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Thursday, April 30, 2015

WATCHING THE PEOPLE

   Every now and then I imagine that things change. How silly of me. The events in Baltimore over the last few weeks (and elsewhere--God knows, elsewhere, everywhere) encourage the naive disbelief in the evidence that the perception of the police in America is not only a negative one; it is one which deserves its negative image and which if the reality was known, would horrify all but the most fervent flag-waving coward. 
   Tonight we will depart from our usual narrative to quote extensively from a report issued in 1970. Forty-five years ago. The report concerns itself with what was then one consequence of President Richard Nixon's "war on crime." What you will read here could have been written last night. Its timeliness is indeed one of its tragic aspects.
   It is also the single-most fair and honest assessment of the nature of police work I have ever read.

THE FUNCTIONS OF THE POLICE IN MODERN SOCIETY: A Review of Background Factors, Current Practices, and Possible Role Models 
Egon Bittner, Ph.D. 
Brandeis University 
National Institute of Mental Health Center for Studies of Crime and Delinquency 
5454 Wisconsin Avenue 
Chevy Chase, Maryland 20015 November 1970.

  Among the traits of character that are commonly perceived as associated with police work, and which thus constitute in part the social reality within which the work has to be done, the following three are of cardinal importance. 

1. Police work is a tainted occupation. The origins of the stigma are buried in the distant past and while much has been said and done to erase it, these efforts have been notably unsuccessful. Medieval watchmen, recruited from among the ranks of the destitute and subject to satirical portrayals, were perceived to belong to the world of shadows they were supposed to contain.
During the period of the absolute monarchy the police came to represent the underground aspects of tyranny and political repression, and they were despised and feared even by those who ostensibly benefited from their services. 
   No one can say how much of the old attitude lives on; but even if the police officer of today did not evoke the images of the past at all, he would still be viewed with mixed feelings, to say the least. For in modern folklore, too, he is a character who is ambivalently feared and admired, and no amount of public relations work can entirely abolish the sense that there is something of the dragon in the dragon-slayer.
   Because they are posted on the perimeters of order and justice in the hope that their presence will deter the forces of darkness and chaos, because they are meant to spare the rest of the people direct confrontations with the dreadful, perverse, lurid, and dangerous, police officers are perceived to have powers and secrets no one else shares. Their interest in and competence to deal with the untoward surrounds their activities with mystery and distrust. One need only to consider the thoughts that come to mind at the sight of policemen moving into action: here they go to do something the rest of us have no stomach for! And most people naturally experience a slight tinge of panic when approached by a policeman, a feeling against which the awareness of innocence provides no adequate protection. Indeed, the innocent in particular typically do not know what to expect and thus have added, even when unjustified, reasons for fear. On a more mundane level, the mixture of fear and fascination that the police elicit is often enriched by the addition of contempt. Depending on one's position in society, the contempt may draw on a variety of sources. To some the leading reason for disparaging police work derives from the suspicion that those who do battle against evil cannot themselves live up fully to the ideals they presumably defend. Others make the most of the circumstance that police work is a low-paying occupation, the requirements for which can be met by men who are poorly educated. And some, finally, generalize from accounts of police abuses that come to their attention to the occupation as a whole. 
  It is important to note that the police do very little to discourage unfavorable public attitudes. In point of fact, their sense of being out of favor with a large segment of the society has led them to adopt a petulant stance and turned them to courting the kinds of support which, ironically, are nothing but a blatant insult. For the movement that is known by the slogan, "Support your local police," advocates the unleashing of a force of mindless bullies to do society's dirty work. Indeed, if there is still some doubt about the popular perception of police work as a tainted occupation, it will surely be laid to rest by pointing to those who, under the pretense of taking the side of the police, imply that the institution and its personnel are uniformly capable and willing to act out the baser instincts inherent in all of us.
   In sum, the taint that attaches to police work refers to the fact that policemen are viewed as the fire it takes to fight fire, that they in the natural course of their duties inflict harm, albeit deserved, and that their very existence attests that the nobler aspirations of mankind do not contain the means necessary to insure survival. But even as those necessities are accepted, those who accept them seem to prefer to have no part in acting upon them, and they enjoy the more than slightly perverse pleasure of looking down on the police who take the responsibility of doing the job.

2. Police work is not merely a tainted occupation. To draw a deliberately remote analogy, the practice of medicine also has its dirty and mysterious aspects. And characteristically, dealings with physicians also elicit a sense of trepidated fascination. But in the case of medicine, the repulsive aspects, relating to disease, pain, and death, are more than compensated by other features, none of which are present in police work. Of the compensatory features, one is of particular relevance to our concerns. No conceivable human interest could be opposed to fighting illness; in fact, it is meaningless to suppose that one could have scruples in opposing disease. But the evils the police are expected to fight are of a radically different nature. Contrary to the physician, the policeman is always opposed to some articulated or articulable human interest. To be sure, the police are, at least in principle, opposed to only reprehensible interests or to interest lacking in proper justification, But even if one were to suppose that they never err in judging legitimacy--a farfetched supposition, indeed--it would still remain the case that police work can, with very few exceptions, accomplish something only by proceeding against someone else. It does not take great subtlety of perception to realize that standing between man and man locked in conflict inevitably involves profound moral ambiguities. Admittedly, few of us are constantly mindful of the saying, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone ... ", but only the police are explicitly required to forget it. The terms of their mandate and the circumstances of their practices do not afford them the leisure to reflect about the deeper aspects of conflicting moral claims. Not only are they required to proceed forcefully against all appearances of transgression but they are also expected to penetrate the appearance of innocence to discover craftiness hiding under its cloak. While most of us risk only the opproqrium of foolishness by being charitable or gullible, the policeman hazards violating his duty by letting generosity or respect for appearances govern his decisions. Though it is probably true that persons who are characterologically inclined to see moral and legal problems in black and white tend to choose police work as a vocation more often than others, it is important to emphasize that the need to disregard complexity is structurally built into the occupation. Only after a suspect is arrested, or after an untoward course of events is stopped, is there time to reflect on the merits of the decision and, typically, that reflective judgment is assigned to other public officials. Though it is expected that policemen will be judicious and that experience and skill will guide them in the performance of their work, it is foolish to expect that they could always be both swift and subtle. Nor is it reasonable to demand that they prevail, where they are supposed to prevail, while hoping that they will always handle resistance gently. Since the requirement of quick and what is often euphemistically called aggressive action is difficult to reconcile with error-free performance, police work is, by its very nature, doomed to be often unjust and offensive to someone. Under the dual pressure to "be right" and to "do something," policemen are often in a position that is compromised even before they act.

  In sum, the fact that policemen are required to deal with matters involving subtle human conflicts and profound legal and moral questions, without being allowed to give the subtleties and profundities anywhere near the consideration they deserve, invests their activities with the character of crudeness. Accordingly, the constant reminder that officers should be wise, considerate, and just, without providing them with opportunities to exercise these virtues is little more than vacuous sermonizing.

