Archive for August, 2007

August 26th, 2007

Robert Fisk re 9/11

robert fisk of course is the independent’s mideast correspondent.


I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It’s not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93′s debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I’m not talking about the crazed “research” of David Icke’s Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster – which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.

I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering – very definitely not in the “raver” bracket – are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be “fraudulent or deceptive”.

Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11. Initial reports of reporters that they heard “explosions” in the towers – which could well have been the beams cracking – are easy to dismiss. Less so the report that the body of a female air crew member was found in a Manhattan street with her hands bound. OK, so let’s claim that was just hearsay reporting at the time, just as the CIA’s list of Arab suicide-hijackers, which included three men who were – and still are – very much alive and living in the Middle East, was an initial intelligence error.

But what about the weird letter allegedly written by Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian hijacker-murderer with the spooky face, whose “Islamic” advice to his gruesome comrades – released by the CIA – mystified every Muslim friend I know in the Middle East? Atta mentioned his family – which no Muslim, however ill-taught, would be likely to include in such a prayer. He reminds his comrades-in-murder to say the first Muslim prayer of the day and then goes on to quote from it. But no Muslim would need such a reminder – let alone expect the text of the “Fajr” prayer to be included in Atta’s letter.

Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious “war on terror” which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East. Bush’s happily departed adviser Karl Rove once said that “we’re an empire now – we create our own reality”. True? At least tell us. It would stop people kicking over chairs.

August 24th, 2007

Film: Land of the Blind

Posted in Movies by ed

landofblind.jpg Bloody good.

Sustained literary satire of baby George Bush and his world.

In essence a farce. Yet it often feels as somber and dangerous as Michael Radford’s 1984 with John Hurt, which had not a moment of comic relief.

Much like Brazil, come to think of it.

It may be too literary, too angry and too historically well informed for today’s Young American intellectuals, who seem to believe they’ve seen it all having been raised on television.

Stuffed with references to classic dystopias and movies (the latter voiced by the President, who spends most of his time making B-films). But the mockery lets the gas out before things get uncomfy. On the whole: a light, intelligent touch.

To plot along lines of Revolution Eats its Young is to trade in cliche. But there’s a good reason cliches become what they are.

A great debut by New Yorker Robert Edwards.

The lovely Pan’s Labyrinth, also out late last year, covers some of the same ground — but as a fairytale gone wrong. And couches talk of fascism in its faded historical context: peasants struggling for rights with their fading feudal gentry. Each aspect of the approach was immediately engaging, but in the end, limiting: a No Trespassing sign forbidding the discusison to go where it otherwise would and should.

Whereas Land of the Blind is here and now for grown-ups.

Now for trivia:

Who said: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

FIRST ONE TO COMMENT with correct answer gets a full copy of the “Bush Wins!” New York Post (a Murdoch tabloid here in Fun City) — the first early edition on the streets about 5 am the morning after the attempted November 2000 election.

August 24th, 2007

Famous Flailing Hedge Funds hire Economic Hit Man

Posted in Money, These United States by ed

When the supposed best & brightest begin to fail en masse, in thundering herds — I mean the losses and collapses of hedge funds this year — stuff flies.

Here, at Bloomberg, a troubled insurance company claims several high-flying Hedgies hired a small-time Economic Hit Man confessions_hitman2.jpg to slander the company in order to make good their recalcitrant shorts. Poison pen letters to churches …

data.jpeg Spyro Contogouris, former freelance stock analyst and founder of MI4 Reconnaissance, outside federal court in Manhattan following his hearing in early August.

August 23rd, 2007

Markets ride the Cyclone

Posted in Money by ed

The Cyclone is a famous rickety hair-raising old rollercoaster at the beach on Coney Island. Here in Brooklyn, New York.

The Murdoch Industrials are still down 900 points from their 14,121 high in July, but they’ve been bouncing this week on bits of good news and/or rumor.

Here are three people writing as to why it may not be safe to go back in the water yet:

Yesterday morning: Todd Harrison, a local-legendary trader and founder of Outlines the recent hair-raising news stories.

This morning: Bill Gross, head of the massive bond house in California known by its acronym PIMCO. Gross is certainly one of the most influential people in the bond business. Talks about the crisis of confidence re asset-backed securities and focuses on the mortgage/housing business.

And this morning: David Callaway, editor-in-chief of the very mainstream (part of the Dow Jones media empire soon to be consumed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.). About the recent “injections” (addictive?) of credit by the central banks.

This morning the CEO of the biggest mortgage originator, Countrywide (CFC), said that the $2 billion Bank of America is infusing into his company is very nice and will keep it out of bankruptcy for sure, but will not prevent the housing crash from pulling economy into recession.

A snapshot yesterday from a respected options analyst who writes at Minyanville, John Succo:


What the option market is saying…
11:00:45 AM

There is a huge dichotomy in the marketplace.

On one hand, the market in general is being bid back up while government officials try to reassure investors as to the soundness of the financial system. Some of the same officials that originally didn’t see a problem.

On the other, investors are paying prices in options on bank stocks and other financials that indicate bankruptcy.

We can’t have both.

This is not a “wall of worry”. I have never seen option prices this high in big captitalization financial companies. (emphasis added)

Take what you want from that.

Either the stock market in general is going to correct massively, or the buyers of this protection are really making a mistake.


And finally, from Jumpin’ Jersey Jim Cramer, a relatively CALM assessment of the mortage and housing business, on video.


MY OWN TWO CENTS, based on awareness of how vast the universe of structured finance securities is, and of how confidence in the methodologies used to rate and evaluate them has been shaken, and on watching the mortgage business get dismantled daily, is that the worst is far from over. Recession, asset deflation (houses mostly), prolonged credit contraction. The Dustbowl returneth … But what do I know.

Cyclone sign says, “Hold on to your wigs and car keys!”

August 23rd, 2007

Americans in Iraq

Seven Iraq Vets: “The War as We Saw It.

A group of U.S. veterans fresh from Iraq describe the political debate in Washington on the war as “surreal.”


August 23rd, 2007

Marine returned from Iraq makes new vow

Posted in These United States by ed


See similar

August 20th, 2007

General Taguba Reports

click photo

Strange as it seems, one yet must read Seymour Hersh’s recent piece detailing the heroism and hazing of Major General Antonio Taguba — author of the Army report on the crimes of American soldiers at Abu Grahib prison in Iraq.


“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice.

The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials.

Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”


In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?”

At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”


“The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects ‘We’e here to protect the nation from terrorism’ is an oxymoron,’ Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”

Taguba said that he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.” The video was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it.

The team spent much of February, 2004 in Iraq. Taguba was overwhelmed by the scale of the wrongdoing. “These were people who were taken off the streets and put in jail — teen-agers and old men and women,” he said.

“I kept on asking these questions of the officers I interviewed: ‘You knew what was going on. Why didn’t you do something to stop it?’”


A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with [General John Abizaid, then the head of Central Command]. Abizaid’s driver and his interpreter, who also served as a bodyguard, were in front. Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”

“I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me,” Taguba said. “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.”



