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JayUtah
2002-Mar-12, 10:35 PM
I'd like the group's candid opinion on someting. Unfortunately it will require a fairly voluminous amount of reading, but hopefully it will be interesting reading.

As many of you know, Thomas Baron attempted to blow the whistle on North American's quality control failures prior to the Apollo 1 fire. He testified before a House subcommittee regarding his knowledge of the fire and its causes, and what at NAA might have led to that.

Subsequently a former colleague of Baron testified, undermining Baron's credibility somewhat.

Here is a link to Baron's testimony: http://www.clavius.org/baron-test.html

And here is a link to the subsequent testimony by the colleague: http://www.clavius.org/holmburg-test.html

Basically what I'm looking for is a "jury" to decide which of these two men is likely telling the truth, and whatever other learned observations you might make. Is Holmburg's testimony too convenient? Are the congressmen approaching Baron with a preconception of disbelief?

ToSeek
2002-Mar-13, 02:10 PM
My impression is that Baron doesn't come off terribly well: he's too often vague and seems to have problems understanding what I think are straightforward questions.

Holmburg's testimony, meanwhile, is too one-dimensional to draw any conclusions from. Distilled, it's "Did you tell Baron that you knew why the fire happened?" "No." Hard to tell much from that.

Silas
2002-Mar-13, 04:27 PM
I read the transcripts you cited, and have to agree with To Seek. Baron seems a bit dull, asks for clarifications to obvious questions, etc.

If this were all the evidence I had (I guess it is!) I'd say that Baron misremembered or misinterpreted what Holmburg said. Neither of them seems to be lying, although Baron does seem to be trying too hard to "be a lawyer" in some of his answers.

Silas

jagster
2002-Mar-13, 04:33 PM
It seems to me the congressmen definitely had a preconception of disbelief. This seems to come from the bit about the astronauts trying to get out for five minutes before the fire, but on the last six minutes of audio there was no such indication. How can there be such a huge discrepancy between those two stories? I would have to cast my vote of honesty for Holmburg on this instance alone.

Karamoon
2002-Mar-13, 04:52 PM
There are actually three areas of contention regarding Thomas Baron: the interpretation of his findings [of Apollo being in some disarray]; the information purportedly passed on to him which casts uncertainty as to the cause of the Apollo 1 fire; and his own highly suspicious death.

In relation to the fire, you already know what my thoughts are on this matter. Thomas Baron was an honest man -- perhaps too honest for his own good. In a moment of madness -- "Hey, look at me, I'm top dog, don't you know" -- Holmburg had mouthed off to Baron that he knew exactly what caused the fire, and Baron felt it was his duty to report this. Holmburg subsequently bottled it and confessed to having said something he should not have (and which was likely a load of cobblers, anyhow) and he was directed to deny having ever said this, and told to further discredit Baron by stating that "he gets all of his information secondhand" (disparage, discredit, rah rah rah). As a result, Baron was left with egg on his face. Or, in other words: Baron got screwed over! And it would at all surprise me if later he felt angry at the way this specific information was received by some members of the board.

And I would still like to know how Mr. Smart thought he could possibly locate Holmburg in the casual manner that he did and see him refute this allegation in next to no time. I mean. let's be honest, even if what Holmburg said was true or not, (i.e. that he knew exactly what caused the fire) such an allegation could open up a new can of worms. If I were Mr. Smart, President of North American Aviation, I would want time to question Mr. Holmburg and ask him "What on Earth were you thinking of?", "Is it true. Did you say these things?", "Why on Earth would Baron make up a lie like that?", "Come on, what exactly transpired here?". Call me skeptical, but in the poisonous atmosphere after the Apollo 1 fire I simply can not accept that Mr. Smart approached this controversy in such an aloof manner.

Thomas Baron just did his job, and he got his fingers burnt!

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Karamoon on 2002-03-13 11:54 ]</font>

JayUtah
2002-Mar-13, 06:56 PM
There are actually three areas of contention regarding Thomas Baron

Yes, but I'm trying to study them individually before mixing them up. The problem with your research direction is that you seem to study with the preconception that there is something hidden behind all of this, and it will take only tenacity to uncover it. You don't seem to accept that the straightforward interpretation may also be correct, and that there may be no underlying secret.

Many of these issues hang on Baron's credibility, and that's what I'm trying to study in this post.

In relation to the fire, you already know what my thoughts are on this matter. Thomas Baron was an honest man

But not a man necessary qualified to make the observations he was making. And it is obvious that he has a problem getting things factually correct. One can be honest, but simply mistaken. One can be honest, but not know how to discriminate sources by authority. One can be honest, but simply not remember accurately a conversation that occurred two months prior.

and told to further discredit Baron by stating that "he gets all of his information secondhand" (disparage, discredit, rah rah rah).

Apparently the congressmen had drawn this conclusion themselves without Holmburg's help. Holmburg's testimony is not the sole point of evidence indicating Baron's work was based on hearsay.

Or, in other words: Baron got screwed over!

Or perhaps Baron got caught overstepping his expertise and observation. Perhaps in his quest to be the personal savior of Apollo and enjoy the accompanying press coverage, he made statements and drew conclusions that exceeded his direct observation.

And it would at all surprise me if later he felt angry at the way this specific information was received by some members of the board.

Some members of the committee were clearly hostile, others were more sympathetic. Chastising Baron for spelling errors is not productive, but neither is ignoring his more grave errors.

He may indeed have felt angry because his own perception of the value of his work was far in excess of what proper standards of evidence would suggest. If the congressmen were forced to reject many of his findings because they were hearsay or because Baron's skill at sifting fact from speculation were somehow untrustworthy, I can expect Baron would feel bad about that. He may even feel that someone was actively suppressing him. But I wouldn't consider that an accurate or proper reaction.

When you and I discussed this elsewhere, I brought up that I had consulted a lawyer regarding Baron's credibility. You were fairly dismissive of his answer, and so I went back to ask some followup questions.

Basically it works like this. Committee hearings are not always investigative affairs. In most congressional committees, all the parties know or suspect ahead of time what the witness will say. It's a matter of introducing it into the formal record.

So when certain congressmen ask certain questions, they know exactly what the answer will be. They're trying to elicit a response for the formal record which confirms what they have already discovered through other means.

And I would still like to know how Mr. Smart thought he could possibly locate Holmburg in the casual manner that he did

The hearings were held at KSC precisely for this purpose. Rather than bring all the potential witnesses to Washington DC, you bring the hearing to where the potential witnesses work.

As to whether the introduction of Holmburg was impromptu or not, I defer to Mr. Smart's testimony.

If I were Mr. Smart, President of North American Aviation, I would want time to question Mr. Holmburg

Who says such questioning didn't occur? Baron mentions Holmburg near the beginning of his testimony. He then went on to testify at length for several more minutes. Holmburg testified he worked very near the committee chamber. Is it so farfetched that Smart found out everything he needed to know from Holmburg in a sixty-second conversation that could have happened a dozen times during the remainder of Baron's testimony?

Put yourself in Smart's place. You hear the witness say that Holmburg had said some particular thing. You know the committee is there specifically to have easy access to such witnesses. You heard the chair of the committee say he'd like to question Holmburg specifcally. You know where Holmburg works.

Would you just sit on your fanny, or would you go out and have somebody find Holmburg, and then talk to him about what had been said? Would you offer him a chance to testify? You already know Teague wants to hear from him. So you talk it over with Holmburg and then you pass a note to Teague saying, "I've found Mr. Holmburg and he will be available to testify immediately."

Now if you were Mr. Holmburg and someone walked into your office and said, "Hey, Baron just told the hearing next door that you said stuff to him. Mr. Smart's looking for you," what would you do? Would you want to testify? If Mr. Smart asked you whether you said the things in question, would you tell the truth or would you lie?

If you were Mr. Smart and heard that Holmburg really had said the things alleged, would you run enthusiastically up to Mr. Teague and offer to have Holmburg testify? Or would you tell Holmburg to take the rest of the day off and go home, to await a more detailed discussion.

I believe it's more credible to believe Holmburg told Smart that Baron's allegations were untrue. Mr. Smart's actions are best explained by that theory.

So the remaining question is whether Holmburg was lying about what he said to Baron. Now bear in mind that Holmburg is a technician, a bottom-rung employee. Would he lie to the assistant to the president of his company in a matter of a congressional investigation? And if he were lying, would he be anxious to go testify in front of the same hearing of his own free will?

He might lie to save his own job, if he thought he could get away with it. But we're talking about a congressional investigation. If Holmburg had spoken casually to a non-employee and revealed all that was claimed, it's reasonable to think Holmburg had also shared such speculations with other employees, any or all of which could be subpoenaed to verify that Holmburg had indeed so speculated on occasion.

Therefore if Holmburg had indeed speculated for the benefit of Baron, he would not necessarily believe he could successfully lie about it to Mr. Smart or to Congress. Holmburg would have no way of knowing what testimony might be obtained to verify his speculations, had he made them. So caught between a rock and a hard place, he would confess to Mr. Smart out in the hallway that the allegations were true.

Better to admit an unfortunate lapse of judgment than to try to cover it up and risk being caught later.

