David Talbot

David Talbot



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I have no regrets about launching Salon. For the life of me, I can't imagine doing anything else. I just came back from a media conference where Salon was the only Web company that was invited - by the Aspen Institute to this seminar that they convene every year for all major media CEOs, including Gerald Levin [of AOL Time Warner], who was kind enough to invite us this year, and Arthur Sulzberger Jr. of the New York Times. While I have respect for a number of those people who were at this conference, I can't imagine working really within any of those companies because their framework for what they do has become so narrow.

I think media has become so marketing-driven and so constricting for journalists. As I told them, one of the reasons why Salon and other websites have been so successful at attracting talent from their newsrooms despite how risky it is -- particularly nowadays to go to work for a dotcom -- is because journalists were just at the end of their ropes. They felt they were completely stifled creatively because newspapers and magazines and television had become so formulaic and marketing-driven. So, I just can't imagine not doing Salon.

Do I regret taking the company public? Yes and no. Yes, because it put us under enormous pressure for a young company to go public at that point in its history, something you never could have done in the old days. We would have had to be profitable, for one thing. It does subject you to enormous scrutiny on the part of your investors and the press. Everything you do is public, by law. And it's demoralizing, often to your staff to read every little thing about the company in the press. For all those reasons it's been difficult. On the other hand, we raised $25 million by going public. It's that money that we used to build this company, to build the circulation, to build a high profile and to hire staff that made Salon what it is today. I don't think we would still be here if we hadn't gone public.

When other new brands are launched, like USA Today by Gannett or Entertainment Weekly by Time Warner, or any new magazine title or TV program, they are given a certain amount of time to find their audience and to become a successful business. The rule of thumb in the print world is that it takes between five to 10 years for a new media brand to become established. Salon was on the verge of profitability in the December quarter before the recession hit, and we will get there again, whether it's at the end of this year or sometime early next year. It's just a matter of time. Even if it takes until next year, that's about six years after our founding that it will take for us to be profitable. We've certainly become successful in every other way, editorially I think, and with our audience building - our audience is 3 1/2 million readers a month. There are not that many new media brands you can say that about nowadays.

The kill rate in the magazine world and in most sectors of the media is very high. I'm proud Salon has been able to do it. We didn't have the backing of a huge, multinational media company. All we had was the venture capital that we were able to scrap together. It usually takes between $50-$60 million -- if not more. In the case of USA Today, God knows how much Gannett spent before it finally hit the break-even point. If I had one year back to do things over again, I probably would have done the year right after our IPO differently and had been a little more careful with the way we spent in trying to build the company. Other than that one year, Salon has been very cautious about the way it spends money. For instance, since last year, we've had virtually no marketing budget. It's just word of mouth. And our circulation continues to grow that way by breaking news stories.

The other challenge we had was to establish Salon in an entirely new medium. It wasn't like we were rolling out an Entertainment Weekly in print. We were rolling out a new brand in an entirely new medium that wasn't completely untested. There was no established business models. So we've had to learn as we've gone along. The whole challenge of trying to produce something for free and then finally trying to change the model as we've been doing the last couple of months by charging readers for a premium version of Salon.

The truth is that I read Slate and Salon, or anything else for that matter, except the dead-tree New York Times - too little these days to offer any intelligent criticism, because I'm so deeply immersed in the world of John F. Kennedy for my book. So, I only have vague judgments about Web journalism in general based on my fleeting contacts with it - overall I find it shrill and superficial, a function of the triumph of the blog. There is not enough truly original thinking or reporting, not enough substantive work that challenges conventional wisdom of the right or left. Journalism in general seems dispirited these days, ground down by the relentlessly, sublimely idiotic Bush administration and the media industry's own lack of imagination. If our profession had any real bite - on or offline - Hillary Clinton would have been forced to grow some courage by now on Iraq if she wanted to remain her party's front-runner for 2008. I guess I'm dispirited, too, by journalism and politics. I'm more excited these days by long-form storytelling. I'm reading a lot of books and going to the movies—those pre-Web forms that show a lot of creative life lately.

Every Nov. 22 we are haunted by the unquiet ghost of John F. Kennedy, and last week's anniversary of his assassination was no exception. As usual, none of the flurry of press reports taking note of the mournful occasion shed any new light on what remains the greatest unsolved mystery of the 20th century. The national dialogue about the case remains stuck where Oliver Stone's explosive 1991 film "JFK" and Gerald Posner's bestselling 1993 rebuttal, "Case Closed," left it. Stone's dark dream, peopled by sinister government officials and demons from the underworld, had the virtue of channeling the deepest fears of the American public, a consistent majority of which continues to believe JFK was the victim of a conspiracy. Posner's book, which mounted a game defense of the lone gunman theory in the face of a growing body of contrary evidence, had the virtue of simplicity and calming reassurance.

Though you wouldn't know it from following the media coverage, there have been new developments in the case during the past dozen years - many of them sparked by the thousands of once secret documents released by the government as a result of the furor around Stone's film. (Millions of other pages remain bottled up in agencies like the CIA, in defiance of the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Collection Act.) Some of this recently unearthed information is now beginning to appear in new books, including "Ultimate Sacrifice," this year's most highly touted JFK assassination book.

Written by two independent researchers who spent 17 years on the book - former science fiction graphic novelist Lamar Waldron and Air America radio host Thom Hartmann - the book arrives in a blaze of publicity about its provocative conclusions. Columnist Liz Smith excitedly announced that the book was the "last word" on the Kennedy mystery.

The "revelations" in "Ultimate Sacrifice" are indeed as "startling" as the book jacket promises. The authors contend that before he was killed, President Kennedy was conspiring with a high Cuban official to overthrow Fidel Castro on Dec. 1, 1963 - a coup that would have been quickly backed up by a U.S. military invasion of the island. The plot was discovered and infiltrated by the Mafia, which then took the opportunity to assassinate JFK, knowing federal law officials (including the president's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who was in charge of the Cuba operation) would be blocked from pursuing the guilty mobsters out of fear that the top-secret operation would be revealed.

While the authors' thesis is provocative, it is not convincing. The Kennedys undeniably regarded Castro as a major irritant and pursued a variety of schemes to remove him, but there is no compelling evidence that the coup/invasion plan was as imminent as the authors contend. By 1963, after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion and the heart-thumping nuclear brinksmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedys were in no mood for any high-stakes Cuba gambits that had the potential to come crashing down loudly around them. Before they entertained such a risky venture, they would have thrashed out the idea within a circle of their most trusted national security advisors -- a painful lesson they had learned from the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a closely held plot that JFK had been steamrolled into by his top two CIA officials, Allen Dulles and Richard Bissell.

But according to Waldron and Hartmann, though the exceedingly ambitious coup/invasion plan was supposedly just days away from being implemented when Kennedy was assassinated, key U.S. military officials like Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had still not been told about it. The idea that the Kennedys would seriously undertake such a risky operation without the participation of their defense secretary, a man they trusted and admired more than any other Cabinet member, defies reason. (For the record, McNamara himself has firmly rejected the notion that JFK was plotting a major Cuba intervention in late 1963, in an interview I conducted with him earlier this year for a book on the Kennedy brothers.)

The Kennedy administration was in the habit of churning out a blizzard of proposals for how to deal with the Castro problem, most of which the president never formally endorsed. It seems that Waldron and Hartmann have confused what were contingency plans for a coup in Cuba for the real deal. In fact, an exchange of government memos in early December 1963 between CIA director John McCone and State Department official U. Alexis Johnson that was released under the JFK Act - and apparently overlooked by the authors - specifically refers to the coup plot as a "contingency plan." On Dec. 6, 1963, Johnson wrote McCone, "For the past several months, an interagency staff effort has been devoted to developing a contingency plan for a coup in Cuba... The plan provides a conceptual basis for U.S. response to a Cuban military coup." The key words here are, of course, "contingency" and "conceptual basis" - neither of which suggests anything definite or fully authorized.

Waldron and Hartmann rely on two key sources for their theory about the coup plan (which they refer to as "C-Day," a code name they concede is entirely their own creation, adding to its chimerical quality) - former Secretary of State Dean Rusk and a Bay of Pigs veteran named Enrique "Harry" Ruiz-Williams, Robert Kennedy's closest friend and ally in the Cuban exile community, both of whom they interviewed before the two men's deaths. But, according to Rusk, he only learned of the coup plan after the Kennedy assassination from sources within the Johnson administration. And considering the legendary antipathy between Bobby Kennedy and Johnson loyalists like Rusk, who often portrayed the Kennedy brothers as fanatical on the subject of Castro, this testimony must be viewed with some skepticism.

Ruiz-Williams, on the other hand, was very friendly with Bobby, phoning him on a regular basis and joining the Kennedy family on ski trips. But his belief that a Kennedy-backed assault on the Castro regime was imminent might be a case of wishful thinking. While Bobby's romantic nature did open his heart to brave anti-Castro adventurers like Ruiz-Williams, RFK's hardheaded side always dominated when it came to protecting the interests of his older brother. And Bobby knew that as the 1964 election year loomed, his brother's main interest when it came to Cuba was keeping it off the front pages. That meant making sure the volatile Cuban exiles were as quiet and content as possible, which is why Bobby was working aggressively to encourage anti-Castro leaders to set up their operations in distant Central America bases, with the vague promise that the U.S. would support their efforts to return to Havana.

At the same time, the Kennedys were secretly pursuing a peace track with Castro, to the fury of the CIA officials and exile leaders who found out about it, seeing it as another blatant example of Kennedy double-dealing and appeasement. Waldron and Hartmann play down these back-channel negotiations with Castro, writing that they were failing to make progress. But the talks, which were spearheaded by a trusted Kennedy emissary at the U.N., William Attwood, were very much alive when JFK went to Dallas.

The authors further undermine their "C-Day" theory by refusing to name the high Cuban official who allegedly conspired with the Kennedy administration to overthrow Castro. They decided to withhold his name out of deference to national security laws, they write, a puzzling decision considering how long ago the Kennedy-Castro drama receded into the mists of history from the center stage of geopolitical confrontation. "We are confident that over time, the judgment of history will show that we made the right decision regarding the C-Day coup leader, and that we acted in accordance with National Security law." This flag-waving statement will surely win the hearts of anonymous bureaucrats in Langley, but it will only alienate inquisitive readers.

