Saturday, January 16, 2016

The breathtaking stupidity of #BernieOrBust

I love Bernie Sanders. Through three decades of political junkiedom, he is my favorite public official other than former Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone. Few politicians exhibit the authenticity and empathy that oozes out of Bernie’s every pore. No elected official speaks as passionately about the economic struggles of everyday Americans and the corrosive impact of corporate money on our ailing democracy. Bernie has my vote in the Democratic primary and I will enthusiastically volunteer for him if he becomes the Democratic candidate this fall.

Yet I find the #BernieOrBust crusade to be one of the most breathtakingly stupid political movements ever conceived.

Though many BernieOrBusters are not old enough to realize it, we have been here before. During the 2000 presidential race, Ralph Nader and his most ardent supporters repeatedly claimed that Al Gore and George W. Bush were so similar that it wouldn't make much of a difference who won. This assertion was accompanied by talking points that reduced an election with enormous human stakes down to bumper sticker slogans which were childlike in their simplicity. Gore and Bush were "two heads of the same beast" or "Tweedledee and Tweedledum." Rather than vote for "the lesser of two evils," Naderistas counselled that one should "vote your hopes, not your fears," though there was never a remote chance that Nader would become president and the fears of a Bush Administration were more than justified.

Based on Bush's record as governor of Texas, astute observers knew that the Nader talking points were nonsense and that a Bush presidency would be a nightmare for progressive
values. They were also acutely aware, through the application of basic math, that Nader's candidacy could siphon enough votes from Al Gore to put George W. Bush in office, which is exactly what happened thanks to Nader's vote totals in Florida and New Hampshire.

The results? The appointment of ultra-right officials who were determined to undermine their agencies' historic missions. A systematic reversal of liberal-learning Clinton-Gore policies. The worst environmental record in ages. Clinton's hard-earned surplus pissed away
on tax cuts for the rich that increased inequality and failed to grow the economy. The erosion of the wall between church and state. A slew of right-wing judges who genuflected before the corporate interests that Nader routinely flogged during his presidential run. The abandonment of international treaties, a unilateral invasion based on lies, and alienation from the international community. And staggering incompetence, from the lack of action taken before 9/11 (despite numerous warnings of potential attacks) to the failure to adequately plan for the occupation of Iraq to the gutting and privatization of FEMA, which failed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, to Bush's failure to pre-empt the economic crash of September, 2008 despite clear warnings in 2007 that the housing bubble could burst. By any objective measure, Bush's presidency was a colossal disaster not only for America but for the progressive movement Nader claimed to champion.

Anyone who lives in a contested state who refuses to vote for Hillary Clinton in November of 2016 threatens to make the same stupid and reckless mistake that Nader's Florida supporters made in 2000.

No, Hillary hasn't won the Democratic nomination yet, and she was heavily favored in 2008 too, but the Bernie Sanders of 2016 is not the Barack Obama of 2008. His quest to become the Democratic standard bearer is a long shot, whether you look at polls, endorsements, betting markets, or the prognostications of data god Nate Silver, who gives Bernie a 5-10% chance of winning.

To justify not voting for the likely Democratic candidate this fall, BernieOrBusters peddle the notion that there is a major policy chasm between Bernie and Hillary, that Hillary is essentially "Republican light," but it just isn't so. During their time in the Senate, Hillary and Bernie voted together 93% of the time; far from being "Republican light," Hillary was the 11th most liberal senator, placing her to the left of 75-80% of the Democratic caucus and all of the Republicans. Over the past several months Clinton has released a long list of progressive proposals that offer a stark contrast to her Republican rivals, including policies dealing with the reform of Wall Street and drug laws, childcare, assistance to caregivers for the elderly and disabled, voting rights, prescription drug imports from Canada, LGBT rights, universal Pre-K and college debt, progressive taxation, autism, drug and alcohol addiction, Alzheimer's disease, gun control, and healthcare for veterans

Hillary would also appoint radically different judges to the Supreme Court than any of the GOP candidates, which is an especially crucial issue now that four SCOTUS justices are 80 and older, including cancer survivor Ruth Ginsburg. Among many other toxic decisions, the current 5-4 Republican majority has given us Citizens United, unraveled the Voting Rights Act, kept millions of poor Americans from receiving healthcare coverage, and now threatens to deliver a death blow to unions. If the replacement for any of the four liberal judges is chosen by a Republican president, expect more of the same and worse, including the end of Roe v. Wade and a return to the glory days of back alley abortions.    

In addition, while a Republican administration would do everything in its power to dismantle the progress of the last seven years, President Clinton would protect and expand upon the Affordable Care Act and the rest of the Obama legacy.  

For these reasons, and many, many others—including Clinton's unique qualifications for the office due to her intelligence, work ethic, experience, and public policy knowledge—Bernie recently said that she "will be an infinitely better candidate and president on her worst day than the Republican candidate on his best day." Swing state lefties who plan to stay home this November if Bernie doesn't win the primary, or waste their vote on a write-in candidate, need to remember that social progress is made by coalitions, not noble gestures.

