Friday, December 19, 2014

The Emotion Thesaurus

I'm in the show, don't tell school of fiction writing. 

For better or worse, depending on the sensibility of the reader, I include a fair amount of description in my fiction. This is both conscious (a desire to mold round, sympathetic characters in vivid physical landscapes) and unconscious (a reflection of my sometimes fine-grained sense of detail, a carryover from the observational journal writing I did in my teens and twenties).

In the process of editing my novel, I inevitably find characters repeatedly doing some of the same thingswalking, sitting, standing, smiling, listening, lookingand experiencing a common subset of emotions (happiness, sadness, excitement, worry).   

To challenge myself as a writer and keep the experience fresh for the reader, I strive to change the words and phrases describing these actions and states as much as possible. And I generally prefer to communicate emotions through non-verbal cues and body language rather than directly tell (telegraph) what a character is feeling inside, though I make exceptions for more stoic or introverted characters.

Roget's Super Thesaurus and have helped me dig out individual words for simple actions, but single words are rarely enough to convey characters' emotions. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression, which includes 75 emotional statessuch as amazement, curiosity, love, desire, depression, and nostalgiagoes much further

Each state has a two-page entry which begins with a definition and follows with five sub-categories: physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and cues of both acute/long-term and suppressed emotion.

The first entry, adoration, is defined as "the act of worship; to view as divine." 

Thirty-two physical signals are listed next, including "becoming unaware of one's environment or other people" and "keeping trinkets, pictures, or articles of the subject."

Internal sensations and mental responses follow. Gratitude's internal sensations include "a release of all bodily tension" and a "heart that feels full"; among gratitude's mental responses is "desiring to repay another's kindness and support."

After sensations come cues. One cue of acute or long-term adoration is "a sense of destiny (of belonging together)." Cues of suppressed adoration include "watching or observing from afar" and "creating chance run-ins." Branching off of the cues of acute emotion is a section

Each entry ends with a writer's tip. The tip for regret mirrors the main purpose of this book:  "Watch for possible description crutches. Is the color 'green' used too much? Does a sensory sound (like wind rustling through the trees) happen in multiple scenes? Keep track of these details to avoid overuse." 

If you know a creative writer who wants to expand their horizons—and their craftconsider gifting The Emotion Thesaurus this holiday season.

                                     More pieces about writing on Truth and Beauty: 


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Justice delayed: "Kill the Messenger" vindicates Gary Webb

Kill The Messenger” is a movie about high-stakes, shoe leather journalism.

In July of 1995, Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner)—a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter for the San Jose Mercury News—received a tip from Coral Baca, the girlfriend of Rafael Cornejo, who was being charged in a federal narcotics case.

During the San Diego trial, Webb discovered that Danilo Blandón (a Nicaraguan citizen and DEA informant who was testifying against Cornejo) had been involved in the sale of up to $6 million worth of cocaine per week to Ricky Ross—a major dealer in Compton during the ’80s. Some portion of the proceeds had been used to support the Contras, a CIA proxy army which had attempted to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Under cross-examination Blandón admitted that members of the CIA were aware that he was dealing drugs, launching Webb on a life-altering journey.

“Kill the Messenger,” based on a true story, moves with Webb as he follows this initial lead through the mean streets of Compton, a remote airstrip in Honduras, a dingy prison in Nicaragua, and miles of microfiche. This journey is sprinkled with depth of field shots (of potentially sinister people following Webb) and shaky camera footage which amplifies dicey situations, but generally the visual language is subtle and understated, as one would expect of a $5 million movie. “Kill the Messenger” is a small movie about big things.

Webb’s year of extensive traveling and dogged research was channeled into the "Dark Alliance" articles
The logo for the "Dark Alliance" series
which sent the CIA's P.R. outfit into high gear  
which were published in print and online in August of 1996 by the San Jose Mercury News.

The three-day series not only pointed out that officials in the CIA and the Reagan Administration had looked the other way while members of the Contras sold cocaine in the U.S., but claimed that the Blandón-Ross connection had been the first large-scale drug pipeline of its kind and had played a central role in the crack epidemic which—along with the punitive, racially-biased policies of Reagan’s War on Drugs—had decimated inner city populations.

In the beginning, the explosive allegations were a boon to the Mercury News. “Dark Alliance” was the first blockbuster series of its kind to go around the major media filters—the networks and the big newspapers—through the Internet. To bolster the series’ controversial claims, ample links to the sourcing (audio files, court transcripts, government reports, and other legal documents) were included on the Mercury News website. The story went viral, getting up to 1.3 million hits and generating outrage in the African-American community. Webb was a conquering hero around the newsroom, David slaying Goliath.

Webb taking notes at Rafael Cornejo's hearing
For most of the movie, this is how Renner portrays Webb: as a fearless, earnest truth-seeker who is obsessed with his work. Webb walks through doorways with swagger, aggressively presses his points home when challenged, and packs heat to protect his family.