3. The ecological distribution of police work at the level of departmentally determined concentrations of deployment reflects a whole range of public prejudices. That is, the police are more likely to be found in places where certain people live or congregate than in other parts of the city. Though this pattern of manpower allocation is ordinarily justified by references to experientially established needs for police service, it inevitably entails the consequence that some persons will receive the dubious benefit of extensive police scrutiny merely on account of their membership in those social groupings which invidious social comparisons locate at the bottom of the heap. Accordingly, it is not a paranoid distortion to say that police activity is as much directed to who a person is as to what he does. The preferred targets of special police concern are some ethnic and racial minorities, the poor living in urban slums, and young people in general. On the face of it, this kind of focusing appears to be, if not wholly unobjectionable, not without warrant. Insofar as the above-mentioned segments of society contribute disproportionately to the sum total of crime, and are more likely than others to engage in objectionable conduct, they would seem to require a higher degree of surveillance. In fact, this kind of reasoning was basic to the very creation of the police; for it was not assumed initially that the police would enforce laws in the broad sense, but that they would concentrate on the control of individual and collective tendencies towards transgression and disorder issuing from what were referred to as the "dangerous classes." What was once a frankly admitted bias is, however, generally disavowed in our times. That is, in and of itself, the fact that someone is young, poor, and dark-complexioned is not supposed to mean anything whatsoever to a police officer. Statistically considered, he might be said to be more likely to run afoul of the law, but individually, all things being equal, his chances of being left alone are supposed to be the same as those of someone who is middle aged, well-to-do, and fair-skinned. In fact, however, exactly the opposite is the case. All things being equal, the young-poor-black and the old-rich-white doing the very same things under the very same circumstances will almost certainly not receive the same kind of treatment from policemen. In fact, it is almost inconceivable that the two characters could ever appear or do something in ways that would mean the same thing to a policeman. Nor is the policeman merely expressing personal or institutional prejudice by according the two characters differential treatment. Public expectations insidiously instruct him to reckon with these "factors." These facts are too well known to require detailed exposition, but their reasons and consequences deserve brief consideration.

Monday, April 27, 2015

EXPENDABLE NEIGHBORHOODS

   Give credit where it's due: In our house it was my long-suffering girlfriend who understood the remarks of the Mayor of Baltimore long before I did. When Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said this past Saturday “It’s a very delicate balancing act, because while we tried to make sure that [the protestors] were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well,” I assumed the First Lady of Baltimore meant that one consequence of allowing for the exercise of free expression was that things could always turn violent. It now appears that what the mayor was actually talking about was what might be thought of as "expendable neighborhoods." 
   My long-suffering girlfriend had a hard time believing I didn't comprehend this from the get-go. "The city people even admitted that section of Baltimore hadn't recovered from the riots in 1968! That's forty-seven years they've been rebuilding it? Come on! That is just a part of Baltimore the city directs people to whenever the powder keg blows. Every city has an area or two that gets used for that reason."
   I said, "You're saying that the mayor's mistake wasn't choosing her words badly. Her mistake was that she said what she actually meant?"
  "Correct."
  "So it was like when Daley in the Chicago riots accidentally told the truth when he said the policeman wasn't there to create disorder; he was there to preserve disorder?"
  "Again, correct."
  I had to sit in silence for a few moments just to let register the magnitude of the evil that revealed itself to me. The long-suffering girlfriend gets things right much of the time. Usually, it's times like these. 
   Richard Daley was the first parallel that came to mind. The second was the Third Reich. The Nazis walled-off the Jews into ghettos, made the conditions there unbearable, then blamed the Jews when the pressures became so intense that violence erupted. 
   But wait! I must be wrong! How can I compare a young, intelligent African American woman to the leader of the Third Reich or the Mayor of Chicago? I mean, the people who are being exploited in Baltimore are her own people, aren't they? Well, yeah, just like many of the Jews who were destroyed were residents of Germany, just as many of the young people Daley's Pig Patrol brutalized were Chicago residents, just as Dick Wilson's Goon Squad turned traitors against Native Americans in the Dakotas, and just as Phyllis Schlafly is a misogynist. 
   Rawlings-Blake has a spokesman named Howard Libit. The day following the Mayor's remarks, he attempted a bit of translation: “What she is saying . . . was that there was an effort to give the peaceful demonstrators room to conduct their peaceful protests on Saturday. Unfortunately, as a result of providing the peaceful demonstrators with the space to share their message, that also meant that those seeking to incite violence also had the space to operate. The police sought to balance the rights of the peaceful demonstrators against the need to step in against those who were seeking to create violence.”
   Unfortunately, that bit of rewording doesn't fly far without sputtering. I don't wish to get too far removed form the subject of expendable neighborhoods, but it bears mentioning that a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department--a Captain Eric Kowalczyk--revealed today that an alliance has been formed among a number of black terrorists known as the Black Guerrillas, the Crips and the Bloods for the purposes "taking out" law enforcement officers. Right. And Santa answers every letter. What a load of crap.

   Expendable neighborhoods? Let's look at three.

   1. Moody Park, Houston, Texas, May 5, 1977. Joe Campos Torres, a twenty-three-year-old Vietnam veteran, was beaten so badly by six police officers that the department refused to book the man until the cops agreed to take him to the hospital. Instead of getting his injuries treated, they took him to the river and drowned him. A year later, two of the policemen were found guilty of negligent homicide. They were sentenced to one year probation and a one dollar fine. 
   A year after Campos' murder, local residents of what they call the Near Northside Neighborhood occupied Moody Park where they fired upon police, EMS and fire fighters. News stories published after the riot looked into conditions in the Northside and Moody Park and found insufficient amenities for a community with a great deal of need. A Houston Chronicle report a week after the riot described the park as having only “One drinking fountain and one small circular toilet compound in this central section [to] serve the entire park . . . Near the old gymnasium, two cement shuffleboards appear impossible to play — strips of grass break through the surface . . . The Main baseball diamond overlaps with a soccer field that has one sideline running roughly through first and third bases.” The same report observed the park’s extreme popularity, “Residents of the park area say Fulton regularly becomes so congested on Sundays, that city buses have to detour through back streets to avoid being bogged down.”
   The Moody Park area has been remodeled no less than four times since the riots. The latest renovation includes a light rail system. 
   Joe Campos is still dead.

   2. Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 9 - April 13, 2001. Patrolman Steven Roach shot and killed a nineteen-year-old unarmed man named Timothy Thomas. Roach, who was accompanied by nine other officers, pursued the suspect who was wanted for about a dozen charges of not wearing a seatbelt. The patrolman chased Thomas into an alley. When the suspect reached down to pull up his baggy pants, Roach shot him in the chest at point blank range. Despite his own department's admission that Roach had not followed proper procedures, he was acquitted of all charges. 
   Prior to the five days of riots in the Over-the-Rhine area, that urbanized section of Cincinnati was notable for the decades of neglect that resulted in high unemployment, cuts in social programs for young people, and a rent-base of ninety-six percent of all residents. After the city ordered the police department to be more responsive to concerns of minority neighborhoods, the Cincinnati Police Department responded with a work slow down which resulted in an even higher crime right for the area. As property values continued to fall, developers working for Fifth Third Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Kroger bought up large swaths of Over-the-Rhine for pennies on the dollar.
   Timothy Thomas is still dead.

  3. Benton Harbor, Michigan, June 2003. n African-American motorcyclist named Terrance Shurn was chased by a police officer. In the process of his flight, the biker plowed into a building and died. A few people rioted in the small, poor, African-American community, setting fires to dilapidated houses and abandoned cars. Twenty-one buildings were torched, most of them abandoned houses. Two hundred fifty cops turned out to express their sudden concern for law and order in the town of 11,000 people. 
   Today things look pretty much the same in Benton Harbor.
   Terrance Shurn is still dead.

