The Monroe Doctrine As A Memory-Restorer

The Monroe Doctrine As A Memory-Restorer

A short article from the science section of The Literary Digest (January 5, 1907) on psychological therapy and the effectiveness of the reading of a 1823 U.S. Government policy declaration as a remedy for alcohol-induced amnesia may be a parody but it’s hard to tell. I’d definitely declare it is for laughs except it is in a section of the periodical devoted to otherwise serious medicine and science. The British Medical Journal definitely did not take the study very seriously.

I don’t know enough about medicine to determine if the “experimental distraction method” will restore memories. It appears to be, if not quaint junk science, then the testing of hypotheses during an age of discovery and scientific expansion to find out what is effective and what is not. From reading the article it occurs to me that several factors contributed to any successes from the experiment, the primary of which may be an alcoholic patient who suffered a blackout sitting in a dark room drying out, relaxing and recovering from over his hangover. 

Pull quote on the Distraction Method: “With a scientific candor which transcends patriotism he admits that it is less stimulative than the ticking of a stop-watch.”

Science marches on.



Fingerprints, while still valuable as a forensic tool in law enforcement, are not the be-all and end-all of crime solving like they used to be. Not that you would know it from police procedure television shows. Typically prints are used to verify identity when all other methods fail or can not be trusted.

They also provide another bit of evidence that can be used to determine if someone was present in a certain location or used a certain object. However, since they can be scanned and printed onto a variety of materials they can sometimes fail as a biometric or forensic tool. Bad guys could, technology allowing, conceivably wear prosthesis with false or misleading prints, though they are probably for the time being beyond the means of the common criminal.

Creating fingerprints that would defeat false-print detection technology probably yet requires some sophistication in their making. I speculate they have already been put into place during certain ops or by high-end criminal enterprises. Anyone needing a fall guy need only to plant a print and some DNA and that person goes to jail for ever or their life is utterly destroyed. It could also be used to provide evidence where there is none. A verified chain of custody would remove any number of conspirators that might flip or tattle by allowing them true discovery of prints and even DNA, if biological material was used in conjunction with the prosthesis.

I have no idea if the reproduced thumbprint on the instructions tab of the car windshield sun screen are the fingerprint-featured man from an old human resources advertisement are actual prints from a real person. They could be works of art made by pen and ink. Genuine or created the source could be decades old and is considered free-use by any and all. A simple internet search reveals many examples of real fingerprints available for adapting to finger covers. The ease in finding actual prints by even the most casual browser leads me to wonder if their exist databases of fake fingerprints that may be commonly found by investigative agencies from time to time, similar in the way there exist databases of phone numbers used in popular media, mainly those starting with the prefix 555. .

Certain phone numbers are rarely issued to the public because they owners would be subjected to nuisance calls day and night. For instance a phone number that shouldn’t be active, yet is, is the famous 867-5309 from the Tommy Tutone song. Anyone claiming that number as their real phone number would have to provide proof it is actually theirs. The number would certainly cause an alert somewhere if someone tries to use it in any official capacity, such as when providing a contact number to police. The popularity of the number is such that it can be used at nearly any point of sale pad as an alternate type of customer loyalty card in just about any store by entering their area code and the number.

Odds are the number will work just fine as someone somewhere thought they were being clever and uses an easily-remembered number to gain their product discounts. Some companies have locked 867-5309 out of their systems as it skews consumer purchase data or allows access to substantial discounts based on accumulated sales volume and tracking. One wonders if false fingerprints that shouldn’t belong to a living person are in a system somewhere and could create a similar red flag.

A few years ago making fake prints was nearly impossible, was highly technical and expensive. It primarily existed as an unlikely plot element in conspiracy stories of film and literature. Today the creation of a false print can be accomplished by the kitchen chem-lab amateur that would be of good enough quality to trick low-end security systems. Imagine how easy planting a fake one at a crime scene would be for investigators to discover.

