Monday, April 30, 2007

Gemstone: WTF?

Bruce Roberts related a fairly comprehensive theory of the JFK assassination. Yet, his characterization of it as a Mafia hit ordered by Aristotle Onassis is difficult to believe. When we look at Onassis’ life, the calamities that befell him and his family, and the constant competition from his brother-in-law Stavros Niarchos, we have to question seriously the ability of this particular individual to dictate world events on the scale that Roberts insists.

The same goes for the Mafia. Numerous sources characterize the Mafia as influential in very limited areas of commerce, but with very little clout outside of their turf. While the supposition that the Mafia played a role in the JFK assassination is quite reasonable, the Mafia simply wouldn’t have had the clout to bring Oswald back into the US without facing prosecution as a traitor. The Mafia couldn’t order Ft. Sam Houston and other military bases to stand down when the President clearly needed extra protection, nor could mobsters order the Secret Service to violate its most basic procedures. One thus has to conclude that others would have been involved.

While Roberts stipulates others were involved in the JFK assassination, he depicts them as under the direction of Onassis through the Mob. This leaves out the wealthy industrialists who had sufficient motive to finance such an op. It also minimizes the role of the right wing, anti-Castro Cubans who demonized Kennedy for the failure at the Bay of Pigs and for the termination of the Castro assassination program, Operation Mongoose. Some of these Cuban ex-patriots cooperated with the CIA, especially during the early-1960s when repatriation seemed more realistic—that is, if they could get rid of Fidel. But in order to do that, some felt that they first had to get rid of their main obstacle between them and Castro: JFK. According to Harry Dean, who allegedly infiltrated neo-con groups during the early-1960s on behalf of the FBI, one faction hired Eladio del Valle, an associate of David Ferrie, to assassinate JFK in 1962.

In March 1963, the Pentagon commissioned some of the Cuban officers directing the Bay of Pigs invasion (Brigade 2506) into various branches of the US military, where they received special training at Fort Benning (Georgia). Ft. Benning served for many years as the home of The School of the Americas (formally known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHISC), which taught black ops techniques to the likes of Manuel Noriega, and Peruvian coup d’etat leader General Juan Velsaco Alvarado. Among the Cuban officers commissioned at Ft. Benning in March 1963 was one Antonio Iglesias Pons (Tony Iglesias).

Iglesias apparently worked in black ops for decades. An FBI memo dated August 4, 1975 mentioned an alleged connection between Iglesias and the CIA: “ANTONIO IGLESIAS was included in this group since he had a reputation locally of former associations with CIA and is an active anti-communist Cuban.” The memo requested Iglesias’ CIA file so that the FBI could screen him as a witness in an upcoming trial against someone who had impersonated an Agency case officer. The Company returned the memo on January 6, 1976 after stamping on it, “CIA HAS NO OBJECTION TO DECLASSIFICATION AND/OR RELEASE OF CIA INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT.”

Witnesses identified Iglesias as one of a number of US-based raiders who attempted to invade the beach near Boca de Sama, a sleepy Cuban coastal town, in an October 12, 1971 attempt to infiltrate the island and assassinate Castro. A 2000 presentation made by Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister Felipe Pèrez Roque announced another foiled assassination attempt led by Miami-based Luis Posada Carriles, and assisted by, among others, Antonio Iglasias Pons. The assassination was set to take place during a Latin American summit in Panama City, Panama in 2000. A 2004 investigation by Panamanian anti-corruption chief Mercedes De Lèon confirmed that Carriles named Iglesias as an accomplice in a discussion with a US Embassy official identified only as ‘John.’

In short, at least three governments viewed Antonio Iglesias Pons as one badass spy. It just so happens that his sister, Marina, was Bruce Roberts’ sister-in-law. In other words, Roberts was related to Iglesias via marriage. Yet, that wasn’t the extent of Bruce’s connections to the CIA. Roberts’ uncle, C.J. Kimball, was “apparently” involved in destabilizing Nigeria on behalf of the Agency, according to Stephanie Caruana.

Caruana’s hypothesis that Roberts got a lot of information from CIA-connected family members is certainly plausible. Yet it stands to reason that if his family could give him information, they could just as easily give him misinformation too. Gemstone muted the CIA-Cuban connection to the JFK assassination, for example, in favor of a purely Mafia hit scenario, thus drawing attention away from other likely conspirators and their motivations. By depicting Aristotle Onassis as the puppet-master behind the CIA, the Roman Catholic Church and the Mafia, Gemstone deflected responsibility of global atrocities from various groups vying for power to the work of a single individual.

Last year, I posted a hypothetical piece about circulating alternate stories once a secret is out, or a lie is no longer believed. Those involved with operations refer to this as ‘muddying the waters,” or in other words, casting out so many versions of a story that one has difficulty separating the valid from the false. In order to muddy the waters successfully, there has to be something in the alternate version that rings true. As Lt. Col. Philip Corso explained, secrets are impossible to maintain forever. The trick is to give up a few small secrets in order to protect the important ones—especially if the small secrets give a misleading picture of what’s going on.

After gaining possession of the Gemstone letters, Mae Brussell realized that they contained both accuracies and inaccuracies, and therefore put them “on the shelf,” so to speak, most likely because she didn’t know what else to do with them. Caruana, however, suggested something more sinister, noting that her family allegedly had ties to Eugene Brading, a possible co-conspirator in the JFK assassination (Mae’s uncle, Cyril Magnin, was said to have been Brading’s rabbi). Whether that’s true, or whether Mae might have suppressed Gemstone, as Caruana implied, in order to protect her family from recrimination, Brussell’s criticisms of Roberts’ grand opus (both positive and negative) are no less valid.

In that sense, I believe that despite some misinformation, Gemstone contains some arcane data that are accurate, but out of context. For that reason I applaud the efforts of people like Gerald Carroll to separate the fact from the fiction. Moreover, I would recommend anyone interested in further assessing the validity of this document to do so.

At the same time, I believe that the initial purpose of the information contained in the Gemstone File was to mislead or confuse.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Roberts or anyone else championing Gemstone as gospel participated knowingly in any cover-up, conspiracy or water-muddying. I have no evidence that contradicts Caruana’s assessment of Roberts as a conscientious, patriotic, sober, and rational person. Sure, his writings are, well, colorful and somewhat disorganized. While it’s true that disorganized thought is a symptom of psychosis, one has to remember that there was an awful lot of colorful writing going on in the late-1960s and early-1970s, especially in the underground presses of the day. Moreover, poor organization could very well indicate nothing more than the efforts of an unpolished writer, who nevertheless felt compelled to call attention to a serious problem. Thus, my chief criticism with Roberts isn’t the possibility that he was a liar or a nutcase. In my humble opinion, the real problem was his lack of critical evaluation concerning the information he received.

This series on Gemstone, the longest to date on The X-Spot, came about for two reasons. First, it is an excellent illustration of far-out conspiracy theory. One might easily reject its validity wholesale. As Caruana noted in her memoir, she initially dismissed Gemstone simply because her background led her to believe that anyone who wrote like Roberts must have been crazy. Yet, one really cannot tell how crazy or truthful something is until digging into it further. Along the way, some very-uncrazy things often emerge. In this case, we’re left with the question of if, and if so how much, the very powers criticized by conspiracy theorists actually contribute to conspiracy theories.

