Down the JFK Rabbit Hole

I am a member of several Facebook groups studying the JFK assassination.  We get into some very detailed discussions about the evidence as well as references to various books published on the subject, including the two that I think are basic reading for anyone who wants even a cursory understanding of the event: Mark Lane’s Rush To Judgement  (a deconstruction of everything Warren Commission) and Jim Garrison’s On the Trail of the Assassins (a blow-by-blow description of his case against Clay L. Shaw in New Orleans, who was tangentially involved in the assassination, as well as of the dirty tricks employed by the CIA to discredit Garrison and his case), but of course there are scads of excellent books on the assassination as well as many eminently worth avoiding.

If you get involved in such Facebook groups and do an enormous amount of reading about the assassination, you discover some evidence that one cannot ignore.  The first piece of such evidence comes from the various videos and photographs that were taken during the actual event and what they reveal.

It is indisputable visual evidence that, after the shots were fired, a great many people at the scene turned toward what became known as the “grassy knoll,” that is, toward the fence at the top of the grassy knoll because that is where they heard a shot come from, and then many of them actually ran up the grassy knoll — we can see this with our own eyes in the videos and photographs.  One police officer, Joseph Smith, jumped the fence and intercepted an individual who pulled out a Secret Service ID card, so the policeman let the man go, but, subsequently, the Secret Service asserted that none of their agents were in that area.  When Joseph Smith let the man go, did one of the assassins just slip through his fingers?

Several witnesses (Sam Holland et al.) said that they witnessed a buff of smoke come from behind the grassy-knoll fence.  In addition, there were witnesses (Lee Bowers et al.) who claimed to have seen two individuals standing behind the fence in the same location where the smoke emerged (was one of them the man Joseph Smith let go?).  Furthermore, a large number of witnesses at the ground level and close to the JFK limousine asserted that they could smell gun powder — had there been shots only from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, no such gun powder would have been noticed at the ground level because the sixth floor was simply too far away, too high up, and such shots would have been within the building, i.e., within an enclosure.  But the gun powder from a shot from the grassy knoll could well have been smelled by these witnesses at ground level, especially as the wind appears to have been blowing in, as per the direction of the observed puff of smoke.

Another piece of evidence which simply cannot be ignored has to do with the discrepancy between what eye witnesses saw in Dallas and at the Parkland Hospital versus the autopsy results produced at the Bethesda Hospital.  There is now a famous collage of photographic portraits of individuals who were eyewitnesses to JFK’s head wounds (see the link below).  What makes the collage so persuasive is that all of these individuals are pointing to the exact same spot in the lower-right backside of JFK’s skull to indicate where a large chuck of his skull and brain matter were blown out.  In other words, their stories were all perfectly consistent and therefore unquestionably true and accurate.

Fast forward to an autopsy photograph of the back of JFK’s skull, which was taken at the Bethesda Hospital.  The back of his skull in this autopsy photograph is intact (see the link below).  Either all of those eye witnesses from Dallas and Parkland were mistaken, yet incredibly consistent in their mistake, which seems highly improbable, or the autopsy photograph of the back of JFK’s head is a fabrication because both cannot be true.  And if there was in fact a big chunk of the back of JFK’s head blown out, it was a classic exit wound, meaning that it came from a shot from the front, not from behind.

The back of the head wound/no wound conundrum leads naturally to the Zapruder film.  I will not go into the long and complicated journey that the original Zapruder film took once it was in the possession of the government, a journey that took place immediately after it was acquired by the government and years before a copy of the original was finally shown to the public (for those interested in this convoluted journey of the Zapruder film, see the link to Douglas P. Horne’s YouTube below, which is also a comprehensive explanation of the various alterations claimed to have been made on the film).  Suffice it to say that one of the stops in this strange journey was to a special Kodak film laboratory, Hawkeyeworks, in Rochester, N.Y.  This laboratory had at the time the most advanced technology for film manipulation in the entire world.

Relative to the massive back-of-the-head wound, which so many eye witnesses attested to, the copy of the Zapruder film that was finally shown to the public in 1975, 12 years after the event, the back of JFK’s head in all the frames where it is visible is jet black and shows no wound whatsoever.  Problem is the back of the head is too jet black — there is absolutely no detail to be seen there at all.   Experts have looked at this area on the film — the back of JFK’s head — and suggested the film has been made intentional so “thin” that  no detail can be seen.  Again, I refer you to this special laboratory in Rochester where virtually any kind of film manipulation could be performed — and if film manipulation was not performed there, why on earth was the original Zapruder film sent there?

With the kill shot in frame 313, many eyewitnesses reported seeing skin tissue, brain matter, and bits of skull fragments blow off of JFK’s head onto the back of the car as well as splatter one of the motorcycle cops riding behind the limousine — the police officer later related that there was so much spray hitting him that he believed initially he himself had actually been shot.  Jackie Kennedy’s sudden movement onto the back of the trunk of the car was not to escape, but to recover one of the skull fragments.  Frame 313 is the famous kill shot that tore into JFK’s head and sprayed all this matter from JFK’s head into the air.  But here’s the thing.  That is the only frame where you can actually see this spray.  Experts have been asked whether it was possible to confine the effects of such a wound to a single frame, and they have replied that is an impossibility, which suggests that frames before and after frame 313 have been removed, and the film spliced back together.  This would have been child’s play for the Kodak laboratory in Rochester.

