Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Other Watergate Scandal: The Key to Her Drawers

All right, all right. So I’ll draw ya’ a picture.

Figure 1. Floor plan of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters, Watergate Complex 1972, in relation to the Howard Johnson’s across the street. (Click to see the large version)

Study that plan, for a minute. Note the location of Ida Wells’ office, and R. Spencer Oliver’s office (both circled). Now, note the location of the switchboard. Now look at where Larry O’Brien’s office is situated (also circled).

Tony Ulasewicz, the retired twenty-year NYPD veteran detective turned private eye, cased the Democratic National Committee. According to Jack Caulfield, Ulasewicz visited the office in November of 1971, but Ulasewicz said that it was either in April or May of 1972. In either case, Ulasewicz’ visit came before the first break-in. Posing as a friend of an absent staff member, the former NYPD Detective, per his job and training, noted where the important offices were and their location.

James McCord’s assistant, Al Baldwin, also cased the complex on June 12th. Posing as Philip Bailey (the two men resembled each other), Baldwin presented himself to the receptionist, Clota Yesbeck. Confusing Baldwin with the man he claimed to be, Yesbeck knew that someone of that physical description named Phil Bailey had visited Wells “many times,” so she passed him through to her.

Obviously, these were critical steps. After all, if you’re going to break into someone’s office, and that office exists within a large complex, you’d better know who’s where.

James McCord, as noted in the preceding post, made the astonishing claim that he and the other burglars didn’t want to place a bug on Larry O’Brien’s phone because the Chairman’s door was locked, and to get in would thus have raised suspicion. Well hell, they’ve already jimmied the door to the outer office, and would do it two more times on the second attempt. How much more suspicion would he have raised by jimmying one more lock? Wouldn’t you think they would have thought of that possibility, being professionals and all? Then too, how much more noise would they have made inside the office itself?

In other words, the damage to the mission had already been done. So while there, it would make more sense to complete it than to do a half-assed job.

Let’s take a look at where McCord said he placed listening devices. He bugged the switchboard. Okay, I can understand how that might capture some of O’Brien’s telephone conversations. Then again, the Chairman’s calls might be overwhelmed by the traffic of a large office, leading to nothing except for such typical office minutiae as hair dressing appointments. The main problem with this explanation, however, was that the type of bugs McCord used transmitted on an FM frequency that required ‘line of sight’ monitoring. In other words, the bugs could only transmit to someone directly in front of them. Since the monitoring station is the Howard Johnson’s across the street, there’s no reason for McCord to bug the switchboard in the first place. They couldn’t receive whatever it picked up, so the conspirators would gain nothing. What’s worse, someone could have discovered the device, prompting the office to look for more.

Ida Wells’ office, on the other hand, has a perfect line of sight to the Howard Johnson’s, and that’s where McCord placed the other bug. In his statement, he gave the impression that it was near O’Brien’s office, and that it was easy enough to get to.

The above floor plan isn’t precisely to scale—I did the best I could to recreate it from the one displayed in Silent Coup, using a ruler, a calculator, and Photoshop—although it’s close. So it might not be apparent at first viewing, but Wells’ office was about a hundred feet from O’Brien’s. Furthermore, both offices are behind doors, with plenty of people in-between them.

Wells’ office had a door, unlike most of the secretaries, who worked in open areas, yet McCord didn’t think about the possibility of O’Brien’s door being locked. Since there were lots of secretaries in open areas, one would have to wonder why he simply didn't bug them instead. And one would expect that Wells would lock her door. After all, her co-workers talked behind her back about how she always locked her desk drawers. She told everyone she did this to keep people from stealing the mundane items in her desk, a problem no one else there seemed to have. If she were that protective of her Kleenexes, why wouldn’t she lock her outer door too?

One person Wells trusted was typist Barbara Kennedy, who occupied the office across the hall (see floor plan). Wells took off for a few days in early-June, so she gave a spare desk key to Kennedy, should someone ever need to use it--presumably because he or she had a massive allergy attack, and needed lots of tissues really, really bad.

The police who arrested the Watergate burglars would find Wells and Kennedy’s key quite interesting, for someone else had a duplicate of it. As Gettlin and Colodny wrote:

While under arrest with his hands against the wall, Martinez took a calculated and highly dangerous risk, one that could have cost him his life. He reached inside his coat pocket for something. When [listing police officer Carl] Shoffler saw Martinez do this, he immediately slammed and wrestled the Cuban until he was neutralized. ‘I almost had to break his arm off,’ Shoffler remembers. Shoffler searched him thoroughly to see what Martinez had been trying so desperately to get rid of: It was a small key, taped to the back of a notebook.
Figure 2. Martinez’s notebook and key, as photographed into evidence

The police discovered ten days later that the above key belonged to Wells’ desk drawer. Repeating G. Gordon Liddy’s quote from the previous post:

Mr. Magruder said, ‘Listen, Gordon, this is what I want. I want what Larry O’Brien has right here,’ and he struck his bottom desk drawer [Liddy repeats the gesture, thus emphasizing it], which is where we kept what we had on the Democrats.
Whoever really directed the Watergate break-in was hell-bent on getting into Wells’ drawer, where she allegedly kept the prostitution photograph catalogue. So, they took great pains to secure a key for that, and not O’Brien’s office, the ostensible target of the espionage.

Let’s backtrack a bit. Ulasewicz and Baldwin have cased the place, so they know the location of O’Brien’s office. Yet, McCord decides not to bug it, but Wells’ office instead. The nature of those particular listening devices wouldn’t have worked in O’Brien’s office in the first place. Yet, McCord, the professional, didn’t bother to get the right equipment, and compounded the error by putting one bug someplace where it was totally useless, and another where it would pick up primarily Wells and her activities.

Let’s assume that Ulasewicz screwed up, and mistook Oliver’s office for O’Brien’s, and in turn gave the burglars misinformation. After transcribing a half-month’s worth of hair appointments it should have become abundantly clear whose office that was. And if the eavesdroppers were complete and utter morons, then they still should have found out when Baldwin made his reconnaissance visit four days before the second break-in. In any case, whatever sat in Ida Wells’ bottom drawer wouldn’t have much to do with the DNC Chairman, as Magruder told Liddy. Yet they went to the trouble of copying Wells’ key. How they did this, no one has said.

Furthermore, bugging the office wouldn’t have gained much intelligence from O’Brien, for he rarely came there. He was in Miami during most of this time preparing for the 1972 Democratic National Convention. The conspirators could have easily have discovered this just by reading the newspapers. Some have more recently suggested that the burglars were trying to tap into the phones and office of the DNC Treasurer Robert Strauss. While most of CREEP would have had motive to do this--what better way of finding out how much money Howard Hughes had been giving the Democrats—you’ll note, from the floor plan that Strauss’ office is even further away from Wells’ desk than O’Brien’s.

What this strongly suggests, after taking into account what the conspirators said, and going through it step-by-step, is that the target of the Watergate burglars was never O’Brien. Sure, Nixon wanted to bug the Chairman (probably in more ways than one). H.R. Haldeman, Charles Colson, Jeb Stuart Magruder, John Mitchell, John Liddy and John Ehrlichman most likely intended to monitor O’Brien, just as most of them later claimed.

It’s also very possible that John Dean is telling the truth about not calling the shots of the break-in. He could also be telling the truth that his objective was O’Brien, the same as the other conspirators.