While bowing to "national security," Waldron and Thomas cannot help themselves from heavily implying who the Cuban coup leader was - none other than the charismatic icon of the Cuban revolution, Che Guevara, who by 1963 was chafing under Castro's heavy-handed reign and pro-Soviet tilt. If all the authors' winking and nodding about Che really is meant to point to him as the coup leader, this raises a whole other set of questions, not least of which is why the Kennedys would possibly regard the even more incendiary Guevara as a better option than Castro.

If C-Day is a stretch, the second part of the book's argument -- that the Mafia assassinated Kennedy with complete government immunity, using their inside knowledge of the top-secret plan to escape prosecution -- is even harder to swallow. Waldron and Hartmann portray a group of mobsters so brilliant and powerful they are able to manipulate national security agencies and frame one of their operatives, Lee Harvey Oswald; organize sophisticated assassination operations against JFK in three separate cities (including, finally, Dallas); and then orchestrate one of the most elaborate and foolproof coverups in history. Think of some awesome hybrid of Tony Soprano and Henry Kissinger.

It is true that Santo Trafficante, Carlos Marcello and Johnny Rosselli - the three mobsters whom the authors accuse of plotting JFK's demise - were cunning and cruel organized crime chieftains. And they hated the Kennedys for allegedly using their services and then cracking down on them. But even they lacked the ability to pull off a brazen regicide like this by themselves. And if they did, "national security concerns" might have been enough to stop investigators like Waldron and Hartmann, but never Bobby Kennedy, whose protective zeal toward his brother was legendary. All the attorney general would have had to do was explain the national security concerns in the judge's private chambers, and once the coup plan was safely under wraps, his prosecutors would have been free to take the gloves off and go after his brother's murderers.

We appreciate the serious coverage of "Ultimate Sacrifice" in Salon.com, but there are several assertions and omissions in the review written by David Talbot that we'd like to address.

"Ultimate Sacrifice" presents evidence from thousands of pages of declassified documents that John and Robert Kennedy planned to stage a coup against Castro on Dec. 1, 1963, and that the plan was infiltrated by three Mafia bosses (from the mob families that controlled Chicago, Tampa and Dallas). The Mafia chiefs then used parts of the coup plan, including some U.S. intelligence assets, in their plot to kill JFK - first trying in Chicago, then Tampa, and finally Dallas - in a way that forced a coverup to protect national security, and the coup plan. The documentary evidence is backed up by accounts from almost two dozen Kennedy associates involved in aspects of those events, and their aftermath.

The most glaring omission in Talbot's review was not addressing or even mentioning AMWORLD, the CIA's code name for their supporting role in the Kennedy coup plan in 1963. AMWORLD is a major focus of the book. "Ultimate Sacrifice" not only reveals this recently declassified operation for the first time, but documents that it was withheld from the Warren Commission and later congressional investigating committees.

AMWORLD, which began on June 28, 1963, was an integral part of the Kennedys' plan for a coup in Cuba and it's impossible to consider one without the other. Coup planning began in January 1963 as a slow-moving, bureaucratic exercise, and the plan was only in its fourth draft by June 1963. But that month, planning began in earnest after the real opportunity for a high-level coup arose. After the CIA created AMWORLD, millions of dollars began to be devoted to the coup plan. From that point forward, coup planning proceeded rapidly, demonstrating that it had become a live operation. By September 1963 the "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" was in its 13th draft, and the rapid pace accelerated further, continuing through November of 1963. (After JFK's death, the CIA kept the AMWORLD code name, but without the involvement of Robert Kennedy and other key figures, the plan changed radically.)

The most important of our five sources who actively worked on the coup plan was the Kennedys' top Cuban exile aide, Enrique "Harry" Ruiz-Williams (who asked us to always call him "Harry"). Talbot acknowledged in his review that Harry was close to RFK, but says that Harry's "belief that a Kennedy-backed assault on the Castro regime was imminent might be a case of wishful thinking." That's not what the evidence demonstrates. Harry's account - and that of the others - is backed up by many declassified coup plan and AMWORLD documents that talk about them and the operation. High-level AMWORLD documents from November 1963 say that "all US plans (were) being coordinated through" Harry and he had been "so named by Robert Kennedy."

By Nov. 22, 1963, millions of dollars had been spent on the coup plan, hundreds of Cuban-American troops had been trained, U.S. assets were going into Cuba, and everything was ready. As noted in the book, a long-overlooked Washington Post article confirms that Harry's work "had reached an important point" by November 22, when Harry "participated in the most crucial of a series of secret meetings with top-level CIA and government people about Cuba." Harry and other Kennedy associates told us he was going into Cuba the following day, to await the Dec. 1, 1963, coup - a date consistent with what we were told by others who worked with RFK on the coup plan and which is contained in an AMWORLD memo from JFK's CIA director.

Talbot seems skeptical of the coup plan because JFK's Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told him he didn't know about a "major Cuban intervention" in late 1963. Talbot also questions the credibility of Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who first told us about the coup plan in 1990. However, Talbot didn't mention that Rusk gave an on-the-record confirmation of the coup plan to Anthony Summers for Vanity Fair in 1994, three years before the first "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" documents were declassified. Rusk even explained to Summers why the Kennedys pursued the coup plan and secret peace negotiations with Castro at the same time, saying, "It was just an either/or situation. That went on frequently," though Rusk told Summers that in doing so, "the Kennedys 'were playing with fire.'"

As the book explains, we have only identified a dozen people so far who were fully informed about the coup plan prior to JFK's death, and McNamara wasn't one of them. Evidence indicates the only military figures who were fully informed include Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Maxwell Taylor, Defense Intelligence Agency chief Gen. Joseph Carroll, and Secretary of the Army Cyrus Vance. Rusk told us he only learned about the coup plan after JFK's death. Still, Rusk and his subordinates - and other officials - had helped to shape the coup plan while JFK was alive, having been told it was being developed in case the CIA found a powerful Cuban official willing to stage a coup against Castro. That's why Talbot was in error when he wrote we must "have confused what were contingency plans for a coup in Cuba for the real deal."

The coup plan was so serious that in the days and weeks before Dallas, Robert Kennedy had a secret committee making plans for dealing with the possible "assassination of American officials" if Castro found out and tried to retaliate. The same people working on those plans were also working on the coup plan and AMWORLD. While Talbot didn't mention those plans in his review, we did include a Nov. 12, 1963, document from that committee in our excerpt, which Salon was kind enough to run.

Our book cites documents totaling thousands of pages from the National Archives, which we encourage people to view for themselves. A reader of Talbot's review might get the impression that we pieced together our story of AMWORLD and the "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" from the documents released in the mid- to late 1990s, but that is not correct. Starting in 1990, we were told about the coup plan and the CIA by Dean Rusk and other Kennedy associates, long before any of the documents were released. We made public presentations about the coup plan and the CIA's role in it beginning in 1993, at historical conferences, on the History Channel, and in Vanity Fair, to draw attention to the documents that remained unreleased. When the coup plan documents finally started being declassified in 1997, they included the same people and phrases ("Plan for a Coup in Cuba") we'd been using for years.

Bryan Burrough’s laudatory review of Vincent Bugliosi’s book on the Kennedy assassination (May 20) is superficial and gratuitously insulting. “Conspiracy theorists” — blithe generalization — should according to Burroughs be “ridiculed, even shunned ... marginalized the way we’ve marginalized smokers.” Let’s see now. The following people to one degree or another suspected that President Kennedy was killed as the result of a conspiracy, and said so either publicly or privately: Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon; Attorney General Robert Kennedy; John Kennedy’s widow, Jackie; his special adviser dealing with Cuba at the United Nations, William Attwood; F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover (!); Senators Richard Russell (a Warren Commission member), and Richard Schweiker and Gary Hart (both of the Senate Intelligence Committee); seven of the eight congressmen on the House Assassinations Committee and its chief counsel, G. Robert Blakey; the Kennedy associates Joe Dolan, Fred Dutton, Richard Goodwin, Pete Hamill, Frank Mankiewicz, Larry O’Brien, Kenneth O’Donnell and Walter Sheridan; the Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman, who rode with the president in the limousine; the presidential physician, Dr. George Burkley; Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago; Frank Sinatra; and the “60 Minutes” producer Don Hewitt. All of the above, à la Burrough, were idiots.

Not so, of course. Most of them were close to the events and people concerned, and some had privileged access to evidence and intelligence that threw doubt on the “lone assassin” version. That doubt remains today. Bugliosi himself this year joined us, Don DeLillo, Gerald Posner, Robert Blakey and two dozen other writers on the assassination in signing an open letter that appeared in the March 15 issue of The New York Review of Books. The letter focused on a specific unresolved lead, the discovery that a highly regarded C.I.A. officer named George Joannides was in 1963 running an anti-Castro exile group that had a series of encounters with Oswald shortly before the assassination.

This is obviously pertinent, yet the C.I.A. hid the fact from four J.F.K. investigations. Since 1998, when the agency did reluctantly disclose the merest outline of what Joannides was up to, it has energetically stonewalled a Freedom of Information suit to obtain the details of its officer’s activities. Here we are in 2007, 15 years after Congress unanimously approved the J.F.K. Assassination Records Act mandating the “immediate” release of all assassination-related records, and the C.I.A. is claiming in federal court that it has the right not to do so.

And now your reviewer, Burrough, seems to lump together all those who question the official story as marginal fools. Burrough’s close-minded stance should be unacceptable to every historian and journalist worthy of the name — especially at a time when a federal agency is striving vigorously to suppress very relevant information.

On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, Robert F. Kennedy—J.F.K.'s younger brother, Attorney General and devoted watchman—was eating lunch at Hickory Hill, his Virginia home, when he got the news from Dallas. It was his archenemy, FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, of all people, who phoned to tell him. "The President's been shot," Hoover curtly said. Bobby later recalled, "I think he told me with pleasure."

