Rick Wilson: You Cheered as He Fucked Up. No Take Backs, Trumpists.
Thomas L. Friedman: Finding the Common Good
Eugene Robinson: How to Create Togetherness
Max Boot: Trump is Risking a Terrible Tragedy
Frank Rich: Trump Lies His Way Through a Pandemic
Peggy Noonan: We Need Time to Absorb All This
Paul Krugman: Republicans Add Insult to Illness
E. J. Dionne, Jr.: The Government That Works vs. the Man in the White House
Dana Milbank: The Bernie Sanders Spoiler Campaign Begins
Adam Gopnik: The Coronavirus and the Importance of Giving Science the Time It Needs
James Fallows: 2020 Time Capsule #8: ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’
David Brooks: Screw This Virus!
David Gergen: Three Keys to Biden’s Miraculous Comeback
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Propaganda Against Bernie
Charles Blow: Caronavirus Lessons
Carl Hiaasen: Bernie’s a Little Weird. So is Florida. But They Might Not Be a Good Match
Charlie Pierce: We’re Going to Need a Truth Commission Examining Trump’s Coronavirus Response
Jonathan Chait: The 5 Scariest Moments From Trump’s Coronavirus Briefing Today
Fareed Zakaria: Some Countries Have Been Successful in Combating the Coronavirus. The U.S. is Not One of Them.
George F. Will: You’re Not a Teetering Contraption
David Ignatius: Caronavirus is a Test of Our National Character
Nicholas Kristof: The Best and Worst Case on Caronavirus
Rainbows Behind the Virus Crisis
John Underhill: 3 Whistleblowers
Here we are at the end of a decade and sometimes that means the end of an era. The 80’s ended with a thud and we’ll see if the 10’s live to be remembered as the decade in which we all finally lost our minds and with this in mind, let’s now affix our tin foil hats and review some of the many conspiracy theories that have swirled around since I was born. The greatest conspiracy theory of all time, the conspiracy by which all other conspiracies are measured is of course the Kennedy Assassination, our 35th President was murdered on November 22, 1963 by self-avowed Communist and former US Marine, Soviet-defector Lee Harvey Oswald and that case is still open. On New Year’s Day in 1979, the House Subcommittee on Assassinations released it’s shocking findings that, on the basis of the evidence available to the committee at the time, there was a 90% probability that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable, however, to identify any other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy. The earlier Warren Commission, formed by President Lyndon Johnson just after the trauma of the murder had subsided, had the initial effect of answering some of the most basic questions the American public had about the assassination that unfolded in front of our eyes in Dallas, the Warren report was at first accepted as the most definitive, exhaustive investigation of any crime in history.
The idea that the Warren report was a solid work product would change dramatically by the time I was born in 1966 but not until the Watergate hearings and the findings of the Church Committee ten years later would there be such an intensive, open investigation in a case of such national importance. Watergate is our second-greatest conspiracy theory of all time, established as fact by our most famous whistleblower of all time, none other than Woodward and Bernstein’s deep-background source ‘Deep Throat,’ the moniker for Mark Felt, then Deputy Director of the FBI. The whistleblower behind Watergate is not like the Federally-protected whistleblower at the center of the impeachment of Donald Trump. I know the name of the whistleblower in the Ukraine scandal (it’s a he, in fact I know the man’s full name and position in government because our president,* as well as a US Representative have outed him), but I refuse to participate in this ongoing crime of outing a Federally-protected whistleblower, however if you really want to know his name I point you to Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, easily one of the dumbest people to ever hold public office, before storming out of the House impeachment debate in a tizzy, acted out like a 10-year old child before blurting the name of the whistleblower on the floor of Congress.
Master blackmailer Richard Nixon knew the identity of Deep Throat as early as October 1972, just four months after the Watergate break-in when White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman told Nixon a source had identified Deputy Director Felt as the leaker and in the Nixon tapes you can hear the fear in their voices as they scheme to discredit him:
Haldeman: If we move on him, he’ll go out and unload everything. He knows everything that’s to be known in the FBI. He has access to absolutely everything.
Nixon: What would you do with Felt?
Haldeman: There’s all kind of devices. You let him know that you know. Then you transfer him to Ottumwa, Iowa.
Nixon: You know what I’d do with him, the bastard?