Yet, someone’s target was Ida Wells.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

The Other Watergate Scandal: In Their Own Words, Pt. II

We continue in our discussion of the official history of Watergate as outlined in the TV documentary Watergate.

Despite his vehemence and criminal conviction for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury, former US Attorney General John Mitchell denied approving the Gemstone operation that led to Watergate. Yet, Jeb Stuart Magruder had discussed the approval with Mitchell, who signed on under the rationale that the break-in would blow up in Hunt and Liddy’s faces, and permanently discredit the self-styled James Bonds in the eyes of the President. Furthermore, Mitchell’s confidante, ex-convict and former oil baron Fred LaRue, recalled objecting to Mitchell’s approval of the plan. A memo to H.R. Haldeman detailed the plot. As the President’s ear, Haldeman most likely told Nixon.

Once they had made up their minds to go ahead with the bugging operation, they let Hunt and Liddy know of its approval, and the designated operating budget of $250,000. As with the Ellsberg operation, they instructed Liddy to use only people who couldn’t be connected to the President. So, Hunt and Liddy recruited the same Cuban expatriates that they had used earlier in the Ellsberg break-in: Bernard Barker, Eugenio Martinez, Vergilio Gonzalez, and Frank A. Sturgis; all of them Bay of Pigs alums, and all of them at one time or another on the CIA’s payroll.

The problem for Liddy was that none of these men were wiretapping experts. He needed to find one, and fast. So, he decided to ignore Magruder’s instruction, and hired expert ELINT specialist, Lt. Col. James McCord. A reserve officer in the USAF and former FBI special agent before his stint with the CIA’s Directorate of Administration, which among other things oversees the security of Langley and other Agency field offices and outposts, McCord had recently left the Company in order to take a job with the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) as Chief Security Consultant.

They made the first break-in on May 28, 1972. Richard Nixon was in the Soviet Union negotiating the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) at the time. Hours after the US President addressed the Soviets on Russian television, the team of burglars made their way into the office. But as McCord noted, they immediately ran into a problem:

Once we got in, we found that Larry O’Brien’s door was locked—to his office that adjoined the reception area there. And so, there’d been so much time gone by, and frankly so much noise made in gaining entry that we just didn’t really want to proceed to jimmy or break another lock.
So, according to McCord, he placed a bug on a secretary switchboard and phone “nearby” O’Brien’s office. (I stress the word, “nearby,” for it is critical to the believability of the alternative conspiracy theory, for reasons I’ll articulate later.)

They then set up a listening post at the Howard Johnson’s across the street. But the bugs recorded nothing but trivia. Shown transcriptions of what they had gathered, Liddy griped about them. In his words:

I was distressed by them. They had nothing of value. I’m getting hair-dressing appointments and things like that.
Added McCord:

What they wanted was, specifically, well, what’s Larry O’Brien up to, and what’s he doing, and what’s he saying. We were going to have to go back in again, and put in more devices, and make sure that we got what they were looking for.
So, Dean, through Magruder, ordered a second break-in scheduled to occur on June 16th, 1972.

At this point, the documentary goes back and forth with rapid fire cuts from one interview subject to another. Through this barrage, something utterly shocking emerges. Thus, here is a transcription of that portion of the broadcast, presented without comment.

G. Gordon Liddy:

Mr. Magruder said, ‘Listen, Gordon, this is what I want. I want what Larry O’Brien has right here,’ and he struck his bottom desk drawer [Liddy repeats the gesture, thus emphasizing it], which is where we kept what we had on the Democrats.
Jeb Stuart Magruder:

Well, I was telling Liddy, ‘Look, I want the real stuff, the information that’s important, not the stuff this stuff that you’ve gotten for us, that has no meaning whatsoever to the campaign.
G. Gordon Liddy:

[And he said], ‘I want everything photographed.’ And I said to myself, ‘My Lord! What was supposed to be now a quick five-minute in-and-out repair mission is now a multi-hour photo recon mission.’
Eugenio Martinez:

When they ask us to go for the second operation, they told me to get up—I don’t know—fifty roll [sic] of film. And multiply fifty from thirty-six [sic], and I said, 'Jesus Christ! These people want a lot of pictures.’
The Cubans met with Hunt and Liddy at the Watergate Hotel. McCord and his assistant, Al Baldwin, were stationed at the Howard Johnson’s, where they had set up a command post. They had planned to go in earlier, but one dedicated Democrat worked really late hours that Friday evening, delaying the burglars’ initial entrance until 12:45am of the 17th.

McCord went in first, leaving Baldwin with a walkie-talkie so that he could serve as a lookout from the HoJo’s. Picking the lock to the door, the ex FBI/CIA man secured the latch with a piece of black electrical tape so the others could come through. Once he taped the door, he went to get the Cubans. As before, McCord left ahead of them, but when he got back to the door of the DNC office, he found that someone had taken away his tape. So he picked the lock again, and taped it a second time for the others to creep in.

They weren’t too far into the operation when, from across the street, Baldwin saw a light come on in the reception area. Three unknown men, who later turned out to be plainclothes Washington police officers appeared. Frank Wills, a building security guard, had removed McCord’s tape the first time. When he saw it on the door a second time, he called the cops.

So in light of this, the comments made by Liddy, Magruder and Martinez were utterly shocking.

You found them shocking, right?

What do you mean you didn’t find them shocking? Do I have to draw you a picture?

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The Other Watergate Scandal: In Their Own Words

In 1994, an Emmy-winning documentary beautifully laid out the official conspiracy explanation of Watergate. Hosted by veteran newsman Daniel Schorr, the two-part miniseries, simply titled Watergate, took the unprecedented step of collecting interviews with all of the conspirators, who explained their actions during the unfolding events. Even though interviewed separately, they surprisingly (at least to me) seem to corroborate each other, thus portraying the caper as “a third-rate burglary” ineptly orchestrated by G. Gordon Liddy and authorized by Nixon himself.

Since I cannot layout the official story any better than Watergate, I’ll defer to its organization and review the material, telling the story more or less in the words of the perpetrators themselves, with additional commentary.

The President Wants Political Spies

Because of the leaks coming from the White House, and the determination to be a two-term president from the onset, Richard Nixon ordered his subordinates to form an internal intelligence apparatus. That the directive came from Nixon, everyone agrees. As John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s first Chief Counsel, and later Chief Domestic Advisor said:

The staff itself was not doing very much as a matter of individual initiative. They were carrying out Richard Nixon’s instructions day-to-day.
Nixon’s former White House Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, concurred that Nixon and he pressured their subordinates to form an internal espionage unit:

There was pressure from the White House, from me and from the President, to the committee, to get their campaign intelligence activity going.
Normally, when the President wanted dirt to dig up on his political rivals, he turned to former New York City Detective Jack Caulfield. When Caulfield wanted answers, he in turn sent his old friend and fellow former NYC Detective Tony Ulasewicz out into the field. While initially Caulfield acted as a go-between, Ulasewicz soon found himself answerable to just about the entire Nixon staff:

Who would gave me [sic] my assignments? They would come from anywhere around the throne, whether it was from Nixon himself, whether it was Haldeman, Ehrlichman. And it really didn’t matter to me. I didn’t care if Jehoshaphat was in charge. I did the job as I was asked to do.

