Wednesday, September 19, 2007

HBO, Playtone Acquire 'Kennedy' Miniseries


HBO Films and Playtone have acquired Vincent Bugliosi's "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy" and will develop it into a 10-part miniseries. Playtone's Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman will executive produce along with "Big Love" star Bill Paxton.

"The successful creative partnership we have enjoyed with Tom, Gary and Bill over the years imbues us with a confidence...that Bugliosi's riveting book will make a very powerful transition to the screen," HBO Films president Colin Callender said.

Playtone has produced such projects for HBO as minies "From the Earth to the Moon," "Band of Brothers" and the upcoming "John Adams" and "The Pacific" as well as the series "Big Love."

In his New York Times best-seller, Bugliosi, who prosecuted Charles Manson and penned "Helter Skelter," disclaims many conspiracy theories and contends that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole party behind the 1963 Kennedy assassination.

"Seventy-five percent of the American public believes in the falsehood that there was a conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy, and only 19% accept the findings of the Warren Commission that Oswald acted alone," Bugliosi said. "Working with Playtone and HBO, I'm confident that we can reverse those numbers and finally bring the truth to the American public."

Bringing "Reclaiming History" to the small screen has been a passion for native Texan Paxton who as an eight-year-old accompanied his father and older brother to an appearance that President Kennedy made in Paxton's hometown of Fort Worth Nov. 22, 1963 just hours before his assassination in Dallas. He brought the book to Hanks and Goetzman, who executive produce "Big Love."

"Based on the facts and evidence that Vincent Bugliosi so masterfully presents, it's a story that has haunted me and my generation our whole lives," Paxton said. "Now, with the 50th anniversaries of President Kennedy's inaugural address and assassination looming in the next few years, we felt it was the right time to pursue this project."


Monday, September 17, 2007

The Truth About Joe O’Donnell


The legacy of Joe O’Donnell, the retired government photographer who worked with White House photographer Robert Knudsen and who told the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) in 1997 that Knudsen showed him post-mortem photographs of John F. Kennedy’s body which showed a grapefruit-sized hole in the back of Kennedy’s head, hasn’t faired very well since his death on August 14, 2007, at the age of 85.

Obituaries published nationwide credited O’Donnell for taking numerous photographs actually taken by other photographers – including one famous picture: John F. Kennedy, Jr., saluting his slain father’s passing caisson on November 25, 1963. That photograph and numerous others that O’Donnell claimed as his own turned out to have been taken by other photographers.

In a September 15, 2007, New York Times article written by Michael Wilson, Mr. O’Donnell’s family said “his claims to fame – made in television, newspaper and radio interviews, as well as on his own amateurish Web site – were not out of greed or fraud, but the confused statements of an ailing man in his last years. The only thing stolen, his widow and one of his sons said, was the soundness of his memory. While he was not formally diagnosed with a mental illness, he clearly became senile, his family said.”

However, as anyone familiar with the ARRB medical records knows, Mr. O’Donnell’s exaggerations have not been limited to his declining years.

Ten years ago, O’Donnell told the ARRB that White House photographer Robert L. Knudsen, whom O’Donnell knew well, showed him a set of post-mortem photographs of Kennedy which depicted a hole in the back of Kennedy’s head the “size of a grapefruit.” A few days later, Knudsen reportedly showed O’Donnell a second set of photographs which now showed the back of the president’s head intact.

Conspiracy buffs have made a big deal out of O’Donnell’s revelations ever since, citing O’Donnell as a witness to the true state of Kennedy’s head and the fabrication of photographs to cover up evidence of a fatal shot fired from in front of the motorcade – yes, (gasp!) the grassy knoll.

Of course, no where in all this conspiracy malarkey will you read about the other things that Mr. O’Donnell told the ARRB – claims that completely undermine his credibility. For instance, the ARRB also reported these two items:

“[O’Donnell] said that after [Air Force One] landed [at Andrews Air Force Base with the body of President Kennedy], he successfully demanded to briefly speak to Jacqueline B. Kennedy after she had gotten into the Navy ambulance, and that when he relayed to her the story about JFK saying he could ‘live up here forever (near the Lee Mansion),’ [which the President reportedly said within earshot of O’Donnell on November 11 – Veteran’s Day] she reportedly said to him, ‘then that is where we will put him,’ this providing an explanation for how the idea of an Arlington burial site first came to the President’s widow.” ).” [Call Report, Joe O’Donnell, Telephone Interview by Jeremy Gunn and Douglas Horne, 02/28/97, pp.1-2]

And this:

“Mr. O’Donnell further volunteered that he was asked to show Jacqueline Kennedy the Zapruder film in a private screening with a few weeks of the assassination; his recollection of the timing was uncertain. He said no one was present except Jacqueline Kennedy and him, and that the screening was held at the USIA [United States Information Agency] screening room at the USIA building at 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue. He said that when he asked her why she tried to escape from the limousine, she told him she was not trying to escape, but rather was trying to pick up pieces of the President’s head from the top of the car’s trunk lid, so that his head could be put back together. He said that following hr viewing of the head shot sequence in the film, Jacqueline Kennedy told him in a very forceful way, ‘I don’t ever want to see that again,’ which he said that he interpreted as an order to alter the film so as to remove the offending images of the head shot – namely, a halo of debris around the President’s head. He told us he knows it was wrong, but he removed about 10 feet of film from the Zapruder film. After Mr. O’Donnell was asked what format the film was, he stated it was 16mm film; when asked if he was sure that it was 16mm film, he said that yes, it was 16mm film. When asked to estimate how many frames he removed, he simply repeated that he removed ‘about 10 feet of film.’ He said he has not seen the Zapruder film since that time. When he was asked whether he altered a copy of the film or the original, he said, ‘I had the original.’ “ [Call Report, Joe O’Donnell, Telephone Interview by Jeremy Gunn, 02/28/97, p.2]

Both of these claims are patently false. First, the arrival of Air Force One and Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy’s departure in a Navy Ambulance with her husband’s body was broadcast on live television and at no time does Joe O’Donnell or anyone resembling O’Donnell approach the ambulance and converse with Mrs. Kennedy.

