto Alain @ 39!
AND DIRK @ 45 as well! ...
[And those secret government programs, usually prefixed by "MK" MILTON KEYNES! - WTF? ]

Meanwhile back in the "real" (you WHAT - what is this "real" of which you speak) world ....
Actually the so-called "Mountbatten" coup was headed by a - wait for it - Newspaper editor.
When Mountbatten was invited, he temporised, made encouraging noises, and ... then told the offical spooks - the whole thing then collapsed.
No-one went to jail, however (why?)

In the meantime, if you want a popular conspiracy try THIS set of lunacies
You are all encouraged to give them a visit and a reaming - pretty please?

Yours sincerely .....
Nicholas Gascoine-Cecil true Marquess of Saliabury (or not, as the case may be!)
Ahem.

55:

The only reason they are deluded is because they are ahead of their time.

56:

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they lead to the "cry wolf" problem; when a real conspiracy comes along then people discount it 'cos they've got blase on theories.

Which, of course, is why these conspiracy theories exist - to give real conspirators a level of deniability! It's a _meta_ conspiracy theory.

57:

Entertaining stuff...

**** Puts on TINFOIL HAT ****

The story simply isn't credible, it's full of holes, it's CLEARLY been placed in the blogosphere by Corrections Corp and Wackenhut to call down ridicule upon their critics, deflecting attention from the evils they brazenly commit in broad daylight, allowing their compliant and complicit friends in the media to point and snigger at legitimate criticism and say: "All their critics believe in wacko conspiracy theories".

**** Takes off TINFOIL HAT ****

Anybody want to pick up that particular tinfoil hat and run with it?

Maybe it needs a few more shouty capitals and exclamation marks... But all good conspiracy theories need an official denial and some coverup.

And that's a point to note: the former 'markup' is an essential aid to credibility within the community of cretinously-credulous nutjobs who believe in every conspiracy theory going; the latter is your starting-point for insinuating a 'conspiracy' into the moderately-credulous mainstream.

Anyone care to offer a tutorial on advanced techniques for that? Or even - God forfend! - tailoring memes to infect our own community of geeks who are, as we all know, perfectly rational, sceptical, and exceptionally resistant to conspiracy theories and propaganda.

58:

Perhaps this hoax is a conspiracy by Charles Murray to get fans of gangsta rap to change their values.

59:

! I always wondered if real history is made of real conspiracy's tripping over each other.
One little known true fact is that the CIA paid the drug company that made LSD-25 to start up production after they stopped. Our DOD wanted it to try it as a non-lethal weapon. It worked in tests. Old Timothy L was a key research for them and was put in charge. So almost all the real LSD-25 came from the CIA. To which I say big deal. It's no wonder it's not all that big a step to JFK or Roswell Grays.
What ever credibility the government had after the War on Drugs and Nam was lost when Bush-1 was given the Presidency and started the wars we will never get out of.
CONSISTENCY IS THE HOBGOBOLIN OF SMALL MINDS. Ralph Waldo Emerson

60:

nah, it's them.Getting us ready for a staged UFO invasion. damn reptilians. I only like Greys.

61:

In Europe we get the good looking "Space Brothers" offering us advice on global warming etc.
In the USA they get anal probed by The Grays.

62:

For an American prison-industry scandal, this seems remarkably... indirect. A better-documented example featured two judges in Pennsylvania (Ciavarella and Conahan by name, if you'd like to Google for them) getting $2.8 million in kickbacks from private-prison operators in return for railroading up to 6000 innocent kids into private jails. Although stricly speaking, this isn't a conspiracy theory, as the two were tried by the Federal Department of Justice, and are now serving prison sentences of their own.

That said, anyone looking for disconfirmation (or otherwise) of larger-scale conspiracy theories probably might want to look directly at prison-population figures (which have been skyrocketing in the U.S. even as the underlying crime rate drops --- no doubt leading some to say, "it's working"), or the demographics of the U.S. prison population, which do disproportionately feature black males...

63:

Sadly you don't require a conspiracy for the "too many black males in prison" argument.

Many people are pretty good at demonising 'other' and I would argue that police people in particular seem good at it. If policing is done by white folks in the main - because the don't let 'others' in and they're good at demonising 'others' and then arresting them - oops.

There's the lovely story of the sherif of somewhere, charged and removed from office by the DOJ for racism for example.

The "home defence" laws under which that that kid was shot and the guy not investigated in Florida recently - somewhere in the coverage, if a white person shoots a black guy in their home, it's reasonable home defence, no case. It's happened a few hundred times. On the occasions a white guy is shot in the black person's home, twice the police have dismissed it under that law where available. 5 (I think that's the right number) people are in prison for murder in states where that statute was already in law. All are black.

Simple, even quite low level, racism will do that for you without a grand conspiracy.

64:

There may well be a lot more conspiracies spoken of if this legislation gets passed in the US:

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2012/05/house-votes-for-us-domestic-propaganda.html

65:

@Broca - the Fox News watchers wouldn't notice any difference.

67:

See, that's what I like about conspiracy involving aliens. They cover the whole globe, but aliens from different solar systems are involved. There's both variety and common traits.

My favorite alien conspiracy these days involves aliens who preach an austerity doctrine.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/14/1090839/-The-Austerions

I wish they would make puppet movie out if this.

68:

Perhaps it's related to the old Negro space program from the days when NASA was whites-only.

69:

Why is it the US government is always supposed to be totally useless when it comes to organising any public service, but hyper efficient when it comes to organising a conspiracy?

Surely all your incoming republican president need to is give the conspiracy managers a new job managing the public services and she'll be right.

70:

I used to believe that UFOs were extraterrestrials. The thing that finally killed my belief in that hypothesis was the primitive nature of the technology on display. The final nail in the coffin was Transhumanism. In less than 100 years I expect us to exceed any UFO-like technology to a vast extent. If we were investigating an alien world we would not need to send down ships to capture the locals for medical exams. Just modifying their equivalent of insects and taking DNA (or whatever) samples using those cyborgs would be sufficient.

Here's an idea for Charles: If I was looking for active ET presence on Earth I would go to places where important meeting were being held, and swat every insect in the building and then analyse them in detail.

71:

Okay, here's one:
In 1996, the headlines screaming over every inch of the media in New Zealand was "WATER CRISIS!!!1!". Auckland city did not, we were told, have enough water.

I happened to buy the copy of the Herald (the biggest Auckland newspaper) the day the headline reported "Water Crisis Over, No Worries Now".

On page 7-zillion of the issue declaring the Water Crisis Over, way down left, in 1/32th point type, among some articles for Swedish Latex Products, was a tiny piece. It said that the dozen or so barely-dormant volcanoes that Auckland is built on had been making some awfully strange rumblings for months, but that it was okay, they'd stopped, and besides, no-one knew anything about them because all of our seismologists were in Canada for a series of seminars...

I propose we never had a water crisis. What we had was a seismic crisis. Consider: you're the mayor of Auckland, city of 1 million+, and a terrified seismologist runs into your office and says "er boss there's a 29% chance that this time next month you'll have most of the city on fire, thousands dead, tens of thousands horribly wounded, hundreds of thousands of refugees with nowhere to go, and by the way I'm off to Canada, SEEYA!"

What can you do? You can't tell anyone, there'd be panic. You can't evacuate anyone, there's nowhere for them to go, no way to move them, and besides, it's only a 29% chance calculated by a terrified seismologist.

What could possibly be any help? Easy. A water crisis. It will distract every man, woman and child 24-7. And it will have a nice insurance side-effect: If your city does catch fire, it will just happen to have a bazillion more gallons of water on hand than it would have had. Dynamite an entire reservoir, maybe, and save half your city...

And out of 4 million people, I'm the only one to have noticed the tiny coincidence that just happens to make a whole lot of rather-scary sense. Heh.

72:

Little details: based on the English errors, I think this European author was supposed to be French? But as the narration got in Schwung (swingin'), the English was too complicatedly colloquial. The text could be British in origin because of the ".

In the late 1980's, my parents took me along to county commissioner conventions in Pennsylvania where apparently the swinging (that word again) hospitality suites were for companies that built public prisons. At least for people from my county. I don't know but I'd suspect the private prison system was not that advanced in 1991 in the Northeast USA.

At the time, weren't the government weirdos yapping about music more concerned about the spread of satanism? Or was satanism only spread by white bands? Hey, this story could be improved by adding Tipper Gore.

73:

The whole Satanic cult thing was very bizarre. We even got a load of it in Britain due to social workers not understanding false memory syndrome, mistaking mental illness for fact and pressuring children until they said what the social workers wanted to hear.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/4/newsid_2521000/2521067.stm

74:

It may be that the arc of the prison-industrial complex in the USA has reached its nadir (or zenith, if you're a part of it).

At 2.5 million prisoners total with 100K or so in private prisons (per Wikipeida) it's peak isn't all that big.

75:

We even got a load of it in Britain due to social workers not understanding false memory syndrome, mistaking mental illness for fact and pressuring children until they said what the social workers wanted to hear.

You only have social workers making those mistakes over there? Heck over here most people are in that boat. And it can make a trial by jury involving kids a very scary thing. Then toss in a few "saw them one time and I'll never forget that face" and you're hosed.

76:

Fortunately these days almost everyone carries a video camera

77:

I'm waiting for the conspiracy where the international drug gangs launder their money by building prisons in the US...

...because after all, every big industry needs training centers.

Yeah.

Actually, the thing that first tripped me up on this conspiracy theory was the sentence that started the first paragraph: "The meeting was held at a private residence on the outskirts of Los Angeles." Whoever wrote this obviously doesn't know LA. I've got news for y'all: LA's got lots of outskirts, and in almost every case, that outskirt is a border with another city. Like Compton, for one. I grew up in another. There are enclaves of rich people all over the basin, but the one place you rarely find them is on the outskirts of LA. That's someone who doesn't know LA at all. Amateur.

78:

Ah, UFOs. One of the original sightings of the modern wave was in 1950, in McMinnville, Oregon, about 20 miles from where I'm sitting. Every year there's a UFO festival there; this year there will be an alien costume contest for pets.

If you're interested in how all this UFO nonsense turned into a series of interlocking cults with attendant conspiracy theories, you might enjoy the novel Looking for the General by Warren Miller. It's fiction, but the background is very closely based on the UFO community of the 1950s and 60s.

79:

Food for thought-

It's estimated that 1% of the population are sociopaths- that's 3 million sociopaths, so there are 3 million people who should be in prison where they can't harm the decent 99%. But how many of this malevolent 1% are still children? In 2010, 24% of the population were under 18 years old. Let's round that off to 25% for easy math- so the number of adult sociopaths in the US is about 2,250,000 which is pretty close to the number of people incarcerated.

So the system works perfectly, right? All the "bad apples" are kept off the streets, right?

80:

I would say that Racism is a huge general problem in the USA. because of the long history, including fighting a civil war in which slavery was the big issue, underlying everything else.

And conspiracy theories which are consistent with that are almost comforting. It makes the bigotry something that is the result of somebody else manipulating us.

81:

1. the music/prisons text reads like a short story - nice idea but hardly credible
2. Mountbatten was approached by conspirators in '68 but sent them packing "in best quarterdeck manner"; seems unfair that his name is still associated with this more than 40 years later

82:

Ian Smith @ 69
Because they are only hyper-efficient when they've got their tin-foil hats on!
Which they can't do in public.
See, it's obvious!

Ralph @ 71
AFAIK as long as the volcano at White Island continues to vent, Auckland is OK.
If WI stops, then is the time to RUN AWAY, because the pressure has to go somewhere - most likely Rangitoto - the erm, "dormant" volcano right in the middle of the harbour: like this
Rangitoto was formed by a series of eruptions between 550 and 600 years ago. The eruptions occurred in two episodes, 10-50 yrs apart, and are thought to have lasted for several years during the later shield forming episode The first episode erupted most of the volcanic ash that mantles Motutapu Island next door, and also produced the lower, northern, scoria cone. The second episode built most of Rangitoto erupting all the lava flows and main scoria cone at the apex. The 2.3 cubic kilometres of material that erupted from the volcano.

I mean, 2.3 km^3 of ash (!), in the middle of the city.
Um.

Dirk @ 73
That's "social wankers" not workers, please?
and David L @ 75 - well the Orkney scandal was probably the worst. [ Google for it? ]
Children taken away from their familes for YEARS - and this shit still re-surfaces occasionally.

Dave Bell @ 80
That is so true, and so scary.
HERE is another, revived version of a recent conspiracy, just re-surfaced.
Would you believe that Barack HUSSEIN Obama'a birth certificates were STILL forged?
Yes they're off, in all senses of the word, again.
I suggest you follow the link, and mock them.
Idiots, and probably closet racists, but it's hard to tell.

83:

I should have mentioned this much earlier up-thread, but brain-fade & all that ...
There's a wonderful centre for conspiracy & mystical theories/insane ideas, just a few miles South of Charlie.
Just catch the no 15 bus, every half-hour to Rosslyn Chapel and, err, um; even if you do understand christian iconography and symbolism, the place is undoubtedly wierd.
Plenty of information available on it:
Here
and
here
and
here too

Actually, I'm suprised Charlie hasn't included it in a Laundry story so far, as it is easily just the sort of location [ Like the "village" = Dunwich ] where Laundry goings-on are only too likely.