   The idea that there exists in this country endemic levels of race hate so intense that red-lining even pervades the predetermined areas where local residents are essentially permitted to destroy their own neighborhoods is a hard one with which to come to terms. Is that actually a facet of city planning? Foster a ghetto, keep it contained through a mix of indifference and over-reaction, provoke the residents into leveling it, then lock up the more militant voices in the community to (a) prevent them from unifying the larger ethnic community, (b) drive down real estate values, and (c) either maintain the status quo in order to drive white folks to the suburbs or sell the place to the developers on the cheap. 
   It appears so. Forty-seven years have passed since the last riots of this magnitude in Baltimore. Nothing much has changed there in the interim.
   Freddie Gray is still dead.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

BLUE BROTHERS

Featuring a little Q & A between a reporter and an unnamed source with a big hat and even bigger boots

Q. What branches of the United States military currently utilize military drones for offensive purposes?
A. The U.S. Air Force, The U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Q. I didn't know the CIA was a branch of the military.
A. Think of the CIA as they think of themselves: a para-military organization that also gathers intelligence. Naturally the Border Patrol uses drones too, along with the National Guard.

Q. I see you didn't use the expression "Predator" drones.
A. Actually, I notice you didn't use that expression. You are asking the questions, after all.

Q. Point taken. Who makes these drones we keep hearing about?
A. They are built and sold by a company called General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The MQ-1 Predator is only one of the unmanned remotely piloted aircraft the company builds. Usually they're called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs. 

Q. Pricey?
A. Freedom isn't free.

Q. How much, then?
A. You got your MQ-1B, which lays out at twenty-seven feet long and hits a good speed of 135 miles per hour. Handles what we call armed 
reconnaissance, carries your video cameras and radar detectors. Best of all, it'll carry two Hellfire missiles sure to blow the arms off anyone it strikes. Total cost of that program was a little better'n four billion. The Air Force ain't using any new ones. Just hanging on tight to the 156 they got left.

Q. There's others?
A. Aw, Lord, yes! The Army digs up on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. That bad boy reaches heights of 29,000 feet. Has to have its own de-icing system, that's how cold it gets. Hell, its own mama couldn't find it up that high. Runs for twenty-five hours. And best of all, it carries twice as many Hellfire missiles as its first cousin.

Q. That would for four missiles?
A. It would. You know, don't you, that one of the CIA's first successful uses of the Predator was when we took out Nek Muhammad back in June 2004. He was a Qaeda terrorist guy, loved by the tribes, but he threatened the stability of Pakistan, so the leader we installed there gave us permission to violate their airspace. Boom. Region's been a glorious mess of destabilization ever since. Our boy know what they're doing. 

Q. What else do you have?
A. Saving the best for last. The MQ-9 Reaper. Sort of a grim poetry about that name. In house we call it the Predator B. Powered by Honeywell, this sucker'll hit the sky at 50,000, flies for twenty-seven hours, and has seven external payload stations. You know what that means?

Q. What?
A. Means it can blow up your town, Bucko. Granted, the Reaper costs almost $14 million per model, whereas the Gray Eagle is only $5 million. But our military knows what it's doing. The Eagle program expenditure is $658 million, whereas the more enjoyable Reaper taps out at $11.8 billion. That's with a "b," boy.

Q. I've never even heard of General Atomics.
A. They're out of San Diego. Think General Dynamics with greater anonymity. Fact, General Atomics used Dynamics garages in the late sixties. Used to be owned by Gulf Oil. How's that for coincidence? Then Chevron owned it for a while. Nowadays it's owned by the Blue Brothers, and I don't mean Jake and Elwood. Nope, a couple guys name of Neal and Linden Blue hold title. Nice family business. They bought it from Chevron for only $60 million. And as one of the leading defense contractors, they do other things besides make and sell drones. Lord, yes, they do. Somebody has to make and sell all the electronic doodads those drones carry, like the transactions processing systems, the radiation monitoring systems, the high voltage capacitors, plus the electrostatic systems used by the conveniently located nearby petroleum refineries scattered throughout the Middle East. Of course, these folks is community-oriented, so they work closely with the science teachers in the San Diego area to make sure that the youngsters understand the beauty of nuclear fission and other peacetime uses of annihilation. 

Q. Tell me more about the Blue Brothers.
A. Aw, they're just a couple of good old boys raised in the Depression. They've made a few bucks enriching uranium, dumped nuclear waste on Indian reservations--like there's anything wrong with helping out the Native Americans--spied on potential eco-terrorists, and tried, bless their hearts, to turn that hellhole of a ski resort known as Telluride into a useful tract home community. Of course, they have a long history of humanitarian work with Somoza in Nicaragua, building plantations there to provide full employment for the slaves. I guess they tried to exercise some influence with the CIA in the war against the Sandinistas, but you can  only do so much once you get kicked out of another country. But that setback was nothing. Hell, Linden had been brought down over Havana just a couple weeks before the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Tossed his ass in jail in Cuba. After that, Nicaragua wasn't all that bad. 

Q. So the Blue Brothers and General Atomics invented the Predator drone? That's wild.
A. Naw, actually the Predator was invented by an Israeli name of Abraham Karem. He got the idea during the Yom Kippur War. But that didn't mean shit to the Department of Defense. What they wanted--and what Congress wanted--was some good sales people. That's where the Brothers stepped in. They knew how to hire lobbyists. Cat name of Duke Cunningham--no relation to Richie--was the Congressional Republican for the California District that included San Diego and hence General Atomics. Those lobbyists pumped a payload of green cash into his pockets in the form of quid in return for favorable quo. And boy did they get their quo. Duke got eight years for tax evasion, which is just the cost of doing business these days. Hey, something wrong? Where you going?

Q. Nowhere. Just thinking.
A. Thinking what?

Q. Well, it just seems to me that while the media is fixated on the influence of the Koch Brothers--
A. I hear you. The Koch Brothers may buy the election, but the real contest for power lies in war, son. The mobilizing premise for all human society lies with its war powers. Elections are just for the suckers. Hillary, Rubio, Bush--run them through an x-ray scanner at the airport, look at the images, tell me who is who. 

Q. You're a cynical bastard, huh?
A. Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name. 


George W. Bush and Linden Blue

The Blue Brothers make the cover of Life

Sources:
1. Aerospace and Defense Intelligence Report.
2. General Atomics website: Reaper
3. Aircraft Platforms
4. The Billionaire Brothers Behind America's Predator Drones. Alternet
5. A Secret Deal on Drones. New York Times.
6. U-T San Diego Military Spending

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HOOPTEDOODLE

  While I have no desire to take food from the mouths of a man's inheritors, I'm willing to gamble a piece of my soul in the public interest and provide those interested a link to the complete text of a book first published in 1973 and one which today remains somewhat beyond relevant: Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E. F. Schumacher

   Did you watch "Just Eat It" on MSNBC tonight? I cannot recommend this documentary too highly. A Vancouver couple named Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer decided to go six months eating nothing except rescued food. If you are not familiar with that expression, all the better reason to watch the seventy-five minute movie. Their journey is intercut with interviews with farmers, recyclers, grocery owners and community activists. No matter how much you think you know about food waste, this film will enlighten you.