More political writing by Dan Benbow:  

                          Justice Delayed: "Kill the Messenger" vindicates Gary Webb

                                              21st Century Republicans, Part IV

                                "Inequality for All" and the Elephant in the Room

                                     Memorial Day in the United States of Amnesia

                                              Romney-Ryan's Road to Perdition

                      The Master of Low Expectations: 666 Reasons Sentient Citizens are 
                                Still Celebrating the Long Overdue Departure of George W. Bush

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The underappreciated ingenuity of Robby Krieger

Seventy years ago today, the universe yielded up Robby Krieger, later to become the lone introvert in the Doors. Sharing space and time with outsized personalities such as the Lizard King, one of the most captivating lead singers ever, the hyper-talented and ever-voluble Ray Manzarek (who spent the second half of his life proselytizing about the Doors’ sizable legacy in a non-stop hepcat patter), and John Densmorethe activist and stubborn conscience of the band who unilaterally blocked the sale of "Light My Fire" to Cadillac for a $15,000,000 payday—the soft-spoken guitarist tended to be overshadowed and undersung. But Krieger's contributions were essential to the Doors’ unique sound, what Manzarek referred to as a "four-sided diamond." 

When the Doors were gathering tracks for their debut album, they were short of original material, so the band members parted for a few days to write songs. Upon his return, Robbie offered up the arrangement that would become “Light My Fire,” the mega-hit which launched the band.

Teenyboppers heard the three-minute single, but album track listeners were treated to a seven-minute version with a heady instrumental jam which features two extended solos. Following Ray Manzarek’s mesmerizing solo was a tall order, but Krieger keeps things interesting when he comes in at 3:18. Unlike most of the rock players of his day, he didn’t follow the blues power template of Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, and forebears such as B.B. King; his solo is all clean channel finesse—colorful flamenco flutters and hammer-on pull-offs perfectly fitted to the huge pocket created by Densmore and Manzarek.


The last song on The Doors’ second album, “Strange Days,” is the epic “When the Music’s Over.” In one of the most powerful introductions committed to acetate, Ray Manzarek opens by vamping on the main theme, and is soon joined by Densmore, the two of them building tension that is released with Jim Morrison's blood-curdling shriek and Krieger’s big mystical wash of feedback. As Manzarek’s hypnotic organ and Morrison’s apocalyptic lyrics take center stage, Krieger stays in the background, doubling Manzarek or darting out quick little blues fills, until he plays what he later called his favorite solo, at 2:54.


Once, when asked what he was thinking about while he took solos in concert (with no expression on his face), Krieger said “my goldfish,” and it shows here. Unlike the muscular, virtuosic leads of contemporaries such as Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page, Krieger’s solo is not a demonstration of chops or a climbing route to a crescendo but a mood reflecting his interest in the modal approach of Indian music. It is a perfect acid rock solo: oblique and multi-layered, a miasma of shapes and colors swimming around freely in your ears simultaneously in both the left and right channels.

One of the gems on the Doors’ third album, "Waiting for the Sun," is “Spanish Caravan.” Borrowing from the classical piece "Asturias," this song showcases yet another side of Robbie’s guitar voicings—fleet, nylon-stringed, flamenco finger picking.


The Doors’ final album, “L.A. Woman,” had several blues tracks. Manzarek, a Chicago native, had always had a foot in the blues. Years of cigarettes and heavy drinking had deepened Morrison’s voice, transforming his persona from that of a slinky and mystical shaman to a full-throated, whiskey-besotted bluesman. And the simplicity of blues arrangements appealed to the group after the departure of their long-time producer, Paul Rothchild, early in the sessions.

“Been Down So Long,” based on a '60s cult novel, is simple and stark. Driven by a pulsing bass line and bone-dry four-four drums, Manzarek's absence gives added emphasis to Krieger's tasty blues fills. While he didn’t possess the lightning-quick slide skills of Johnny Winter or the prowess of Duane Allman, Robbie was handy with the bottleneck, as evidenced by the eye-popping, Delta-influenced solos at 1:34 and 3:08. 


“Crawling King Snake” was an ancient standard previously recorded by blues giants John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf. The Doors’ version is appropriately gritty, stripped-down, and true to the original spirit of the song. Robbie’s solo at 1:48, a model in dirty blues, is filled with jagged flurries of notes that cut like shards of glass.


Just three months after “L.A. Woman” hit record store shelves, Jim Morrison was found dead in a Paris bathtub. The surviving Doors recorded two more albums with Ray Manzarek on vocals, but the magic was gone. In the decades since, Krieger has made guest appearances, collaborated with John Densmore and Ray Manzarek, and released solo albums, but ultimately, the recordings that shine brightest are his rich and versatile stylings for the original lineup of the Doors, the four-sided diamond.

***
                                                    
Other Truth and Beauty guitar hero essays:

         Click here for "The Second Coming:  Stevie Ray Vaughan," 
a first-hand account of Vaughan's final concert

here for "The heaviest New Year's Eve guitar jam ever: Hendrix
does 'Machine Gun'"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #8: Freddie King's 'San-Ho-Zay'"
                       
  here for "Link Wray's 'Rumble'"
                  
here for "Great Guitar Solos, #1:  Eddie Hazel (Funkadelic)"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #2:  Frank Zappa"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #3:  Hiram Bullock" 

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #5:  Alvin Lee"

 here for "Great Guitar Solos, #6: Neil Young's 'Hey Hey, My My'"

and here for "Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar - The Six-String Wizardry of Frank Zappa, Part II"

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Trumbo"

Toward the beginning of the biopic “Trumbo,” National Book Award winner Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) signs a contract with MGM for $75,000 per script, making him the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood. As Trumbo inks the contract, one of the studio executives in the room praises the happy endings in his profitable screenplays and asks that he tone down his leftist politics, which are providing fodder for vicious right-wing gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (a wonderfully poisonous Helen Mirren). Establishing the tone for the conflicts to follow, Trumbo drily suggests that the man stop reading Hopper. 