But Goliath turned out to be a sleeping giant. After overlooking CIA connections to drugs for decades and ignoring the "Dark Alliance" story for several weeks, the Big Three (the New York Times, L.A. Times, and Washington Post), all of whom relied heavily on CIA officials for national security reporting, went after Webb and his series. The L.A. Times, a major daily which had been scooped in its own backyard by a second-tier newspaper, was particularly vicious, putting 
together a hit team of 17 people to comb every word of Webb’s articles in a blatant attempt to discredit the series—and Webb himself. 

In time, even as Webb was strengthening the claims made in his original series with additional research and interviews—evidence which his newspaper never published—the Mercury News’ corporate heads got weak in the knees from pressure exerted by the CIA and its media allies. Webb, who won Journalist of the Year from the Bay Area Society of 
An explosive story idea is pitched in secret
Professional Journalists at the end of 1996, was demoted just months later to a satellite office in Cupertino, 150 miles away from his family. The Mighty Wurlitzer—the ability of the CIA to program the U.S. media like a player piano—remained undeterred.

Broken down, humiliated, and blacklisted in his chosen profession, Gary Webb committed suicide in 2004.

“Kill the Messenger” is effective at conveying these main facts, but the number of important things which are left out reflect the limitations of the biopic genre to tackle complicated historical events.

As shown by the findings of the Iran-Contra investigation, the report of the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations headed by John Kerry, the CIA Inspector General's report of 1998, and the National Security Archive release of Oliver North's diaries, in 2004, there is no question that dozens of Contras sold drugs in the U.S., that members of the CIA and Reagan Administration knew this and ignored it, and that the Reagan Administration fought to hide this information from the public.

What “Kill the Messenger” doesn’t do is probe the more disputable elements in the “Dark Alliance” series in great depth. How accurate was Webb’s speculation on the precise years of Blandón and Ross’s business relationship and the resulting extrapolation of the amount of cocaine that passed between them? What portion of the sales went to the Contras and what portion went back into Blandón’s pocket? Were these transactions—when coupled with Ross’s eventual countrywide expansion—enough to set off the crack explosion, as the series claimed, or were they just one part of a much bigger phenomena? To what extent did Webb’s book (“Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion”), which

included much more expansive sourcing than the original newspaper story, clear up these questions?

And Renner’s characterization focuses on Gary Webb the alpha journalist to the exclusion of other dimensions of Webb’s personality. The two times I saw Webb speak at Bay Area journalism events, I witnessed a relaxed demeanor and a sharp sense of humor (often mentioned by family and friends) which are mainly absent in the movie. Webb’s bi-polarity, the struggles with depression which led him to take his own life, also get short shrift.

Despite these gaps in the storyline, Jeremy Renner and the other principals behind “Kill the Messenger” deserve a public service award for bringing this project to fruition. “Kill the Messenger” is a substantial movie which honors an exceptionally brave journalist who put his livelihood on the line for the public’s right to know.

Toward the end of the movie, as Webb sits in a ballroom about to receive an award, he hears his name announced. He imagines a standing ovation, only to mount the podium to scattered applause. In a just world, “Kill the Messenger” would be playing in Multiplexes, waking the sleepwalking masses up to hidden histories in their midst.

As it is, Renner’s labor of love won’t get a fraction of the attention—from the media or the Academy—that have attended other movies about momentous journalism such as “All the President’s Men.” Eighteen years after it was published, the revelations of the “Dark Alliance” series have been completely swept under the rug. While the Woodward-Bernstein takedown of President Nixon was said to prove that “the system works,” the tepid reception of “Kill the Messenger” shows that in the case of the Contra-crack-cocaine story, the system failed.


College journalism:

  • 1975 — First place, specialty column, Kentucky Intercollegiate Press Assn.
  • 1977 — Third place, specialty column, Kentucky Intercollegiate Press Assn.
  • 1977 — Third place, non-editorial cartooning, Kentucky Intercollegiate Press Assn.