The tape goes inaudible for a couple seconds and after that Nixon says, “And that’s all I want to hear about it…” Knowing early on that Deep Throat was the #2 man in the FBI, Nixon chose to do nothing about it (in public), then Felt was pushed out of the FBI and then prosecuted for the crime of breaking and entering, wiretapping and denying the constitutional rights of the radical Weather Underground — the same crimes as with the Plumbers in Watergate. The so-called Plumbers (“We stop leaks”) were formed as a response to an earlier leak of the famous Pentagon Papers, where on that occasion Nixon had no qualms whatsoever about outing Daniel Ellsberg as the whistleblower at the Pentagon, again Nixon knew the identity of this particular whistleblower very early in the process, well before Neil Sheehan and the New York Times blew the story wide open, revealing the volumes of lies in support of America’s war in Southeast Asia and the flawed decisions that led to America’s longest war prior to Afghanistan.
Last month, the Washington Post released a similar Pentagon report, some called it the Pentagon Papers of the Afghanistan War, yet the enormity of the disaster that was the Vietnam War gave the original Pentagon Papers their lasting power and these recent revelations are already old news when compared to the original leak-of-all-leaks. The Washington Post‘s contributions to the release of the Pentagon Papers adds to the history and was dramatized in Stephen Spielberg’s excellent The Post (2017) detailing the (Hollywood-version) story behind Katharine Graham’s involvement with the release of the papers and the rise of executive editor Ben Bradlee to stardom, played by Tom Hanks in retelling the story of the publishing of US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s secret study. Whisleblower Daniel Ellsberg embodied all Nixon hated — Harvard educated, intellectual and liberal — with Nixon seething when he called his Attorney General John Mitchell about the dire situation on June 29, 1971:
President Nixon: Hello?
John Mitchell: Yes, Mr. President.
Nixon: John, the way I feel about this case is that, uh, first, in terms of discipline, Hoover is right; in terms of his decision he was wrong. Uh, you know what I mean, about not, not questioning Marx, because he of personal considerations. But in terms of our overall situation, he just cannot, and I really feel that you have to tell him this, he cannot, with my going at tomorrow to address the FBI graduation, uh, and also, uh, with the Ellsberg case being the issue, uh, he, he, he cannot take anything which causes dissension within the FBI ranks. It’s just, it’s just going to raise holy hell. They’ll say, “This-this cotchety, uh, crotchety old man, uh, did it again,” see. That’s my feeling about it.
Mitchell: Well, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it, Mr. President. I think this might be the last straw as far as he’s concerned.
Hoover was very close to the end of his term as the Director of the FBI, meaning he was about to die, this unprecedented lifetime-appointment as head of the FBI orchestrated by LBJ, Hoover knew that he would be vulnerable from the grave and was thinking hard about his successor, which was also then on the mind of Richard Nixon who strong-armed Hoover via his Attorney General. Nixon was a crook, one of our worst presidents ever, he was a corrupt, alcoholic and backwards-looking man filled with paranoia and fear, delighting in the misfortunes of his enemies, so many in fact that he had to keep a list of them all just to keep track, many more than even crazy Sheldon Cooper’s 61 names on his ‘mortal enemy’ list on the Big Bang Theory. Mitchell knew back then that going after the old man Hoover, however, still carried significant risks:
Mitchell: I, I would hope that he doesn’t blow his stack and leave the fold. I don’t believe he will.
Nixon: Well, if he does now, I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready to talk to him.
Mitchell: All right, sir.
Nixon: But, absolutely. But, uh, he just, he just, I just don’t, I just say that we’ve got to keep our eye on the main ball. The main ball is Ellsberg. We’ve gotta get this son of a bitch. And uh, and you know, I was talking to somebody over here yesterday, I mean one of our . . . the, uh, PR types, and they’re saying, “well, maybe we ought to drop the case if the Supreme Court doesn’t, uh, sustain and so forth.” And I said, “Hell, no. I mean you can’t do that. Uh, you can’t be in a position of having,” uh, as I said this morning, “we can’t be in a position of, uh, of-of ever, uh, allowing, it just because some guy is going to be martyr, uh, of allowing the fellow to get away with this kind of wholesale thievery, or otherwise it’s going to happen all over the government.” Don’t you agree?
Mitchell: Quite. I think that we’re just gonna to have to do this.
Nixon: That’s right.
Mitchell: Otherwise we lose all credibility.
Daniel Ellsberg faced 115 years in jail when he was arrested on January 3, 1973, charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, his life looked like it was over before it was discovered that the Plumbers, prior to the Watergate break-in, broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office looking for proof that he was crazy, only to find out that Ellsberg went to see a psychiatrist only because of the trauma caused in his childhood. It seems Ellsberg’s mother wanted him to be a concert pianist but he stopped playing the piano in 1946 after both his mother and sister were killed in an auto accident when his father fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car into an abutment, killing them. After that, Ellsberg moved on with his life and channeled his talent, entering Harvard University on a full scholarship graduating summa cum laude in economics in 1952. He studied at the University of Cambridge in England for a year, then returned to Cambridge, USA to attended Harvard Graduate School in 1954, after which he enlisted in the Marines and served as a platoon leader and company commander in the 2nd Marine Division. Discharged in 1957, he then returned to Harvard as a Junior Fellow for two years before taking a job at the Rand Corp. (satirized as the Bland Corp. in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Dr. Strangelove).