   Just the other day I was commenting in these electronic pages about how wonderful the Saturday morning filler "School House Rock" was when I was but a twee. One exception exploded in my memory upon publication of that piece. "Grammar Rock" as a whole served its purpose, but the segment about adverbs--"Lolly lolly lolly get your adverbs here," or something to that effect--was dead wrong. I try (and fail) to banish them from everything I write and say (in fact, I have already messed up several times in this piece). My own imperfections should not prevent you from applying the No Adverbs On Board rule, however. But don't take my word for it. Here is what Elmore Leonard has written on the subject:


Never use an adverb to modify the verb ''said'' . . .
. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''


  And if Big El isn't adequate to the task, consider Stephen King's take on the subject: "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops."

   Albert Einstein said, "Two things are infinite: The universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe." We sit in a state of superiority while watching television programs called "World's Dumbest Criminals," "Pederasts of Pain," and "Stupidest Television Shows of All Time," yet our cerebrums sag, our medullas melt and our cerebellums. . . uh, sag just like our cerebrums in no small part due to the rotten parasite algebra teacher in high school who insisted we all con our parents into buying us calculators. "Won't you forget your multiplication tables?" our parents queried. "Just fork over the dough, will ya?" we responded. "I don't wanna get in trouble."
   It turns out we were right and the folks were wrong, at least according to most studies on the subject, which you can read about from Susan Barton, Linda Collins, and Dennis Roberts
   Does it follow that computers and Apple products are not the real reason why we are stupid today? (Please note the potentially fallacious assumption in this question.) Not according to an article in Bloomberg Business by Charles Kenny called "The False Promise of Classroom Technology," a portion of which I excerpt here:
The University of Chicago’s Austan Goolsbee studied the impact of subsidized Internet rollout in California’s school system in the late 1990s: The program worked to extend Internet access, but there was no impact on learning outcomes. As broadband rolled out across North Carolina, Urban Institute researchers found “modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores.” On the other side of the Atlantic, Carnegie Mellon’s Rodrigo Bello and colleagues looked at schools in Portugal and found significant declines in ninth-grade national exam scores as broadband use increased; meanwhile, “students in schools that block access to websites such as YouTube perform relatively better.” And looking at results from across the countries that take part in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), test scores are lower among students who use computers intensively.

      There you have it: all the hooptedoodle I could remember from the last few days. I will try to get back on course by the next entry in our ongoing journey down the river of confusion. Until then, keep your feet on the stars and keep reaching for the ground. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

LITTLE MAGIC TWELVETOES

   
Multiplication Rock

   Twelve holds magic. 
   Twelve signs of the zodiac exist, which is why today we have twelve members on a jury. 
   Twelve inches comprise a foot. 
   Twelve months make a year. 
   The face of a clock has twelve positions. 
   The tribes of Israel are twelve, each numbering twelve thousand. This comes from Jacob having twelve sons or princes. Likewise, Ishmael had twelve princes. Christ's bride in Revelation 12 wears a crown containing twelve stars. New Jerusalem has twelve gates of pearl. The first words referenced to Jesus (Luke 2:42) occur when He is twelve years old. Solomon appointed twelve officers over Israel. There were twelve great priests of the Chronicles. Twelve explorers were sent in Canaan. 1 Kings references twelve oxen of the Bronze Sea. Moses proclaimed twelve curses to all men of Israel. Twelve shepherds saw the baby Christ in the crib. According to the visions of Anne-Catherine Emmerich, after his temptation in the desert, Jesus is served by twelve superior angels and seventy-two angels of lower level.
   Hercules had twelve tasks.
   There are twelve principal divinities in Greek mythology.
   Troy had twelve ounces in a pound.
   Twelve animals populate the Chinese horoscope. 
  Twelve old British pence make one shilling.  
  Twelve items make a dozen, just as there are twelve dozen in a gross and twelve gross in a great gross. 
   Twelve characters appear on the face of a touchtone telephone. 
  Twelve is the highest number that can be rolled on a pair of dice, the odds of rolling which is one in thirty-six, a factor of twelve. 
  Humans have twelve finger bones on each hand.
  The number twelve has six factors (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12), the smallest whole number with this many.    
   There were twelve original Apostles of Jesus. Mahomet had twelve disciples to spread his doctrine. Confucius had twelve disciples, as did Mithra. There were twelve descendants of Ali, as well as twelve companions of Odin. Napoleon had twelve marshalls.
  There are Twelve days of Christmas. 
  Terry Gilliam's movie is called "12 Monkeys."  
  Twelve is the number of lines that border a cube.
  The planet Jupiter takes twelve Earth years to orbit the sun.
   Okay, we don't need to get too precious here. Suffice it to say, twelve is a number that cosmic folks of all stripes have found, at a minimum, convenient. Just as the number forty was popular in the Bible, meaning roughly "a very long time," twelve seems to mean "a very convenient explanation of a reality too complex for us to otherwise contemplate."
   In 1973, ABC Television did something pretty remarkable, something that attempted to explain a reality too complex for most grown-ups to otherwise contemplate. They introduced a series of three-minute educational tunes at the end of each cartoon program aired on Saturday mornings. They hired a guy named Bob Dorough to write and perform some tunes that would help kids remember the multiplication tables. "Multiplication Rock" was born.
   We kids were treated to future classics such as "My Hero, Zero," "The Four-Legged Zoo," "Lucky Seven Sampson," "Naughty Number Nine," and my personal favorite, "Little Twelvetoes." 
   Imagine small children being introduced to the duodecimal system! Grown people busied themselves sweating over ways to program obedience and acceptable of authority onto a generation of young inquisitive minds, only to have their efforts derailed by a series of bubblegum tunes. 
   I am not making this up. Here are the "lyrics" of the first part of the song.
Now if man had been born with 6 fingers on each hand,
He'd also have 12 toes or so the theory goes. Well, with twelve digits, I mean fingers, he probably would have invented two more digits when he invented his number system. Then, if he saved the zero for the end,
He could count and multiply by twelve just as easily as you and I do by ten.
Now if man had been born with 6 fingers on each hand,
He'd probably count: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, dek, el,
Doh. "Dek" and "el" being two entirely new signs meaning ten and eleven. Single digits! And his twelve, "doh," would be written 1-0. Get it? That'd be swell, for multiplying by 12.
   
   The duodecimal system is a mathematical conception that uses a base of twelve rather than the standard base ten. Under base twelve, the place value changes from 10 to 12. Quantities are explained in terms of twelves, such as dozens, grosses, and great-grosses, rather than tens, hundreds, and thousands. In the duodecimal system, there are new symbols for 10 (X or dek) and 11 (E or el). Dozen is called dodo, and dozenal is a synonym for duodecimal. The system has some natural advantages over the base ten system. One of those advantages is a lower abundance of repeating decimals for simpler fractions. Another advantage is the high divisibility of 12. Larger numbers would also take up less space and duodecimal is easier to convert into binary, octal, and hexadecimal should the need arise, and it might just. The benefits of decimal are only that we have ten fingers. Well, most of us do. But in my mind, that little twelvetoes guy is still out there, seeking new life and new understanding.    I'm no mathematician. I was very happy to receive a final grade of B in my Algebra II class. I remember passing Trigonometry. I do not remember how. 
   But I will remember "Little Twelvetoes" forever. 
   Strange, isn't it?
  