You seem anxious to assign ulterior motives to everything, but you seem oblivious that the straightforward interpretation is also quite defensible.

Thomas Baron just did his job, and he got his fingers burnt!

Thomas Baron did more than his job. He assumed responsibilities requiring expertise he didn't have by criticizing some of NAA's operations. He raised sensationalistic issues in the press. He based a report to Congress on hearsay. And as other posters have noticed, he got pertinent facts very wrong.

Just because some of his work had positive consequences doesn't mean all his work is positive, that all his implications are correct, and that some of it can't also be detrimental or misguided.

johnwitts
2002-Mar-13, 09:42 PM
From the second page...

Mr. TEAGUE: I certainly agree with the gentleman, and the committee is adjourned.

(Whereupon, at 3 p.m., the committee was adjourned.)

A committee that adjourns on time? Now I know something's fishy. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Baron's testimony seems like the testimony of a bitter man who thought he was worthy of a higher status within North American. He seems to be one of those people who want to be noticed. He had problems with his working because he spent all day worrying about his pay and conditions, as well as his status. He's the type who can't do their job properly because of everyone else. It is clear that he didn't like his shift pattern or his assignment, and when the company finally let him go, it is more likely because he was simply not an effective team player. Maybe he did write a 500+ page report. It could have been a general whinge about the working conditions for the 'underlings' at NAA. He also seems to have a bit of a 'Walter Mitty' complex, going on about things that he could see were wrong that the 'proper' engineers had missed. Maybe you don't get to be a proper engineer without knowing when a 'problem' is something that you can ignore and when you need to do something about it. Say you've got a spec that says a certain peice of equipment needs to be flushed for 5 mins at 20 litres a minute, jet the flow is only ten litres a minute. The experienced engineer would just let the flushing continue for longer, if he felt that the end result would be satisfactory. A quality control person, without the required knowledge, would just see an out of spec procedure going on, and would complain about it, even if the engineer explained the situation. It's called 'jobsworth'. Baron also seems to be drawn in by rumour and speculation. He may also have been the butt of a big joke.

Karamoon
2002-Mar-14, 11:03 AM
Jay: You don't seem to accept that the straightforward interpretation may also be correct, and that there may be no underlying secret.

Hardly anything about the Apollo programme is straightforward. It has taken the mainstream media almost 30 years just to question the reputation of some of the people who worked at NASA. I won't hold my breath until further truths are exposed, like that what happened to Kennedy.

Karamoon: In relation to the fire, you already know what my thoughts are on this matter. Thomas Baron was an honest man

Jay: But not a man necessary qualified to make the observations he was making.

North American Aviation was later forced to admit that AT LEAST half of Baron's observations were well founded. That is quite significant. Seeing as neither of us has read Baron's larger report I don't see why you keep suggesting that he was in some way over his head. If he was I am sure NAA would never have appointed him in the first place, or used this as just cause to remove him once he was voicing his concerns.

Karamoon: ..and told to further discredit Baron by stating that "he gets all of his information secondhand" (disparage, discredit, rah rah rah).

Jay: Apparently the congressmen had drawn this conclusion themselves without Holmburg's help.

Ah, but that was predominantly in relation to the evidence he provided over his charges relating to the fire. Baron wasn't around when tragedy struck, remember. His other charges date back over 12 months prior, when he was very much proactive. Yes, he conversed with other safety inspectors and shop workers, but if you want to dismiss these conversations on the grounds that every other safety inspector was a press starved liar or inferior being, too, then you are not being fair. Baron obviously witnessed many things first hand. I had highlighted just a few of these things in our first exchange. Again, seeing as neither of us have read his report we can not know everything he witnessed first hand and that which he did not.

Jay: When you and I discussed this elsewhere, I brought up that I had consulted a lawyer regarding Baron's credibility. You were fairly dismissive of his answer,

That is because he was a tenant of yours and he was blatantly pandering to you. He probably just wanted free rent for a month or two. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Karamoon: And I would still like to know how Mr. Smart thought he could possibly locate Holmburg in the casual manner that he did

Jay: The hearings were held at KSC precisely for this purpose. Rather than bring all the potential witnesses to Washington DC, you bring the hearing to where the potential witnesses work.

But this is still a very large working complex with a great many employees. You don't find it funny that Holmburg apparently "overheard" his name being mentioned right outside his door, and so he felt he had to defend himself, at all?

Jay: Is it so farfetched that Smart found out everything he needed to know from Holmburg in a sixty-second conversation that could have happened a dozen times during the remainder of Baron's testimony?

Yes. I believe it is farfetched.

Jay: Put yourself in Smart's place. {snip} Would you just sit on your fanny, or would you go out and have somebody find Holmburg, and then talk to him about what had been said? Would you offer him a chance to testify? You already know Teague wants to hear from him. So you talk it over with Holmburg and then you pass a note to Teague saying, "I've found Mr. Holmburg and he will be available to testify immediately."

Oh you do paint a lovely picture of honesty and goodwill. Only you seem to be forgetting that this wasn't no rose garden and NAA were haggling for their lucrative contract, reputation and livelihoods. You ask me to put myself in the shoes of the Assistant to the President of North American Aviation, and I have done that a number of times. Caught unawares, I would be very anxious to sit down and have a long chat with Mr. Holmburg. For that I would hope the committee would adjourn itself so I could FULLY understand the situation at hand, and protect myself accordingly.

Mr. Smart: "Did you say the things he alleges you said?"
Holmburg: "No."
Mr. Smart: "Then follow. With truth acting as our mighty sword we shall slay the evil Baron!"
Crowd: "Hurrah!"

I'm sorry, I just don't buy this.

Jay: Now if you were Mr. Holmburg and someone walked into your office and said, "Hey, Baron just told the hearing next door that you said stuff to him. Mr. Smart's looking for you," what would you do?

I'd think to myself: "Okay, this is my cue". "Must pretend we have never met before. Baron is a nutcase. Baron is a nutcase". "He gets all of his information from gossip and rumor, don't you know".

I am sorry for the sarcasm, but it's patently clear what transpired here. If you wish to line up behind the official line then so be it. I will make my case elsewhere for those who have a mind of their own.

Jay: Or would you tell Holmburg to take the rest of the day off and go home, to await a more detailed discussion.

I would await and hope to have a more detailed discussion. Most definitely. So would Mr. Smart. So would anybody in the aftermath of the fire.

Jay: I believe it's more credible to believe Holmburg told Smart that Baron's allegations were untrue. Mr. Smart's actions are best explained by that theory.

Whereas I do not. I believe that is maybe how Mr. Smart wanted to present things, but I do not believe NAA would be so forthcoming in the real world.

Jay: If Holmburg had spoken casually to a non-employee and revealed all that was claimed, it's reasonable to think Holmburg had also shared such speculations with other employees, any or all of which could be subpoenaed to verify that Holmburg had indeed so speculated on occasion.

Barons case was unique. Think about it. Holmburg knew who Baron was. He knew he had a special interest in this case. But because he had earlier been dismissed he thought he could mouth off unchecked. But we know that Baron became more interested in Holmburg and I believe he subsequently regretted opening his mouth in the first place.

Jay: Better to admit an unfortunate lapse of judgment than to try to cover it up and risk being caught later.

Better still, incase Holmburg is just trying to cover his hide in the spare of the moment, have a good sit down with him and make certain you get to the bottom of the situation. This is the best way and one NAA would certainly have perused.

Jay: You seem anxious to assign ulterior motives to everything,

Not everything, no. Granted, there are a number of areas where I doubt the official line, and in turn this is all that you see. So you assume I am just wanting to wage war against the authorities.

Jay: ..but you seem oblivious that the straightforward interpretation is also quite defensible.

I'm not being funny, but you can make anything sound quite defensible. And given your own track record that is infinitely more worrying. You can keep the majority in check, even though what you defend is not always the truth.

And I won't even bother responding to John's blinkered dribble.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Karamoon on 2002-03-14 06:13 ]</font>

Silas
2002-Mar-14, 03:20 PM
On 2002-03-14 06:03, Karamoon wrote:

Mr. Smart: "Did you say the things he alleges you said?"
Holmburg: "No."
Mr. Smart: "Then follow. With truth acting as our mighty sword we shall slay the evil Baron!"
Crowd: "Hurrah!"

I'm sorry, I just don't buy this.


How about this...
Mr. Smart: "Did you say the things he alleges you said?"
Holmburg: "No."
Mr. Smart: "Well, for God's sake, come quick and tell these Congressmen!"



I will make my case elsewhere for those who have a mind of their own.


Why does that phrase always have to mean "people who will agree with me?" Jay has been consistently polite and fair; I've never known him to make up straw men to debate against.

Silas

Karamoon
2002-Mar-14, 04:24 PM
Silas: Jay has been consistently polite and fair.

Polite, yes. Fair, not always so!

I am sorry if I have implied that you are all being led astray by some shady government cloak-and-dagger type suppressor, it's just that sometimes I get frustated when people can't see the obvious.

You could say that opinion here is a fair indication that I am wrong, but then I am in the lions den, and lions have poor eyesight, um, or something like that.