Second, Gemstone’s influence on pop culture was substantial, if subtle. For example, the Gemstone File served as the basis of an episode of the TV series La Femme Nikita. In an episode of Alias, one character bumps off another by poisoning her with sodium morphate, a chemical supposedly used in rat poison. It supposedly “thins the blood” and causes heart attacks. If you try to look up sodium morphate in a book of pharmacological or chemical substances, however, you won’t find it.

Roberts attributes a number of suspicious deaths (e.g. Sen. Estes Kefauver, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, President Lyndon Johnson) to sodium morphate. According to Caruana, the drug was formally known as Warfarin (C19H15NaO4). The substance described by Roberts differs in some characteristics from Warfarin—for example, sodium morphate allegedly smelled like apples, and was thus often mixed into apple pie to mask the taste; Warfarin, on the other hand, is odorless and tasteless. Whether or not they’re the same chemical, the earliest extant reference to the term ‘sodium morphate’ I have found is in “The Skeleton Key” composed by Caruana in 1975. Any subsequent narrative using the term ‘sodium morphate’ therefore came directly or indirectly through Gemstone.

That does it for the Gemstone File. My deepest thanks to Gary Buell and Stephanie Caruana for their advice and assistance with this series.

I’ll be off the air for awhile to see the family in Cincy. Take your time with this, and see you next week!

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Gemstone: Pop Went the Weasel

Bruce’s Roberts’ version of the mechanics of the JFK assassination is fairly straightforward. Onassis called CIA Director John McCone, and ordered a hit on Kennedy. McCone called former FBI Special Agent and Howard Hughes associate Robert Maheu to organize the assassination. Maheu called upon Mafia dons Johnny Roselli and Jimmy “The Weasel” Fratianno, who set up the hit. They came into contact with Lee Oswald, whose contact with the Mob came courtesy of his friend Jack Ruby, a reputed Mafia bagman.

According to Roberts, the plan was to have Oswald shoot Texas Governor John Connally, while Roselli shot from the overpass (sometimes referred to as ‘the triple underpass’), Fratianno fired from the Dal-Tech Building, and another Mafioso, Eugene Brading (aka Jim Braden) shot from the doorway of the Pergola (the long, curved white building next to the grassy knoll). .

Figure 1. Dealey Plaza

Figure 2. Dealey Plaza drawing

Roberts named Fratianno, Oswald, Roselli and Brading as the shooters to Stephanie Caruana during a 1974 conversation. Although she found no evidence that Fratianno and Roselli were in Dallas the day JFK died, abundant evidence placed Brading there. In her book The Gemstone File: A Memoir, she included a color photograph taken by J.M. Bell seconds after shots rang out from behind the knoll. Zooming in on the door of the Pergola, she saw the grainy silhouette of a man. About level with the figure’s armpit are several light colored circles that she speculated were the flashes of a gun, and speculated that the man in the photo was Brading.

Some of the points here, while not provable, nevertheless ring true. For example, when setting up the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Operation Mongoose and other programs, the CIA had actually called upon Robert Maheu, who then doled out some detail of such projects to Fratianno and Roselli. The call wouldn’t come from the Director, however, but rather a case officer, Col. Sheffield Edwards, who for many years served as the Agency’s liaison to the Mafia. The cooperation between the Mafia and the CIA is now part of our acknowledged history, especially in the government’s policy toward Fidel Castro and Cuba. So, speculating that the CIA and Mafia teamed up to eliminate Kennedy isn’t much of a stretch. After all, it would only be one more job.

Furthermore, not only was Brading in Dallas on November 23, 1963, but he was also at Dealey Plaza at the time of the shooting. He had arrived the night before, and had spent the morning in the offices of oil billionaire H. L. Hunt. (A number of sources say that Jack Ruby also attended that meeting.) He was arrested at the Dal-Tech building after the assassination when witnesses pegged him as a suspicious character. Police took him in and quickly released him after he explained to them that he was in the middle of an oil deal, and entered the building simply because he needed to use a payphone.

Roberts’ thesis runs into a problem when it names Oswald as one of the shooters, however. After his arrest, police performed a nitrate test on Oswald. He tested negative, which meant that he didn’t fire a rifle on that day. That alone should have proved Lee’s innocence to the Warren Commission and history, but there was a lot more. His fingerprints weren’t on the rifle he allegedly used (the FBI found no fingerprints, but a week later the Dallas Police claimed to have discovered Oswald’s palm print on it—Orleans Parrish District Attorney Jim Garrison speculated that the print was taken off of Oswald from the morgue). And witnesses placed him on the second floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository at the time of the shooting, not the sixth, where shots really were fired.

Furthermore, it’s doubtful that Roselli or anyone else shot from the triple overpass. A number of witnesses were there, including railroad workers, a man named Ed Hoffman, and James Tague (the third shooting victim of the assassination attempt, along with Connally and JFK). None of them saw any gunmen there. As for Fratianno, no one can verify that he was even in Dallas that day.

On the December 25, 1977 episode of her radio show, Mae Brussell took issue with Robert’s assertion that Oswald was one of the co-conspirators. In her mind, the mistake cast doubt on much of what Roberts had written. In defense of Gemstone, Caruana took issue with Brussell’s criticism, writing, “I find it astonishing that Mae, after 14 years of concentrated study of the JFK assassination, never seems to venture a specific guess as to the identity of the assassins, beyond stating, ‘It wasn’t Oswald.’”

A person is never required to speculate beyond the facts of hand, of course. So Mae would have been within her right to establish Oswald’s innocence and use that in evidence of a much larger conspiracy. On the other hand, Caruana is correct in saying that knowledge of the actual shooters would go a long way towards solving this case. Although we cannot prove that Fratianno and Roselli were on the scene, we can prove that Brading was. Whether or not he might have actually fired, or if he was even at the Pergola is another kettle of fish.

Naming Oswald as Connally’s shooter makes me think that Bruce Roberts didn’t really know the mechanics of the JFK assassination, and incorporated the commonly held belief of Lee as shooter into the alternate scenario found in Gemstone. Still, I don’t think he simply made up this tale. Rather, the probable source of this story was, at best, unreliable all on it’s lonesome.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gemstone: Jackie Blue

Ooh-hoo, Jackie Blue
Lives her life from inside of a room
Hides that smile when she's wearing a frown.
Ooh Jackie, you're not so down

You like your life in a free-form style.
You'll take an inch but you'd love a mile.
There never seems to be quite enough
Floating around to fill your loving cup
Fluent in English, French, Spanish and Italian, an alumna of Washington University, Vassar, Georgetown and the Sorbonne, and a scion of a wealthy family descended from French royalty, Jacqueline Bouvier’s parents had mild objections to her upcoming marriage into the noveau riche Kennedy clan. But marry him she did in 1953, much to the delight of her father-in-law Joseph Sr., who immediately saw her PR value to his son’s presidential ambitions.

The Kennedy patriarch’s enthusiasm with his daughter-in-law was justified during her brief tenure as First Lady. Possessing extraordinary intelligence, leadership, charm, and beauty, Jacqueline, more than anyone else, endeared the JFK White House to the American public, and to people around the world. More important, by smoothing over personal differences between foreign heads of state and her husband, JFK relied on her as one of his most important tools in crafting foreign policy.

In short, her legacy is arguably more heroic than that of her first husband’s. She was a living example of the feminist ideal, a strong woman who endured extreme tragedy, yet refused to back down—a lady who could take the reins as capably as any man. She was unapologetically anti-racist during the 1950s, a time when being such was not yet in fashion.