Evidence to substantiate this precise alteration of the Zapruder film with regard to the massive spray of matter that came off of JFK head comes from an interview held with Vino A. Brugioni on April 28, 2011.  Brugioni was a key witness relative to the Zapruder film as he not only saw the original Zapruder film in 1963 many times, but made large photographic prints (“briefing boards”) of individual frames at the federal NPIC laboratory in Washington, D.C.  In other words, this individual had a unique and intimate understanding of the original Zapruder film before any kind of alteration could have been made to it.  He was shown a blowup of frame 313 as well as the copy of the  Zapruder film in public circulation, and his attention was drawn specifically to the sequence of frames through the kill shot at frame 313, and asked him if this public copy of the Zapruder film depicted the spray coming off of JFK’s head accurately based on his knowledge of the original file.  His response:

“He insisted that the head explosion he viewed multiple times on Nov. 23, 1963, was of such a great size and duration (in terms of time) that there should be many more frames depicting that explosion than “just the one frame” (frame 313), as shown in the Zapruder film today.  Furthermore, he said the “head explosion” depicted in the Zapruder film today is too small in size and too low in the frame to be the same graphic depiction he recalls witnessing in the Zapruder film. Brugioni also stated that the head explosion he viewed was a large “white cloud” that surrounded President Kennedy’s head and was not pink or red, as shown in the extant Zapruder film. ” (see the link below entitled “Zapruder’s JFK Assassination Footage Altered by Nefarious Forces”).

The statements by Brugioni pretty much confirm the theory that frames have been removed, and the depiction of the kill shot which the public has been shown over the years is an intentionally misleading one with significantly altered film, i.e., we have never seen the “real deal”.  Why is that?

So, to summarize, there was an assassin behind the grassy-knoll fence, and he did get off the kill shot that blew out the back, lower-right part of JFK’s skull — from a shot from the front.  All of which means there was a conspiracy here, involving multiple parties, and this becomes more and more self evident the deeper you go down the JFK rabbit hole.  But it gets worse.  The worse part has to do with our would-be lunatic villain, Lee Harvey Oswald.  The first red flag you run across if you study our supposed loonie’s life has to do with a little-recorded event that took place in Japan when he was in the Army and stationed there at a top-secret base.  It is documented that he took a test to determine his proficiency in the Russian language.  Wow!

Russian is an extremely difficult language to learn, with its own alphabet, but here we have a lowly soldier who is a high-school dropout taking a Russian proficiency test.  Just wow.  Believe me, he didn’t learn whatever Russian he knew on his own — that’s for sure.  And did I mention this was a top-secret type of base connected to our U2 program, the high altitude spy plane, that U2 — in other words, a base crawling with intelligence community personnel.  Those two facts — that Oswald had learned Russian and that our intelligence community was central to the purpose of this particular top-secret base where Oswald was stationed — are not unrelated.  The conclusion is obvious: Oswald was picked out by them and taught Russian.  There can be no other reasonable explanation of this miraculous language proficiency in an extremely difficult language by a high-school dropout.  And so one must assume he was “connected” to the intelligence community at least from this point on.  That’s called common sense.

What happened to Oswald subsequently also screams his connection to the intelligence community, that is, the CIA.  When Oswald defected to the Soviet Union, it was at the height of the Cold War, at a time when Americans didn’t just waltz through the Iron Curtain and enter Russia; and yet this is precisely what he did without so much as any protest on either side.

But what was even more surprising was his return from the Soviet Union.  This defector who had renounced his US citizenship and become a citizen of an apparent enemy of the United States — a communist country —  was allowed back into the United States no questions asked.  Upon his return to the United States in New York City, he was met by a known CIA “handler” by the name of George de Mohrenschildt.  This individual assisted the Oswalds in settling into the Dallas area, and remained a close tie to Oswald during the Dallas years.  It is pretty clear that from the time Oswald arrived back in the United States onward, George de Mohrenschildt was one of his CIA handlers.  (As interest in the JFK assassination revived in the mid-1970’s, George de Mohrenschildt was about to be called before Congress to give testimony of his knowledge of Lee Harvey Oswald.  He never made it, and was found dead, on March 29, 1977, in a house where he was staying in Manalapan, Florida.  He had just received a note from an investigator of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) that they wanted to talk to him.  The coroner’s verdict was suicide, but there have been whole books written about the untimely death of scores of individuals associated in some way, shape or form with the JFK assassination — George de Mohrenschildt was one of them.)

So after living in the Dallas area for a while, Oswald suddenly leaves — for no apparent reason — and shows up in New Orleans, being interviewed on radio as a Marxist and handing out pro-Castro  leaflets in the street.  But then you will discover, in your reading into the JFK assassination, that our “Marxist” had many contacts with a man by the name of Guy Banister — the last person on earth a real Marxist would want to have anything to do with — who was the regional CIA chief for the New Orleans area.  In other words, Oswald was clearly given a counter-intelligence assignment to go to New Orleans and infiltrate any pro-Castro groups in the area.  Once that operation was deemed to have gotten whatever information it could, Oswald returned to Dallas.