84:

There are quite a lot of things wrong with your argument. Starting with: sociopathy is a spectrum disorder -- estimates for its prevalence range from 0.5% to 3% of the population. Continuing with: most sociopaths are able to function normally in society, despite reduced empathy; they imitate normal behaviour because getting locked up is undesirable. (It's mostly a problem when combined with poor impulse control.) Continuing with: most people in US prisons are not sociopaths: there's a high proportion of untreated schizophrenics in there who really need medical care, not a punitive regime. And then we get to the question: if sociopathy is an illness, is a punitive regime appropriate? Segregating them from the rest of the population to prevent victimization is something you can argue for, but do you really want to punish people for being incurably ill ...?

85:

"I'm just waiting for Rupert Murdoch to publicly fire the Prime Minister for corruption."

Sorry, but proper LOL.

My general problem with grandiose conspiracy theories is that organising, directing and maintaining secrecy of such complex schemes just isn't realistic. Peple on mass, don't seem to be that smart and self controlled. A coelescing of parties and ellision of special interests is quite obvious to see though. But it denies a single neat solution. Just get rid of bad guys XYZ.

86:

The kind of conspiracies that do exist are what might be term "conspiracies of common interest". Nobody has to issue orders because everyone knows what is expected.

87:

Greg@82 and Ralph@71, an aside on the volcanology of NZ:

Seismologists and geologists rarely get terrified, we think this stuff is fun, and so, off the top of my head and in no particular order:

1) Rangitoto, despite it's recent activity in the past thousand years or so, is not particularly dangerous to Auckland; Auckland Volcanic Field is an intra-plate basaltic volcanic field, it's been active for a chunk of the late Pliocene through to the present; it's magma source is an intermittent, low volume hot spot, a local plume of mantle material pretty much _not_ related in a magmatic sense at all to the subduction volcanism present further east and south. The high temperature, low viscosity of these small basalt volcanoes means their explosivity index is low, their eruptive volume is very low, and they are only a bad risk when they come up through water and gain lots of extra flash steam (phreatomagmatic) power to boost their explosivity. Also, in this sort of volcanic field, if you can see an old cone, even a relatively young one, then it's unlikely to be dangerous, as the magma is generated in discrete packets on an interval of many thousands of years, so each volcano generally erupts once (for days, months or years) and then stops, and the next one will be somewhere else within the same 'beaten zone', to borrow a military term.

2) White Island and it's continued burbling away does nothing to relieve risk to Auckland from Auckland's own admittedly low risk volcanoes. As mentioned above, their magma generation systems are totally different and not remotely connected in a causal sense on human timescales. White Island is, however, an extremely active andesite-dacite marine stratovolcano, so, more viscous magma, more difficult gas escape, bigger magma volumes, higher explosivity, and mostly under water, so more ability to blow itself apart in Krakatoa style paroxysms. It's done this several times and rebuilt itself. Eruptive volumes of the order of maybe 2-10 km3, dangerous to most of the Tauranga-Coromandel area.

3) The rest of the NZ subduction driven stratovolcanoes (Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, Tongariro, Taranaki) are about as dangerous as White Island, without being in the sea. Perfectly capable of screwing with our air travel and knocking off a few hundred people every couple of hundred years, and pulling a Mt St Helens every few thousand years (Again, stratovolcanoes, big piles o crap that fall over regularly, sometimes without even an eruption for the excuse.).

4) The real danger, albeit at a low risk, comparatively, in NZ is our subduction driven caldera volcanoes (you know, the ones the media like calling supervolcanoes). We have 5 or six of these things depending on who you talk to(it feels like we keep finding more), the best known of which is Lake Taupo, but there are others at Rotorua, Okataina, Reporoa, Maroa, Whakamaru, etc. The most recent of these, Lake Taupo, produced a plinian eruption sequence of around 100km3 of ejecta around 1800 years ago, culminating in a 30km3 ignimbrite blast at Mach 2. We have geological records showing larger eruptions than this, in the 1000km3 range or more, and happening quite regularly. The central 50 thousand km2 of the north island is blanketed with around sixty major ashfall deposits from eruptions of this sort in around the past 100,000 years.

But generally, you're still in more danger of falling under a number nine bus. Wear clean undies, just in case.

88:

Para 1 - Agreed. 18th Amemdment to the USian Constitution; only with a very stiff shot of the 21st please!!

Para 2 - Oh yes, that makes enough sense that it could be a conspiracy theory!!

89:

Underlying truths:-
Jet engines (both axial and centrifugal flow) were first developed in Germany and in the UK in the 1930s and early to mid 40s.
The technologies underlying fission power and nuclear fissio bombs were first developed in Europe in the 1920s.
Radar was first developed in Germany and in the UK in the 1930s.

So, running on the usual USian usages of the word "alien", that's 3 key defence technologies that the USian military did not develop without "help from aliens".

Similarly, most of the US space program relies on technologies first developed by Germans.

90:

Yup.

And if you're an extropian or transhumanist? You're running on left-over memetic fumes from a Russian Orthodox philosopher, Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, whose ideas proved remarkably popuylar and politically acceptable to the Soviet Union.

91:

In the meantime, if you want a popular conspiracy try THIS [4liberty.co.uk] set of lunacies
You are all encouraged to give them a visit and a reaming - pretty please?

Unfortunately they're using cloudflare.com's broken "anti-virus" software - when Noscript rejects its XSS attack it tells me I have a virus. Not the best way to generate hits.

92:

All I was doing was playing with the USian idea that "Alien" == "Not from these here Youknighted States", as it relates to a claim about alien assistance in the development of defence technologies.

93:

In these comments, I have seen references to the dropping US crime rate. This is in part because of the aging population, in part due the large number of criminals currently locked up (as noted), and in part due to another conspiracy. Every US police department is under huge pressure to “cut crime.” The easiest way to do this is to under report it.

The dropping crime rates also show up in the Dept. of Justices's National Crime Victimization Surveys, which are based on random surveying of the general population and have nothing to do with police reports. So police reporting is not an issue. (In fact, the declines are stronger in the NCVS than they are in aggregated police reports.)

Furthermore, the decline in crime rates since 1990 is similar in Canada, which doesn't suffer from a massively expanded incarceration rate.

Studies of changes in the actual age distribution of the US (and Canadian) population suggest that this might account for part of the decline, but cannot explain most of it. (E.g., this book review (PDF))

94:

Actually, I think the NDA *would* have stood up in court. It's not illegal to encourage people to talk about committing crimes.

AIUI commercial contracts that require one to commit a crime are invalid. The crime in this case is conspiracy, in this case conspiracy to cause a crime wave.

Proving a causal connection in court would be the hard bit, but in the event that someone blabbed about the meeting's content and the bad guys then tried to use the NDA to shut them down, that would tend to support their assertion, wouldn't it?

95:

Paranoia about popular music style X forms a whole subgenre of conspiracy theories. There were, of course, claims in the 1950s and 60s that rock music was some kind of Soviet/International Communist plot to undermine American society (when it wasn't, you know, a Satanist plot), and Lyndon Larouche claimed that "The Beatles ... were a product shaped according to British Psychological Warfare Division (Tavistock) specifications, and promoted in Britain by agencies which are controlled by British intelligence" -- apparently for purposes of corrupting American culture. (Larouche also claimed that "jazz was foisted on black Americans by the same oligarchy which had run the U.S. slave trade"...)

96:

Furthermore, the decline in crime rates since 1990 is similar in Canada, which doesn't suffer from a massively expanded incarceration rate.

Hasn't stopped the neocons from bringing in 'tough in crime' legislation, though. Crime rates are falling, so we need to lock away more people and increase police budgets.

97:

The only good conspiracy theories involve albino monk assassins hired by Opus Dei.

98:

Google on "rick santorum opus dei" if you want some shits and giggles.

(My big worry is that Romney will lose, the Republican party will decide that he lost because he didn't double-down on the hardcore side of the aisle, and Ricky McLube will get the Republican nomination in 2016, or worse -- define the middle of the Republican party's Overton window in that election year.

(Remember, these folks have read "The Handmaid's Tale" and think it's a road map, not a warning.)

99:

Yep. And they're not usually well hidden.

Of course, I'm not denying the existence of some outlandish individual plots, many of which have been mentioned. But the sort of mass social engineering, puppet master Tinfoil hatters' stuff... Nah.

100:

There is actually a straightforward, sane and sensible reason for various militaries wanting the UFO mythos to run and run. Say you are a military scientist with a new drone aircraft that you want to test out in the real world (not just in stable dry desert air in the USA).

However, there's a problem here: supposing someone sees it and tells the press? Even a garbled report on the lines of "It was a weird triangular thing, all angles with no curves, like a flying gemstone" actually tells anyone in a hostile nation quite a lot. It tells them it is radar-stealthy, that your computers aren't powerful enough to cope with more than big polygons, and that (because the local saw it) you're not working on visual unobtrusiveness. That's an awful lot of information you're leaking there; you'd much prefer to keep the Opposition much more in the dark about how good your drones are.

Now, suppose this person reports something and immediately out of the woodwork pop half a dozen UFO loons, spouting claptrap about malevolent but quite small reptiles who want to do unspeakble things to people, and who claim this witness as a long-lost brother. This is like the loony-on-the-bus recognising you when you get on; everyone looks at you like "Oh no, not another loony!".

All this creates an atmosphere where the average bloke in the street really, really doesn't want to say a thing about anything weird he sees in the sky for fear of the UFO loons claiming him as a great friend, and branding him a UFO loony by association. To this end the military runs a fairly unsubtle campaign of never publicly saying anything about unusual-looking aircraft and using the time-worn "It was a weather balloon" for everything, including a stealth bomber buzzing a nature reserve.

It even appears as though the US military have some large triangular craft, probably a remote-controlled helium-filled aircraft of some description, which is used specifically to generate UFO reports and obfuscate what their mostly roughly triangular stealthed aircraft can actually do. This vehicle also keeps the UFO meme alive and well. There's even anecdotal evidence that at least some of the US cattle mutilations were perpetrated by people in helicopters (or at least, helicopters were often seen in proximity to dead mutilated cows).

In short, UFOs carrying aliens don't exist, but many militaries would love for a crowd of obnoxiously lunatic true believers to carry on loudly proclaiming that they do.

101:

It even appears as though the US military have some large triangular craft, probably a remote-controlled helium-filled aircraft of some description, which is used specifically to generate UFO reports and obfuscate what their mostly roughly triangular stealthed aircraft can actually do.

Partially, but also to test the accuracy of observations. Remember Project Blue Book, the US Air Forces catalog of UFO observations?
As soon as Radar was invented, all sides were trying to invent Stealth aircraft and worried that others would beat them to it. So, if we had stealthy unusual aircraft, would they be visibly noticed by the populace? What if the Russians were already flying stealthy spyplanes? Blue Book would give the statistics on that. By comparing UFO observations vs. tests of skunkworks craft, you could figure out the likelihood of your craft being noticed, and a baseline on the possibility of russian stealth observations.

(Hence Blue Book became irrelevant in the era of public stealth aircraft and satellite observations).

You can use the paranoia, too. I believe Area 51 is/was most recently used for testing spy drones: what better place for testing if your drone can spot infiltrators into an area than using an area with UFO spotters sneaking into it?

For Cattle mutilations, one gruesome explanation might be a rumour i've heard of Special Forces being taught to hide inside the carcass of cows, etc. One place to sleep at night on the steppe without being spotted by Infrared scanners on drones ...

102:

Not forgetting that, at the same time in the 1950s and 60s the then USSR was claiming that "rock music is a Capitalist plot to destroy Communism".

103:

So, what's the state of affairs regarding the Teabaggers?

Are the astroturfing allegations conspiracy woo or conspiratorial reality?

104:

Tea-Bag started very quickly, didn't it?
And appeared to have lots of money?
It is thought (note no proof) that they are financed, and not really so secretly actually, by the usual ultra-right-wing usual suspects.

On a much smaller scale the same thing happens here - "spontaneous" $Pressure-Group appears, and starts shouting the odds.
Then there are some of our fake charities, which are often supported by quangoes.
Spurious so-called "medical" ones, where they are campaigning to do something, or ban something or make it compulsory [ All for you own good of course ] seem to be the favourite.
The "excess salt" bollocks and "reduce cholesterol" and (attempted) mandatory diets for children are favourites at the moment.

105:

Not if you count crime by incarcerated citizens

This story (originally a piece in N+1) is a bust; to be true, it would require the incarceration rate to have gone up as much as it did in the States everywhere else in the world, where the drop in crime rates was also observed.

106:

It's not much of a conspiracy, though it wasn't exactly planned either, but it worked out very quickly that way.

You particularly pick up on it if you are living in a place where African American music culture rules -- like New Orleans. Driving around and listening to the radio you realize, for instance, that the urban format radio stations -- not locally owned, or owned by African Americans, but part of broadcast congloms -- won't give air-time to cuts that aren't about being a gangster and prison. It certainly isn't a coincidence that Louisiana has a huge prison industrial complex which must be kept filled at capacity in order to be profitable ....

Love, C.

107:

Another explanation for the giant triangles/black triangles are the Naval Ocean Surveillance Satellites (NOSS) (link) which fly in closely aligned pairs or triplets and were launched between 1971 and 2007.

I don't have good data on the black triangles, but in reading the article, it looks like NOSS 3.0 uses only 2 satellites, rather than three in a triangle, and they were first launched in 2001. If there has been a marked decrease in black triangle sitings over the last decade, one may pin a number of the sitings on NOSS.