The Gemstone File, however, paints a very different likeness of Jackie, one that suggests that she started out an unwilling pawn, but later became the willing accomplice of her second husband, Aristotle Onassis.
Ooh-hoo, Jackie Blue,
What's a game, girl, if you never lose?
Ask a winner and you'll probably find,
Ooh Jackie, they've lost at sometime.
Don't try to tell me that you're not aware
Of what you're doing, and that you don't care,
You say it's easy, just a natural thing,
Like playing music, but you never sing.
Jacqueline’s fourth child, Patrick Kennedy, lived only two days during August of 1963. Distraught, and somewhat overwhelmed by the burdens of her station, she took a trip to France, her ancestral homeland, in the early-fall of 1963 to recharge her batteries. She hooked up with her sister, stage actress Lee Bouvier Radziwill, who introduced her to Aristotle Onassis. At his invitation, she hung out with him, mostly aboard his yacht, the Christina, for two weeks, a period of time lasting until the first week of November.

Bruce Roberts asserted that the timing of Jacqueline’s visit was no accident. As the international Mafia kingpin, Onassis had already planned Kennedy’s assassination. But like everyone else, he really dug the First Lady. Through Radziwill, Onassis schemed to save her the trauma of witnessing her husband’s murder first hand, and rescue from a potentially aberrant gunshot that might kill her too by keeping her on The Christina until after the assassination.

As mentioned in the previous post, Onassis’ Mafia planned to murder JFK on November 1, 1963 in Chicago. But the President cancelled the trip. Roberts asserted that when learning of President Ngo Dinh Diem’s assassination in Vietnam that day, Kennedy realized the significance of his cancelled Chicago trip. Kennedy then knew, according to Roberts, that Onassis wanted to murder him too. So he called Jacqueline aboard the Christina, and ordered her to return to Washington immediately, telling her, “Get off Onassis’ yacht if you have to swim.”
Ooh-hoo, Jackie Blue
Making wishes that never come true,
Going places where you've never been.
Ooh Jackie, you're going again.
The most provocative point that Roberts raised here is that Onassis informed Jacqueline of the upcoming assassination attempt at Dallas, the secondary site. Journalist Gerald Carroll concurred with this aspect of Gemstone:
Some evidence points to Jackie having advance knowledge that her husband’s life was in mortal danger. After all—as described in [Carroll's book] Project Seek but ignored by mainstream media—there were at least three documented attempts on JFK’s life before the actual assassination. In all three instances, Secret Service protection broke down....

It is also clear that Jackie received very strong hints that JFK was going to be eliminated when she went on that cruise on the Christina in the fall of 1963. Keep in mind, she was with Onassis for about two weeks or thereabouts, and the Secret Service panicked when the yacht disappeared for a few days in the Mediterranean. The government went as far as to suspend payments due Onassis’ shipping operation until it was evident that the safety of the First Lady was assured.

Jacqueline, of course, returned to Washington, and accompanied JFK on his ill-fated trip to Dallas. Her calm and leadership during the crisis endeared her further to people around the world. Carroll believes that her self-control and strength came from a foreknowledge of the event that helped her prepare for it. While that might be possible, this depiction is at odds with her actions during the assassination. After the fatal shot from the grassy knoll, she saw a chunk of her husband’s brain on the top of the car’s trunk, went out to fetch it, and hurried back to the seat, where she tried to stuff it back into the President’s head—an event clearly documented by the Zapruder film.

Figure 1. The Zapruder Film excerpt (Warning: Disturbing Image)

In other words, she panicked, just as you would expect from a person with no foreknowledge. Okay, perhaps she was a tremendous actress. Maybe she only knew about the Chicago attempt from Onassis, and reckoned that there were no future attempts in the works. Then again, maybe she simply reacted to the gory horror suffered by the man cradled in her arms. Whatever the reason for this reaction, or for her strength during the following weeks, Carroll’s accusation is a serious one. If she knew beforehand of the Dallas assassination plot, Jacqueline should have been found guilty as an accessory to murder before, during and after the fact.
Ooh-hoo, Jackie Blue
Likes a dream that can never come true.
Making love is like sifting through sand.
Ooh Jackie, it slips through your hand.

Every day, in your indigo eyes,
I watch the sun set but I don't see it rise.
Moonlight and stars in your strawberry wine,
You'd take the world but you won't take the time.
Carroll strongly disagreed with Roberts’ contention that Onassis married Jacqueline out of a symbolic Mafia gesture of taking the victim’s gun and gal as trophies. Carroll felt that it was she who initiated the march toward the altar. After the assassination of RFK in June of 1968, Jacqueline opined that a nefarious organization deliberately targeted Kennedys, and thus became concern for her children’s well being and her own. Carroll posited that since she couldn’t reasonably expect protection from the Secret Service, or other branches of law enforcement, she sought the help of the only man powerful enough to keep her safe, one Aristotle Onassis. While Carroll stressed that Jacqueline and Aristotle really were in love since the trip aboard the Christina in the fall of 1963, one would have to wonder why they rarely spent time together. He lived in the Mediterranean on his yacht. She lived alternately in New York City, Martha’s Vineyard, and at the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port. If the two were simply best friends, one might speculate that Onassis said, “I do,” in order to keep Jacqueline and her family safe, for his power was protection enough.

At the same time, Carroll suspected that the ties between Onassis and Jacqueline were partly business--of the dirty kind. In 1990, when working on a preliminary draft of the Gemstone-based book Project Seek at his home in Kentucky, Carroll received a visit from Robert Tomkins, a New York resident and friend of Jackie-O’s. Tompkins appeared interested in learning about the Gemstone thesis. But as Carroll related, “Upon seeing what I had uncovered, he told me I would never get my work published by any publisher in New York because of Mrs. Onassis’s position….”

Jacqueline had taken a job as an editor at Doubleday (an Imprint of Random House) during the mid-1970s. Carroll, however, saw her role not so much as an editor, but as a powerful censor. He noted that Random House turned down many JFK assassination manuscripts, and the publisher refused to touch anything related to Gemstone. At the same time, Anchor Books (another Random House Imprint) released Gerald Posner’s sloppily researched, uncritical, partly fabricated defense of the Warren Commission verdict Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK in 1993.

Carroll’s implication is clear. Jacqueline Onassis spent her remaining years covering up her first husband’s murder because she herself had some complicity in the crime. Whether or not that’s true, one has to wonder about Tompkin’s appearance on Carroll’s doorstep. She also panned Oliver Stone’s JFK, despite the opinion of her close associates said she suspected a conspiracy too.

Then again, one has to wonder about JFK’s public support for the Oliver Stone 1996 movie The People vs. Larry Flynt. That’s surprising for two reasons. First of all, he loved his mother, yet he endorses a film by Oliver Stone, a man she despised because of he exploitated events of her life. Second, she also despised Larry Flynt for publishing nude photographs of her, taken by a photographer who had trespassed onto her secluded private property (an event depicted in the movie).

Might Jr. have given a backhanded endorsement of something smacking of Gemstone a year after the death of his mother, who was thus free from consequence?
Ooh-hoo, Jackie Blue
Lives her life from inside of a room,
Makes you think that her life is a drag.
Ooh Jackie, what fun you have had.

Ooh Jackie, ooh Jackie,
Ooh Jackie, ooh Jackie
Hey, hey, hey, hey!