One of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon was his involvement in the break-in at Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, orchestrated by E. Howard Hunt and his cohort G. Gordon Liddy and it was this revelation — and Nixon’s response to it — that led conservative writer and Republican stalwart William F. Buckley to finally give up on Nixon. A CIA document on file from January 21, 1973 is a transcript of an episode of Buckley’s Firing Line PBS show broadcast at 10 pm on television station WETA in Washington DC and aired on PBS stations across the nation, and in another interesting episode of the iconic PBS show on May 5th, 1974, also featuring guest E. Howard Hunt (born Everette Howard Hunt Jr.) was also interesting to the CIA, who submitted yet another classified entry on Buckley’s long-running TV show, only revealed by the work of the House committee on assassinations, where the two old CIA men, Buckley and Hunt, acted out a highbrow version of Yale Fight Club; the conservative Cold Warriors were locked in a bloody verbal bout, both then humiliated by Hunt’s actions in the Watergate scandal, where Buckley drawled in his famous patrician accent in the show titled, The Blackmailing of a President, that Nixon called the Plumbers a bunch of ‘jackasses,’ then verbally clocks his CIA mentor and sparring-partner as fitting the description, especially after Hunt used the so-called ‘Family Jewels’ of the CIA as barter in order to save his own ass. At the beginning of the show, Buckley casually revealed to his audience the conflict of interest he had with that evening’s guest Hunt, telling the viewing audience that he was also the God-parent of three of Hunt’s children and executor of Dorothy Hunt, Howard Hunt’s wife’s will, who had perished in a plane accident just before. What Buckley had failed to mention in his conflict of interest statement to the audience back then was that E. Howard Hunt was also William F. Buckley’s CIA handler and worked with the TV host since 1951 during Buckley’s training in Mexico City. William F. Buckley finally fessed up to being a CIA asset in 2005 in a book and article that E. Howard Hunt was his closest friend and mentor in the agency.
E. Howard Hunt’s son, Saint John Hunt has written extensively and spoken out to anyone who will listen about his father’s involvement in the CIA, his association with Richard Nixon since Operation 40 (the anti-Castro assassination program) in March of 1960 and his father’s apparent involvement in the Kennedy Assassination. Mr. Hunt has been branded a lunatic and a huckster in public, yet in this radio interview to support sales of his book, Bond of Secrecy (2015) he sounded like a genuinely aggrieved son to me, still desperately searching for answers to questions that have had a direct and lasting impact on his life. He recounts in the book how Howard and Dorothy Hunt were more than just his parents — they were a team — both OSS and CIA operatives and he remembers with absolute clarity the days before his mother’s death. He says his mother was carrying around a pistol while talking in payphone booths with White House backchannel figures, she then arranging for more money for the Plumbers while getting royally stiffed along the way, before taking out a $250,000 life insurance policy the day before she died in a plane crash. Sounding like a bit like a lunatic, Saint John Hunt suggests that the CIA took down an entire airplane of innocent people just to assassinate one of them — his mom. The problem is, he makes an entirely reasonable case that it might have actually happened.
Saint John and his brother were at his father’s deathbed when he produced his famous ‘smoking gun’ confession implicating CIA bag men Frank Sturgis, William Harvey and Lucien Sarti (to conspiracy theorists known as the so-called ‘French assassin’). Regardless of the accuracy of Saint John Hunt’s conspiracy theories, it’s no longer a secret that some parts of the US intelligence sector are ‘institutionally insane’ as best as one could put it and anything good that was born out the fine work of the OSS during WWII and the early CIA went horribly, insanely wrong after the war. The men at the top of the CIA at the end of the decade of the ’50s were playing with democracy and writing their own rules (and printing their own money) as they went along, ‘walking between the raindrops’ in contravention of their delegated authority and it was President Kennedy who would become the new threat to that old world order. Over 100 cases of FBI and CIA operatives working in American media have been documented over the past 40 years, started domestically by Hoover and also by brothers John Foster and Allen Dulles internationally, Cord Meyer, Jr. joined the agency in 1951 working at the Office of Policy Coordination under former OSS man and fellow ‘sacred cow,’ Frank Wisner. In 1953, according to author Deborah Davis in her book Katharine the Great about the legendary Katharine Graham, famed publisher of the Washington Post, Meyer was the top operative in ‘Operation Mockingbird’ to secretly influence domestic media where Cord Meyer met and befriended another sacred cow at the CIA named James Jesus Angleton during the operation, who in 1954 became the CIA’s counter-intelligence chief. Meyer also headed the Covert Action Staff of the CIA’s Directorate of Plans in 1962.