Anyway, feel free to talk about me. I'll be back in a few days to check on your ascii.

JayUtah
2002-Mar-14, 04:45 PM
Hardly anything about the Apollo programme is straightforward.

No, you're handwaving in generalities. Stick to the point.

In the Baron testimony scenario, the stated motives of the participants are plausible. Their behavior is consistent with what would happen if Holmburg were indeed telling the truth and Baron was mistaken.

Yet you doubt this interpretation and postulate another that requires Holmburg to have lied under oath to Congress, and Smart to have colluded to mislead the hearings.

North American Aviation was later forced to admit that AT LEAST half of Baron's observations were well founded. That is quite significant.

And those were the observations that dealt directly with Baron's job. He was qualified to make those obserations. But half of them were well outside his area of training and expertise. He was not qualified to conclude that observations he made in those areas were indications of misfeasance.

The problem is that Baron continued in his belief that all of them were significant, not just the ones vindicated by North American. And so he ran to the media telling them he'd been fired just for "doing his job", and gave them the list of all the things he insisted they were doing wrong.

Seeing as neither of us has read Baron's larger report I don't see why you keep suggesting that he was in some way over his head.

It is obvious from his testimony.

By his own admission he was "labor", not a professional. By his own admission he was doing things he felt would have been better accomplished by more qualified people.

If he was I am sure NAA would never have appointed him in the first place, or used this as just cause to remove him once he was voicing his concerns.

I am not suggesting that Baron was incompetent at his job. I am suggesting that Baron was not competent to draw all the conclusions he drew based on his observations.

I have already conceded that Baron held a competent level of skill in his job. I have already conceded that North American was likely doing some things unsatisfactorily. That is not the issue I'm trying to support with these arguments.

The point I'm trying to support is the question of Thomas Baron's credibility. You say he is credible because some of what he observed was verified. This is selective judgment on your part. I am saying he is not credible because only half of his observations -- all of which he says had merit -- could be verified. How far would you trust someone who is right only half the time?

Baron is flustered before the committee. He contradicts himself. He borders on evasion. He attests to hearsay he should have known was false.

Okay, perhaps he's nervous. But later Holmburg -- who you say is lying through his teeth -- calmly and confidently answers the questions of the committee.

Ah, but that was predominantly in relation to the evidence he provided over his charges relating to the fire. Baron wasn't around when tragedy struck, remember.

Exactly my point. Baron based his testimony to Congress in part on unsubstantiated hearsay, and is sharply reprimanded by a committee member for having done so. It is evident from his testimony that he claimed to have knowledge of what caused the fire. In fact he did not.

That he may have had information regarding North American's quality of work is not at issue. That he had difficulty separating fact from fantasy is. That he had difficulty separating what he knew firsthand from what he had merely overheard or been told, is.

There is no question that North American's quality contributed in part to the Apollo 1 fire. The Thompson report concluded that without needing any help from Thomas Baron.

Again, seeing as neither of us have read his report we can not know everything he witnessed first hand and that which he did not.

But I don't have to speculate on the contents of lost reports. I can point to testimony and records whose authenticity is not in doubt, and see evidence that Baron does not distinguish between the authority of things he witnessed firsthand and things he did not. But he is willing to stand before congress and testify under oath to the truthfulness of things he did not witness.

I don't say that makes him a bad person. I'm not trying to judge him morally.

I don't say that makes or made him a poor employee. I'm not trying to judge his skill.

I'm saying that makes him a poor witness of fact. If you are going to claim that Baron's short report is the de facto insider truth of what was going on at North American, then you have to deal with these issues of credibility. Otherwise I'm going to weigh Baron's report according to his level of expertise, his level of first-hand knowledge, his ability to deal accurately and critically with facts as demonstrated by prior and subsequent investigation and questioning.

That is because he was a tenant of yours and he was blatantly pandering to you.

Since you are flippantly trying to find ways to dismiss his opinion on a basis other than the merit of his legal expertise, may I conclude that you have no material basis on which to contend his findings? And may I also conclude that your prior dismissal of his findings as "preposterous" (or equivalent words) was similarly unfounded?

As to whether he was "pandering" to me, I'll leave that for you to prove. He does not know that I debate this issue. Further, I simply printed out the testimony of Baron and Holmburg and asked him simply to render an opinion on the perceived credibility of each witness based on the transcript. I did not say which testimony I preferred. Don't you think I know how to solicit an uninfluenced testimony?

As to whether free rent or any other consideration was offered, my rental agreement contains a "sole agreement" clause. That means I am unable to alter its provisions by any means, oral or written, express or implied. You're suggesting that a lawyer would consent to such an arrangement contrary to a written document which expressly forbids it. You obviously don't know much about lawyers.

Your argument fails for the simple reason that I did not disclose my preference, if any, to him, and therefore it cannot be argued that he biased himself accordingly.

But this is still a very large working complex with a great many employees.

Have you been there?

Supposing that it might be large building, is it not plausible to suppose that people have assigned offices and work areas? I've worked in many large facilities, but I knew where to find people because I know where they work. I knew that Mr. Drake, for example, would almost always be in one of three places: his office, his laboratory, or his department's conference room.

You don't find it funny that Holmburg apparently "overheard" his name being mentioned right outside his door, and so he felt he had to defend himself, at all?

Fromt the transcript:

Mr. HOLMBURG: Well, I work right outside the door here, and it is my time to come to work now.

On what basis do you continue to maintain that finding Holmburg would have been prohibitively difficult? His office or assigned work area was apparently very near the room in which the hearing was being held.

Yes. I believe it is farfetched.

Time the following hypothetical exchange:

Smart: Are you Al Holmburg?
Holmburg: Yes.
Smart: Did you know that Thomas Baron has just tesified that you told him you knew what caused the fire?
Holmburg: Well, I heard some people outside mentioning my name, but I didn't know what it was about.
Smart: He says you met him in a drugstore and told him all about the fire and what caused it, and that the astronauts were trying for several minutes to get out. He says you had several meetings with him. Is that true?
Holmburg: No. I bumped into him several times by coincidence, and we talked about the report he was writing, but I never said anything about the fire. And I certainly never said I knew what caused it. He must be confused. He himself did a lot of talking about it, but I didn't contribute anything.
Smart: Okay, thank you. Now if you want to testify to just what you've told me, I'm pretty sure I can get you in to testify today. Is that what you want?
Holmburg: Yes, I don't want Baron telling lies about me. I'd like to clear my name, if they want to hear from me.

It takes me 52 seconds to repeat this dialogue aloud in a normal speaking pace. I believe I've covered the material elements of Holmburg's testimony. Do you still maintain that this conversation, or one materially similar, could not plausibly have taken place between Smart and Holmburg in the interval between Baron's mention of Holmburg and Holmburg giving testimony?

Oh you do paint a lovely picture of honesty and goodwill.

You seem to confuse the slipping quality of work as attested by Baron, Phillips, and Thompson with some undercurrent of dishonesty and subterfuge that permeated the entire procurement of the command module. That NAA got behind and cut corners is not proof that they lied to Congress in the ensuing investigation.

As it happens the committee was at KSC to investigate the incident, not North American. KSC is a NASA facility, not an NAA facility.

Caught unawares, I would be very anxious to sit down and have a long chat with Mr. Holmburg.

What else would you talk about besides what I have outlined above? The transcript is clear about the point on which Holmburg was supposed to have informed Baron, and Holmburg's examination covered that point.

I'm sorry, I just don't buy this.

Obviously. We're trying to determine why you don't buy it. You insist that in Smart's place you would have had a lengthy interview with him. Setting aside the fact that Baron's testimony is lengthy enough for a considerably longer interview than my example above could have taken place, what content would you have discussed?

Baron claims Holmburg is the one who told him about the foreknowledge of the fire, and of the supposed minutes -- not seconds -- the astronauts suffered. The committee would naturally be interested in the following questions:

1. Did you make this statement to Baron?
2. Did you make any similar statements to Baron?
3. What was the nature of your meeting(s) with Baron?
4. Did you discuss the fire at any time with Baron? If so, describe the conversation.

This is the limit of Holmburg's relationship with Baron, and thus the limit of the committee's interest in Holmburg.

Your argument that Holburg's testimony is just too convenient is based solely on your personal feeling that you would want to have a longer interview with him if you were in Smart's place.

Nevertheless the fact remains that the points in Holmburg's testimony can be enumerated and discussed very briefly. There is no overriding need to suppose an intervew must have been prohibitively longer in order to produce the testimony that was given.

So in order for us to buy your argument that Holmburg's testimony is suspiciously convenient, you have to prove that your postulated prohibitively long interview is more than just how you would have done it. You must prove that it's considerably more necessary than the brief interview I suggested above.

I am sorry for the sarcasm, but it's patently clear what transpired here.

No, it's not patently clear that your interpretation is correct. We have intelligent men who have testified that Baron is less credible than Holmburg. We have people whose profession is assessing credibility agreeing that Baron is less credible than Holmburg.

Your apparent clarity is based simply on your personal opinion that you would have done it differently. In order for it to be patently clear, you must show yours is the only really possible scenario.

If you wish to line up behind the official line then so be it.