The First Cloak-and-Dagger Mission

After trying to find dirt on Ted Kennedy in the Chappaquiddick affair, the Administration wanted the Caulfield-Ulasewicz team to prevent Daniel Ellsberg from leaking the Pentagon Papers. to the press. At the time, the Brookings Institute had them. After casing the place twice, and noting its formidable security, Ulasewicz suggested that they torch the building, and steal the papers in the confusion of flames and smoke. According to John Dean, Nixon’s second Chief Counsel, Ehrlichman had to be persuaded not to go through with the caper.

They then thought that if they couldn’t stop the publication of the Pentagon Papers, they could smear Ellsberg, in order to discredit him and the papers in front of a court and the public. If they couldn’t smear him, at least they could harass him to the point where he would smear himself. They hit upon the bright idea of breaking into his psychiatrist’s office, and examining his files to see if there were any way to use his private thoughts against him.

Thinking they needed someone more experienced in the ways of black ops, they hired former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, who recommended a partner in G Gordon Liddy. The CIA provided them with disguises, per Ehrlichman’s request. According to Ehrlichman:
I called General Cushman, who was Deputy Director of the CIA at the time, and asked him to extend courtesies to Hunt.
General Robert Cushman, Deputy Director of the CIA elaborated:
I was told by the White House, Mr. Ehrlichman, that a Mr. Howard Hunt had been hired on as a consultant to the White House, and that he’d be coming to see me and would appreciate it if I could give him a hand…And he needed some papers and a disguise to establish an alias.
Cushman complied. Ehrlichman approved the operation in a written memo by initialing it, and then writing underneath that the operation had his permission, but only if no one could trace it to the White House. That meant that neither Hunt nor Liddy could do the operation. Instead, they would have to hire someone. Hunt relied on a few of the expatriated Cubans he worked with during The Bay of Pigs Invasion, among them Eugenio Martinez and Bernard Barker.

When the team broke into Ellsberg’s office, they ramshackled the place, blowing any chance they had of going in and out unnoticed. What’s worse, they couldn’t find Ellsberg’s file. So the whole trip had been done for nothing.

At least the police didn’t trace the break-in to the White House. Neither Hunt, Liddy, nor any of the Cubans were caught. Instead, the authorities arrested, convicted and sentenced an innocent man, Elmer Davis, for the burglary.

The Other Gemstone File*

Coming up empty-handed against Ellsberg, the White House turned its attention to the Democrats. Of particular importance to Richard Nixon was Democratic National Committee Chairman Larry O’Brien. In a series of internal memos, Nixon’s seriousness in digging up dirt on O’Brien became apparent. The memos also give us the reason. Namely, O’Brien and Nixon shared the same political benefactor: Howard Hughes. In a memo to Haldeman, taken aboard Air Force One and dated January 14, 1971, Nixon wrote:
It would seem that the time is approaching when Lawrence O’Brien is held accountable for his retainer with Hughes.
Another memo surfaced reading in part:
The Attorney General discussed with John Dean the need to develop a political intelligence capability.
Dean would spearhead the plan to gain intelligence on O’Brien. He worked closely with Jeb Stuart Magruder, through whom both Liddy and Hunt got their marching orders. Liddy, ever-creative in creating James Bond scenarios full of kidnappings, intrigues and prostitutes, compiled a list of various scenarios under a single file called ‘Gemstone,’ with each potential operation represented by some precious stone. Liddy came up with so many capers that they ran out of precious stones, and by the end were codenaming various exploits COAL and BRICK.

But the fancy secret agent mumbo jumbo didn’t sit well with the Dean faction. As Magruder recalled:
So I said to Gordon, I said, ‘Why don’t you cut out all of this fluffy stuff that really isn’t what we’re looking for, and concentrate on the electronic surveillance.'
Liddy revised the Gemstone plan to bug and wiretap Larry O’Brien’s Watergate office, and presented it in a meeting with Mitchell, Dean and Magruder. Dean, noting the irony of plotting a crime in the Attorney General’s office, got up and left in disgust. Still, he and Magruder mulled over the plan, without giving it approval or disapproval.

Liddy and Hunt, two men of action, weren’t about to cool their heels waiting for a response from Dean, Magruder or Mitchell, so they went over their heads to Charles Colson, Special Assistant to the President. Colson cut off the two political spies before they had a chance to give him details of the plan, and said, “What you need is a decision, correct?” Colson then called Magruder and pressured him and Dean to take a course of action. As Magruder remembers it:
What Colson wanted me to do was to ‘Get off the stick,’ as he said, and get Liddy’s project to bug Larry’ O’Brien’s phone, and so on, off the ground, and get it funded.
Officially, that marked Dean and Magruder's acceptance of Liddy’s plans to break into the DNC suite at Watergate.

*Not to be confused with Bruce Roberts, Stephanie Caruana and Mae Brussell’s Gemstone file. This is something completely different that happens to have the same name.

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The Other Watergate Scandal: The Beautiful Mike Bravo

A couple of posts back, Ray, of Ray’s X, commented, “Even though I know where the trail [of this series] will lead, I'm still interested in how it was uncovered.”

That’s an important point, one that would shed a good deal of light on the subject. You see, despite Dean’s vehement indignation against Colodny and Gettlin, this story had been published and alluded to before in several different sources. In 1984, Harper’s magazine editor Jim Hougan wrote Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat, and the CIA, which mentioned the call-girl ring and its connections to both the CIA and the White House. Hougan’s book differs from Silent Coup in several significant ways that I’ll discuss later. It nevertheless agreed that a call-girl ring actually operated in the offices of the Democratic National Committee (DMC).

Glimmers of the story appeared in print as far back as 1972. On April 6th of that year, FBI Special Agents raided the home and office of attorney Philip Bailey. Bailey’s sister, Jeannine, was alone in the office at the time. She signed a receipt for the seized items, among them two address books. At Bailey’s house, the Feds found a movie camera and projector, “more than a hundred photos of women,” and a rawhide whip. A month later, on June 9th, federal prosecutors indicted Bailey on twenty-two counts of violating the Mann Act. Mere hours afterward, reporter Mary Ann Kuhn of the Washington Daily News summarized what she had learned of the grand jury hearing for the paper’s late edition. At the same time, Washington Star reporters Winston Groom and Woody West picked up the story, which made the front page, under the headline “Capitol Hill Call-Girl Ring Uncovered”:

The FBI here has uncovered a high-priced call girl ring allegedly headed by a Washington attorney and staffed by secretaries and office workers from Capitol Hill and involving at least one White House secretary, sources said today.... high officials either on Capitol Hill or at the White House were involved in running the [call girl] ring, but they did indicate that a White House lawyer was a client. It was learned that a subpoena several weeks ago of a White House employee prompted a phone call from the White House aide Peter Flanigan to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

No one in the [US Attorney’s] office would acknowledge that such a phone call was made. But sources outside the office said Flanigan apparently called to find out if there was any chance of embarrassment to the Nixon Administration.
The proceedings of a grand jury are, by law, secret. So someone had to have leaked this information to the press. One potential source would be Flanigan, but he denied calling the US Attorney’s office, much less the press. Some hypothesized that the gossip leaked at the White House Press Room.

Dean suspected that the leaker might have been the prosecutor himself, John Rudy. So he phoned Rudy, who denied talking to the media. Changing tactics, Dean then told Rudy that he had called “on behalf of the President of the United States,” He then requested that the US Assistant Attorney come to his office with “all the documentary evidence identified with people involved in the [Bailey] investigation,” ostensibly to see who, at the White House, might have been involved, if anyone, and who might have spread the leak.