For the rest of the day and night, Bobby Kennedy would wrestle with his howling grief while using whatever power was still left him to figure out what really happened in Dallas—before the new Administration settled firmly into place under the command of another political enemy, Lyndon Johnson. While the Attorney General's aides summoned federal Marshals to surround R.F.K.'s estate (they no longer trusted the Secret Service or the FBI)—uncertain of whether the President's brother would be the next target—Bobby feverishly gathered information. He worked the phones at Hickory Hill, talking to people who had been in the presidential motorcade; he conferred with a succession of government officials and aides while waiting for Air Force One to return with the body of his brother; he accompanied his brother's remains to the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he took steps to take control of medical evidence, including the President's brain; and he stayed coiled and awake in the White House until early the next morning. Lit up with the clarity of shock, the electricity of adrenaline, he constructed the outlines of the crime. Bobby Kennedy would become America's first J.F.K. assassination-conspiracy theorist.

The President's brother quickly concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin, had not acted alone. And Bobby immediately suspected the CIA's secret war on Fidel Castro as the source of the plot. At his home that Friday afternoon, Bobby confronted CIA Director John McCone, asking him point-blank whether the agency had killed J.F.K. (McCone denied it.) Later, R.F.K. ordered aides to explore a possible Mafia connection to the crime. And in a revealing phone conversation with Harry Ruiz-Williams, a trusted friend in the anti-Castro movement, Kennedy said bluntly, "One of your guys did it." Though the CIA and the FBI were already working strenuously to portray Oswald as a communist agent, Bobby Kennedy rejected this view. Instead, he concluded Oswald was a member of the shadowy operation that was seeking to overthrow Castro.

Bobby knew that a dark alliance—the CIA, the Mafia and militant Cuban exiles—had formed to assassinate Castro and force a regime change in Havana. That's because President Kennedy had given his brother the Cuban portfolio after the CIA's Bay of Pigs fiasco. But Bobby, who would begin some days by dropping by the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Va., on his way to the Justice Department, never managed to get fully in control of the agency's sprawling, covert war on Castro. Now, he suspected, this underground world—where J.F.K. was despised for betraying the anti-Castro cause—had spawned his brother's assassination.

As Kennedy slowly emerged from his torment over Dallas and resumed an active role in public life—running for U.S. Senator from New York in 1964 and then President in 1968—he secretly investigated his brother's assassination. He traveled to Mexico City, where he gathered information about Oswald's mysterious trip there before Dallas. He met with conspiracy researcher Penn Jones Jr., a crusading Texas newspaperman, in his Senate office. He returned to the Justice Department with his ace investigator Walter Sheridan to paw through old files. He dispatched trusted associates to New Orleans to report to him on prosecutor Jim Garrison's controversial reopening of the case. Kennedy told confidants that he himself would reopen the investigation into the assassination if he won the presidency, believing it would take the full powers of the office to do so. As Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once observed, no one of his era knew more than Bobby about "the underground streams through which so much of the actuality of American power darkly coursed: the FBI, CIA, the racketeering unions and the Mob." But when it came to his brother's murder, Bobby never got a chance to prove his case.

Finally, in this regard, I must comment on the book's treatment of JFK and Mary Meyer. I was quite surprised that, as with Sheridan, Talbot swallowed the whole apple on this one. As I have written, (The Assassinations pgs 338-345), any serious chronicler has to be just as careful with this episode as with Judith Exner -- and to his credit, Talbot managed to avoid that disinformation filled land mine. Before criticizing him on this, and before I get smeared by people like John Simkin, I want to make a public confession. I actually believed the Meyer nonsense at one time. In fact, to my everlasting chagrin, I discussed it -- Timothy Leary and all -- at a talk I did in San Francisco about a year after Oliver Stone's JFK came out. It wasn't until I began to examine who Leary was, who his associates were, and how he fit into the whole explosion of drugs into the USA in the sixties and seventies that I began to question who he was. In light of this, I then reexamined his Mary Meyer story, and later the whole legerdemain around this fanciful tale. Thankfully, Talbot does not go into the whole overwrought "mystery" about her death and her mythologized diary. But he eagerly buys into everything else. Yet to do this, one has to believe some rather unbelievable people. And you then have to ignore their credibility problems so your more curious readers won't ask any questions. For if they do the whole edifice starts to unravel.

Foremost among this motley crew is Leary. As I was the first to note, there is a big problem with his story about Meyer coming to him in 1962 for psychedelic drugs. Namely, he didn't write about it for 21 years previous --until 1983. He wrote about 25 books in the meantime. (Sort of like going through 25 FBI, Secret Service, and DPD interviews before you suddenly recall seeing Oswald on the sixth floor.) Yet it was not until he hooked up with the likes of Gordon Liddy that he suddenly recalled, with vivid memory, supplying Mary with LSD and her mentioning of her high official friend and commenting, "They couldn't control him any more. He was changing too fast" etc. etc. Another surprising source Talbot uses here is none other than CIA counter-intelligence chief James Angleton, the guy who was likely handling Oswald until 1962. Talbot actually quotes the nutty Cold Warrior, Kennedy antagonist and Warren Commission cover up artist waxing poetic about Kennedy being in love with Mary: "They were in love ... they had something very important." (p. 199) This from a man who, later on, Talbot admits loathed JFK and actually thought he was a Soviet agent.! (p. 275). A further dubious source is Jim Truitt, the former friend of Ben Bradlee who used to work for him at the Washington Post and was also friends with Angleton. Consider: Truitt had been trying to discredit President Kennedy while he was alive by saying he was previously married and had it covered up. In fact, he had pushed this fatuous story on Bradlee. And it appears that Truitt then started the whole drug angle of the story as a way of getting back at Bradlee and the Post for firing him. By 1969 he was so unstable that his wife sought a conservatorship for him and then divorced him in 1971. Truitt tried to get a job with the CIA and when he did not he moved to Mexico into a colony of former CIA agents. There he grew and smoked the mescaline-based hallucinogenic drug peyote. This was his sorry state when he first reported to the press about the "turned on" Meyer/JFK romance. He then shot himself in 1981. Here you have a guy who was a long-time Kennedy basher, became mentally unstable, was a CIA wannabe, and was planting and taking hallucinogenics with other CIA agents-- and then accuses JFK of doing the same, 14 years after the fact. Some witness, huh? I don't even want to mention the last major source Talbot uses to complete this rickety shack. I have a hard time even typing his name. But I have to. Its sleazy biographer David Heymann. Heymann wrote one of the very worst books ever published on Bobby Kennedy, and has made a lucrative career out of trashing the Kennedy family. For me, Heymann is either a notch above or below the likes of Kitty Kelley. But when you're that low, who's measuring?


David Talbot Day

David Talbot Day was born on September 10th, 1859 in Rockport, OH (modern-day, Lakewood), to Willard Gibson and Caroline Cathcart Day. The family moved to Baltimore when he was 13 and attended grammar school there (Fig. 1). In 1877, Day was admitted to the Johns Hopkins University, and graduated in 1881 with a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry and in 1884 received his Ph.D. in chemistry under the mentoring of Professor Ira Remsen Ώ] (1846-1927) (Fig. 2). The same year Day was hired at the University of Maryland and served for two years as a demonstrator of chemistry. ΐ]

Career development: petroleum data and information management

1886 was a turning point in his personal and professional life. At the beginning of the year, he married Elizabeth Eliot Keeler, of Mayport, Florida got hired at the United States Geological Survey Α] in the capacity of full-time associate and moved to Washington D.C. (Fig. 3). Shortly after he succeed his mentor at the USGS, Albert Williams, Jr and got appointed Chief of the USGS Mining Statistic and Technology Division, which few years later merged into the Division of Mineral Resources. In 1887, Day joined the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical Engineers (AIME), the most relevant engineering professional society, of which he held the presidency in 1893 and 1900 (Fig. 4).

Since 1879, the date of its establishment by Congress decree, the USGS was in charge of exploring mineral resources and editing statistics on the mineral and mining industries. Day put a great commitment and method into the statistical work, soon gaining a brilliant reputation: he mastered the practice of data collection and processing into deliverable and ready to use information on mineral resources reserves and production of the United States. He was often seconded by Edward Wheeler Parker, an expert in coal industry, Β] with which he achieved important and long lasting quality standards for statistical reports.

The exponential increase in production of petroleum and natural gas in the U.S. resulted in an intensive involvement of the USGS into that sector, and David Talbot Day was put in charge for petroleum-related matters. He received further acknowledgement of his skills in 1889 when upon the organization of the Census Bureau Γ] for 1890 was nominated special agent in charge of the Division of Mines and Mining (Fig. 5).

Day's contributions to petroleum geology

In the 1890s, Day diversified his research into other aspects of petroleum science. Going beyond chemistry and statistics, he approached the ongoing debate on theories concerning the origin of petroleum. The main organic theory discussed at that time was the one proposed by the German Carl Oswald Viktor Engler, who sustained that under the action of high heat and pressure the oleaginous portion of animal organisms was “cooked” and then deposited by ascending at different levels (Fig. 6).

Day envisioned another mechanism of deposition: he assumed that the filtration mechanism was the most likely reason for the migration of matured kerogen Δ] through several strata. The heavier fractions of petroleum were refrained by the same strata (on a different extent depending by the rocks) that, at the same time, favored the descent and the accumulation of the lighter fractions of petroleum closer to the surface. In light of that, this filtration hypothesis could successfully explain why petroleum reservoirs closer to the surface are lighter than the ones entrapped in lower layers. On February 5, 1897, Day presented his findings for the first time at the meeting of the American Philosophical Society in Washington, D.C. Later in 1900, he presented his ideas at the First International Petroleum Congress, held in Paris between August 16 and 28.

Day continued his research with Joseph Elliott Gilpin (1866-1924), professor at the John Hopkins University, and presented two further summaries: a lecture at the 1903 meeting of the Geological Society of Washington Ε] and a journal article published in 1911.

Pioneering studies on oil shales

After 28 years of distinguished service, Day resigned from his position at the USGS in 1907 to pursue a consulting chemist career in oil shale production and refining. However, he continued to collaborate with the Survey as an affiliate expert on petroleum matters, and in 1907-1909 he represented the USGS at the International Commission for Petroleum Tests.

Day was convinced that the United States had the potential to establish a cost effective production of petroleum and derivates from the oil shales - a sector that was struggling to emerge because the predominance of petroleum and coal - and decided to dedicate his know-how in this new scientific challenge. Together with Elmer Grant Woodruff and sponsored by the USGS Day made successful surveys and field tests in the oil shale beds of northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah (Fig. 7 & Fig. 8).