So are you objecting to it simply because it is the party line? That would be consistent with the failure of other arguments you have made on other issues.

I will make my case elsewhere for those who have a mind of their own.

No need to accuse people of closed-mindedness simply because they don't agree with you.

You have one opinion. Most everyone else has another. You argue that Holmburg's testimony is too convenient to be credible. But when you finally make the case for it, it turns out you have nothing objective. You can't say it's necessarily suspicious, just that you've hypothesized a scenario in which it might be suspicious.

but I do not believe NAA would be so forthcoming in the real world.

But your hypothesis is based on the presumption that NAA is covering up something, and is not afraid to act criminally in order continue to cover it up in the face of congressional efforts to uncover it.

Postulate this. If, in fact, Mr. Baron's testimony was mistaken and Mr. Smart genuinely believed he could provide genuine rebuttal evidence, would he not be strongly motivated to provide it?

Your conclusion is that Mr. Smart's behavior is the result of a devious corporate executive trying to save the reputation of his company. Unfortunately it can be equally explained by the hypothesis that Mr. Smart is a reasonably conscientious corporate executive trying to protect his company's already tarnished reputation from further damage resulting from libellous and false testimony before Congress.

Now I could argue that you are simply prejudiced toward the former conclusion and you could argue that I'm prejudiced toward the latter and we could go that direction.

Or I could point out that you are the one attempting to prove that Holmburg's testimony is perjurious, and that can't be established on the basis of, "I would have done it differently."

But because he had earlier been dismissed he thought he could mouth off unchecked.

No, I dispute this vigorously.

It was common knowledge at NAA that Baron had written the shorter report. It was common knowledge that he had been fired for taking the unsubstantiated portions of it to the press. Holmburg says he knew Baron was writing a lengthier report. I believe that too was common knowledge. Baron was not an obscure figure at the time the alleged meetings between him and Holmburg took place.

For Holmburg to "mouth off" to Baron, knowing that his statements would almost certainly be included in a report with his name attached to them, would be colossally stupid.

Not everything, no. Granted, there are a number of areas where I doubt the official line, and in turn this is all that you see.

Wrong. I'm getting tired of you attacking this Straw Jay. As I mentioned when we first began this debate months ago, I don't believe the "party line" is the complete story of the Apollo 1 fire. I simply believe it didn't miss the mark as widely as you suggest.

For example, the missing pages in the spacecraft installation log are suspicious and are addressed only by the Thompson report as an example of careless work. Nobody but Scott Grissom seems interested in what was on those missing pages. I'm not saying I suspect there is something incriminating on them, but it seems that an investigative commission should have tried to recover or reconstruct them.

But while you take the de maxima approach in which you throw out large segments of the "party line" in favor of your largely unsubstantiated conjecture that tromps all over parsimony, I take the de minima approach that says, "The party line may be wrong in this or that particular, but it still appears generally correct based on other evidence."

So you assume I am just wanting to wage war against the authorities.

Not strictly. I am observing that when you are cornered in a debate, you fall back to the same general argument -- that of allegations of government misfeasance and the general distrust of power.

but you can make anything sound quite defensible.

No, I can generally only make sound plausible what is inherently plausible to start with.

And given your own track record that is infinitely more worrying. You can keep the majority in check, even though what you defend is not always the truth.

You of all people I had assumed were above such small-minded bickering. Take note that the webmaster here does not allow character assassination as a debate tactic.

JayUtah
2002-Mar-14, 05:21 PM
Polite, yes. Fair, not always so!

How about "mostly fair," then?

it's just that sometimes I get frustated when people can't see the obvious.

Quite understandable, and I say that with not a whit of sacrasm. I too have labored with that particular frustration, as you well know.

But if something you think is obvious isn't similarly obvious to everyone else, that's a good sign that you're missing something. It doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong, but it might. You might have missed an "obvious" objection to your idea. Or you may simply have not stated it completely. Or it may be obvious to you only because you have special insight or expertise.

Either way, if you say, "It's obvious," and lots of people say, "I don't see how it's obvious," it simply means you have more talking to do.

I've written a monstrously lengthy post that probably doesn't need to be there. It comes down to a simple difference of opinion. You believe Smart wouldn't have had enough time to sufficiently debrief Holmburg. I believe he would have.

Further debate on that point would likely evolve according to whose conception of Smart's personality and motives is closest to being true, and I don't think that's a question we can answer. Others may say yours is more plausible, or mine is, but ultimately neither of us would know if we are correct; it would be a matter of axiomatic belief.

But that disconnect will persist throughout any further debate. If you want to say Baron was murdered as opposed to committing suicide, then Baron's mental state becomes an issue. And the perception of his credibility would affect his mental state.

And then whether he was murdered or not will affect how his death should be interpreted in the aftermath.

You can see how your entire case could be compromised on simply your opinion that Smart's stated actions are not plausible.

Now on another point, I think you ought to go visit the "Sunday Times" thread. Didn't you have some first-hand comments on the author of the Times article when we talked about this before?

johnwitts
2002-Mar-14, 09:46 PM
And I won't even bother responding to John's blinkered dribble.

Then don't.

Karamoon
2002-May-24, 01:34 AM
Sorry to reopen old wounds, but I am just posting the following to get it out of the way. I shall not be responding to any further comments and as far as I am concerned this thread can once again sink to the depths of the Bad Astronomy discursion board.

A further explanation can be found by me here (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?topic=1217&forum=3&18).

Karamoon
2002-May-24, 01:34 AM
Jay: In the Baron testimony scenario, the stated motives of the participants are plausible. Their behavior is consistent with what would happen if Holmburg were indeed telling the truth and Baron was mistaken.

I beg to differ. You say Thomas Baron was simply "mistaken", but I don't see how this could be the case. Baron is making the unmistakable charge that Holmburg had claimed to have knowledge as to the cause of the fire and further additional information that was unknown to any of the parties at that time. As we know, Mervin Holmburg denies having any knowledge as to what exactly it was that caused the fire and he also denies having ever said that he did in a chanced meeting with Thomas Baron. So this means there can be no "mistakes". It means one of these two men are lying.

Now if I may recite something I said from one of our earlier discussions:

"Having studied the record, it is my honest opinion the Holmburg did make the comments Thomas Baron claimed he did. Baron obviously knew that someone as important as Mervin Holmburg would be called to corroborate his story, so in himself, Baron would know that if he was just making it all up then the allegation would be duly rejected, and that he would just be setting himself up for a huge fall. And for the life of me, I can not figure out why he would want to do such a thing. It makes no sense to knowingly concoct a lie of this nature."

It is conceivable that Baron imagined Holmburg would get cold feet and in turn jeopardize his testimony. But clearly, from other revelations, Baron's approach is genuine and he would chance this in the name of truth. But to throw everything away based upon a pointless lie is just absurd. Absurd I tell you.

Jay: Yet you doubt this interpretation and postulate another that requires Holmburg to have lied under oath to Congress, and Smart to have colluded to mislead the hearings.

Yes. I believe Marvin Holmburg made those comments, but later, perhaps gradually, he not only realised the seriousness of his remarks but more so the significance of whom he had made them to. I would say that when push came to shove Holmburg bottled it, and so instead of corroborating Baron's story and having to explain himself he just denied having ever said it in the first place.

Karamoon: North American Aviation was later forced to admit that AT LEAST half of Baron's observations were well founded. That is quite significant.

Jay: And those were the observations that dealt directly with Baron's job. He was qualified to make those obserations. But half of them were well outside his area of training and expertise.

We don't know that. The exact percentage of observations that were made outside of the field of expertise is unknown. What we do know is that NAA reluctantly admitted to at least half. But it is important to note here that far more that NAA's reputation was on the line. Gross negligence isn't a charge to take lying down and they would have obscured Baron's charges wherever possible.

Jay: The problem is that Baron continued in his belief that all of them were significant, not just the ones vindicated by North American.

How do you know that Baron felt they were all significant? How? In Baron's mind, some of them may have had more significance than others.

Jay: And so he ran to the media telling them he'd been fired just for "doing his job",

I'm beginning to see where you are going with this. He was just a nobody seeking revenge, right?

Jay: By his own admission he was "labor", not a professional. By his own admission he was doing things he felt would have been better accomplished by more qualified people.

He was top labor grade 12, and yes, that was actually a complaint of his. Baron was the one who claimed employee's were being placed in positions that were they should not have been in. He was the one who said such people were being left unsupervised.

It seems you are quite happy to address his charges but only when they are to be used against him!

Karamoon: If he was I am sure NAA would never have appointed him in the first place, or used this as just cause to remove him once he was voicing his concerns.

Jay: I am not suggesting that Baron was incompetent at his job. I am suggesting that Baron was not competent to draw all the conclusions he drew based on his observations.

Well, we shouldn't be guessing at the percentage of such observations.

What is there, and what he was qualified to observe, still paints a pretty grim picture. The more complex faults, as I stated last time, were made by Sam Phillips and his so-called "tiger team". I'm looking at the larger picture here, too, remember.

The point I'm trying to support is the question of Thomas Baron's credibility. You say he is credible because some of what he observed was verified.