It’s not everyday a lowly Assistant US Attorney gets called to the White House. So the prospect of this being something very important to the administration really got Rudy’s attention. After discussing the matter with his superior, Criminal Division head Don Smith, Rudy got into the limo that Dean sent for him, and came with the two address books he had taken from Bailey’s law office.

When he arrived, Rudy presented the address books to Dean, who read them over. The White House Counsel asked to keep them. This raised somewhat of an alarm for Rudy, because the address books were evidence in a federal case, and their possession by an outside party would be grossly improper. Furthermore, as a lawyer, Dean should have known better than to request them. But understanding the need to find out the source of a potential leak, Rudy compromised and allowed a secretary to photocopy their contents.

Dean, naturally, remembers the incident differently. In a 2006 essay titled “The Authoritarian Streak in the Conservative Movement” he wrote that when 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace asked about Rudy’s visit, he replied:
I recall a couple of assistant United States attorneys coming to my office in connection with a newspaper story claiming that a lawyer, or a secretary, from the White House was allegedly connected with a call-girl ring. As I recall, we had trouble figuring out who, if anyone, at the White House was involved. But I never made a copy of an address book.
In weighing the claims in this he-said-she-said scenario, we have to consider the credibility of both Dean and Rudy. Usually, in a court of law, the words of an ex-convict would weigh less than those of a civil servant with a lifetime of outstanding public service. In this case, that point is exacerbated by Dean’s interest in maintaining the same story, with his semi-heroic role in it. Rudy, on the other hand, is a disinterested observer. Furthermore, Rudy’s account of the meeting is far more detailed than Dean’s--the former federal prosecutor even recalled that Dean wore a gray pinstriped suit that day. Of course, this was a big deal for Rudy, so he would be inclined to remember the details more clearly and for a longer period of time. And one couldn’t claim that Rudy had a political (or liberal) bias against Dean or the Nixon White House. After all, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida appointed Rudy State Attorney in 2000. I couldn’t really see Bush doing that if Rudy had a pronounced liberal bias.

I’m therefore more inclined to believe Rudy’s version of events. I think that it’s likely that Dean summoned him to the White House, and that Rudy didn’t just casually bop over on his own accord, as Dean characterizes. I would also tend to think that Dean asked Rudy to bring over the address books, and then asked to keep them.

The address books were critical, for one of them had initials next to the codenames. Part of Rudy’s job, on that case, consisted of trying to match those codenames with real women. He recalled seeing the nickname ‘Clout’ next to the initials MB, or Mike Bravo in the police phonetic alphabet.

Colodny and Gettlin, of course, believed that MB didn’t stand for the beautiful Mike Bravo, but rather the beautiful Maureen Biner (left). Dean’s actions during this time certainly seem consistent with this hypothesis. Bailey’s arrest occurred after the first Watergate break-in and before the second. The people directing the operation were E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy (two guys obviously in love with their middle names), who are under the marching orders of Jeb Stuart Magruder. Magruder, as John Mitchell’s assistant at CREEP, worked closely with John Dean.

Both Rev. Magruder and Dean have since indicated that Nixon himself actually called the shots when it came to Watergate. Why they both insisted that the chain of command ended with John Mitchell when supposedly cooperating with the authorities in 1974, neither explains.

What might clarify this issue a bit is to retrace the actual Watergate break-ins. If you look closely at the stipulated events and the admission of the conspirators, you’ll find that this alternative conspiracy theory has a lot more credibility than people give it.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Other Watergate Scandal: On the Hot Seat

Former White House Counsel John Dean couldn’t deny that he and his wife Maureen knew Heidi Rikan, who had passed away a year before in 1990. Rikan was a bridesmaid at their wedding, for one thing. And in her 1975 autobiography Mo: A Woman’s View of Watergate, Maureen Dean chronicled her relationship with Heidi before, during and after the Watergate scandal. She even included a photo of her in the book.

So instead of pretending not to have known Rikan, Dean denied to CBS reporter Mike Wallace that she had anything to do with prostitution.

Unfortunately, so little information has surfaced publicly about Rikan that one has difficulty proving the allegation that she made a living pimping high-priced call girls. Many sources mention her as such, yet we do not have such things as legal documents or any other paperwork to verify this. We only have the word of numerous witnesses, many of whom, like Phillip Bailey, have credibility issues. Thus, most researchers have only tentatively made the link. Although he stated that no evidence existed that proved Rikan was a madam, Nixon biographer Anthony Summers nevertheless wrote:

Before her death in 1990, Rikan said in a conversation with her maid that she had once been a call girl. Explaining that a call girl was 'a lady that meets men, and men pay them'---the maid had grown up in the country and knew nothing of big-city sins---she added, tantalizingly: 'I was a call girl at the White House.’
Dean responded immediately to the allegations. He called Tom McCormack, the CEO and chairman of St. Martin’s Press, the publisher of Silent Coup, and tried to get him to pull the book. McCormack went ahead with publication, despite Dean’s threatened lawsuit. Dean had better luck with other media. 60 Minutes pulled their proposed piece because they apparently didn’t have enough to go on. Dean also persuaded Time magazine Managing Editor Henry Muller, who supposedly shelled out $50,000 for the serial rights, to kill the story.

Dean also filed defamation suits against Len Colodny, St. Martin’s Press, and G. Gordon Liddy. He also encouraged Ida Wells to sue Liddy. By now, you know the result of Wells v. Liddy. The results in the other two cases were kind of a stalemate. St. Martin’s Press settled with Dean for an undisclosed sum. Despite Colodny’s insistence on a summary judgment, his insurance company, State Farm, offered both him and Dean money (from what I gather over $400,000 each) to end the suit in 1999. Colodny didn’t like the idea, but nevertheless accepted State Farm’s terms and agreed to allow Dean to withdraw his suit. In return, Dean agreed not sue him again. In 2001, a court declared a mistrial in Dean’s suit against Liddy, and subsequently dismissed the case.

All the legal wrangling, and the vehemence displayed by the parties involved, leaves us with the question of what is true. At this point, it seems like a he-said-she-said situation. While that might seem like a equal balance of arguments, the examination of other statements and evidence might very well give unequal weight to either him or her.

So maybe we should see who lines up behind the official conspiracy theory, and who lines up behind the alternative one. But first, it might be helpful to go into some of the details of this alternative conspiracy scenario.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Other Watergate Scandal: The Almighty Heidi

Edited for clarity 4/24/08.

As former White House counsel John Dean remembers it, a ringing telephone woke him up at 7:00am on May 6, 1991. He answered it thinking his wife, Maureen, at that time in Pennsylvania caring for his ailing mother, wanted to talk to him.

The caller was not his wife, but CBS reporter Mike Wallace. In his patented 60 Minutes voice, Wallace peppered Dean with a barrage of questions about his role in Watergate, the scandal that got him a one-to-four year prison sentence for obstruction of justice. Specifically, Wallace wanted Dean’s response to new allegations made against him in a new book destined to become a bestseller.