In 1914, Day’s work was closer to oil shale technology development than to its geology. In light of that, he decided to conclude his affiliation with the USGS, and opted to undertake a position of consulting chemist the U.S. Bureau of Mines (Fig. 9). Eventually, in 1920, he resigned from the Bureau to devote his research exclusively to experimental work on the distillation of oil shale. Day built his own laboratory in Santa Maria, California, a place with easy access to petroleum fields and deposits of oil shale. In this facility he erected a distilling plant for oil shale to run experiments which confirmed his belief that shales could be utilized in a commercial way for the production of gasoline and other products. In the last years of his life, Day studied also cracking processes for converting the heavier petroleum into gasoline. That triggered his interest toward the Mexican petroleum fields, which produced mostly heavy crude processed in large part in the U.S. refineries of Texas.

In 1922 he published the Handbook of the Petroleum Industry in two volumes. This is a comprehensive technical manual and compendium of his experience in the industry (Fig. 10), which became a standard reference for scholars and practitioners in petroleum science and technology.

Death and legacy

David Talbot Day passed away suddenly from a heart attack while visiting a friend in Washington, D. C., on April 15th, 1925, aged 66. He was survived by his wife, daughter, and son David Eliot Day, petroleum engineer in Los Angeles (Fig. 11).

Historiography mainly celebrates Day for his benchmark contributions to petroleum statistics and geological reference works, but that represents just a portion of his career. He was a primarily a chemist who specialized in minerals that matured into a deep overview and understanding of the national energy resources due to his managerial appointment at the USGS. Day’s positive assessment on the value and relevance of oil shale contributed to a source of future supplies for the country that the U.S. Geological Survey implemented a massive campaign of mapping and study on the largest oil shale deposits in the United States (Fig. 12). Lastly, Day had also an important role in the Government decision to create the petroleum and oil-shale reserves for the exclusive use and owned by the U.S. Navy.


Brothers : The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years

Brothers begins on the shattering afternoon of November 22, 1963, as a grief-stricken Robert Kennedy urgently demands answers about the assassination of his brother. Bobby's suspicions immediately focus on the nest of CIA spies, gangsters, and Cuban exiles that had long been plotting a violent regime change in Cuba. The Kennedys had struggled to control this swamp of anti-Castro intrigue based in southern Florida, but with little success.

Brothers then shifts back in time, revealing the shadowy conflicts that tore apart the Kennedy administration, pitting the young president and his even younger brother against their own national security apparatus. The Kennedy brothers and a small circle of their most trusted advisors -- men like Theodore Sorensen, Robert McNamara, and Kenneth O'Donnell, who were so close the Kennedys regarded them as family -- repeatedly thwarted Washington's warrior caste. These hard-line generals and spymasters were hell-bent on a showdown with the Communist foe -- in Berlin, Laos, Vietnam, and especially Cuba. But the Kennedys continually frustrated their militaristic ambitions, pushing instead for a peaceful resolution to the Cold War. The tensions within the Kennedy administration were heading for an explosive climax, when a burst of gunfire in a sunny Dallas plaza terminated John F. Kennedy's presidency.

Based on interviews with more than one hundred fifty people -- including many of the Kennedys' aging "band of brothers," whose testimony here might be their final word on this epic political story -- as well as newly released government documents, Brothers reveals the compelling, untold story of the Kennedy years, including JFK's heroic efforts to keep the country out of a cataclysmic war and Bobby Kennedy's secret quest to solve his beloved brother's murder. Bobby's subterranean search was a dangerous one and led, in part, to his own quest for power in 1968, in a passion-filled campaign that ended with his own murder. As Talbot reveals here, RFK might have been the victim of the same plotters he suspected of killing his brother. This is historical storytelling at its riveting best -- meticulously researched and movingly told.

Brothers is a sprawling narrative about the clash of powerful men and the darker side of the Cold War -- a tale of tragic grandeur that is certain to change our understanding of the relentlessly fascinating Kennedy saga.


Selling History With ’50s Pulp Pow and Punch

The rendezvous was set for 2 p.m. sharp at Cafe Sabarsky on the teeming island metropolis of Manhattan. This Old World outpost was dark and silent as a tomb — except for the music, lively chatter and oversize windows. Near the bar sat a white-haired gentleman in black and a vivacious blonde with a slash of blood-red lipstick. On the table in front of them lay a plate of spätzle mit schwammerln and a knife that glinted like the sharpened steel of a scimitar. Actually, the only thing it was used for was butter, as the team at this cafe, the brother and sister team of David and Margaret Talbot, save the gore for print. They are the mild-mannered creators of a new book series called “Pulp History,” rip-roaring nonfiction tales with enough purple prose, gory illustrations and va-va-va-voom women to lure in even reluctant teenage male readers.

In “Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler,” one of two books in the series that Simon & Schuster released last month, a British spy named Harry Rée wrestles with a Gestapo agent: “He gouged at one of the man’s eyes, but it wouldn’t come out. He tried to bite off his nose, but it was too tough. Then Ree shoved his forefinger into the German’s mouth, between his teeth and cheeks, and pulled up hard. The man squealed in pain and sent Ree flying over his head.”

Mr. Talbot explained: “We definitely did not want to make history like spinach, good for you but boring. We wanted to do the stuff that wasn’t good for you, with good guys, bad guys, blood, guts and sex.”

Yet the Talbots emphasized that their books strike a more complicated tone than the relentlessly heroic illustrated and cartoon histories written for children during the 1950s. Their photograph-rich volumes, a mix of text, boxed features and cartoons, are scrupulously researched and do not shrink from the corrupt political dealings, imperialist aims and ugly racism that frequently operated behind the highfalutin verbiage. “They have social significance,” Ms. Talbot said. “It’s not just about the lurid detail.”

Mr. Talbot was an avid collector of illustrated history books and magazines as a child. When he and his sister sat down a couple of years ago to brainstorm projects for collaboration, Ms. Talbot remembered the vivid book covers that her brother had tacked up on his bedroom wall. With sons of their own, the two felt the genre was a great way to bring history to life.

Both siblings are well-known figures in the publishing world. David Talbot, 59, was the online pioneer who created Salon magazine in 1995. He stepped down as chief executive a decade later, and in 2007 wrote “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years,” which argues there are compelling reasons to believe in one of the conspiracy theories swirling around the assassinations of the president and his brother. Margaret Talbot, 49, is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a former contributing writer at The New York Times magazine.

A third partner is their brother, Stephen Talbot, an award-winning documentary editor who joined them to create a media production company, the Talbot Players, in 2008. (Another sister is a doctor.)

“Pulp History” works on a friends-and-family plan. “Shadow Knights” was written by Gary Kamiya, a founding editor of Salon, and illustrated by Jeffrey Smith. Mr. Talbot wrote the other volume in the series himself and hired the illustrator Spain Rodriguez, another Salon collaborator who created the underground comics superhero Trashman.

Their 160-page book, “Devil Dog: The Amazing True Story of the Man Who Saved America,” follows the exploits of the most decorated Marine of his day, Smedley Darlington Butler — a name too good to be false. Mr. Talbot first came across this forgotten hero in another book’s footnote.

The cover, drawn in bold colors, depicts Butler with a gun in one hand while in his other he holds up the Statue of Liberty — depicted as a bosomy redhead — who has fainted. Other illustrations reflect the same bawdy sensibility. In one, a voluptuous naked black Haitian woman dances in a voodoo ritual in front of a roaring bonfire and a beheaded dog. The style matches the pulp novels that were popular with American readers during the Marines’ long occupation of Haiti that began in 1915. The back cover promises, “Unbelievable and ALL TRUE!,” and “Devil Dog Will Knock You Out!”

The illustrator, Mr. Rodriguez, who lives around the corner from David Talbot in the Bernal Heights section of San Francisco, said he always loved pulp-style drawings and was himself drawn to history by reading war stories in serialized comic anthologies like “Two-Fisted Tales” and “Frontline Combat,” published by EC Comics in the 1950s. “That’s my style,” he said from his home. “It’s just a natural for the series.”

As for the lustily drawn women, Ms. Talbot said, “Maybe it’s a cheap way to lure them in, but you have to compete with what’s out there.” “Shadow Knights,” about British intelligence operatives during World War II, also includes the stories of female secret agents, she noted.

They are pictures even his mother could love, Mr. Talbot added. Paula Talbot was an 18-year-old starlet when she met their father, Lyle Talbot, then 44, a veteran Hollywood actor who starred mostly in B-movies and appeared on the TV series “The Adventure of Ozzie and Harriet.” They ran off to Tijuana to get married.

“She was his fourth or fifth wife,” Ms. Talbot said. “We’re not sure.” Ms. Talbot is writing a book about their father and the entertainment world of the 1920s that he inhabited. When she finishes, she plans to write a volume for “Pulp History,” possibly focusing on efforts to fight the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana in the 1920s.

The series is as much of a commercial enterprise as a literary one. Mr. Talbot said he has already sold the movie rights to “Devil Dog” and written a screenplay. “It’s Lawrence of Arabia meets John Doe,” he said. This trip to New York included discussions about turning “Shadow Knights” into a television series. Can action figures be far behind?

The books are cinematic, he pointed out, and the stories are, as the title promises, amazing. Smedley Butler fought in wars around the globe, battled Chicago’s gangsters and political machine, championed veterans’ rights and revealed a plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Community Reviews

This book has 3 major sections. It begins with convincing analysis of the motivations of the Mafia, CIA and anti-Castro Cubans. The next part focuses on RFK, his response to his brother&aposs assassination and his subsequent career. The last part describes and discusses the cover up. Talbot doesn&apost get into the theories of the bullets, the capture of Oswald, shady life of Ruby, etc. The author is not out to prove one theory or another.

The book shows RFK was successful in mafia prosecutions and was m This book has 3 major sections. It begins with convincing analysis of the motivations of the Mafia, CIA and anti-Castro Cubans. The next part focuses on RFK, his response to his brother's assassination and his subsequent career. The last part describes and discusses the cover up. Talbot doesn't get into the theories of the bullets, the capture of Oswald, shady life of Ruby, etc. The author is not out to prove one theory or another.