IN SEARCH OF MAURICE BISHOP--The Last Investigation Part 5

  The search for Maurice Bishop occupies the vortex of Gaeton Fonzi's revelatory investigation into the JFK assassination via the reporter's work for Senator Richard Schweiker, co-chairman of the subcommittee of the assassination of John F. Kennedy (as a part of the larger Senate Select Committee on Intelligence), as well as for the anti-Castro Cuban connection investigation for the House select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). 
    During the course of many interviews with Antonio Veciana, the founder of Alpha 66, Fonzi learned much about the activities of anti-communist Cuban exiles, especially as their interests led them to participate in organized assassination attempts. Veciana told Fonzi that from 1960 through 1973 he had been directed and advised in his activities by an American he knew as Maurice Bishop. Veciana said that Bishop, over the span of more than one hundred meetings, had guided him in planning assassination attempts on Fidel Castro in Havana in 1961 and in Chile in 1971, that Bishop had directed him to organize Alpha 66 in 1962, and that Bishop had paid him $253,000 in cash at the end of his services. More to the point of the HSCA investigation, Veciana disclosed that in either late August or early September 1963, he saw Maurice Bishop in Dallas meeting with a man he later recognized as Lee Harvey Oswald. Here is what Veciana said: "I have been in Dallas many times and remember a meeting of August 1963, perhaps the first days of September, I was there. At that time the U.S. Government had confined me to Miami Dade County. No matter, I traveled to other cities anyway, Dallas was one of them. In August 1963 I had a meeting in downtown Dallas with Mr. Maurice Bishop, a United States Intelligence Officer. I remember that Lee Harvey Oswald was present at that meeting. Oswald remained silent all the time. Bishop discussed with me different matters about the Cuban situation and other efforts in the war against Castro."
    By coincidence, when he was arrested by Dallas police, Oswald had the word "Bishop" written in Russian in his address book. [Warren Commission Exhibit 18 p. 24]. He also had the word "Knight." These were found in a list of chess pieces. In the autobiography Give Us This Day, E. Howard Hunt used the cryptonym "Knight" when he referred to David Atlee Phillips.
   Gaeton Fonzi is convinced that Maurice Bishop was none other than the CIA's own David Atlee Phillips, Head of the Western Hemisphere's Operations and Chief of Station in Mexico City. 
David Atlee Phillips
  For more on the background of the late Dave Phillips, read "The Last Investigation, Part 2," in Philropost
  Fonzi's widow claims that Veciana later admitted to her that Bishop and Phillips were one and the same, something Antonio apparently never admitted to Gaeton himself. Fonzi speculated that the reason for Veciana's reticence in making the connection official was due to his (Veciana) having been set up by Phillips on a cocaine bust in order to secure his silence, as well as a shot to the head that Veciana suffered and survived. [1][2][3]
   Assuming Gaeton Fonzi was correct in the idea that Bishop and Phillips were the same person, why is it important? 
   It was Phillips' job as Mexico City Station Chief at the time of the assassination to spy on the people who entered and left the Cuban and Russian Embassies in Mexico City. It was Phillips who claimed that Oswald had been seen visiting both embassies in September 1963, as part of an effort for Oswald to get into Cuba. Phillips claimed that the CIA had pictures of Oswald standing outside the Cuban Embassy and that they had recordings of telephone calls made by Oswald from the Cuban Embassy to the Russian Embassy. Since that kind of evidence would have given support to the "Castro did it" wing of conspiracies, Phillips' declarations were very important. The only problem was that the photograph that finally emerged looked nothing like Oswald and the recordings of the telephone conversations were "routinely destroyed" before they could be provided to the Warren Commission.
   If Phillips had had a meeting with Oswald prior to the latter's alleged visit to Mexico City and then tried to frame him viz a vis a nonexistent connection with Fidel Castro, a reasonable person might be forgiven for suspecting the involvement of Phillips-Bishop in the operational planning of the murder of JFK. 
   That's a strong argument. After all, Bishop was directing Veciana to commit acts of terror against the country of Cuba, acts which included attempted assassinations. How different would it have been to have shifted the focus from killing Castro to killing Kennedy and laying the blame at the Cuban premier's front door?
   
   On May 31, 1978, a woman named Marita Lorenz testified before the HSCA [4]. According to her testimony, she was recruited to participate in anti-Castro work by a man she knew as Frank Fiorini, someone more familiar to followers of Watergate as burglar Frank Sturgis. A few days before the assassination of JFK on November 22, 1963, Lorenz accompanied Sturgis and several other men on a trip from Miami to Dallas. she testified that they traveled in two automobiles. The men she traveled with, she says, were Sturgis, Orlando Bosch, Pedro Diaz Lanz, Jerry Patrick Hemming, "the Novo brothers," and Lee Harvey Oswald. Upon arriving in Dallas, they checked into two adjoining motel rooms. The men brought rifles in from the trunks of the cars. A man introduced to Lorenz as Eduardo arrived to deliver some much needed funds to Sturgis. Lorenz later recognized Eduardo to be future Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt. Another man showed up later, although he and Sturgis talked either in the motel room doorway or outside the door. She identified this man as Jack Ruby. The owner of the Carosel Club appeared to be upset that Sturgis had brought a woman along. In any case, Marita became uncomfortable with the group and Sturgis arranged for her to return to Miami. 
  While Lorenz' testimony before the HSCA occasionally frustrated the interrogators because she was crisp on some details and either ignorant or vague on others, her statements to the committee were consistent with the deposition she gave to the attorneys for Howard Hunt when the paymaster sued Liberty Lobby for defamation. 
   The anti-Castro Cubans were a tight group, despite the many different organizations active in Miami and along the I-10 corridor stretching to Dallas from the 1960s through the 1980s. While it is possible that Lorenz plucked the names of her traveling companions out of the local arena, at least two of those she mentioned look very good for involvement in the assassination. They are Orlando Bosch [5] and Luis Posada [6]
   Tight group as they may have been, anti-Castro Cuban groups operating in the United States since Castro came to power in 1959 included the following: Accion Cubana, Alpha 66, American Students Pro-Alpha 66, Assault Brigade 2506, the Cuban Democratic Party, the Cuban Independent Party, the Cuban Revolutionary Party, Comandos L, Comision Gestora Pro-Unidad, Comando Martiano, Cuban American National Foundation [7], the Cuban Assistance Liberation Party, the Cuban Defense League, the Cuban Democratic Coalition, the Cuban International Front, the Cuban National Commission, the Cuban Nationalist Association, Cubanos Desterrados, Cubanos Unidos, Cumbre Patricica Cubana, Fundacion Valladares, Junta Patriotica Cubana, Movimiento de Recuperacion Democratica, Presido Politico Historico Cubano, Partido Unidad Nacional Democratica, and Veterans of Special Missions. 
   Who are these groups and what is their connection to Bosch and Posada? An excellent list of the memberships of most of these groups can be found on the Cuban Information Archives.
   A couple of groups might be singled out. 
   The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) gave money to Luis Posada to assist in his efforts to bomb Castro and his supporters.
   Orlando Bosch formed Accion Cubana in 1974 with support from the Chilean fascist junta, They organized fourteen terrorist attacks against diplomatic missions and Cuban personnel in Canada, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Venezuela. hey also plotted the assassination of Cuban ambassador Emilio Aragon in Argentina. 