Second, O’Donnell couldn’t possibly have shown Mrs. Kennedy the original or even a copy of the 8mm [not 16mm] Zapruder film during the time period he claimed without anyone knowing about it – specifically TIME-Life, Inc., which owned the original and jealously guarded it, and the Warren Commission which didn’t begin to study the film until late January 1964. The whole idea of a private showing, especially one in which the only person besides Mrs. Kennedy in attendance was O’Donnell, is preposterous. Further, O’Donnell’s claim that Mrs. Kennedy recalled retrieving pieces of the president’s skull from the trunk lid of the limousine flies in the face of Mrs. Kennedy’s own testimony to the Warren Commission that she didn’t recall climbing on the trunk at all, let alone why she was there, and that looking at images of her doing so was like looking at another woman.

While the facts surrounding O’Donnell’s claims could have been easily checked, the ARRB’s Jeremy Gunn only noted that “Mr. O’Donnell’s memory was uneven” and that while he had difficultly remembering the names of Presidents, and gave a different timing on when Knudsen showed him the Kennedy’s post-mortem photographs (the first time he said he saw them within a week of the assassination; the second time he said it was within a month), Gunn nevertheless concluded – as if to save O’Donnell’s credibility: “On the other hand, [O’Donnell] appeared to remember with apparent precision some events from the 1940s through the 1960s.”

Scheez. Is this how conspiracy theorists get to the truth of the matter? You bet it is, and has been for the better part of four decades. And you can also wager that the conspiracy crowd will continue to play these kinds of shell games with the true facts as long as they can – just as they have with the testimony of the late Joe O’Donnell. Count on it.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Lee Bowers: The Man Behind the Grassy Knoll


For nearly a month now, a small group of conspiracy theorists have been cluttering up two assassination forums with a discussion over the merits of eyewitness Lee Bowers, Jr.’s alleged testimony that he saw two men standing behind the stockade fence atop the grassy knoll, the long suspect source of the fatal shot – according to conspiracy buffs.

I say “alleged” because as I pointed out in the ‘Testimony’ section of “Badge Man: A Photogrammetric Analysis of Moorman Photograph No.5 of the JFK Assassination,” Bowers actually said that no one was behind the fence shooting at the president.

In the last few weeks, several frequent posters on two assassination newsgroups – Debra Conway’s JFK/Lancer Forum and John Simkin’s U.K. Educational Forum – have been having a war of words over what Lee Bowers said and what he meant.

What’s it all about? Here’s the complete statement Lee Bowers, a railroad worker stationed in the switching tower located several hundred feet north of and behind the stockade fence atop the grassy knoll, gave police on the afternoon of November 22, 1963:


BEFORE ME, Patsy Collins, a Notary Public in and for said County, State of Texas, on this day personally appeared Lee E. Bowers, Jr., w/m/38 of 10508 Maplegrove Lane, Dallas, Texas DA-1-1909 who, after being by me duly sworn, on oath deposes and says:
I work at North Tower Union Terminal Co. RI-8-4698 7 am to 3 pm Monday thru [sic] Friday. The tower where I work is West and a little north of the Texas Book Depository Building. I was on duty today and about 11:55 am I saw a dirty 1959 Oldsmobile Station Wagon come down the street toward my building. This street dead ends in the railroad yard. This car had out of state license plats with white background and black numbers, no letters. It also had a Goldwater for "64" sticker in the rear window. This car just drove around slowly and left the area. It was occupied by a middle aged white man partly grey hair. At about 12:15 pm another car came into the area with a white man about 25 to 35 years old driving. This car was a 1957 Ford, Black, 2 door with Texas license. This man appeared to have a mike or telephone in the car. Just a few minutes after this car left at 12:20 pm another car pulled in. This car was a 1961 Chevrolet, Impala, 4 door, am not sure that this was a 4 door, color white and dirty up to the windows. This car also had a Goldwater for "64" sticker. This car was driven by a white male about 25 to 35 years old with long blond hair. He stayed in the area longer than the others. This car also had the XXX [strikeout] same type license plates as the 1959 Oldsmobile. He left this area about 12:25 pm. About 8 or 10 minutes after he left I heard at least 3 shots very close together. Just after the shots the area became crowded with people coming from Elm Street and the slope just north of Elm.

/s/ Lee E. Bowers Jr.

/s/ Patsy Collins
Notary Public, Dallas County, Texas

Nowhere in this statement, made within hours of the shooting, does Bowers say or suggest that he saw two men standing behind the stockade fence atop the grassy knoll or shooting the president. Wouldn’t you think that would be an important fact to note had it actually happened?

Five months later, on April 2, 1964, Bowers testified before the Warren Commission, and gave essentially the same testimony he gave police on November 22 – all about three suspicious cars that circled the railroad parking shortly before the shooting. In addition, Bowers provided information about several people standing in the vicinity of the stockade fence. Here is the relevant exchange:

Mr. BALL - Now, were there any people standing on the high side---high ground between your tower and where Elm Street goes down under the underpass toward the mouth of the underpass?

Mr. BOWERS - Directly in line, towards the mouth of the underpass, there were two men. One man, middle-aged, or slightly older, fairly heavy-set, in a white shirt, fairly dark trousers. Another younger man, about midtwenties, in either a plaid shirt or plaid coat or jacket.

As I noted in my report on the “Badge Man” image, Bowers places the two men in an area that was "directly in line" with his view of the "mouth of the underpass," which, of course, would have been the area on the west end of the stockade fence, opposite the end where conspiracy theorists place Kennedy’s assassin(s).

Mr. BALL - Were they standing together or standing separately?

Mr. BOWERS - They were standing within 10 or 15 feet of each other, and gave no appearance of being together, as far as I knew.