The book shows RFK was successful in mafia prosecutions and was making its leadership uncomfortable. The mob and the CIA had already had a convenient partnership, unbeknownst to the executive and legislative branches, particularly in working with Cuban exiles. Talbot doesn't say much about the mafia's interests in pre-Castro Cuba, but this allied them with the Cuban exiles. Anyone who as ever worked in an organization with a new boss or undergoing change knows the passion of the old guard. The old guard in the CIA was filled with anti-communist fervor, self-righteousness and an amorality that first hit the public consciousness with the Watergate break in. When those involved in the Cuba projects realized JFK was not going to try another Bay of Pigs, they viewed JFK as they would any other national leader who didn't play their game.

Talbot shows how neither Kennedy (Pres and AG) could contain their "staff" who continued rogue operations. Certain CIA staff could barely contain their contempt for the executive branch and its new occupants. They secretly and brazenly carried on the work that neither the president or congress approved. The FBI Director, who should have been a direct report to RFK spied on him and curtailed his security upon his brothers' death.

New to me was how poor a job the CIA did on Cuba. With all the emphasis on killing Castro, quixotic ineffective ventures onto the island, the attempts of getting Oswald Cuban cover, etc. it totally missed the Russian build up of troops. Castro, as the only survivor of the principals of this episode, probably gets a good laugh out of this at our expense.

Talbot clearly loves the Camelot legend. Neither Kennedy can do much wrong in Talbot's eyes. Bobby's gloss of the Warren Report is dismissed as is the role of JFK's very un-Presidential conduct. He mentions LSD, which was new to me, but not Judith Campbell Exner, both examples of his unnecessarily playing with fire. Talbot gives Castro a benign treatment. While this is not a book about Castro, some recognition of the exiles' cause would have been appropriate.

I was struck by the role of the media because the more things change, the more they say the same. Ben Bradlee, a presumed friend of JFK dismisses his paper's silence on the matter because he had other priorities--- his career. I think this is the same modus operandi the press assumes now, taking the line of least resistance rather than finding the real story.

"Will the truth ever come out?" asks the news media. ironically the very institutions who's collective mission is to bring the truth to the pubic. Talbot is not optimistic about the truth coming out, speculating that concern for truth in these two assassinations will end with the Kennedy era generation.

This book is a very readable summary of the issues involved in the dual assassinations. I highly recommend it. . more

This is a well-documented, heavily researched book that looks into what the Kennedy Years were really like in this country between JFK&aposs election to the Presidency in 1960 and the assassination of his brother, Robert Kennedy, in June 1968.

Though I was born several months after President Kennedy&aposs assassination, I have had an interest in his life and political career since I was a child. And in subsequent years as my knowledge of President Kennedy&aposs life and presidency has grown and deepened, I This is a well-documented, heavily researched book that looks into what the Kennedy Years were really like in this country between JFK's election to the Presidency in 1960 and the assassination of his brother, Robert Kennedy, in June 1968.

Though I was born several months after President Kennedy's assassination, I have had an interest in his life and political career since I was a child. And in subsequent years as my knowledge of President Kennedy's life and presidency has grown and deepened, I have grown in admiration and respect for what he (and Robert Kennedy, as the Attorney General and presidential special advisor) was able to achieve and tried to accomplish in the best interests of the U.S.

Talbot goes to great lengths in this book to show the obstacles and challenges --- many of them from within the government itself -- that the Kennedys encountered to their policies and proposals. This became more pronounced in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis when President Kennedy resolved to embark on "a strategy of peace", which he spoke of so eloquently in his "Peace Speech" at American University on June 10, 1963. Indeed, within weeks of this speech, the basis of a limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was worked out between Washington and Moscow on August 5, 1963. And in the following month, the Senate approved the treaty by a resounding 80 to 19 margin.

President Kennedy was seen as a threat by influential elements within the Pentagon, the CIA (which --- following the failure of its Bay of Pigs invasion plan and JFK's dismissal of its Director, Allen Dulles, in November 1961 --- became brazenly disdainful of the President and resistant to his tentative efforts to try and reform the Agency), and elements of the anti-Castro Cuban exile community. War and the promoting of the threats of war were big business at the time. After all, we were living at the height of the Cold War. And the Pentagon, the CIA, and the anti-Castro Cuban exile community profited from that. The Kennedys could have opted to "go with the flow" by not challenging the prevailing ethos in political circles and the government itself, likely ensuring themselves a longer tenure in the White House. Yet, both came to perceive through the ongoing civil rights struggle against racial segregation in the country and in their own efforts to crack down on the Mafia - as well as addressing a host of other international and domestic crises and challenges - that the country could not go on as it had since 1945. Indeed, it was President Kennedy who said that "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable." Consequently, President Kennedy was marked for assassination - not by Moscow or Havana, but by a powerful clique in this country made up of business, military and political leaders invested in maintaining what Eisenhower spoke of in his Farewell Address as "the military-industrial complex." So along with the CIA and the Mafia, they conspired and hatched a plan that killed a President riding in an open motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

"BROTHERS" takes the reader through that tragic day in Dallas, and illustrates how Robert Kennedy was deeply traumatized by his brother's death. What I found especially interesting as I was reading this section of the book was that, from the moment Robert Kennedy learned of his brother's death (via a phone call from J. Edgar Hoover, whose tone of voice conveyed in no uncertain terms, that he no longer considered himself beholden to the younger Kennedy as Attorney General) that he immediately suspected that JFK had been killed as a result of a conspiracy. That I did not know before reading this book. The reader then becomes part of the painful journey Robert Kennedy undertakes, not only to come to terms with his brother's death, but to continue the fight against the dark elements within the government itself. Kennedy bided his time, resigned his post in the Justice Department, and won election to the U.S. Senate from New York in 1964. Robert ("Bobby") Kennedy's evolution proceeded apace. Indeed "[i]n the last years of his life, Bobby Kennedy became increasingly estranged from Washington's political elite. His growing commitment to a new, multiracial America - which allied him with the crusade of Martin Luther King Jr. - was viewed with alarm by J. Edgar Hoover, who regarded both men as dangerous. And his critique of American foreign policy, . drew the baleful eye of the White House and CIA."

For anyone who wants a deeper understanding as to why both Kennedy brothers remain an inspirational and relevant force in our politics and in the consciousness of many Americans and admirers across the world, READ THIS BOOK. It made startlingly clear to me their extraordinary fearlessness and unique humaneness as leaders who sought to build and ensure a better, safer world for all people. . more

Great book! If you are reading this review, and you have not read David Talbot&aposs &aposBrothers&apos, then I strongly recommend that you get hold of a copy. It is of no consequence even if you are, like me, not American. This &aposHidden History of the Kennedy Years&apos is everyone&aposs history, for every nationality, for every generation.

My own personal belief, that has grown stronger with the years is President John Kennedy saved my life.
As a snotty nosed English kid aged nine years old he was my hero after the Great book! If you are reading this review, and you have not read David Talbot's 'Brothers', then I strongly recommend that you get hold of a copy. It is of no consequence even if you are, like me, not American. This 'Hidden History of the Kennedy Years' is everyone's history, for every nationality, for every generation.

My own personal belief, that has grown stronger with the years is President John Kennedy saved my life.
As a snotty nosed English kid aged nine years old he was my hero after the crisis of 62. In later years my appreciation of Camelot, it's tragedy and it's legacy has grown. My visit to the U.S. was to Dallas, where I explored Dealey Plaza and it's grassy knoll, the Texas Book Depository and stood on Zapruder's plinth. I've prowled around Oswald's house, scene of the Tippit shooting and the Texas Theatre. I've met and spoken with Oswald's FBI contact James Hosty. I've met a third victim of the shooting in the Plaza, James Teague. I have met doctors from Parkland Hospital and U.S.Navy medical staff present at the autopsy of the President at Bethesda. So, dear reader, I'm a conspiracy nut, a term given to those who do not accept the authorised view of events and in this case I'm quite happy with the term. I have listed the names of people I believe to have been involved with the assassination in '63, long before reading Talbot's book and it is reassuring to find this author's list concurred with mine.

So, back to the book review. 'Brothers' published 2007, is a thought provoking and poignant biography of the gallant struggle of the Kennedy years. To echo my own beliefs there is a quote from Arthur Schlesinger "JFK had a great capacity to resist pressures from the military. He simply thought he was right. Lack of self confidence was never one of Jack Kennedy's problems. We would have had nuclear war if Nixon had been president during the missile crisis. But Kennedy's war hero status allowed him to defy the Joint Chiefs. He dismissed them as a bunch of old men."
One of the great strengths of this work is the great number of interviews with the Kennedy 'band of brothers' as well as the Kennedy haters. Another quote from RFK from 1968 "I found out something I never knew. I found out that my world was not the real world." Well Bobby, I've found that out too. After Dallas, after the Ambassador Hotel, after Watergate, after Iraq and the never ending war on terror, the real world is subjected to concealed dark forces in thrall to agencies and corporate design that are not subject to law and ballot box.
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This book is both a biography of the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert, from 1961 until 1968, and a review of their assassinations and the controversies surrounding them. Along the way the author, a believer in a conspiracy linking both murders, documents how RFK himself subscribed to such beliefs as regards the events of 22 November, 1963.

Author David Talbot is also a believer in the Kennedy brothers themselves. Although he deals briefly with the promiscuity of the elder, even mentioning rumors This book is both a biography of the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert, from 1961 until 1968, and a review of their assassinations and the controversies surrounding them. Along the way the author, a believer in a conspiracy linking both murders, documents how RFK himself subscribed to such beliefs as regards the events of 22 November, 1963.

Author David Talbot is also a believer in the Kennedy brothers themselves. Although he deals briefly with the promiscuity of the elder, even mentioning rumors of his use of psychoactives, he fails to address how this behavior could, if revealed by those in the know in the FBI, CIA and the press, have led to his downfall in the intended 1964 campaign. As regards potential sexual scandals involving the younger brother there is not a word. Instead, he focuses on claims that one or both of them were involved in the assassination attempts against Castro, discounting all of them. There's no question that the CIA, domestic mobsters and disaffected Cubans were gunning for Fidel, the question for Talbot is instead to identify precisely which spooks, crook and terrorists had included the brother Kennedys in their hit list—and why.