108:

Most of the last 20 years of reduced crime rate is explained by our stopping the aerosolbased dispersal of known intelligence dampening substances in our urban areas.

I am of course talking about the un-lead-ing of gasoline.

There are scientific studies that have documented the effect.

The people now yelling most (incoherently) about needing to be tough on crime etc, is the generation that received maximum lifetime dosis of same lead-pollution, and significant doses of other neurotoxins now banned.

This makes it very hard to rule out that the "progress parties" to which the USAnian tea-party and several generations of so-named parties in the nordic countries belong, are simply groups of people mentally unable to process reality in real-time.

109:

But as we know Bharb, nothing is every that simple or one-sided either, and most particularly that is so with cultural expression, such as U.S. popular musics, which have such deep roots in the experienced of the enslaved.

For another perspective, coincidentally or not, see today's Ta-Nehisis Coates's blog's Morning Coffee entry.

Love, C.

110:

Something in the water? Even Cory Doctorow is positing conspiracy theories at the highest levels of the US.

Oh wait, Cory might be right. Damn!

111:
For Cattle mutilations, one gruesome explanation might be a rumour i've heard of Special Forces being taught to hide inside the carcass of cows, etc. One place to sleep at night on the steppe without being spotted by Infrared scanners on drones ...

Somebody has been watching Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back too many times. I wonder if Special Forces has been buying Taun-taun sleeping bags?

112:

I rather like that take on the whole question. It's not the criminals affected by lead, it's the politicians!

113:

I wonder if Special Forces has been buying Taun-taun sleeping bags?

Or (to keep on the theme of government conspiracies) practising remote viewing using divination by taghairm?

114:

Search YouTube.

115:

My personal, half-serious theory is that the CIA does not, in fact, have undercover capability of it's own. Every member of every US agency who goes undercover or on a secret mission is assigned paperwork which implicates the CIA, which then functions as a sort of "blame sink" whenever Murphy rears his ugly head.

It's a great policy. It keeps things very confused, it results in the formation of numerous (and wrong) conspiracy theories, and it makes sure that if the Office of Naval Intelligence, NSA, or Secret Service screws up, they don't have to face the music.

116:

Somebody has been watching Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back

Yup, the conspiracy theorist who knows nothing of observation posts.

IR sensors were scarce pieces of kit, so they tended to be used at the front (where the Close Reconnaissance teams operate) and not deep in the rear areas (where the Strategic Reconnaissance teams operate, i.e. Special Forces).

The depth OPs that the SAS and others were practising during the cold war involved lots (and lots) of digging, because an OP team involves a minimum of four. At worst, they operated in pairs as part of a split OP (one pair observing, the other providing security).

We were close recce, and used to work hard at thermal camouflage of our observation posts; but it involved sandbags shielding us in the direction of threat, and overhead cover (earth and thermal camouflage sheets; essentially a large rugged space blanket) - no cattle were mutilated in the building of our OPs :) From the front, we rather hoped to have the thermal signature of a rabbit hole.

It's rather hard to fit two soldiers and all of their equipment into a cow, and impossible to fit four. Meanwhile, you can almost guarantee that the farmer who owns said cow will come to investigate it closely...

117:

It's actually legal for anyone not in government in the USA to lie to the populance; why shouldn't the govt get a chance to do so as well!? ;-)

118:

an OP team involves a minimum of four.

By way of example, look at the first Gulf War; the SAS inserted three OP parties into Iraq, to observe the three major routes thought to be likely to be used by SCUD missiles. Each of the teams comprised eight men. Two of the three teams took vehicles (in each case, a pair of Landrovers).

One of the vehicle parties held the helicopter while they checked the ground; having decided that there was no chance that they could dig in an OP, they got back in the helicopter and returned.

A second vehicle party left the helicopter, but similarly found no place to hide two vehicles and eight guys. They drove back to Saudi Arabia.

The third party walked to their planned OP site, got discovered shortly afterwards. Four were captured, three died, and one walked to Syria. Three of them wrote books about it, two of which are generally agreed to be mostly fiction...

...with none mentioning goats or cattle being mutilated in order to provide concealment...

119:

I'd love to see conspiracies turned inside out into something that actually helps humanity.

For example combine heteromeles' 77: "I'm waiting for the conspiracy where the international drug gangs launder their money by building prisons in the US......because after all, every big industry needs training centers." with Charlie's 84: "... sociopathy is a spectrum disorder -- estimates for its prevalence range from 0.5% to 3% of the population."

Wouldn't it be great if prisons could be re-purposed into psychiatric institutes ... considering how many inmates do have developmental, sociological, emotional problems, such a conspiracy would actually make sense. The third-man in this conspiracy would of course be "BigPharma" another favorite bogeyman in conspiracy theories ... because of course Big Pharma doesn't want us to know that they've already developed a magic pill/cure for cancer... AIDS .. diabetes... ageing ... etc.

Because one shouldn't waste a good conspiracy theory, but build on it ...

Why should the do-gooders allow nutty and/or offensive conspiracy theories to persist? To serve as a smoke screen against Government and Big Business! TPTB would take a quick look at the newest conspiracy theory - find the same nut-jobs sending links and files to each other, and dismiss this as another hoax/con. This is the real conspiracy.

120:

Okay, maybe I was just being paranoid?
http://fukung.net/v/11147/cons.jpg

121:

The nature of what people are willing to believe about their neighbours tells us quite a lot about our attitude to the society we live in, our fears, our worries about deception, and so on.

That is speculation and may not be true at all. Suppose that conspiracy theories are randomly generated from observations/biases/etc in a "join the dots" randomness?

IOW, they are not the Rorschach test you suggest, but more like random paint blots, signifying little or nothing?

Is there a way to test this?

122:

You seem to have forgotten that the large scale institutional warehousing of the non-neurotypical (which was phased out in the 1960s through 1980s) was not a happy fun solution to their problems; abuse was rife, conditions were grotesquely bad, and at least the majority of people in prison have a date by which they expect to be released.

This is not to say that a humane and effective psychiatric in-patient system could not exist, but, like Norway's Halden jail, it's expensive, labour-intensive, and will cause a certain proportion of onlookers to burble in incoherent rage and resentment at the idea of spending money on those people.

123:

The album is available from here I found it via the Wikipedia article on RU Sirius. You can buy the album for 50 cents or just listen to it for free.

124:

It would be cheaper to send them to Eton than prison in the first place.

125:

Just yesterday:
After reading in David Talbot's "Season of the Witch" of ex[?]-CIA psychiatrist Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West's research beachhead in the Haight-Ashbury, observing people on drugs and giving some new ones to them, and of another ex[...]-CIA psychologist working in the California prison system's involvement with the people who would go on to form the Symbionese Liberation Army, some of whom in turn had been police snitches...


...I turned to my wife and said, 'Can we confidently accuse anyone of paranoia in the late 1960s and early '70s?'

126:

Possibly ...

but the photos I remember seeing of the Black Triangle(s) (From Aviation Leak Week was supposedly from Machrihanish in Scotland, of a black triangle in clouds, with two Tornados (or more conventional aircraft) as escort.

127:

@124:It would be cheaper to send them to Eton than prison in the first place.

Yes, but do we really want to encourage that level of criminality in yet another population? Right now they're mostly just drugs-dealers and petty thugs....

128:

Well, I think the first thing I will do as Home Secretary will be to legalize all drugs, tax them and sell them through the local pharmacy.
That will probably halve crime overnight, as well as halve the prison population. That should save/raise several tens of billions per annum over the current situation.

129:

and will cause a certain proportion of onlookers to burble in incoherent rage and resentment at the idea of spending money on those people.

I suspect this will remain true even if you showed how much the prison industrial complex is costing some countries. In the UK and US the problem boils down to people unable to get over their desire for punishment and vengeance even in the face of clear evidence that putting that ahead of rehabilitation will result in more crime and more cost further down the line.

It doesn't seem much to ask for a judicial system that is tasked with minimising crime by evidence based means but alas people are hopelessly primate some times.

130:

I should clarify that I don't think this is just a UK/US problem, just that it is becoming a big problem in both those places (and already is one in the latter).

131:

I'm a bit of aviation nut so I have seen the black triangle, [probably a F-117] the big black triangle with the lights at each apex [defintely not a F-117] and the black semi-circle escorted by two F-15s as well [search me, guv]... and all without leaving the confines of the UK

eerily, all the other people who saw the black semi circle are dead from cancer, except me :-O

an acquaintance of mine, who for security reasons we shall call Chris ['cos thats his name], saw the black triangle with the lights at each apex being refuelled inflight by a tanker over the north sea, whilst working on the oil rigs...I thought they ran on Element 115 ;-) myself

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materials_science_in_science_fiction

I would like to know what crashed at the end of Boscombe Down runway on 26th September 1994...

http://www.dreamlandresort.com/black_projects/boscombe.htm

it still fascinates me nearly twenty years later...

132:

I think 4Chan still said it best about reports of these things (as in pictures or it didn't happen). I'd also point out that the B-2 does look like a big black triangle (and I've seen one in the air, so it's possible that's what someone saw.

Still, I'm truly agnostic about the big black triangles and the rest of the aerial bestiary. I think, for some of the truly enormous triangles people have spotted, the NOSS constellation and similar satellites are a good explanation. For others it isn't. Probably something replaced the SR-71, but until another one comes down, we may well never know..

133:

As for the prisons, I don't think there's a conspiracy between the prison industrial complex and criminals. Prisons are run to keep themselves funded by keeping inmates, and given the way the money flows, there's little incentive for anyone to rehabilitate prisoners so that they never re-offend once they get out.

Unfortunately, all it takes to explain the US prison system is a bunch of middle managers making sure that prison-related industries stay profitable, a few colluding unions (such as the prison guards, who tend to be influential in prison politics), and enough legislators who are trying to score political points by somehow making America safer. They're actually just relocating the violence to inside prisons rather than outside, but that sort of sophistry is outside the thought processes of most US voters.

Incidentally, there are a lot of conspiracies to make the world a better place. I'm quite active in one of them: an environmentalist group. I think that, in general, we're probably slightly better at changing the world than most of the secret cabals people imagine, but you'd be hard pressed to distinguish our activities from the background noise of society operating normally.

134:

Tea-Bag started very quickly, didn't it?
And appeared to have lots of money?

The funny bit is that our brains tend to simulate other people by the model closest to hand, e.g. ourselves.

OTOH, people might act upon others as they think they are acted upon by them.

So it's no surprise your usual political-fringe nut is both big on explaining things by conspiracies and instigating conspiracies.

For the question what was first, the chicken or the egg, or if both are related to some common cause, e.g. a dysfunctional cognitive and executive style that defaults to reptilian backup brain[1], that'd be an interesting project.

To add to the collection of vaguely plausible conspiracies, is it just catecholaminergic or cannabinoid hyperarousal, or why are so many on drugs(pun intended), well, here's another one, British establishment, LSD, evolution, the UN, crowd control, come on, these guys should be something like the "ueberoptimale ausloeser" of USian conspiracy theorists...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Huxley

BTW, since somebody mentioned the Bilderberg Group, let's not forget Bohemian Grove:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemian_Grove

If anybody else read the first half of Shulgin's PIHKAL[2] and not just the synthesis in the second,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PiHKAL

there is mention of some club Shulgin attended that should sound vaguely familiar to the psychoceramically minded. Guess I was not the only one who saw this, later there was some discussion about it by the usual suspects, here is one of the saner ones:

http://entheogen-network.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=18396

For the rest, use your imagination. Googling for monoamine-releaser-fuelled or likewise sounding rants in search of inspiration is considered bad style[3].

[1] At least part of the fun that is paranoia in the course of psychosis might be explained by deficits in modeling social behaviour etc. thus countered. Similar things happen in dementias, but there, it's easier to understand.

[2] Sex, Drugs and MENSA[tm]. And various personality disorders. And...
Shit, who bugged my SF and fantasy reading friends?
(Goes on muttering to himself)

[3] Err, no, I'm currently not on drugs, I guess the problem is I'm currently off and my attention deficit is showing, err. Sorry for the rant, but I guess the phenocopy adds to the authenticity of the art...

135:

I'd also point out that the B-2 does look like a big black triangle

I'd like to point out that it doesn't - a picture always helps

http://www.aerospaceweb.org/aircraft/bomber/b2/b2_04.jpg

I've seen stuff weirder than with my own eyes, and in photographs too, and the B2 has appeared at airshows and on TV...countless people I know have said "No, it wasn't that"

aerodynamically the B-2 is 1950's tech, like this

http://www.scenicreflections.com/files/Northrop_YB-49__Wallpaper_o8si.jpg

and the Lockheed SR-71...things have moved on a tad since then :-)

believe me, the F117, B2 and F22 are the publicly acknowledged thin end of a very stealthy wedge

136:

Well, post links to the pictures somewhere then. See the point is that I can say that I've seen...whatever... and without links and pics, it's irrelevant.

As for flying wings, they go back to WWII, and the RQ-170 still follows that basic shape. 1950s tech or not, it's still relevant.

137:

the whole point of conspiracy theory is you can't prove anything...thats the whole point...a photobucket account full of black dots against cloudscapes probably means you've seen nothing more exciting than seagulls ;-)....nobody keeps photos of black US government projects on a computer connected to the internet...nobody that wants to be on the wrong end of that extradition treaty...or worse LOL

look away, theres nothing to see here, they were all Boeing 737s and I was on powerful medication anyway :-D

138:

There's this fallacy (and paradox) of agency.