Although he hadn’t read it yet, Dean knew about Silent Coup: The Removal of a President by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin. After all, the authors spoke to him at least several times about Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, and about Dean’s own testimony in the Watergate hearings. But Wallace shocked Dean with the news that he was as much the subject of the book as Woodward. Even worse for Dean, the book alleged that at the time of the Watergate break-in, his wife was engaging in criminal activity with a family friend, and several people working at the Democratic National Committee, among them a secretary named Ida Wells. Furthermore, Wallace alleged, these activities lay at the very heart of the Watergate break-ins.

The major instigator of events, Phillip Bailey, started out in the 1960s as a DC-based attorney with connections to the likes of US. Representative Steny Hoyer and R. Spencer Oliver, one-time President of the Young Democrats. Despite the power behind him, Bailey’s practice primarily consisted of defending low-rent clients, many of them prostitutes. The court would have to appoint them free counsel, and this is where Bailey found his real niche.

Through his practice, Bailey eventually came into contact with a woman named Heidi (or Erika--sources conflict with respect to the woman’s actual name) Rikan. A German immigrant, she worked as an exotic dancer during the 1960s. By 1969, she had become the girlfriend of Joe Nesline, a casino builder linked by many sources to organized crime. He also allegedly owned, in part, a number of brothels in Germany and The Netherlands. According to Nesline’s business associate Walter Riggin, Heidi herself ran a call-girl service under the pseudonym Cathy Dieter from her apartment at the Columbia Plaza complex.

In the early-1970s, Bailey, who handled legal matters for Dieter/Rikan’s women, offered to help expand the business through his contacts at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, according to Gettlin and Colodny. As Rikan’s list of available girls grew, Bailey collected their names in an address book, which he kept in a safe place. He then assigned each of the women codenames. His sister, Jeannine, would take the address book and make a fresh list consisting only of pseudonyms. To this list, he added nude photos of the prostitutes to form a catalog. He then set up shop in the office of his old supporter R. Spencer Oliver, then the Chairman of the committee that oversaw Democratic State Chairmen. Bailey secured the explosive catalog in the desk of Oliver's secretary, Ida Wells.

One of the codenames that Jeannine Bailey distinctly remembered typing onto the list was “Clout,” a young widow she knew as Mo Biner. She specifically remembered the alias because it fit the woman. Biner’s clout not only stemmed from her close friendship to Rikan, her roommate and the madam in charge, but also because her boyfriend had connections to the White House.

In fact, Maureen Kane Biner, known to her friends as ‘Mo,’ did marry someone connected to President Nixon: namely his chief counsel John Dean—the same John Dean who at 7:00 on the morning of May 6, 1991 found himself answering a barrage of questions from Mike Wallace.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Other Watergate Scandal

George Gordon Battle Liddy (left), a former prosecutor and FBI Special Agent, isn’t someone you’d expect to find sympathy for on The X-Spot. Truth be told, I don’t have much sympathy or respect for the man at all.

I’m not the only one. Liddy’s colleagues at The Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) didn’t have that high a regard for him either. They hired him to head up their intelligence division, but then brushed him aside to allow White House Counsel John Dean to take over that position, thus relegating Liddy to the role of foot soldier. In later years, Dean, Jeb Stuart Magruder, Fred LaRue and other Watergate conspirators depicted him as a slightly unhinged and humorless individual who had to be watched every second like a child. They often give the example of an offhand comment somebody made to “eliminate” Washington journalist Jack Anderson. Not realizing that the speaker was joking, Liddy actually began to plan an assassination. To rub his nose in it, they often add, when telling this story, that when Anderson found out about Liddy’s murder plot against him, the columnist gleefully printed up tee shirts commemorating the aborted attempt.

To those on his side, Liddy was the nutcase who came up with one hare-brained plot after the other. From where I’m sitting, it’s easy to see him as incompetent and a bit of a buffoon After all, as a prosecutor in the 1960s, he couldn’t even convict Timothy Leary on drug charges, the legal equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.

Everyone agrees, pretty much, that Liddy has lived a good deal of his life in the dark. He himself has begun to admit that there were things he didn’t know at the time about Watergate, the scandal that turned him from law enforcer into convicted felon. With a good deal of anger, and some zeal, Liddy’s newfound enlightenment brought on another major problem: namely, a defamation suit.

That’s where I begin to sympathize with the man, if only a little.

The plaintiff of the suit, Ida Wells, alleged that on a series of celebrity cruises occurring in 1996 and 1997, on which Liddy was the celebrity in question, he had defamed her by accusing her of criminal conduct during his onboard lectures. He also repeated the allegation in an updated (1996) version of his autobiography, Will.

There are four ways to defend yourself against a defamation suit. First of all, you can prove that you’re telling the truth, what attorneys call ‘putting on an affirmative defense.’ The second way is to show that no matter what you said, the individual you ranted against can’t be identified by name, position, description, address or so forth. If those two don’t work, you can try to prove that despite what you said, the person didn’t suffer any harm from your statements.

Liddy’s attorneys opted for the fourth defense: absence of malice. The New York Times v. Sullivan, a 1964 Supreme Court decision, ruled that public figures had an additional burden to prove that even if incorrect, the information printed or spoken had to have “a reckless disregard for the truth.” This was meant to allow certain inaccuracies in journalistic pieces where, because of conflicting stories or honest misunderstandings, a few of the details got screwed up, but the overriding arc of the story might very well be true.

A jury found 7-2 in favor of Liddy, but the Fourth Circuit Appellate Court overturned the decision in 1999. A panel of three judges ruled that although Wells had a connection to the Watergate scandal, and that the scandal itself is well-known, that in and of itself did not make Wells a public figure, for she wasn’t an elected official, celebrity, star-athlete, city boss, or anything else that would qualify Liddy to claim her as such.

The case went back to court in 2001. Again, after a mistrial, Wells lost, this time by a vote of 9-0-- a total shutout--in July 2002.

The court stated that while Liddy’s primary source for the accusation had major credibility issues, the former Special Agent had appropriately researched and found corroborating evidence from independent sources, one of which was a book that received high critical praise. But most important, the court found, after reviewing the Watergate break-in, there was evidence that “Wells had been engaged in questionable activities.”

That’s an important statement, for it means that the court recognized that there was evidence for this alternative conspiracy theory surrounding Watergate.

So, that prompts a lot of questions. What did Liddy accuse Wells of doing? Why did he come to this opinion twenty years after Watergate entered the history books?

More important, who the hell is Ida Wells?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Watergate Scandal

For conspiracy theorists, the Watergate scandal offers a rare opportunity to understand how shady operations work. As one of the few conspiracies to be blown wide open-- thanks to the reportage of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, as well as by the subsequent confession, prosecution and conviction of the conspirators themselves--we can do a post-mortem on this chapter of American history, sussing out the plot’s objectives, personnel, and weaknesses. Thus, Watergate is more than just a conspiracy theory. It is part of history, a tale that children will read about in school from printed textbooks.

Those old enough to have watched the live television coverage of the congressional hearings probably recall a few of the details: the irrepressible Martha Mitchell spilling the beans of the plot to reporter Helen Thomas over the telephone, only to be kidnapped in mid-sentence from goons acting under the orders of her husband, then-Attorney General John Mitchell; the missing minutes of tape; Nixon’s futile attempt to exert “Executive Privilege;” John Dean’s “Cancer on the presidency” testimony, the naked influence peddling to big business, and so on.