The answer to the question of motive and the identification of the murderers is not precisely given in this book. Motives abound, the virtues of the Kennedys being their crimes in the eyes of the many suspects considered. These virtues included, in Talbot's eyes, the courageous attempts for reconciliation with the Communists, the rejection of policies of military and economic aggression against third world nations, the prosecution of organized crime and the promotion of civil rights—all of which set teeth on edge in certain circles.

While I, like Reeves in his A Question of Character, would emphasize such concerns more than Talbot does, the idea that both Kennedys matured positively towards the end of their careers, an idea shared by both authors, is an attractive one. One would like to think that their deaths, and the grief of millions, meant something. . more

Aint no two, three of four ways about it.

The American military Industrial complex pumped bullets into President John F. Kennedy, splattering his brains all over his wife.

Then, when his brother Bobby( who wanted to be president in large part to find out who killed his brother) got close to winning, they killed him too.

Oh and they killed a few of Kennedy&aposs girl friends along the way because they had too much influence on him.

This book is well researched, well written by a noted writer Aint no two, three of four ways about it.

The American military Industrial complex pumped bullets into President John F. Kennedy, splattering his brains all over his wife.

Then, when his brother Bobby( who wanted to be president in large part to find out who killed his brother) got close to winning, they killed him too.

Oh and they killed a few of Kennedy's girl friends along the way because they had too much influence on him.

This book is well researched, well written by a noted writer . more

This is a very very good book, insightful, thought-provoking, interesting and very moving. I found myself in tears at more than a few points. It&aposs about Jack and Bobby Kennedy and their relationship throughout &aposthe Kennedy years&apos.

History seems to have sidelined Bobby and his murder over the years - the attention has always been on JFK and his assassination - but the way this book looked at Bobby broke my heart. Because Jack was his whole world, his primary focus - and when Jack was murdered Bobb This is a very very good book, insightful, thought-provoking, interesting and very moving. I found myself in tears at more than a few points. It's about Jack and Bobby Kennedy and their relationship throughout 'the Kennedy years'.

History seems to have sidelined Bobby and his murder over the years - the attention has always been on JFK and his assassination - but the way this book looked at Bobby broke my heart. Because Jack was his whole world, his primary focus - and when Jack was murdered Bobby was absolutely bereft. And then he pulled himself together, set about on a political career of his own and set out after the White House, all so he could continue his brother's legacy, and was then murdered himself.

It just shouldn't have happened and it breaks my heart to think about what the US would have been like had they lived.

And yes, I do think there was a conspiracy, and I blame the CIA. . more

I bought this book quite a long time ago and it’s taken me a few years to read: discovering – after I took the book home – that the book dabbled with conspiracy theories about JFKs assassination in November 1963 did rather put me off for a long time. After all, conspiracy theories about the President’s murder always had something of the air of a media circus about them and my sense was that most serious people accepted that the crime was committed by the lost and erratic Lee Harvey Oswald.

Having I bought this book quite a long time ago and it’s taken me a few years to read: discovering – after I took the book home – that the book dabbled with conspiracy theories about JFKs assassination in November 1963 did rather put me off for a long time. After all, conspiracy theories about the President’s murder always had something of the air of a media circus about them and my sense was that most serious people accepted that the crime was committed by the lost and erratic Lee Harvey Oswald.

Having come to the end of the book, I’m now very sorry to have left it so long: it’s a thoroughly researched and by no means credulous work of the highest order. One revelation for example is just how much of an establishment consensus quickly formed that Kennedy’s death was the result of a conspiracy: Robert Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson (JFKs successor) and Richard Nixon all believed this as did many of the Kennedy’s most intimate associates. Of course, the people I mention here all had their own well-documented issues and just because they apparently believed in a conspiracy doesn’t mean that there necessarily was one. But the number of high profile people who smell something rotten about the whole affair the closer they get to it is one of the most intriguing features of Talbot’s book (another such detail is the alarming number of seemingly premature deaths that seems to go hand in hand with later attempts to investigate the assassination, including of course that of the President’s brother Robert on the night he accepted the Democratic nomination for President).
As the above paragraph demonstrates, this book doesn’t escape some of the major problems with JFK conspiracy writing: there’s lots of scope for innuendo and dressing up suspicious coincidences as fact and the last few pages introduce so many potential suspects that it all starts to feel rather ridiculous. Talbot’s aware of the first danger I think and doesn’t pretend that he is has the answer. I would say though that this book is more rewarding for the journey it takes the reader on than the destination it gets you too at the end.

I’ve spent a lot of this review talking about the assassination of President Kennedy - and this is clearly a motivating engine for the book - but "Brothers" is mostly devoted to telling the story of the two brothers’ lives at the top of American politics. Talbot makes a convincing and passionate case for the Kennedys' example in response to the revisionism of recent years. It’s interesting to reflect that in the case of the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK establishes himself as the only president of the post-war years to stand against the bloodthirsty hollering of his mutinous military establishment, although he was derided as weak and inexperienced for doing so. Consider how Lyndon Johnson failed that test over Vietnam, and how George W. Bush went along so gleefully with that establishment over Iraq and you start to wish more world leaders would show such “inexperience”. In fact, given later revelations that the Russians had a far more extensive arsenal of nuclear weapons in Cuba at the time than anyone knew, Kennedy’s strength of character here clearly saved the world from a nuclear holocaust. RFK, too, comes across as a remarkable character – the rare politician to actually become radicalised the closer he got to power (his involvement with the growing civil rights movement is particularly notable in this regard) and one whose own slaying has always struck me as an even greater loss to the world than that of his brother.

Was this radicalism, this strength of character in the face of the great military-industrial complex enough to get the brothers killed by a conspiratorial alliance between the CIA, the Mafia and a cabal of radicalised Cuban exiles? Despite dragging up some intriguing but deeply frustrating near-confessions from suspects who might well have found themselves on the edge of such a conspiracy if it happened, Talbot cannot ultimately answer that question. But the story he tells in trying to answer it is at turns thought-provoking, deeply irritating, and profoundly inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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A fascinating book about the Kennedys that includes a hair-raising picture of the inner workings of the American government during the cold war, barely controlled generals pushing for nuclear war, a CIA answerable to no one. A great strength of this book is how it isn&apost framed as an argument for a particular conspiracy theory instead it argues that the Warren report was an insulting failure to seriously investigate what happened, that the CIA lied to and successfully stonewalled generations of A fascinating book about the Kennedys that includes a hair-raising picture of the inner workings of the American government during the cold war, barely controlled generals pushing for nuclear war, a CIA answerable to no one. A great strength of this book is how it isn't framed as an argument for a particular conspiracy theory instead it argues that the Warren report was an insulting failure to seriously investigate what happened, that the CIA lied to and successfully stonewalled generations of official inquiry boards representing the American people, and the a lazy, contemptibly passive media was willing to swallow whatever official line they were given.

But, on another level, it's a rich complicated portrait of the Kennedy brothers, both their aspirations and their failures. Clearly sympathetic without fawning, it reveals JFK and RFK as people who had a powerful vision of peace and social justice in an era of painful turmoil and deep hatreds. . more


The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government , David Talbot, (New York: HarperCollins, 2015)

In The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government, David Talbot, the journalist who founded Salon.com in 1995 and wrote a great book on the lives of John and Robert Kennedy, Brothers (2007), has produced another page-turner that unearths mountains of new evidence about the seamier side of the rise of the United States' Cold War national security state.

Talbot has achieved something rare in our scholarly discourse these days on the origins of the Central Intelligence Agency and the men who were responsible for shaping the Cold War ethos that for decades dominated American foreign policy in the 20th Century. By presenting the contours of Allen Dulles's life and his everlasting imprint on the nature of the CIA in a cogent and highly readable way, Talbot offers us a new and sophisticated analysis of America's secret Cold War history.

The Devil's Chessboard is quite simply the best single volume I've come across that details the morally bankrupt and cynical rise of an activist intelligence apparatus in this country that was not only capable of intervening clandestinely in the internal affairs of other nations but domestically too.

Talbot's exhaustive research, lively prose, strong moral conviction, and the ability to convey history's relevance to our contemporary politics make The Devil's Chessboard an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the institutional transformation that took place in this country at a time when rabid anti-communism dominated the thinking of foreign policy elites.

Some passages of The Devil's Chessboard have a plaintive tone, a kind of lament about the irreparable harm the fanaticism of fighting the Cold War against Soviet Russia (and its alleged proxies all over the world) had on shaping a set of unaccountable secret institutions that have both distorted our politics and undermined the "democratic" principles for which the U.S. supposedly stands.

Exceedingly rare among baby boomer journalists and public intellectuals, Talbot does not shy away from pointing to the uncomfortable facts surrounding Allen Dulles's life's work. He chronicles Dulles's secret activities just after World War Two as a young intelligence agent in Europe helping to establish "ratlines" so Nazis considered useful to the United States in the new Cold War against the Soviet Union could escape prosecution. Talbot also unpacks Dulles's foundational role, first as a deputy director and then climbing to become director, in setting the course for the newly-formed CIA after President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947.

What followed under Dulles's leadership were many unaccountable CIA projects that had to remain secret or spun with propaganda to suit the widely-held Cold War fantasies of the period lest they be shown to be so contrary to America's self image they might generate opposition.

Secret CIA activities in the 1950s under Dulles's watch included horrifying experiments in "de-patterning" and "mind control" involving LSD and hypnosis (often on unwitting subjects) to try to develop the means to "turn" Soviet agents (MKULTRA). Subsequently, Dulles led the CIA in its first experiments in "regime change" with the coups in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954. It was Dulles's CIA that played a key role in killing the nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1960, and setting up the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

At times The Devil's Chessboard reads like an engaging spy novel proving yet again that fact is stranger than fiction. The book is full of intrigue and revelations that should make any fair-minded reader cringe at what the CIA has done in our name over the years.

Talbot's social analysis of the period includes an excellent summation of the work of the great American sociologist C. Wright Mills (who died in 1962) whose book, The Power Elite (1956), cuts through the rabid Cold War ideology of the time to grapple with the darker side of the "American Century."

Dulles, who was by far the most influential director the CIA ever had, Talbot shows, was for decades at the center of a secret American foreign policy. The author clearly understands power and he knows the extremes to which America's "intelligence community" was willing to go to "save" the country from the communist hordes.