The human mind filters input through a false-positive-prone filter to identify resemblamces to characters, plot, narrative, volition, goals.

We abhor the semic vacuum and fill it with meaning, constructed birds-nest-wise of 'found' narrative arcs.

That's not to say it didn't happen ;) ;) ;)

Creepy: http://linguafranca.mirror.theinfo.org/9209/culianu.html
Spooky: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melek_Taus

And Also : Scientists Afflict Computers With 'Schizophrenia' to Better Understand the Human Brain:
"... After being re-trained with the elevated learning rate, DISCERN began putting itself at the center of fantastical, delusional stories that incorporated elements from other stories it had been told to recall. In one answer, for instance, DISCERN claimed responsibility for a terrorist bombing. ..."
(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505124002.htm)

Aside: after perusing the Bordo Thodol, d'you think the biblical revelation could also be a similar Psychopomp-type guide?

139:

Oh BTW people really ought to watch this one.
http://archive.org/details/AdaCurtisCenturyoftheSelf_0
(tldr: freud's nephew, bernays, invents propaganda, politicians find out, crowd goes wild)

140:

Having grown up in urban and suburban California during the 80's and 90's, it seems odd that anyone would give any credence to such a transparent BS story.

The American crime rate rose from 1968-1991. Rap grew violent in the late 80's and early 90's because life had grown violent. American cities had become a warzone. I literally wasn't allowed to look over the back fence because of the drug-dealing going on in the alley behind our house.

The gansta rap phenomenon began in 1988, when the group NWA released Straight Outta Compton. The members lived in south-central L.A., the part that blew up during the 1992 riots. Straight Outta Compton went platinum without airplay or advertising, purely through word-of-mouth. That was when record labels began to take notice. Based on that success, the producer of the group, Dr. Dre, began to develop talent on his record label, Death Row Records, which worked out distibution deals with the big labels. Dre went on to break Snoop Dogg and Eminem.

Now, as mentioned by others in this thread, the crime rate started to drop in 1992, but incarceration continued to rise. That is because of the War on Drugs. If you're looking for a conspiracy, the War on Drugs is the place to look.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_and_Contras_cocaine_trafficking_in_the_US

141:

But that's not a conspiracy, or a conspiracy theory. It's just normal paranoid military secrecy on one side and wishful thinking by aerospace fans on the other.

There is no plotting, organized cover-ups of dark secrets.

By the way, if you happen to see the "Beast of Kandahar", also known as the RQ-170 Sentinel, when it is banking, or at a distance from an angle it will look more like a perfect triangle than this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RQ-170_Sentinel_impression_3-view.png

The same is true for the B-2.

142:

I'm always suspicious about conspiracies...human nature can lead to such beautiful idiocy independently of any conspiracy.

Eg? Well, based on a doctor untrained in epidemiology (Keys)...who graphed the 6 out of 22 points measuring the relationship between fat intake and cardiovascular events that happened to fall on a straight line...

The entire US medical establishment spent the next 60+ years advising that the best way to avoid heart attacks was to stick to low fat diets.

Sadly, if Keys'd graphed the other 16 points in his data set, he might have realized that fat intake and heart attacks weren't related at all. If he'd looked at the data for sugar intake, available in the same dataset, he might have noticed a really strong relationship.

The really sad part is that - because fat making you fat was such a good story - it didn't even matter that several papers were published in the following year indicating exactly those findings.

...unsurprisingly...people shifted caloric intake away from fat and into sugar. (low fat yogurt==high sugar yogurt). And, a perfectly well-meaning industry sprang up to market high carbohydrate (low fat) food.

...sadly...the traceable result of this policy was a highly noticeable uptick in obesity rates, and later fallout in terms of diabetes, kidney failure, and heart attacks.

Aside from the human tragedy - involving, roughly, several million deaths in the US alone(measured as one death being equivalent to the loss of 70 life-years) - it is highly amusing (in a rather dark way) that the expenditure of 60 years of medical research and hundreds of billions of dollars resulted in giving exactly the wrong answer to, arguably, the most pressing and simplest medical problem of the time. Sigh.

The only real conspiracy is that the US medical establishment is being quite incremental in changing its recommendations - so they don't end up in the NYT.

It isn't that I believe that human conscience will win out - just that I firmly believe in human incompetence and unreliability.

--Erwin

143:

125:

The trouble with the trufax conspiracy theories of the 60s and 70s was that it's hard to tell when the CIA was the cause of the conspiracy theory and when the CIA was emulating already extant conspiracy theories – a lot of the conspiracy theories that turn out to be true have that element of Stand Alone Complex about them, with some nutter with just enough rationality about them still to think up a realistic Worst Case Scenario to build their paranoia around... and the CIA going "yeah actually, why aren't we doing that?" when they hear about it; MK-ULTRA is very much something that makes sense if you accept the logic of the early LSD/hallucinogen community that held that the proper application of hallucinogens could lead to miraculous feats of psychology beyond what then current science would accept, but which is complete bollocks when viewed with even the tiniest amount of scepticism or knowledge about psychology.

Which shouldn't be too surprising given how much time and effort the CIA took to infiltrate counter-culture groups, they'd have had access to most of the urban myths doing the round – of course this is itself a conspiracy theory, one that I kind of want to believe given the poetry inherent in the idea of hippies being used by the CIA as a crowd sourced equivalent of DARPA.

144:

And here I thought rap musicians were part of the illuminatti.

(please ignore that partial post. Damn this netbook and its tiny keyboard!).

145:

The trouble is that the "gangster rap" Charlie is talking about has truly become synonymous with "rap" in large part because of the RIAA and music industry pushing it so aggressively for purely economic reasons – the idea that Gangster Rap's widespread nature is a product of an actual conspiracy by the music industry to crowd out hip hop is not even really a conspiracy as it is a reasonable description of the history of gangster rap.

The conspiracy comes in when it's assumed that it is all part of an active plot by the music industry to diminish the minds of the black youth of america, much as jazz, rock & roll and punk were supposed to be soviet plots aimed to destroy white america's youth, rather than part of the process of the music industry lowering production costs with autotuning and pay-per-backing-beat musicians to churn out generic pop or rap music that has a guarunteed audience to make up for the losses they make on the good but niche sub-genre bound mid-list rappers and MCs. Then you have the unfalsifiable nature of it emerging due to the abatement of the crack epidemic in the early 90s causing the supply of easily caught and convicted crackhead criminals to dry up that would of course suppress any effect caused by the Gangster Rap Conspiracy.

Of course, the true challenge of a conspiracy theorist is to then come up with a way by which the RIAAA could have CAUSED the abatement of the crack epidemic just to hide their insidious gansta plot...

146:

Err,
“This was actually our plan,” Jones quotes Huxley as saying upon reflection of his seminal work in ’62. “My brother runs UN UNESCO, we’re really going to do this to you early in the next century. It’s all real.”

Damn, I hate being right, err, about the appeal of the Huxleys to conspiracy theorists, that is.

Now please nobody tells "Black Heli" Jones that the guy Huxley got the inspiration for "Brave New World" from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daedalus;_or,_Science_and_the_Future

was a Aristocratic communist evolutionary biologist with a knack for India, err..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._B._S._Haldane

147:

Dirk @ 128
YES! Coupled, of course with a licensing regime ensuring purity of the products - I'm fairly sure at least half of the "problems" from "illegal drugs" are down to contaminants.

heteromeles @ 136
Err, NO.
Flying wings go back to 1907
Google for "J W Dunne" &/or "Dunne flying wing" - you will find some very interesting material to peruse!

Johm @ 138
The very word "Propaganda" was deliberately INVENTED by - wait for it ...
The Roman Catholic Church
Whose record of cover-ups, secrecy, torture cruelty and attempted world domination is quite well-known.
Its original meaning was for the use of evangelising "church teachings", or as we might say now, spreading the Big Lie around better.

148:

Though more specifically the design features of the B-2 and other stealth aircraft go back only as far 1962, to the (still publically available) publishing of soviet laser physicist Petr Ufimtsev's seminal "Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction" - any radar reduction prior to that was generally accidental, a side effect of just removing rivet heads or large right angle forming features such as tails from an aircraft or wing/body blending for other, generally aerodynamic, reasons.

149:

#126 - AvLeak are usually reliable with their type identification; not surprising given that most of the editorial team and contributors are heavily air-brained themselves.

150:

Dirk for Home Secretary!!!

151:

aerodynamically the B-2 is 1950's tech
And your point is? Commercially available sources make it very clear that stealthing is almost independant of aerodynamics (stealth designs tend to be sub-sonic F-22 aside because of power/drag constraints imposed by the lack of afterburning and desire to reduce the exhaust IR signature).

Even then, according to a usually reliable source of mine, radar observable CSA is radar frequency dependant. During Gulf1, an RN frigate detected a bogie on its "over horizon" low frequency radar, and was minutes from slaving same up with the Sea Dart targetting computer when a senior USAF officer advised them that the bogie was Blue, nor Red.

152:

There's also one other factor.
People normally assume that the CIA, NSA, MI5 etc know "The Truth". In reality they are as much, if not more so, prone to believing in weird conspiracy theories than normal people. After all, it's their job. It also makes them surprisingly naive and gullible in some areas.

153:

To be even more specific, the active digital flight control system needed to fly the B-2 is based on research made even later in the late seventies in order to use dynamically unstable planes like the forward swept wing fighters being dreamed up back then. It's only with the more advanced compact digital systems that it was finally possible to "fly" an unstable craft like the Grumman X-29.

The B-2 is more stable but the many aerodynamic compromises made to ensure stealth really mess things up. Engineers can really pat themselves on the back for having come up with a robot that corrects this.

http://ftp.rta.nato.int/public//PubFulltext/RTO/MP/RTO-MP-036///MP-036-12.pdf

Note also that the Northrop flying wing bomber prototypes proved to be quite unstable when they replaced the propeller engines with jet engines, turning two YB-35 s into YB-49s. They discovered a posteriori that the "disc" formed by the spinning propellers had been an important factor for stability.

154:

Yup, all true. And there's another headache with stealth technology. Designing it into the airframe means that a "generation" of stealth needs to be viable for around 30 years -- but a generation of radar technology and signal processing firmware is less than 10 years. As stealth is wavelength-specific, this means that well before the airframe goes out of service, the stealth characteristics will be useless except against adversaries on the trailing edge -- as witness the Serbian shoot-down of an F117A in 1999. (The F117A went into production in 1983; it's no surprise that within 17 years folks like Col. Zoltan had figured out how to nail it even using early 1960s kit like the SA-3. Allegedly they pointed their radar at the weather and looked for the holes in the rain that were moving at 600mph.)

I suspect a lot of the drive towards drones over the past two decades has occurred because; they're cheaper than manned aircraft: so it's easier to develop a new model of drone and scrap an old one: so you can update your stealth airframes faster: which in turn means they stand a fighting chance of keeping up with iterations in electronics and signal processing.

And part of the reason they're cheaper is because they don't have to carry a human crew because they're unlikely to be going up against a genuine first-rank adversary in the way that NATO air forces would have faced off against Warsaw Pact forces in European airspace had the 99 red baloons gone up in the 1980s.

(This isn't to say that I expect to see a swing back towards manned military aircraft as China comes to rival the USA as a regional military superpower -- rather, I expect to see a swing towards AI-driven drones that don't need human intervention at all between wheels-up and roll-out.)

155:

#126 - AvLeak are usually reliable with their type identification; not surprising given that most of the editorial team and contributors are heavily air-brained themselves.

Yes, but this was AvLeak reports from Way Back When the F-117 / B-2 designs were not public, I think.
I'm inclined to believe most of them are the now public stealth aircraft, but i'm wondering what happened to all the "Aurora" stuff. I keep wondering "If they had Mach 6-8 / hypersonic aircraft back then, then where are they now?". Some of it can be explained by drones being simpler to deploy: cover Afghanistan / Pakistan / Yemen with drones, strike with F-15s, why risk billion dollar craft if you don't need to?
But some of it: hypersonic missiles can't be hit by conventional missiles or projectiles. You'd need either a revolution in the development of these, or more likely, energy weapons (lasers). Similarly, for space-based weapons.
So if Russia / China really believed that the US had or was likely to develop hypersonic weapons, you'd expect them to be pushing the development of laser weaponry. So where are they?
It looks like the Pentagon believes the Chinese, etc. might get there - investments in laser weaponry to take out hypersonic projectiles still happening.

156:

hypersonic missiles can't be hit by conventional missiles or projectiles.
MBF of the "first water".

Sure M5 capability hurts the SAM engagement envelope (no tail chase intercepts, reduced cross-range intercept envelope), but present air-traffic control radars have ranges of hundreds of miles, so a correctly timed SAM firing means an "head-on" intercept at M8 rather than a mere M5, which poses timing issues for the fuze designer, but also poses issues for a pilot attempting to evade.

Just look at any books on the U-2 and SR-71, and pay particular attention to discussions of wingtips entering Mach buffet and stall simultaneously, and of engine "unstarts".

157:

The ultimate stealth-beating technology is to look for holes in the microwave background.

But it is hardly practical. How do you get the angular resolution that allows you to see a hole the size of a 'plane?