That the military tends to be a mafia has been reported — by insiders — across almost a century now, going back to experience in our first imperialist war, in the Phillipines, in 1898. The most highly decorated U.S. Marine in history, General Smedley Butler, wrote a famous book on the subject: War is a Racket.

Yet the Americans doing the deeds at Abu Grahib seem to have been rather normal janes and joes. Some of them even reservists. And their forever-adolescent racism and sadism are plain.


One thinks back to the citizen-army of the second world war, which, despite its breakdowns and atrocities, left all of western and mediterranean Europe with the sense of having been rescued by a civilized people.

Television, in the time since, in lieu of reading and liberal education, has transformed us into fascists. Fodder with which the likes of Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rumsfeld, Cheney, have set the world aflame.

abugrahibdogsjpg.jpg Paintings by Allessandro di Meo

August 20th, 2007

N.Y. Magazine runs Jumpin’ Jim Cramer re Doom & Gloom

Posted in Money, These United States by ed

A little more than two weeks ago, Friday August 3, markets maveniac Jim Cramer went bananas on CNBC, shouting that the suits at the Federal Reserve Bank were shameful Know Nothings and demanding that they lower interest rates before the world blew up.


In particular, he repeatedly said to “open the Discount Window” by cutting the discount rate, which was then 6.25%. His comely host purred that such a move would brew panic and “cause Armageddon.”

“No,” Q-Ball replied,” we have Armageddon, it wouldn’t cause Armageddon, we have Armageddon, in fixed-income markets we have Armageddon.”

Days before, at its regularly scheduled meeting, the Fed under its new chief Ben Bernanke had barely acknowledged the credit crisis that had been rocking Wall Street and the mortgage business since June, and instead repeated its weathered bernanke.jpg apprehension that inflation remained the greatest threat to the domestic economy.

Almost everybody on Grub Street (except us) got down on Jimbo for behaving so badly on the national tube.

But a week later, the central banks of Asia, Europe and North America — led by the European Central Bank — started pouring hundreds of billions of dollars worth of credit into the system (via short-term loans to money center banks) to keep at least some of the bond markets and basic banking in operation.

And then a week after that (ie, last Friday, August 17) the Fed surprised a lot of people by, voila — lowering the Discount Rate to 5.75%. (The Discount Window is where big banks can borrow short-term directly from the Fed, if they’d like, usually at a higher rate than they can borrow from each other. The latter being the Fed Funds rate.)

More importantly, the Fed issued language with the rate cut that indicated it had changed its mind, expressing concern that the credit fiasco might crush the economy.

So the Fed worry “bias” seems to have shifted a bit from inflation to contraction & deflation. And everybody is now expecting a cut in the more important Fed Funds rate target (currently 5.25%) at the Fed’s September 18 meeting if not sooner.

So then. It might seem that events had justified Jersey Jim’s rant.

Nevertheless, Barron’s this past weekend devoted its cover story to the Mad Money man. booyahbarrons.gifShorting Cramer” points out (as had we) that when Jeremiah Jim blows his horn on his infotainment stock show Mad Money more often than not the trade don’t work out.

But perhaps he who howls last howls best.

For now we have New York Magazine publishing a Cramer feature that paints the Doom & Gloom Scenario with brio and crystal clarity.

For example, Mr Cramer writes:


You’re losing money right now. This very minute. You’re losing money if you own an apartment. You’re losing money if you own a country home. You’re losing money if you own a stock or bond mutual fund. You’re losing money if you have a pension plan. You’re probably losing money here or there, you’re probably losing money everywhere (except maybe from your savings account and wallet). But this is no Dr. Seuss story. It’s more of a John Steinbeck tale, and we are the victims, a new generation of Tom Joads, and it’s the damn bankermen who broke us.

This spring, as many homeowners stopped paying, the mortgage bonds—for the first time—starting losing value. Hundreds of billions in bonds that were thought to be worth more or less the price they were sold at, it turns out, are worthless.

That’s triggered a chain reaction: Brokers like JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Merrill Lynch that lent money to the firms that bought the bogus loans—most famously, Bear Stearns—basically foreclosed on those firms to get their cash back. But the firms, which are always running full tilt, didn’t have the money to pay up.

Bear, at the direction of the now-fired former co-president Warren Spector, let one fund just go down the drain. But Spector thought the other was still worth a great deal, so he put up $1.3 billion to pay back what the fund owed to the lenders and take direct control of the mortgage bonds.   warrensad1.jpeg  Spector, maybe one of the best minds in the bond business, genuinely believed that these mortgage-backed bonds still had substantial value.

If someone as savvy as Spector thought these bonds were still good when they were actually worthless, that tells you that thousands of other managers are simply dreaming if they think their portfolios are worth anything near what they claim they’re worth.

In other words, we’re looking at the start, not the end, of the lending meltdown.



August 20th, 2007

Woman Ravished by Pet Camel, Dies

Posted in Death by ed

From the BBC:

Pet Camel Kills Australian Woman

A woman in Australia has been killed by her pet camel after the animal may have tried to have sex with her.

The woman was found dead at the family’s sheep and cattle ranch near the town of Mitchell in Queensland.

The woman had been given the camel as a 60th birthday present earlier this year because of her love of exotic pets.

The camel was just 10 months old but already weighed 152kg (336lbs) and had come close to suffocating the family’s pet goat on a number of occasions.

On Saturday, the woman apparently became the object of the male camel’s desire. It knocked her to the ground, lay on top of her and displayed what the police delicately described as possible mating behaviour.

“I’d say it’s probably been playing, or it may be even a sexual sort of thing,” the Associated Press news agency quoted Queensland police Detective Senior Constable Craig Gregory as saying.

Young camels are not normally aggressive but can become more threatening if treated and raised as pets.


August 13th, 2007

Loans taken on by banks Temporary like Achilles?

Posted in Money by ed

imnotthere.jpg A third day now of huge loans being dealt out by the central banks in Europe, Asia and North America to keep financial institutions worldwide liquid. (See story copied below.)

Such “injections” of credit are routine, and big injections are routine during a “liquidity crisis.” (Although the amounts so far this time are approximately double the amounts kicked in following the 9/11 attacks.)

The premise beneath this emergency overnight borrowing is that a liquidity crisis is a passing and irrational phenomenon. And that once it passes and the bond markets are again trading, the trillions in sound (?) investments that currently cannot be valued on the borrowers’ books because nobody is willing to buy them will bounce back to status quo ante valuations, leaving the borrower whole — and the emergency overnighters can be returned to the central bank.

But what if (as worried here in recent weeks) the problem is more substantial than a liquidity panic?

That is: What if the damage done to confidence in the methodologies that the Rating Agencies and bond traders use to evaluate the whole vast range of structured finance bonds (ABS, CDOs and similar) lasts into the mid- and long-term?

Answer: The depressed or non-existent “mark to market” values of the illiquid bonds will remain on the books. The borrowing banks will continue to show huge paper losses and continue to need new cash to run their operations. And will be carrying the cost of these emergency loans.

Thus, if this goes on for any length of time, then the strain on the banks will get worse, not better, as the illiquid investments run their lives and reach maturity or other wind-up conditions and are realized as permanent losses.

But how long will “this go on?”