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Gemstone: The Motive for Dealey Plaza

Bruce Roberts, in his letters and through his conversations with Stephanie Caruana, offered a version of the JFK assassination that contains many tantalizing and plausible elements, not the least of which was the true motive for the assassination. According to them, Aristotle Onassis controlled President John Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, through several channels: (1) the Italian/Italian-American Mafia, which Onassis presumably controlled; (2) the Roman Catholic Church through Cardinal Richard Cushing, the Catholic President’s local Archbishop, whom Onassis also controlled, and (3) Kennedy’s father, Joseph Sr., a long-time Onassis ally who had allegedly fixed the 1960 Illinois elections with the help of Chicago Mafiosi.

The Aristotle Onassis Mafia, what Roberts termed MMORDIS, saw the US Presidential election of 1960 as a win-win situation. Having acquired control of Republican nominee Richard Nixon after supposedly kidnapping Howard Hughes, Onassis now also controlled the Democratic Party through the son of his former mob-connected ally. Of the two, the Mafia preferred Kennedy, probably figuring that he was really his father’s puppet. As Caruana wryly put it, “1960: JFK Elected. American people happy. Joe Kennedy happy. Mafia estatic.”

If the Mafia thought they could control John Kennedy through his dad, then they would have to think of something else. For all their planning, they didn’t account for the one turn of events that would wreck everything: Joseph Sr.'s debilitating stroke in April 1961.

With the reigns of political authority firmly in their grasp, the Kennedy brothers decided to shoot for absolute power, according to Roberts. As Attorney General, Robert vigorously investigated the Mafia, first in his prosecution of Jimmy Hoffa, and later in the Valachi hearings. The Kennedys also angered the Mafia-backed CIA when they forced Intel to give up its Castro assassination plans after arresting their trainees at their Lake Pontchartrain encampment.

Cuban Premier Fidel Castro supposedly stole billions of 1950s dollars from the Mafia when he kicked the mob off of his island. The Catholic Church supposedly blessed the crusade against El Dictator hoping that the overthrow would eliminate godless communism and bring the people of Cuba back into the religious fold. The Church also had a putative interest in Vietnam, which supplied heroin to the West via Cuba. For the Vatican, the dope route established by Joseph Kennedy and Onassis was a colossal moneymaker, but hampered by Castro’s anti-Mafia policy, and Vietnamese insurgents. According to Roberts, JFK ordered advisors for the first time in 1960 to satisfy the Church’s wishes, and promised to keep them there until re-elected:

Recently, Cardinal Spellman arranged with JFK for the first troops in Vietnam. “There,” said JFK, “they stay until I am re-elected.” Not so. Onassis murdered him at Dallas and snatched, Mafia style, his broad and his shotgun -- Jackie and the Pentagon.
As he did the Mafia, JFK also double-crossed the Vatican by beginning an advisor withdrawal, and zealous prosecution of Onassis-sanctioned drug kingpins in Vietnam:

Hood Mafia -- a real bunch of rigged votes. Bobby indicts Wally Bird in Vietnam (Bird is the opium dealer for Onassis). JFK orders Taiwan dope smugglers out of Laos and then -- in mid year, decides to dump Diem -- to appease the American public (Fatima #2 and the heroin is becoming too apparent). These things violate Onassis’ orders -- and Joseph P. can’t intervene -- he’s speechless with a stroke. To make it short -- Onassis orders double murder: Diem and Kennedy. As with Thieu’s blackmail today of Nixon, Diem would have talked and so would JFK.
In short, Roberts characterized the Kennedy administration as a quasi-Mafia outfit that went renegade. With billions of dollars, their power, and their reputation at stake, MMORDIS simply ordered a hit on JFK just as it would on any other outlaw boss. The hit would necessitate the murder of anyone that might stand in their way, or speak publically about what might have gone on. That included the Roman Catholic Ngo brothers of Vietnam.

President Ngo Dinh Diem might have been popular with the Mafia because he fostered poppy cultivation, but quite hated among the Vietnamese. His brutal dealings with the Buddhists of that country led to government slaughter of nine of them, which resulted in a number of protests (some involving self-immolation). Americans tuning into their TV sets couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw priests setting themselves on fire, so they began to resent the Ngos as well. Kennedy decided to withdraw support from Diem, and gave rebel forces assurance that the US would not interfere with any coup attempts—provided that they allow President Diem to leave office unharmed.

Of course Diem was more than harmed. He was assassinated on November 1, 1963, along with his younger brother Ngo Dinh Nhu. Roberts asserted that a third brother, Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc, was supposed to have been assassinated that day too, but he had been called to the Vatican in late-October and hadn’t yet returned.

Roberts went on to say that MMORDIS also planned to assassinate Kennedy during a November 1, 1963 visit to Chicago, but the President cancelled the trip at the last minute. The Oswald double, Thomas Vallee, had already taken position in the Windy City. According to Gemstone, Vallee told only two people, Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark about his role in the JFK assassination attempt. Roberts believed that the FBI-orchestrated raid that killed both men were to silence them about what they had learned.

Chicago was the perfect place to hit the President, according to this version, because it had a strong Mafia contingent and an easily corruptible police force. But if MMORDIS missed its opportunity there, it would have a second chance in another corrupt Mafia-controlled metropoilis: Dallas.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This Is a Test

Our friend Lux asked if I would do an audio blog, and I promised to look into it to see how that might go. So I downloaded some audio-to-mp3 software, and over the weekend rigged a cheap five-dollar tape recorder to the old sound card, found some of my old recordings, and played them into the computer.

The shareware had tons of editing stuff on it, and I used every bit of it trying to make 1984 RadioShack cassette tapes (originally selling three for a dollar) sound anything close to listenable. I’ve got them to the point where I didn’t cringe when hearing them, but I don’t know how anyone else’s system will sound upon playback. If you can do me a favor, give this a listen to, so I can see if this stuff does what I actually want it to do.

As you can see from the last post, Boo again solved the riddle, but I suspected that she had help. If I do this again, I’ll Google my answers to see if they’re posted all over the net. Meanwhile, I think that does it for the puzzles, unless there’s a big cry for them. I’ve got a few that aren’t on the Internet.

Soon, however, we will get back to general paranoia as we explore the third major issue of the Gemstone File, namely the JFK assassination.

The murder of John F. Kennedy at Dealey Plaza is such an immense subject that I really do not wish to run down everything about it all at once, at least at this stage of The X-Spot. In fact, you could have a whole blog devoted to that, or any other assassination. The subject matter fills volumes upon volumes, and includes people and events that you won’t find in an Oliver Stone movie.

But the Gemstone File has a particular bent when it comes to JFK’s assassination, and that’s what I wish to explore. Bruce Roberts, the author of the Gemstone letters, had some interesting insights to Howard Hughes’ empire, some of which deserve further probing. He had other insights to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick, but many of them do not seem to pan out.

Upon reading the Gemstone file, one might wonder if Roberts simply made up everything he wrote, and every now and then made a lucky guess. Perhaps one might wonder if Roberts had certain facts, but extrapolated scenarios based on them—the classic charge against conspiracy theorists everywhere.

I am of the opinion that Roberts probably read a lot between the lines, piecing together a coherent story from a few bits of privileged information. The JFK case sheds light on how Roberts got his information. It might also reveal why he got said information. The San Francisco Gate interview mentioned earlier depicts Roberts as someone who uses “uncheckable facts” to convince the listener or reader of a certain reality, one in which a single kingpin named Aristotle Onassis rules the world through his minions. We might, therefore, get the impression that Roberts wants to sell us a particular worldview.

The question is who’s.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Detective: Jonathan Livingston's Seagull

Last one.

You’re now a team of detectives. You have a mystery to solve. Like a game of twenty questions, you can ask anything you like, provided that it can be answered “yes” or “no.” The point is to deduce the solution to the question posed at the bottom from your own questions.