158:

Interesting info on stealth here. The discovery of the flying wing's natural low-visibility to radar was a happy accident! And a lick of magic paint does wonders too, apparently. I'm not sold on your assertion that Stealth tech is wavelength-specific, Mr Stross, for those reasons* - it appears (from public info at least) that they all rely on the same basic elements: Body shape to reduce the reflective profile, and materials to absorb electromagnetic energy. These properties are effective across the radar spectrum, hence the current drones are still flying triangles just like the YB-49 was, or very spindly like the U2.

Anyone claiming the military has technology far in advance of current commercial state-of-the-art should provide more than anecdotal evidence.

*Unless Charlie is part of the conspiracy...I knew it! WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!

159:

One known way to detect stealth aircraft is to use distortion patterns in FM commercial radio coverage (100MHz). IIRC the Chinese did this first.
I suspect that they might have large numbers (tens of thousands) of (relatively) low frequency cheap transmitters ready to be turned on as part of their air defence system in time of war.

160:

On the other hand, the aerodynamics in the case of the F-117 were very strongly dependent on the stealth. The damned thing was aerodynamically highly compromised because of the stealth requirements.

(Back then they could calculate a shape that was aerodynamically clean, or observably stealthy, but not both. It looks so weird because they weighted the stealthiness above flyability. Quite how it ended up with an F code is beyond me.)

161:

You can also make drones smaller, since they don't need the volume required to carry a pilot with life support. The cockpit on a modern fighter is a good proportion of the entire fuselage volume.

No cockpit means smaller volume and less weight, means a smaller engine is now required for the same performance, which means lower fuel burn, which means smaller volume and less weight for that fuel, repeat until diminishing returns have set in.

(Or until you decide to go for longer duration, or whatever.)

And small size helps stealth. Nobody would ever try to make an invisible flying aircraft carrier. Well, maybe Nick Fury.

162:

These days I'm unconvinced by the Aurora Mach 6-8 rumours.

Axiom 1: You don't need Mach 6-8 to dodge second-rank powers' air defense because they barely exist.

Axiom 2: If you're a front-rank power and you can see something in the sky, you can shoot it down. China, Russia, the USA, all have ASAT weapons and limited (theatre/tactical) ABMs.

So it follows that a Mach 6-8 vehicle is only useful for probing front-rank powers, but that may still not be enough to save it if it can be seen.

The big headache at Mach 6-8 is thermal issues. Aurora might be invisible on radar but that's not going to help at all if its nose and leading edge is radiating at 2000 degrees kelvin (read: glowing white hot).

If it's in atmosphere at that kind of speed, its obverservations and its stealth properties may even be compromised by it forming a plasma sheath (much like the shuttle or any capsule-type spacecraft during re-entry). Nor will it be able to maneuver rapidly to avoid, say, a metric shitload of birdshot or sand being dumped into its flight path by some sort of ABM system.

So I'm not sure I believe in Aurora as an actual in-service SR-71 replacement. I can quite imagine the USAF having a super-black hypersonic research aircraft, but it's sod-all use for spotting Taliban in the hills above Kandahar and too easily visible to risk over Chinese or Russian airspace.

What it might be is a hypersonic first stage for a small payload pop-up spysat launcher, a fine-tuned version of the mission the USAF envisaged for the X-20 and then the Shuttle back in the late 1960s/early 1970s.

Or it might just have been a sock puppet disinformation program intended to goad the Soviets into throwing money down a rat-hole ("The Americans have got it to work, why can't we?").

163:

I've heard rumours of pulsar signals being used for that purpose. And of something fascinating called "celldar".

(There are so many millions of cellphones that if you could see in microwaves, the landscape would be glowing. If you think bad guys are overhead, just have your cell towers tell everyone's phone to start broadcasting at max output power, then use passive radar to look for reflections bouncing off the underside of the bad guys. Sure the local cell call quality will go to shit, but it's really going to give the folks with the anti-radiation missiles a headache trying to figure out which phone to take out to Make It Stop ...!)

164:

"and materials to absorb electromagnetic energy"

Radar echoes comes from impedance mismatch between air and other metals. The way stealth materials work, is to smooth out the impedance-transition which attenuates the reflections.

The original recipe, developed to avoid the steel-mast on warships from giving strong masking radar-echoes, were basically thin layers of rubber, each with different amount of metal-dust, vulcanized into a blanket.

Modern recipes are undoubtedly smarter, but has to follow the same basic model to work.

In theory you could make stealth surfaces which were totally wavelength agonostic, in which case your plane would not reflect light either, but in practice you can only cover the microwave range with good results.

Frequencies longer than the dimensions of the plane is the uncurable loophole: Your stealth surfaces cannot "reach into space" to cover the field disturbance caused by the conductive materials in the plane, and as a matter of fact stealth surfaces increases the disturbance, because it is conductive as far as Maxwells equations go.

Therefore the way to detect stealth planes is to correlate spatial variations of sub-GHz wave fields, for instance from FM transmitters etc.

That works well enough that you can tell there is a "black hole" but not well enough to aim anything usefully at it.

165:

...Body shape to reduce the reflective profile, and materials to absorb electromagnetic energy. These properties are effective across the radar spectrum

Not quite true. The radar-absorbent materials are tuned to a specific frequency, and work in the same way as the "non-reflective" coating on a pair of spectacles.

You create a slightly-reflective layer that's a quarter-wavelength thick; some energy gets reflected from the front of the surface, and some from the back. Because the energy reflected from the back surface is a half-wavelength out of phase with the energy reflected from the front surface, they cancel each other out. You don't worry about non-perpendicular paths through the material, because they won't reflect back in that direction anyway...

The reason for the RN spotting the stealthy aircraft was because their Type 1022 surveillance radar operated at a lower frequency than most; fire-control radars tend to operate at shorter wavelengths than surveillance, because of the need for smaller antennas or better target discrimination for the same size antenna (typically 3cm wavelength, so a 7mm coating does the job described above) while Type 1022 is an L-band radar (>15cm wavelength).

Charlie@154 - Colonel Zoltan had the advantage that the F-117 were apparently taking the same route in and out each night, and so they were able to put the missile battery almost underneath the flight path. Stealth reduces the range at which you can be detected, it doesn't make you invisible... AIUI, the F-117 was only 13km away when the missiles were launched. Like the RN, they used a lower-than-typical-frequency surveillance radar.

166:

I take we agree that, yes if you're operating on the right frequency, you could deduce where a chunk of kit the size of an F-117 is by looking at the rain clutter for where that clutter isn't?

167:

F-105 and F-111? ;-)

Seriously, if the gestation is long enough, it could be the last "Century-series" code to appear.

168:

My understanding is that it got an F code because flying fighters is a higher status job than flying bombers, and they wanted to get the best people to fly it.

169:

And, of course, it's a strict monoposto, and as I just noted, the last one of those the USAF used as a bomber was the Thud!

170:

Nope, it fails the credibility test for me..

Consider how accurate a rainfall radar is; how reflective a raindrop is; how much rain is required to trigger it. How often you would see a plane-like hole in the rain. Why should a plane-sized hole be detectable if a plane-sized individual cloud isn't? Then consider that current radar frequencies are specifically chosen to avoid the absorption frequencies of water vapour.

It seems rather easier to use sensor fusion (say, IR against airframe friction heating combined with your radar returns) or more wattage against the reduced radar cross-section...

171:
China, Russia, the USA, all have ASAT weapons and limited (theatre/tactical) ABMs.

Those systems, especially the tactical ones, are not known for their accuracy or effectiveness.

In addition to thermal problems, though, a Mach 6 aircraft needs to have extremely powerful engines (drag goes up as the cube of speed). A manned version wouldn't have a lot of payload left over for weapons, so making it a fighter or bomber wouldn't be very useful. And it would be a lot simpler to make a reconnaissance aircraft unmanned, especially if you don't believe in the ineffectiveness of your opponent's AA missles.

172:

I don't have exact frequencies, but the SA-3 uses C, D, E and I band radars. Now an I-band is chosen for its rain-transparency, but I'm not so sure about the other 3 bands.

173:

@124:
It would be cheaper to send them to Eton than prison in the first place.
---
That would just turn them into a higher class of criminals. We have a word for that. "Politicians."

174:

I would point out that both F-111 and F-105 variants did actually carry Sidewinders. And cannons. And could therefore be plausibly placed in the fighter-bomber category.

The F-117 though? Possibly the most under-armed attack aircraft of modern times.

(Mind you, F-111s approaching into Upper Heyford used to fly low over out house, back in the 70s. Big buggers. F-117s would have been a distinct improvement, particularly as far as our livestock was concerned.)

175:

I'd suggest "were capable of carrying" rather than "carried (regularly)". For one thing, the F-111's cannon blanked the internal weapon bay.

Also, of course, there was the case of the F-15E crew who downed a flying helicopter with a GBU (Paveway 2?) in the Gulf.

176:

I would point out that both F-111 and F-105 variants did actually carry Sidewinders.

As did the Nimrod during the Falklands War... but calling it a fighter-bomber is stretching it :)

177:

alain @ 153
Yet flying wings are inherently very stable - hence the Dunne types.
Or does this only apply to Bi-planes, where you can fit an almost-conventional rudder as a turning/rotating vertical plane between the two wing-surfaces?

178:

If I recall rightly, the Project Aurora budget line item was reported as part of the B-2 production process (per Wikipedia entry, although I've seen it repeated elsewhere).

The name "Aurora" hypersonic craft may well be something different, if a production model exists at all.

This is one of the fun things about conspiracy theories. As with religion, people often neglect to define their basic terms, and confusion propagates.

179:

Yet there is not known to be any flying testbed of a pulse detonation engine apart from the Rutan plane 4 years ago. That alone makes me suspicious.

180:

Well, if we're starting that game, can I enter Buccaneers, Jaguars, A-64 Apaches and "Black Buck" Vulcans (at least according to the Brazilian who interned the one that landed there)?

181:

Sure M5 capability hurts the SAM engagement envelope (no tail chase intercepts, reduced cross-range intercept envelope), but present air-traffic control radars have ranges of hundreds of miles, so a correctly timed SAM firing means an "head-on" intercept at M8 rather than a mere M5, which poses timing issues for the fuze designer, but also poses issues for a pilot attempting to evade.

I'm getting most of what I know about Hypersonic missiles from Air Force 2025, a future-planning op by the USAF. They basically reckon (disinfo?) that by hypersonic, M12 or above, missiles can't be hit by conventional means; they either have to be prevented (space superiority) or maybe energy weapons. (hypersonic => effectively launched from space).

Have you pointers to better info?

182:

hese days I'm unconvinced by the Aurora Mach 6-8 rumours.

I'd tend to agree with your analysis. One other option remains, though.

I agree that if you have a M6-M8 aircraft, its not going to be invisible to any enemy that matters. So if I had that technology, I'd keep it for a surprise. In the event of a regional dispute turning nasty, a stand-off weapons platform

183:

I'm not sure that any high mach craft is a good surprise option. Where are you going to test fly the beast to make sure it works in a shooting war? With big missiles, at least, you've got the space program and satellite industry to serve as your perfectly legitimate test bed for delivery technology.

The other problem is that high mach is a great speed for a projectile, but it's not so great for a plane firing bullets or missiles. As I understand it, getting separation between two bodies going supersonic is one of those messy problems. For example: can you open a bomb bay door at Mach 6 without having the plane lose control, overheat, or otherwise critically fail? Can you even get a plane to fly at Mach 6 with a bomb hanging off it, let alone firing the missile and getting it through the shockwave the plane is creating? Can you fire a hypersonic bullet out of a plane's nose without the bullet disintegrating into shrapnel could that you then have to fly through?

It may be that high mach is the realm of missiles and spy planes. There may be no point in even including a detachable weapon on such a platform.

I'll also add one fillip: given the failure of the Falcon HTV-2 at Mach 20, we know the upper bounds of what the black planes are capable of.

184:

Or Tarnover?

Oh, I have another policy for when you become Home Sec- or Foreign Office. Lease the Isle Of Wight to China on a 99 year lease. Should go a long way towards clearing the deficit.

New conspiracy theory : SOE never disbanded. They just use the National Trust & Landmark Trust as cover. There's a suspicious number of LT properties in sensitive locations. And one more: Jack The Ripper was John Merrick.

185:

"Come to think of it, racism is probably the undiscussed elephant in the room for US foreign policy over the last fifteen years."


Since the early 1600's.

186:

Yeah, but no, but yeah.

Back in the 1600s, and well into the 20th century, racism would have been part of the mental furniture of millions of people, including the people who decided foreign policy of the British Empire and its successor regime in North America.

And they would have been completely open about how their skin colour entitled them to ravage the rest of the world.

It's only since 1945 that such thinking has become unavowable, thanks to "mean mr. moustache" and his career of crime.

My favourite conspiracy theory is the one that holds that Marshal Tito was secretly a woman.

187:

Ah, I see the disconnect now; I was reckoning on hypersonic aircraft, which means M4.5 to M6 or so. I'd agree that by M12 you probably can't get a missile to time to altitude fast enough for a man-in-loop detect-identify-launch-climb cycle.

188:

The Dunne flying wings (both the small one and the larger one) had two really big vertical stabilizers at the end of each bi-wing duo:

http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/rights-managed/IH155928/burgessdunne-flying-wing-of-1916

According to the Wikipedia list of flying wings the Dunne flying wings were true flying wings, as opposed to blended body craft. But from my point of view they're more closely related to box kites than to other flying wings.