Fast forward to the day of the assassination.  A short time before the assassination takes place, which occurred precisely at 12:30, Oswald said that he was having lunch on the 1st floor of the Texas School Book Depository in the Domino Room, as related by two FBI agents who interviewed him as well as Dallas police officers who also interviewed him when he was in custody.  Captain William Fritz of the Dallas Police Department reported: “I asked him what part of the building he was in at the time the president was shot, and he said that he was having his lunch about that time on the first floor. Mr. Truly had told me that one of the police officers had stopped this man immediately after the shooting somewhere near the back stairway, so I asked Oswald where he was when the police officer stopped him. He said he was on the second floor drinking a Coca Cola when the officer came in.”  Oswald bought the Coke from a vending machine in the lunch room on the 2nd floor after he got change to buy it from the lunch-room cashier.

That police officer who stopped Oswald was Marrion L. Baker.   Just after the assassination took place, the police officer, having heard shots from above, immediately entered the Texas School Book Depository and accompanied by the manager of the building ran into Oswald on the 2nd floor.  It has been estimated that encounter with Oswald by the police officer took place merely 90 seconds after the kill shot on JFK, so some critics have speculated that it would have been physically impossible for Oswald to get to that location on the 2nd floor where this encounter took place from the so-called “sniper’s nest” on the 6th floor in so short a time.

The manager attested to the fact that Oswald was an employee so the police officer let him go, and so Baker proceeded up the staircase to the next floor.  The cashier in the cafeteria testified that she did make change for Oswald so that he could purchase a bottle of soda from a soda machine on the 2nd floor.  Apparently, assassinating someone makes you thirsty.  I don’t know about you, but if I were either planning to shoot a president of the United States or had just shot a president, I don’t think my immediate priority would be to drink a soda, particularly if I had to waste time getting change from a cashier to buy it.  (See the link below titled “What Was Lee Harvey Oswald’s Alibi” for detailed information on the whereabouts of Oswald while inside the Texas School Book Depository Building in that critical time frame from noon until Oswald left the building at 12:33, 3 minutes after the final shot.)

Yet another telling fact about Oswald inside the Texas School Book Depository just moments after the assassination took place is that there was a young woman, Victoria Adams, on the 4th floor who testified that she came down the staircase immediately after the kill shot on JFK — the same staircase that Oswald would have had to use to return from the 6th floor to the 2nd floor for that encounter with officer Baker.  But she said that she never did see him on the staircase — because he wasn’t there.

Finally, relative to the real assassins in the Texas School Book Depository, there is also the curious but disputed testimony of Virgil “Ed” Hoffman who made the claim that he witnessed two men, one with a rifle, leave the building just after the assassination.  Hoffman himself recanted this testimony after he went to the spot where he thought he had been standing and realized he could not have seen what he said he saw because of a high fence blocking his view, yet there is also the suggestion about this recantation that his father in fact persuaded Virgil to recant because of fear for his son’s life.   Did Hoffman see the actual assassins flee from the Texas Schoolbook Depository or was this some kind of strange delusion?  We will never know, but it is curious.

It could well be that our would-be lunatic assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had been on the lower floors all along between noon and when he left the building at 12:33, and that in fact, relative to the JFK assassination, his role was to be used by our intelligence community as a throw-away fall guy.   Oswald’s own word for the role he played was “patsy”.

But here is where I do some serious speculating on my own, based on what I think just makes the most sense.  We are departing from the hard evidence here as described above, and moving into the realm of pure theory to explain Oswald’s rather odd behavior after he left the building.  For me, Oswald was more than just a patsy.  He was connected, he himself had experience as an operator.  He knew how various intelligence games were played.  He had a sense for when something was set in motion.  Prior to that fateful day November 22nd, he might well have overheard “chatter” that there was something going down in the Dallas area, but he did not exactly know what that something was — until the assassination took place, and then he knew.

So he must have left the Texas School Book Depository sensing something ominous was at play, possibly involving himself — because he had not been in the loop — why not, he might have asked himself?  His intuition warned him that he was somehow connected to what was unfolding, and this intuition was flashing danger signals, so he made tracks.  That would be my conjecture here, and I admit it is pure conjecture — I have no proof of this at all, no evidence.  But it explains his subsequent odd behavior — going back to his digs to get a revolver and, what else, going to the movies, of all things.

But before we get into Oswald’s subsequent odd behavior, a note about the murder of police officer J.D. Tippit, for it was for that murder, not the assassination of the president, that Oswald was first arraigned.  To begin with, there is a credible eyewitness, Acquilla Clemons, of that murder of the police officer who said that the officer was attacked by two men, not one.  She described the two men as short and heavy as well as tall and thin — neither description matched Oswald’s physic of short and slim.  And there were two different shell casings found at the murder scene, which tends to corroborate Clemons’s story.

It could well be that this planned execution of Tippit by these two assassins was a revenge killing totally unrelated to the other events of that day or it could be that, as many conspiracy theorists have maintained, that it was part of the conspiracy to link Oswald to JFK’s assassination and put the police on his trail.  Frankly, I have no idea which is more plausible, but it does raise the issue, what exactly did put the Dallas Police Department on the trail of a suspect matching Oswald’s description broadcast to the squad cars at 12:45, merely 15 minutes after JFK’s assassination and 30 minutes before Tippit was actually murdered.