How long will bonds unrelated to subprime mortgages but nevertheless illiquid and “impossible to value” stay that way? Eg, how long will it take for people to believe that a AAA-rated CDO with no subprime mortgages in the collateral pool will perform as a AAA has always been expected to perform?

How long before the stink of mortgage bonds is bleached from trading desks worldwide?

Nobody knows, but there are plenty of reasons to think the crisis in confidence re rating methodology is rational and thus not likely a passing panic. Temporary like Achilles?

imnotthere.jpg See I’m not There.

ECB injects a further $65 billion into banking system

By Simon Kennedy

LONDON (MarketWatch) — The European Central Bank said Monday that it had provided around 47.5 billion euros ($65 billion) in loans as it continued to try and support liquidity in the banking system.

The latest one-day tender from the central bank came on top of a 61 billion euro cash injection on Friday and the 95 billion euros it provided on Thursday as markets continued to suffer from the effects of the subprime credit crisis.

The ECB said the tender had a weighted average rate of 4.07%. Earlier Monday the Japanese central bank added over $5 billion to markets …

August 11th, 2007

Chinese issuing computer chip IDs

Posted in Frankenstein's Monster by ed

NY TIMES says:

SHENZHEN, China, Aug. 9 — At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets here in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity.

Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens.

Data on the chip will include not just the citizen’s name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord’s phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China’s controversial “one child” policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card.

August 9th, 2007

Brits tell Yanks to beat it in Afghanistan

British military asks U.S. forces to leave Afghan province

A senior British commander in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province said he had asked the U.S. to withdraw special forces from his area of operations because the high level of civilian casualties they have caused was making it difficult to win over local people. A U.S. military spokesman denied the request was made.

PHOTO: Haji Mir Gul with his 2-year-old grandson, who was wounded by a U.S. airstrike.

August 9th, 2007

Howard Hunt says he was just a “benchwarmer” in CIA murder of JFK

Ed Note: The original bit of Conversation posted here in mid 2007 after a quick reading of Hunt’s new memoir is currently undergoing renovation, and is somewhat in pieces, like Frankenstein’s monster on the surgery table.  (I’m trying to incorporate a few other recent books containing useful bits … )

A much enhanced draft will appear before Hell freezes on the main page.


E. Howard Hunt, prolific pulp novelist and career CIA agent, political and psychological operations his metier, and a leader of the Watergate break-in gang (which consisted entirely of CIA officers or assets with the exception of goofy pawn G. Gordon Liddy), had a book published earlier this year, shortly after his death.

American Spy updates his 1975 autobiography Undercover — and offers for the first time Hunt’s dubious offerings as to who killed President John F. Kennedy.


Hunt’s chapter on the murder proceeds like a drunk in the dark along familiar pot-holed streets. Readers new to the neighborhood trying to follow will likely stumble.

Without protest Hunt entertains the notion that the murder was managed by CIA brethren, working freelance, as oft was their wont. But precisely which ones he professes to remain unable to say certainly.

Nevertheless, the weight of his discussion falls foremost on wild Bill Harvey, and then on Cord Meyer, as the likely top conspirators within the Company.

He also rehearses, without endorsement, increasingly public suspicions of David Morales, “rumored,” Hunt intones, “to be a cold-blooded killer, the go-to guy in black ops situations where the government needed to have someone neutralized.”

And some people say, Hunt reports with a shrug, that maybe his old Psy Ops confrere Dave Phillips was involved.

But when he turns to Frank Sturgis, a well known mob and CIA goon with whom he shared a bunk in prison for deeds done at the Watergate, things seems clear:

He was a congenial guy who would follow orders but had a room-temperature IQ. He was also very discretionally challenged …. I don’t think Sturgis was part of a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy simply because nobody who was intelligent enough to concoct such a wide-ranging plot would have trusted him.

At this point a reader begins to feel memoir morphing to pulp fiction.

Fortunately, however, American Spy is not the only account of the murder that Howard Hunt left behind.

Zap some popcorn ….

Part One

(a) Cord Meyer meyer.jpg, born to an eastern blue-blood family, lost an eye and his twin brother in the second war. He came home in 1944 transformed, and soon was an activist peacenik and celebrity.

In 1946 he won the prestigious O. Henry Short Story Prize, and the Jaycees named him one of the top ten most promising young Americans. (Richard Nixon was also on the list.) See David Talbot’s Brothers.

A year later Meyer was elected president of the United World Federalists, and would go on to draft with Robert Maynard Hutchins a constitution for world government.

Young Cord Meyer, then, was a genuine pheenom, a crusading phoenix of youthful idealism rising from the ashes of the war, whose poster came to commonly adorn the walls of co-ed dormitory rooms.

Then, somehow, in 1951, he was recruited by CIA Director Allen Dulles to organize Operation Mockingbird, under which hundreds of national journalists were put on the CIA payroll in exchange for cooperation on national security matters.

He also seems to have become LSD guru Timothy Leary’s contact at CIA, where the drug was manufactured and curiously tested.

But then in 1954 Meyer left the Company, or so it seemed, disenchanted. A critic of the nuclear arms race, a preacher of pacifism during the Korean war, a proponent of world government, member of the National Council on the Arts …

Little wonder Senator Joe McCarthy accused him of being a communist. Despite cover from CIA chiefs, Hoover’s FBI was soon on Cord’s case.

Across months he successfully defended himself against the charge, but in the process seems to have lost all his picnic spirit. After going through some public motions of quitting the Company, he went looking for publishing work in New York.


Spiritually speaking, Cord Meyer so far seems an unlikely candidate for JFK’s murderer.

But Hunt runs his name up the flag pole nevertheless because in 1961 Meyer’s first wife (divorced in 1958), a lovely Age of Aquarius dreamer named Mary Pinchot, began a serious affair with JFK that lasted until his death.

In 1945 Cord Meyer, newly wed, met journalist and fellow veteran John F. Kennedy at the San Francisco conference where the United Nations were born. Reports are that the two disagreed about the limits of internationalism (Kennedy the more conservative) — and that Cord was dismayed to discover that Mary and Kennedy had first met many years before as prep students.
White House logs show their last meeting there was November 1, 1963, the day President Diem of Vietnam was murdered in a CIA-backed coup.

The plan had been to merely remove Diem and his brother. Instead at the last moment they fled the CIA plane that would have taken them to Paris, returned to the presidential palace, where they found the coup in progress, and were shot by the local rivals whom Washington had endorsed. Or so writes Fletcher Prouty.

Kennedy was distraught, called Mary, and she visited the White House for several hours that afternoon. Three weeks later he was dead.

Jealousy, then, is the motive that Hunt repeats and endorses as to why Cord Meyer might have led the plot.

Days after Kennedy’s murder, Mary told friend Timothy Leary (so he writes in Flashbacks), “They couldn’t control him any more. He was changing too fast. He was learning too much. … They’ll cover everything up. I gotta come see you. I’m scared. I’m afraid. Be careful.”

She was murdered eleven months later. October 1964. Two shots, to the head and chest, the weapon never recovered.

A black man found hiding nearby was tried but not convicted. The case remains cold to this day.