It would appear that the two men Bowers was referring to were not accomplices but were simply eyewitnesses who happened to be in close proximity to each other. In fact, over the next few moments, Bowers told Warren Commission counsel Joseph A. Ball that there were a number of eyewitnesses, including police officers, standing on the Triple Overpass nearby. Bowers also described one or two uniformed custodians (one whom he knew) standing in the parking lot a slight distance back from the fence area.

Mr. BALL - When you heard the sound, which way were you looking?

Mr. BOWERS - At the moment I heard the sound, I was looking directly towards the area---at the moment of the first shot, as close as my recollection serves, the car was out of sight behind this decorative masonry wall in the area.

The area Bowers is now describing is at the east end of the stockade fence, the area opposite the place where he described two men, but the very area that some conspiracy theorists claim shots were fired from behind the fence.

Mr. BALL - And when you heard the second and third shot, could you see the car?

Mr. BOWERS - No; at the moment of the shots, I could---I do not think that it was in sight. It came in sight immediately following the last shot.

Mr. BALL - Did you see any activity in this high ground above Elm after the shot?

Mr. BOWERS - At the time of the shooting there seemed to be some commotion, and immediately following there was a motorcycle policeman who shot nearly all of the way to the top of the incline.

Mr. BALL - On his motorcycle?

Mr. BOWERS - Yes.

Bowers was under the impression that the motorcycle officer, Clyde A. Haygood, shot all the way up the incline on his motorbike, however, Bowers could not see the south side (or front side) of the fence. Had he been able to see the south side of the fence he would have reported what numerous films and photographs show [See: Trask, Richard B., “Picture of the Pain,” pp.175, 210-11, 333-34, 405, 427] – the motorcycle officer dumped his bike at the foot of Elm street and ran up the incline toward the west end of the fence where photographs show him standing. Bowers described his arrival at the west end of the stockade fence:

Mr. BOWERS - He came up into this area where there are some trees, and where I had described the two men were in the general vicinity of this.

Mr. BALL - Were the two men there at the time?

Mr. BOWERS - I--as far as I know, one of them was. The other I could not say. The darker dressed man was too hard to distinguish from the trees. The white shirt, yes; I think he was.

Mr. BALL - When you said there was a commotion, what do you mean by that? What did it look like to you when you were looking at the commotion?

Mr. BOWERS - I just am unable to describe rather than it was something out of the ordinary, a sort of milling around, but something occurred in this particular spot which was out of the ordinary, which attracted my eye for some reason, which I could not identify.

Mr. BALL - You couldn't describe it?

Mr. BOWERS - Nothing that I could pinpoint as having happened that---

So here, we have confirmation that the two men Bowers described earlier were standing at the west end of the stockade fence – where Haygood ran to – and not at the east end where some conspiracy buffs claim two men were shooting at Kennedy.

Where, in any of this testimony, does Bowers claim he saw two men standing behind the stockade fence shooting at the president?

Asked about the moment of the shots, the following exchange took place:

Mr. BALL - Did you hear anything?

Mr. BOWERS - I heard three shots. One, then a slight pause, then two very close together. Also reverberation from the shots.

Mr. BELIN - And were you able to form an opinion as to the source of the sound or what direction it came from, I mean?

Mr. BOWERS - The sounds came either from up against the School Depository Building or near the mouth of the triple underpass.

Mr. BALL - Were you able to tell which?

Mr. BOWERS - No; I could not.

Bowers explained that having worked in the “same tower for some 10 or 12 years” it was his experience that sounds originating from either location had a similarity in sound. Once again, no mention of seeing or hearing anyone firing at the president from behind the stockade fence – which would have been in clear view from the railroad tower.

And for those that think Bowers had more to say but was cut off by Mr. Ball (as Mark Lane later alleged), there is this final exchange:

Mr. BALL - I believe you have talked this over with me before your deposition was taken, haven't we?

Mr. BOWERS - Yes.

Mr. BALL - Is there anything that you told me that I haven't asked you about that you think of?

Mr. BOWERS - Nothing that I can recall.

Mr. BALL - You have told me all that you know about this, haven't you?

Mr. BOWERS - Yes; I believe that I have related everything which I have told the city police, and also told to the FBI.

Mr. BALL - And everything you told me before we started taking the deposition?

Mr. BOWERS - To my knowledge I can remember nothing else.

Mr. BALL - Now, this will be reduced to writing, and you can sign it, look it over and sign it, or waive your signature if you wish. What do you wish?

Mr. BOWERS - I have no reason to sign it unless you want me to.

Mr. BALL - Would you just as leave waive the signature?

Mr. BOWERS - Fine.

Mr. BALL - Then we thank you very much.

And so, Lee Bowers walked off into history. But, not quite.

In 1966, Bowers resurfaced in the Mark Lane/ Emile De Antonio film “Rush to Judgment,” based on Lane’s best-selling book. In an on-camera and heavily edited interview, the following exchange occurs between Mark Lane and Lee Bowers:

BOWERS: At the time of the shooting in the vicinity of where these two men that I have described were [on camera, the audience is looking at an aerial photograph of Dealey Plaza, with white ‘X’ marking the east end of the stockade fence] there was a flash of light or there was something which occurred which caught my eye in this immediate area on the embankment. What this was I could not say at that time and at this time I could not identify it other than there was some unusual occurrence – a flash of light or smoke or something - which caused me to feel like something out of the ordinary had occurred there.

LANE: In reading your testimony Mr. Bowers it appears that just as you were about to make that statement you were interrupted in the middle of the sentence by the Commission counsel who then went into another area.

BOWERS: Ah, well, ah - well – that’s correct. I was there only to tell them what they asked so that when they seemed to want to cut off the conversation I felt like that was as far as I was concerned that was the end of it.

LANE: Mr. Bowers, how many shots did you hear?

BOWERS: There were three shots and these were spaced with one shot then a pause and then two shots in very close order. Such as perhaps [knocking his knuckles against the desk] Knock, Knock-Knock. Almost on top of each other while there was some pause between the first and the second shots.

LANE: Did you tell that to the Dallas police?