You aren’t limited to twenty questions, of course. You will probably find it helpful to pay attention to the questions asked of your fellow bloggers, and their answers. I’ll give you a hint if we get stuck.

In the last post, Boo correctly solved the mystery with everyone’s help. The most important questions were asked by Libby and SJ, but everyone did their part in eliminating trick answers, and other possible solutions. Well done, ladies and gentlemen!

This one’s hard, but I now know you can do it.

The Case.

Jonathan Livingston walks into a New York restaurant and orders seagull. After one bite, he walks back outside, and deliberately stands in the path of a moving vehicle, which strikes and kills him instantly—a suicide.

Question: What so distressed the seagull eater so much that he wanted to end his life?

For earlier games, click here.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Detective: Swiss Miss

Let's play again, shall we?

You’re now a team of detectives. You have a mystery to solve. Like a game of twenty questions, you can ask anything you like, provided that it can be answered “yes” or “no.” The point is to deduce the solution to the question posed at the bottom from your own questions.

You aren’t limited to twenty questions, of course. You will probably find it helpful to pay attention to the questions asked of your fellow bloggers, and their answers. I’ll give you a hint if we get stuck.

In the last post, Foam correctly solved the mystery before anyone else could ask a single question. So now, I figured you’re all ready for a tougher one—at least Foam is.

The Case

A Toronto gentleman wakes up one morning, picks up the copy of The Star from his front porch, and heads to the kitchen for his usual cup of morning coffee.

After a few sips if java, he glances at his paper, and sees the headline, “Local Woman Dies in Swiss Ski Accident.”

But he knew it was no accident. He knew she was murdered.

Question: How did the man in Toronto know the lady was murdered?

For later games, click here.



Kate, over at Someone Else’s Horoscope, has nominated me for a Thinking Person’s Blog award. I’ve seen it floating around on other sites, and have been uneasy about it. I will not continue the tag. That’s been my usual policy towards such things. More important, I cannot, in good conscience bestow kudos on five of you without bestowing them upon all of you. You have all given me things to think about, and you have all taught me considerably over the past year or so. If you like, consider yourself nominated by me.

My point is, that you’re all thinking bloggers. To prove it, I’d like to play a little game. You’re now a team of detectives. You have a mystery to solve. Like a game of twenty questions, you can ask anything you like, provided that it can be answered “yes” or “no.” The point is to deduce the solution to the question posed at the bottom from your questions

You aren’t limited to twenty questions, of course. You will probably find it helpful to pay attention to the questions asked of your fellow bloggers, and their answers. I’ll give you a hint if we get stuck.

The Case

A cop is flagged down outside of a hotel by the desk clerk. The desk clerk informs the officer that there’s a problem on the fourth floor.

The officer takes an elevator to the fourth floor, where a woman screams at the top of her lungs, “No, Steve! Stop! Don’t do it! STEPHEN!!”


The cop races to the sound of the gunshot, and with weapon in hand enters through the open door of one of rooms. On the bed lies a woman, killed instantly by the bullet that has just hit her. On the floor is a revolver. Surrounding the revolver is a Protestant minister, a Roman Catholic priest, and a rabbi. .

Without asking a single question, the cop immediately arrests the priest and reads him his rights.

Question: How did the cop know to arrest the priest?

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Gemstone: At Odds with Evidence

My thanks to JohnB for his assistance in writing this post.

Mae Brussell and R.B. Cutler’s version of Chappaquiddick contains gaps in fact, is high on speculation, and short on evidence. At the same time, the supposition that someone ambushed, and then kidnapped Senator Edward Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne better explains some of the more problematic aspects of the incident.

For one thing, this scenario explains something that Senator Kennedy has never supposedly been able to: namely, how he got out of that car. The windshield and three of the windows were smashed, but not down. A recent episode of the TV show Mythbusters tested the difficulty of escaping from underwater. If panic doesn’t first set in, there is the problem of opening the door, which is impossible to do unless enough water has entered the car to equalize the pressure from outside. Rolling down a window is also impossible because of the water pressure. The pressure would keep the power windows from rolling down, and you would need over three hundred pounds of pressure to roll down a crank window manually--more than enough force to strip the crank’s gears completely. You could, however, smash the windows, provided you had a heavy object and sufficient leverage. If you are strong enough, you might possibly force the window down by hand.

Figure 1. Kennedy's Oldsmobile immediately after retrieval.

If a window were open prior to driving into the water, one would have to wonder why both Kennedy and Kopechne didn’t simply swim out. Then again, one would also have to wonder about the smashed windows. Perhaps the car’s frame was damaged upon impact with the water, thus shattering the windows. Problem is, the car was damaged on three sides. That’s something very difficult to explain, since hitting the water could damage only two sides at most. That implies that the car had been sideswiped earlier. Furthermore, if true, one could surmise that others were standing by when the car went in for the purpose of rescuing the driver. After all, it was difficult for the professional stuntman hired by Mythbusters to extricate himself from his vehicle knowing that he had help nearby. His vehicle was right side up too, which meant he faced no disorientation. Kennedy, however, was an amateur, who due to fatigue, panic and possible intoxication would most likely not have escaped. Thus, the easiest way to explain Kennedy’s survival is to place him outside of the car at the time of the accident.

The tire marks on the bridge measured approximately twelve feet (about 3.5 meters). If the car applied the brake, then it would have to have been traveling at almost an almost impossible speed down a winding dirt road, for it flew thirty-five feet (about 11 meters) away from the bridge before hitting the water. But if the car were gunned from a dead stop at the start of the bridge, it would leave similar tire tracks, and have a better chance to gain the necessary momentum to reach that distance.

Koepchne’s high blood alcohol level is at odds with witness statements, which indicated that she neither drank in general, nor on that night. Yet the puncture mark on the back of her neck observed by Dr. Mills might give us a clue to what happened. In doing the research for a screenplay, I had the opportunity to interview a number of operators. They indicated that it is possible to inject a high dosage of ethanol (drinking alcohol) into a person’s system in order to raise their blood alcohol level artificially. The problem is that you have to introduce a large amount, and then allow the body enough time to circulate the poison so that it’s evenly distributed. If the person dies before the alcohol has a chance to circulate, a pathologist might measure no alcohol at all, or a ridiculously high percentage, enough to cause death or coma. If done sloppily, the person injecting Kopechne might have unwittingly splattered a few drops of blood on her blouse—drops not seen initially because of the darkness of the area.

The need to allow the alcohol to circulate through Kopechne’s system explains another baffling aspect of the incident: the timing. If Kennedy left the party at 11:15 as witnesses said, and was apprehended shortly afterwards, this could well explain how Kennedy made it back to Edgartown with dry clothes and in plenty of time to complain to Russell Peachey about the loud party going on next door. It explains why Deputy Sheriff Christopher Look saw the car at 12:40. The putative conspirators needed a witness, and knew he would be coming off from work. The fact that he was a law enforcement officer might add more credibility to the scenario of how the car left the bridge. Waiting would also give Kopechne’s body sufficient time to circulate the alcohol. This could also explain why Look saw the backseat passenger slumped over.