It not as simple as that. I say he is credible because of his obvious integrity, his willingness to do what was right. He could have been squeezed out of his job for merely questioning the management at North American Aviation, but he placed safety and the priorities of the project before himself. He could have just recorded and settled for the basic observations he was making, with no one giving a damn, including himself, but he didn't. He wasn't happy with the management, the very same management that was heavily criticised in the Phillips Report. It didn't matter what the scale of the reported problem was, the fact of the matter is the management at NAA were not addressing them as they needed to be addressed and Baron wasn't prepared to burry his head in the sand.

Jay: This is selective judgment on your part. I am saying he is not credible because only half of his observations -- all of which he says had merit -- could be verified. How far would you trust someone who is right only half the time?

No -- and this is important -- just because only half could be verified it does not mean the other half were made in error. It simply means they could not verify all of his charges. This can be attributed to a number of reasons. Remember, gross negligence isn't a charge to be taken lightly and NAA would not have rolled over and accepted Baron's charges, they would have fought them 'tooth and nail'. So your last statement is totally misleading and quite unfair. North American Aviation were fighting for their livelihoods and it had taken them long enough to admit to Baron's basic charges -- it took until three people lost their lives.

You know, this is why Thomas Baron should be alive today, to fight his corner, to contribute to a book like so many other have done, to go on the record (Washington Goes to the Moon style) and tell it like it was. But now he can't.

Jay: Baron is flustered before the committee. He contradicts himself. He borders on evasion. Okay, perhaps he's nervous. But later Holmburg -- who you say is lying through his teeth -- calmly and confidently answers the questions of the committee.

This proves absolutely nothing. Baron's testimony was far longer than Holmburg's. Baron was asked many more and a wide array of questions, and numerous times he started to answer, paused, then and asked for clarification. Many people were occasionally awestricken when they found themselves up and front. What does that prove? In fact, unless I hear a taped recording I am not willing to accept your assumption. I wouldn't be at all be surprised if Baron was slightly nervous, or anyone else for that matter. Holmburg held his hand over his face when he was in front of the committee and he was asked to remove it. Is this a sign of slight nerves, is he just fidgety, or was he guilt stricken?

Jay: It is evident from his testimony that he claimed to have knowledge of what caused the fire. In fact he did not.

He is said to have spoken to spacecraft electronics technician [Mervin Holmburg] who himself had claimed to have knowledge of what caused the fire. Baron's other witness claimed that people who were working on the spacecraft in question were at one time drinking on the job. He felt that this information should obviously be passed to the committee. Because it was hearsay it was inadmissible. This only demonstrates Baron's naivety when it comes to matters relating to law. It does not mean that his witnesses were mistaken.

Jay: That he may have had information regarding North American's quality of work is not at issue. That he had difficulty separating fact from fantasy is.

There is no fantasy. Baron is telling the board what Holmburg told him, and I believe he is telling the truth.

You know -- and this is hypothetical -- I can't help but wonder what the committee would say to Baron if, sometime later, another individual charged Holmburg with saying the same thing. Would the committee ask Baron why he himself never made them aware of this conversation earlier? I bet they would. It seems to me that Thomas Baron was in a no win situation with that information. But I think he did the right thing. He brought it to their attention. Their own review did not corroborate such a charge and so it was rejected.

Jay: That he had difficulty separating what he knew firsthand from what he had merely overheard or been told, is.

He didn't have difficulty, as such. He knew what was what, he was just naive in thinking the committee would take his word as fact, without them being able to prove it.

To be totally honest, I would have done the same thing. I know next to nothing about matters relating to law but I would have wanted to pass this information on to the people who were conducting a review.

Jay: There is no question that North American's quality contributed in part to the Apollo 1 fire. The Thompson report concluded that without needing any help from Thomas Baron.

That is not the point. Baron had noted this poor quality control and misdirection long before the dirt hit the fan. You can't just dismiss him like that. Despite his naivety in relation to the allegation over the Apollo 1 fire, for very much the most part, Barons work was appreciated by the review board.

Karamoon: Again, seeing as neither of us have read his report we can not know everything he witnessed first hand and that which he did not.

Jay: But I don't have to speculate on the contents of lost reports. I can point to testimony and records whose authenticity is not in doubt,

But the review board only touched the surface of his work when he was called forth to give testimony. In light of earlier questioning and revelations, the board skipped over a considerable portion of Baron's charges. At this juncture, it seems their focus was to raise and question that which was deemed most controversial. And as Baron said himself, there were too many examples to recite, and so he ended up giving brief summaries.

Baron's testimony is by no means a substitution for the detail in his 500-page report and that submitted by other individuals.

Jay: But he is willing to stand before congress and testify under oath to the truthfulness of things he did not witness.

No, he testified under oath that the information he gave was correct -- in that his own observations were genuine and that people had indeed confided in him as he claimed.

Jay: If you are going to claim that Baron's short report is the de facto insider truth of what was going on at North American, then you have to deal with these issues of credibility.

I am dealing with them. Baron is totally credible, in my honest opinion. That is why I am defending him.

The larger question as to what his findings mean, and those of General Samuel Phillips' tiger-team, is open to much debate. But I think Baron's credibility is not.

Karamoon: That is because he was a tenant of yours and he was blatantly pandering to you.

Jay: Since you are flippantly trying to find ways to dismiss his opinion on a basis other than the merit of his legal expertise,

No! I dealt with his opinion at the time (over at Apollo Hoax) and I even invited you to pass on my own thoughts regarding his opinion to Bing. I do not know if you did this, but either way I did not hear anything more from this tenant of yours.

Jay: may I conclude that you have no material basis on which to contend his findings?

I totally and utterly contend his findings. I think it is impossible and totally unfair to judge Thomas Baron's credibility on a single transcript, without first seeking other views and opinions and without learning more of the circumstances surrounding the initial investigation.

Bing's opinion that the committee thinks Baron is a "crackpot" is plain ludicrous. Some of them do appear suspicious of his motives, but as I stated the first time, it is only fair they explore this avenue of investigation. Baron was alarmed enough to start taking notes many many months before he was fired and as such it should be clear that his motive is genuine.

Jay: As to whether free rent or any other consideration was offered, my rental agreement contains a "sole agreement" clause. That means I am unable to alter its provisions by any means, oral or written, express or implied. You're suggesting that a lawyer would consent to such an arrangement contrary to a written document which expressly forbids it. You obviously don't know much about lawyers.

I was joking about the rent.

Karamoon: But this is still a very large working complex with a great many employees.

Jay: Have you been there?

Nope.

Jay: Supposing that it might be large building, is it not plausible to suppose that people have assigned offices and work areas? I've worked in many large facilities, but I knew where to find people because I know where they work.

But I have doubts as to whether the Assistant to the President of North American Aviation can recount the names of all his company's employees and recall just where they work.

Karamoon: Yes. I believe it is farfetched.

Jay: Time the following hypothetical exchange:

Smart: Are you Al Holmburg?
Holmburg: Yes.
Smart: Did you know that Thomas Baron has just tesified that you told him you knew what caused the fire?
Holmburg: Well, I heard some people outside mentioning my name, but I didn't know what it was about.
Smart: He says you met him in a drugstore and told him all about the fire and what caused it, and that the astronauts were trying for several minutes to get out. He says you had several meetings with him. Is that true?
Holmburg: No. I bumped into him several times by coincidence, and we talked about the report he was writing, but I never said anything about the fire. And I certainly never said I knew what caused it. He must be confused. He himself did a lot of talking about it, but I didn't contribute anything.
Smart: Okay, thank you. Now if you want to testify to just what you've told me, I'm pretty sure I can get you in to testify today. Is that what you want?
Holmburg: Yes, I don't want Baron telling lies about me. I'd like to clear my name, if they want to hear from me.

Jay: It takes me 52 seconds to repeat this dialogue aloud in a normal speaking pace. I believe I've covered the material elements of Holmburg's testimony. Do you still maintain that this conversation, or one materially similar, could not plausibly have taken place between Smart and Holmburg in the interval between Baron's mention of Holmburg and Holmburg giving testimony?

It is not solely that I think it could not possibly have occurred, it is that I don't believe it did occur, as explained by Mr. Smart. To reiterate, I don't believe NAA would be so open and honest at this juncture to go seeking Holmburg in order for him to testify immediately.

As I said before, considering the nature of the charge, I would hope to have a more detailed discussion with him to ensure I got all of the facts. A brief chat in a hallway is not enough -- it doesn't even come close to being enough. Holmburg could easily be flapping at that point and the information he gave erroneous.

Jay: You seem to confuse the slipping quality of work as attested by Baron, Phillips, and Thompson with some undercurrent of dishonesty and subterfuge that permeated the entire procurement of the command module.

I am not confused, but I am very suspicious of this era in NASA's history. NASA were involved in a cover-up (http://www.night-sun.co.uk/audio/snippet.mp3). This is not my imagination, this is a matter of fact. NASA tried to suppress earlier findings that painted a pretty grim picture of the Apollo programme. Speaking of the investigation -- that's if we can NASA's whitewash an investigation -- I believe historian Howard McCurdy is pretty close when he says: "Webb was very concerned that it be done in-house because I think he understood how many enemies he had in the town by 1967 and how readily they would be able to seize upon this as an example of why NASA couldn't ever go to the moon and the funds ought to be cut off."