Mary had a sister, Toni, who happened to be married to Ben Bradlee, the future famous editor of The Washington Post.

Bradlee and JFK had been friends since 1957, when they each bought houses on the same block in Georgetown. Bradlee was the local Newsweek man. Senator Kennedy was eyeing the White House. Mary, Toni and Jacqueline Kennedy became friends.

Bradlee writes that the morning after Mary’s murder he found James Jesus Angleton — the legendary and some say cracked-pot chief of CIA counterintelligence — inside Mary’s locked house, looking, he told Bradlee plainly, for her diary.

Together they searched and found nothing.

That afternoon, Bradlee and Toni thought to look through Mary’s studio, where she had painted large canvases with fading colors in the manner of Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler.

They came upon Angleton picking the lock of the studio door.

“He would have been red-faced,” Bradlee writes, “if his face could have gotten red, and he left almost without a word.”


Mary’s prime biographer Nina Burleigh, writes that Cord Meyer “wept uncontrollably” at her funeral — and that Angleton and Richard Helms (“his two closest friends in the CIA”) sat directly beside him in the pew.

It also happens that Angleton was married to one of Mary’s closest friends, Cicely D’Autremont.

It’s perhaps, then, understandable that after Toni found Mary’s diary, and with husband Bradlee read it — finding to their shock (Bradlee says) that it detailed a deep affair with the dead President — they gave the book to Angleton, asking him to burn it.

In the CIA book-burning machine.

“It was naive of us,” Bradlee writes, “but we figured they were state of the art …”

Instead Angleton held the diary for three years, then returned it to Toni, who finally sent it up in flames.

It’s a curious story, but perhaps without public interest.

Then again: Years later, having been bounced in some disgrace from CIA, Angleton told reporters that he had bugged Mary’s house and studio early on — and thus followed her daring affair as it unfolded.

The most startling product of this operation was the revelation that Mary, with the help of Leary, tried to Give Peace a Chance by turning the President on during their trysts with marijuana and LSD. (The latter just once, Angleton reports.)

Indeed, Mary — no less a crusader than her ex-husband once had been — had organized a cell in D.C. of “eight intelligent women” (she told Leary), each involved with a power player whose consciousness she tried to raise with flower-power chemicals.

A friend of Mary’s told biographer Burleigh that once, after Jack and she had smoked three joints, he wondered aloud, “Suppose the Russians did something now?”

It’s not yet clear (in my reading) if Angleton was listening.

Toni (left), Mary, and their mom, a stern Goldwater girl

Note that journalist Joseph Trento, as late as 2001, published The Secret History of the CIA, which relates an account of Mary’s diary much more flattering to Angleton than Bradlee’s. Time has told that Angleton and Trento had a long standing relationship — source and mouthpiece — that for the most part seems to have mutually beneficial.
Hunt, for his part, seems in 2007 to go out of his way to tell Mary’s tale, and then, with a nod to the LSD tryst, concludes that her murder “was probably a professional hit by someone trying to protect the Kennedy legacy.”
Yet when he rehearses Bradlee’s version of the diary story, labelling the “interesting fact” of Angleton’s appearance “mysterious” — he follows up immediately, in an apparent non-sequitur, with “I don’t think that Cord Meyer killed his ex-wife, and I don’t think it was Angleton either.”

The comment may startle less when taken with the fact that in 1975 — the year across which Angleton was painfully pried out of CIA by new director William Colby — Hunt in a rare moment of public candor told reporter Seymour Hersh (a well established mouthpiece of the NS apparat) about “a small assassination team” within CIA, headed by a certain Colonel Boris Pash, that dealt with “suspected double-agents and low-ranking officials.”

Three years later, in 1978, journalist Trento reported, based on CIA sources, that the manager of Colonel Pash’s team was Angleton, his golden goose source.

Trento’s famous story (as we shall see) also reported the existence of an inhouse CIA memo from 1966, in which Angleton as housekeeper warns new director Helms that the Company has a problem: Hunt was in Dallas the day Kennedy was shot.
Throughout the history we are reading, threads almost hidden connect Angleton and Hunt. Best, perhaps, to begin looking for them now.


In the late 50s, after his divorce from Mary, Cord Meyer began working with the CIA again, probably having never really left, but overseas this time, in the clandestine service, and became (it is said) a hardliner on communism.

This would seem more the man whom Hunt has now proffered as a Kennedy killer.

Stateside again, Meyer rose to Deputy Director of Plans (covert ops), and resumed his close friendship Angleton.

But it seems he had indeed lost his picnic spirit:

Meyer fell increasingly under the spell of the gloomy, Byzantine views of his his CIA mentor Angleton. “Cord entered the agency as a fresh idealist and left a wizened tool of Angleton,” observed Tom Braden, Meyer’s boss early in his intelligence career. “Angleton was a master of the black arts. He bugged everything in town, including me. Whatever Angleton thought, Cord thought.

He ran the London station for a while, then seems to have quit for good, in 1977, as the investigations of the House Select Committee on Assassinations were heating up and the old guard were put out to pasture. He wrote a syndicated column thereafter for many years.

Shortly before death, in 2001, Meyer was asked by writer C. David Heymann whom he thought had murdered Mary. Heymann reports that Meyer replied:

“The same sons of bitches that killed John F. Kennedy.”

Mary and Cord on their wedding day, April 1945

(b) WILLIAM KING HARVEY, Wild Bill, receives Hunt’s harshest treatment in 2007.
Hunt’s tipsy peripatetic rhetoric in American Spy is Aristotelian two fold, in that he rigorously prefaces each topic with “Some people say …” or similar. And rarely retracts it.

The result, when boiled down to bare logic, is little more than a review of the bad things people have been saying about the CIA since the first strong challenge of the Warren Commission Report — Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment — was published in 1966, soon to be followed by the first and only criminal case in the matter, brought in New Orleans in 1967 by District Attorney Jim Garrison (whose On the Trail of the Assassins is wonderfully written and remains a must read).

Of the five CIAists Hunt discusses as candidates, only with Harvey does he step out from behind the “Some people say” to assert
[(“vaguely possible,” “possible”, “the most likely suspect”),

Harvey worked in West Berlin in the 50s — Cold War Central — where he famously dug a tunnel beneath the Soviet embassy to plant bugs. All for naught, however: the Reds were wise thanks to Brit turncoat George Blake and fed the tunnel barium meals for many years.


Harvey had once worked for the FBI and brought streetwise manners to CIA which Hunt, who fancied himself a gentleman, was known to have found vile. Even from the distance of 2007 he recalls Harvey as
a drunk who had been kicked out of the FBI. Balding, with loose jowls and rolls of fat jiggling under his chin and bulging out of a tight collar, he sported a short pencil-thin moustache, trying to give his face some aspect of personality.

Harvey had found an easy spot in which to nest under the CIA’s counterintelligence director, James Angleton, a very odd couple, I thought. While I never had any reason to deal with him, I thought he was a strange man who should not be representing the CIA, much less the United States. His supply chief worked for me for a time in Washington….