President Richard Nixon’s hatred for Kennedy and his connection to Herbert Kalmbach also provide agency for this scenario. In the FBI’s official files on Chappaquiddick we can find a memo dated May 23, 1973 in which an informant identified James McCord and one Albert Patterson as two men who had tailed Kennedy all of 1969. The memo further states that the informant claimed Patterson was the alias of E. Howard Hunt. CIA contract agent McCord and CIA case officer Hunt would both play prominent roles in the Watergate scandal, the former as one of the burglars, the latter as the man who organized the operation with G. Gordon Liddy. Were they both tailing Kennedy, they would have been in the vicinity when the accident occurred. And White House counsel John Dean stated quite candidly to Nixon his concern that Kalmbach, stipulated as the man who had hired private investigator Tony Ulasewicz to investigate Chappaquiddick, might be tied to the whole affair. As also the treasurer of Nixon’s re-election team, Dean worried that investigators might connect the President to the Chappaquiddick incident, and maybe even investigate him in Kopechne’s death.

While all this proves nothing, these facts are more consistent with the ambush scenario than they are with the accident scenario taken as the official story--hence, its appeal to people like Cutler and Brussell.

Yet, if we fudge the circumstances a bit, the weight of the evidence tips slightly in favor of the accident scenario. If Kennedy left at 11:50 as opposed to 11:15, this would account for the timing, especially were he more intoxicated than he acknowledged and genuinely lost. Maybe he left with two different women, one of whom sat in the front seat. Maybe they argued, or talked, and the third passenger decided to leave after Kennedy drove recklessly away from Deputy Look. After swimming out of the car, he could have gone straight to Lawrence Cottage to summon the help of his friend Paul Markham, and his cousin Joseph Gargan, who dove in repeatedly to find Kopechne while someone else secretly spirited the Senator back to the Shiretown Inn in Edgartown. This would give Kennedy ample time to change into a dry set of clothes, provided he could sneak in unnoticed. Given his political aspirations, the timeline given in his statement to police might have served to minimize the damage to his career. Maybe he felt it important to concoct a story in which he heroically tried to rescue her—in addition to Markham and Gargan’s later attempts.

I feel that these two scenarios are the most likely. While it’s kinda frustrating not to have a definite answer, probing into Chappaquiddick allows us to dismiss at least one possible scenario. Bruce Roberts’ version of events cannot be true, either in its entirety or in large part. There is no evidence of phone calls that night, but plenty of phone calls the next morning. The Senator would most likely have charged all the calls on a credit card. It’s very unlikely that he would order a hit over a telephone, especially given his fear of potentially assassination-minded political enemies. It’s even more unlikely that Kopechne would accuse him of murder, and then get in a car alone with him. We also have to shake our head and chuckle at the image of Kennedy pulling off some incredible stunt to murder her. While Roberts says her nose was broken, I cannot find verification of that from either Dr. Mills or the attending mortician, who otherwise noted the puncture wound in the back of her neck, facial lacerations and bloodstains on her blouse.

So while Bruce Roberts might have gotten a lot of things right about Howard Hughes, he struck out on Chappaquiddick. That would seem to challenge the validity of the Gemstone file. The third major topic dealt with by Gemstone, the assassination of President John Kennedy, is also somewhat flawed. Yet it is still fascinating both for what it tries to assert and because of what it omits. Most important, what it says about the JFK assassination gives us some insight regarding the nature of the Gemstone File, and perhaps sheds light on why it exists in the first place.

Update 4/12/07--JohnB, the Official Scientist of The X-Spot, has done some calculations on the speed of the car as it went into the water given the information from police reports, John's further research into the specifics in the car, and our estimate of the bridge's dimensions in photographs. According to John's calculations, a car going a hair over 22 m.p.h. would achieve the distance of thirty-five feet from the water. This matches the police report of the incident which concluded that the car traveled a hair over 22 miles per hour. More important, the amount of force necessary to impel the car to the necessary speed from a dead stop over a distance of twelve feet would be so great as to make taking off at the start of the bridge "highly unlikely."

What this means is that the car had to have been driven continuously for some distance, and then braked. This totally eliminates Bruce Robert's scenario of Kennedy leaving the driver's seat, for someone had to apply the brake pedal up until the time the car went off the bridge. This also means that the car could not have taken off from the start of the bridge.

Furhermore, Cutler's contention that the car would have to have gone 40 m.p.h. in order to flip over is suspect. As John writes.

The "flipping" over was probably caused by the unequal relative grades since the car went off at an angle to the direction of the bridge. Also, if you notice one of the photos, one part of the edge where the tire path is is flattened, where the other is still intact...this could have contributed to the car twirling along its front-rear axis. As the car sailed through the air, it most certainly would have rotated about its center of gravity....the car probably wouldn't have flipped, unless it hit the water nose-down (this would happen if the CG was forward of the geometric center), thus causing the rear to push up over and back down.

Anyway, I don't think this would really influence the speed computation, unless when the car was in the process of flipping it caught the water...then all bets are off.

To see how John figured this out, click here (Adobe Acrobat required).

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Chappaquiddick: With a Vengeance

Kennedy had powerful enemies, who were involved with the Chappaquiddick accident. Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon’s personal attorney, and the treasurer of his re-election committee, hired a private investigator, twenty-year NYPD veteran Tony Ulasewicz, who arrived on the scene within hours posing as a reporter. Although Ulasewicz would play a prominent role in Watergate, his job here was simple: find dirt to dig on Kennedy.

Kalmbach’s investigation was well known to President Richard Nixon’s staff. More important, you get the feeling that they themselves saw the incident as a frame-up, even though they weren’t above using their special knowledge of the accident against the Senator. In an Oval Office conversation taped on March 13, 1973, Nixon, and chief White House Counsel John Dean discussed the following:
Nixon: If he [former FBI Assistant Director William C. Sullivan] would get [Ted] Kennedy into it too, I would be a little bit more pleased.

Dean: Let me tell you something that lurks at the bottom of this whole thing. If, in going after [Nixon dirty election tricks guru Donald] Segretti, they go after Kalmbach’s bank records, you will recall sometime back—perhaps you did not know about this—I apologize. That right after Chappaquiddick somebody was put there to start observing and within six hours he was there for every second of Chappaquiddick for a year, and for almost two years he worked for [Nixon staff assistant] Jack Caulfield.

Nixon: Oh, I have heard of Caulfield.

Dean: He worked for Caulfield when Caulfield worked for John, and then when I came over here I inherited Caulfield and this guy was still on this same thing. If they get to those bank records between the start of July of 1969 through June of 1971, they say what are these about? Who is this fellow up in New York that you paid? There comes Chappaquiddick with a vengeance. This guy is a twenty year detective on the New York City Police Department.

Nixon: In other words we—

Dean He is ready to disprove and show that—

Nixon: [unintelligible]

Dean: If they get to it—that is going to come out and this whole thing can turn around on that. If Kennedy knew the bear trap he was walking into--
This conversation shows that Nixon wanted the FBI to find additional Chappaquiddick mud to sling at Kennedy. But Dean warned him that doing so might also unearth the administration’s involvement with the incident through Kalmbach. That Dean worried about bank records from early-June is interesting, for the accident occurred later in the month. There wouldn’t be anything unusual in hiring Ulasewicz after the accident. Hiring Ulasewicz before Kopechne’s death, however, would take some major explaining. Perhaps Dean suspected that Kalmbach had a role in setting the bear trap Kennedy walked into. Because of Kalmbach’s known ties to Nixon, an attempt to manipulate Kennedy might ultimately backfire.