While serving as a young Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative in Europe, Dulles participated in "Operation Sunshine" whereby any former Nazi who was either deemed a "gentleman" (meaning wealthy) or had any information or skills that might be useful to U.S. intelligence in the new Cold War against its former ally, the Soviet Union, could by whisked to safety far away from those pesky Nuremberg trials.

A German personality who Talbot calls "Allen Dulles's kind of Nazi" is illustrative of the whole "Operation Sunrise" endeavor. Karl Wolff, who came from a rich family and passed through the highest echelons of respectable society during Hitler's reign, according to Talbot, possessed "the right sort of pedigree" and was "the type of trustworthy fellow" with whom Dulles "could do business." "It was Wolff who was put in charge of [Heinrich] Himmler's important 'circle of friends,'" Talbot writes, "a select group of some three dozen German industrialists and bankers who supplied the SS with a stream of slush money." (p. 82)

It turns out that Dulles ignored Wolff's affinity to the Nazi project and helped him escape from being held accountable at Nuremberg. Demonstrating that Karl Wolff might not be the kind of guy the U.S. should help, Talbot quotes a disturbingly technocratic note Wolff wrote to the Nazi transportation minister during the war:

"I was especially pleased to receive information that, for that last 14 days, a train has been leaving daily for Treblinka with 5,000 members of the chosen people, and that in this way we are in a position to carry out this population movement at an accelerated tempo." (Quoted on p. 84)

Thus begins the history of the United States' secret government with Allen Dulles present at its creation (and soon at the helm) showing that in the name of fighting communism the end would always justify the means, even to the point of forging alliances with those who assisted Hitler's madness.

Coups and Rigged Elections

One disturbing revelation in The Devil's Chessboard is Dulles's willingness to use his expertise in spy craft and his intelligence connections (including hidden sources of money) to influence U.S. domestic politics as early as the 1952 elections. Back in 1948, unbeknownst to the Italian (and American) people, the CIA used laundered cash and secret intelligence assets in Italy to block electoral gains by communist and socialist candidates. This rigging of the 1948 Italian elections was seen as an intelligence triumph at the time and emboldened the CIA to intervene in the internal affairs of other nations. Dulles, as deputy CIA director, couldn't restrain himself from using similar techniques at home:

"During the 1952 presidential race, Dulles proved his loyalty to the Eisenhower-Nixon campaign by channeling funds to the Republican ticket through CIA front groups and by leaking embarrassing intelligence reports to the media about the Truman administration's handling of the Korean War - flagrant violations of the CIA charter that forbids agency involvement in domestic politics." (p. 203)

Moreover, Dulles "had no qualms about advocating the assassination of foreign leaders," and even presented a plan to Walter Bedell Smith "in early 1952 to kill Stalin at a Paris summit meeting," which Smith "firmly rejected." (p. 203)

After President Eisenhower appointed Dulles Director of Central Intelligence in 1953, "the CIA would grow more powerful and less accountable with each passing year of Dulles's reign." (p. 223) Talbot sheds new light on Dulles's role in the CIA-engineered coups in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954. These were watershed events in the history of the CIA since the Agency had never before engaged in fomenting "regime change" and, according to President Harry Truman, was never intended to function as an operational arm of U.S. policy in that way.

The CIA threw a lot of laundered money around and bribed Iranian officials (as it had done with the Italian elections in '48), but added new tricks to its repertoire such as extortion, radio jamming, false flag operations, espionage, hit lists, kidnapping, and arming pro-Shah street gangs to achieve its aims in "Operation Ajax." The coup d'état in Iran in August 1953 that toppled the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossedegh and installed Shah Reza Pahlavi (who ruled until 1979) was heralded as a bold and daring U.S. triumph in the Cold War. (Today, given the antagonism between Iran and the U.S. it can be seen as a sort of "original sin" of failed U.S. policies in the Middle East.)

Talbot contextualizes Dulles's actions as CIA director showing that he was operating in an atmosphere of intense anti-communism and xenophobia that permeated the entire American political discourse, especially foreign policy elites. A confidential report, cited by Talbot, that the retired Air Force general James H. Doolittle sent to President Eisenhower in July 1954 exemplifies the dominant Cold War mindset that Dulles embodied: "It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply." (p. 249)

The CIA's role in the coup in Guatemala in 1954 that overthrew the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz (who Talbot likens to John F. Kennedy) also reveals the new operational capabilities of the CIA in manipulating the press:

"The agency's disinformation campaign began immediately after Arbenz's downfall," Talbot writes, "with a stream of stories planted in the press - particularly in Latin America - alleging that he was a pawn of Moscow, that he was guilty of the wholesale butchery of political foes, that he had raided his impoverished country's treasury, that he was sexually captivated by the man who was the leader of the Guatemalan Communist Party. None of it was true." (p. 253)

Talbot's retelling of many of the now well-known facts about the CIA's role in the coups in Iran and Guatemala is cogent and alarming since many of the CIA's assets and operatives who participated in "Operation Success" (the coup in Guatemala) resurfaced later as persons of interest in the Kennedy assassination: E. Howard Hunt, David Atlee Phillips, and David Morales. (p. 261) The CIA had a "disposal list" of fifty-eight key Guatemalan leaders at the time of the coup marked for assassination and even wrote a manual describing in detail how to go about doing it (which was made public in 1997). (p. 263)

Patrice Lumumba and John F. Kennedy

Among the many disturbing revelations in The Devil's Chessboard is the fact that Dulles, after being kept on as CIA Director by then President-Elect John F. Kennedy, failed to inform the incoming Chief Executive during multiple briefings that the CIA had already participated in "neutralizing" the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba.

The CIA under Dulles never bothered to tell President Kennedy about Lumumba's murder (even though Dulles briefed the new president on January 26, 1961 about the situation in the Congo). President Kennedy had to hear the news second hand from his United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson. (p. 387) Hence, from the start of the Kennedy Administration Dulles kept secrets from his new boss.

No episode better illustrates Dulles's separate agenda than his agency's planning and execution of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961, which ultimately cost him his job after President Kennedy sacked him (and Richard Bissell and General Charles Cabell).

Talbot's take on this well-known story about the CIA's ill-fated attempt to topple Castro is fresh and engaging. He uncovers convincing evidence that Dulles and his top aides set up the Bay of Pigs to fail in order to force the young president's hand in bombing the island and sending in the Marines. Surprising Dulles and other national security holdovers from the Eisenhower Administration was President Kennedy's resolve to stand by his earlier warnings to them that there would be no direct U.S. air strikes and no Marines landing in Cuba. "They were sure I'd give into them," Kennedy later told Dave Powers. "They couldn't believe that a new president like me wouldn't panic and try to save his own face. Well they had me figured all wrong." (Quoted on p. 402)

Indeed, they had "figured" JFK wrong because the President then fired Dulles, Bissell, and Cabell after their botching of the Bay of Pigs, which they had assured him would unfold in a similar fashion as the successful Guatemalan coup of 1954. But as Talbot points out later in the book, President Kennedy's purge of the top echelon of the CIA had not gone far enough. He cites a letter to President Kennedy from W. Averell Harriman (who had been FDR's Ambassador to Moscow and a veteran of Washington infighting), which refers to the CIA's undermining Kennedy's neutrality policies in Laos and Vietnam:

General [George] Marshall once told me that, when you change a policy, you must change the men too. [The] CIA has the same men - on the desk and in the field - who were responsible for the disasters of the past, and naturally they do things to prove they were right. Every big thing the CIA has tried in the Far East has been catastrophic . . . and the men responsible for these catastrophes are still there. (Quoted on p. 442)

On the subject of the Kennedy assassination Talbot offers one of the most comprehensive and thoughtful discussions of any book to date. In fact, if one reads carefully The Devil's Chessboard along with James Douglass's superb book, JFK and the Unspeakable (2008), the reader will come away with a deeper understanding of the "crime of the century" that synthesizes the most relevant details that fifty years of scholarship and investigation have provided.

Dulles's role in the official government whitewash of the Kennedy assassination cannot be overstated. He was so important in directing the aims and outcomes of the Warren Commission's "investigation" into the killing of John F. Kennedy that it should be more correctly called the "Dulles Commission."

Since President Kennedy's alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself murdered in the basement of the Dallas police building on November 24, 1963, there would be no trial. In its stead the nation was given a non-adversarial process of a presidential commission that runs counter to the norms of American jurisprudence, and which clearly had drawn the preordained conclusion that Oswald had "acted alone" before the first witness was ever called.

One of the many questions that Talbot answers in this book is the curious phenomenon of a right-wing Republican, Allen Dulles, whose professional and personal connections exclusively consisted of wealthy Wall Street bankers and lawyers, spies and spooks (like James Jesus Angleton), and foreign policy elites tied to the Rockefellers and the white shoe law firm Sullivan and Cromwell -- who President Kennedy fired after he sensed Dulles lied to him and could not be trusted -- would find himself heading the commission charged with "investigating" the murder of a president that Dulles neither liked nor respected.

There were no Kennedy allies on the Warren Commission. Only Republicans and Southern Democrats. J. Edgar Hoover controlled the physical evidence in the case and Dulles was in the pivotal spot to guide the inquiries or witnesses away from any fingerprints of intelligence agencies in concocting Oswald's "legend" or in the events in Dallas. Serious students of the Kennedy assassination, regardless of their views of the Warren Commission's "findings," must read The Devil's Chessboard if for no other reason than to flesh out Allen Dulles's role in guiding the public's perception of the crime of the century.

Talbot cites a little known French publication from 2002 where Charles De Gaulle, who himself faced an assassination attempt in 1962 that involved a team of snipers, expressed his view of the Kennedy assassination. Referring to Oswald, De Gaulle said:

The guy ran away, because he probably became suspicious. They wanted to kill him on the spot before he could be grabbed by the judicial system. Unfortunately, it didn't happen exactly the way they probably planned it would. But a trial, you realize, is just terrible. People would have talked. They would have dug up so much! They would have unearthed everything. Then security forces went looking for [a clean-up man] they totally controlled, and who couldn't refuse their offer, and that guy sacrificed himself to kill the fake assassin - supposedly in defense of Kennedy's memory!