Everyone was scrambling to save their hides and damage control was certainly the order of the day. North American were scrambling, too, and this brings us to Thomas Baron and Mervin Holmburg. For reasons I explained a short while ago, I do not doubt Baron's integrity. He did more than most to ensure the safety of Apollo. Now, at this critical juncture, when NASA and NAA are the ones covering their hides, you want me to believe it was Thomas Baron who was up against the ropes and who just started making things up for the fun of it. I'm sorry, but this goes against everything that is now known.

Jay: That NAA got behind and cut corners is not proof that they lied to Congress in the ensuing investigation.

No, it is not proof. But myself and many others -- contrary to the beginning of your reply -- believe their behavior is consistent with what would happen if Baron were indeed telling the truth and Holmburg and NAA were lying.

We feel that Baron was "stitched up" a treat.

Karamoon: Caught unawares, I would be very anxious to sit down and have a long chat with Mr. Holmburg.

Jay: What else would you talk about besides what I have outlined above?

I would want to make certain Mervin Holburg did not say what he is being charged with saying. Asking someone for little more than a binary answer when the stakes are as high as they possibly could be, then placing total faith on that answer, is not very smart (pardon the pun). It is here that I find your outline above to be somewhat naive. I would want to ask Mervin Holmburg if he perhaps knew why Thomas Baron would want to make up such an ill-conceived lie about him. I would want to push him further and act as though I did not wholly believe him, just to make sure his version of events does not alter in any way. I would repeat similar questions and act appropriately. If he remained steadfast in his opinion, then -- and only then -- would I think about ushering him into the committee room. Not before.

There was a great deal at stake with an allegation of this nature. A great deal indeed. In circumstances such as these it is paramount you have the facts of the case.

Jay: The transcript is clear about the point on which Holmburg was supposed to have informed Baron, and Holmburg's examination covered that point.

But interestingly, he went further, too. Holmburg seemed intent on utterly trashing Baron's credibility. It seems he wanted the board to know that Baron gets "all of his information" by indirect means and by people "dropping him a word here and there". This reeks of classic character assassination. It reeks.

I say Holmburg admitted his guff to a senior member of staff and they in turn probed him, as any intelligent persons would want to do. Then, when they were sure they had the facts, they encouraged Holmburg to further discredit Baron.

This is the moment North American Aviation they played their "get out of jail free" card.

They had to deal with Thomas Baron as he was a major pain in their side. And he wasn't about to go away (that was until he picked a fight with a locomotive!).

Jay: Obviously. We're trying to determine why you don't buy it. You insist that in Smart's place you would have had a lengthy interview with him. Setting aside the fact that Baron's testimony is lengthy enough for a considerably longer interview than my example above could have taken place, what content would you have discussed?

I feel that I have just answered this question, and others that follow. I believe the situation was grave enough to require a serious one-to-one.

Karamoon: I am sorry for the sarcasm, but it's patently clear what transpired here.

Jay: No, it's not patently clear that your interpretation is correct. We have intelligent men who have testified that Baron is less credible than Holmburg.

Barons charges -- in relation to the Apollo 1 fire -- we rejected. They were rejected because Holmburg denied Baron's version of events. And as such, Baron was unable to prove that this conversation did in fact take place as he testified. This does not mean the entire board deemed Thomas Baron to be less credible that Holmburg, it just means he was unable to prove his claim.

I do know that Mr. Hechler took a dislike to Baron but by the same token others on the review board were far more accommodating.

Jay: Your apparent clarity is based simply on your personal opinion that you would have done it differently.

I would want to ensure that I got all the facts of the case, yes. And I think any intelligent corporation wanting to preserve their multimillion pound contract would have wanted to do the same thing. I do not believe that, at this critical juncture, a brief chat with Holmburg in a corridor would have sufficed. As I said a few moments ago, Holmburg could easily have been flapping at that point and the information he gave erroneous.

Further, I believe Baron was peeved at the way he was treated by some members of the board, and he totally resented the way NAA had stitched him up. But before this "squeaky wheel" was allowed to propagate his version of events they threw him in front of a train and then invented some bul*sh*t story about him being distraught over the deaths of the Apollo 1 crew! Subsequently, his report could no longer be handed back to him and so it was destroyed.

Karamoon: If you wish to line up behind the official line then so be it.

Jay: So are you objecting to it simply because it is the party line?

No. I am objecting because I feel, like Wade Frazier, that the official line leaves a lot to be desired.

Karamoon: I will make my case elsewhere for those who have a mind of their own.

Jay: No need to accuse people of closed-mindedness simply because they don't agree with you.

True. I am sorry to all concerned.

Jay: You have one opinion. Most everyone else has another. You argue that Holmburg's testimony is too convenient to be credible. But when you finally make the case for it, it turns out you have nothing objective.

I beg to differ.

Karamoon: I do not believe NAA would be so forthcoming in the real world.

Jay: But your hypothesis is based on the presumption that NAA is covering up something, and is not afraid to act criminally in order continue to cover it up in the face of congressional efforts to uncover it.

James Webb lied to Congress and he was the head of NASA! And as I said elsewhere recently: Just seeing the President of the United States of America point his finger towards the mass media while vehemently declaring: "I did not -- I repeat -- did not have sex with that woman" was convincing enough for millions and millions of Americans, too. Nixon was a liar, Regan was a liar, Clinton was a liar. People lie every single day. People lie to protect themselves and government secrets (now labeled "higher truths"). People lie on a personal level and to the masses. Century of the Self (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4380914,00.html) proves that beyond a shadow of doubt.

You shouldn't be so surprised that people want to cover themselves in times of trouble.

Karamoon: But because he had earlier been dismissed he thought he could mouth off unchecked.

Jay: No, I dispute this vigorously.

It was common knowledge at NAA that Baron had written the shorter report. It was common knowledge that he had been fired for taking the unsubstantiated portions of it to the press.

We can not be sure it was common knowledge. Remember that Baron decided to take temporary leave of his duties before he was dismissed, so there was no sudden departure as a result of him being fired and so he unable to walk out onto the shop floor and broadcast to everyone that he had just been sacked.

It is highly likely that at some point this information found its way back to some employees at North American Aviation, but we can not be sure everyone knew.

Jay: Holmburg says he knew Baron was writing a lengthier report. I believe that too was common knowledge.

Holmburg knew he was writing a more detailed report because Baron had told him so. But how would everyone else know unless -- and until -- Baron had told them? Recall that Baron did not intentionally go looking for employees, he just happened to chance in to Holmburg in a drug store. How would Holmburg have known Baron's intentions unless he had previously shared them with him?

Jay: Baron was not an obscure figure at the time the alleged meetings between him and Holmburg took place. For Holmburg to "mouth off" to Baron, knowing that his statements would almost certainly be included in a report with his name attached to them, would be colossally stupid.

It would be foolish for Holmburg to "mouth off" if Baron had earlier informed him that he was in the process of expanding his report and that he intended to deliver it in person to the review board. So the question arises: did Holmburg know this before he said what Baron claims he said. I believe the answer is no.

I belive the first topic of conversation between these two individuals would have been the biggest news of all -- the Apollo 1 fire. Then Holmburg ran straight into trouble off the back of that conversation. I bet Holmburg's eyes then lit up when Baron eventually told him of his intent. Then he went to his seniors and told them he had put his foot in his mouth. They probably told him he was a jerk but that if he simply denied having ever said it then they will do him a favour and forget about the whole thing. Oh, and another thing, when you are called for, just say Baron is a crackpot, etc. etc. If you scratch my back I will scratch yours, so to speak.

And no wonder they found Holmburg in double quick time. By refuting Baron immediately there wasn't any time for the story to propagate with the sensationalist press. An exercise in ace public relations.

It is a shame that this process did not see Thomas Baron called back to testify after Holmburg himself was called. It is a shame that Thomas Baron is not alive today to defend his name.

Karamoon: Not everything, no. Granted, there are a number of areas where I doubt the official line, and in turn this is all that you see.

Jay: Wrong. I'm getting tired of you attacking this Straw Jay. As I mentioned when we first began this debate months ago, I don't believe the "party line" is the complete story of the Apollo 1 fire. I simply believe it didn't miss the mark as widely as you suggest.

You say this, but you very rarely give any further details. You say that, given a moment, you yourself can find something fishy about project Apollo, but you very rarely elaborate on this. It is as though you are walking a tightrope or a carefully plotted path through your reasoning.

Jay: For example, the missing pages in the spacecraft installation log are suspicious and are addressed only by the Thompson report as an example of careless work. Nobody but Scott Grissom seems interested in what was on those missing pages. I'm not saying I suspect there is something incriminating on them, but it seems that an investigative commission should have tried to recover or reconstruct them.

And this is one of those rare times.

Jay: But while you take the de maxima approach in which you throw out large segments of the "party line" in favor of your largely unsubstantiated conjecture that tromps all over parsimony, I take the de minima approach that says, "The party line may be wrong in this or that particular, but it still appears generally correct based on other evidence."