Chapter 5 titled “Why Oswald Was Wanted,” in Mark Lane’s book Rush To Judgment is worth the price of the entire book just by itself.  It seems this physical description matching Oswald that was broadcast just minutes after JFK was assassinated had no known origin.  It just seem to have materialized out of thin air in the Dallas Police Department, which is itself highly suspicious.  Of course, if one assumes that if Oswald had nothing to do with JFK’s assassination, but the plan was to pin it on him, then of course something like this “invention” would have had to have taken place to set the wheels in motion — and  that is exactly what happened.  To this day, no one knows where this description of the suspect in Kennedy’s assassination that was broadcast at 12:45 to squad cars came from.  Remarkable.

But back to Oswald and his odd behavior after leaving the Texas School Book Depository.  That he went to fetch a revolver suggests that he felt he was being hunted by those who had killed JFK — hunted so that he would be killed and take the blame but with his mouth permanently sealed.  The final twist in the Oswald story has to do with Oswald ducking into a dark movie house — he went to the movies!  But that’s exactly the type of place a CIA operator would go to rendezvous with his handler.  It is also the type of place one would go to if one feared being assassinated by the police or a professional assassin since it is a very public place with lots of people as witnesses.

My pure conjecture concerning the behavior of Oswald after the assassination is that he put two and two together, and realized that he was in danger, that the job at the Texas School Book Depository was a setup, and he was being played as the fall guy for the assassination.  So he went to his digs to get a gun for his self defense, but then he hid in the movie house, but wanted to see his handler — to confirm or deny his suspicions.  Pathetically, even when in jail, he made one attempted phone call to an individual, John Hurt, connected to the military intelligence community — i.e., Oswald was still trying to get some kind of confirmation from the very ones who had betrayed him.

So what do we really have with the JFK assassination?  It was unquestionably a conspiracy with multiple shooters, but Oswald was in all probability not one of them (the jury really is still out on Oswald: he could conceivably have been one of the assassins, although that’s a pretty big stretch with all the improbabilities described above, or more than likely he could have been what he said he was — “a patsy”.  But there is no question that he was connected to the CIA.  And the conspiracy had too many links to the intelligence community for them not to have been the key force behind it.  Everything points to rogue elements in the CIA.

So given this very dark picture of what really happened on Nov. 22, 1963, in regard to America’s willing to confront the truth, I’m reminded of a line in a movie with Jack Nicholson who, when under oath. sneers back at the prosecuting attorney: “You can’t handle the truth!”  That has been the real problem with uncovering the truth about the JFK assassination — the country as a whole can’t handle the truth, and it doesn’t really want the truth, so the truth stays buried.

Witnesses Describe Wound in Back of Head

Autopsy Photograph of the Back of JFK’s Head Intact

Altered History: Zapruder Film Mystery by Douglas P. Horne

Zapruder’s JFK Assassination Footage Altered by Nefarious Forces

Oswald’s Miraculous Facility with the Russian Language

The Girl on the Stairs

What Was Lee Harvey Oswald’s Alibi?

Acquilla Clemons

“You can’t handle the truth!”

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Islamic Sectarianism

The Middle East and north African countries were held in check by ruthless autocrats for decades until the introduction of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with the loud speaker that is social media, sent the message to the Muslim world that autocracy was not the only option, and so the “Arab Spring” emerged first across north Africa and conspicuously Libya and Egypt, but then in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere.

This turn of events – the overthrow of tyrants – was a double-edged sword, for the tyrants had accomplished one positive result during their reign.  They had managed to keep a lid on Islamic sectarianism, a malady potentially pandemic in many Muslim countries with sizable sectarian minorities, whether Shia or Sunni.

What has evolved now is a full-bore sectarian civil war between the two prominent Islamic sects.  It is not confined to a single country or even a single region, and so intense it calls into question the practicality of maintaining many of these nations as is – Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc.   These nations are composed of the two Islamic sects that will never again live peacefully together, so that to keep these nations intact ensures permanent disorder, that is, no end in sight to the sectarian violence.

The reaction of the West has often been to misinterpret this evolution as an assault on Western values and religions when, in fact, even though this assault may indeed be taking place, it is really more in the vein of collateral damage.  The main objective of this sectarian conflict is for the Sunni to put an end to the Shia and for the Shia to put an end to the Sunni, an internecine war among Muslims.  On a larger geopolitical basis, this sectarian conflict is represented by Iran and its bloc of nations representing the Shia side and by Saudi Arabia and its bloc of nations representing the Sunni side.

We in the United States have a bitter history and knowledge of the ruthlessness of civil war so that we should not underestimate how ruthless this one may become.   So what is to be done?   So far, the emphasis seems to be to target and bomb the Sunni side – bombing in Syria and Iraq to eliminate ISIS, the most extreme element on the Sunni side, although Yemen now sees bombing of the Shia side as well.  In effect, the idea is to bomb the oppressed minority into submission or oblivion.   But will this be effective in the long run?  I think not.

A more effective, long-term approach to end this sectarian civil war would be to evaluate the countries that are mired in it, and to subdivide them along sectarian lines.  We can only emerge from the sectarian civil war with Islamic nations that make sense by containing no oppressed minorities.  A Shia central government with an oppressed Sunni minority or the reverse — that very scenario is the cause of the civil war, and so its elimination is the real, political solution, not endless bombing.