Baloney! Security forces all over the world are the same when they do this kind of dirty work. As soon as they succeed in wiping out the false assassin, they declare that the justice system no longer need be concerned, that no further public action was needed now that the guilty perpetrator was dead. Better to assassinate an innocent man than to let a civil war break out. Better injustice than disorder. (Quoted on p. 567)

You'll just have to read The Devil's Chessboard to learn about the layers of the onionskin Talbot expertly unravels regarding the killing of John F. Kennedy.

The Legacy Today

In an era where it's given that Wall Street is untouchable, the President can use drones to kill anybody anytime anywhere, and the country has apparently accepted the "new normal" of warrantless mass surveillance by the NSA, we need to know about this history.

Saying that the secret agencies that emerged after World War Two to fight the Cold War have put our democracy "at risk" is now quaint a hard look at the history Talbot uncovers shows that democracy isn't "at risk," it has been undone. He calls out his contemporaries who cannot bring themselves to contradict the Dulles Commission's premature closing of the JFK murder case:

Those resolute voices in American public life that continue to deny the existence of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy argue that 'someone would have talked.' This line of reasoning if often used by journalists who have made no effort themselves to closely inspect the growing body of evidence and have not undertaken any of their own investigative reporting. The argument betrays a touchingly naïve media bias - a belief that the American press establishment itself, that great slumbering watchdog, could be counted on to solve such a monumental crime, one that sprung from the very system of governance of which corporate media is an essential part. The official version of the Kennedy assassination - despite its myriad improbabilities, which have only grown more inconceivable with time - remains firmly embedded in the media consciousness, as unquestioned as the law of gravity.(p. 494)

The good news is that compared to the baby boomer historians, commentators, journalists, and other opinion makers who are too bought into the status quo to even dream of questioning the Dulles Commission's bogus methods and conclusions regarding the JFK assassination, the young people today are far less kowtowed by the threat of being thrust into the "tin foil hat" conspiracy crowd.

After Watergate, Vietnam, the Church Committee, Iran-Contra, WMD in Iraq, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, the fact that J. Edgar Hoover (of COINTELPRO fame) controlled the evidence the Warren Commission used for its preconceived "verdict" of guilty for Oswald, and that Allen Dulles was anywhere near an official investigative body looking into the Kennedy assassination, takes on new importance and requires a radical reevaluation of the whole sordid case. The Dallas police and the FBI couldn't even handle something as routine as documenting the chain of custody for the two (or three?) 6.5 mm hulls found near the "sniper's nest" on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. (See Barry Krusch, Impossible: The Case Against Lee Harvey Oswald, (2012), pp. 228-311)

To young people the Kennedy assassination isn't a primordial childhood event that shaped their worldview like it is for the boomers. It's far more remote, like Lincoln's assassination, something that happened long ago with little direct relevance to their lives. Hence, young people today don't see what the big deal is in contemplating the idea that elements that arose out of the same corrupt and morally bankrupt secret government that helped Nazis escape prosecution, brought down foreign democracies, or experimented with mind altering drugs on unwitting subjects, might not see any clear limits to their crusade to save the world from what they believed was an existential threat by turning their violent capabilities inward.

In today's parlance we call it "blowback," and one doesn't need to wear a tin foil hat to grasp the potential consequences of allowing unaccountable power to fester. People entering college today were born in the early 1990s and have no direct life experience with the histrionics of the Cold War.

When I was in college President Ronald Reagan was still scaring the hell out of the country with lurid tales of communists attacking the United States from their safe havens in Cuba, Nicaragua, or even from the rural areas of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Nicaraguan "contras," along with the Afghan mujahideen, Reagan called "freedom fighters." Reagan's Defense Department officials, such as T.K. Jones, spoke loosely about surviving an all-out nuclear war with the Russians. And Reagan authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to prepare a host of new "civil defense" measures. With respect to elite attitudes toward nuclear war, the 1980s weren't all that different from the 1950s: "Duck and Cover!"

What made Reagan's first term all the more frightening was his administration's thinking out loud about the "unthinkable" at a time when the United States was deploying Pershing II nuclear missiles and nuclear-tipped cruise missiles to West Germany, bulking up and modernizing its B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers, and launching new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) systems, such as the M-X "Peace Keeper" missiles, the new D-9 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and a high-tech space-based anti-ballistic missile system (called the Strategic Defense Initiative).

Those days of nuclear brinkmanship and alarmism against the Soviets and the widely disseminated propaganda that farm workers from El Salvador were going to spread communism into south Texas are as remote to today's college students as Prohibition was to the baby boomers.

Thankfully, students today don't possess the knee-jerk attitude of their parents and grandparents toward looking at the guilt or innocence of Lee Harvey Oswald. "Millennials" have no problem contextualizing the Kennedy assassination inside the rabid anti-communism of a by-gone era. They can also Google in a minute more information than I could acquire in a week when I was an undergraduate concerning the history of the unchecked power of the CIA and the national security state.

Perhaps at some point, maybe when the last baby boomer apologist for the Warren Commission passes from this good earth, the country will finally be able to get the realistic understanding of the events of November 22, 1963 it deserves. David Talbot's The Devil's Chessboard lights the way forward for those who still cling to the belief that history and truth matter.


Ken Burns, the JFK Library and the Pretty Packaging of American History

What the hell is wrong with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum? Operated by a federal agency -- the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration – the JFK Library is aimed more at covering up the truth about the Kennedy presidency than revealing it. The latest JFK Library whitewash is tied to the Ken Burns-Lynn Novick documentary series about Ernest Hemingway, which aired this week on PBS. I liked the televised biography enough to watch all six hours of it, particularly admiring the insights into Hemingway’s literary innovations by fellow writers like Mario Vargas Llosa, Tobias Wolff and Edna O’Brien. But Burns (sponsored by the Bank of America and a host of PBS corporate underwriters) has an institutional talent for packaging American history in intriguing (to a point) but ultimately safe ways. The Burns-Novick Hemingway series was another good example of this canned Americana.

Where, for instance, was the explosive material about the FBI’s long surveillance of Hemingway, which ran for decades, until he finally took his own life in 1961? The FBI’s top commissar, J. Edgar Hoover, became suspicious of Hemingway’s anti-Franco writing and fundraising during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s — and Hemingway latter extended his anti-fascist activism through World War II, even attempting to set up a spy network to catch Nazi agents called the Crook Factory.

During the Cold War, Hoover’s FBI continued snooping on Hemingway because of his growing sympathies for Fidel Castro’s revolution. (Hemingway said the revolution “was the best thing that ever happened to Cuba.”) The great writer, who lived outside Havana in a manor he called Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm), met the revolutionary leader only once, at a 1960 fishing competition. But that was enough for secret policeman Hoover to conclude that Hemingway was a dangerous Fidelista.

The Burn-Novick documentary presents Hemingway in his final years descending into a well of mental and physical anguish before finally making his inevitable rendezvous with death at his own hand. It’s true that Hemingway was always haunted by death – particularly after the suicide of his father – and struggled with alcoholism and other demons for most of his life. But his final suffering was undeniably aggravated by the relentless snooping of FBI agents – deepening fears of surveillance that Burns and Novick simply dismiss as the feverish paranoia of a man descending into madness.

Near the end of their epic biography, the filmmakers do put A. E. Hotchner, Hemingway’s friend and travel companion, on camera. Before he died, Hotchner wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine on the 50th anniversary of Hemingway's death, stating he believed that the FBI's surveillance "substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide,” and adding that he had "regretfully misjudged" his friend's fear of the security organization. None of this is in PBS’s Hemingway.

Now back to the JFK Library. Through a quirk, many of the Hemingway papers are housed there. I know from personal experience, researching both Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years and The Devil’s Chessboard, in which I made the case that Allen Dulles’s CIA carried out the assassination of JFK and its coverup, that the library’s directors stand in the way of researchers who are exploring uncomfortable historical truths. And so, once again, we have the JFK Library merrily promoting the Burns-Novick documentary of Hemingway, giving the filmmakers a platform to honor winners of the PEN/Hemingway Awards. Instead, the JFK Library should be filling in the gaps of the documentary, examining why the FBI considered Hemingway a national security threat and discussing the over 100 pages of FBI surveillance documents on the writer. But like Ken Burns, the JFK Library exists mainly to sugarcoat history not expose its disturbing truths.

One final howl about the JFK Library. Its curators just announced this year’s winner of the Profile in Courage Award. What brave freedom fighter did the library choose to honor after this year of living dangerously? None other than Senator Mitt Romney, because he voted to impeach Donald Trump. Romney also embarrassingly groveled before Trump in an unsuccessful effort to be named his secretary of state. And he voted against President Biden’s pandemic relief bill and opposed Biden’s efforts to expand Obamacare (despite his own extensive public health program when he was Massachusetts governor), raise the minimum wage to $15, rebuild U.S. infrastructure to join the 21st Century, protect voting rights for Black Americans, and other progressive initiatives.

This…this is the winner of the 2021 Profile in Courage Award? John F. Kennedy is again spinning in his Arlington grave because of the useful idiots at the JFK Library.

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Summary of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years - David Talbot


Coming Soon Oliver Stone’s JFK Documentary, ‘Destiny Betrayed’

AGC Television, the TV production-distribution division of Stuart Ford’s still fast expanding independent content studio AGC Studios, has landed worldwide rights to another high-profile doc-series which it describes as “probing” and “explosive”: Oliver Stone’s “JFK: Destiny Betrayed.”

The AGC press release says:


David Talbot

David Talbot (born September 22, 1951) is an American journalist, author, activist and independent historian. Talbot is known for his books about the "hidden history" of U.S. power and the progressive movements to change America, as well as his public advocacy. [1] He was also the founder and former editor-in-chief [2] of the pioneering web magazine, Salon.

Talbot founded Salon in 1995. The magazine gained a large following and broke several major national stories.

Since leaving Salon, Talbot has researched and written on the Kennedy assassination and other areas of what he calls "hidden history." Talbot has worked as a senior editor for Mother Jones magazine and a features editor for The San Francisco Examiner, and has written for Time magazine, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and other publications.


Watch the video: John Diaz with David Talbot, Belva Davis, Christopher Moscone and Louise Renne