But where the phone numbers are maintained by the telecom companies are fake or notorious fingerprints monitored by governments? Would a planted fingerprint collected as evidence derived from a deceased terrorist create an alert when scanned into a system? Names do, certainly. Some people have derided security agencies for keeping the 9/11 hijacker names and other notorious or non-active terrorists on no-fly lists. The question is, why bother? They are either dead or it is unlikely they would take a plane ride. The simple reason is that new villains may use the names of martyrs to make some kind of point in their terrible goal. It is not inconceivable that someone would plant a print as a secret message.

So is there some secret database somewhere that maintains a record of fingerprints that are privately and publicly available but unlikely to be found in real situations? If it does exist does it serve to provide source material for black ops? Is it used to check unlikely prints belonging to the famous, infamous or villainous? Has the data been used to prosecute the innocent? Direct suspicion away from the true perpetrator? Convict someone who got away clean that everyone knew was guilty but could not prove it? Subvert security systems? I can not really conceive that there is not such a category among fingerprint databases that covert agencies pay attention to. It would be remarkably careless not to have such records, just to rule out the crazy, dangerous or creative.

I don’t think we’ll be through the looking glass anytime soon, people.

Hat Trick

Solving ancient mysteries isn’t all that hard. When trying to answer the questions posed by ancient events and artifacts there are a few things that are important to consider outside of demonstrable facts to glean their true history when all that remains is speculation.

It has become something of a cliche that a discovery will be identified as being religious in nature. That may be true nonetheless for most things pertaining to the ancient world because religion (and the fear that comes with it) is a great method of crowd control. But busy-work building temples is a big-picture kind of thing and doesn’t fill every moment of the day. So how does one puzzle out the practical uses of less expansive ancient technology and artifacts of a culture?

One way to do this is think like an ancestor. Life was hard way back when. People scratched for sustenance and if they didn’t gather enough goods or trade enough services for food then they starved that evening. There were a lot of things about day to day life that just were not required for making it to the next sunrise so it was a great investment in time to do anything not absolutely goal-oriented towards survival.

So the one trait I speculate that was in wide use by ancient peoples was that of Common Sense. Our ancestors were not stupid. Far from it. They were capable of things that even the most advanced nation of today scratches their collective heads over. Often scholars can’t agree how spectacular ancient engineering feats were accomplished because modern tools can not duplicate exactly the same results. Tales of machines that seem far-fetched can not be recreated using tools of the day. So how did all these wondrous inventions lost to time become reality? By using a common sense approach to any project. Many seemingly impossible things were done simply because a can-do attitude was applied.

While the assertion that “thinking outside the box” may seem simplistic that leads to the next trait to be aware of and one that is necessary for the first to work successfully. That is to understand that People Are Bastards. Need to move heavy stones from one place to another? Throw people at them until it gets done. Want to keep the village busy between crop planting? Have them dig furrows in the earth creating pictures only the “Gods” can observe from on high. Strike fear in the populace to keep them under control? Parade a bunch of exotically-armed guards around as your retinue.

Some time ago I solved the riddle of the true use of the stone rings in an Aztec courtyard. The common misconception was that opposing teams kicked a ball through a small stone ring high on a wall. This is ridiculous. You can read why here, but suffice to say that any game played in that manner would be frustrating for both players and spectators alike. Foreign visitors reported the elaborate game of skill played by the locals though this was likely exaggerated to make the conquering army seem all the more formidable against the native population. After all, it wouldn’t do to have highly-skilled and technologically advanced soldiers wearing armor defeat a bunch of kids playing volleyball.

And so it is that I approach another mystery and solve it by applying Common Sense and never forgetting that People Are Bastards.

A few days ago one of the education-oriented cable channels was demonstrating the use of ancient weapons such as Greek Fire, spinning swords mounted on chariots as anti-personnel gear and the hand-held weapon with a terrifying reputation, the Flying Guillotine.