189:

"Why is it the US government is always supposed to be totally useless when it comes to organising any public service, but hyper efficient when it comes to organising a conspiracy?"

I think that it's more that the government gets very efficient giving elites and well-connected interest groups what they like.

190:

There are four separate job roles with two sharing a designator.

A = attack (tactical)
B = bomber (strategic)
F = fighter (tactical)
= strike aircraft (theatre range)

A lot of strike aircraft were, or were intended as a designed-in mission capability, intermediate range nuclear weapons delivery. The small two-slot (usually) internal bomb bay is a tipoff there. The rise of laser guided bombs gave an unexpected conventional boost to the role, which now dominates.

191:

Certainly the F-105 was designed for "tactical strike" with a "target marker bomb".
OTOH the F-101, 102 and 106 also all have internal weapons storage, but were designed for air superiority and/or bomber interceptor roles.

192:

"Axiom 2: If you're a front-rank power and you can see something in the sky, you can shoot it down. China, Russia, the USA, all have ASAT weapons and limited (theatre/tactical) ABMs. "

Incorrect, IMHO. ASAT weapons work on satellites with known trajectories and limited maneuverability. An Aurora (if one exists) would present with far shorter advance notice and even further shorter notice of where it's heading. Combine that with maneuverability, and it's a much harder problem.

Now, it does call more for an unmanned vehicle, considering its tasks.

193:

Copied and pasted with minor edit from my #156:-

"M5 flight poses issues for a pilot attempting to evade.

Just look at any books on the U-2 and SR-71, and pay particular attention to discussions of wingtips entering Mach buffet and stall simultaneously, and of engine "unstarts"."

194:

"Charlie@154 - Colonel Zoltan had the advantage that the F-117 were apparently taking the same route in and out each night, and so they were able to put the missile battery almost underneath the flight path. "

There is no cure for stupid, is there.

195:

...but i'm wondering what happened to all the "Aurora" stuff. I keep wondering "If they had Mach 6-8 / hypersonic aircraft back then, then where are they now?".

Aurora and all those hypersonic jets that created the late 80s-mid 90s UFO flap were one-off prototypes, the equivalent of the high performance cars you see at car shows: never intended to be put into production but built to show off the bleeding edge of technology.

It's cool to see that Boing or Lockhead Martin can build a Mach 8 capable jet, but it's not necessarily practical. Why would the Pentagon want a fleet of them? Especially when they turn the pilots to jelly and have a maintenance cost that makes the space shuttle look like a bargain.

Then along comes the F-22, which will do everything you want from a manned fighter, fits into the established deployment schedule, and it costs a bajillion dollars in taxpayer money, which keeps the Senators who work for Boing happy as well.

The contractors get their sweetheart deals, the military gets a new toy, and the Aurora prototypes go into storage at Area 51 for 30 years, until their declassification schedule comes up, then they ship them to the Smithsonian as curiosities of the Cold War.

196:

...and "Black Buck" Vulcans...

Minor nit, that was a Shrike ARM, not a Sidewinder. And the Vulcan concerned (XM597) currently sits only a few miles from Edinburgh, at the Museum of Flight in East Fortune...

197:

I'm not sure that any high mach craft is a good surprise option. Where are you going to test fly the beast to make sure it works in a shooting war?

Hmmm.... What about the X-37B? Launch according to intelligence, leave sitting in orbit for a month or two, bring back if not needed.

If needed, however, it can come screaming in at Mach 20 with your hitherto-unknown "Day 1" capability - be that a damn great EMP, or a pile of ARM - and tah-dah... (claiming afterwards, of course, that it was all done by cruise missiles)

198:

It's cool to see that Boing or Lockhead Martin can build a Mach 8 capable jet, but it's not necessarily practical. Why would the Pentagon want a fleet of them? Especially when they turn the pilots to jelly and have a maintenance cost that makes the space shuttle look like a bargain.

That's rather plausible.

Like the YF-12 program, which was supposed (in the early 60s) to deliver 700 interceptors to the USAF, for the supposed Soviet Mach 3 bomber (the USSR being believed at the time to be building a working rival to the XB-70).

Yes, they were going to build 700 of these. Yes, the SR-71 is a warmed-over two seat recce version of the YF-12/A-11 airframe. You know how much the fuel that stuff drinks costs? It's about the same price as decent single malt scotch, and before it goes supersonic and the airframe warms up and expands enough to seal the joints, it drips. It was going to carry the AIM-47 Falcon, which ended up developing into the AIM-54 Phoenix carried by USN F-14 Tomcats -- possibly the most expensive air-to-air missile ever fired (unit cost roughly $480,000 in 2000 dollars) ...

Look, they were seriously planning to frickin' weaponize the single-seat version of the SR-71 and build nearly a thousand of 'em for use as a front-line Mach 3 fighter with nuclear-capable beyond-visual-range missiles. Given what we know about the costs of operating and maintaining about 30 SR-71s during the 1970s through 1990s, does it get much madder than that?

199:

Why are you assuming Aurora would be manned?

200:

(The F117A went into production in 1983; it's no surprise that within 17 years folks like Col. Zoltan had figured out how to nail it even using early 1960s kit like the SA-3. Allegedly they pointed their radar at the weather and looked for the holes in the rain that were moving at 600mph.)

The USAF knew of its limits from day one. Which was why it was only to be used at night. It was a 1st gen model and suffered a lot of faults from that.

Anyone want to ride in an F111 with original avionics?

201:

Come to think of it, racism is probably the undiscussed elephant in the room for US foreign policy over the last fifteen years.

How about

racism is probably the undiscussed elephant in the room for almost any foreign policy over recorded and pre-recorded history.

202:

That's a bit of a sweeping statement, if only because the modern western construction of the concept of racism is, in its current form, about 400 years old (being a very useful tool to be able to apply to the victims of the slave trade -- if one dehumanizes another group by classifying them as "sub-human" then it makes it much easier to deal with them inhumanely). On the other hand, equivalent frameworks for systematic dehumanization of foreign or culturally different groups have undoubtedly been around for a very long time indeed (I'm talking geological time, not historically recorded time).

203:

in its current form

I guess it depends on how genetically different you have to be to be considered "sub" to the ruling classes.

Sparta had their neighbors that they used as their slave working class based solely on where they were born. The biblical parable about the "good" Samaritan was about what the Jews of the time considered half breeds, Jews who merged their families with the northern conquerors. And India has been dealing with the concept of how light is your skin color for way more than 400 years. Then there's Japan.

I'm not making an excuse for European racism (which is where the US derived it) but pointing out that the main difference between after 1600 and before 1600 is one of technology, not the way people groups interact. After 1600 we all just got more efficient at it.

204:

I should clarify: yes, you can loft your weapon almost anywhere. Practicing attacks with it might be a bit harder. For example, the shuttle leaves a long contrail coming in out of orbit. For another example, amateur satellite watchers tracked the X-37b pretty carefully, so its sudden disappearance would not go unnoticed.


205:

AIM-54 Phoenix carried by USN F-14 Tomcats -- possibly the most expensive air-to-air missile ever fired (unit cost roughly $480,000 in 2000 dollars

Any idea how that compares to the AIR-2 Genie air-to-air nuke? Hadn't realized they were in service as recently as 1985.

206:

which ended up developing into the AIM-54 Phoenix carried by USN F-14 Tomcats -- possibly the most expensive air-to-air missile ever fired (unit cost roughly $480,000 in 2000 dollars)

I had heard $1,000,000. An interview with a pilot at the time mentioned that they wanted to practice with them but also it was hard to think about how it cost the same as 20 Porches each time you fired one.

207:

Amazing that no one has yet mentioned the plot to get a new royal yacht for the queen of England. It would be out of the public purse, of course.

208:

paws4thot wrote:

OTOH the F-101, 102 and 106 also all have internal weapons storage, but were designed for air superiority and/or bomber interceptor roles.

They have an internal bay for air to air missiles only, not a general purpose one.

Really the first aircraft with dual purpose bays are the F-22s. Before that it tended to be an internal bomb rack or an internal missile rail, but not both.

209:

Yes, and in your own Wikipedia link:

In 1960 Lockheed started development of the Lockheed YF-12 interceptor, as a lower-cost replacement for the F-108.

*boggles*

210:

which ended up developing into the AIM-54 Phoenix carried by USN F-14 Tomcats -- possibly the most expensive air-to-air missile ever fired (unit cost roughly $480,000 in 2000 dollars) I had heard $1,000,000

the F14A/AWG-9/AIM-54 weapons system is the thing that stopped Saddam driving his tanks all the way to Tehran...approx 90 AIM-54s were fired during 1980-88, downing at least 70 Iraqi combat aircraft [including a triple kill with one missile]

accept no substitute - the Iranians were hoping to re-equip with MiG-29s [as were the Iraqis] - they only bought twenty five when they test flew them against their ageing, cannibalised, embargoed F14s...which could shoot them down 100 miles aways... ;-)

My understanding is that it got an F code because flying fighters is a higher status job than flying bombers, and they wanted to get the best people to fly it.

the YF117-F117 designation through arose through the YF-113/YF-114/YF-115/YF-116 designations which were captured Soviet MiGs - YF-114 was the MiG-21, IIRC

the Constant Peg aircrew that test flew the MiGs, were the most experienced USAF aircrew available, and had been positively vetted, so they test flew Have Blue & Senior Trend as well

Senior Trend became the F-117A Nighthawk

F-117 pilots have the same "Bandit" designation as the Constant Peg pilots.


211:

"Really the first aircraft with dual purpose bays are the F-22s. Before that it tended to be an internal bomb rack or an internal missile rail, but not both."

That should be "...the first _production_ aircraft..."

The Avro Arrow prototypes had multi-purpose internal bays which could be used for missiles and other weapons (bombs, gun packs...) but could also be used for reconnaissance cameras.

http://www.avroarrow.org/AvroArrow/factualarrow2.html

And boy, there are tons of conspiracy theories surrounding the cancellation of the Avro Arrow and the possible fate of one of the prototypes, which might have mysteriously disappeared and survived the "Black Friday" destruction order.

212:

... The F-14 / AWG-9 / AIM-54 ... Accept no substitute

Tom Cooper and ACIG aside, I'll grant you that IRIAF did OK against the Iraqis; but AIUI it was primarily a land war.

AWG-9 was your basic 1970s-vintage HPRF/LPRF only radar, similar to Foxhunter in the Tornado F.3. The aircraft / radar / missile was optimised to deal with Soviet Naval Aviation threats to the CVBG, i.e. damn great bombers over water against a clear sky with limited ability to turn at right angles to avoid the missile. By the 1980s, digital signal processing had reached the point where MPRF radars were possible (as fitted to F-16, F-18, later blocks of F-15), with attendant improvements in performance.

The other problem was reliability; according to the Janes article I vaguely remember, when they replaced F-14 with F-18, the availability went up, while the squadron sizes dropped from 450ish to 250ish. Maintenance man-hours per flying hour can be scary for older designs; apparently the figure was 27 or so for the Tornado, while Typhoon got that figure down to under 9.

213:

The Blackburn Buccaneer, in service fifty years ago, had a combat radius that is about twice that of the F-35, any version

The WW2 US Navy had fighters and bombers with a better combat radius.

It's not just the cost of the plane--you've heard about the future of air combat, where the planes are so expensive that the USA can only afford to buy one--there's the possibility that it won't be able to carry enough fuel to go anywhere useful.

214:

Does every conspiracy discussion have to turn into dueling jets.

I mean, sheesh, why not deal with some real conspirators, like Mulholland. Or academic publishing. Or, for that matter, academic tuition. Where does all that money go again?

215:

[[ Since redacted: see #250 ]]

From a US perspective.

College professors used to be middle class folks. Now they are in the 1%, maybe many/mostly the 0.1%.

And other things. Have you seen dorms at most schools these days. Major university dorms in the 60s, 70s, and into the 80s, were typically under 200sf per pair of students. With 4 students sharing a sink w/maybe a shower. Many schools now have palaces compared to then.

Now my own theory is that since school loans and grants from the feds will cover most any school you get accepted to attend there's no real downward pressure on costs except for the occasional media "outrage" over rising costs.

216:

Thanks for mentioning the private prison/SB1070 connection; I'm from Arizona and was just about to bring that up. Anyone wants to take a gander at it, there's a local news piece on YouTube, and NPR's covered it too.

Privately-run prisons work about as well as you'd expect them to. Which is to say they occasionally let murderers escape and murder more people.

The thing that's terrifying is that Maricopa County Sheriff's Department does NOT run the worst detention facilities in this state.

...at any rate. To bring this tangent back to the original point, as is my wont: yes, a conspiracy theory about the private prison industry exploiting popular racism and existing correlation between race and incarceration rate is attractive precisely BECAUSE that exact thing IS happening, overtly.

Like you say, the specifics of the gangsta rap theory can't pass the smell test because they require a paradoxical combination of shrewd coverup skills and total incompetence. (Rather like the "9/11 Truther" movement, which requires you to believe that an administration that couldn't hush up a critical ambassador without generating a massive public scandal could nonetheless orchestrate and cover up an incredibly elaborate mass murder and then blame it on some guy in the Middle East.

But -- ah -- Bin Laden DID receive support and training from the CIA back in the 1970's, didn't he? So there's another kernel of truth buried in the bullshit.)