The enclave of Jamaica Estates, where Donald Trump grew up, is in Queens and supports some of the highest property values in all of Long Island. Trump’s father Fred was a developer in Queens and Manhattan long before handing his business over to his youngest son Donald, the total genius, so that all worked out perfectly for everyone. The highest property value in Queens, however, is Forest Gardens in Forest Hills, one of the earliest sprawling developments outside the big city, Forest Hills sought to recreate an English countryside manor look that was a hit with the new millionaires then being minted on Wall Street. Laid out in 1905 by Cord Meyer, a lawyer from a wealthy family of sugar barons, he bought up a contiguous parcel of land (from some of the earliest farming families of New York) and developed what would become one of the most wealthy neighborhoods in America. Cord Meyer Development is still in business today, developing land in Queens and beyond and Donald Trump, for one, certainly knows everything about the Cord Meyer story in his home borough.
The senior Cord Meyer was a member of the Thaw family of New York, that most infamous name in New York society behind one of the most sensational murders of the 20th Century. His son, Cord Meyer, Jr. was thus rich and privileged and handed the keys to the powerful land development company, which he promptly handed right back in favor of a life in the US intelligence services, first in the OSS in WWII and then a contract agent with the CIA, a full company man by 1951, he wed socialite Mary Pinchot in 1952. Cord Meyer was traveling in some of the most powerful and consequential circles in the world in the 1950’s and yet it’s his association with his wife Mary that ended up putting him in the history books. After the tragedy of having to deal with the loss of their child, their son, run over and killed in a car accident while the boy was out playing, Cord Meyer Jr. and Mary Pinchot divorced in 1958 and that’s when Mary began her love affair with the Junior Senator from Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Of the many Kennedy mistresses, Mary Pinchot Meyer was the smartest, if not the most beautiful, having to contend with the likes of Marilyn Monroe she was, however, a uniquely gifted and intelligent woman who knew too much. Even though she may have been a talented and beautiful person, she was murdered less than a year after the president himself was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald.
The story of Mary Pinchot Meyer is a perfect nexus of wealth, power and sex in any conspiracy theory around today, colliding to create one hell of a story. Her death was a surprise to her son’s best friend and neighbor Peter Janney, who’s father was a CIA man himself. Peter had formed a tight bond with the grieving Mrs. Meyer after her son and his best friend at the time was tragically killed in a car accident. In Mr. Janney’s book Mary’s Mosaic (2013) he recounts how when away at school in 1964 when Mrs. Meyer was killed, (months earlier than Mr. Janney was told about it) she was jogging along her usual loop beside the C&O Canal in Washington when she was shot to death after a brief struggle and a cry for help. Her killing is an open case and Janney became, according to his own words, ‘obsessed’ with finding out more about the murder of his best friend’s mother. That led him to researcher Leo Demore and after many years of research (and Mr. Damore’s subsequent suicide), Mr. Janney concluded that the CIA was complicit in the Kennedy Assassination and that, remarkably, his own father was a participant in the murder and coverup, just as Saint John Hunt has concluded.
The only reason Peter Janney had any reason to believe that Mary Pinchot Meyer may have been killed by the CIA — instead of the mentally-impaired, 5’3″ African-American homeless drifter named Ray Crump who was charged with her murder and acquitted — is because of a weird incident in 1976 that played itself out in the pages of the infamous National Enquirer, where a troubled writer and former executive at the Washington Post, fired in 1969 for leveling ‘baseless’ accusations against publisher Katharine Graham and editor Ben Bradlee, writer James Truitt added another dash of mystery to the Kennedy conspiracy carousel, where the unimpeachable Benjamin Franklin Bradlee, Jr., hailing from one of the oldest families in America, the wealthy Crowninshields of Boston, attending the private Dexter School in Brookline (now called Dexter Southland) beginning life as a member of the ultra-wealthy and powerful so-called ‘Brahmin’ families of Boston, then going on to become the Post‘s most celebrated and respected executive editor, where Jason Robards masterful turn in All the President’s Men was the first Hollywood portrayal of Bradlee before Tom Hanks’ latest take.