If the details are cloudy to you, the general storyline probably isn’t. Nixon, worried about his 1972 re-election bid, started out by spying against his own administration. Suspecting that members of the staff had given sensitive information to the media, he formed a quiet group of operatives called “The Plumbers,” so named because of their expertise in plugging leaks. He then turned to his re-election committee (The Committee to Re-Elect the President, or CREEP) for help in gathering intelligence against his democratic rivals. Among its ranks such ex-CIA spies as James McCord and E. Howard Hunt, who had recently transferred from the Agency to the White House, CREEP decided (without Nixon’s knowledge) to bug the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. They broke-in the first time in the spring of 1972, and managed to plant their bug without too much of a problem. But the bug experienced technical difficulties, so they went back in on June 17th of that year to correct the problem. That’s when they got caught.

Aides told Nixon about the arrests of the CREEP burglars, and the President attempted to cover up the crime.  First of all, he got the Attorney General Richard Kleindienst to drag his feet on the investigation and release burglar James McCord.  Then he convinced his political friend and then Acting Director of the FBI L. Patrick Gray to stymie a couple of Special Agents who were getting dangerously close to the truth.  Lastly, he strong-armed CIA Director Richard Helms, eventually forcing the DCI to accept a lateral promotion to Afghanistan Ambassador the following year.

They say the cover up is always worse than the crime. The same “they” often cite Watergate as an example of this. But when you think about it, the cover-up is rarely, if ever, worse than the crime. I mean, if a man kills his wife and kids, and then buries their bodies in the backyard while concocting an alibi, what’s the arresting officer going to say when they finally get the goods on him? “Gee, sir, you killed your entire family. Now I can understand that, but then you tried to cover it up!”

In the case of Watergate, there were a lot of people covering up a lot of stuff. But maybe, just perhaps, they weren’t all covering up the same crime for the same reason.

In other words, there’s another conspiracy theory here. And it is indeed just as interesting as the official one.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pjazzy Tags Me for #300

This is the 300th post on The X-Spot. Wouldn't you know, our friend Pjazzypar has granted me the Thinking Blogger's Award. Since I originally thought this post might be an opportunity to salute all of you, and because the last time someone awarded me with this honor I simply awarded it to everybody here, I decided to kill two birds with one stone by citing you again.

Here’s why. When I first conceived of this back in February of 2006, I wanted feedback on some ideas kicking around in my head for the longest time. Mostly these things had to deal with the nature of politics, veracity, epistemology, semiotics, pop culture, hegemony, and all sorts of other stuff, but through the prism of inquiry colloquially known (and maligned) as conspiracy theory. I’ve really found something interesting about paranoid culture, and for years wanted to know if I could convey some of the complexities of it to a general audience. I also needed help in order to measure the potential understandability (or lack thereof) of certain ideas.

That’s where you come in. First off, your comments gave me insights, leads and perspectives. That’s important, for sometimes, with the often conflicting and circular nature of conspiracy information, it’s easy to reach an impasse. My advantage: I haven’t relied upon just my mind, but upon yours too.

We have here an interesting collection of skills and life experiences, and each of these have helped shaped my thoughts (and hopefully yours) over these past two years. For example, JeannieGrrl’s constant battles with Canadian health care have really rooted out weakness in a social system that has obvious strengths. Libby’s courage in “bouncing” back from not only a debilitating illness but from profound tragedy serves as a lesson in the resiliency of the human soul. By her friendship offline, and her perseverance, Cora has given me hope that a people fractured by their competing realities can find common ground in their humanity and commitment to love. Kate possesses a surprising depth to her thoughts and personality that reminds me to look below the surface, while Sunny Delight’s determination to adapt to the changing winds of life teaches us that growth doesn’t end with adulthood.

Some of you have taught me so much about worlds that are different than my own. As a scholar, I am very much an Americanist. But the universality of experience really comes through in our abilities to communicate. I’ve obviously learned a great deal about India and Indian culture from Sridhar’s blog and his IMs. But when we chat in real time, I never feel that we’re that distant until we compare the time of day. There are many times I can identify with him, not the least of which is when we share our adoration of bad gags. Lux has undergone ecological disasters (including a flood that killed one of her students), a bombing at her local shopping mall, and political instability in her home country since we’ve connected in Cyberia. Yet, she manages to find the beautiful in life, and in family and friends, and can keep her focus on sanity and happiness no matter what. Boo has recently spent the bulk of her time sharing her profound wisdom teaching flesh-and-bone meatspace students. But through her e-mails, she has managed to teach me a thing or two about the Far East. Meanwhile, NYD gives his readers an overview of what it’s like to be a Yank in Nippon.

As Racine used to say, for those who feel, life is a tragedy. For those who think, it’s a comedy. Some of you are really adept at pointing out life’s ironies, and when expressed, your observations turn into humor. I’ve not met anyone with a firmer grasp of absurdity than Dale. His observations into everyday life expertly illustrate how extraordinary the mundane really is--that is when you think about it. Rayke, who reminds me so much of myself at his age, pokes fun at what I used to fret about endlessly, and in so doing he often prompts me to stop taking my past and my present so seriously. Of course, he learned that lesson many years before I did. And Writer Procrastinator and OnMyWatch never fail to make me smile.

Our friend She is someone who not only understands whimsy, but can express it visually with the skill of a master artist. She can also relay it in either her own words or those of her alter ego, K9. Like She, CJ and Foam are two more obscenely talented people who can command both words and image with cleverness, and sometimes a bit of healthy sarcasm.

Then too, a good number of you possess skill sets and abilities that have added greatly to this site, IMHO. John’s knowledge of mathematics, physics and engineering have proved invaluable to this site by injecting much needed information and analysis. His contributions put some of these subjects into a sharper focus, and have led to some startling realizations. Enemy of the Republic's knowledge of classics, history, theology and literature have contributed greatly as well. Angie’s keen insights and raw intelligence have opened up new leads, new ways of thinking about old subjects. Kira and Jaded Primadonna’s academic backgrounds have often kept me grounded, while Roger and Enigma4Ever’s enthusiastic activism have checked my pessimism. Red Mantissa and Behind Blue Eyes brought their creativity, wisdom, and their backgrounds in the medical profession to these pages. Doc Alistair offered his hardcore professional understanding of psychology and therapy. Malcolm’s knowledge of pop culture made those sections of the blog quite exciting, especially when there’s a quiz in the air. Pjazzypar, on her site Traces of a Stream, exhibits a deep, erudite understanding of culture. Crushed by Ingsoc’s page presents an historic overview that shows his deep thinking on matters of power, while Eric, Charles and Benjibopper demonstrate the sensitivity and insight of the poets and writers they are.

Of course, Rinda and Betty are real pros when it comes to writing. Betty’s life experiences education offers a depth to her comments here, and I have referred to the information on her page, Sometimes a Sleeping Dragon, many times. Rinda’s short story exercises (which I meant to continue--honest) have shown me a thing or two about what goes into fiction. And her non-fiction contributions to our team site, 23rd Mandalation, have shown me even more.

Yinyang, the teenybopper with the formidable intellect, displays great wisdom for someone of any age, and demonstrates a remarkable ability for thinking deeply and clearly. The Notorious Fatty, the original wunderkind of The X-Spot, not only gave me much to think about with shrap astute commentary, but has now gifted us with something that will last for the remainder of this blog’s existence: namely, a gorgeous customized layout that will make its debut in the not-too-distant future.