BOWERS: Yes, I told this to the police, and then also told it to the FBI and then also I had the discussion two or three days later with them concerning this. And they made no comment other than the fact that when I say I felt like the second and third shots could not have been fired from the same rifle they reminded me that I wasn’t an expert and I had to agree.

In neither the film nor Lane’s book, is it ever explained that Bowers was describing two men standing “in a direct line” with mouth of the Overpass, which is what Bowers said during testimony before the Warren Commission.

In his book, Lane only says that the two men were standing “near the fence,” although surely Lane had to know where Bowers actually placed them. In his film too, Lane carefully skirts this issue, never asking Bowers to describe their exact position. Instead, in an obvious deception perpetrated on the audience, Lane cuts away from Bowers and shows an aerial photograph of the fence and a white ‘X’ marking the east corner of the stockade fence (opposite the location Bowers actually testified about). Quite obviously, Lane wanted his viewers to believe that Bowers was talking about the east corner of the stockade fence. He wasn’t – as his Warren Commission testimony shows.

As for Bowers’ response to Lane’s suggestion that the Warren Commission counsel Joseph A. Ball cut off Bowers before he could give crucial information about the shooting, we are treated to Bowers’ half-baked claim that he was only there to testify about what they asked and not volunteer addition information. Really? So, unless the Warren Commission counsel asked Bowers the right question, by God, he wasn’t going to tell them about it – even though he knew they were charged with investigating the President’s death and he was under oath to tell the truth for the purpose of helping, rather than hindering, their investigation? What a load of crap. How then does Bowers explain his response to Ball when asked:

Mr. BALL - Is there anything that you told me that I haven't asked you about that you think of?

Mr. BOWERS - Nothing that I can recall.

Mr. BALL - You have told me all that you know about this, haven't you?

Mr. BOWERS - Yes; I believe that I have related everything which I have told the city police, and also told to the FBI.

Mr. BALL - And everything you told me before we started taking the deposition?

Mr. BOWERS - To my knowledge I can remember nothing else.

I can remember nothing else. Nothing else? Either Bowers is telling the truth (i.e., he really didn’t have anything else of relevance to offer) or he is a liar. What do the conspiracy theorists believe? Is Bowers telling the truth or is he a liar?

On October 25, 1988, Central Independent Television, a British commercial network, broadcast Nigel Turner's two part documentary, The Men Who Killed Kennedy. Part two of the documentary, "Forces of Darkness," featured the work of Gary Mack, a conspiracy theorist and Coverups! newsletter editor, and Jack White, an advertising photo technician, and the three alleged figures identified as Badge Man, Hard Hat Man, and Gordon Arnold, which Mack and White claimed appeared in a photograph taken by Mary Moorman. [See: “Badge Man: A Photogrammetric Analysis of Moorman Photograph No.5 of the JFK Assassination” for a complete analysis.]

The program offered Mack and White's work as “convincing evidence of a gunman up on the grassy knoll,” and put great emphasis on the recollections of Gordon Arnold, deaf-mute Ed Hoffman, and the testimony of Lee Bowers as corroboration for the three figures discovered by Mack and White.

Mack had this to say about Bowers during the program:

MACK: “...And he testified to the Warren Commission and told them that - when Kennedy appeared in Dealey Plaza there were two men behind the fence that he could see. And these two men were in this one position the whole time before, during, and after the shooting.”

The phrase “this position” refers to the location of Badge Man at the east end of the stockade fence, but where and when did Bowers ever say that?

According to Mack, his source was a series of unreleased transcripts of the filmed interviews conducted by Mark Lane and Emile De Antonio for the 1966 film Rush to Judgment. Mack learned of the existence of the transcripts during the research phase of The Men Who Killed Kennedy, and had obtained copies.

While the transcripts make it clear that the two men Bowers told the Warren Commission about in 1964 were in fact standing at the east end of the stockade fence, just as Mack stated in The Men Who Killed Kennedy – a fact, by the way, that is diametrically opposed to what Bowers told the Commission – the transcripts also make it clear that the two men were not suspicious individuals standing behind the stockade fence in the alleged Badge Man position but were eyewitnesses standing in front of the fence in full view of everyone in Dealey Plaza. More importantly, Bowers specifically says – in a portion edited out of the film - that no one was standing behind the fence.

I presented that unedited exchange in the “Badge Man” report. Here it is again:

LANE: "Mr. Bowers, did you see any pedestrians at any time between your tower and Elm Street that day?"

BOWERS: "Directly in line - uh - there - of course is - uh - there leading toward the Triple Underpass there is a curved decorative wall - I guess you'd call it - it's not a solid wall but it is part of the - uh - park. And to the west of that there were - uh - at the time of the shooting in my vision only two men. Uh - these two men were - uh - standing back from the street somewhat at the top of the incline and were very near - er - two trees which were in the area. And one of them, from time to time as he walked back and forth, uh - disappeared behind a wooden fence which is also slightly to the west of that. Uh - these two men to the best of my knowledge were standing there - uh - at the time - of the shooting..." [emphasis added]

As I wrote in my earlier report on this subject, Bowers' statement that one of the men disappeared behind a wooden fence is highly significant when one realizes that Lee Bowers had a clear view of the north side of the stockade fence - both the east-west and north-south extensions. This fact has been known since the publication of the Warren Report in 1964 [24H548-CE2118(A)] and again in 1967, when Josiah Thompson published a photograph of the stockade fence area, as seen from Bowers' railroad tower, in his book Six Seconds in Dallas.

The only way the two men could have disappeared from Bowers’ point-of-view is if they were standing on the south side of the stockade fence, between the fence and Elm Street, not crouching on the north side of the fence getting ready to shoot the president. In other words, the fence was between Bowers and the two men, thus blocking his view of them as they walked back and forth.

Bowers later reiterated that other than the two men he described "standing back from the street somewhat, at the top of the incline," which we now know to be in front of the east end of the stockade fence, there were no strangers in the area:

BOWERS: "Other than these two and the people who were over on the top of the Underpass who - that were, for the most part, were railroad employees or were employees of a Fort Worth welding firm who were working on the railroad, uh - there were no strangers out in this area."

And there is absolutely no question that Bowers is referring here to the area behind the stockade fence, the very location where Mack and White claim two of the three figures they see in the Moorman photograph (i.e., Badge Man and Hard Hat Man) were standing. In a later exchange Bowers makes this point crystal clear:

BOWERS: "Now I could see back, or the South side, of the wooden fence in the area, so that obviously that there was no one there who could have - uh - had anything to do with either - as accomplice or anything else because there was no one there - um - at the moment that the shots were fired."

Here, we can see that Bowers spells it right out - there was no one behind the fence at the time the shots were fired.

What do the conspiracy theorists on the two assassination newsgroups have to say about all this? As you might imagine, they have managed to take Bowers explicit testimony to new levels of silliness.

According to Bill Miller, the most vocal conspiracy theorist in the debate, “...Bowers said that there was no one there on the south side of the fence that could have been an assassin or an accomplice, and Lee Bowers was correct as supported by the assassination films and photographs.”

But Miller must know that what Bowers said was that he could see the back side of the fence, regardless of whether that back side faced north or south. The back side of the fence – not the front side.

What is so hard to understand? This is so simple, I can’t believe that I have to explain it; but here goes: The back of the stockade fence faced north, the front of it faced south – that was the side facing Elm Street. Yes, Bowers referred to the back of the fence as “the south side,” but surely that was a misstatement of fact. Bowers couldn’t possibly have meant that he could see the side of the fence facing away from him (the south side), could he?

Well, guess what? That’s exactly what the conspiracy folks believe – Lee Bowers had a clear view of the side of the fence facing away from him. Really. I’m not joking. How’s that for reality?

Conspiracy advocate Bill Miller has gone so far as to say that, “What Bowers was saying to most everyone else who has ever read his testimony was that he could see over the top of the fence from his elevated view [Editor’s note: Bower’s was fourteen feet in the air, and several hundred feet north of the fence line] and there was no one standing on the SOUTH side of the fence that could have been an accomplice to the men he saw standing on the RR yard side of the fence.”

Bowers’ elevated position in the railroad tower allowed him to see the south side of the fence? The side facing away from him? Common sense and fifth grade arithmetic proves that notion to be false.

Yet, according to Miller, he has it all figured out, thanks to guys like Gary Mack, Mark Lane, Harold Weisberg, Robert Groden, Nigel Turner, Oliver Stone and a whole list of other “truthsayers”.

Of course, there’s two sides to every fence – er – story, {grin} and here’s the conspiracy take on the issue:

Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum and principle source for the notion that Bower’s testimony supports the idea of a grassy knoll gunman, writes, "I don't need others to interpret for me what Lee Bowers said vs. what Lee Bowers meant. I can read, and I have also interviewed two people who interviewed him extensively: filmmaker Emile de Antonio and researcher Jones Harris. de Antonio was the producer/director of the film ‘Rush To Judgment.’ De, as he was called by his friends, told me directly that, without question, the most credible person he and Mark Lane interviewed for their documentary was Lee Bowers. De remembered vividly how Bowers described the events and what he saw before, during and after the assassination. There were two men behind the fence near the east corner. That was one of the main reasons Bowers appeared in the film.”

”Furthermore,” Mack wrote, “Bowers had worked for years in that railroad tower and he certainly knew which side of the fence was north and which was south. When Bowers said, ‘Now I could see back, or the South side of the wooden fence in the area, so that obviously there was no one there who could have had anything to do with either, as accomplice or anything else, because there was no one there at the moment that the shots were fired,’ he was clearly saying that there was no one on the south (Elm Street) side of the fence. And he was right - there wasn't! There were two men standing with groundskeeper Emmett Hudson and all three were on the steps a good distance away from the south side of the fence."

How goofy can it get? Does Mack really believe that Bowers could see the south side of the fence – the side facing away from him? Does Mack really believe that Bowers’ would even be talking about what was going on the side of the fence facing away from him when he had a clear, unobstructed view of the side facing toward him?

More important, if Emile de Antonio and Mark Lane really thought Bowers saw two men shooting Kennedy from behind the east corner of the fence, and were convinced – as Mack seems to be – that Bowers’ remark that no one was behind the fence at the time of the shooting actually referred to the side of the fence facing away from him, why in the world did they edit his comment from the final film? Better yet, why didn’t Bowers just flat out say what Lane, de Antonio, and Mack are so convinced he meant – ‘Two men shot Kennedy and I saw them’?

The answer is as obvious as the nose on Pinnochio’s face: Bowers wasn’t talking about the side of the fence facing away from him and consequently the remark about no one being behind the fence was cut from the film because it destroyed the fantasy that Lane and de Antonio were trying to create – that Bowers was an eyewitness to the grass knoll assassin.

If there is any doubt about which side Bowers could see, consider the fact that Bowers mistakenly thought that a police motorcyclist rode part of the way up the incline before abandoning his motorbike. Of course, we know that the police officer, Clyde A. Haygood, actually ran up the incline on foot (a fact captured in film and photographs). Bowers didn’t know that the officer was on foot because he couldn’t see the activity on the south side of the fence, which is obvious to everyone but Mack and his fellow conspiracy theorists.

Since Lee Bowers’ death in December, 1965, when his car ran into a bridge abutment assuring his immortality on the list of mysterious deaths in connection with the Kennedy assassination [see Dave Perry’s excellent article, “Now It Can Be Told: The Lee Bowers Story”], numerous people have come forward to support the Lee Bowers testimony that Bowers never gave.

The Reverend Wilfred Bailey, Bowers’ minister, told researchers, “Lee did discuss that day with me. He said he saw movement behind the fence. He believed something was going on, but he never got more specific than that. He did not share with me any more than he shared with the Warren Commission.”

In 1967 a friend and fellow employee of Bowers, James R. Sterling gave a statement to Gary Sanders of Jim Garrison's staff. Sterling said Bowers “...observed two men running from behind the fence. They ran up to a car parked behind the Pergola, opened the trunk and placed something in it and then closed the trunk. The two men then drove the car away in somewhat of a peculiar method.”

Then there’s Walter Rishel, a self-proclaimed friend of Lee Bowers (the Bowers family doesn’t recall him), who claimed that Bowers told him he saw two men fire shots from the picket fence, but was afraid to speak out.

Yea, sure. While associates of Bowers claim he told them precisely what he saw that day in Dallas, Bowers himself never described anything remotely close to these flights of fantasy.

Even today’s conspiracy theorists continue to claim that Bowers was afraid to tell the truth – afraid for his family – which is why, they claim, Bowers didn’t tell authorities what he knew.

For instance, in response to one of conspiracy theorist Bill Miller’s postings about Bowers on her own assassination forum, administrator Debra Conway wrote, “I interviewed the supervisor for the railroad yard and Bowers’ boss's superior. He told us that Bowers told him and his direct boss that he did see the two men BEHIND THE FENCE and he thought at least one of them was shooting. He said he didn't go further with it because he was afraid. He didn't want his life threatened or ruined being the main witness against Lee Oswald being the lone shooter. This information, as Gary Mack stated, has long been known and ignored by those who wish to change Bowers' statements to suit their own theories.”

Really? If Bowers was truly afraid for his own life and that of his family, then, why on earth would Bowers tell police that he saw three suspicious vehicles circling the parking lot behind the stockade fence? Wasn’t Bowers afraid that one of these three vehicles might have been involved in the killing? And why in heaven would Bowers, if he was truly fearful for his life and that of his family, appear on camera in a documentary film that would be seen by millions around the world? Didn’t it occur to him that Kennedy’s killers could now put a face to the name of the man who could identify them? And if Bowers was no longer afraid by 1966 (which might explain to some why he agreed to appear on camera), why in the devil didn’t he tell Mark Lane all about the two men shooting Kennedy from behind the fence, instead of the vague “something” that he couldn’t quite identify?

It just doesn’t add up – except of course for the legions of gullible conspiracy advocates who, for reasons only they know, feel the need to perpetuate a lot of B-U Double-L.

The fact remains, Lee Bowers had three chances to tell what he knew about November 22, 1963, before his untimely, sudden, and tragic death in 1966.

I believe the record shows that Lee Bowers, Jr., did tell all he knew, and none of his testimony includes two men shooting at Kennedy from behind the stockade fence atop the grassy knoll, no matter how bad the conspiracy theorists wish it were so, and no matter which side of the fence you think he could see.

No interpretation necessary.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Osama Bin Laden: JFK Conspiracy Theorist


Who would've guessed that while hiding among the rocks and hills of Mesopotamia, terrorist numero uno Osama Bin Laden has been delving into the big conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination? In his video taped message released yesterday, Bin Laden took time to present his conclusions about the infamous 1963 crime - Kennedy was killed by corporate America!

According to Bin Laden, "...when Kennedy took over the presidency and deviated from the general line of policy [in Vietnam] drawn up for the White House and wanted to stop this unjust war, that angered the owners of the major corporations who were benefiting from its continuation. And so Kennedy was killed...[and] those corporations were the primary beneficiary from his killing."

Thank you Mr. Bin Laden for clearing up one of the great mysteries of the last century. Conspiracy theorists everywhere can now rest easy in the knowledge that Kennedy's real killers have been exposed and Lee Harvey Oswald's good name has finally been restored. I know that members of the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA will be especially relieved to know that you've cleared them of the wrong-doing that so many conspiracy theorists have accused them of over the last four decades.

In fact, the U.S. government would like to thank you personally. Where can you be reached?


Friday, September 7, 2007

The Enduring JFK Mystery Will Never End


The debate over who killed JFK and why will never go away. That much is certain. The reasons why vary. Many suggest that the general population cannot imagine someone as powerful and charismatic as John F. Kennedy being gunned down by someone as insignificant as Lee Harvey Oswald; hence, some sort of power structure was behind the slaying. I believe the explanation is much simpler: the love of misinformation - and lots of it.

This is no better illustrated than in the recent blog postings of Brit Simon Barrett. In his musing "JFK, Conspiracy Or Just Bad Luck?, Barrett writes, "I doubt that the whole story will ever be told, and I doubt the exact truth will ever meet the cold light of day."

Barrett's declaration is so common it has become a cliché. Sadly, there is little truth to it. The "whole story" has been largely told - "exact truth" and all. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the population has never been exposed to the truth. Instead, they - like Mr. Barrett - have been steeped in conspiracy-think via books, magazine articles, and movies for better than four decades. How can anyone possibly learn the truth in that avalanche of mis-information?

Mr. Barrett doesn't profess to be a "student" of the assassination. He simply reads conspiracy books, and plenty of them. From this pulpit of mis-information, Barrett has seen the light; to wit - the preponderance of evidence shows that the young and charismatic Kennedy, who represented a new political way forward, ticked off "the hard core Republicans" in America. The result? Kennedy was murdered.

Like a lot of conspiracy theorists, Mr. Barrett is unable to separate his own political leanings from the reality that Lee Harvey Oswald, a leftist, shot Kennedy.

Barrett says that about the only thing his fellow conspiracists agree on is that the Warren Commission did a horrible job, writing, "Much hard evidence was either ignored, or conveniently went missing. Just how do you misplace a dead presidents brain?"

Of course, this is absolute nonsense, as anyone remotely familiar with this case knows. But that hasn't kept folks like Mr. Barrett from perpetuating these myths for more than forty-years, has it? If Barrett had even the inkling of a clue about the facts in the Kennedy murder he would know that the "hard evidence" in this case has stood the test of time - despite conspiracy theorist attempts to dillute it - and that the facts have been neither ignored nor conveniently disposed of, as he suggests, except by he and his fellow conspiracists.

For instance, doesn't Barrett know that it was Robert Kennedy, the president's brother, not the Warren Commission, who likely disposed of JFK's brain and tissue slides between 1965 and 1966, long after the Warren Commission was dissolved? Apparently, not.

No, Mr. Barrett, like literally hundreds of conspiracy theorists, has been too busy reading conspiracy books to bother with the facts. It's from these books that Barrett has discovered that the Zapruder home video of the assassination, that "everyone has seen 8 gazzilion times," was originally (gulp!) a "super 8 film" that had rarely been seen until MPI rephotographed each frame of the original film and made it available to the general public.

It seems that even the basic facts about the assassination can't escape a good mangling in the world of theorists. The original Zapruder film, of course, is in standard 8mm format, not Super 8mm as Mr. Barrett writes. But, that's a minor point compared to the over-the-top suggestion that the Zapruder film has been hidden from public scrutiny by sinister forces opposed to the truth about Kennedy's death.

None of this is surprising, considering that Barrett's head is firmly buried in his conspiracy library. His book of record on the Zapruder film? The recent Dan Robertson tome, "Definitive Proof: The Secret Service Murder Of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy," in which Robertson claims that the fatal shot to Kennedy's head was fired from the front seat of the presidential limousine which was occupied at the time by Secret Service agents William Greer (driver) and Roy Kellerman (passenger), now both deceased. Convenient, uh?

Robertson says that he bases his conclusions on the photographic evidence presented in the MPI DVD as well as the analyses of Dr. David Mantik, a radiation oncologist (one who treats cancer and other medical problems using x-rays), and Dr. Charles G. Wilber, Ph.D., a forensic scientist. Both claimed that Kennedy was shot from the front (Wilber concluding that the fatal shot was fired from a handgun at point-blank range).

Too bad every forensic pathologist who ever reviewed the autopsy x-rays and photographs agrees that Kennedy was hit only once in the head, by a bullet fired from above and behind. That includes Dr. Cyril Wecht, the darling of the conspiracy community who, while clinging to the notion that a second bullet also hit Kennedy from the front, acknowledges that there is evidence of only one bullet striking Kennedy's skull - a single bullet fired from above and behind. These are all inconvenient truths for conspiracy theorists.

Besides Robertson's goof-ball book, Mr. Barrett was also captivated by the writings of Robert J. Groden and Harrison E. Livingstone in "High Treason." While most intelligent researchers familiar with the Kennedy case find "High Treason" to be among the worst-of-the-worst on the subject, Barrett found the conspiracy book "impeccably researched" adding "yet more gold nuggets to the illusive story" of Kennedy's murder.

According to Barrett, "The official version that the Warren Commission released seems to have little to do with the recollections of the people involved. The preponderance of evidence shows that at least one, and more likely two shots did not come from the back, rather they were shots from the front. Yet the Warren Commission still insisted that the ‘lone gunman’ was responsible."

So, what does Mr. Barrett derive from the hours-upon-hours he spent conspiracy reading? Barrett writes, "The answer is, I have no clue. The more I read, the more confused I become. I doubt that the actual truth will ever come out. Even though these events happened over 40 years ago, there does seem to be a reticence to release much of the information from the event."

Holy cow! Is it any wonder the world is so topsy-turvey? Here we are, forty-four years after the fact, and a good portion of the population - represented here by Mr. Barrett - cannot accept the simplest of facts: (a) All of the physical evidence collected at the scene shows conclusively that Lee Harvey Oswald, alone, murdered President John F. Kennedy (and killed Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, and wounded Governor John B. Connally); (b) millions upon millions of pages of official records have been released and none have resulted in proving Oswald innocent; and, most important of all, (c) you will never learn the truth from reading conspiracy books.

No, my friends, the debate over who killed JFK and why will never go away. And the reason why has nothing to do with the balance of power between good and evil. It's much simpler than that. In fact, Mr. Simon Barrett, says it all at the end of his blog article:

"What’s not to love about a great conspiracy?"


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pravda Says Truth About Kennedy Assassination Will Never Be Unveiled


Some things never change. Take the article, "Truth about John Kennedy’s assassination will never be unveiled," published in today's issue of Pravda, Moscow's newspaper of record.

According to the front page story, "John Kennedy died because he was in opposition to a group of Texan oligarchs. But Americans prefer not to speak much about the version as it is very much compromising for George W. Bush."

According to Pravda, the Kennedy assassination remains unsolved although they later declare, "Many experts on America believe that the conspiracy in Dallas was organized by a group of billionaires from Texas with Harold Hunt at head. The man was considered the world’s richest man of that time. The Texas businessman took an active part in the political life of America; he nominated Texas senator Lyndon Johnson for presidential election in 1960. The first attempt to promote Johnson was a failure, but Hunt finished the game in Dallas as a result of which Kennedy was killed and his candidate came to the White House."

Kennedy, by Pravda's account, was in opposition to the group of Texas oligarchs seeking governmental positions. Hence, billionaires with Hunt at head decided to conspire against Kennedy.

Pravda goes on to claim that "it is perfectly clear that America’s tough security measures would not make it possible for any stranger to approach Oswald who was considered the killer of President Kennedy and even kill him. But within two years after Oswald’s death sixty-two people more who could have testified upon the Kennedy killing died under not clear circumstances. The taxi driver who took Oswald home from the book stack died in a week after that day. [Editor's note: Actually, Whaley died in December, 1965, two years after the assassination, in a not so mysterious manner - he was killed when an 83 year-old man in an oncoming vehicle crossed the center line and crashed into Whaley's car, killing himself and Whaley.] Later, more fatal instances with people who knew something about the crime followed."

Why is this all so compromising for President Bush? According to Pravda, the inertness in the investigation of the crime is due to the fact that both George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush "are oilmen belonging to the same group" of Texas oligarchs who whacked Kennedy. No mention is made of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations which investigated the killing in 1964 and 1977-78.

The source for most of this hokum is Valentin Zorin, a political correspondent for Soviet TV and radio and professor of the Institute for the USA and Canada Studies, and yes, the son of Valerian Alexandrovich Zorin (1902-1986), the Soviet diplomat and statesman, who as Soviet ambassador to the United Nations got into the famous confrontation with Adlai Stevenson on October 25, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Zorin denied that the Soviets had placed offensive ballistic missiles in Cuba and refused to answer Stevenson's direct question about them resulting in Stevenson's famous retort, "I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that's your decision. And I'm also prepared to present the evidence in this room." Stevenson then showed the world U2 recon photographs that proved that the Soviets had placed and were placing intercontinental ballistic missiles in Cuba.

The latest Pravda report about who was behind the Kennedy assassination is nothing new, of course. TASS, the official Soviet press agency, announced on November 23, 1963, at a time when the Dallas police investigation into the crime had barely begun, that Kennedy was killed by "extreme rightwing elements" in the United States. So much for ascertaining any facts before drawing a conclusion.

Obviously, it is no surpise that Moscow is beating the same drum forty-four years later. Who needs facts when you've got a good yarn to tell?


Monday, September 3, 2007

Bill Paxton homes in on Fort Worth for film festival, Kennedy miniseries


“Well, now,” Bill Paxton begins, “Fort Worth seems to be proud of me — and I’m certainly proud of Fort Worth. Which makes for as good a reason as any for me to want to be renewing my involvement with the ol’ hometown.”

We’ve parked ourselves around the dining table of a Texas & Pacific Lofts suite, a home-away-from-home setting for Paxton’s occasional return from Hollywood. The occasion is twofold.

The star player of HBO’s family-intrigues drama Big Love has become a participant in the development of a Lone Star International Film Festival in Fort Worth.

And for the longer term, Paxton is homing in on the city as a touchstone in his involvement with an HBO-network adaptation of Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Norton; $49.95). The 1,600-page book poses a polemic with such conspiracy theories as those presented in Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK.

I’ve been cordially acquainted with Paxton since 1985. We first met in a newspaper-interview setting in connection with Paxton’s scene-stealing impersonation of a bully who gets what’s coming to him in John Hughes’ Weird Science. In 1997, Paxton’s ambitious independent production of Traveller, about a clannish society of grifters, served as the inaugural attraction of an art-film program that I had developed for the downtown Fort Worth theaters. And he and I had pondered in 1998 the prospect of his participation in a Fort Worth Film Festival organization.

“The timing wasn’t right, back then,” as Bill has explained. “I didn’t feel, at the time, that I had achieved a ‘body of work,’ as the saying goes, that would merit such recognition. Maybe I still haven’t — although I have accomplished some directing credentials since then, in addition to quite a few movie roles. And the newer involvement of my moviemaking pal from way back, Tom Huckabee, with the Lone Star Festival project, kind of makes it a given that I should pitch in now.”

The Lone Star International Film Festival is announced for Nov. 7-12, with Tom Huckabee, newly returned to Fort Worth from Hollywood, as artistic director. Paxton’s participation as honorary chair of the advisory board amounts to what he characterizes as “that kind of name recognition, that local-boy-gone-Hollywood image, that we hope will encourage the business community to step up to the plate and make a commitment to support this project.”

The adaptation of Bugliosi’s Kennedy book will take shape as a serialized epic for HBO, with Paxton and the Playtone Co.’s Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman as executive producers.

“It’s like Tom Hanks told me when I presented him with the idea,” says Paxton. “He said, ‘You take this on as a feature-length film, and all you’re gonna have is JFK II.’ It’s too big a story to tell, really, in a self-contained feature.

“The long-form series is the way to go with such a big story,” Paxton continues. “And I’m here, in part, to research the logistics of it — in the hope of bringing the production to the North Texas area during the next three years.

“Fort Worth is, after all, where the interest began for me — back when I was 8-1/2 years old.”

Paxton and his older brother, Bob, and their father, Fort Worth lumberman John Paxton, had visited the Texas Hotel at Eighth and Main in Fort Worth in 1963 to witness a ceremonial appearance by President Kennedy, shortly before the assassination in Dallas. The memory has remained vivid — Bill Paxton, astride his father’s shoulders, scarcely 30 feet away from the presidential entourage — but only in recent years has the actor turned up palpable evidence of his presence. With the help of Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum, Paxton turned up news-camera footage from Nov. 22, 1963, showing him among the crowd.

“That discovery marked a turning-point for me,” says Paxton. “The story of Nov. 22, 1963, has always held a deep meaning for me, with my memories of having been there, at the Fort Worth rally. And as its 50th anniversary approaches, that meaning becomes deeper.”

The HBO network, which has launched a new season of Paxton’s Big Love series, also plans a documentary production as a supplement to the Kennedy project. The documentary will feature Bugliosi discussing an assortment of conspiracy theories, including those involving the KGB, the Mafia and Fidel Castro.

Paxton’s approach to Tom Hanks — the artists’ work together since the 1990s includes a co-starring hitch in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 — led them to the Bugliosi book as a foundation. Bugliosi, the prosecutor-turned-author best known for his work on the Charles Manson serial-murder case and the resulting book Helter Skelter, had staged an imaginary prosecution of accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald for British television. He became convinced in the process that the Warren Commission had accurately cited Oswald as the sole agent. Bugliosi’s recently published book is the result of 20 years’ research.

“I totally believed there was a conspiracy,” Hanks’ production-company colleague Gary Goetzman has told the show-business trade paper Variety, “but after you read the book, you are almost embarrassed that you ever believed it … But time and evidence can change the way we view things.”

Variety also quoted Bugliosi: “Many more people will see the miniseries than will read the book. With the integrity that Tom, Gary and Bill bring, I think that we will finally be able to make a substantial dent in the [percentage] of people in this country who still believe the conspiracy theorists.”

With the Kennedy miniseries in planning stages and an enthusiastic popular following in place for Big Love, Paxton says the time seems right to renew his native-son ties to Fort Worth.

“Y’know, when I left to purse an acting career,” he explains, “I never thought about coming back. But the ties remain in place, and the timing seems right to acknowledge the cultural heritage and the overall bounty that Fort Worth represents — time to give something back. And if my movie-business identity can help this film festival get started, then I’m glad to have a hand in it.”