Then again, maybe Dean fretted that the money trail of Ulasewicz's investigation would ultimately lead to Nixon’s campaign. Whatever the case, Dean’s characterization of the Chappaquiddick incident is clear. If Nixon supporters had a top-notch investigator such as Ulasewicz on the case, you'd figure that they would know.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Chappaquiddick: Political Assassination

One train of thought describes the death of Mary Jo Kopechne as a “political assassination.” Since an assassination is, by definition, a politically motivated murder, the term seems somewhat redundant if applied to Kopechne. But if applied to Kennedy, one can see it more as an awkward metaphor.

R.B. Cutler, Mae Brussell, and others feel that the same forces that assassinated his two older brothers set Ted up to take the fall for Kopechne’s death. The alleged motive for the exploit was to keep another Kennedy brother from becoming President of the United States, and continuing the liberal agenda of JFK, who himself had been labeled by some as a communist or a pinko.

Cutler and Brussell asserted that Kennedy and Kopechne left the party together, and were then stopped along the route by a second party (Cutler guessed by men posing as Secret Service). At that point, Ted and Mary Jo were separated. The abductors kept her in one car, and took him in another. They took Ted’s wallet to prove to attorneys Paul Markham and Joe Gargan that they indeed had the Senator under their control. After forcing the lawyers to dissuade Ted from running for President in 1972, the kidnappers took Kennedy by boat to Edgartown, and left him at the landing, where he began the walk back to the Shiretown Inn.

Meanwhile, the kidnappers drugged Kopechne by injecting ethanol (drinking alcohol) and perhaps another substance into the back of her neck. The clumsy shot left small bloodstains on her blouse. Because she didn’t drink, the alcohol alone might have been enough to knock her out.

A second woman took the front seat, while the driver positioned the car at the T-intersection of Chappaquiddick and Dike Road for Deputy Sheriff Christopher Look to see, and then took off toward the bridge. Driving at the reckless speed (because of the unlighted dirt road) of approximately forty miles per hour, the driver deliberately went into the water, where he and the second woman either escaped on their own, or with help from co-conspirators, who smashed in the windshield and three of the windows in order to aid their escape. Kopechne, disoriented and drifting in and out of consciousness because of the injection, could only claw helplessly at the floor mats and breathe the remaining air trapped in that part of the car.

According to this scenario, Kennedy agreed to do anything his former kidnappers told him to do. Even though no longer in their custody, they impressed upon him their intent to assassinate him later if he didn’t, in fact, withdraw from the 1972 race. At first thinking that he might have gotten out of danger, and maybe even thinking that he could figure a way out of the predicament, his hopes to continue his political climb were dashed when learning that Police Chief Arena and rescue diver Farrar found Kopechne’s corpse in his car. Her death served as a warning that the abductors would carry out their threat if he reneged on his promise. From that point on, Kennedy maintained that her death was an unfortunate accident, thus satisfying the kidnappers demand that he take responsibility for the incident--hang the albatross around his own neck, if you like--while denying culpability that would force him out of politics altogether.

Althugh this scenario sounds pretty wild, one has to keep in mind the tenor of the 1960s, as opposed to how things are now. Back then, assassinations under conspicuously suspicious circumstances had become rather commonplace. Senator Kennedy had lived through the assassination of his two remaining brothers, one the President of the United States. The other had a very good chance of becoming the President of the United States. In 1969, most people expected Ted to run for President, and he most likely saw the proposition as somewhat intimidating, for he could reasonably expect another assassination attempt.

And as wild as this scenario sounds, there is a sensibility to it in that it explains more of the stipulated facts than the other scenarios. Furthermore, there is some evidence to suggest this might have been the case.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Gemstone File: The Big Drink or the Big Drunk?

While many concede that Senator Edward Kennedy drank more heavily after his brother’s 1968 assassination, the question remains whether or not he was intoxicated at the time his car went off of Dike’s Bridge. According to witnesses, he consumed eight alcoholic beverages on July 18, 1969 over a period of roughly twelve hours. A tall, large-framed man as Kennedy would metabolize about one drink per hour. So, if the witnesses’ statements are correct, then Kennedy did not lie about being fit to drive. Even if he had two rum-and-Cokes at the Lawrence Cottage party, and even if the rum were 151 proof, then at the time of the accident, his blood alcohol level at most would have been .08, assuming that he slammed the drinks back-to-back thirty minutes or so before taking the keys from John Crimmins, his chauffeur. Currently, .08 is the legal driving limit throughout the United States. In 1969, however, the legal limit of most US states and commonwealths was between .10 and .12. So, even in the worst-case scenario, Kennedy would have been within the legal drinking limit.

True, Kennedy could have had substantially more to drink at the party than he and witnesses are willing to admit. The surviving partygoers, however, characterized the affair as more of a subdued barbeque, with very little wild behavior on anyone’s part. Since no one observed Kennedy obviously intoxicated at the party (if he were, we would have to wonder why Mary Jo Kopechne got into the car with him), and since Shiretown Inn employee Russell Peachey didn’t see him as obviously drunk at 2:25am July 19, and since he does not display any signs of hangover the next morning, we have absolutely no evidence that Kennedy was drunk at the time the incident occurred. Unless someone in the future gives us evidence to the contrary, manslaughter, due to drunk driving, is not very likely in this instance.

In the Gemstone File, Bruce Roberts asserted that Kennedy murdered Kopechne by gunning the engine, and then jumping out of the car before it went off the bridge. That’s a pretty wild scenario. One can hardly imagine Kennedy or any other amateur pulling off such a maneuver. Furthermore, two key pieces of evidence flatly contradict Roberts’ claim. First off, Kennedy would most likely have had lacerations, scrapes or bruises on his face, hands or limbs were that the case (you rarely leave moving vehicles without sustaining such injuries), but neither Peachy, Shiretown guests, nor Police Chief Arena saw any marks on him. Second, the tire marks on the bridge (see photo in previous post) prove that someone applied the brake pedal prior to the car going into the water. Kopechne could not have done this from the backseat. So if Kennedy gunned the engine, he went into the drink with her.

Roberts cites Kopechne’s knowledge of an alleged Mafia hit on San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto as the motive behind Kennedy’s attempt to murder her (see previous post). Yet, there is no evidence that Kennedy called Alioto, future-Senator John Tunney, or any Mafiosos on that night. On the other hand, we know that seventeen long-distance calls were charged to Kennedy’s credit card the following morning (in a future post, I’ll tell you how we know that). Then again, it strains our commonsense to believe that Kopechne, by all accounts an intelligent, level-headed woman, would hop into a car alone with a man she’s just accused of planning a murder.

I would speculate that Roberts, or someone close to him, saw two disparate events—the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, and the subsequent disappearance and derangement of Joan Tunney Wilkinson—and figured that they must have been connected because John Tunney, Joan’s brother, was an old friend of Senator Kennedy’s.

But that’s not the only murder scenario in this case. Someone has raised a fourth theory of what happened that night. In this story, Kopechne and Kennedy were both victims.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Oops, I Did It Again: Another Musical Mystery

Why am I even bothering with this damn dissertation? I want it to be over. My advisor’s constantly growling at me. “You made two whole typos in only 125 pages of text,” he thunders. “Don’t you proofread? The word ‘reflections’ is not spelled with an ‘X.’”

“And you haven’t included anything at all in the 21st Century chapter about Britney Spears. The committee and the readers will want to know what’s happening to her. You need to find out why she’s carrying on as she has been.”

Peeking through weary eyes, I wonder if I had heard him correctly. Tripping into lucidity, I realize that I have. When not harping on the most infinitesimal of mistakes, he always gives me one more thing to do. Lord knows I don’t want to open up a whole new can of worms if I don’t have to. But, of course, I have to.