“The guy is awful,” he complained. “You should see what he’s up to [in Rome]. Havery’s wife is a WAC officer who looks more masculine than a lot of men I know. ” He implied that there was some kind of strange sex going on.

A reader feels the pulp artist protests too much.
Violent and a vocal Kennedy-hater, Harvey has often been floated as a party to the murder, and has always seemed a decent guess.


Stateside again after Berlin, Harvey became Angleton’s deputy and the two seem to have been rather inseparable. Many sources echo Hunt’s remark on this curious friendship — Angleton the ascetic orchid-breeding poet, Harvey the brash and blubbery foul-mouthed roughneck. Alcoholism they shared, but that was unremarkable at Langley prior to Watergate.
Harvey is CI Deputy, each asked to write a brief on the question of Kim Philby — was he or was he not working for the Russians, as Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean and Anthony Blunt were. Harvey said yes, with a tightly argued paper. Angleton said no with little more than reports of dinner table chat.

Peter Wright, of Britain’s MI5 writes in Spycatcher (must read) of several wild meetings with Angleton and Harvey at large in Washington — and that during one, in 1961, the duo pressed him for help in assembling an assassination team.


Around the same time, the King came to the CIA’s Miami station — a nexus of the JFK murder mystery — where he headed for a time the loony Castro hit squad managed by mobster Johnny Rosselli. Exploding conch shells, poisoned scuba suits and cigars …

(During the mid 70s, between the Senate’s Church hearings on CIA misdeeds and the investigation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, sawed off pieces of the flamboyant Rosselli, who had testified to the Church committee, were found in a 55-gallon drum floating in Miami’s Dumfounding Bay.)

most broadly and recently: The two people Hunt now fingers most emphatically for the JFK job — Harvey and Meyer — were two of Angleton’s closest CIA confreres outside his hermetically sealed counterintel staff.
MOVE TO CODA: Both Lane and Garrison fingered the CIA, rejecting the notion (as does Hunt) that the Mob had the capacity to do all the things that had to be done to successfully complete the mission in Dallas.



(c) As to the CIAists’ principal(s), Hunt in his book surmises — offering little argument and no evidence — that the motive force behind the murder was Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson: the hayseed New Dealer from Texas back country who rose to command the Senate during the Eisenhower years, then swallowed a Kennedy gambit by accepting the surprise offer of the vice presidency in 1960.


It seems Hunt intended, in so writing, to support recent underdetermined theories about LBJ that rely chiefly on a palm print supposedly found on the Book Depository rifle and discovered decades later to belong to an LBJ hatchetman named Max Wallace.

The LBJ idea got a big boost in 2003 from a book by Barr McClellan, a lawyer who says that during years of working for Johnson he sniffed out his complicity.

These arguments, putting Johnson atop a narrow and rather homespun conspiracy, have not yet struck home here persuasively.

But it seems possible he may have been a witting and willing affiliate of a professional project managed by people we train to do such things. See, for one, Noel Twyman’s Bloody Treason (1997).

The middle ground re LBJ’s possible involvement has long been staked out by one of his Dallas girlfriends, who across the decades wrote and told cameras that the Vice President was told (warned?) of the plot the evening before, at a dinner party at the ranch of Texas billionaire murchisonc.jpg Clint Murchinson, owner of the Dallas Cowboys among other big things.

The woman says that Johnson emerged from behind a closed door that evening and told her with a growl that his days of taking guff from them Kennedys was over.

But of course there are debunkers who say the woman is crazy — some who claim to prove she invented the Murchinson dinner from whole cloth.

No opinion here. But the woman seems slightly more credible than her detractors. That she may have confused a dozen details across the years, even the date, don’t seem to signify one way or the other.

Both Kennedy and Johnson recorded White House conversations. (Nixon inherited LBJ’s equipment.) On extant tapes we hear LBJ in the days after the murder intently asking investigators if the assassins had been shooting at him as well. Some argue this proves his innocence. From here it don’t seem to help either way.

Max Wallace does seem to have been an LBJ Man Friday, and a murderer, and good with a rifle. If the palm print story is true, one may imagine that he was invited to the hunting party without LBJ’s knowledge. Wallace would thereby preserve the boss’s deniability, while the professionals would plant an inconvenient truth by which the new president might on occasion be persuaded of reason.


It is clear from Captain John Newman’s ground-breaking bookJFK and Vietnam (1992) — that Johnson was working a back channel in the years before the murder with generals and their friends who were demanding intervention first in Laos and then Vietnam, as a means of provoking China back into the war that Eisenhower had stalled with an armistice in Korea.

These generals — Air Force’s LeMay (model for Colonel Jack D. Ripper in Doctor Strangelove), Navy’s Burke and Army’s Lemnitzer (JFK’s first chairman of the Joint Chiefs and sponsor of the now notorious Operation Northwoods program) — were damn sure war with China was in the cards and intended to nuke’m on their own timetable, and sooner than later.

They plied Kennedy with memos arguing same from day one. Soon he called them “nuts” and stopped inviting them for tea. Thereafter their man in the White House was Johnson.

LBJ changed Vietnam policy within days of taking office, turning back JFK’s first instructions for withdrawal of the advisors then in country. (1,000 before Christmas, of 16,000 total, all of whom were under CIA auspices.) Johnson then pushed forward with Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, the prime invasion coming in 1965, shortly after his stunning defeat of Barry Goldwater in the ’64 election.

So LBJ was affiliated with the war camp, and did their bidding in southeast Asia. And the war camp, almost certainly, is where high pay-grade coupsters resided.

Yet, from this armchair, it seems odd that professionals would taint the prime figurehead of the world that they intended to create with the murder.

What, practically speaking, might LBJ have contributed to the plot’s execution? And if nothing (as it seems here), what need to know would have prompted the professionals to involve him?

Why compromise the new president? He was already in camp, and would prove malleable. Several times in the Oval Office he spoke of the gunshots of Dallas, echoing between his ears.

As did Nixon.


Note that Captain Bradley E. Ayers, an Army Ranger who trained anti-Castro cubans for the CIA in the early 60s to aid their hapless attacks on their homeland, spent fifteen years investigating the JFK murder, and has just this year published his thoughts.

The Zenith Secret is not an “update” of Ayers’ The War that Never Was (1976). That book, to begin, was a fictionalized account — phony names and places — of the CIA Miami station in the early 60s.

Further: it was edited by none other than CIA cowboy Wild Bill Harvey (Hunt’s prime suspect), whom Ayers knew from Miami, but who had retired (unbeknownst) and gone to work for publisher Bobbs-Merrill.

Even funnier: Harvey’s boss at Bobbs-Merrill, Managing Editor Tom Gervasi, confessed late in life that he was an Operation Mockingbird team player and as such had sanitized many a manuscript.

Poor Bradley Ayers knew none of this when he submitted to Bobbs-Merrill what he thought a rather clever roman a clef. Nor did he soon understand how and why the text had been reworked so badly in-house as to render it useless as history.

zenith.jpegThe Zenith Secret now tells all as Ayers saw it in Miami, using real names. Then moves on with the entirely new account of his investigation of the murder.