Interestingly, the old story pitched in ’76 to the National Enquirer by that disgruntled and troubled writer turned out to be true. James Truitt in 1969 was a Vice President at the Washington Post organization after a long and successful career in the publishing business, fired before his wife divorced him and had him declared incapable of managing his own finances, after that he fled to Mexico to live in seclusion. When he finally ran out of money he contacted the Enquirer and sold his sensational story about Bradlee and James Angleton meeting at Mary Pinchot Meyer’s house just after her murder in 1964. Bradlee finally admitted the story was true before he died, however the truth behind the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer is one of the most confounding of all the conspiracy theories that have sprouted since November 22, 1963. Ben Bradlee happened to be the brother-in-law of Mary Pinchot Meyer and on the morning of her murder, as he was in the process of entering her home to collect her papers and diary along with his wife, Antoinette Pinchot Bradlee, he came across the Director of Plans for the CIA, James Jesus Angleton, in the process of breaking into the Meyer’s home — less than a day after she was murdered. Both Ben Bradlee and Mary Meyers herself knew Angleton as an associate and friend, however Bradlee later claimed that nothing was spoken between them at the scene and Angleton silently left. After reading Mary’s diary, complete with love letters to President Kennedy, Ben Bradlee maintained to his death that there was nothing newsworthy to report in his sister-in-law’s diary or among her papers and admitted to handing over her diary — part of his own family’s private property — to James Angleton and the CIA with the expressed understanding that it would be destroyed at a later date. Bradlee said that he did this because family loyalty trumped his civic duty to the public, however his heroics during Watergate seemed to erase any of this bad news ‘gossip.’
These conspiracy theories are fueled by some ugly truths behind them, otherwise they would have died long ago, as today no one talks of the Surratt conspiracy but only of John Wilkes Booth in the murder of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. There are so many unanswered questions about the Kennedy Assassination that even since Watergate has been accepted as an incontrovertible fact, some of the most basic problems with Oswald as a lone assassin have never been fully answered, with Watergate being a test-case for any conspiracy theorist to imagine what would’ve happened if Nixon had actually been able to pull it all off. Let me tell you, Woodward and Bernstein would today be considered tin foil hat wearing whack jobs because the truth behind their reporting would have been quashed by the CIA and the FBI, as they had done so many times before. I’ve surmised that the entire thing was a setup by the FBI, exasperated with Nixon’s antics who then arranged to have the Washington cops at the ready and waiting for the Plumbers after guard Frank Wills famously found the tape on the door. Why? Because that’s the way Hoover had always played it before. Mark Felt was perhaps just the media mouthpiece of the overall FBI sting into Nixon’s dirty tricks operation and the weirdness behind Watergate inexorably grew from the weirdness behind the Kennedy Assassination. The involvement of the FBI and the CIA in domestic spying and manipulation is a long and sordid chapter in American history, lately told where the idea that an educated, privileged elite in America having the control behind the levers of power in the US government isn’t news to me.
When I was young, my mother would chide me for complaining that we didn’t live like the rich folks up on Brattle Street, which was two blocks adjacent to the street I grew up, Lakeview Avenue in Cambridge. Brattle Street was nicknamed ‘Tory Row’ because it was where the wealthiest British Loyalists lived before the Revolutionary War and over 250 years later, it’s still where you’ll find some of the oldest, wealthiest families in America. Our family lived on the ‘lower end’ of Lakeview Avenue, crossing Huron Avenue to Fresh Pond, the neighborhood was a mix of working-class families, many owning so-called ‘triple deckers,’ and the Harvard students who rented apartments from them. Vassal Lane (named for a family of slaveowners and not the ‘vassals’ of yore) bordered the layout of one of the earliest neighborhoods in America and the larger town of ‘Newtowne’ would go on to be renamed the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts in homage to the ancient university town in Merry Old England. Harvard College would become our nation’s first institution of higher learning and in 1883 a prep school spinoff, founded by Harvard graduate student George Henry Browne called the Buckingham & Nichols School, would go on to become the prestigious Buckingham, Browne & Nichols school in 1949. Some of the most powerful, connected people in America have attended BB&N and one of them was none other than Nixon advisor Charles Colson, Boston lawyer and dirty tricks artist extraordinaire at the center of the Watergate scandal as the unofficial White House backchannel to the Plumbers.