The setting is America, 1947. After spending 14 years in the political wilderness during an extended thrashing at the hands of Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt, the Republican Party has re-taken control of Congress following the 1946 off-year elections. Capitalizing on their newfound political power, they have begun highly publicized show trials. The scapegoat of the moment is Hollywood Communists, people who in no way threaten U.S. national security that are nonetheless convenient, high profile targets of the GOP campaign of fear. Propagandistic anti-Communist newsreels from the time are embedded in the dramatic narrative to show the (manufactured) mass hysteria of the era.

Despite the congressional witch hunt swirling around him, Trumbo continues to act on the presumption that he lives in a free country. He exercises his freedom of speech by speaking out on behalf of picketing set workers. He crashes a u-rah-rah event of the Motion Picture
Helen Mirren as the red-baiting Hedda Hopper
Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, where he hands out First Amendment literature and confronts the keynote speaker, John Wayne—who had just finished a bombastic speech about protecting “the American way of life”—for being a macho posturer who had never served in uniform.


While his politics are radical, Trumbo lives a relatively traditional home life with his wife and three children on the Lazy T Ranch (a secluded little patch of heaven 70 miles northwest of L.A.) until a subpoena arrives from the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Appearing before Congress, Trumbo doesn’t flinch. Unlike many self-serving cowards, he doesn’t name names to protect his career. Neither does he cite the Fifth Amendment, as he has committed no crime. Rather than giving a direct response to the question of whether or not he was or has ever been a member of the Communist Party, Trumbo says, “I shall answer in my own words” and expounds on his First Amendment right to believe what he wants to believe. As he speaks, the black and white visual plane colorizes, as if to symbolize the way Trumbo is suffusing the grim and primitive with-us-or-against-us world of his foes with truth and light.

Trumbo is punished harshly for exercising free speech; his MGM contract is dissolved and he is sent to jail for contempt of Congress. When he gets out, a year later, he is unemployable,
blacklisted by all of the major studios. He has to sell the ranch and move into a middle-American neighborhood, where he is harassed with love it or leave it hate mail and dead animals in his pool.

Desperate to support his family, Trumbo takes the only work he can find, as a low-paid, grunt screenwriter for a B movie studio headed by Frank King (John Goodman, who fills the screen with full bluster). One condition of his indentured servitude is that his name isn’t attached to the scripts; his work is published under a dozen-odd different pseudonyms.

As Trumbo grinds away on stories about a man in a gorilla suit and an unlikely romance between a farmer’s daughter and an alien, the movie effectively conveys both the beauty and the drudgery of professional writing. While Trumbo is perched at his typewriter, jazz comes on like so many crackling synapses, ideas churning, and yet the work is exhausting: Trumbo smokes, slurps whiskey, and swallows bennies just to keep up, and his fixation on scripts—to the exclusion of all else—causes rifts within his family.

Despite his workload, Trumbo makes time to write a serious screenplay on the side. To conceal his identity, the script is submitted by a front, Trumbo’s friend Ian McLellan Hunter. Paramount buys the “Roman Holiday” screenplay for a sizable sum, and in 1954, Trumbo wins the Academy Award for Best Original Story—though the world doesn’t know it. The statuette is publicly accepted by McLellan as Trumbo and his family watch the event on television.

Trumbo continues to write and fix B movie scripts as rumors circulate through Hollywood about the true author of the “Roman Holiday” screenplay. Toward the late ’50s, though he is still publicly blacklisted, Trumbo gets private requests from two film industry heavy hitters
Dalton Trumbo in 1971
(director Otto Preminger and big name actor Kirk Douglas) to work up scripts for significant film projects in development, “Exodus” and “Spartacus.”


After many years of toil and persecution, Trumbo is on his way to beating the blacklist. When we later see his name in the credits on a movie screen, we feel relief, and a sense of social justice, but Trumbo is the exception to the rule. Most of the other victims of the blacklist—43 of whom were veterans—suffered creative ruin and in many cases, premature deaths.

Props are due to Bryan Cranston for putting his bankable name behind this project, and to director Jay Roach, who has brought together an A-list cast and a sharp script to make a film that, sadly, is all too relevant in 2015. All these years later, Republican attacks on The Other continue apace as GOP presidential candidates aggressively scapegoat the LGBT communityLatinos, and Muslims, showing that the home of the brave continues to be a cauldron of ignorance and fear a half century after the blacklist petered out.


Other "Truth and Beauty" film reviews:


"Honest Abe Makes Sausage" (about "Lincoln")

"Errol Morris Strikes Again" (about "Tabloid")




Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reasonable Doubt: 52 questions for lone nut theorists

"What I'm saying to you is, this is not something I'd take to court. I'm talking about a
judgment of history. I'm not talking about admissible evidence under a court standard. I'm talking about a jigsaw puzzle and you put little pieces in. Do I have the last piece, certainty, proof beyond a reasonable doubt? No. Could reasonable people disagree with me? Yes."

-G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, whose final report concluded that there was "probably" a conspiracy in the murder of John F. Kennedy


I'm a doubting Thomas.

I consider Roswell to be a hoax and theories about a faked moon patently ridiculous.

Like coroner Thomas Noguchi, I think Marilyn overdosed.

I am not sure I believe that James Earl Ray and Sirhan Sirhan acted alone, but I'm open to the possibility that the official story is true.

Though Bush and Cheney showed gross negligence in not acting on pre-9/11 intelligence reports, I find the idea that they were part of an "inside job" laughable.

JFK's assassination is another matter.

Despite the prodigious efforts of Vincent Bugliosi, I can't buy the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman, and this gut feeling only gets stronger as I learn more. 