Syria should be divided into a Shia western nation and a Sunni eastern nation that includes the Sunni section of Iraq, preferably under the control of the Sunni tribesmen, not ISIS.  The Kurds in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran should have their own nation so that they are not subject to a central government intolerant of their religion and way of life. What remains of Iraq should be exclusively Shia.  Yemen should be similarly divided along sectarian lines as well as any other country that has this sectarian cancer.

To those who would protest and say we should retain the territorial integrity of these nations, I counter that their sectarian composition – trying to mix the two Islamic sects under one roof — is the cause of the problem.  How can it possibly be the solution?  Neither will the sectarian civil war that has resulted be resolved by introducing the decidedly Western concept of fair treatment of minorities, as we have clearly seen under a Shia Baghdad now oppressing Sunnis and a Sunni (Saddam Hussein-led) Baghdad that had been oppressing Shias – in essence, doing the same thing but expecting a different result, the definition of insanity.

Only a sharp and clear separation of the two sects into their own distinct nation states, so that there are no oppressed religious sects within any countries, will put an end to this Islamic civil war, while wishful thinking about the fair treatment of minorities will merely perpetuate it, as we have already witnessed twice in Iraq.  Some may say that to subdivide these nations along sectarian lines is not practical, that such a solution is the wishful thinking.  I would counter that, in fact, it is the only solution.  And it has worked before in the creation of Muslim Pakistan in separating it from Hindu India along religious line — and it can work again, elsewhere.

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Wizard of Oz Politics

Our politics imitate the Wizard of Oz, the Republicans have no heart and the Democrats no brain — except they, unlike the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, don’t care.

As for the Wizard himself, we have plenty of politicians who makes promises, promises, promises, and everything is miraculously free.  They never do get around to explaining how their utopia will actually be paid for — that’s the rub.  Taxpayers who pay the most are the least credulous of this hocus pocus, while that half of the population that pays nothing the most.

American politics are summed up by that old anecdote that is still relevant today.  It goes something like this: American politics are like going to see a comic movie.  You take your seat, and the movie is very funny.  Everyone in the audience, the public, is laughing their heads off at the ridiculous characters on the screen — the loonie politicians and their shenanigans  — but every once in a while, a live bullet comes out of the screen and kills someone in the audience.

Wizard of Oz Characters

Murder in Chicago

Where Is Our Leader?


A Speech Like No Other

If a Nation Catches the Flu


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If a Nation Catches the Flu

Nations are subject to a particular type of influenza that may be but a brief illness and a fast recovery or may instead imitate the black death visited on the planet in 1919 — a scourge that killed millions.    It all depends on what the leadership decides to do when confronted by this common illness.

That leadership can act like the adult in the room taking steps that will induce an immediate cure so that the nation is unscathed.  Or it can act like an adolescent in the room throwing a temper tantrum, and therefore prolong the illness and seriously disrupt the nation.  Or it can act like the baby in the room balling its eyes out and inconsolable, and bring the nation to its knees or perhaps even destroy it entirely.   The illness, the influenza that nations catch from time to time, on a more or less regular basis, is always the same, but the outcomes can be dramatically different.

So what is this dreaded influenza that affects nations and who are these actors in the play — the adult, the adolescent, and the baby?  The influenza strikes a nation when a large minority of its citizens no longer respects the authority of the central government and so no longer wants to participate as a segment of the nation — they want out, and they are willing to fight for it.

This can happen for a variety of reasons.  There may be a large ethnic minority incompatible with the ethnic majority that rules the country.  There may be a large nationalist minority incompatible with the nationalist group that rules, as in the case where adjoining countries share mixed nationalities.  There may be a large religious minority incompatible with the religious majority that rules.  There may be a large business community whose mode of business is incompatible with the commercial ways of the majority.  There may even be stark cultural differences of the minority that make their members want to break away from the constraints of the nation they find themselves inhibited by.  In short, there are any number of reasons why a minority within a nation can form and ultimately revolt against the rule of the majority.  For a nation, this type of influenza is the nature of the beast — it has happened frequently in the past, it is happening today in the present, and will most certainly continue to happen in the future.

The reason this influenza is potentially so dangerous is that nations are an acquisitive and possessive bunch.  They acquire territory in any number of ways — conquer it (think of Imperial Japan in WW2 or what the United States snatched from Mexico), buy it (Louisiana Purchase, Alaska), or just absorb it — adjoining land.  But once they have it, nations are very possessive and extremely reluctant to relinquish any territory.   The central government’s knee jerk reaction to any such suggestion is to fight first, think last.

So what country would be an example of the adult in the room when a nation was faced with a sudden onslaught of influenza?  There are not that many because of the aforementioned possessiveness but there have been some.  A recent one, Czechoslovakia, comes to mind when one ponders how the adult in the room reacts to a divisive minority that undermines the authority of the central government and so threatens the nation state.  This was the so-called Velvet Divorce because it all happened without a single shot being fired, without a single life being lost.