Ayers claims with some power to have uncovered complicity of David Morales (also on Hunt’s list). Morales was hired by the CIA in the late 40s to be trained as an assassin morales.jpeg and was head of covert ops at the Miami station when Harvey and Rosselli were there trying to kill Castro and Ayers was teaching Cubans how to launch rubber dinghies and kill with their hands. Ayers and Morales knew each other fairly well.

Ayers also presents evidence of complicity in the murder plot of Morales’s patron and mentor. The man who rescued him from poverty and put him through college. The leading militarist in the Senate of the day. The hero of today’s so-called Neo-conservatives. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. The Republican front-runner for 1964.


Morales is now a person of interest in both Kennedy murders, and Ayers is his primary biographer, whom other writers have relied upon for years. The Zenith Secret brings this and other source material for the first time to light.

Unfortunately it is printed in seven-point type.

Nevertheless it must be read.

No one said this would be easy.


Part Two

Howard Hunt died in January 2007. Soon thereafter his eldest son, St John Hunt, came forward with some memos and cassette tapes that his father had given him circa 2005, as followups to conversations about his hidden life.

See Rolling Stone’s piece about all this.

St John says that Hunt’s second wife (his first had died in a mysterious plane crash during the early months of Watergate) soon broke off the forbidden conversations and banished him from his father’s Miami house.

Sometime soon after Hunt began writing American Spy — during which he asked his son to return the confessional memos and tapes. St John did so, after making copies.

These memos and tapes importantly contradict the book that Hunt wrote during his last year.

In the book, for example, Hunt casts heaviest aspersions on Harvey and Meyer, discusses theories about Phillips and Morales without endorsing them, and goes out of his way to nix the notion that his pal Frank Sturgis was involved in the murder.

In life, however, Hunt wrote for his son a two-page memo that explicitly implicates goons Sturgis and Morales along with the high-ranking Harvey, Meyer and Phillips:

Cord Meyer discusses a plot with Phillips who brings in Wm. Harvey and Antonio Veciana. He meets with Oswald in Mexico City. . . . Then Veciana meets w/ Frank Sturgis in Miami and enlists David Morales in anticipation of killing JFK there. But LBJ changes itinerary to Dallas, citing personal reasons.

Hunt in his book repeatedly denies any personal involvement in the plot or finite knowledge of it, and insists he never met Sturgis until they were introduced in 1972 by mutual cubano friend Bernard Barker as the Watergate break-ins were being planned.But the memo Hunt gave his son tells of a day in 1963 when pal Sturgis had tried to recruit him to the JFK hit team. Hunt writes that he refused the invitation, because he distrusted Harvey as a lunatic drunk.

Furthermore, and even more to the contrary: On tape, Hunt tells his son he was merely “a benchwarmer” on the hit team.


The tape can be heard at the son’s website:

And here is a Black Op Radio interview with the son, talking about all this.

Note that Black Op Radio is run by Len Osanic, who is the great curator of Colonel Fletcher Prouty‘s writings fletchcopy.jpg and interviews, which probe these matters with much first-hand experience.

Bradley Ayers seems to have much in common with Fletch. More about him later, perhaps.


So then.

Given Hunt’s hedged admission of complicity — “benchwarmer” — it seems a good guess that two now-obscure items out of the past linking him to the JFK murder are indeed what they have always seemed, and that a third rather famous speculation perhaps had basis:

(A) J.J. Angleton, as CIA housekeeper, wrote a famous memorandum to career CIA spook helms.jpg Richard Helms as the latter assumed control of the CIA in 1966.

The Memo informed incoming Director Helms that CIA had a problem: Howard Hunt was in Dallas the day Kennedy was shot.

The Memo was obtained by the investigating staff of the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, precisely how still a mystery (unless I’ve missed something recent). Thoughts across the years have been that Angleton — who had recently been bounced with extreme prejudice from the agency by the then new director William Colby — may have been the leaker.

Or maybe it was old-timer Cleveland Cram, who was heading an internal CIA hunt for moles and assassins in the agency. The fallen Angleton was apparently a suspect on each count.

In any case, former CIA analyst Victor Marchetti marchetti.jpg, author of a landmark insider book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, quickly caught wind of the Memo, and wrote about it in a magazine article that stated that the CIA leadership was about to throw Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis and perhaps others to the HSCA wolves, in a “limited hangout” confession, painting the former agents as rogues who participated in the murder as freelancers.

The Memo was also leaked — by Angleton for sure — to journalist Joseph Trento, who wrote a newspaper story about it and other aspects of the assassination.

The two articles, published within days of each other by minor organs, were ignored by the mainstream media and the law, while, shortly after, the avid HSCA staff was fired by the Congressmen who had convened the Committee, under pressure from their FBI and CIA liaisons, and replaced with duds who promptly produced a toothless report and closed up shop. See The Last Investigation by staff investigator Gaeton Fonzi.

However. Marchetti’s article provoked a legal action that produced noteworthy results.

(B) CIA contract agent and Fidel Castro lover Marita Lorenz implicated Howard Hunt in JFK’s murder twenty years ago, first in a deposition and then on the castro.jpeg witness stand during the Hunt vs Liberty Lobby trial of 1985, in which Hunt sued the publishers of Marchetti’s article about the Memo for libel.

Attorney Mark Lane used Lorenz’s testimony to successfully defend the publisher in the trial. Jury members afterward told the press that the defense had demonstrated to their satisfaction CIA complicity in Kennedy’s murder. plausible.jpg See Lane’s important book about all this: Plausible Denial. Must reading.

Lorenz testified that she drove from Miami to Dallas with mob and CIA goon Frank Sturgis (also on Hunt’s verbal JFK list, and his Watergate team) sturgis.jpg, CIA drug-runner and contract assassin Gerald Patrick Hemming and a bunch of anti-Castro cubans, and delivered, the night before JFK’s murder, two trunkloads of guns to a Dallas motel — where, Lorenz testified, benchwarmer Howard Hunt paid for the guns with cash.


Note that Bradley Ayers presents evidence in The Zenith Secret that a senior member of Senator Goldwater’s staff delivered, on the Senator’s instruction, two suitcases of cash to New Orleans and Dallas the day before the murder.

According to Ayers’ source — the daughter of the Goldwater staffer — the suitcases came to Goldwater as contributions to his 1964 presidential campaign. The donors: intel octopus mystery man Robert Maheu (then Howard Hughes’s top exec) and mobster Joe Bananno.

The staffer received the cash in Las Vegas, then drove to Texas and gave one suitcase to a man in a Dallas motel using the name Gordon. Then drove on to New Orleans, where he gave the second case to David Morales, whom he knew from meetings in Goldwater’s Senate office.

(C) The famous bit of speculation involving Hunt and JFK’s murder was found in the diaries of Nixon’s right-hand H.R. Haldeman, which were published posthumously.

The scene: June 1972. Two days after the Watergate arrests. Haldeman, working with John Ehrlichman, proposes to Nixon that they ask the CIA to use to shut down the FBI’s investigation of the break-in on grounds it might compromise national security.

The heat was on because a Nixon campaign contribution check had already been traced to a burglar’s bank account by FBI Miami.