Charles Colson would later tell Time Magazine, in an article published on July 8, 1974 titled Colson’s Weird Scenario, amid the chaos of the investigation and the intimidation by the Feds putting the screws on him after his participation in the Watergate break-in and coverup then becoming known through the release of the Nixon tapes, Colson intimated that E. Howard Hunt’s wife Dorothy had been murdered by the CIA. That crazy conspiracy theory, proffered by the dirty tricks artist as his ass was on the line as he was faced with the prospect of being sent to jail (before he would convert to evangelical Christianity and become an honest-to-God authority on ethics and morality before he died in 2012), Colson later backed down from the claim after he was released from prison, however when facing the prospect of decades behind bars in ’74, Colson claimed to his friend and associate that United Airlines flight 553 had been sabotaged and taken down in order to eliminate Dorothy Hunt. Nixon understood the power and usefulness of blackmail and the pervasive effect of the truth-based smear, as did E. Howard Hunt, such as when he forged an FBI document implicating the ‘Brothers Kennedy’ in the Diem assassination, where even though the information behind the smear was true, in this case the classified info given to Nixon by CIA director Richard Helms was used as his ‘sleight of tongue’ diversion from Nixon’s pressing him and the CIA for everything they had on the Kennedy Assassination, from the Nixon tapes in a conversation in the Oval Office with CIA Director Helms, Nixon furtively asked the CIA Director:
Nixon: “Who shot John? Is Eisenhower to blame? Is Johnson to blame? Is Kennedy to blame? It may become, not by me, a very vigorous issue but if it does, I need to know what is necessary to protect frankly the intelligence gathering and the Dirty Tricks Department and I will protect it. I have done more than my share of lying to protect you, and I believe it’s totally right to do it.
Helms dummied up good regarding Nixon’s query about the ‘vigorous issue’ and knew intuitively that Nixon really just wanted dirt on the Kennedy family more than anything else on earth, especially with the remaining brother Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts a front-runner for the ‘72 nomination (after his well-received turn on Buckley’s Firing Line, one week prior to Buckley’s first Hunt interview in 1971); all this following the conspiracy theory of Chappaquiddick and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne — which Hunt famously researched for the White House — leaving behind library cards, no less, in the National Archives giving Woodward and Bernstein one of their first big clues that the Watergate break-in was bigger than even they had imagined. Nixon told chief of staff H.R. Haldeman on June 23, 1972 that he needed to remind Helms of his fealty to the White House:
Nixon: We’ve protected Helms from a hell of a lot of things… [This] might lead to Cuba-related revelations that would harm the CIA. You open that scab and there’s a hell of a lot of things and we just feel that it would be very detrimental to have things go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves.
This is the sort of hanky-panky that was going on in Washington when I was a child, where I attended the John M. Tobin School down on Vassal Lane in Cambridge, where my mother would remind me occasionally that it wasn’t the Buckingham, Browne and Nichols where the fancy kids went to school. BB&N’s elementary school campus was nearby up on Sparks Street near the other fancy school in Cambridge, the Fayerweather School on Fayerweather Street where some of the other rich kids went to school. The Tobin School was public, unlike the expensive and private education offered at BB&N and Fayerweather and in 1971, I remember walking from the old Russell School on Lexington Street, bagging up our pencils and pads our entire kindergarten class walked in a straight line to the newly-built (on top of a toxic waste site) behemoth of a public elementary school, designed in 1970’s minimalist splendor out of (cheap) cast concrete, by the time I was in 5th grade and ‘Linda Lovelace for President’ (the original Deep Throat) was spray-painted on the playground wall, the school looked like shit yet I also have many fond memories of great teachers and friends; however I also remember that a few Cambridge high school students unlucky enough to have to look happy in a visit to our 8th grade class, sent there in order to calm us after a Cambridge high school student named Anthony Colosimo was killed in a racially-tinged knife murder on the high school grounds in 1980, during school hours. Court-ordered busing in Boston, that liberal yearning to do good in the face of evil, was a painful reality of my childhood.
So too were some of my earliest memories of violence, when my mother, while shopping the Square (I wrote a bit about this in the Square, Circled) came upon a violent Vietnam War protest while I was still swingin’ in the stroller. I have a vague recollection of the summer of 1968, looking up from my vantage point at the commotion above and I remember especially the look of fear on my mother’s face. She would remind me later about the incident and if you can have a memory at 2-years old, I saw some of that chaos and smoke-laden hatred and violence of the 60’s, unaware about anything regarding war and peace. It seemed to me then as now that the quality of life enjoyed by those who have a lot of money was infinitely better than those who have very little, and yet we’re all born into our relative situations in life, come what may. My mother taught me quick to get over any resentment about being working-class and to get on with my life, not that some of that resentment hasn’t been bottled-up here and there, but like Daniel Ellsberg, a psychiatrist once gave me powerful tools to remain positive and not-so-blamey and I recommend these professionals to anyone who needs a little help in getting through life. I still do wish, occasionally, that I could’ve been born on Brattle Street, gone to Buckingham Browne & Nichols and Harvard and then retired in comfort to my boat and summer home on Nantucket, but then I wouldn’t be who I am.