We would have to give boucoup props (and thanks) to Gary, Adam and Ray for their enormous contributions to paranoid culture and research. Each has added his knowledge to these pages, and between the three of them account for the bulk of red colored font (used for correction) that you see here. Since I strive to be as accurate as I can, you can see how much their presence means to me. Ray's continued presence and understanding of many of these matters have been especially helpful. And Infinitesimal’s own conspiracy research and knowledge (not to mention her academic background in psychology) have been welcome additions to this page as well.

Of course, there are those I’ve lost contact with (they’ve taken their blogs private), those from whom I’ve drifted apart, those who have left blogging, and a couple who’ve simply left this mortal coil. They too gave me much to ponder. So the award goes equally to them.

In an earlier post, I wondered, “How did I become so blessed with all of you?” I’ve stopped wondering. As they say, never look gift horses in the mouth. I’m just thankful that you’ve all been here.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Am I Annoying You with These Answers?

These were really tough, and I worried that we wouldn't get any of these at all. But you did get some, and a number of you contributed. Not bad, really.

So here are the answers.

1. Tommy Chong, Shirley Jones, Don Knotts, Lindsay Lohan, Billy Dee Williams-- All were guest stars on That 70’s Show. Answered by Rayke.

2. Zora Neale Hurston, Lee Remick, Martha Stewart, Twyla Tharp, Suzanne Vega--All of these women attended Barnard College. Answered by no one.

3. William Blake, Princess Grace Kelly, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Tupac Shakur--All were rumored to have returned from the grave. Answered by Libby.

4. Bill Clinton, Heather DeLoach, Gérard Depardieu, Cass Elliot, John Madden--All were impersonated by Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live. Partially answered by Libby.

5. Fred Hampton, Henry McCarthy (alias William Bonney, or Billy the Kid), Freddie Prinze Sr., Secretariat, Nancy Spungen--All of these notables died before reaching 30 years of age. Answered by no one.

6. Bob Crane, Indira Gandhi, Meredith Hunter, Belle Starr, Malcolm X--All were murdered. Answered by Malcolm. Independently answered by Libby.

7. Benazir Bhutto, Yo-Yo Ma, Barack Obama, Mira Sorvino, Henry David Thoreau--All of them attended Harvard. Answered by no one.

8. Tatyana Ali, Cameron Diaz, Janet Jackson, Alyssa Milano, Britney Spears--All were romantically linked to Justin Timberlake. Answered by Rayke.

9. John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) Janet Jackson, Jim Jones, Shelley Long, Dan Quayle--They're all Hoosiers, people born in the US state of Indiana. Answered by no one.

10. Touraj J. Houshmandzadeh, Don Imus, Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rourke, Kurt Vonnegut--All of these men were named after their fathers, and are properly referred to as "Junior." Answered by no one.

11. Florida, Iowa, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia--In order, the US states with the most senior citizens. Answered by no one.

12. Jacques Chirac, Ann Coulter, Orrin Hatch, Laura Ingraham, Mike Tyson--Named by Keith Olbermann as one of the Worst Persons in the World. Partially answered by Libby and Foam.

13. Anne Archer, Sonny Bono, Gloria Gaynor, Aldous Huxley, Sharon Stone--Real or alleged Scientologists. Answered by no one.

14. Gillian Anderson, John Wayne Gacy, Bernie Mac, Jenny McCarthy, Emo Philips--If I were whimiscal, I could have added Enemy of the Republic to this list. All of these people are Chicagoans. Answered by no one.

15. Al Capone, Mark Foley, Mary Kay Letourneau, Ernst Röhm, Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard)--People accused and/or convicted of pedophilia. Partially answered by Libby.

16. China, India, United States, Indonesia, Brazil--In order, the world's most populous nations. Answered by SJ.

17. Anna Pierangeli (Pier Angeli), Kofi Annan, Jenna Bush, Jill Hennessy, Justin Timberlake--One of twin siblings. Answered by Malcolm.

18. Jane Cannary (Calamity Jane), Heidi Fleiss, Xaviera Hollander, Grace Lee Whitney, Aileen Wuornos--Women alleged to have worked as prostitutes. Answered by Dale.

19. William Gladstone, Hugh Grant, Maurice Ravel, Charlie Sheen, Darryl Strawberry--Men alleged to have hired prostitutes. Answered by Dale.

20. Costa Rica, Haiti, Iceland, Palau, Vatican City--Nations that have no military of their own. Answered by no one.

21. Noël Coward, Greta Garbo, Billie Holiday, Hattie McDaniel, Burgess Meredith--People romantically linked to actress Tallulah Bankhead. Answered by no one.

22. Humphrey Bogart, Miley Cyrus, Nina Hartley, Tracy Morrow (Ice-T), Barbara Walters--Lispers (or in their native tongue, "Lithperth"). Answered by no one.

23. Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), Margaret Mitchell, Frank Morgan, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Richard Strauss--People who died in 1949. Answered by no one.

24. Charles Boyer, Helen Kane, Walter Matthau, Leon Schlesinger, Orson Welles--People whose voices were impersonated as famous cartoon characters. Boyer's voice and persona were the inspirations behind Pepe Le Pew. Mae Questel impersonated Kane as Betty Boop. Dan Castellaneta based the character Homer Simpson on Matthau (when you listen to the early episodes you can really hear the similarity). Voice actor Maurice LaMarche impersonated Welles as Brain, of Pinky and the Brain.

Leon Schelsinger was the main producer of Warner Brothers cartoons during the 1930s and 1940s. Rumor had it that his disgruntled employees, who always referred to him as a daffy duck behind his back, based a character on him, complete with a pitch-perfect vocal impersonation by Mel Blanc. They never intended for the first seven-minute short to make it beyond a few office parties, for viewing while the boss was away. But Schlesinger saw it anyway, and summoned the animators responsible into his office. Expecting to be fired, the animators and talent wrote their resignation letters.

But Schlesinger told them that he loved the cartoon, and the new character, Daffy Duck. Still in the dark about the inspiration behind it, he said that he especially loved how Daffy sounded. "That voith!" he said, as employees did their best not to break out into laughter. "Where'd you get that funny voith?" Answered by no one.

25. Natalie Cole, Jeanne d’Arc (St. Joan of Arc), Tina Fey, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Helen Keller, Lisa Kudrow-- Left-handed women. Answered by no one.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Discriminative Stimuli: Am I Annoying You?

I just came back from Cincinnati on the worst trip I ever took in my life, courtesy of the worst company that ever existed. I won’t mention any names, but after a delay of over twenty-six hours, subjection to rude treatment and massive incompetence, and losing my luggage, I won’t ride them ever again.

We’ll be back underway shortly with yet another salacious conspiracy series. But before we do, I want to play another game of Discriminative Stimuli. Following this is a tag from our friend Pjazzypar. So have fun before we get serious again.

The Game

Below is a list of people, places and things. The object of this game is to figure out what each group has in common. For example, if presented with a group consisting of apples, oranges, and pears then your answer would be 'types of fruit.'

We’ve played this game before, but this time, we’ll do so with a particular theme. The questions and answers will come from Am I Annoying, a celebrity-focused website that allows readers to vote for whether or not various famous people, organizations, nations, historical figures, etc., are bothersome, based on the reader’s personal criteria. Their Collections pages, arguably their best feature, groups celebrities around such themes as “Death and Taxes” (people who died on April 15) and “I am a Born Again Christian” which lists a number of famous born-again Christians.