But to ask CIA for a favor was difficult. Vice President Nixon had been Eisenhower’s point man on the CIA, and in 1958 had made an enemy of the Company by cashiering legendary spook Frank Wisner after the botched CIA invasion of Indonesia (one of the great blackouts in the history of the US media — see Prouty interviews).

But upon returning to the White House eleven years later, Nixon had tried to bury the hatchet by allowing Richard Helms (a Wisner loyalist) to remain on as CIA Director. Nevertheless they loathed each other.


So. Woodward and Bernstein are burning shoe leather. Sturgis, James McCord (a senior CIA “internal affairs” officer) and three of Hunt’s Bay of Pigs Cubanos are cooling heels in the hoosegow. Hunt and Liddy ( not yet nabbed) are hitting up Haldeman, Ehrlichman & Dean for bail money. And Director of Central Intelligence Helms is waiting in the West Wing to speak with the President’s men.

Nixon doesn’t want to speak with Helms directly, however, and so is coaching Haldeman on what to say and how to say it. From the tape transcript:

PRESIDENT: How do you call him in, I mean you just, well, we protected Helms from one hell of a lot of things.

HALDEMAN: That’s what Ehrlichman says.

PRESIDENT: Of course, this is a, this is a Hunt, you will — that will uncover a lot of things. You open that scab there’s a hell of a lot of things and that we just feel that it would be very detrimental to have this thing go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt, and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves. …

When you get in these people when you … get these people in, say Look, the problem is that this will open the whole, the whole Bay of Pigs thing, and the President just feels that ah, without going into the details… don’t, don’t lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement, but just say this is sort of a comedy of errors, bizarre, without getting into it, the President believes that it is going to open the whole Bay of Pigs thing up again. And, ah because these people are plugging for, for keeps and that they should call the FBI in and say that we wish for the country, don’t go any further into this case, period!

Haldeman wrote that he delivered the message as instructed. And that at the mention of Bay of Pigs the urbane, highly disciplined Helms blew his top, shouting that the Bay of Pigs had nothing to do with Watergate.

Haldeman then wrote, in his diary, that he believed Nixon intended “the Bay of Pigs” as a code phrase for JFK’s murder.

(To better understand what seems a stretched inference, see this passage in Haldeman’s memoirs, which were published during his life.)


Gerry Hemming (the assassin fellow Marita Lorenz says drove with her and Sturgis to Dallas with the guns) happens to have been Lee Harvey Oswald’s commanding Marine sergeant when they were stationed at the CIA’s U-2 base in Japan. And he has talked at some length about these matters.

He said (see Plausible Denial) that his assassination firm was approached regarding the JFK job, but declined it. (Rather like Hunt telling his son that he refused Sturgis’s offer to join the team.)

And while being prosecuted on drug charges in the 70s, Hemming this to say:

All of a sudden they’re accusing me of conspiracy to import marijuana and cocaine. Hey, what about all the other things I’ve been into for the last 15 years, lets talk about them. Let’s talk about the Martin Luther King thing, let’s talk about Don Freed, Le Coubre, nigger-killers in bed with the Mafia, the Mafia in bed with the FBI, and the goddamn CIA in bed with all of them. Let’s talk about all the people I dirtied up for them over the years. Spartacus U.K.

HUNT rejects Mob hit theory.

BRADLEE reprise The Washington Post was home base for Operation Mockingbird. It’s flamboyant socialite publisher, Phillip Graham, was a CIA confidante throughout his career, until one day he began to spill some beans and was quickly institutionalized by his wife, and soon after, the story goes, blew his brains out.

WP continued with Lardner etc. Talbot’s question re why didn’t BB pursue the story. BB: too young there in the 60s, came to WP in 65. Acks lack of courage. Follow up queestion never asked. Why not in 1975, with Rock Comm and Church and as most powerful and celebrated journalist in the country? Friendship? Mockingbird? Co-opted and in no position to throw stones in the wilderness of mirrors.

HUnt said sturgis couldn’t keep his mouth shut — he didn’t. Lorenz account of them in NY, threats, etc
David Atlee Phillips was recruited into the CIA by Hunt in the early 50s. Together they were Political Action (Hunt) and Psy Ops (Phillips) chiefs for the CIA overthrow of the Arbenz government of Guatemala in 1954. Then again for the Bay of Pigs fiasco seven years later, during which Phillips was known in Miami as Maurice Bishop.

Phillips was head of the CIA station in Mexico City during the latter half of 1963, and has been at the center of the JFK murder mystery ever since he confessed at a public forum in 1977 (see Plausible Denial) that evidence CIA had supplied to the FBI and the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald had visited the Soviet embassy in Mexico City was false, and that there was no reason to think he had.

Worries that Oswald was a Soviet assassin (That would mean war!) were used to throttle the investigations by the Warren Commission, the FBI and the CIA’s impressive portfolio of Mockingbird press assets. Today no evidence remains standing that Oswald was ever in Mexico during 1963.

Hunt says now of Harvey: “Never had any reason to deal with him …” Not in Dallas?
In 1975, as the revelations of the Church hearings were thundering, Hunt, in the hoosegow for Watergate, told the New York Times that he knew of a “small” CIA assassination team headed by a certain Colonel Boris Pash.

Three years later Joseph Trento (in his story about the Memo placing Hunt in Dallas) reported that CIA sources had confirmed Hunt’s claim — and furthermore that Angleton was the controller of Colonel Pash’s team. See Plausible Denial.

Trento in subsequent years published a major defense of Angleton (whom he had served as a mouthpiece for so many years). In The Secret History of the CIA (2001) Trento writes that it was Director Allen Dulles, not Angleton and Harvey, who introduced assassination to CIA practice. That Angleton was right about the Golitsyn/Nosenko controversy within CIA. And that the KGB killed JFK.

Angleton was undermined and finally cashiered by CIA Director William Colby in an Augean Stables operation that began on Christmas Eve 1974 with a leak to Seymour Hersh of the NY Times of Angleton’s domestic spying activities.

Around the same time Angleton gave the Times an interview, and when asked about theories linking the Agency to JFK’s murder, replied that the CIA was “a mansion of many rooms” and “I’m not privy to who struck John.”

Reader now ready to pick a way through this discussion, in which Joseph Trento and Gerry Hemming participate among others. Fare thee well.

Well then. What is one to think?


August 9th, 2007

Euro banks acknowledge problems / Central banks pour in money to keep system running

Posted in Money by ed

A few European banks today said they were having trouble because of the “evaporation” of the trading markets in asset-backed securities and CDOs, which made it impossible to evaluate their holdings.

So BNP Paribas, for one, said it is no longer permitting investors to take money out of three investment funds, which on paper, anyway, had lost 20% of their value in two weeks.

From a MarketWatch story:

QUOTE “The complete evaporation of liquidity in certain market segments of the U.S. securitization market has made it impossible to value certain assets fairly regardless of their quality or credit rating,” the bank added in a brief statement. …

BNP said it will resume valuations as soon as liquidity returns to the market and it is able to reliably value the funds again. END QUOTE

In response, the European Central Bank made a huge liquidity deposit into the system today — 130 billion (dollars).

And the US Fed Bank then followed with 20 billion.