Though less than one third of Americans believe the lone nut theory of the assassination, establishment media in the U.S. treat the notion of a conspiracy as batshit crazy. In this framing, people who take the Warren Commission's major conclusion at face value are rational and realistic, while those who point up the many inconsistencies in the Oswald-as-lone gunman narrative are overimaginative nutjobs with too much time on their hands.
The instant before JFK was shot
This position falsely conflates two very distinct ideas. Vincent Bugliosi's 53 pieces of evidence point to Oswald's probable involvement in the assassination, but they don't prove that Oswald acted alone

The men lurking in and around JFK's assassination were a motley crew of interlocking directorates that worked in the shadows:  rogue CIA operatives, government informants, anti-integrationist reactionaries and rabid anti-communists, high-ranking members of the Teamsters and the Mafia, drug dealers and gun runners, right-wing Texas millionaires, and men who had successfully orchestrated the overthrow of democratically-elected third world governments on behalf of U.S. corporate interests. 

Who better to keep a secret?

The 52nd anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination is no time for bedtime stories. In the spirit of democratic inquiry, I submit the following 52 questions to lone nut theorists. (Thoughtful, sourced comments are welcome. And encouraged.) 


***

1. Is it at least a little odd that arch-segregationist Joseph Milteer told an FBI informant in Miami (8 days after a pre-empted assassination plot in Chicago13 days before the Dallas assassination), that Kennedy would be shot "from an office building with a high-powered rifle," after which "they’ll pick up somebody within hours after…just to throw the public off?" 

2. Is it pure coincidence that Rose Cheramia former stripper at Jack Ruby's club who  
had been hit by a car while on a cross-country trip, she claimed, to procure heroin for Rubytold at least two witnesses (Louisiana police lieutenant Francis Fuge and Dr. Victor Weiss) of a plot to kill Kennedy within 48 hours of the assassination? [According to an official report, Cherami died in 1965 after again being hit by a car, on a highway two miles outside of Big Sandy, Texas.] 

3. Could a reasonable person find it hard to believe (possible, but not probable) that Lee Harvey Oswaldwho'd had mediocre scores on his marksman tests in the Marineshad the grace under pressure to twice hit a moving target, over trees, with a $12 Mannlicher-Carcano mail order, bolt-action rifle? [Reflecting the results of most re-creations, tests of the Carcano done by the Italian army in 2007 concluded that Oswald could not have gotten three shots off in seven seconds, as the Warren Commission theorized.]  

4. Texas Governor John Connally, a lifelong hunter, consistently said that he was not hit by the same bullet which tore through John Kennedy's throat. In fact, frame 230 (below) of the
Zapruder film shows Kennedy clutching his throat as Connally calmly stares ahead, holding a ten-gallon hat. A report put out by FBI ballistic experts in December of 1963 backed Connally. 

Could a reasonable person doubt the Warren Commission's theory that one magic bullet hit both Connally and Kennedy and produced seven injuries, a hypothesis questioned by Connally, his wife, and three of the seven Warren Commission members (Richard Russell, Hale Boggs, John Sherman Cooper)? 

5. If three shots were fired, as the Warren Commission claimed, why did an acoustics expert for the House Select Committee on Assassinations conclude that four shots had been fired, including one from the grassy knoll?  

6. If all of the shots were fired from the Texas Book Depository, why did 21 police officers, Korean War vet Bill Newman, Abraham Zapruder (who captured the world famous Zapruder film), Orville Nix (who took the second most famous home movie that day), Kennedy apparatchiks Dave Powers and Kenny O'Donnell, and more than half of the witnesses in Dealey Plaza think that a shot came from the grassy knoll? 

7. If all of the shots were fired from the Texas Book Depository, why did Dr. Ronald Jones—a physician who saw Kennedy's body in the hospital—tell Piers Morgan in a 2013 interview that Kennedy had a huge exit wound in the back of his head and why did Charles Crenshaw, a Parkland hospital surgeon, write "Had I been allowed to testify, I would have told (the Warren Commission) that there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the bullet that killed President Kennedy was shot from the grassy knoll area" in his book "JFK Has Been Shot?"

8. If, as the Warren Commission claimed, Kennedy was not hit by a shot from the front, why
Kennedy's shirt, showing a bullet hole 5" below the neckline
were motorcycle officers Bobby Hargis and B.J. Martin—who were 15-20 feet behind Kennedy in the motorcade—sprayed with JFK's blood and brain debris?


9. Dr. James Humes, who performed the autopsy, was not a forensic pathologist. Among other errors, he failed to dissect Kennedy's brain, a must in homicide cases. Oddly, his report (which mentioned bullets to Kennedy's brain and neck) contradicted the original FBI autopsy (which placed a bullet five inches below the neck; see photo at left). And according to "A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination," a book by New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, "Dr. James Humes, the Navy pathologist in charge of the Kennedy autopsy at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, burned his original autopsy report in the fireplace in his family room. Humes’ superior officer was so concerned that the pathologist himself might be eliminated by the plotters who killed JFK that he ordered Humes to be escorted home that night." 

Could someone with a modicum of skepticism question the validity of such a flawed official autopsy report, particularly when the original is missing?

10. Whatever happened to John F. Kennedy's brain?

A SHORT BACKSTORY AND A DEEPLY FLAWED INVESTIGATION.