That's unfair. There is a great deal of controversy I haven't even touched yet. lol.

Karamoon: So you assume I am just wanting to wage war against the authorities.

Jay: Not strictly. I am observing that when you are cornered in a debate, you fall back to the same general argument -- that of allegations of government misfeasance and the general distrust of power.

I would not say I "fall back" to this, but on occasion, yes, I will happily remind people of that angle. I remind people because it holds true.

The world is a web of lies and misrepresentation. The winners write history, the losers take a fall (under a speeding train).

Karamoon: but you can make anything sound quite defensible.

Jay: No, I can generally only make sound plausible what is inherently plausible to start with.

Trust me on this, you can make anything sound defensible. You are quite skilled in debate and have obviously been lingering around the halls of Usenet for far too long. It makes for good practice, but it can make for bad practice, too.

I ask of you this: If you are 100% sure that man has indeed walked upon the moon, then don't begrudge lesser controversy that is likely true.

Karamoon: And given your own track record that is infinitely more worrying. You can keep the majority in check, even though what you defend is not always the truth.

Jay: You of all people I had assumed were above such small-minded bickering. Take note that the webmaster here does not allow character assassination as a debate tactic.

Well, maybe that was too direct. Perhaps, to a certain degree, I am misunderstanding you. Perhaps not. Either way, you will know in your own mind the path you are treading.

Thomas Baron -- RIP (http://www.night-sun.co.uk/documents/apollo_report.htm)

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Karamoon on 2002-05-23 21:46 ]</font>

JayUtah
2002-May-24, 08:21 AM
Baron is making the unmistakable charge that Holmburg had claimed to have knowledge as to the cause of the fire

A boldly stated mistake is still a mistake. You seem very reluctant to accept the possibility that Baron walked away from his chance meeting with Holmburg with a different understanding or recollection of what transpired between them.

It is conceivable that Baron imagined Holmburg would get cold feet and in turn jeopardize his testimony.

But what motive would Holmburg have had to tell Baron anything, especially something that was patently untrue, and which would get him in trouble?

But clearly, from other revelations, Baron's approach is genuine and he would chance this in the name of truth.

"Genuine" does not mean "reliable". It is the reliability of Baron's testimony that is in question, not whether he was deliberately deceptive or innocently motivated. Baron may simply have remembered the conversation incorrectly, or confused it with other information he had heard. It was a chance meeting, so it is unlikely Baron was prepared to take notes or speak on tape.

I believe Marvin Holmburg made those comments, but later, perhaps gradually, he not only realised the seriousness of his remarks but more so the significance of whom he had made them to.

You're asking me to believe that Holmburg, who knew who Baron was and what he was doing, would simply forget not to divulge any sensitive information to him. Sorry, not buying it.

We don't know that. The exact percentage of observations that were made outside of the field of expertise is unknown.

I disagree. I have seen a list of Baron's charges and NAA's response to them. Further, I have some experience with quality control in aerospace and I know what would generally fall within an inspector's scope.

Gross negligence isn't a charge to take lying down and they would have obscured Baron's charges wherever possible.

This proves nothing. North American would have also strenuously objected to charges of gross negligence they felt were based on inappropriate expertise or factual incorrectness. And this appears to be partly the case, according to NAA's claim. You're affirming the consequent.

How do you know that Baron felt they were all significant?

Because he took them all to the press. He was fully aware that North American had responded to his report and rejected some of his findings on defensible grounds. Baron decided to make the allegations public instead. It's not a matter of whether he believed some were more important than others. It's that he uncritically believed they all had merit.

I'm beginning to see where you are going with this. He was just a nobody seeking revenge, right?

No. He wasn't fired until after he went to the press. Revenge is not a motive I considered. I don't believe Baron had a good idea of how his approach and understanding fit in with the Apollo project. I feel he was not in tune to how well considered and supported his criticisms were.

Some individual statements he makes could be attributed to being disgruntled, but I don't contend that was his overriding motive.

He was top labor grade 12

No, he said "at the top" of Grade 12. In the U.S. employment rankings each grade contains subgrades that equate to different levels of experience and pay within a specific job description.

My point in bringing this up was not to dispute NAA's alleged practice of filling positions with people of unsuitable qualifications. If that occurred, it was questionable. My intent was to point out the inconsistency of his claims against North American.

He complains he was not suitably promoted. We could contend that, but that's not the point at hand. The point is that he was already being assigned to do work normally associated with higher labor grades -- in essence, the work he would be doing if he were promoted. But he says he wasn't qualified to do that work. So on what basis does he contend he was qualified for promotion? If he wasn't qualified for the higher grade work, then NAA's decision not to promote him was sound.

Well, we shouldn't be guessing at the percentage of such observations.

I'm not guessing at percentages except to say that the percentage of conclusions drawn commensurate to his expertise is less than 100%. That's okay. People overstep their expertise all the time. But generally when honorable are told they've overstepped their expertise, they don't go running to the press to try their case in the court of public opinion.

What is there, and what he was qualified to observe, still paints a pretty grim picture.

I do not say that NAA was not guilty of serious infractions. I do, however, dispute that Baron's report accurately describes them. I contend that Baron was not an authority on all he presumed to say. I contend that he was not such a threat to NASA that he had to be murdered.

It not as simple as that. I say he is credible because of his obvious integrity, his willingness to do what was right.

I claim he was overzealous, overstepped his expertise, contradicted himself, and has difficulty distinguishing first- and second-hand information. As noted below, you consider only one possible component of credibility.

the fact of the matter is the management at NAA were not addressing them as they needed to be addressed and Baron wasn't prepared to burry his head in the sand.

You seem stubbornly attached only to what Baron got right, and seem to ignore that one's reliability is not a matter of simply pointing out that one is occasionally right, but is more involved with measuring how often one is right.

Although Baron had some initial difficulty getting a fair hearing with NAA, that was not always the case. He had a face-to-face meeting with the highest quality control officer in the company. That does not happen lightly.

No -- and this is important -- just because only half could be verified it does not mean the other half were made in error.

Making allegations without suitable evidence does not establish good credibility. Credible people are able to recognize when their own statements are not supported by evidence.

Remember, gross negligence isn't a charge to be taken lightly and NAA would not have rolled over and accepted Baron's charges, they would have fought them 'tooth and nail'. So your last statement is totally misleading and quite unfair.

No, your statement is unfair. You are simply willing to accept unfounded allegations without evidence. You seem willing to accept only NAA's deceptive self-preservation as a motive for contesting Baron's charges. You don't seem to realize that people falsely accused will also fight tooth and nail to protect their reputation.

it took until three people lost their lives.

Baron's charges were found to have little or no bearing on the AS-204 fire, even those that were substantiated.

This proves absolutely nothing.

You forget that I've already consulted attorneys regarding this. In the expert, professional opinion of those who read transcribed testimonies for a living, Baron is uncomfortable, flustered, and evasive.

Because it was hearsay it was inadmissible. This only demonstrates Baron's naivety when it comes to matters relating to law. It does not mean that his witnesses were mistaken.

Hearsay is hearsay, whether it's in the legal sense or otherwise. If someone says he has evidence for something, but it turns out he only heard it from others, would you not naturally chastise him for that? There's a big difference in any context between having evidence and simply knowing someone who has evidence.

It seems to me that Thomas Baron was in a no win situation with that information.

Then he shouldn't have given it as evidence. He was called before Congress to give his testimony. All he had was what he thought he had heard from other people. And the Thompson report had been released by this time, giving the amply documented version of what had occurred in the cockpit. It was in all the papers. People wanted to know if the astronauts had suffered.

So now we have to believe that Baron was completely ignorant of the major finding of fact in the case to which he had devoted large amounts of time. Or we have to believe he simply felt this bit of hearsay outweighed all of that. In either case, I can't see holding up Thomas Baron as the One True authority on Apollo 1, NASA, and NAA, as so many hoax believers are so eager to do.

The argument that Thomas Baron was murdered to cover up a hoax rests on the notion that Baron's testimony was especially damaging. It was not, at least no more so that that of others who managed to stay alive.

Their own review did not corroborate such a charge and so it was rejected.

More than that. It was rejected, according to an attorney I consulted, "with prejudice," meaning in legalese that they seem to believe he should have known better. This is a major blow to anyone's credibility.

for very much the most part, Barons work was appreciated by the review board.

Which "review board" are we talking about? Baron's work was not mentioned in the Thompson report, which was the product of the "review board" as commonly defined by the Apollo 1 nomenclature. If you mean appreciated by the subcommittee before whom Baron testified, I'll point out that only one person on the committee expressed that sentiment. (So long as you're pointing out that only one member chastised him.)

It's interesting to learn how Baron's work was originally made known to Congress. I'll let you work out the politics of that, if you want to.

But I think Baron's credibility is not.

But you aren't really dealing with his credibility. You say, "Oh, he was an honest person, and had genuine motives to help out Apollo." That's only a very small part of what constitutes credibility. Credibility also takes into account the ability to weigh evidence, to formulate a supported testimony, to critically reject one's own poor arguments, and other factors. You wish to consider only one indicator of credibility and ignore all others.