We’re almost done with our cavalcade of conspiracy theories with the story of Dorothy Kilgallen, as with Garrison’s star-witness David Ferrie, committed suicide by overdose but before that, Ms. Kilgallen was a successful TV panelist and dogged investigative reporter who believed early on that the Warren Commission report was a coverup after she managed to get a leaked copy of Jack Ruby’s testimony to the Warren Commission, which she then published in August, 1964 on the front pages of the Journal American, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other newspapers across the nation. Dorothy Kilgallen, along with investigative reporter and conspiracy theorist Mark Lane were two of the first investigative reporters to unearth new facts about the assassination that weren’t covered in the Warren Commission report and their work is credited by British philosopher Bertrand Russell in prompting him to write one of the first intellectual challenges to the Warren Commission report in the logician’s great plea for justice on September 6, 1964 in 16 Questions on the Assassination. Kilgallen’s suicide is another weird tale, with conspiracies within conspiracies in the wake of the murder of our president and anyone who says they don’t find the assassination a very uncomfortable subject to talk about, even over 50 years later, is lying through their teeth or simply willfully ignorant.
Speaking of uncomfortable truths, Ben Bradlee came from the elite world of wealth and privilege, before the Great Depression he grew up in a brownstone in Boston with waitstaff and servants at the ready, the family money passed down and protected through generations of Choates, Crowninshields, Cabots and Bradleys (as in the Governor of Massachusetts Bradley), Ben Bradlee’s close family included his great-uncle who started Vanity Fair magazine in association with former Georgetown University roommate Condé Montrose Nast. The byline under this meager blog is a pseudonym and the name John Underhill isn’t my real name and anyone who reads this blog (thank you, dear readers) knows that I’m no fan of Donald Trump and I’ve called him out in this culture mercilessly since before he was nominated. All this kvetching has engendered the ire of many Trump and Tulsi trolls, Bernie Brother bots and Russian Fancy Bears intent on hacking my website and email and generally making my life as miserable as possible. Little do they know that I could give them a rat’s ass because miserable is actually my sweet spot. Take for example the enterprising asshole who looked up my WHOIS internet registration and found out my real name and went so far as to set up a phony FaceBook page, (as if there’s anything but phony, manipulative pages on Zuck’s broken site), this particular ass-face I actually set up, he falling into my devious trap, revealing himself (it’s a dude, I’ll say that…) by creating this phony Facebook page with my earlier pseudonym Carlton, in honor of the greatest catcher in Red Sox history Carlton Fisk, thus revealing himself as the asshole that he most certainly is.
Another asshole hacker (this one extremely professional) sent me a Google document attachment in an email just before the election in 2016, tucked away in a message from a trusted friend on Gmail, which I (stupidly) opened only to have all of my contacts deleted, just after each one of them was sent the very same virus email, this time from ME. That attack seemed weird and coordinated and professional, so I contacted everyone in my list as possible to warn them of the virus before building a new contact list from scratch and moving on. Last year, in October when the lesbian porn site I was browsing (one can look, if not buy, no?) my girlfriend saw the entire sordid search history list displayed over all my devices on iCloud. Okay, that looked weird and awful but, a) I was PRIVATELY searching, believe you me and, b) have you ever really noticed how long, revealing and obsessive your web searches look when all listed out for everyone to see? After my girlfriend saw that, she was my ex-girlfriend. When your life is negatively affected because people hate you, even folks who hate you for damn good reasons, you can get all cowardly real quick. After all, I just want to have a decent life like everybody else and not get all conspiratorial all the time, but sometimes even paranoid people are followed.
There have been many violent attacks directed at ordinary Americans, many in some of the worst mass-casualty events in US history since Trump took office in 2017 and one very important reason that I use a pseudonym on this here blog is because I don’t want to be killed by a crazy person. Not that there’s more associated with MAGA-types than others, but it sure has been a crazy ride since 2016. On Twitter, pro trolls attack from so many different angles that it’s almost impossible to keep up, so after the Mueller Investigation, at a time the trolls were being paid time and a half, I had to spend hours and hours on Twitter just to defend against and ridicule my detractors, leaving little time to obsessively follow the Boston Red Sox, or what I would usually be doing with my time. Anyone threatening violence in any way on Twitter I block and move on, block and move on, but there seems to be a lot more crazy people lately than usual. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am an expert on crazy, and as a crazy expert (my credentials, as with the great Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks in their comedy routine in the 2000 Year Old Man: I put my hand on a rock and declared myself a psychiatrist in 2005) I know that it’s not the fault of crazy people that they are crazy. They just are. The crazy person could be a white nationalist or a Nazi wannabe or the mafia or a Russian team of assassins or whatever the crazy case may be, I seek to avoid violence at all costs and as Woody Allen joked, keep the blood on the inside of my skin. I also like having all my appendages (most of ‘em, at least!) and until I’m drooling in the corner over by the window at the home for the aged, I hope to keep what’s left of my steel-trap memory, crackling synapse-responses and razor-sharp motor skills going strong for as long as possible.