Two intertwined areas of Kennedy Administration policy figure most prominently in the
Carlos Marcello
assassination conspiracy theories:  Attorney General Robert Kennedy's war on the mob (and the Teamsters
Union, who worked hand-in-glove with the mob) and the CIA-Mafia collusion to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In 1959, during Senate hearings investigating labor union racketeering, Robert Kennedy aggressively cross-examined Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa. The next year, in 1960, Kennedy published the findings from the hearing in"The Enemy Within."  

In 1961 Robert Kennedy became United States Attorney General and soon began an offensive against the Mafia and the corrupt Teamsters Union which was unprecedented:  "In the last year of the Eisenhower administration the Justice Department convicted only 35 low-level mobsters. By the end of 1963 [Robert F. Kennedy] had pushed that number to 288, including high-ranking bosses. 

"More alarming for the Outfit, while it was using the Teamsters pension fund to build casinos, RFK targeted Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa with a team of investigators known as the Get Hoffa squad. The squad’s first indictments against the union leader were for accepting payoffs from trucking companies and for subsequent jury tampering in those trials. In the summer of 1963 it brought new charges involving pension funds." By one estimate"successful prosecutions of the mob increased 700%" on Robert Kennedy's watch. 

Hoffa wasn't the only major figure in the mob constellation under attack at the time of John F. Kennedy's assassination. New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello was on trial and Santo Trafficante, the Miami mob boss, was being investigated. Marcello, a non-citizen who'd lived in the U.S. for decades, had earlier been arrested during a routine annual check-in at a New Orleans immigration office and summarily deported by jet to Guatemala (the country of Marcello's birth, according to a fake birth certificate), on Robert Kennedy's orders.   

John Kennedy had also disappointed rabid anti-Castro Cubans, members of the Mafia (who had lost a major source of income when Fidel Castro nationalized their casinos in 1959), and their backers in the intelligence community with his Cuba policies. 

Kennedy refused to provide Air Force backing to the land-based invasion of Cuba at the
Santo Trafficante, at right
disastrous Bay of Pigs. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962, Kennedy ignored the advice of the hawks in his cabinet (who wanted the U.S. to invade Cuba) and cut a deal with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. In the fall of 1963, the Kennedy Administration sent ambassador William Atwood to Cuba to discuss normalizing relationswhich couldn't have pleased the anti-Castro coalition. 

But the Warren Commission paid no attention to the CIA-Mafia alliance to get rid of Castro or the mob's potential motives for killing John F. Kennedy, concluding that "the evidence does not establish a significant link between [Jack] Ruby and organized crime."

11. Within hours of the assassination, J. Edgar Hoover leaked stories to the press which claimed that Oswald had acted alone. 

As was revealed in a House Select Committee investigation conducted from 1976-1978, two days after the assassination Hoover told Walter Jenkins (a White House aide),"The thing I am concerned about, and so is [Deputy Attorney General] Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin." 

Why was Hoover so invested in this story line and so reluctant to let justice take its course?

12. Is it possible that the inclusion on the Warren Commission of Alan Dulles (the former CIA head who had been fired by JFK after the Bay of Pigs fiasco) could have contributed to the commission's reluctance to pursue CIA-Mafia anti-Castro collaboration or any other potential intelligence connections to the assassination?

13. Is it possible that Warren Commission member Gerald Ford's clandestine reporting to the FBI (who were charged with gathering evidence for the investigation) undercut the independence and credibility of the commission?

14. As quoted in "JFK: How the Media Assassinated the Real Story," an investigative piece published in the Village Voice, "The FBI had the electronic media wired as well. A December 11, 1963, teletype from the FBI office in New York to J. Edgar Hoover indicates that NBC had given the bureau assurances that it would 'televise only those items which are in consonance with bureau report [on the assassination].' The eight-page FBI message details the substance of NBC's research, including the development of leads. 'NBC has movie film taken at some one hundred and fifty feet showing a Dallas Police Dept. officer rushing into book depository building while most of police and Secret Service were rushing up an incline towards railroad trestle [i.e. the grassy knoll; see #5, above].'" 

Why did the FBI conceal the instinct of so many law enforcement officers in Dealey Plaza?

15. Why did the FBI try to block Mark Lane (who published "Rush to Judgment," the first big book to criticize the Warren Commission) from having a town hall meeting about the assassination in Manhattan in February 1964?
J. Edgar Hoover

16. According to "The Man and his Secrets" by Curt Gentry, Hoover refused to comply with the Kefauver [Senate] Committee (which investigated organized crime in 1950-1951) and the FBI never wiretapped Miami mob bosses Santo Trafficante or Carlos Marcello, despite their deep involvement in criminal enterprises. 

Morever, when the Warren Commission convened, Hoover kept his organized crime task force out of the investigation. 

Could Hoover's hands-off attitude toward organized crime have influenced the commission's claims that Oswald and Jack Ruby had no significant links to organized crime?

[According to "Coincidence of Conspiracy,"by Bud Fensterwald Jr. and Michael Ewing, an aide to Warren Commission member Hale Boggs claimed that Boggs told him, "Hoover lied his eyes out to the commissionon Oswald, on Ruby, on their friends, the bullets the guns, you name it." Boggs died in 1971 when a plane he was on disappeared without a trace over Alaska.]

OSWALD.

17. Dallas district attorney Henry Wade and Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr told the Warren Commission that they'd found the number of James Hosty (an FBI agent) in Oswald's address book and a federal government voucher for $200 when he was arrested.
They concluded that Oswald had been a government informant since September of 1962, a statement seconded by Oswald's mother. [Hosty reportedly destroyed a note Oswald had written to him "a week to two weeks before the assassination"after Oswald was shot by Ruby.]