In what was Czechoslovakia, the Czechs and the Slovaks formed two very distinct ethnic/nationalist groups.  The Czechs dominated the central government and their region of the country dominated the nation’s economy.  Consequently, there was a separatist Slovakian movement to break away from the Czechs.  Fortunately, the Czechs and the Slovaks occupied two very distinct regions of the country so that a clean separation between the two groups was eminently possible.  That’s exactly what happened.  After lengthy but civilized negotiation between the two groups, what was once Czechoslovakia dissolved and became instead, on Jan. 1, 1993, two distinct nations — the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

So what country would be an example of the adolescent in the room when a nation was faced with influenza?  We are witnessing one today in the Ukraine, a nation whose current government came into power as a result of a coup d’etat overthrowing an elected president but one who was acting, not like a Ukrainian, but like a Russian puppet.

Unfortunately, the Ukraine is an example of a country with mixed nationalities with the adjoining nation Russia, that is, there are many Russians living in the Ukraine.  If you look up the demographics of Crimea, you’ll discover that 65.3% of the population is Russian and only 15.7% Ukrainian (based on the 2014 census) — those are the facts.  Russians outnumber Ukrainians in Crimea over 4 to 1.  There are also many Russians living in that little sliver of eastern Ukraine in open revolt.  In short, the Russians in the Ukraine want to have nothing to do with the new Ukrainian regime in Kiev, a regime naturally extremely nationalistic — that is Ukrainian — after the coup to get rid of a leader who was looking out for Russian interests.

Crimea is not that contiguous with the Ukraine, and the demographics are against unification.  And there is the problem that a referendum did in fact vote overwhelmingly to re-unite with Russia — how else could the vote have gone with such a large Russian majority in Crimea?  And of course Russia is now actively guarding their new acquisition, and we know how possessive nations are.  So it appear that the Crimea issue is all but settled, and perhaps that is for the best — for what has happened is certainly the most democratic solution there.  But what about that little sliver of territory in eastern  Ukraine, that sliver that is in open revolt?  Kiev is holding onto it with all the strength of a angry adolescent, for the Ukraine is foaming at the mouth at having lost Crimea, and Kiev will be damned if it loses any more territory.  It will fight to the death to prevent further loss.

But let us take a step back and try to look at this situation with a little more objectivity and detachment.  The so-called “rebels” in that little sliver of territory to the east are willing to lay down their lives to break away from the Kiev regime and the Ukraine.  Their fanaticism to separate from the Ukraine is equal to the fanaticism of the Kiev regime to retain this little sliver of territory, perhaps even more so, as they risk the ultimate sacrifice, while politicians in Kiev, while they may rail against the rebels, do so at a safe distance.

Let us suppose that the revolt is ultimately crushed, and the little sliver of territory remains a part of the Ukraine.  Fine.  But what has Kiev really re-acquired except a significant section of the nation that will be in revolt and simmering rebellion against the central government on a more or less permanent basis — that is, forever.  Is that really a desirable outcome for the Kiev regime?  Is that really in their interest?  The adolescent in the room, the leadership in Kiev, demands this very outcome, even though in many ways it is counterproductive for their regime to have a section of the country forever questioning Kiev central authority.

The solution for this little sliver of territory in revolt in the eastern edge of the Ukraine is an obvious one, and one that would be in the best interest of the Ukraine, Russia, and the Ukrainians and Russian in the Ukraine.  That would be to carve out this little sliver and declare it an independent buffer state between the two giants, the Ukraine and Russia.  The understanding might be that the new buffer state will remain independent for 10 years, and then can hold a referendum to determine whether it will remain independent or join the Ukraine or Russia — there might indeed be serious advantages for the little state to remain forever a buffer between the two giants.  This would be the simple and elegant solution to the problem if there were an adult in the room — but unfortunately there isn’t.

So what country would be an example of the baby in the room when a nation was faced with influenza?  Make that countries, as this is the most common reaction, by far and away  outnumbering the other reactions by 100 to 1.  It is common because here is where the nation’s possessiveness knows no bounds.  Syria is the preeminent current example of the baby in the room; while Yugoslavia and the United States are noteworthy historical examples.

Syria is an example of the country torn asunder by a religious schism, in this case between the Shia regime controlling the government and a sizable Sunni opposition.  In a sense, Syria has been victimized by a much wider Shia and Sunni regional civil war that has been raging throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  The trigger for Syria was the so-called “Arab spring,” where once oppressed peoples revolted against repressive regimes to demand more democratic or representative government.  This was the impetus behind the initial Sunni demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad.

As the demonstrations grew in number and size, the Assad regime became more and more concerned about this threat to its authority, and ultimately struck back with force to suppress the Sunnis and their subversive movement.  We have all heard the oft repeated  cries against Assad that he was “murdering his own people.”  The regime simply refused to even consider any legitimacy in the Sunni complaint or any reduction whatsoever in Syrian territory.  For Assad and his regime — the baby in the room — it was maintain the union at all cost.  And that cost has been enormous, as we have all witnessed, month after dreary month of civil war and mayhem on a large scale.

Perhaps the poster child of the baby in the room was Yugoslavia.  Here was a nation made up of nothing but minorities, and they were legend, and the divisions between these minorities were ethnic, nationalistic, and religious — all three.  So the fuse that lit here, and blew the nation not into two fragments but many was principally ethnic with with nationalism and religion playing a key role, as well.  The disintegration of Yugoslavia resulted in another terrible civil war complete with full-blown genocide of Muslims.  Here there was no adult in the room; there was not even a room, as Yugoslavia the nation never really made any sense in the first place.  What was once one nation called Yugoslavia disintegrated into chaos, but ultimately emerged no less than 2 but as many as 7 separate nations, depending upon how you count them — but not without paying an enormous price in lost lives.