The Flying Guillotine is reportedly a martial arts device of which almost no records of it having actually existed other than some old descriptions. While many examples of ancient weapons of all kinds yet exist this most powerful, long-distance killer is strangely lost to the ages. Odd, considering that such a deadly device would most assuredly be coveted and protected and even mass-produced at some point if only because of its effectiveness over swords and other pointy objects of harm.

The Flying Guillotine is known most popularly through modern film and literature. Resembling a modern bee-keepers head gear, the Flying Guillotine is reportedly a hat-like device attached to a cord or chain. Thrown by an expert, the weapon settles over the head and the outer ring falls to the shoulders attached to and held in place by an upper plate, the two pieces connected by a mesh or bag. The lower ring contains blades which would close in a scissor effect when the cord was pulled, decapitating the victim and presumably, neatly holding the severed head in the net. According to legend, the Flying Guillotine was wielded to devastating effect by an elite posse of ninja guards. Popularly, it was supposed to have worked something like in the video below.

Though cool, that the weapon worked as effectively as the legend would have it is extremely unlikely. Modern replicas, even those made with materials that would enhance its effectiveness as a throwing weapon more often than not fail spectacularly. While ancient blades would assuredly been strong enough to sever limbs and decapitate a human it is also equally unlikely that the movement of a sharp knife in the space of few inches by yanking a cord or chain would have the desired effect of cleanly lopping off a head. It has also been theorized that since the usefulness of the Flying Guillotine as a throwing weapon is questionable it was used instead to ambush the unwary. The weapon would be dropped over the head of a victim who passed under a tree or arch. While this is more feasible it is yet not very plausible and attributes to ancient martial artists nigh-magical ninja skills that realistically did not exist and would be almost useless and impractical in a real-world situation. As the tool of an assassin the Flying Guillotine is ridiculously complex. It’s use as described in legend flies against all common sense and is not very practical. Why go to all that effort when it was far easier and economical to just sneak up on someone and hack at the neck with a long blade?

So while the Flying Guillotine could have been used as a murder device by ninja sorcerers it was more likely to be used as a method of control and punishment. This goes to the aspect of Common Sense. The Flying Guillotine would have been ridiculously superfluous in a culture of swords, clubs and knives. Also, factor in that People Are Bastards and the true use of the device is readily apparent.

Presumably expensive and time-consuming to create and rare enough that making one was strictly controlled by the wealthy and powerful it is more likely that the Flying Guillotine was an artifact that promoted fear among the populace. This is not to assert it was never put to use. it is rare that a weapon is created that is never used. It is the stories and tales of its deadly accuracy by an elite squad of guards that would ensure that anyone would think twice about attacking or disrespecting the Lord of the village. Instant and horrifying fear of death from afar is a great way to ensure someone with designs on the big chair doesn’t gain much support from his fellow disgruntled farmers. The thought that one could be killed at the drop of a hat from twenty feet distant before getting close enough to use a knife would make anyone think twice about rushing the palace.

As to its actual practical use it isn’t difficult to imagine that the Flying Guillotine was pressed into service on occasion on some poor person as an object lesson not to mess with the boss. Placed over the head, the victim could be paraded about in public, lead by a chain attached to the device he wore. It was spectacle. Anyone observing some poor fellow staggering about wearing the thing knew he was a dead man walking.

Once a good show was put on for the public the chain could be pulled causing the sharp blades on the interior collar to sink into the neck of the victim and sever the arteries, causing death by massive blood loss. Whether or not the blades would be sufficient to decapitate a person is up to debate as the force required would be more substantial than most people could muster in a single strike. Repeatedly yanking the chain while dragging a bleeding body about the village square, while horrifying, is not as effective as claiming the head was severed in one motion by a scary dangerous super ninja. Anyone disputing the official story of how the weapon worked would probably find themselves wearing one soon enough.

So it is more than likely that the actual Flying Guillotine, if it in fact existed, would have been used most effectively as a ceremonial weapon for propaganda and as a means of the occasional public execution.