Is there any truth to the allegation that Oswald was a government informantand if this is true, what would the implications be?

18. Dallas Sheriff's Deputy Buddy Walthers told the Warren Commission that he found "Freedom for Cuba" [emphasis mine] literature among Oswald's belongings in family friend Ruth Paine's garage, which would seem at odds with the image of Oswald as a left-wing radical. 

On May 13, 1975, William Gaudet (a long-time CIA informant) told attorney Bernard Fensterwald that the street scuffle Oswald got into in the summer of 1963 (with anti-Castro men who purportedly objected to the Fair Play for Cuba literature Oswald was handing out) was part of a "PR operation" and that "The Fair Play for Cuba deal....[was] nothing but a front and was one of the dreams ofI think Guy Banister?" Gaudet repeated this claim to emeritus Berkeley professor and assassination researcher Peter Dale Scott when interviewed for a Canadian television program in 1977. 

If Gaudet told Fensterwald and Scott the truth, is it fair to think that Oswald wasn't the left-wing radical he claimed to be, but a willing participant in a hidden right-wing agenda?

19. Is it a coincidence that Oswald was bailed out after the scuffle by Emile Bruneau, an associate of two of Carlos Marcello's top aides?

20. Is it a coincidence that Oswald's uncle and surrogate father Charles "Dutz" Murrett had been a bookie for the New Orleans mob, headed by Carlos Marcello?

21. The flyers Oswald handed out in public listed 544 Camp Street as the Fair Play for Cuba
David Ferrie
 address. 544 Camp Street was not only the same address used by an anti-Castro group (the Cuban Revolutionary Council), but was in the same building as the offices of Guy Banister, a former FBI man with ties to the extreme right.

Banister, an associate of G. Wray Gill, one of Marcello's lawyers, was a friend of David Ferrie. Ferrie, whom Oswald had known since his teen years, was an investigator on the deportation proceedings against Carlos Marcello and was in court with Marcello on the day Kennedy was assassinated

Is it possible that Oswald's numerous connections to Carlos Marcello may be of significance?

22. Is it also a coincidence that Oswaldwhom many have claimed may have been a government spywas stationed at a military base in Atsugi, Japan (which had a CIA training center that housed U2 spy planes) in 1959 and 1960?

23. Why was the CIA closely tracking Oswald from 1959-1963 and how could their officers have concluded on October 10, 1963 that he had "matured" (was not a threat) in a cable to Win Scott, the CIA station chief in Mexico?

24. According to researcher and author Peter Dale Scott, when Win Scott (who believed there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy) died, CIA counterespionage spy James Angleton flew to Mexico and rifled the Scott family safe to remove key CIA documents, a
Left circle:  Ferrie; right circle:  Oswald (eight
years before the assassination)
story seconded 
by Win Scott's son and stepson.

Could Angleton have been covering up intelligence information about Lee Harvey Oswald's alleged trip to Mexico City, and if so, would that information have shed any light on the whys and wherefores of the Kennedy assassination?

25. If the CIA (or members of the CIA) had no connection to the assassination, why did they suppress evidence from the Warren Commission in 1964, during the congressional investigations of the '70s, and why do they continue to fight the release of 50,000 pages of documents related to Kennedy's assassination to this day?

26. How was Oswaldwho lone nut theorists claim was a left-wing revolutionaryable to
get a job which required a security clearance at Jagger Chiles Stovall, a graphic arts company which handled classified documents for the Army Security Agency? 

27. The wife and daughter of George de Mohrenschildt, a wealthy Dallas resident with long-standing connections to oil men and the CIA,  told author Anthony Summers that 
de Morhenschildt had helped Oswald get this job. The cordial relationship between the two men is a matter of public record. 

If Lee Harvey Oswald was a loner, a fringe character with no ties to U.S. intelligence, what motivation would the wealthy, powerful George de Mohrenschildt have had to befriend him? 

[In 1977, de Mohrenschildt told Edward Epstein of Reader's Digest that he had befriended Oswald as a favor for the CIA. The same day, de Mohrenschildt committed suicide, after receiving a card from Gaeton Fonzisee #44an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations.]

RUBY.

28. How are we to believe that a jaded strip club owner with nine arrests (which included disturbing the peace, carrying a concealed weapon, and assault), who sometimes beat and
routinely exploited women (including prostituting them) was so broken up by the president's assassination that he shot Oswald in a fit of patriotism? 

29. Is it a coincidence that Jack Ruby made multiple trips to Havana
the location of lucrative mob-controlled casinosin 1959? [The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Ruby was most likely a courier for gambling interests.]

30. Some of the women who danced in Jack Ruby's club came from a New Orleans club owned by Carlos Marcello's brother. Would it be logical to conclude that Ruby knew Marcello?

31. If Ruby had no significant links to organized crime, as the Warren Commission claimed,
why did he meet with Miami mob boss Santo Trafficante when the latter was in a Cuban jail, following the Cuban Revolution?

32. How could the Warren Commission conclude that Ruby had no significant links to organized crime despite his time as a runner for Al Capone and an organizer for the mob-controlled Waste Material Handlers Union local, his membership in "the Dave Miller gang," and relationships with a long list of mobsters (or Teamsters who worked with the mob) such as Jake Arvey, Paul Dorfman, Harry Hall, Lenny Patrick (see #48), Dave Yaras, and Dallas mob boss Joseph Civello?

33. Ruby's phone records showed seven conversations with organized crime figures who had been prosecuted by Robert Kennedy in the months leading up to the assassination. There was also a marked increase in long-distance calls to organized crime-linked individuals during this time, according to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. 