Of course, you could go on the site and get the answers yourselves, but I’ve always relied upon the honor code here, and will assume that you won’t do that. However, beware: the folks at Am I Annoying aren’t sticklers for accuracy, and some of the folks listed in various categories shouldn’t be there, but are included because of urban legends and rumors attributed to them.

So, good luck.

1. Tommy Chong, Shirley Jones, Don Knotts, Lindsay Lohan, Billy Dee Williams.

2. Zora Neale Hurston, Lee Remick, Martha Stewart, Twyla Tharp, Suzanne Vega.

3. William Blake, Princess Grace Kelly, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Tupac Shakur.

4. Bill Clinton, Heather DeLoach, Gérard Depardieu, Cass Elliot, John Madden.

5. Fred Hampton, Henry McCarthy (alias William Bonney, or Billy the Kid), Freddie Prinze Sr., Secretariat, Nancy Spungen.

6. Bob Crane, Indira Gandhi, Meredith Hunter, Belle Starr, Malcolm X.

7. Benazir Bhutto, Yo-Yo Ma, Barack Obama, Mira Sorvino, Henry David Thoreau.

8. Tatyana Ali, Cameron Diaz, Janet Jackson, Alyssa Milano, Britney Spears

9. John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) Janet Jackson, Jim Jones, Shelley Long, Dan Quayle.

10. Touraj J. Houshmandzadeh, Don Imus, Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rourke, Kurt Vonnegut.

11. Florida, Iowa, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia.

12. Jacques Chirac, Ann Coulter, Orrin Hatch, Laura Ingraham, Mike Tyson.

13. Anne Archer, Sonny Bono, Gloria Gaynor, Aldous Huxley, Sharon Stone

14. Gillian Anderson, John Wayne Gacy, Bernie Mac, Jenny McCarthy, Emo Philips.

15. Al Capone, Mark Foley, Mary Kay Letourneau, Ernst Röhm, Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard)

16. China, India, United States, Indonesia, Brazil.

17. Anna Pierangeli (Pier Angeli), Kofi Annan, Jenna Bush, Jill Hennessy, Justin Timberlake

18. Jane Cannary (Calamity Jane), Heidi Fleiss, Xaviera Hollander, Grace Lee Whitney, Aileen Wuornos.

19. William Gladstone, Hugh Grant, Maurice Ravel, Charlie Sheen, Darryl Strawberry

20. Costa Rica, Haiti, Iceland, Palau, Vatican City

21. Noël Coward, Greta Garbo, Billie Holiday, Hattie McDaniel, Burgess Meredith.

22. Humphrey Bogart, Miley Cyrus, Nina Hartley, Tracy Morrow (Ice-T), Barbara Walters.

23. Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), Margaret Mitchell, Frank Morgan, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Richard Strauss.

24. Charles Boyer, Helen Kane, Walter Matthau, Leon Schlesinger, Orson Welles

25. Natalie Cole, Jeanne d’Arc (St. Joan of Arc), Tina Fey, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Helen Keller, Lisa Kudrow.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Breaking News: Deceased Celebs Rally ‘Round favorite Candidates

The following is an item I picked up from the newspaper of Knottinhaur, KY, a suburb just ten miles south of Cincnnati. Knottinhaur Times reporter Jim Bunting has found that the dead are particularly concerned about the upcoming 2008 US presidential election.

LOS ANGELES--Over 200 deceased gliterati convened at Graumann Chinese Theatre last night after hours to discuss the 2008 presidential run. Former movie stars, politicians and athletes are here promoting their favorite candidates, as well as publicizing issues facing the dead.

‘We are continually denied suffrage,’ lamented feminist Susan B. Anthony. ‘Except for Texas and Chicago, our votes have been completely overlooked.”

‘Damn straight,’ added former SNCC activist Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael). ‘We got people in here who have the bullet, but not the ballot. But dig this: all y’all living folks can’t ignore us. You’ll be dead too, someday.’

The gathering featured a group diverse in its ideology and values. Charlton Heston, spokesperson for the Dead Activist Voting Experience’s Conservative Caucus (DAVE-CC), plans to vote for John McCain, telling fellow caucus members that the only way to stop him would be to pull the lever from his cold, dying hands.

‘Technically speaking, he’s not dead, Jim,’ said actor DeForest Kelley in reference to Heston. ‘But with his senility he’s sorta half here, and half where you are.'

‘Well,’ said actor Jimmy Stewart, ‘I do like a man with military experience as Commander-in-Chief. So you can count me in for McCain too.'

‘Far out, man,’ exclaimed Yippie co-founder Abbie Hoffman, as he showed Stewart a stopwatch. ‘It only took you nine-and-a-half minutes to say those two sentences.’

‘Well,’ Stewart replied, ‘old Hitch used to tell me to speed it up. I do my best.”

The DAVE Progressive Caucus (PC), headed jointly by President Theodore Roosevelt, activist Emma Goldman and former Black Panther Huey Newton, regretted the lack of choice among candidates. “We’ll probably just write-in Kucinich, like we’ve done the past few years,” sighed Goldman.

Roosevelt, representing the more Libertarian side of the PC, leaned more towards Ron Paul, while Newton preferred Cynthia McKinney. 'Society has marginalized the voting rights of the deceased, however, and it’s up to us to stay as united as we can. So this year, we say Dennis,' said Newton, to which Roosevelt replied, “Bully!”

Actress Jayne Mansfield sidled up to rock star Jimi Hendrix in an effort to persuade him to vote for Hilary Clinton. Mansfield's date, ex-Doors’ front man Jim Morrison, displayed no jealousy as he passed around pro-Clinton flyers.

'Don’t you love her madly?' enthused Morrison. 'She’s a 20th Century Fox. I’d bang her. I’ve never banged a President before.' Asked how he could consummate a physical relationship after death, he replied 'Who says I croaked?'

'Ooh, I just love that Barack Obama guy,' cooed Marilyn Monroe in her famous breathy voice--which is rather surprising, since the starlet hasn’t had breath for the last forty-five years. 'He reminds me so much of Jack: the charisma, the charm, the good looks,' she continued, before practicing the song 'Happy Birthday to You.'

'In my day, nobody would have thought a Negro could be President,' said Monroe after warming her vocal cords. 'But I think he’s the best in the bunch. Crazy, huh?'

Monroe’s statement drew snickers, which left her confused until Hendrix leaned over to whisper in her ear. 'What do you mean, you’re not called Negroes anymore?' she asked.

Mansfield took the opportunity of Monroe’s befuddlement to woo Hendrix to the Clinton cause. 'You never even met Marilyn in the living world,' she pleaded, ‘but you and I made music together. Don’t you remember?'

After several fruitless attempts, Hendrix told Mansfield he’d think about it later. He then took out a joint, which he shared with Monroe. As they lit up, Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey attempted to seduce Mansfield to the Republican side. But the buxom bombshell merely laughed at him.

The CC then opted for a different approach, backing Senator Clinton in an effort to kill off Senator Barack’s chances once and for all. LaVey showed great determination in forcing Monroe to go with his group. At first, Hendrix managed to fend off the CC surge by himself. But he weakened after awhile.

Fortunately for Hendrix, help would come from an unlikely source. Elvis Presley appeared out of nowhere, fried the entire Conservative Caucus in two feet of butter, and then gobbled them up.

'I ain’t political anymore,' explained the King, 'but, man, those fat-cats are good eats.'

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