On the way downstairs, I think about how time really does fly. It seems like only yesterday that Spears pranced around in her seductive Catholic school uniform, tantalizing a generation of young men with sexual promiscuity, and then keeping them at arm’s length like some cruel virgin. And now, here I am, trying to locate the jaded primadona.

I finally exit the campus. Standing kitty-corner from the Empire State building, I hear some foul language hurled at my direction, it’s pitch high and grating like a rake uncensored scraping the pavement. Typically, when I hear this kind of invective, I lash out blindly, hurling back my own acerbic thoughts, usually with attitude. But something tells me I might regret spewing invectives unless I can find the right snark.

My reserve pays off, for I recognize the venom spewer as Lt. Charles, a notorious fatty, with whom I share a covert history. I must have saved his keister a dozen times, but for some reason he still loves to harass me. Usually, I don’t say “Boo” to him, but this time I go over to say “Hi.” When I offer to shake his hand, he slips on the cuffs. “Let’s take a walk to the station,” he smirks.

“What’s the charge?” I ask. He doesn't respond, so I ask again. “You know, from my point of view—“

“I don’t give a rat’s patoot if your view’s from the back row, or if your view’s from the silent majority. Keep walkin’.”

When we get to the station, he shoves me into a holding cell next to Richard, a guy wearing a rooster outfit. That wouldn’t be so bad if the station’s Muzak system weren't broken. It's playing “The Theme from M*A*S*H” by Johnny Mandel, over and over again. By my count, the song repeats twenty-two times without incident. But on the twenty-third Mandlation, chicken Dick can't take it anymore. His screaming becomes the focus of everyone’s attention, mostly because it offers welcome relief from the song.

Charles hustles over to quiet him down, allowing me a chance to ask him one more time why he arrested me.

“I don’t know,” he replies. “What was you doin' when I busted you?”

“Looking for Britney Spears,” I answer. All that gets me is a raised eyebrow, so I explain, “My advisor wants me to find out why she’s been shaving her head, snorting cocaine—“

“What?” he roars. “Cocaine? Jesus H. Christ! Why didn’t you say so?”

He immediate lets me out. The Lieutenant happens to be a big Britney fan, and he wants me to stop her self-destructive behavior, even if I had to search every hill and dale to find her. “If she thinks she’s gonna pull an Anna Nicole on me, she can think again,” he declares. “It ain’t happenin’ on my watch.”

The detective takes me into his office where a buxom redhead waits impatiently at his desk. “X, meet the Mrs.,” he says by way of introduction. “Prana, this is X.”

I exchange pleasantries with the bad Lieutenant’s wife as we all take a seat to discuss the problem. He agrees to allow me the use of the department's top dog, a canine specially trained to track the scent of drug-addled celebrities, and slips me a Benjamin to forget the false arrest. With our business concluded, Lt. Charles rises. The hausfrau also rises. I say goodbye and leave.

Instead of taking me to the diva, the pooch leads me to a store that sells chicory and snacks. Actually, I've been to that store many times, enjoying the fragrance of the pretty blue flowers while enjoying a cup of tea and pondering the musings of David Amulet, or a catching up on a few ramblings from PDX Biker. Sometimes you can find me there dishing the dirt with my friends Roger, Rebecca, and Ray (or Rae--it's hard to tell Ray’s sex).

With nothing better to do, I go in to look around. I see no one at the counter, and only a single patron, a man dressed in royal blue robes and a crown. “Hello" I call in the direction of the counter, hoping someone in the backroom can hear me. After a look around and a couple of shout outs, I hear an almighty “Heidi!” from behind. Turning around, I see the bright magenta hair and glasses of my old friend Jeannie.

“Girl!” I cry, “I haven’t seen you since Spencer’s blast. How’ve you been?”

“Other than my guts turning to liquid every other Tuesday, I’m fine,” she replies, taking her position behind the counter. “Can I get you some coffee? A bottle of Sunny Delight, perhaps?”

“No thanks. Say, what’s with the guy in the robes?”

“He’s the ruler of Viv, a small European country I’d never heard of before. So, what brings you by?”

“I’m trying to track Britney Spears,” I explain. “But this damn dog led me here.”

“You know, da gal you should be talking to is—


“No, not Kira. She’s Wyrd. I’m talking about Rebecca. She knows Britney.”


“Yeah, and if you see her, tell her to come pick up her chest.”

“Her chest?”

“Yeah,” says Jeannie, pointing to a trunk in the back next to the Viviene king. “It’s taking up too much space.”

I notice that the dog has gone over to the chest. Scratching at it with his claws, he manages to raise the lid a little, letting me know that it's unlocked. I go over to open Becca’s bitchin’ box, and find what appears to be a journal of some kind. Before I can read it, however, a tall woman dressed in white spandex, mask and cape swoops in from nowhere to snatch it out of my hand.

Thinking quickly, Jeannie takes a roll of tinfoil that she normally uses to wrap buttered rolls and bagels. She swiftly wraps it around the stranger, who's soon covered from head to toe, and thus immobilized. I take the journal, and find, to my surprise, that it isn’t the foilwoman’s diary. It's Britney’s. On the front page, the diva has written a schedule for the week:

3/29/07: Check into rehab. Check out.
3/30/07: Check into rehab. Check out.
3/31/07: Check into rehab. Check out. Hanging with Paris later. Remember undies.
4/1/07: Cruise to Caribbean….
I now know where I can find Spears. Trusting the dog to Jeannie’s capable care, I take a cab to the piers on W. 47th Street. I had read in the paper earlier that a new ocean liner, the Lady of Luxury, was set to sail on her maiden’s voyage from Dock-T. Unfortunately, the cab gets stuck in traffic. By the time I arrive, the Lady Lux has already sailed off into the foam.

Dejected, I return to the chicory and snack place to retrieve the dog. My old friend, psychic pagan Suki Hoshi, walks in ahead of me. By some strange coincidence, the song “Hit Me Baby One More Time” blares on the stereo. Tired of all things Britney, I ask Jeannie to turn it off.

“Oh my,” says Suki, “are we into the melody censorship?”

“I just wish I could find some music to grow old to,” I sigh, before giving her the sordid details of that lost day.

She stares at me for a while, and I wonder what thoughts she might be masking behind blue eyes. “Here,” she says, handing me the day’s newspaper. “Read this.”

“’The worst of the lot,’” I read. “’You are shrewd in business and cannot be trusted. You shall achieve the pinnacle of success because of your lack of ethics. You are the perfect son-of-a bitch. Most people of your sign are murdered.’”

“You’re reading someone else’s horoscope,” snips the psychic. “That’s Scorpio. Read Aquarius.”

“’Yield to your own psychic ability, and you will find the answers to what’s been puzzling you.”

And then it all made sense. The coarse, belligerent behavior, the head shaving, the tattoos. Why didn’t I see this earlier? Britney Spears has been channeling the spirit of the recently deceased Popeye the Sailor.

Figure 1. Britney Spears during recent spinach intoxication incident.


Figure 2. Popeye receiving news of his impending death from his doctor.

I rush back to my advisor’s office to tell him what I had found. He simply shakes his head and laughs. “I don’t want this.”


“Tell me,” he says, “What’s the date?”

April 1st,” I groan, the twenty-five watt bulb finally lighting over my head. “This was all a joke, right?”


“My,” I growl. “Aren’t we being funny!!!”

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  • Alien Abductions
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  • The Paul-Is-Dead Rumor, Revisited
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