If Jack Ruby had no significant link to organized crimeor if those links had faded away by the time of the assassination, as some claimwhy did he call all of these men not long before the assassination?

34. If Jack Ruby had no significant link to organized crime, why was he in contact with Alexander Gruber, an associate of Mickey Cohen, both before and after the assassination?

35. If Jack Ruby had no significant link to organized crime, why was he visited in prison, six days after the murder of Oswald, by Joseph Campisi, the number two mob guy in Dallas?

36. If Jack Ruby had no significant link to organized crime, why was he considering going into business with Harold Tannenbaum, a mob figure in New Orleans, shortly before the assassination?

37. If Jack Ruby had no significant link to organized crime, how was the House Select
Committee able to draw up a 1,044-page report of Ruby's mob connections in which it concluded that Ruby "had a significant number of associations and direct and indirect contacts with underworld figures?"

38. Based on Ruby's demonstrable links to organized crime, might a reasonable person 
conclude that he killed Oswald not out of patriotism, or grief, but to pay off his debt to the mob by covering up the crime of the century?

DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES.

One common feature of prolonged Mafia-related trials is the murder or disappearance of key witnesses. The Kennedy assassination follows a similar pattern. Two years ago, comedian and author Richard Belzer published "Hit List" about "50 mysterious deaths of witnesses to the JFK assassination,” including "...CIA agents, FBI agents, reporters, people who had foreknowledge or people who spoke too much afterward." [Here is a helpful chart which contains much of the same information in abbreviated form.]

Even if we presume, as the Warren Commission did, that Ruby had no significant ties to organized crime, the mass of corpses that coincided with eye-opening, post-Watergate
Sam Giancana
congressional investigations raises a number of questions. Namely:  


39. If the mob had no connection to JFK's assassination, why was Sam Giancana, a Mafia kingpin who'd survived the violent world of the Outfit for decades, gunned down in his own home the night before he was to testify before the Church Committee about the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro?

40. If the mob had no connection to JFK's assassination, why was Charles Nicoletti (a mob figure involved in the Mafia-CIA attempts on Castro's life who Chauncey Holt, a Mafia-CIA man, told Newsweek he had driven to Dallas the day of the assassination) murdered in 1977, just one day after he was contacted by a House Select Committee investigator

Johnny Roselli
41. Why was Giancana's right-hand man, Johnny Roselli (who'd been the first Mafia member solicited for a mob-CIA alliance against Castro) found "sawed in half and stuffed inside an oil drum floating off Biscayne Bay [Florida]" just weeks after testifying at the Church Committee hearings into "Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders?"

42. Is it at least a little fishy that William Sullivan, who had been chief of FBI espionage operations in Mexico and Latin America (with connections to Win Scott, see #23), died of an alleged hunting accident a few days before he was to appear before the House Select Committee on Assassinations

[Sullivan was one of six former FBI men that were set to testify to the House Select Committee on Assassinations who died over a six-month span in 1977.]

IF THERE WAS A CONSPIRACY, WHY HAS NO ONE TALKED?

One of the lone nut theorists' favorite claims is that no "smoking gun" has emerged which proves a conspiracy. 

It appears more likely that these people have got their man (Oswald) and decided to ignore the many testimonials of people in proximity to the assassination.

For example:

43. FBI informant Jose Aleman testified in secret session to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that Santo Trafficante had said of John Kennedy, in 1962, "He is not going to be re-elected, you don't understand me, he is going to be hit." Perhaps fearing for his safety, Aleman danced around the meaning of "going to be hit" in a public hearing. 

Was Aleman lying in secret session?

44. Then there was David Moralesa right-wing CIA black ops figure who'd helped in the overthrow of Guatemala's democratic government in 1954 and had deep involvement in the Mafia-CIA efforts to upend Castro. 

According to the Mary Ferrell Foundation, one of the most respected JFK assassination sites, "House Select Committee] investigator Gaeton Fonzi [see #27] traced Morales to Wilcox,
one of the few public photos of David Morales
Arizona shortly after Morales' death, and talked to his lifelong friend Ruben Carbajal and a business associate of Morales' named Bob Walton. Walton told Fonzi of an evening, after many drinks, when Morales went into a tirade about Kennedy and particularly his failure to support the men of the Bay of Pigs. Morales finished this conversation by saying 'Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn't we?' Carbajal, who had been present at the confession, corroborated it." 


Was Fonzi making this up, or were Walton and Carbajal lying to Fonzi?


[Reknowned author-activist Bill Simpich fingers Morales—along with William Harvey, a CIA man fired by Bobby Kennedy who had led the Task Force W anti-Castro operationas near the center of the assassination in his book, "State Secret," about Oswald's alleged trip to Mexico City (see #23). Morales' involvement in the assassination was also alleged by ex-CIA man E. Howard Hunt in conversations he had with his son in 2003. Moreover, Morales was very likely in the Ambassador Hotel ballroom the night Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.]

45. According to a Discovery Channel documentary and "Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination" by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann, Carlos Marcello told a cellmate (FBI informant Jack Van Laningham, who was wearing a wire) in a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, "I had the little bastard [JFK] killed." 

Was Marcello just boasting?

46. As he was nearing death, John Martino (who had been in the anti-Castro, Mafia-CIA nexus) told two witnessesinvestigative journalist John Cummings and Fred Claassen, described as a "former business partner"that he'd been involved in the plot to kill John F. Kennedy. 