So even though I would prefer to remain anonymous, I choose now to reveal the name of this particular whisleblower — me — however, all I’m really good at is blowing actual whistles, anyhow, so it’s not all that earth-shattering news that my real name is Carl Leonard Holt of Cambridge, Massachusetts, but today I live full-time on the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard. My mother was of French and English stock, same as my father and namesake Carl Holt. I’m not a Jr. because my dad’s middle name was William and mine is Leonard, named after my grandfather Leonard Holt born in 1903 in Holt, Florida. Now I hesitate to detail my ancestry any further because it’s a natural, physical human reaction (similar to knee jerking when hit with the doctor’s hammer) to roll one’s eyes when anyone in the room says, “My family goes back to the Mayflower.” Oh yeah? Pass the salt, unconsciously rolling eyes, thinking “what an asshole,” while saying “That’s very interesting!” I could bore you to tears with a graphical (user-friendly) interface of my family tree, but suffice it to say all four lines of my family go back to before we were a country. I reveal this because if a hacker wants to steal my identity, they might as well make me look good before I catch their ass because I actually enjoy research. Just call me crazy. If anyone would want to remind me of this, my Twitter handle is @CarlHolt.
I’m not an Underhill, however my pseudonym gives me some claim to the name and I’ve written about my namesake Captain John Underhill and the family that descended from one of the oldest and greatest families of New York, kept alive to this day by the members of the Underhill Society of America, founded by Underhill descendant and CEO of US Steel, Myron Charles Taylor in 1892. One of the many members of the family is the former Secretary of State and former Senator from Massachusetts, John Forbes Kerry, is an Underhill through his mother’s line. John Garrett Underhill, Jr. or ‘Gary’ Underhill took over the presidency of the Underhill Society of America in 1954 serving two terms at the helm, as did his father John Garrett Underhill, Sr. and both Underhills are buried in the historic Underhill Burying Ground on Long Island, New York. Before Gary Underhill committed suicide in 1964, he was a military-weapons expert and Cold War Soviet analyst who wrote for Time Magazine and he was also a public servant, as a nuclear weapons expert he served as New York City evacuation chief, yet was eventually removed by the Eisenhower administration when he criticized a simulated attack on the City in 1956. Gary Underhill was also CIA agent.
Just after Kennedy was killed, Underhill appeared out of nowhere at a close friend’s house on Long Island the morning after Kennedy was assassinated, disheveled and agitated after driving all night, he told his closest friends that he needed to flee the country to Mexico because he knew that Kennedy had been killed by the CIA and that he also knew some of the characters who were behind the coup d’etat. Convinced that he himself would become a target of the coup planners, Underhill went underground until Jim Garrison came upon his story while investigating the Clay Shaw case. After the House committee on assassinations report was released in 1979, some of this new information was used by director Oliver Stone in 1991’s brilliant film JFK, where Stone admitted later that the character of Colonel X, played so perfectly by the great Donald Sutherland in Stone’s movie-within-a-movie documentary sequence, was an amalgamation of the many intelligence sources that Garrison was in contact with during his deep investigation in New Orleans. Lt. Col. Fletcher Prouty is the most famous intelligence official mentioned as a possible witness, however Gary Underhill may have also been a Garrison source into the CIA’s knowledge about the assassination, prompting the CIA to identify Underhill and review his case file after Garrison told Playboy Magazine that a certain CIA source gave him background on the investigation into Clay Shaw’s anti-Castro CIA links (Operation 40). Less than a week after the CIA ran Underhill’s name, revealed only through the work of the HSCA, the CIA updated his records to reflect Underhill’s troubled past and suicide.
Donald Trump, when he was inaigurated in 2017 probably had more than a passing interest in the Kennedy assassination, after all, he insinuated that his opponent in the Republican nomination Ted Cruz’s father was one of the famous ‘tramps’ of Dealey Plaza and may also have been involved in the anti-Castro Cuban assassination programs approved by Nixon in 1960. Trump said in 2016 that research revealed in the National Enquirer “should be very repected” and in speaking to the American minority that believes that Oswald acted alone, estimated in recent polls at about 30% of the American population, one can imagine newly-elected President Trump, when he famously visited the CIA to honor fallen agents back in 2017, was also visiting Langley for another reason, perhaps along the lines of saying something to the outgoing CIA director John Brennan such as, “I’m the President of the United States and I want to know everything the CIA has on the Kennedy Assassination” and I can also imagine the former CIA chief giving Trump as much of the dummy routine that Helms gave Nixon back in 1971. Knowing what we know about Donald Trump today, one might imagine why he thinks he can get away with everything that he’s gotten away with since being sworn in as our duly elected leader.
January 1, 2020
*removing tin foil hat*