Read the other testimony before Congress and before the Thompson commission. That will give you a much better standard of credibility.

I do not know if you did this, but either way I did not hear anything more from this tenant of yours.

Wrong. I expounded upon the notion of prior knowledge of testimony, which was clarified by him and another attorney of my acquaintance. I believe I went on at length about his response to your concerns.

I totally and utterly contend his findings.

I know you contend it. That wasn't the question. I asked if you had grounds for that contention, and it's obvious now that you don't. You seem to reject them solely because they're inconvenient.

But I have doubts as to whether the Assistant to the President of North American Aviation can recount the names of all his company's employees and recall just where they work.

He said he asked someone else to find him.

It is not solely that I think it could not possibly have occurred, it is that I don't believe it did occur

Obviously. But that's only because you insist a longer conversation was necessary. And I believe the only reason you say it was necessary is because you need a longer conversation to have taken place so it would be impossible for it to have happened during the time covered by the testimony.

As a matter of largely undisputable fact, the salient points of Holmburg's testimony can be conveyed in under a minute. Once again your argument is simply based on the notion that you would have done it differently. The argument is not what Karamoon would have done, but what Mr. Strong would have -- and could have -- done.

I don't believe NAA would be so open and honest at this juncture to go seeking Holmburg in order for him to testify immediately.

Is this the same NAA you argued would have fought tooth and nail to protect its image and profitability? I remind you that the hearings were held at the Cape facilities precisely so that the various parties would be convenient to testify.

This is not my imagination, this is a matter of fact. NASA tried to suppress earlier findings that painted a pretty grim picture of the Apollo programme.

No, they spoke to certain specific points. You're the one trying to generalize it to the whole program. Further, you completely ignore the political motivation -- that a certain picture needed to be painted for Congress because of the nature of Congress, not necessarily because of the nature of the procurement, design, or development.

Everyone was scrambling to save their hides and damage control was certainly the order of the day.

Have you read the Thompson report?

Now, at this critical juncture, when NASA and NAA are the ones covering their hides

Have you read the Thompson report?

you want me to believe it was Thomas Baron who was up against the ropes and who just started making things up for the fun of it.

I don't claim he was making things up for the fun of it. I think he had an overinflated opinion of himself and his contribution to the project, and he overstepped his knowledge and expertise.

Earlier you said the board (i.e., committee) properly rejected his remarks upon further examination. May I remind you that the whole point of this discussion is to determine the likelihood that Baron's testimony is connected with his death. You're saying now that Baron's testimony was rejected as unfounded. On what grounds do you maintain it was still dangerous enough to warrant killing him?

I would want to make certain Mervin Holburg did not say what he is being charged with saying.

That's covered in my hypothetical conversation.

Asking someone for little more than a binary answer when the stakes are as high as they possibly could be, then placing total faith on that answer, is not very smart (pardon the pun).

I disagree. I would want as clear an answer from Holmburg as could be given. Binary, if possible. I don't want to get bitten in the butt later and have Holmburg say, "Hm, you must have misunderstood me."

There was a great deal at stake with an allegation of this nature. A great deal indeed.

Yeah, yeah. But that has nothing to do with how long the conversation had to be. "How do you plead?" is a question that often has a great deal at stake, and the answer is generally one or two words.

In circumstances such as these it is paramount you have the facts of the case.

I don't dispute that. I dispute your contention that discovering those facts necessarily took longer than the available time allowed.

But interestingly, he went further, too. Holmburg seemed intent on utterly trashing Baron's credibility.

Regardless of what it seemed to you, Holmburg's stated intent was to clear his own name. I don't care what you think it "reeks" of. I think it's reasonable to assume that Holmburg was a little upset about rumor being attributed to him. Thus well-motivated to clear his name, it's not unreasonable to believe he will reveal to the committee what he knows about Baron's research methods.

They had to deal with Thomas Baron as he was a major pain in their side.

Not after being pretty much shot down in front of Congress. In your scenario they both discredit and kill him. Why both? And why wait until the committee's report is published?

Barons charges -- in relation to the Apollo 1 fire -- we rejected. They were rejected because Holmburg denied Baron's version of events.

That is not the only reason. Baron's testimony and reports were rejected because they were hearsay, and because they largely did not concern the potential causes of the AS-204 fire. They concerned other elements of general interest regarding NAA, but there's a limit to how relevant that is to the committee's mandate.

Further, I believe Baron was peeved at the way he was treated by some members of the board, and he totally resented the way NAA had stitched him up.

Baron made his views known to the company. The company eventually addressed them. Baron was still unsatisifed and tried to go over the company's head to the press. NAA fired him. What company wouldn't?

invented some bul*sh*t story about him being distraught over the deaths of the Apollo 1 crew!

Why was it necessary to kill Baron's family too? What actual threat did they pose? Are you aware that family murder-suicide is very common among head-of-household suicides?

Baron admitted to suffering a nervous condition. Would that tend to indicate or counterindicate suicide? Would it affect his judgment?

Baron also suffered from diabetes. Are you aware that people with chronic illnesses exhibit an increased rate of depression and suicide?

Wouldn't it make more sense to kill Baron before he testified? Before he wrote his lengthy report? Before anti-NASA senator Walter Mondale made him his poster child?

I keep asking these questions and the answer still seems to be, "Never mind all that."

No. I am objecting because I feel, like Wade Frazier, that the official line leaves a lot to be desired.

I find that your scenario leaves much more to be desired. Much of it is circular, much of it is an affirmed consequent. Much of it simply ignores pertinent fact. And much if it is simply you imposing your m.o. on other people.

May I remind you that you're levelling a charge of murder. That's not normally a charge made just on the basis that the party line is fishy.

James Webb lied to Congress and he was the head of NASA!

James Webb and Congress didn't get along. It's just politics. That's partly why Webb was out on his ear when his Democratic protector left office.

You shouldn't be so surprised that people want to cover themselves in times of trouble.

But people will also defend themselves against unfounded accusations. You are simply affirming the consequent here.

We can not be sure it was common knowledge.

Yes we can. It is generally announced in American corporations when employees are no longer working there, especially in aerospace and other high-tech firms. This is specifically so that no sensitive company information will be inadvertently revealed to them after they are no longer employees and no longer bound by non-disclosure agreements.

But how would everyone else know unless -- and until -- Baron had told them?

Because the voluntary observations and contributions of other people were the basis of the report. They gave these tidbits to Baron because they knew he was writing the report. Therefore they knew about it.

I belive the first topic of conversation between these two individuals would have been the biggest news of all -- the Apollo 1 fire.

I disagree. The first thing you do in failure analysis is very strictly warn people who were involved not to talk about it, and provide for exceptional penalties for doing so.

What is Holmburg's motivation for spilling the beans to Baron? What does Holmburg gain? Admiration in the eyes of someone who got fired for misconduct, at the expense of losing his own job? You argue that Holmburg didn't necessarily know Baron was working on a paper. I disagree. I'm sure Holmburg read the newspapers in which Baron's allegations were being trumpeted.

You say this, but you very rarely give any further details.

That's because I'm suspending judgment. I don't have specific allegations about Apollo 1, but it means there's sufficient ambiguity in the treatment of it to warrant paying attention to various claims on their merits.

Scott Grissom's case has some merit. I don't believe necessarily what he claims about it, but I do believe it may constitute a legitimate claim of improper investigation.

Your claim, on the other hand, has no comparable merit. All you have is a set of conjecture, opinion, and shoulda-wouldas.

I remind people because it holds true.

No. Not everyone shares your cynicism. It's foolish of you to base an argument upon it that you wish to be generally received.

Trust me on this, you can make anything sound defensible. You are quite skilled in debate

My point remains: skill in debate is generally how well one can pare away faulty reasoning and irrelevancy and arrive at the likely truth amid conflicting evidence. "Spin" is fleeting and easily torn apart. I don't "spin".

I ask of you this: If you are 100% sure that man has indeed walked upon the moon, then don't begrudge lesser controversy that is likely true.

Two reasons: First, I don't agree it's likely true. I find several indications that suggest it's likely Baron committed suicide. That's my belief, and I accept that I'm probably unable to prove it.

Second, taking a middle-ground position just to be conciliatory flies in the face of debate, evidence, and proof. If I believe there isn't sufficient evidence that Thomas Baron was murdered, I'm not going to admit that there is just because it would be friendly to do so. I prefer to retain my belief based on my perception of the facts, not upon the politics of debate.

I would expect you to stand on your principles too. I want people to appreciate my arguments, not just enjoy my company.

SaturnV
2002-Nov-03, 02:04 AM
I'd have to say Mr. Baron is the one who is telling the truth here. Mr. Holmberg comes across as a liar. He holds his hand over his mouth which makes me think he's nervous and could also key you into thte fact that he may be lying. His answers all seem to revolve around him avoiding getting into trouble. All of what Mr. Baron said is correct.

2002-Nov-03, 03:10 AM
1: Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg
2: Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg
3: Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg
4: Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg
5: Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg
6: Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg
7: Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg
8: Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg
9: Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg Thomas Holmberg
actually I read none of it {i do not care} but I voted anyway {just for turnout count}