   As mentioned earlier, Antonio Veciana formed Alpha 66 and of course Brigade 2506 was the group of 1400 who attempted to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
  One name not mentioned by Lorenz but singled out by Fonzi is David Sanchez Morales. This is certainly a fellow who had the ability to personally carry out the mechanics of a presidential assassination, as well as the will to do so. His most incriminating statement was that "Well, we took care of that son of a bitch [Kennedy], didn't we?" [8]
  It must be said that Fonzi's investigation into the JFK assassination eclipses the work of all but a few people (his only significant competitors, if one wishes to call them that, are Jim Garrison, Mark Lane, and Penn Jones). Time and again he dismisses idiotic hyperbole in favor of hard evidence and reliable testimony. He has the added benefits of fearlessness and the ability to write. 
    As I said way back at the beginning of what began as a brief book review, more than 640 tomes have been written about the murder of the thirty-fifth President of the United States. Of these, twenty to twenty-five have added significant research to the process of getting to the bottom of the crime. The Last Investigation is among the very best of these. I hope that the text of this review (see Parts One, Two, Three and Four) adds to The Reader's knowledge and prompts him or her to pursue the matter further. The Rosetta Stone of our current quandary deserves consideration.
 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

THE CHARADE--THE LAST INVESTIGATION Part 4

  The continued relevance of research into the assassination of John Kennedy manifests once again this week with the ongoing charade of political opportunism in what some people refer to as the American political process. As I write this, Hillary Clinton has announced her candidacy for the White House in 2016. Beating her out the gate have been both Theodore Cruz of Texas and Randall Paul of Kentucky. Clinton operates on a shrewd level, as do her other two named opponents, all of them with a good idea as to their base. Understanding Cruz's base is perhaps the easiest: "Short-sighted narrow-minded sons of Tricky Dick" sums it up well (and thank you Dr. Winston O'Boogie). Rand Paul's nocturnal efficacy probably lies more with the pseudo-intellectual fraternity brother mentality, a la Bill Maher and your Uncle from Miami. 
   Who then are the Clinton voters? I have no idea, but I hope they are not members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party because if they are then there is no progressive wing of that organization. 
   One of the charades that festers in many a craw is that Hillary Clinton is some type of advocate for women's rights. The last time I checked into the matter, women were still human beings and so in order to support equal opportunities for women one needs to be on the side of humanity against unbridled corporate interests and Clinton's record simply does not support the idea that she cares much one way or another about people, as is evidenced by the following article: Hillary Clinton's Empowerment. In truth, it matters not one bit whether Clinton is elected, or Cruz, or Paul, or Rubio, or anyone else The Reader might name because the actual outcome will be different only in a stylistic manner. And that sad fact presents itself due to not only the economic system under which we all struggle but far more to the point because of the duplicitous nature of our policy-making apparatus. Those who determine policy are not those who are elected. And those who influence and sometimes administer policy are often men and women whose names do not appear on the directorships of corporations. While I doubt that our contemporary decision-makers have the intellect to comprehend Machiavelli, they nevertheless have absorbed some of his more cogent proscriptions for global domination. 

   What kind of democracy enlists assassination squads? Well, the successful kind does. Democracy is fraught with instability. Instability makes financial predictions problematic. Solution? Alter reality so that outcome is no longer a variable. The only variable is perception. You can look at a video of a police officer in South Carolina shooting an unarmed and fleeing suspect in the back eight times and actually convince yourself that there may be more than one way to interpret that event. We do much the same thing with the American version of the democratic electoral process. We look at twenty or thirty prospective candidates who aspire to support the best interests of corporations and convince ourselves that we will get different outcomes from each of them. The complexities involved in limiting outcomes while expanding the perception of choice gets messy. The more sophisticated the populace believes itself to be, the messier the process of deluding it becomes. Hence, we have had assassination teams at work both for and against our government for decades. One of the leaders of such a team was a man with the unlikely name of William King Harvey
   In November 1961, General Edward Lansdale (whom we discussed last time out in Two Red Herrings) appointed CIA agent Harvey to head Task Force W, the purpose of which was to destroy the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. One part of this operation involved Harvey directing a subordinate to supply certain members of the Mafia to carry out an executive action to murder Castro with poison. A fanatical anti-communist, Harvey even disobeyed Attorney General Robert Kennedy's orders to desist from attacks of the island of Cuba during the Missile Crisis. Harvey directed three commando teams to strike Cuba during negotiations between President Kennedy and Russia's Nikita Khrushchev. When the Kennedy brothers ordered that Operation Mongoose be disbanded, Harvey continued his involvement with organized crime figures such as John Rosselli and Sam Giancana. "Ousting the beard" was their collective goal.
   Giancana, as you may have heard, was murdered in June 1975, prior to his planned testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. More than a few former CIA operatives have suggested the possibility that Harvey shot Giancana. 
   In 1963, Harvey was stationed in Mexico City, where part of his responsibilities were to fabricate reports that Lee Harvey Oswald had visited the Cuban and Russian embassies there. When the HSCA requested detailed information from the CIA on William Harvey during its investigation of the JFK assassination, the Agency withheld a 123-page file from the government. The file is still classified. [1][2][3]
   One of Harvey's most enthusiastic and sinister employees was Ted Shackley, a member of an assassination squad known as Operation 40, so-called because its original membership comprised forty men. To fund this group (established in 1960), Vice-President Richard Nixon reached out to private sources, specifically oilmen George Bush Sr. and Jack Crichton. Paul Kangas is an investigator who has claimed that George Bush was involved with members of Operation 40. In an article published in The Realist in 1990, Kangas stated: "Among other members of the CIA recruited by George Bush for (the attacks on Cuba) were Frank Sturgis, Howard Hunt, Bernard Baker and Rafael Quintero.” 
   Most of the field agents for Operation 40 were anti-Castro Cuban exiles (including such men as  Antonio Veciana, Luis Posada, Orlando Bosch, Rafael Quintero, Roland Masferrer, Eladio del Valle, Guillermo Novo, Rafael Villaverde, Virgilio Gonzalez, Carlos Bringuier, Eugenio Martinez, Antonio Cuesta, Hermino Diaz Garcia, Barry Seal, Felix Rodriguez, and Ricardo Morales Navarrete). The first of these, Veciana, is a primary source of Gaeton Fonzi for the report of his research in The Last Investigation. Fonzi occupies considerable space with information about his source's connection to Alpha 66 [4], but makes no mention of the far more dangerous Operation 40. 
   A U.S. spy named John Martino made an interesting admission to his friend and business associate Fred Claasen. Claasen told the HSCA what Martino told him. “The anti-Castro people put Oswald together. Oswald didn’t know who he was working for--he was just ignorant of who was really putting him together. Oswald was to meet his contact at the Texas Theatre. They were to meet Oswald in the theatre, and get him out of the country, 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 told Anthony Summers in 1994 that her husband said to her on the morning of 22nd November, 1963: "Flo, they're going to kill him (Kennedy). They're going to kill him when he gets to Texas."
   Shackley and the other members of Operation 40 certainly would not have been out of place in carrying out the assassination of a head of state. In 1966, they began a secret war in Laos. The anti-communist forces in Laos was a General named Vang Pao. The General also happened to be the leader of the country's heroin trade. Shackley and his friends helped destroy the General's competitors. 
   As head of the Operation Phoenix program in South Vietnam, Shackley proved himself formidable. Phoenix was a pacification program with the stated objective of coordinating attacks by all South Vietnamese and American military, police and intelligence units against the infrastructure of the Viet Cong. CIA funds served as the catalyst for the project. Ted Shackley and future CIA Director William E. Colby played the key supervisory roles in its implementation. What this really meant was that between 30,000 and 50,000 Vietnamese civilians were murdered by the CIA assets. The Phoenix Program is where the CIA learned to use its enhanced interrogation methods later employed in Iraq. [5][6][7][8]

   The potential for involvement of the members of Operation 40 in the killing of a sitting U.S. President is something to consider at a time when our current President attempts to normalize relations with Cuba. While I personally believe that Obama's efforts in this regard stand a good chance of being among his greatest political achievements, one wonders how an opponent such as Marco Rubio may be inclined to stir up support for a series of failed policies that have accomplished nothing other than to enrich the military establishment and feather the nests of egomaniacs such as Harvey and Shackley.
   While we ponder all this, remember that the best way to further the delusion of democracy here at home is to vote early and vote often. Hoping all remains well where you are. . . 