A young cousin actually recently asked me if I believe any conspiracy theories are true. I responded that some of the really outlandish stories of CIA LSD experiments are in fact completely true. He asked about Area 51 and I said the most believable explanation I've heard is that there IS a secret base out there, and that the rumors of alien spacecraft come from top secret aircraft tests. Another outlandish conspiracy theory with a perfectly plausible conspiracy theory at its core.

217:

Speaking of conspiracy theories, I'm reading The New Hate by Arthur Goldwag. It's chiefly about US Right Wing conspiracies and where they come from. Very informative and well written. Highly recommended.

218:

The conspiracy had lost me as soon as guns were drawn. Otherwise it it did briefly have plausibility. Gangsta rap didn't come out if nowhere, like many mainstream trends it had its roots in indie beginnings. Gangsta rap has no more conspiratorial connection with the private prison system than dance music does with drug dealers. No meetings of the kind in the story need to take place, you'll find but the two no doubt benefit each other. It's the headless monster principle, a lot of bad things can and do happen as if there was a conspiracies, without the need for shadowy people and organisations conspiring in secret. On the other hand, a lot of dodgy sh*t does go on, as wikileaks has revealed...
Necessary for plausibility is the question: Are we being socially engineered? Well the answer isn't clear, but it most certainly isn't "No"

219:

@ 201
I note that OGH has just questioned your sanity.
To which I will add ...
There was a fascinating take, recently, as part of a 20-part BBC radio4 series, recounting an official English govmint (Elizabeth I) ant-racism programme, backed by one Wm Shalkespeare.
The whole series is available on pocdcast ...
HERE You want, No 13, the one labelled "From London to Marrakech".
The sultan of Morocco was allied to the English, against Philip II of Spain, and it has been noted that any brown-skinned characters in WS's works are portayed as honorable, in the same way, contra many plays and books of the time, all the women accused of various faults in his works are innocnet - all of them.
One also gets curious side-glimpses, like THIS: 'the Sultana Isabel, who has status and majestic glory, firmness and stability, a rank which all her co-religionists, far and near, recognise, whose status among the Christian people continues to be mighty and elevated'

[begin Quote: ...The Sultana Isabel is of course Queen Elizabeth seen from far away, seen in fact, from Africa in 1600, and that flattering description of her majestic glory, firmness and stability was given by one of her new allies on the world stage, Sharif Ahmad al-Mansur, the wealthy king of Morocco, far richer than Elizabeth herself and a political force to be reckoned with in both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. ... endQuote]

Which brings me to alain @ 207
Given that the monarch's state stipend is considerably LESS than the income from the Crown Estates - paid into the national exchequer .....
And, such a vessel (as Britannia showed over the years) makes a very secure and useful international conference centre ....
And OF COURSE, no "President" would EVER get such luxuries.
I've got this nice secondhand bridge I can sell you?

Contrariwise, same author @ 211
The reaming of the Brit aircraft industry under Duncan Sandys/Eden was a complete disaster, and the USA did very well out of that, didn't they. And Canada got the same treatment.
Who got paid off, I still wonder?

220:

The shuttle leaves (left) a long contrail deliberately -- its mission profile (circa 1968-89) called for it to re-enter without passing over COMMUNIST!!!1!!ELEVENTY!! territory, which basically meant bleeding off all its momentum over the Pacific ocean.

A dedicated unmanned hypersonic weapons platform doesn't need to do that.

221:

Minor nit, that was a Shrike ARM, not a Sidewinder.
The power of selective quotation; my original went on to say "...according to the Brazilians". There were diplomatic reasons why they deliberately mis-identified these weapons.

222:

Does every conspiracy discussion have to turn into dueling jets
Well, if you put a collection of aviation nuts in the same room (real or virtual), every so often the conversation will turn to duelling jets and the like. Particularly when the host is one of them.

223:

Well, there are quite a few cases of help from sources that must not be divulged ... the Bletchley Parkers back in academia, not allowed to talk about what they did but with a really good knowledge of what can be done. 'Oh, another one of those' for many of the weird special-order items for Hubble. The suspiciously high tech readiness level of the unfolding mirror for the JWST.

The US has a parallel black-budget space programme funded at about the same level as the public one, and 'space aliens' is a much safer joke answer than 'Chantilly, VA'.

224:

Erm.

Teaching staff anywhere are emphatically not in the top 1%, even tenured professors. The management team, heads of department and various college dons can be close, especially in private education, but the poor buggers on the ground are far from it.

As for student accommodations - in almost all modern buildings (last 15 years) the trend has been to cram in as many people as possible to individual or twin shoeboxes. It is particularly deplorable for anywhere hosting international students - they usually pay well above the going rate, for somewhere much smaller than the average. Why? They can't exactly flee home, and there'll be a new bunch in next year to replace those that can get out. They're also often convinced to sign rental contracts for longer than the academic year, so have to pay an extra month or more of rent compared to other students. Being foreign, they don't know any better till they get in town, and then they're stuck.

Student life may be relatively soft, but judging by the overall decline of student turnout to events in the last 20 years, it isn't anywhere near as cheap and easy as it used to be.

226:

I don't know that someone hasn't linked you to the following item (sorry, but I'm not going to read through 223 entries to see if anyone posted the relevant link), but it's a fairly succinct take on the "conspiracy to fill prisons with people by using gangsta rap" conspiracy theory.

Here' the link: http://www.illdoctrine.com/2012/05/the_hidden_truth_about_hip-hop.html

227:

One of those is just up the road in Duxford - you can see it in one of those pictures parked next to a Concorde.

It's notable that though it's smaller than the Concorde, it's not as much smaller as one would expect given that the Concorde is an airliner.

228:

[edit]The surviving one of those is just up...[/edit]

Also, it should be noted that the Concorde in question is one of the pre-production airframes, which were a bit smaller than the production airframes.

229:

[edit] One of the surviving ones of those is just up... [/edit]

XR220 is at Cosford. It's XR222 at Duxford.

230:

If you want to find members of the 1% at an American college or university the best place to look is the sports program. Football coaches can easily have a base salary in the millions of dollars, plus bonuses and other compensation.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/story/2011-11-17/cover-college-football-coaches-salaries-rise/51242232/1

231:

Ahh, now that I had forgotten. American university sports teams are in a different league to the rest of the world.
According to your figures, the top 45 coaches are splitting a pay pool of over $100 million, and the coach of Texas earns not much less than the coaches of Manchester United or Bayern Munich.
It seems extraordinary you can have an educational faculty paying the same as an international sports side or state team. Still, it does nicely show where the priorities in education funding are these days...

232:

Here's another real world conspiracy: human radiation experiments. The very audacity of doing something at such scale, with so many people involved - and it not coming to light within relevant timeframe - makes you not accept the 'but it would have leaked' arguments about conspiracies. Even looking at the conspiracies that did leak, the leaks tend to happen either by accidental discovery, or long time afterwards even if crazy number of people were directly involved.

233:

"College professors used to be middle class folks. Now they are in the 1%, maybe many/mostly the 0.1%."

(from Krugman a while back) The floor for the 1% in the USA is $350K/year household income. From casual observation, college professors make more like $50K/year.

The 0.1% would be far higher than $350K/year household income, so you are off by a factor of 10 or (far) more.

234:

Not only is it still around, but they put it on the internet archive. It's excellent. At the risk of hitting the spam filter, it's here: http://archive.org/details/MondoVanilliIouBabe

235:

My bad. Thanks. I'm terrible with names and chronologies sometimes, but I had a sneaking suspicion that Burn came out prior to Nothing Records thing on account of him meeting up with R. U. Sirius & friends in Le Pig (which I want to say he bought during the making of Burn or shortly after it, prior to recording The Downward Spiral).

Did he go off Interscope between The Downward Spiral and Year Zero? I remember that he self-released Ghosts I-IV & The Slip in part because he thought the publisher for Year Zero was charging too much for the packaging.

236:

thats OK - I'd never heard of Mondo Vanilli before, so thanks for that

the Interscope/Nothing problem Reznor had were solved by the contract expiring - Ghosts I–IV and The Slip were release on Creative Commons

anything Reznor does comes out on the label The Null Corporation now - including the "Social Network" soundtrack

237:

"College professors used to be middle class folks. Now they are in the 1%, maybe many/mostly the 0.1%."

(from Krugman a while back) The floor for the 1% in the USA is $350K/year household income. From casual observation, college professors make more like $50K/year.

The 0.1% would be far higher than $350K/year household income, so you are off by a factor of 10 or (far) more.

I was wrong. My stats were from a faulty memory.

But using some Wikipedia information from 2005.

There was a local dust up over our governor's wife getting a part time teaching job at a local university. The dust up was over how she got the job, not her salary. Part time, $160K per year. And some of the local small businesses around here are run by professors and as best I can tell they don't ever turn a profit but suck up $25K to $50K or more per year. So these guys are making way more that $50K to be able to handle the losses.

Anyway, $100K per year puts you into the top 15%. $160K per year puts you into the top 6%. In 2005. And college teaching salaries have not gone down here in NC. This is definitely not middle class.

238:

If you want to find members of the 1% at an American college or university the best place to look is the sports program. Football coaches can easily have a base salary in the millions of dollars, plus bonuses and other compensation.

and

According to your figures, the top 45 coaches are splitting a pay pool of over $100 million, and the coach of Texas earns not much less than the coaches of Manchester United or Bayern Munich.
It seems extraordinary you can have an educational faculty paying the same as an international sports side or state team. Still, it does nicely show where the priorities in education funding are these days...

I'm a big fan of college sports but I hate the way the money side of them work. The only saving grace is that I'd bet that almost all or even all of these schools run their athletic departments out of a separate corporation that IN GENERAL does not take money out of the schools. Most of the top 50 or so put money back in or at a minimum use the profits from basketball and football to fund the other smaller sports. Now some would argue that the donations given to these sports groups would do a lot more good on the educational side of the fence. But 99% or more of that money would never show up for education purposes.

Not much of a saving grace but it is a little one.

The system is a mess but the major schools tend to not suck money directly from education. The problem is the smaller schools who feel they must field teams tend to run at a sports loss and do suck money out of education.

As to the top 45, in football (the US game), it looks like the big time will soon be reduced to 64 or so teams with everyone else reduced to rec league standing. Which is likely a good thing for the education monies.

Says he who grew up a KY basketball fan and now lives in the middle of Duke, UNC, and NCSU territory.

239:

> folding optics

Back in the 1980s the NRO and the SDI (remember them?) had large diameter folding mirror programs, the NRO for visible-light telescopes and SDI for IR beam directors. AFAIK neither got to the point of operational usability, but it wouldn't be surprising if they left a lot of preliminary design studies around.

240:

The reason people love making fun at conspiracies is because they secretly believe them. It's the secret thrill for those few seconds/minutes when you go, "I'll buy that/it" , accompanied by the heady cognitive dissonance understanding "I'm a bleedin' lunatic".

Apophenia isn't a skill set, it's a serious addiction.

241:

If the designers of a FOBS or orbital-to-ground weapons system are willing to pay for more delta-V in the retro burn versus letting the atmosphere do the work, they can get much shorter flight paths with much less or possibly even no contrail or plasma sheath on re-entry. And it's worth if if they can do that, because it reduces the warning time and the window for intercepting the missile. Also, putting some pieces of the system into high-temp re-entries as decoys makes targeting the warheads harder.

242:

I got here too late to pile on you about professors' pay, but I'd like to point out that my son and daughter-in-law are assistant professors at a large land-grant university in the southern USA, and their salaries very definitely do not put them in the 1%, let alone the 0.1%. That's consistent with the general trend in American society: people who actually do something beneficial for society aren't rewarded with "wealth beyond the dreams of avarice", but people who manipulate financial abstractions are.

243:

You have to compare apples to apples.

In my field, the starting professorial salary was ~$50k, adjusted a bit for cost of living. The starting salary for a consultant in the same field with a master's degree was $50-60k, and in general, going on tenure track means you're giving up some income (say 30%) for job security--that's the whole point of tenure.

Now, if you paid professors in business administration $50k, you'd only get the weirdos and incompetents, so susiness Schools tend to pay their professors a lot more. Not as much as they'd make in the private sector, but enough to make the offer of lower pay plus tenure palatable. In general, the pay tracks the field the professors are in. Law makes more than English, molecular biology makes more than ecology.

Then there's the bit about grant money. One of the key tricks to getting tenure in the sciences is to get enough grants to make back the money the university invested in building your lab, and to make enough additional money to fund the university through your overhead and salaries for grad students, techs, post-docs, and subordinate scientists. At Tier 1 US universities, this can mean that labs are expected to clear over a half million in grant money every year. In other words, they are small businesses, with the University creaming of upwards of half of each grant for small things like funding humanities programs, which often pull in no grant money at all.

Since universities typically claim ownership of all intellectual property their employees produce, the IP part of any spinoff by a professor gets... interesting. I suspect that the university makes money in some or many cases. In other cases (especially in environmental fields), professors and their employees and grad students may work as consultants on projects, using the money they bring in through this process to help keep their labs funded and keep the grad students off food stamps.

So ultimately, if you look at base salaries, professors are middle class. If they are regularly generating patents, writing books, and pulling in grants, they can make considerably more, but this is soft money, not hard.

244:

In my field, the starting professorial salary was ~$50k, adjusted a bit for cost of living. The starting salary for a consultant in the same field with a master's degree was $50-60k,
...
So ultimately, if you look at base salaries, professors are middle class.