When they fired upon Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor — a clear act of rebellion and secession from these United States — President Abraham Lincoln had a choice to make.  As he put it in a nutshell, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”  He made his choice, and that choice was to preserve the union, to preserve the union at all cost.  The “house” would not be divided — he would see to that.

The South was populated with the same European ethnic groups as the North, practiced the same religions, but it had evolved an entirely different sort of economy based on “king cotton,” which was spurred by the invention of the cotton gin, but dependent upon plentiful slave labor to pick all that cotton.  The slave as property was at the center of the South’s economy and wealth, so that a movement like the abolitionists in the North to eradicate what they considered to be an evil institution struck at the very heart of the Southern way of life.  So as abolitionism grew in the North, so too did a corollary sentiment for secession grow in the South.

It is interesting to compare Lincoln to Assad.  We revere Lincoln but distain Assad,  yet in one respect their goal was identical — to preserve the union at all cost.   Assad is lambasted as a president who would “murder his own people.”  How many times have you heard that repeated?  But if you go back to the Civil War years, there were many also who called Lincoln a “tyrant” and a “butcher,” particular in the South, and even by some critics of the war in the North.  Yes, Lincoln was a butcher of the South who “murdered his own people” — just how many Southerners paid the ultimate price for Lincoln to preserve the Union?   And yet it was preserved, and any number of towns, particularly in the North, renamed a road “Union Street,” to commemorate this achievement.  The possessive state had triumphed.  Lincoln had kept his “house” from dividing, but at what cost?

The American Civil War is by far America’s most deadly war.  Only recently has the total casualty count of all the other wars combined surpassed the number of Americans who  died in the Civil War (620,000), and do not forget that the total population of the United States at the time of the Civil War was much smaller then, merely 1/10 the size of what it is today.  It was an extremely bloody example of what happens when the baby in the room is in charge, and declares that it will preserve the union no matter what the cost.  Did it have to be so?  Did the American Civil War have to happen at all?  Could Lincoln have made a different decision in response to the firing upon Fort Sumter?

Of course he could.  The South, like what happened in Czechoslovakia, could have splintered off and formed a separate nation.  There might have been little to no bloodshed at all.  The downside here is that slavery in the South would then have gone unchallenged, but were its days numbered anyway?  Were the forces of modernity, beginning with the British turning against this peculiar institution earlier in the 19th century, already aligned against slavery so that its days were numbered even in the South anyway?  No one can possibly give definitive answers to such questions, but the questions themselves are valid ones.   Given the truly terrible cost of the Civil War, did Lincoln make the mature decision, that is, the adult one after they fired upon Fort Sumter?

So what can we finally say about this frequent influenza that strikes nations, and can have any of a number of outcomes from relatively benign ones to terrible devastation?  This disease is a kind of model that we can use to assess the health of a nation, to see if there is lurking within it a separatist minority that can threaten the authority of the central government.  The model can even be used to diagnose the imminence of the disease, a disease that may lurk for years before it erupts, but erupt it will.

For instance, there are a number of nations in the Middle East that, surely, show severe symptoms of influenza, and will no doubt succumb to it if not in the short term, certainly in the long term.  These include Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.  In fact, they all share the same issue: the Kurds.  It remains to be seen how each of these nations will react to the influenza when it strikes, whether as the adult in the room, the adolescent, or the baby, but the past experience of how nations have reacted to this disease does not bode well for these nations — or for the Kurds.

Czechoslovakia — Velvet Divorce


Breakup of Yugoslavia


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Murder in Chicago


Isn’t it about time someone actually does something about the murders in Chicago?   The statistics prove that the current city administration, police department, and courts are unable to solve this problem.  They have failed the residents of the city, which has turned into a veritable shooting gallery.

I think it is high time the Federal Government step in with the National Guard, on a more or less permanent basis, and lock down the most lethal neighborhoods of Chicago.  The police departments must keep statistics on which neighborhoods have the most murders and perhaps even down to very precise locations (see the site reference below that identifies the most lethal neighborhoods — it isn’t a secret).    The presence of the National Guard in those neighborhoods  would have a dramatic and immediate impact on all the violence.

What better use could be made of the National Guard than to protect American citizens from murder?  And it is not as if the National Guard is so swamped with their other responsibilities.  If the annual murder rate in Chicago were just cut in half, that would mean that 300 citizens would be alive next year who wouldn’t be if we do nothing — yet again.

A couple of other candidate cities for this kind of special treatment include two that, on a per capita basis, are even worse than Chicago — St. Louis and Baltimore.  St. Louis has 65.83 murders per 100,000 residents, while Baltimore has 55.48.  Lest you think the United States is such a safe and secure place to live, St. Louis is actually ranked number 13th and Baltimore 21st among the most dangerous cities in all the world.  Shouldn’t we actually do something about that?

Most Dangerous Cities in the World

Lethal Neighborhoods in Chicago

Where Is Our Leader?