   

TWO RED HERRINGS--THE LAST INVESTIGATION Part 3

   Having given the premises of the Gaeton Fonzi book, The Last Investigation, as well as a promise to discuss the main players any relevant research would query, we move from  Richard Helms and David Atlee Phillips to yet another key operationalist, General Edward Lansdale. Lansdale may be familiar to The Reader as the man in the Philippines who successfully discredited the fearless Huks in their battle against colonial tyranny, or as the man who developed the Strategic Hamlet pacification program in South Vietnam, or as the inspiration for the Graham Greene Novel The Quiet American, or as the man appointed by President John Kennedy to leader the anti-Castro project Operation Mongoose. 
   His ideas were complex, especially compared to others involved in the escalation that resulted in what we today call the Vietnam War. Lansdale stated more than once that he supported a non-military solution to the conflict, that the practices of the National Liberation Front needed to be understood in terms of the way the guerrillas maintained positive relations with civilians, and that Ngo Diem should not be overthrown. These arguments got him removed as assistant to the Secretary of Defense. 
   Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty believed to his dying day that the photos of the tramps arrested in Dallas shortly after the assassination of JFK were significant because they captured Lansdale walking away from the camera. Prouty knew Lansdale well, and while it would not be unreasonable to credit Fletcher with an occasionally wild imagination, he never wavered from this argument. 
Lansdale was a master writer and planner. He was a great "scenario" guy. I still have a lot of his personally typed material in my files. I am certain that he was behind the elaborate plan [to kill Kennedy] and mostly the intricate and enduring cover-up. Given a little help from friends at PEPSICO he could easily have gotten Nixon into Dallas, for orientation and LBJ in the cavalcade at the same time, contrary to Secret Service policy. He knew the Protection units and the Secret Service, who was needed and who wasn't. Those were routine calls for him, and they would have believed him. Cabell could handle the police. The hit men were from CIA overseas sources, for instance, from the Camp near Athens, Greece. They are trained, stateless, and ready to go at any time. They ask no questions, speak to no one. They are simply told what to do, when and where. Then they are told how they will be removed and protected. After all, they work for the U.S. Government. (From a letter to Jim Garrison, March 6, 1990).

   Lansdale never specifically denied Prouty's allegation, but he made it clear he didn't like the Colonel. 
I continue to be surprised to find Fletcher Prouty quoted as an authority. He was my cross to bear before Dan Ellsberg came along. Fletch is the one who blandly told the London Times that I'd invented the Huk Rebellion, hired a few actors in Manila, bussed them out to Pampanga, and staged the whole thing as press agentry to get Magsaysay elected. He was a good pilot of prop-driven aircraft, but had such a heavy dose of paranoia about CIA when he was on my staff that I kicked him back to the Air Force. He was one of those who thought I was secretly running the Agency from the Pentagon, despite all the proof otherwise.
   

    Richard E. Sprague discovered seven unpublished newspaper photographs taken in Dealey Plaza shortly after 2PM on November 22, 1963. They were photographs of three men taken off a railroad car behind the plaza and marched down Houston Street to the sheriff's office. Because the identity of the three hobos was not released until 1992, for nearly thirty years a great deal of speculation existed about who these three men might have been. Some of the names suggested were E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, and Charles Harrelson. It turns out their real names were John Gedney, Harold Doyle, and Gus Abrams. They were exactly what they appeared to be: tramps. 
   The significance of this red herring cannot be overstated. Credible evidence does exist that E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis played support roles in the assassination of John Kennedy. To mingle what may have been their actual involvement in the removal of a U.S. head of state by assuming that because the identity of the arrested tramps had not been made public ipso facto meant Hunt and Sturgis had impersonated hobos holds about as much water as the tale of the Umbrella Man firing paralyzing darts into the President's throat to immobilize him or that there were men firing from Kennedy from below manhole covers. [1][2][3]
   That said, I think it's possible that Prouty was correct about Lansdale. I am not alone in that belief. According to former Brigadier General and Special Assistant for Counter Insurgencies Activities to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Victor Krulak, "That is indeed a picture of Ed Lansdale. The haircut, the stoop, the twisted left hand, the large class ring. It's Lansdale." [4]
     
   Another red herring involves former Marine Cord Meyer, who joined the CIA in 1950 at the request of future Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles. Meyer's job was propaganda, specifically to influence the mass media into buying into and reporting pro-American, anti-communist information. As a member of the Office of Policy Coordination, Meyer worked on something called Operation Mockingbird, a program that involved coordinating the efforts of between four and six hundred media assets working for, among others, The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS, and The Washington Post. Cord Meyer was a big fan of One-World-Government, so long as that government was noncommunist. He thought of himself as a world federalist. His wife Mary apparently agreed with him, right up until her brutal murder in 1964. A man named Raymond Crump was charged with the killing, but a jury found him not guilty. Perhaps more significant is the information that James Jesus Angleton, chief of counterintelligence for the CIA, confiscated Mary Meyer's personal diary and had the book destroyed. Rumors existed that Mary had been JFK's mistress. What the diary actually said is something Angleton took with him to hell. 
   Meyer even told a biographer that he believed "the same sons of bitches" who killed his wife were the ones who murdered JFK.
   I have the same respect for the conviction that Kennedy was murdered for his philandery as I do for the Mafia-Did-It conjecture--none whatsoever. But that type of drek does accomplish the convenience of getting people interested in non-political titillation rather than in thinking for themselves. [5], [6][7][8]
   Join us next time out, friends, when we take a look at some people who probably were involved in the murder--William Harvey, Ted Shackley, Antonio Veciana, David Sanchez Morales, and Orlando Bosch, among other vile creatures. 
   

Thursday, April 9, 2015

THE LAST INVESTIGATION, Part 2

This is Part 2 of the review of The Last Investigation. Part 1 is available here.    