In 2005 $50K puts a household in at the 50% mark of all households. And you say that is their starting point for an individual. So they will likely rise above that starting point and move out of the "middle" and into the upper as they progress in their careers. And may even start out higher if it is a couple who both work. So let's assume $50K plus $30K for a more modest 2nd income. That puts them at the 75% mark day one.

245:

I got here too late to pile on you about professors' pay, but I'd like to point out that my son and daughter-in-law are assistant professors at a large land-grant university in the southern USA, and their salaries very definitely do not put them in the 1%, let alone the 0.1%.

I said I was wrong about the 1%/.1% numbers.

246:

You can be right, mind you. A sizable portion of university / college professors have an okay (but not great) salary... but they can get quite a lot of money in grants. Depending on their fields, for example.

And since they typically don't have to pay their "employees" (students -- grad and undergrad) in a lot of places, that can be quite lucrative.

But, again, it depends on the field. Tech (especially biotech) is where the big money for that is.

247:

I'm suggesting that instead of useless forcible confinement, provide the neuroatypical with actual help within the current prison. Would this actually cost more than the oft-cited $65K per annum per inmate? Sell/describe it as the latest in penal best practices and not as therapy. This would, literally, reverse the history of the penal system. Neat bit of irony...

248:

provide the neuroatypical with actual help within the current prison.

In the US you can't force mental health treatments on someone. In general. Prisons are an interesting detail here. But if the inmates refuse, as I suspect many will do, then what?

And yes I understand there are many programs that deal with inmates in ways to allow them to leave with a much better chance at life. No where near enough but many. But the inmate has to want to take part.

249:

Tenure is being phased out ... and most profs/teaching PhDs are not 0.1% members.

250:

Charlie

Can you edit 215 and note that I made a mistake and know it and corrected it later before your blog gets filled with folks telling me I'm wrong.

I was wrong. OK?

[[ Done ]]

251:

Conspiracy theories are a form of "consolation".

They let people imagine that the world is comprehensible, and that someone is in control -- even if it's bad people.

The reality, that the world is -not- comprehensible even theoretically and that -nobody- is really in control and that "things are in the saddle, and ride mankind" is much more disquieting.

252:

Actually, you do have to pay your students, if they are doing work for you, and if you have a brain.

Thing is, you don't have to pay them very much. For example, post-docs get around median wage for their area, and grad student RA salaries are considerably lower. The only students who don't get paid are the high school interns who are working towards science projects for the big science fairs.

If you don't pay them, you get what you proverbially pay for, and that's a great way to make sure you don't get tenure or keep your tenured position. When your livelihood depends on good data, it really doesn't pay to skimp.

For at least the last decade, work-study is a standard way for students to get into the sciences.

253:

Well, personally I blame the Zionist Occupation Government, the Bilderbergers, Prince Philip, Cthulhu, MK-Ultra, Majestic-12, the Illuminati, the Knights Templars, Water flouridization, the Mayans, FEMA, Skulls and Bones, Bohemian Grove, the Health Nazis, the liberal Media, Men in Black, freemasons and reptilian humanoids...for just about everything...but especially when I can't find my stapler...

254:

Stross says:

Yes, the SR-71 is a warmed-over two seat recce version of the YF-12/A-11 airframe. You know how much the fuel that stuff drinks costs? It's about the same price as decent single malt scotch, and before it goes supersonic and the airframe warms up and expands enough to seal the joints, it drips.

That is an interesting quote so I thought I'd check it. According to all the sources I can find (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JP-7#From_the_SR-71_Flight_Manual) the SR-71 runs on JP-7, and according to the DoD it was about $3 a gallon back in 2005 (one source: http://comptroller.defense.gov/defbudget/fy2004/budget_justification/pdfs/01_Operation_and_Maintenance/Overview_Book/43_Fuel_Rates.pdf) so while it might have gone up a bit in cost, unless Scotland has some really cheap single blend that's an over statement. But yeah I suspect the maintenance costs on the Sr-71 are non trivial.

255:

My understanding is that the man power needed to keep an SR-71 going was about 50 per plane in the active squadron that existed. Compared to multiple 100s for other aircraft.

After some searching around it seems the squadron had a cost of about $260 million per year or $50k per flight hour which actively flying.

Anyone got figures for B-52s, F15s, etc...???

But this airframe was still not a good choice for a fighter/interceptor. Due to the fuel tank issues and pilot prep times there a 3 hour or so process to get one of these in the air. Not exactly something you could keep on "hot" alert.

257:

A quick troll through HMC&I's website suggests that untaxed Single Malt would retail at about $10/l; I think that's about $40/USg.

258:

Hmm, trying to remember my source for the high fuel price: offline books, probably. It's possible that JP-7 cost a fuckton more in the early days than later on during the program, once the aircraft were operational and it was needed in industrial quantities on an ongoing basis.

259:

You weren't thinking of the couple of pints of Triethylborane carried for engine ignition, were you?

Or maybe you were factoring in the cost of the specialised fuel tankers which had to have separate tanks for their own fuel and the fuel they delivered to the 'birds.

(A Blackbird with no tanker available at altitude after takeoff? Not so useful.)

260:

This reminds me that one of the Rabett Run guys still has the razzer special lenses from a 1980s laser research project (connected with fusion? or was it enrichment?) in his garage, having kept them when the project was cancelled...

261:

I'd agree, since I'm sure I'd read that too. Of course, between us we probably own at least one copy of every book on the (Y)F-12/SR-71 programme ever printed, so that's not a lot of help really.

262:

My understanding is that the man power needed to keep an SR-71 going was about 50 per plane in the active squadron that existed.... Anyone got figures for B-52s, F15s, etc...???

Maintenance Man-Hours per Flying Hour: figures fetched via some lunchtime google, sort-of credible but not guaranteed to be accurate :)

Older designs:
F-14 - 40 to 60
EA-6B - 70
A-7E - 11
Concorde - 18

Mature designs:
Tornado - 27
Harrier - 25
Mirage 2000 - 10
F-15A/B - 32
F-15C/D - 22
F-16A - 19
F-18C/D - 19
F-117 - 150 (pre 1989)
F-117 - 45 (after improvements, post 1989)

AH-64 - 28

Current designs:
Typhoon - 9
Gripen - 10
F-18E/F - 10 to 15
V-22 - 18
C-17 - 20
B-2 - 124

263:

I'll ignore the Prowler data because it's the only dedicated EW type listed.

The 2 standout figures for me are how much less maintenance a Typhoon needs than a Tornado, and how similar Concorde and the C-17 are!

264:

It's not dissimilar from the other A-6 figures I saw - and I came across a figure of 12 for EA-18G (i.e. in line with F/A-18E/F) so I left it out.

The impressive one for me was the A-7; a 1960s design with the maintainability of a late-90s design :)

I later came across a figure that suggested that Airbus are aiming for 10 as the figure for the A400M...

265:

Secret aircraft running on single malt? Explains the Macrihanish sightings, then..

266:

Did you see figures for the SR-71? My number was the number of men in the squadron per plane, not maintenance hours per flight hour. My Google skills for this apparently are lacking.

267:

Fair enough; In the absence of A-6 data I wasn't sure the Prowler wasn't the EW kit rather than the airframe and avionics.

But yes the A-7's impressive, and given the difference in airframe technology and age, Concorde is impressively low compared with the C-17 as the only other transport.

268:

Leaving aside the 1% thing, a quick Google popped up a document that followed the salaries at several universities (big ones - Penn State was included) for decades and, adjusted for inflation, the average collge professor salary was absolutely flat since 1970.

So, at least for the last forty years, you appear to also be wrong about the idea that professors have moved from middle class to upper (or whatever) - their relative earnings haven't changed in the interval.

My instinct, and I haven't the interest to look further, is that being a professor is a less high status job now than in the last century or two, simply because the education required used to be much, much more difficult to come by.

269:

Median salaries for various levels of professor in the US (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professors_in_the_United_States):
$60,000 per year for assistant profs, $70,000 for associate profs, $100,000 for
full professors.

Now, you can find a few professors who are paid much more than this, and in some professions a few professors can make extra money from consulting fees and running businesses on the side.

A not-very-representative example: top salaries at the University of Texas at Austin (which is able to draw on Texas oil revenues):
http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/government-employee-salaries/the-university-of-texas-at-austin/
The top 10 salaries are athletic coaches (3 of them making more than $1 million a year) or administrators; number 11 is Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg (who was lured from Harvard back in the early 80s in part because Texas could offer him a lot more money...). But even at UT Austin, the average annual salary for professors is just over $100,000.

270:

$60,000 per year for assistant profs, $70,000 for associate profs, $100,000 for full professors. ... But even at UT Austin, the average annual salary for professors is just over $100,000.

Which starts them out at the 64th percentile level for HOUSEHOLDS in the US in 2005. If they are part of a couple with both working they are even higher. At $100K they are in the 84th percentile.

To me this is NOT the middle as the US defines middle class. (Not arguing with Peter.)

271:

I'd say that the middle 60-80% of incomes -is- middle class in the US. Remember that even an Assistant or Associate professor is in their 30s or 40s and spent their 20s living on less than $20k/year (and, in the US, acquiring a large amount of student debt); a full professor is probably at least 50. By that point a programmer is likely to have been promoted to manager; a carpenter probably runs his own business; a military officer is likely on his second career or living on a pension.

272:

US never could have developed all of its military technology alone, and that it was copied from a crashed spacecraft

"You know, most post-war British military technology was derived from a crashed spacecraft."

"Really?"

"Yep. We discovered the wreck in 1949 and went through it with a toothcomb. Nimrod, Blue Streak, TSR2, the Bowman radio system, the Tornado, the Sea Dart missile, the JP233 bomblets, the Blowpipe SAM - all of them were based on the technology we recovered from a single mysterious crashed spacecraft."

"Huh."
(pause)
"Explains why it crashed, I suppose."

273:

I note that OGH has just questioned your sanity.

I'm dense. Splain it to me please.

274:

Amazing, someone really did name a weapons system "Sea Slug". Bet that didn't come out of cereal box on an alien spacecraft.

275:

Things have drifted away from the conspiracy theory start, but I did want to point out something that struck me when visiting the subject.

A while ago I watched A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon, a video alleging that the moon landings were faked - my review is here, where I go into detail. The moon landing hoaxers aren't terribly interesting, but this would serve as a great example of how not to make an argument. I don't think faking a moon landing can be made fully plausible, but the current crop of hoaxers isn't even trying. While many of the conspiracy followers are doubtless folks who just haven't thought much about the issues, the loud core seems to be made up of crackpots and the willfully deluded. Bart Sibrel, the moon hoaxer, actually left me more confused about why he was making his claims than before I watched his video.

I'd offer would-be conspiracy theorists two things to remember. First, somebody will ask for evidence; you should have some. Secondly, if something is proven wrong, you will look stupid if you keep repeating the claim for years afterward.

276:

There is something to consider regarding Big Agri Monoculture cropping. Much of these (subsidized) staples aren't food crops at all, but are the fuel that makes the biofuels, to run the big machinery that makes Big Agri Monoculture possible (an economic feedback loop that isn't creating jobs or work) -- and increasingly jet fuels that power unmanned drones and so on.

Which explains why popcorn is so much more expensive now than it used to be -- at least in this country. Biofuels have taken up all the land for corn in the way that tobacco did in the colonial era -- which meant food had to be imported.


277:

with so many Nazi sympathisers/and appeasers in the British establishment, its almost a miracle Britain was on the winning side in World War

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Harmsworth,_1st_Viscount_Rothermere

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Montagu_Douglas_Scott,_8th_Duke_of_Buccleuch

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Grosvenor,_2nd_Duke_of_Westminster

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Vane-Tempest-Stewart,_7th_Marquess_of_Londonderry


and Japanese sympathisers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Forbes-Sempill,_19th_Lord_Sempill

who most probably leaked the details of the Placentia Bay meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt to his handlers in the London Japanese embassy

between them, they did as much to sabotage Britain and its Empire as they could...and sent many of their compatriots and allies to their graves...

278:

I was more fearing that the drugs-dealers and thugs would, if sent to Eton, end up committing Etonogenic crimes and do more damage than they are now.

In normal prison you can be schooled in B&E; go to Eton and you may well end up in M&A.

279:

I love, love conspiracy theories myself. The Obama birther stuff is endlessly fascinating.

280:

For some of us it's kind of like the 14,432 round of "Row Row Row your boat". But it does seem to be endless.

281:

It's interesting how different cultures and sub cultures tend to have their own distinct conspiracy theories. Black Americans for instance tend to subscribe to a different conspiracy theories than white american libertarians. And white English reactionaries will in turn favour different conspiracies than white American reactionaries.

My favourite conspiracy theory is a unique one. I was hitchiking in the Canadian Rockies in the area where First Blood was filmed. The guy who picked me up believed that a water utility was secretly controlling the City of Vancouver. His trunk was filled with boxes of documents that he wanted me to read which proved his hypothesis. He'd also removed all the internal panelling of his car so as to better spot bombs and bugs. Yes this man thought a cabal of evil Canadian plumbers were plotting his assasination. Call him crazy but at least he did his own homework and was original. Nowadays people just go to a Prisonplanet or Youtube and get a mass produced conspiracy spoon fed to them.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 20, 2012 2:53 PM.

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Propaganda