  • 1980 — Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Award, small newspaper division.
  • 1980 — Laurel, Columbia Journalism Review.
  • 1980 — Gerald M. White Memorial Prize for Investigative Reporting, Cincinnati SDX.
  • 1980 — Investigative Reporters and Editors Award (IRE) for co-authoring a 17-part series at the Kentucky Post in Covington, Kentucky with Tom Scheffey on organized crime in the American coal industry. 
  • 1981 — First place, investigative reporting, Kentucky Press Assn.
  • 1981 — Second place, deadline news reporting, Cincinnati SDX.
  • 1981 — Third place, investigative reporting, Cincinnati SDX.
  • 1982 — Third place, investigative reporting, Kentucky Press Assn.
  • 1983 — First place, municipal reporting, Kentucky Municipal League.
  • 1983 — Reporter of the Month, Scripps Howard Newspapers.
  • 1984 — Second place, series, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1984 — Third place, series, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1985 — Laurel, Columbia Journalism Review.
  • 1985 — First place, investigative reporting, Northeast Ohio SDX.
  • 1986 — Honorable mention, enterprise reporting, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1986 — Honorable mention, series, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1986 — First place, investigative reporting, Northeast Ohio SDX.
  • 1986 — Gold Medal, health reporting, American Chiropractic Assn.
  • 1987 — First place, legal reporting, Ohio Bar Assn.
  • 1987 — Second place, spot news, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1987 — Third place, projects, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1987 — Honorable mention, features, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1987 — Freedom of Information Award, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1987 — First place, investigative reporting, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1988 — First place, investigative reporting, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1989 — Honorable mention, features, Central Ohio SDX.  
    The scoop that would
    change Webb's life
  • 1989 — First place, series, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1990 — Pulitzer Prize for General News Reporting awarded to the San Jose Mercury News staff for its detailed coverage of the October 17, 1989, Bay Area earthquake and its aftermath.
  • 1993 — Second place, series, Peninsula Press Club.
  • 1994 — H.L. Mencken Award, by The Free Press Association for the series in the San Jose Mercury News on abuses in the state of California's drug asset forfeiture program.
  • 1995—California Journalism Award, Center for California Studies, CSU.
  • 1995 — Honorable mention, Gerald Loeb Award, UCLA School of Business.
  • 1995 — First Place, local news reporting, Peninsula Press Club.
  • 1996 - James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, Hunter College, City University of New York.
  • 1996 — Freedom Fighter Award, California NAACP.
  • 1996 — Journalist of the Year, Bay Area Society of Professional Journalists.
  • 1997 — Media Hero Award, from the 2nd Annual Media & Democracy Congress.


  • 1998 — Firecracker Alternative Book (FAB) Award, politics, Dark Alliance.
    Webb with some of his "Dark Alliance" research
  • 1998 — Nominee, Best Nonfiction Book, Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, Dark Alliance.
  • 1998 — Finalist, PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award, Dark Alliance.
  • 1999 — Oakland PEN First Amendment Award, Dark Alliance.
  • 2002 — 25 Books to Remember, New York Public Library, Into the Buzzsaw (contributor)
  • 2003 — Rouse Award for Press Criticism, National Press Club, Into the Buzzsaw (contributor)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Reasonable Doubt: 51 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 believe Marilyn overdosed.

I have trouble accepting 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 believed the lone nut theory on the 50th anniversary of the assassination (the highest degree of support this view had had in decades), most U.S. establishment media continue to 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 and gaping holes 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 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 orchestrated the overthrow of democratically-elected third world governments on behalf of U.S. corporate interests. 

Who better to keep a secret?

The 51st anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination is no time for bedtime stories. In the spirit of democratic inquiry, I submit the following 51 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 be 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. 

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?  

6. If all of the shots were fired from the Texas Book Depository, why did 21 police officers, Korean War vet Bill Newman and 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? [An instinct which was seconded by Dr. Ronald Jonesa physician who saw Kennedy's body in the hospitalin a 2013 interview with Piers Morgan and by Charles Crenshaw, a Parkland hospital surgeon who wrote "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".]

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

8. 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?

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


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 RFK [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."

10. 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?

11. 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?

12. 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?

13. 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?

14. 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

15. 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.]


16. 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?

17. 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 agenda?

18. 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?

19. 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?

20. 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 office of Guy Banister

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?

21. 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?

22. 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?

23. According to Dan Moldea's "Hoffa Wars," when Win Scott (who later believed there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy) died, CIA counterspionage spy James Angleton flew to
Left circle:  Ferrie; right circle:  Oswald (eight
years before the assassination)
Mexico and rifled the Scott family safe to remove key CIA documents (a story seconded to Peter Dale Scott
see #16by 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?

24. 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?

25. 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? 

26. 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 (pictured at right) 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 #42an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations.]


27. 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? 

28. 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.]

29. 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?

30. 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?

31. 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 #46), Dave Yaras, and Dallas mob boss Joseph Civello?

32. 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?

33. 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?

34. 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?

35. 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?

36. 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?"

37. 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?


One feature of prolonged Mafia-related trials is the murder or disappearance of key witnesses. The Kennedy assassination follows a similar pattern. Comedian and author Richard Belzer recently published "Hit List" about "50 mysterious deaths of witnesses to the 
Sam Giancana
 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 congressional investigations raises a number of questions. Namely:  

38. 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?

39. 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
40. 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?"

41. 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 #22), 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.]


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:

42. 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?

43. 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 
one of the few public photos of David Morales
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 #25] traced Morales to Wilcox, 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 #22). 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.]

44. 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?

45. 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?

46. 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?

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 #37] had the main guys there.’"

Was Patrick lying too?

48. 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 the 
From left:  Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, Frank Ragano
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 #45) 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?

49. Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter and the curator of,
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?

50. 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? 

51. 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?