Martino also reportedly told Claassen, "The anti-Castro people put Oswald together. Oswald didn’t know who he was working forhe was just ignorant of who was really putting him together. Oswald was to meet his contact at the Texas Theater [the movie house where
John Martino
Oswald was arrested after the assassination]. They were to meet Oswald in the theater and get him out of the country, and then eliminate him. Oswald made a mistake….there was no way we could get to him. They had Ruby kill him.” 

Martino's wife Florence later told JFK assassination author-researcher Anthony Summers "that her husband had advance knowledge of JFK’s assassination. 

"'Flo, they’re going to kill him,' she recalls [Martino] saying in November 1963. 'They’re going to kill him when he gets to Texas.'”

Were Claassen and Cummings and Florence Martino all lying too?

47. In a PBS "Frontline" special on the mob's role in the Kennedy assassination, private investigator Ed Becker told Jack Newfield (an investigative reporter for the Village Voice) that Carlos Marcello had said "that’s going to be taken care of, or words to that effect” when Becker brought up the subject of Robert Kennedy's deportment of Marcello a year before the assassination. 

“I says 'you mean Bobby Kennedy?'” asked Becker.

“[Marcello] said 'no, you don’t do that'…what it was coming down to was he was saying ‘you cut off the head [John Kennedy] and the tail [Bobby Kennedy] dies."’

Was Ed Becker lying too?

48. 
According to "How the Outfit Killed JFK,"one day when [mobster and Jack Ruby confidant Lenny] Patrick showed up at the safe house [FBI agent Jim] Wagner was waiting for him with a lie detector. 

“[Wagner] told Lenny an examiner was on his way to strap him into the polygraph so [he]
Lenny Patrick
could find out what [Patrick] was doing with the cash. Patrick confessed to stealing it. In the spirit of the moment, the agent decided to ask about a few other subjects as well. Wagner had once been a history teacher and was always fascinated by the assassination. He remembered Patrick was supposedly a friend of Jack Ruby’s.

"Patrick had always downplayed their relationship, but he admitted to Wagner that he had been 'Rubenstein’s' mentor in the Outfit, having plucked him out of a boxing club. Patrick said he taught him how to be a bookie, and when Ruby’s best friend was killed for taking bets without paying his street tax, Patrick was the one who banished Ruby to Dallas. Patrick admitted he was one of the last to speak with Ruby before he killed Oswald.

"After hearing that, Wagner said, 'I backed up, and I asked, Then who hit Kennedy?'

“He said, ‘We did it.’


“‘But who did it?’

“‘You know. Momo [Sam Giancana, see #39] had the main guys there.’"


Was Patrick lying too?

49. The same article mentioned Frank Ragano, perhaps the biggest source so far in the Oswald-didn't-act alone camp. According to the story, "The mob bosses’ go-between with the Teamsters was [Santo] Trafficante’s trusted trial lawyer Frank Ragano, who was also defending [Jimmy] Hoffa against the government’s charges. According to Ragano, in August 1963, when the mob bosses had the lawyer approach Hoffa yet again about the loan [from
From left:  Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, Frank Ragano
the 
Teamsters pension fund], the union leader responded, 'the time has come for your friend [Trafficante] and Carlos to get rid of him. Kill that son of a bitch John Kennedy.'

"At breakfast the next morning in a corner of Marcello’s restaurant, Ragano passed along Hoffa’s request. He expected the mob bosses to laugh it off, but they responded instead with stony silence. Looking back on the incident in his 1994 memoir, Ragano wondered whether the assassination conspiracy was already under way."


Ragano repeated this story in an episode of "Frontline" (see #47) in which he added another relevant anecdote. In 1987, Santo Trafficante, looking back on his life, told Ragano, "Carlos fucked up. We shouldn't have killed Giovanni [John Kennedy]. We should have killed Bobby." Trafficante died four days later.

Was Ragano lying too?

50. Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter and the curator of JFKfacts.org,
interviewed one of Jack Ruby's girlfriends in 2013. This former girlfriend, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the debt-ridden Ruby "never mentioned President Kennedy" and "had no choice" when it came to killing Oswald...."Jack had bosses, just like everyone else.” Of Ruby's statement to a secret service agent after killing Oswaldthat he'd done it to spare Jackie Kennedy a public trialshe said, "that was absolutely made up."

Is Ruby's former girlfriend lying too?

51. In 1964, Robert Kennedy resigned his post as Attorney General. Justice Department tracking in the years after Kennedy's departure showed dramatic reductions in the number of organized crime convictions, the number of attorneys employed to fight organized crime, as well as the days in court, days in the field, and days in grand jury

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, a far-from-radical mainstream institution with strict standards of scrutiny, concluded that there was a "high probability" of a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination, that Marcello and Trafficante possessed "the motive, means, and opportunity" to murder the president," and that the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby had "all the earmarks of an organized crime hit, an action to silence the assassin, so he could not reveal the conspiracy." 

Is the proximity of the mob to both Oswald and Ruby, and the huge benefits the mob got from JFK's death, pure coincidence? 

52. Considering Robert Kennedy's war on the mob and JFK's actions vis-à-vis Cuba, Oswald's connections to the mob (and possibly right-wing intelligence elements and/or anti-Castro Cubans), Ruby's 1,044 pages worth of connections to the mob, the shoddy work of the Warren Commission and their suppression of key information, the conclusions of the House Select Committee on Assassinations and the murders of numerous high-level mobsters who testified or were called to testify before the committee, and the detailed claims of a conspiracy by numerous people in and around the assassination, might a rational person hold reasonable doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone?