I must admit that I was flattered when Jim DiEugenio asked me if I would provide a review of John McAdams’ latest published piece of horse …oops, I mean his book. But once I finally made my way through it, I felt drained, empty, discouraged about the human condition in general, and of the hopeless plight of shameless propagandists in particular. I felt like I’d just been robbed of precious hours of my life. Hours that I will never get back again.
That’s why I believe that everybody who reads this mess should band together and enter into a class-action suit against John McAdams. The charge? Theft.
We demand those hours back, John.
Once I began reading, I emailed Jim that one can’t review something this bad. How can one review disinformation, omissions, half-truths, and innuendoes? It can’t be done. And since McAdams likes to base most of his arguments on a false premise, you end up having to review something that begins and ends with distortions. This is not a book. It’s a campaign.
Take the liner notes, for example: “This book gets in the thick of all the contradictory evidence and presents an intriguing puzzle to be solved." Yep, McAdams sure piles it on thick, alright. “The solution, in each case, involves using intellectual tools [my emphasis].” Now, if you flip to the back cover, you’ll see endorsements from Dave Reitzes and Gary Mack. I have to admit that, for once, McAdams finally comes clean and hits a bull’s-eye here; because between himself, Reitzes, and Mack…we do indeed have three of the biggest tools ever involved in the JFK assassination case.
McAdams even cites Mack as a source of “sanity.” It’s interesting how he keeps referring to Gary Mack as a “conspiracist researcher”. Come on, John…Gary Mack – a conspiracist? Since when? Certainly not since he took on his six-figure position as Head Ringmaster at the Sixth Floor Big Top Circus. What with their belief in the "Single Bullet Theory" and their bookstore featuring tomes like Case Closed.
Or how about this passage from the Preface: “While I can’t deal with the vast array of minor issues surrounding the assassination, there is one big issue that I won’t cover: Lee Harvey Oswald’s character or personality. It’s certainly possible to paint a compelling picture of Oswald "the striver" who wanted to be somebody important; of Oswald "the violent fellow" who beat his wife and shot at another person, Gen. Edwin Walker; of Oswald "the actor" who liked to play spy games; of Oswald "the deceiver" who lied quite readily when it served his purposes; and of Oswald "the callow Marxist" who became enamored of the Soviet Union and later, when he was disillusioned with Russia, of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
And, most importantly, I won’t deal with Oswald the loner and malcontent.”
Thanks for not talking about those things, John.
Allow me to highlight some of the lowlights of this “book”.
Chapter 1: The Frailty of Witness Testimony
Just check out some of the headings in this chapter. “WACKY WITNESSES”; “FALSE RECOLLECTIONS”; “BEWARE OF AD HOC ASSUMPTIONS”; “ABSURD THEORIES”; “INTERPRETING WITNESS TESTIMONY: JUST WHAT DID THE WITNESS SAY”. In his plan to show how inaccurate people’s recollections are, McAdams presents a litany of important-sounding words like “science,” “data,” “outlier,” “model,” “noise,” and “signal”. Let me put this into plain English for you. Basically, it comes down to this: John McAdams and his co-propagandists are correct about the JFK assassination. Everybody else is unreliable and/or nutty. Simple enough for you?
As an example of an “Ad Hoc Assumption,” McAdams cites the Chicago plot. Well, sort of. You see, if you can believe it, he never actually mentions Abraham Bolden – the man who just happened to be the central character in the whole event. Does McAdams not know who Abraham Bolden is? Maybe McAdams should put down his copy of Posner and start paying attention to facts for a change. For how one can deal with the Chicago Plot and never mention Bolden is a trick even Posner would have difficulty with. For without the heroic Bolden we likely would have never heard of the Chicago Plot. And this is the guy who titles his book how to think logically about claims of conspiracy. Talk about chutzpah.
Realistically, I think the reason McAdams brought the whole thing up was so that he could take advantage of a cheap opportunity to slam author James Douglas, who discussed that topic in his laudable book, JFK and the Unspeakable. (McAdams’ book, on the other hand, is more like JFK and the Unconscionable.)
Chapter 2: Problems of Memory
Hey, wait a minute -- am I reading John McAdams’ book here, or watching a Michael Shermer slide presentation? In his “Preface” McAdams even slips in mention of Bigfoot and UFO’s -- two of Shermer’s favorite diversions. McAdams uses this chapter to further lay the groundwork on his theory about how people commonly “misremember” events, or “connect the dots incorrectly”.
McAdams’ strategy is not a new one -- it involves attacking all of the witnesses; they are either weird, shady, unreliable, unqualified, possess bad memories…or are crazy. Or liars. Everyone else must have “misremembered”. Thank goodness we have the likes of McAdams, Mack, Reitzes, and Dave Perry to set us straight on the facts. After all, you would never, ever, ever see someone of Gary Mack’s unimpeachable integrity put out a TV re-creation of the assassination which places Jackie in the wrong position in the limousine, would you? Oops, I guess for Inside the Target Car Mack must have “misremembered” where Jackie was sitting.
Speaking of “misremembering”…I suppose McAdams misremembered his real name when he was seen carousing around the 1995 COPA Conference using the assumed name of “Paul Nolan: Jet Propulsion Expert”?
McAdams is a master of omissions. For example, he might well mention the name of autopsy technician Paul O’Connor. O’Connor was the autopsy technician whose task it was to remove the president’s brain. But what he’ll neglect to mention is that O’Connor found there was no brain present.
Likewise, he might well mention the name of Jean Hill. Jean Hill and Mary Moorman were snapping Polaroids in Dealey Plaza -- photos that were aggressively snatched from Hill’s coat pocket by an “agent” (who instinctively picked the correct pocket).. The photos were eventually returned to her. Well, sort of. One of the photos taken by Hill and Moorman was a shot aimed at the TSBD. When this photo was returned, all of the background had been scratched out obliterating any and all details which might have been revealed in the building.
On page 31, paragraph 1, McAdams quotes the Warren Commission thusly: “Meanwhile, Oswald had received his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from Klein’s Sporting Goods with the scope already mounted.” Thus the author tells us two things. First, even though the Warren Report has been thoroughly and completely discredited in every aspect, he still uses it as if it is credible. Second, that he will ignore all the holes punched in that sorry report in order to not tell the whole story to the reader. This is a perfect example. The problem with the quote is a rather serious one: according to the HSCA testimony of Mitchell Westra (2/20/78), a Klein’s gunsmith, Klein’s did not mount scopes on that model of rifle. (McAdams must have misremembered…or connected the dots incorrectly…or relied on the dubious information provided by unreliable witnesses.
Further down the page, McAdams comments on the veracity of one “Mrs. Gertrude Hunter”. McAdams says of Hunter: “Finally, since her family members were aware of her tall tales, ‘they normally pay no attention to her’.” Hmm…he said practically the same thing about witness, Ed Hoffman. Sounds like Mrs. Gertrude Hunter and Ed Hoffman must come from the same family! The “reliable source” that McAdams references here? Are you sitting down: Ruth Paine. (Actually, citing Ruth Paine as a reliable source is much better than who he usually relies on throughout the course of this book: the Warren Commission.)
To go through this book and count all of its individual inconsistencies would be akin to swimming through the Atlantic and keeping tabs on all the spineless jellyfish floating around. It’s no secret that the JFK case is rife with disinformation, red herrings, or false witnesses (“plants”). McAdams himself just happens to be a prime source of the disinformation. In other words, this book is more of the same old, same old. Did anybody really expect anything different? I sure didn’t.
What this book actually is is an admission on McAdams’ part that he has grown weary of debating people like Jim DiEugenio and Tom Rossley. Why bother with such hard work when you can simply write down your smoke screen and cart it out unchallenged by such nuisances as a moderator…or fact-checking. It actually is nothing more than a published version of the alt.conspiracy.jfk website. In other words, the good professor couldn’t muster the energy or resources to really do some new work to sustain his old arguments.
Chapter 4: Witnesses Who Are Just Too Good.
Sounds like a pretty fair-minded and even-handed chapter title to me. Don’t forget -- McAdams assures us at the beginning of the book that he is simply here to provide a public service by acting as an arbiter of truth and justice. And who does he go after in this chapter? Only what many consider to be some of the most important players in the entire case: Jean Hill, Roger Craig, Dr. Charles Crenshaw, and Madeleine Brown. (He also goes after Judy Baker, but Ms. Baker, whatever her story, was not a key player, and I therefore won’t waste any time on her for the purposes of this review.)
After an almost two-page long assassination of Jean Hill’s character, integrity, and memory, he then goes on to add insult to injury by claiming that Hill says she saw a “little dog” in the presidential limousine. McAdams volunteers that there was a bouquet of flowers present between the President and Mrs. Kennedy that Hill might easily have mistaken for a dog: “a small poodle perhaps”. In fact, when John and Jackie arrived at Love Field, an adoring admirer gave Jackie a doll which was a replica of “Lambchop” – of “Shari Lewis and Lambchop” fame. This doll rode beside Mrs. Kennedy during the entire motorcade.
This was the “doll” that Hill saw. But surely McAdams must have known this, right? If not, he must have misremembered. Is it conceivable that Gary Mack -- McAdams’ “voice of sanity” -- wouldn’t have known this either? Perhaps Mack misremembered too. And so did Reitzes? No they did not. McAdams is just exercising his noted propaganda technique of keeping crucial facts from the reader in order to bamboozle him about a certain issue or witness.
Maybe Mack misremembered the presence of the doll at the precise time he also forgot Jackie’s location in the limousine for his “JFK and the Target Car”? A curious deja vu strikes me about McAdams’ mention of this “little dog”. In fact, this is the second time I’ve seen that “little dog” reference thrown at me.
To show you how old this canard about Hill is, consider this. I first began trolling the dreaded IMDb website a few years back in order to compile research on the astounding level of disinformation that exists in the JFK case – and particularly at the site for the movie “JFK”. One of the first of the many disinfo artists I would eventually encounter posed to me the following question in his campaign of (attempted) deception. He wrote something to the effect of: “Did you know that Jean Hill said she saw a little dog in the limousine? A dog! That’s ridiculous! Everybody knows that there was no dog in the limousine! Surely Hill is a nut.”
Hmmm…now, you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, Mr. McAdams?
Most new books on the assassination strive to offer something new. This book simply attacks each and every important witness, or piece of evidence that points to a conspiracy. To sharks like John McAdams, these people are an easy meal. Many are women, most are average citizens without much money or legal recourse. And even though many have since passed on, they are still a staple menu item for scavengers like John McAdams and his crew.
McAdams begins his section on Roger Craig with the sentence: “Roger Craig was everywhere in the wake of the assassination.” Is this supposed to be sarcasm, John? Craig had two important pieces of evidence to testify to: 1.) Seeing a man who looked like Oswald escape the Depository and jump in to a Rambler, and 2.) Being on the sixth floor when the alleged murder rifle was found. So according to the author, being outside and inside the Texas School Book Depository is being “everywhere”. McAdams then goes on to make reference to “anal-retentive conspirators”. What McAdams neglects to point out is that Roger Craig was elected the Dallas Sheriff’s Department “Officer of the Year” in 1960. Seymour Weitzman -- the deputy who recognized that the rifle was a Mauser -- just happened to have operated a sporting goods store, and was very familiar with weapons (a fact which McAdams omits).
How does McAdams explain Roger Craig’s testimony? “Given previous discussions regarding witness testimony, Craig’s claim to have seen Oswald run down the grassy slope and get into the Rambler could easily be an honest misperception…Thus Craig may have put two and two together but come up with the mistaken conclusion.” There’s McAdams dazzling us with his how-the-brain-makes-mistakes wizardry again. Shades of Michael Shermer all over again. Like Shermer, what the author leaves out is that 1.) This testimony is partly corroborated, and 2.) There are photos now that seem to bear this out. (See the CD to John Armstrong’s Harvey and Lee.)
The author on Charles Crenshaw: “Charles Crenshaw was one of the many doctors in Emergency Room (ER) One at Parkland Hospital who worked to save President Kennedy’s life. Although a junior and bit player, he was indeed there. Thus, especially if one believes that physicians are particularly sober and reliable people, he should have been a good witness.” (Italics added)
Well, thank goodness the doctor was indeed there. The part about Crenshaw being “only a junior and bit player” is another McAdams attempt at cheap discreditation.
I’m having a hard time keeping up the façade of providing an honest review of an honest book for the simple reason that this is not an honest book. And I’m only on page 69! So why does McAdams attack Crenshaw? Because Crenshaw noted a couple of disturbing things.
When treating Kennedy he noticed a small bullet hole of entrance to the front of Kennedy’s throat; when treating Oswald, he said that none other than newly sworn in President Lyndon Johnson phoned him in the operating room. Johnson demanded from Crenshaw that he obtain a “death-bed” confession from the mortally wounded Oswald. Of course, Oswald would never again regain consciousness and such a confession would never be obtained. Crenshaw’s story is corroborated by the switchboard operator, Phyllis Bartlett, who received LBJ’s call and directed it into the room where Crenshaw was administering to Oswald. McAdams doesn’t mention this.
McAdams then again practices his “misremembering” when he fails to tell readers that Madeleine Brown’s story of a big party at the home of Clint Murchison the night before the assassination was in fact corroborated by cook and seamstress, May Newman. Newman even conversed about the event with one of the chauffeurs. McAdams’ summation of Madeleine Brown (and others like her): “To a degree, they may have been manipulated by conspiracy researchers who asked leading questions and gave subtle clues as to what sort of testimony worked in gaining credibility and further interest. To maintain that interest, of course, it’s desirable to give better and better testimony.”
Question for the author: What “conspiracy researcher” existed on the 22nd when Craig came into police HQ and said he saw the arrested man, namely Oswald, jumping into a car in Dealey Plaza?
Further on in this chapter, on page 75, under the innocuously-titled heading: “WHY DOES ANYBODY BELIEVE THESE PEOPLE?”, the author says: “But the majority of people who watch movies like JFK, read conspiracy books available at chain bookstores, or view purported documentaries such as The Men Who Killed Kennedy on television are not seasoned and knowledgeable researchers. Thus they are exposed to these bogus accounts but not to their debunking. And increasingly, sober and knowledgeable conspiracy-oriented researchers find themselves allied with lone assassin theorists in unmasking such witnesses to both the hard-core believers, who will accept them, and the innocent neophytes.”
There’s McAdams using that word “sober” again. Leave it to McAdams and Mack to “debunk” things honestly for the rest of us; McAdams with his bogus website…and Mack with his bogus museum and TV shows. Combined, the awesome forces of these two beacons of truth, justice, and the American way is not unlike the raw, unleashed powers of a dynamic super-hero…“Mack-Adams!”
Oh, and how does McAdams end this chapter? With mention of the Holocaust. Subtle touch, there, John. The apt comparison today though would be this: With the releases of the ARRB, to deny a conspiracy in the JFK case should group one with those who deny the Holocaust.
And this guy is a college teacher?
Chapter 5: Bogus Quoting, Stripping Context, Misleading Readers.
Nice title John, but shouldn’t you have reserved it for your autobiography? In his preface, McAdams says the following: “Everybody knows that writers, newscasters, and producers of documentaries can mislead their audiences by leaving out certain information…” (John, I especially like the lat four words there.) In the second paragraph of Chapter 5, he elaborates. “Everybody knows and pretty much accepts that advocates selectively present information that serves their purposes, but it’s all too easy to forget that book authors and video producers are advocates too. And it is sometimes hard to grasp how radically selective advocates are prone to be. An author would not present the testimony of a witness and willfully omit parts that show the witness to be insane, would he? A director of a documentary would not produce something that puffs witness accounts she knows to be contradicted by reliable evidence, would she?
Yes, he or she would”
Hear, hear, John! Right off the bat I can think of two “authors” and “producers of television documentaries” who come to mind.
McAdams’ next target is Jack Ruby -- specifically about how Ruby tried and tried in vain to be taken out of Dallas so that he could give a full accounting of his inclusion in the plot to kill President Kennedy…and Oswald. How does McAdams describe Ruby? “Ruby’s addled brain seemed to go from obsession to obsession…We have to remember that many thoughts were going through Jack Ruby’s addled brain.” McAdams goes on to add that Ruby was a “huge sycophant,” a “wannabe,” and a “hapless schlub.” Again, this indicates just how much McAdams is caught in a time warp. These are the kinds of words that were used to discount Ruby by pro Warren Report authors in the sixties and seventies e.g. Ovid Demaris. This was all later dispelled by the work of Seth Kantor and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Today we know that Ruby had telling and important links to the Mafia, the Dallas Police, and the CIA. And that an Oswald double was looking for Ruby the night before the assassination! (Armstrong, p. 789) In the face of all this new information, the above is McAdams’ scientific way of painting an unbiased, accurate picture of a person so that others can judge his/her testimony fairly and objectively.
Chapter 6: Probability: Things That Defy The Odds.
It is well known that Guy Banister’s office was located at 544 Camp Street in New Orleans. David Ferrie also happened to be a frequent visitor. Leaflets handed out by Oswald were stamped with that 544 Camp Street address. The building was located on the corner of Camp and Lafayette Streets.
How does McAdams try and wiggle his way out of this one? He says that Banister’s office was only accessible if you entered from the Lafayette Street entrance, number 531. According to McAdams, the fact that they were the same, exact, identical building is merely a complete coincidence and not in any way related. Oswald must have simply picked that building at random when searching for an address to stamp on his leaflets! No joke. We are supposed to forget about all the people who saw him inside Banister’s office.
At the time, Oswald worked at the Reilly Coffee Company, not far from the Camp Street building. Or, rather, according to McAdams, he was “employed” there, since he “reportedly did little work”. (But John, I thought you made it clear that you weren’t going to pick on Oswald!)
On Bannister and Ferrie: “No doubt, the men seem extremely sinister to people steeped in the conspiracy literature and to people who have seen the move JFK or documentaries like The Men Who Killed Kennedy. But how the men have been portrayed stems from their (rather slight) connection with Oswald and his use of their address.”
Rather slight? That reminds me of filmmaker Robert Stone referring to the “magic bullet” as being “not quite so pristine”. McAdams then begins to bail out the pair by doing nothing less than the equivalent of breaking out a string quartet. “Banister and Ferrie were not, in fact, terribly sinister people.” (Can you hear those violins?) But what about all of the sightings of Ferrie and Oswald together? “They all lacked credibility.” But here’s my favorite. There is a photo of Oswald and Ferrie standing mere feet away from each other when both were members of the Civil Air Patrol. McAdams’ explanation? “The photo doesn’t prove that they ever met or talked to each other, but only that they were in the organization at the same time.”
This points out a recurrent technique that McAdams uses: he steals without accreditation. That above silly rejoinder is taken straight from Pat Lambert’s book, False Witness. Some other examples of this pattern: McAdams using the Chris Mills essay “Flight of Fancy” to explain Oswald’s flight from London to Helsinki—without telling the reader that Mills’ essay was labeled as fanciful. Or his use of the word “factoids”. This is stolen from a debate at the time that JFK came out with Fletcher Prouty and Dan Moldea among others. The moderator used the word to label facts that he felt were tangential to the actual murder case. McAdams stole the term, and then expanded it to include all evidence exculpatory of Oswald—period. That is even the mismatching of shells and bullets in the Tippit murder!
Jim Garrison doesn’t fare much better. According to McAdams, the fact that Clay Shaw was gay was a “big factor in Garrison’s belief that Clay Shaw was a conspirator.” McAdams must know something the rest of the world doesn’t. If so, I wish he’d ante it up. The way that Garrison got onto Shaw is clear. He wanted to know who called Dean Andrews the night of the assassination and asked him to go to Dallas to defend Oswald. Most people would consider that rather relevant and important information. Andrews knew that ‘Clay Bertrand’ was a pseudonym. But he would not tell anyone who asked him—and this included Garrison, Tony Summers, and Mark Lane—what the man’s real name was. He told all of them that he feared bodily harm if he did divulge that information. So Garrison sent his investigators into the French Quarter to try and find whom Bertrand actually was. If you go through his files—something McAdams has not done—you will see that they found about eleven sources that pegged Shaw as Bertrand. It later turned out that even the FBI knew this, and that Shaw’s name popped up in their own inquiry in December of 1963! (William Davy, Let Justice Be Done, pgs. 191-94)
Garrison’s investigation also succeeded in uncovering a phone call that was placed by the attorney of Carlos Marcello to a female acquaintance of Jack Ruby’s, Jean Aase (Jean West). West accompanied another associate of Ruby’s, Lawrence Meyers, to Dallas on November 20, where they all met at Ruby’s Carousel Club. However, according to one of McAdams’ staunchest and most reliable “researchers,” the origin of this call is “far from clear.” The “researcher” in question? Dave Reitzes. Par for the course for this book.
Chapter 7: More On Defying The Odds: The Mysterious Deaths.
What McAdams does here is to base an entire chapter on what was one researcher’s own personal figure of 103 so-called “suspicious” deaths surrounding the JFK case. According to McAdams’ rationale, why would the conspirators have stopped at 103? Why not go for a thousand? Or a million? Nobody can ever know for sure the number of people who were sacrificed in order to maintain the cover-up.
But even if it were only one person that died, that would have been one too many. Of course, it wasn’t just one. Many, many people met untimely deaths as the direct result of what happened on November 22, 1963. Naturally, he doesn’t mention each and every person who is on the list…he doesn’t have the time to get into all of them.
McAdams then provides his own list of other people who were in some way involved in the case, and poses the question: Why weren’t these people killed? Why wasn’t this person killed? Or that person? Or, how about that other person? Surely, the conspirators wouldn’t have left all of them alive if the information they possessed was considered somehow “dangerous,” would they?
Consider what the author is suggesting: That somehow it is supposed to be odd that some people were left alive with valuable counter-information about the JFK case! In other words, if those nutty conspiracy theorists are right, well heck, the CIA or FBI should have killed every single one of those contrary witnesses.
Uh professor, wouldn’t that be kind of giving the game away? Kind of high risk as they say.
But anyone who does not find the circumstances of the deaths of say David Ferrie, George DeMohrenschildt, William Sullivan, Sam Giancana, John Roselli, and Dorothy Kilgallen rather odd and curious, well, then I would say they don’t know how to think about conspiracies. (Click here for an interesting piece on the Kilgallen case http://www.midtod.com/new/articles/7_14_07_Dorothy.html)
Chapter 8: Did People Know It Was Going To Happen?
There are numerous instances of people who claimed foreknowledge of the JFK assassination. If a person can predict an event which involves other people, and which turns out to be true, days before it happens, that person is either clairvoyant…or they have inside information of a conspiracy. At least that has been my experience. Of course, I could have connected the dots incorrectly…or misremembered.
Joseph Milteer is one such person. Milteer was taped telling a police informant, William Somersett, that JFK would be assassinated in Miami during his visit to the city in the upcoming weeks. He gave information which so closely mirrored the actual killing that it was chilling in its similarity. He said the President would be shot from an office building overlooking the motorcade; that a high-powered rifle would be used; that the rifle would be disassembled and taken up in pieces; that a patsy would be picked up soon afterwards to throw off the public; and that the plot was currently in the works.
Pretty good description of what ultimately unfolded in Dealey Plaza, right?
On Milteer: “Where Milteer is concerned, he described the most generic assassination scenario possible: ‘From an office building with a high-powered rifle.’ He later added that what Milteer had provided was an “unspecific scenario”.
Unspecific scenario? Generic assassination? Can the man be serious? When other time in American history has such a murder scene been promulgated?
What does McAdams say of the police informant, William Somersett? According to McAdams, federal authorities had decided that Somersett was “’unreliable,’” having “’been described as overenthusiastic, prone to exaggeration, and mentally unstable.’” Further, according to McAdams: “They also determined he had ‘furnished information bordering on the fantastic, which investigation failed to corroborate.’”
Uh John, this info was in FBI hands prior to the assassination. Yet they did nothing to act on it. Therefore, don’t you think they are trying to smear the messenger for making them look bad and allowing the president to be killed? I mean did not J. Edgar Hoover do that kind of thing many times? Yet, John, it wasn’t Somersett who painted the assassination scenario on tape for all to hear. It was Milteer. McAdams leaves both those pertinent facts out.
Then there’s Rose Cheramie. Cheramie claimed to have heard two men scheming about a plot to kill President Kennedy. She was thrown out of a car, and later recalled her account to both a state trooper and to hospital personnel. Here’s how the ever objective, non-advocate McAdams introduces her. “Rose Cheramie was a prostitute with a long arrest record.” Again, McAdams is hard at work killing the messenger.
Further, her credibility problems are “massive”; she made “a series of ridiculous statements”; she had a history of providing “information” to various law enforcement agencies. McAdams then goes on an incredible and lengthy character attack on Cheramie. She was arrested many times on differing charges, used myriad aliases, and tried to take her own life.
Who does McAdams defer to on this issue? You guessed it, his so-called New Orleans/Garrison expert, Dave Reitzes. If a witness’ value in this case can be measured by the ferocity of the attack upon him or her by Warren Commission diehards, then McAdams and Reitzes understand just how important Cheramie is to the JFK case. The character and credibility assault goes on for about two pages. Some of it is just silly. For instance, McAdams repeats the John Davis tenet that Cheramie told someone the two men she was with were “Italians or resembled Italians.” He then mentions that the HSCA found out that a Garrison investigator located the bar she attended with them and the bartender identified one of the men as a Hispanic. If you can believe it, McAdams then uses this to attack Cheramie. As if a person of Italian heritage has never been confused with being Hispanic! (And one should note here, for a professor, McAdams is really poor at checking original sources. The newly declassified files on the Cheramie case reveal that she was not thrown out of a car. She got into an argument at the saloon she was in with the two men and they forcibly abandoned her there. See the HSCA deposition of Officer Francis Fruge of 4/18/78))
He then tries another technique. He says that there were dozens of threats against Kennedy at the time. So the essence of her story really does not matter much since, again, it’s not detailed enough. (Note here the inconsistency with his attack on Milteer.) He can say this because he does not mention the second man with Cheramie—Emilio Santana—and does not describe the first man with her, Sergio Arcacha Smith. They were not just “Hispanic”. They were anti Castro Cuban exiles living in New Orleans in 1961 and 1962. Smith and Santana were closely involved with the CIA and Smith worked on the Bay of Pigs operation. Smith had reportedly moved to Dallas at the time of the assassination. Further, they were both suspects in the Garrison investigation. And Smith was a suspect in the investigation of Richard Case Nagell. (Which we will soon discuss.) So by not informing the reader of this, McAdams leaves out the fact that the Cheramie’s testimony provides a link between the setting up of Oswald in New Orleans in the summer of 1963 and the denouement of that plot in Dallas in November. Further, the unadulterated record, as uncovered by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, does not support the charge of her just handing out “information”. The information she gave out on her last case, when she heard the two men discussing the death of Kennedy, all this checked out as accurate. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, p. 227) Further, more than one person vouched for the so-called “ridiculous statements” she made about the impending murder of President Kennedy. The list of corroborators included doctors, nurses and interns. (ibid, pgs. 226-27)
So in other words, as pertains to the facts of this case, what McAdams and Reitzes do here is in the worst tradition of advocacy journalism. They raise a chorus of sound and fury that is, at best, tangential, at worst, superfluous. In other words, none of it alters the fact that she heard that Kennedy would be killed in advance of the murder and that there were multiple sources for that. The two then eliminate the part of the declassified record that actually is important in forensic terms and gives her testimony a valuable context. Namely that the anti Castro Cubans hated Kennedy, and these two were in league with the CIA, which is a (the?) prime suspect in the conspiracy.
And let us end this discussion with what most people would consider a rather important piece of testimony. State Trooper Fruge, who first encountered Cheramie and then was recalled by Jim Garrison, posed a rather pertinent query to the HSCA. He asked them if they had discovered the maps of the Dealey Plaza sewer system that Smith had in his apartment in Dallas in 1963. (ibid, p. 237) Does it get any more corroborative or suspicious than that?
And finally, there’s the case of Richard Case Nagell. Nagell was a former military man who ended up being a double agent, working for both the KGB and the CIA. While working for both agencies, he uncovered a plot to assassinate the president. He went to numerous locales in his quest: including Los Angeles, Miami and finally New Orleans. The plot he eventually discovered was, well, kind of similar to Garrison’s concept. It involved Guy Bannister, Sergio Arcacha Smith, David Ferrie, and Clay Shaw. And it featured an Oswald double named Leon Oswald. He said he had a tape of Smith and Carlos Quiroga manipulating Oswald in New Orleans in the summer of 1963. (ibid) Nagell was told by the KGB to warn Lee Harvey Oswald of this. Why? Because they had heard of such a plot brewing in Mexico City and they strongly suspected that the conspirators would try and pin the blame on the Russians. Which of course ended up being a correct assumption. Eventually, fearing for his safety as a result of being involved with such a plot, he managed to get himself arrested by entering a bank and shooting bullets into the ceiling. He then patiently waited until the police came to take him away, thereby removing himself to the safety of a jail cell.
Says McAdams of Nagell: “A secret internal CIA document describes him as ‘a crank’ because he is mentally deranged’ and noted he never worked for the agency.”
Are you all starting to get the picture now? As I noted in my review of Chapter 2, according to John McAdams, everybody who ever figured in the JFK assassination who had evidence that pointed to a conspiracy is either insane, crazy, unqualified, shady, bogus, criminal, a prostitute, a drug addict, or a liar. This includes doctors, surgeons, nurses, decorated policemen and military personnel, and even average mothers and fathers who just happened to take their small children to see a presidential motorcade.
Yawn. Sure John.
Chapter 9: Signal And Noise: Seeing Things in Photos
McAdams says he saw the guys on the TV show Mythbusters shoot a bullet into a dummy. The dummy moved back only a couple of inches and then fell to the ground.
McAdams’ conclusion? “Thus it seems that any movement ‘back and to the left’ actually proves nothing.”
John, dummies are not people. And what you just did here is not exactly inscrutable detective work worthy of getting an audition for Scotland Yard. Why did you not look for pictures of actual people being shot? Gil Jesus found some. Guess what? They all went backward from the origin of the shots. Uh, even your friend Gary Mack’s simulation experiment Inside the Target Car showed this. But somehow, McAdams can’t bring himself to admit this or do actual legwork. Which is one reason why hardly anyone in the research community takes him seriously outside his own forum.
McAdams ends this chapter by saying that unless one possesses a “disciplined approach” when evaluating photos, or even the sightings and perceptions of ear witnesses in Dealey Plaza, that “intellectual havoc can ensue.”
Too bad he didn’t take his own advice.
Chapter 12: Too much Evidence of Conspiracy
Several people noticed a bullet hole in the presidential limousine from the time it sat parked at Parkland Hospital. The bullet passed cleanly through the windshield from the front. This list includes a reporter, a student nurse, two motorcycle cops, and others.
On page 193 in a section titled “CAN WE GET BEYOND THE NOISE,” McAdams refers us to an article by Barb Junkkarinen, Jerry Logan, and Josiah Thompson. He says this article “destroys the notion that there was a through-and-through bullet hole in the windshield of the presidential limo. Such a hole would, as noted, clearly imply a conspiracy, but the evidence is against it.”
What McAdams fails to tell the reader is that the article in question (“Eternal Return: A Hole Through the Windshield”) doesn’t even mention the name of George Whittaker Sr.! Whittaker was the glass expert and technician at Ford Motors in Detroit who worked on the presidential limousine. Whittaker possessed 30 years of experience working with glass, including how glass reacts when hit by bullets. Whittaker noticed a clear through-and-through bullet hole which went from front to back. He and his colleagues were ordered to use the windshield as a template for a replacement windshield. They were then ordered to destroy the original windshield.
After Whittaker’s death, a signed letter was found among his possessions where he again made mention of the bullet hole he found that day. What he, the nurse, and the others saw was a clean bullet hole which penetrated fully from front to back. It wasn’t a crack. It wasn’t a fragment. It wasn’t a spider-web splinter.
Again, McAdams goes on to thank, among others, Dave Perry, and Gary Mack, who McAdams says has “been a voice of sanity in too many ways to list here.”
Again, this shows the author’s over-reliance on the work of others, his penchant for cherry picking and his failure to deal with contrary evidence that counters his ordained agenda.
Chapter 15: Putting Theory into Practice: The Single Bullet Theory
This from the section titled “KENNEDY’S THROAT WOUND” on page 223:
“If the location of Kennedy’s back wound is controversial, both the location and the nature of the throat wound are subject to controversy. Conspiracists frequently insist that the throat wound was actually one of entrance. And they do indeed have some evidence for this. In the first place, the Parkland doctors seemed to believe that it was an entrance wound…” (Italics in original.)
Wait a minute John. I have to stop you, just like I would a thief in the night.
In 1963, Dallas, Texas led the nation in gun-related crimes. The doctors at Parkland were extremely experienced with, and knowledgeable about, the nature of bullet wounds. So if any of them originally said it was an entry wound, it was an entry wound. And Malcolm Perry, among others, said that in a press conference the day of the assassination.
What does the author leave out? That this evidence was so devastating to the official story that 1.) the Secret Service lied to the Warren Commission about having a transcript of this press conference, and 2.) Secret Service agent Elmer Moore admitted later that he had badgered Perry into making his story more equivocal for the Warren Commission. Most people would think this important information.
On page 225 in the section titled “Unqualified Autopsy Doctors” McAdams says that “Bethesda was chosen as the site of the autopsy by Jackie Kennedy on the plane returning from Dallas to Washington. The president’s aide, Admiral Burkley, told her that the autopsy needed to be at a military hospital for ‘security reasons,’ and added, ‘Of course, the President was in the Navy.’ Jackie responded with ‘Of course’ and ‘Bethesda.’’
That hardly sounds like Jackie Kennedy chose the autopsy site. It sounds like she was simply agreeing with a decision which had already been made.
On the issue of why Kennedy’s body was whisked out of Dallas for an autopsy at Bethesda: “But what about the Parkland doctors? Surely they had seen a lot of gunshot wounds, and their opinions should carry some weight. But actually no, they carry virtually no weight.”
McAdams then relies on a tried-and-true favorite tactic of his: to paint the Parkland doctors as a bunch of stumbling, bumbling, incompetent nincompoops and know-nothings; a veritable staff comprised of Abbott and Costello, The Three Stooges, Charlie Callas, Jonathan Winters, and Mr. Bean -- all running around the hospital to the theme song from The Benny Hill Show.
Bethesda it is. We know those “qualified” pathologists are going to do nothing less than a rip-roaring job on the President in what was to be the autopsy of the century, right? Well John, it didn’t turn out exactly like that. McAdams conveniently neglects to inform the reader about just how badly botched that autopsy was…of how it was performed by inexperienced pathologists…of how it was directed and controlled, not by medical protocol, but by admirals and generals shouting out directions of what to do and what not to do.
How bad was it? Michael Baden, a man McAdams bows down to, once wrote that Kennedy’s autopsy was the exemplar for botched autopsies.
Chapter 16: Thinking about Conspiracy: Putting It All Together
Just listen to McAdams’ opening line. “It’s doubtlessly clear to the reader by now that I believe Oswald killed Kennedy, and most likely did it by himself.”
Did I read McAdams correctly there? I mean, he was doing such a grand job of being unbiased, thorough, and impartial that I really hadn’t yet made up my mind on where he stood.
In the section titled “A LARGE CONSPIRACY ISN’T PLAUSIBLE” (Pg, 248), McAdams says: “The first and most obvious principle is that a very large conspiracy simply isn’t plausible. It’s simply a matter of probabilities. ..There are plenty of reasons why a plotter might defect. He might have an attack of conscience (although if he had much of that he would not have been part of the plot)….”
Again, this points our just how hackneyed this book is. This is an argument that Warren Commission defenders have used ad nauseum since the beginning. It ignores two things that defeat it: 1.) People in this case did talk. To list just a few: Mafia consort John Martino, CIA advisor Gary Underhill, CIA agent Richard Case Nagell. Although he does not name them, the HSCA later found out that the two men who talked in the presence of Cheramie were Emilio Santana and Sergio Arcacha Smith.
Please note: this indicates a plot between the CIA, the Cuban exiles and the Mob. In other words, its very similar to what Tony Summers proposed in his book Conspiracy. You know, that kind of unwieldy plot that is not plausible.
But secondly, there have been conspiracies and cover-ups that did remain secret, at least for a time. To name just a few: the plot to assassinate Hitler, the secret radiation experiments on Americans, the giant conspiracy to run guns to the Contras while bringing back cocaine to America. This last may have remained forever secret to Americans if a young Contra volunteer had not knocked CIA pilot Eugene Hasenfus out of the sky with a shoulder launched missile launcher. When Hasenfus was captured he had a notebook on him. It was traced back to the secret Central American CIA Ilopango air base run by officer Felix Rodriguez. This unraveled a truly colossal conspiracy and cover up which eventually included the CIA, the Pentagon, President Reagan, Vice-President Bush, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, several wealthy American families, and the Mossad.
Are we to believe that a college professor of political science forgot about all this? Maybe he misremembered?
Let me add one more thing on this stale and trite “Unwieldy plot” issue in addition to the two points made above. What people like McAdams and Reitzes like to do is to take the JFK case and consider it in isolation. Therefore, they leave out say a man like Craig Watkins. Watkins is the first African American DA in Dallas. Because he was not a member of the country club set there, he decided to look back at, among others, the prosecutorial techniques used by the regime run by DA Henry Wade and Will Fritz. The two men responsible for the JFK case in Dallas in 1963. Testing these so-called “cold cases” with modern DNA technology, what were the results? Well, it turns out that ramrodding suspects into convictions with questionable evidence and testimony was rather par for the course with these two men. So far the Watkins inquiry has released 29 falsely accused convicts from prison on trumped up charges. And the review is not over yet. So far from being an “unwieldy plot” germane only to the JFK case, the questionable techniques used to pin the murder on Oswald was more like Standard Operating Procedure for Fritz and Wade. Laid in this context, the world view of America is reversed from McAdams Land: America is not all Mom, Apple Pie and Baseball with Oswald as the Black Hatted Villain. In fact, it may be just the reverse. For what kind of law enforcement agency puts that many innocent people behind bars?
But, of course, it’s worse than that. Because the other investigative body on the JFK case was the FBI. And I think we all know today just how bad J. Edgar Hoover was in his prosecutorial zeal. All of us except John McAdams. There have literally been reams of pages in scholarly books that expose how Hoover framed suspects in high profile cases. And we all know of course that Hoover detested the Kennedys, especially RFK. And most us know that Oswald very likely was an FBI informant. Something that Hoover would never ever ant to reveal since it would permanently mar the image of the Bureau, something he propagandized the public into thinking was flawless. When we all know today, it was far from that. All of us except John McAdams.
Therefore, when looked at as the compromised and corrupt bureaucracies they provenly were, the idea of some “unwieldy plot” disappears. In framing Oswald the people who investigated the case for the Warren Commission were doing what was considered by them to be standard in a murder case. And they had been doing it for years. In fact, to NOT do it would likely get them in trouble with their superiors. It is incredible that in this day and age Professor McAdams does not understand this. Yet this is the Ozzie and Harriet world that he exists in. He seems unaware that as writers like Jim Hougan and Don DeLillo have pointed out, that ersatz American veneer was shattered on November 22, 1963.
In his final page (thank God!), titled “ANY ROOM FOR CONSPIRACY?” guess what position McAdams takes? Good guess. According to McAdams, choosing the “sensible” theory (that which sides with Oswald being the lone assassin) “doesn’t allow you to demonize your political enemies.” (Yep, he forgot about all the character smears he just used.)
So who wants to demonize anybody? It wasn’t me who wrote a book that tries to tell mature, intelligent readers that they are incapable of “connecting the dots” properly, or that they’ve “misremembered” an event, or that they are all victims of “noise,” or “false memories”.
McAdams likes to warn us about how “noise” clouds our perceptions. He should know, he’s directly responsible for a great deal of it.
Well, after this debacle who is up for the next whitewash…Gary Mack? Dave Reitzes? Dave Perry? By the way, what happened to Dave Von Pein? I didn’t see any mention of him in your book. One thing is for sure -- you needn’t ask Vincent Bugliosi for his participation in this charade any longer. I have a hunch that he now realizes what a monumental blunder he committed (both personally and professionally) by whipping up that doorstop book of his. Bugliosi asking Jesse Ventura to turn off the camera during his interview on Jesse’s Conspiracy Theory spoke volumes.
And now … I’m off to take my “little pink dog” for a walk.