  As we consider one of the best written and potentially most valuable books whose subject matter is the assassination of John Kennedy, we skirt the danger of emphasizing the demons who rubbed out the President rather than focusing on the leader of the country himself. One of the few serious flaws with Gaeton Fonzi's book, The Last Investigation, is his inclination to pull back on the subject of motive. While he dedicates ample space and discussion to the Bay of Pigs (the decision being to decline air strikes to provide support for Brigade 2506 may have been Kennedy's or it may have come from National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, but the anti-Castro Cubans and CIA believed the decision was from Kennedy), the cancellation of the training camps in preparation for a Cuban invasion, and the apparent detente with Russia's Nikita Khrushchev, Fonzi nevertheless draws back regarding the incredible vitriol the antagonists felt as they witnessed these events. In order for the death of the President to retain its imperative nature in our modern history as a signpost for much of the ghastliness that followed, the decidedly anti-democratic and uncontrolled impulses of the anti-Castro Cubans and their supporters in the Central Intelligence Agency need to be explored.
   One could argue that perhaps that would be another book, or that it already has been several books and that recovering the melodramatic sentiments of the planners and operators was not the author's intent. I would argue that their motives were so crucial to the understanding of how such a thing as the murder of a head of state is possible that at least some of the writer's credibility is at stake unless such issues are addressed. In order to address those matters, we have to have some sense as to who these men and women were. 
   One could begin almost anywhere. For the sake of maintaining as much continuity as possible so that The Reader is not as confused as the average novice when exploring the JFK killing, we will divide the people into groups: Operations and Plannings, Handlers, Witnesses, and Cover-Ups. 


Operations and Planning

  No discussion of the historical base of JFK's murder can proceed far without delving into the life of Richard Helms. At the time of the Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963, Richard Helms was the Deputy Director of Plans for Central Intelligence. (For a good explanation of the current management hierarchy within the agency, fas.org provides a useful guide.) The DDP is responsible for what civilians think of as the cloak and dagger or black operations division of the CIA. Helms held this post from February 1962 through April 1965. His ascent to the Directorate of Plans came as a result of Kennedy firing Agency Director Allen Dulles and his DDP Richard Bissell after their failure to (a) successfully mount the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, and (b) provide him, Kennedy, with a plausible deniability regarding U.S. involvement in the operation. Picking up where his friends and predecessors had let off, Helms approach to the "Cuban problem" involved covert attacks against the Cuban economy. It also involved the use of a CIA operative named William King Harvey who, under Helms' direction, sent commando squads into Cuba during the Missile Crisis at a time when the world faced the very real prospects of nuclear annihilation, prospects Kennedy and his advisors were working hard to prevent. On the day of Kennedy's murder in Dallas, Texas, a member of the CIA's Special Affairs Staff named Desmond Fitzgerald supplied a case officer known as AMLASH (true name: Rolando Cubela) with a poison pen to be used in the planned murder of Cuban President Fidel Castro. Fitzgerald's immediate superior in the CIA was Richard Helms. 
   In 1998 the CIA was forced to disclose that during the summer of 1963, George Joannides, a Miami attorney, funneled $25,000 a month to an organization of anti-Castro Cuban university students in Miami. After Kennedy's murder, these students used forged photographs and false text to claim that Lee Harvey Oswald had carried out the assassination under orders from Castro. This operation was carried out under the approval of Richard Helms. 
   As Director of Central Intelligence under President Richard Nixon, Helms was charged with a number of dirty operations, including the Huston Plan to combine the various U. S. intelligence forces to spy on and disrupt the various groups in the United States that Nixon felt threatened his Presidency. Helms was also instrumental in coordinating the overthrow and murder of democratically-elected Chilean President Salvador Allende. After several disagreements about which of them actually ran the country, Nixon or Helms, the former ordered the latter to pay hush money to a blackmailer named E. Howard Hunt. Helms refused. Nixon fired him. [1][2][3].

   One man who is at the core of Fonzi's investigation is David Atlee Phillips. A former theatrical actor, David Phillips joined the CIA in 1950. Within four years he had risen to a position that allowed him to coordinate the media propaganda campaign component of the CIA operation to overthrow (wait for it) the democratically-elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. It was during what the Agency code named Operation Success that Phillips met and befriended future Watergate operative E. Howard Hunt. One part of Operation Success' campaign involved distributing 100,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled Chronology of Communism in Guatemala. Phillips' group created three films on Guatemala for showing in cinemas. Phillips and Hunt ran the CIA's "Voice of Liberation" radio station. They forged photographs that claimed to show bodies mutilated by the Arbenz regime.

   A few years later, Phillips found himself involved in the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba. According to an article he wrote in 1986, Phillips claims he believed that JFK would bail out the CIA if the operation--which had been based on the "victory" in Guatemala--should fail. Compounding what Phillips viewed as Kennedy's failure to provide air support to the 1,400 Cuban exiles-turned-invaders was the President's firing of the CIA's unholy triumvirate Dulles, Bissell, and Cabell. 
   At the time of Kennedy's assassination, Phillips CIA job was Chief of Cuban Operations. He was stationed in Mexico City. 
   Antonio Veciana, leader of Alpha 66, a terrorist organization that plotted and attempted many assassinations against Cuban leader Fidel Castro throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, knew Dave Phillips. He took orders from the man. During those years, he recognized Phillips as Maurice Bishop. Six weeks before JFK's murder, Veciana has sworn that he saw Bishop meeting with Lee Oswald in Mexico City. 

   According to the Warren Commission, Oswald arrived in Mexico City on September 27, 1963. They claim he departed for Texas on October 2 of that year, after attempting to gain a travel visa that would permit him to go to Cuba. 
   The only problem with Veciana's claim of having inadvertently seen Phillips and Oswald together in Mexico City just happens to be an enormous one. Gaeton Fonzi argues with force that the testimony of Sylvia Odio, an anti-Castro Cuban living in Dallas in the fall of 1963, is corroborative of a conspiracy to murder JFK. Odio stated that on either September 25 or 26, 1963, she was visited in Dallas by three men, one of whom was identified to her as Leon Oswald. The other two men were Hispanic. One of the two Hispanics referred to himself as Leopoldo. He told her that they knew that her father was a political prisoner being held in Cuba and that they sympathized with her. Leopoldo further explained that they had come to Dallas from New Orleans and were going to go on a trip of some sort. He confided to Sylvia that this former Marine Leon was considering joining the Cuban resistance movement. 
   The men made Odio nervous and she did not prolong the conversation. The following day, Odio received a phone call from Leopoldo. He was intent on telling her about this Leon Oswald person, claiming the ex-Marine was a great shot with a rifle and that if Cubans had any guts they would have assassinated JFK immediately after the Bay of Pigs. 
   When the news of the arrest of Kennedy's suspected assassin hit the television, Odio instantly recognized Leon as Lee Harvey Oswald.
   While the Warren Commission rejected Odio's testimony, the House Select Committee on Assassinations found her a credible witness.
   The problem, as you might guess, lies with the timeline. Veciana claims to have seen Oswald in Mexico City with Phillips in late September 1963. The Warren Commission places Oswald there no earlier than September 27. So how did Lee Oswald get from Dallas, where he met Odio, to Mexico City? Oswald did not know how to drive a car. We know that Oswald was in New Orleans on September 25 because he picked up and cashed an unemployment check there on that date. It is 500 miles from New Orleans to Dallas. It is an additional 240 miles from Dallas to Houston, where the Warren Commission has Oswald boarding a bus for Mexico City. 
   While it is extraordinary that someone was setting up Oswald as the killer of the President six weeks before the murder happened, the only way Oswald could have met with Odio a day and a half prior to arriving in Mexico City is with some help. 
   The other possibility is that someone was impersonating Oswald in Mexico, a scenario that has legs insomuch as the photographs of the man David Phillips--as Station Chief in Mexico City--claimed was Lee Oswald looked nothing like him. [4][5][6][7][8]

   Tune in next time for more on the operations and planning background. While I admit this may go a bit far afield of a traditional book review, the attempt is to place Fonzi's writing within the necessary historical context. Besides, it's an interesting subject.