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9/11 — Coming Down the Stairwell


I stepped off the elevator on the 71st floor of 1 World Trade Center only seconds before the first airplane hit.   There was one person, a young man, still on the elevator when the doors closed.

The airplane jolted the building in such a sharp fashion that I lost my balance.  I recall having the thought it was pointless to react to the lurch in the building because if the building went over, I was dead anyway.

Only a few feet from the elevator, I was standing near a stairwell entrance, which was situated next to the entrance to my department.  A consultant I knew ran out of the department entrance, dashed to the stairwell door, and opened it hastily.  As he did so, I asked him what he was doing, and he said he had been here in ’93 and was getting the hell out.   Still stunned, I just followed him through the door without saying a word.

As we were the first into the stairwell, we were able to scurry down about 5 flights before the crush of people came in.   The trip down the stairwell from that point on was like a crowded highway that backs up to a slow go and an occasional stop, now and then.  Most of the time, the two rows of people were orderly, but when the lines slowed to a stop, panic set in, and a few people started to yell, but when the lines started up again, they would quiet down, until the next time.

Despite the fumes in the stairwell, enough to make people tear, I think most people were unaware of what had actually happened, and thought instead an accident had occurred – a plane had accidentally flown into the building.  But when we got to around the 20s, three quarters of the way down, there was suddenly talk of a second plane!  We discovered this not because we sensed anything from the second plane’s impact on 2 WTC, but because people had cell phones and the message got through to them.   And so suddenly it was a lot scarier because two planes meant this was no accident.  We were under attack.

Two fire fighters passed us by.  Both were heavily loaded with gear, and were having a hard time with the gear going up all those stairs.  When we got to around the 10th floor, I looked through an open door, and there were many firefighters on this one floor as a kind of staging area, I guess.  The water retardant system had been activated because there was a lot of water on that floor and on the stairwell steps from that point to the bottom.

When we got to the bottom of the stairwell, which ended at an inconspicuous door on the plaza or mezzanine level, there were a number of people guiding us to the down escalator and under the plaza in a complex route that brought us to the up escalator or staircase and out the door next to the bookstore facing Church Street.    This route made a lot of sense as it protected people from falling debris from both towers.  I would be curious to know who – what person – came up with this strategy?  The strategy clearly saved a lot of lives, and demonstrated cool thinking in a desperate situation.  Whoever came up with the strategy deserves recognition for it, yet I have never heard who that person was.

Of course, one cannot say enough about the people who stayed behind, at grave danger to themselves in the underbelly of the complex, to guide the rest of us in our escape, like a human chain, to safety.  They were in grave danger to themselves, indeed, because they were still there when 2 WTC came down upon them.

When I came outside, there was a policeman telling people don’t look up and hurry and don’t stop.  And of course one had an immediate urge to look up, if nothing else to finally really see what in God’s name was going on.  When I did, what I saw was a solid band of red fire high up on 2 WTC, with smoke streaming out the top of this red wall of fire.

My immediate gut reaction was that the fire was too intense for the building to withstand it.  This was no barn fire that was mostly black smoke with occasional specks of red here and there, but a virtual wall of red fire.  So I just wanted to bolt and get away because I instinctively thought the building was doomed — it would come down.

There was a large crowd across Church Street on the same block as St. Paul’s Chapel, and I remember dodging around these people to make my way through this crowd as they pressed forward to get a better view.  These same people were in the bulls-eye when 2 WTC came down, all for the sake of a better view.

I made it to just before City Hall on Park Row before 2 WTC came down.  I remember there was a kind of collective groan from the people around me, so I turned around to see, only to see 2 WTC collapse, and then a huge cloud of soot burst out from between the buildings in the foreground.

Very scared, I made it all the way to an obscure side street just below Washington Square when 1 WTC came down.    Moments after it came down, I had the strangest feeling of exultation – actually leaping in the air.   Completely involuntary, this exultation, I realized later, was a kind of visceral relief and gladness at having survived, of still being alive.    I had no control over it.  It just swept over me.

I went back to the WTC site recently to step off the distance.  I wanted to know how close a call it was.   How much time had elapsed from when I was still trapped inside the complex to where I stood when 2 WTC came down?  A brisk walk took just four and a half minutes.  But for those four and a half minutes, the photography ebook listed below would never have seen the light of day.

Manhattan, A Photographer’s Journey by Henry Barnard

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A Speech Like No Other

It was the greatest speech ever given in American history: Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at the dedication ceremonies at Gettysburg, given on November 19, 1963.   The speaker before Lincoln, Edward Everett, a very famous orator in his own right, droned on for over 2 hours.  After the respectful — and perhaps thankful — applause upon the conclusion of Everett’s speech, Lincoln took the podium.  His speech lasted less than 2 minutes.  When it ended, there was dead silence from the massive audience that had assembled to hear the speeches and pay their respects at Gettysburg.  There was dead silence because no one realized  the speech, so brief and to the point, had actually ended.  Slowly there was hesitant clapping from the audience.  This — silence and confusion — was the immediate and ironic response to the greatest speech ever given in American history.  Of course, all the Northern newspapers picked it up for their next edition, and when those 272 words were actually read by the public, an immense reaction took place that reverberates to this day.  Such is the power of the printed word.

Gettysburg Address Text

Gettysburg Address History

Where Is Our Leader?


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