And then the Canadian central bank did same, and issued the following statement:

QUOTE In light of current market conditions, the Bank of Canada would like to assure financial market participants and the public that it will provide liquidity to support the stability of the Canadian financial system and the continued functioning of financial markets. These activities are part of the Bank’s normal operational duties relating to the stability and efficient function of Canada’s financial system. The Bank is closely monitoring developments, and will deal with issues as they arise. UNQUOTE

So it does seem the awareness of the vast range of the problem is slowly spreading, and more trouble is ahead for the financial system.

Then again — do the banks think this is simply a “liquidity” problem (as when the huge hedge fund Long Term Capital Management failed in the late 90s)?  My guess is that it is more than that — that beneath the liquidity problem as a cause is not only the failure of AAA mortgage bonds, but the doubts about the value of the Rating Agency rating system provoked by those failures.

If/when you start seeing stories about credit-card bond failures — hit the deck.

Tony Crecenzi, a great watcher of the bond markets, had this to say this morning at (well worth the subscription if you are trading for a living — a wide, wide range of commentators for a relatively cheap price):

The $130 billion injection by the ECB is extraordinary. On Sept. 12, 2001, in response to the extraordinary circumstances, the total amount of deposits at the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, which captures the scale of the Fed’s liquidity injections, was $102 billion, 5 times normal. …

What stands out most from this situation is its proximity to the Federal Reserve’s meeting on Tuesday. If the Fed had even the slightest inkling that a problem of this scale might occur, its statement would have had a full tilt toward neutral rather than the partial tilt it gave. Today’s events show that either the Fed committed a large policy error on Tuesday, or that both the Fed and the ECB are themselves more in the dark on the problems that lie underneath the surface than are investors in the financial markets.

The European markets sold off heavily on this news. In the US, the Murdoch Industrials opened about 190 down, now down 130.

August 4th, 2007

WS Journal says Bear will “oust” Warren Spector, President, COO and St John’s College grad

Posted in Money by ed

Well. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Bear Stearns will “oust” an old college friend, President and co-Chief Operating Officer Warren J. Spector, on Monday.spectordot.gif Here is another piece re same from

Tossing cannons overboard to save a leaky ship is of course routine. But it’s certainly true that every money center bank and broker is suffering with the same problems as Bear, problems based in mortgage failures and in flawed rating agency methodology re mortgage-backed bonds and other complex structured finance instruments.

The Journal reports:

QUOTE: The big securities firm also plans to oust Warren Spector, Bear’s powerful chief of stock and bond trading and one of the firm’s two presidents, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Spector, 49 years old, had been widely viewed as a leading candidate to become the firm’s next chief executive. Bear’s board is set to meet Monday …

Warren himself has been a board member since 1988. Age 30.

The firm’s “Outlook” was lowered by S&P this week (often a precursor to a Credit Rating downgrade), from Stable to Negative.

To respond, the CEO James Cayne and CFO Sam Molinaro held a conference call yesterday afternoon. But it seems Cayne left midway through, and Malinaro then fumbled a key question about the firm buying back its own stock (to stop the bleeding). In essence, he said no way, not now.

cayne.jpg Cayne, 73 years old, has commented publicly only a few times times since the crisis became public in June. And each time I’ve seen he seems to have gone out of his way to Flip’m the Bird, as it were. Maybe the Board on Monday should contemplate replacing Cayne.

In any case, it seems Bear would have done better to put Warren on yesteday’s conference call, since he is their top mortgage bond guy. Instead the presentation was bizarrely befuddled.

The stock promptly fell another five percent (down 37% from its high this year), and the markets followed. The Murdoch (formerly Dow Jones) Industrials were off 284 on the day, and are now down almost 1,000 from their all-time high at 14,121 just two weeks ago.

It was, then, a very bad Friday at the end of a bad two weeks, with a closet of shoes yet to fall. Panic is beginning to shriek.

Warren’s rise was often described as “meteoric” in the press. The MarketWatch story linked above calls him “high-flying” and “top trader.” Top Gun. And the WSJ story notes he is often named as a likely heir to the CEO chair.

Meanwhile, the firm’s other President and co-Chief Operating Officer is Alan Schwartz. Who is ten years older.

One is led then to wonder if the opportunity provided by the industry-wide crisis is not being used to arrange an eviction by people less than pleased with Warren’s press clippings.

He has a blurb on the dust jacket of the new-age business book Why Not?by Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres.

warrenphoto.jpg Warren wrote:

Why Not? takes RFK’s challenge to dream of things that never were and applies it to the world of business. Nalebuff and Ayres propose a handful of new and intriguing financial products, including a reinvention of the home mortgage. Financial markets are so competitive that constant innovation is required to stay on top. If their creativity tools can make it here, they can make it anywhere. Why not, indeed.

It would be a shame, then, to see Warren edged out as a result of this crisis. They are all obscenely overpaid. But someone has to run these enterprises. Much better he than a person who could think of nothing better to do with his life than major in Business Administration.

Elsewhere in the Journal: Speculation as to what banking behemoths might try to buy out the ailing Bear, the market cap of which at the current fallen levels is about $13 billion. Well within range of any number of banks worldwide. Much of the Bear stock is owned by employees, however. It is the last old famous broker not yet consumed by a wooly mammoth.

August 4th, 2007

What are CDOs
and why are people saying such bad things about them?

Posted in Money by ed

If, while trying to figure out why your retirement money is going down the drain, you come across talk of “CDOs” — collateralized debt obligations — see here.

Then leave comments here below.

A New Combat exclusive!

August 4th, 2007

Jeremiah Jim Cramer Shouts Fire & Blasts the Fed

Posted in Money, These United States by ed

Jim Cramer is the founder of and the chair-throwing impressario of the stock chat show Mad Money.

Mr Cramer (aka Jimbo and Q-Ball) worked at Goldman Sachs before founding the Cramer Berkowitz hedge fund, which he then left to form So his early morning overview pieces at (a subscription service offered through TheStreet) are filled with insight based on deep experience.

But during the heat of the trading day, he often goes bananas. And trading on his overheated ideas is likely to get you toasted.

Indeed, if Jimbo blogs “Buy It!” at high noon, chances are you should sell before sundown.

Yesterday, as the Doom & Gloom scenario rolled into town, Mr Cramer got steamed after listening to a desultory yet alarming Bear Stearns conference call. Then told his blog what he knows:

It’s Bad Behind the Scenes
8/3/2007 3:11 PM

Over and over I hear that the subprime issue can be contained. I hear that it will blow over and that the woes are overdone.

Holy cow, are these people making any phone calls to find out what’s going on behind the scenes? Are they totally clueless?

I sit here and make call after call to people and when I am not collecting their resumes, what I am hearing is so dreadful that I don’t even want to repeat it.

Understand, I have no skin in the game. In fact, I am looking for a house so the housing prices are going my way!

But you need to know that in the last two weeks, all fixed income has simply shut down. You can’t even sell commercial paper, and that stuff’s like tap water, the way it flows.

The rest of the market can rally, we can have short squeezes, but the money is pouring out of everything everywhere and flowing into cash and Treasuries.

The mortgage market has disappeared overnight. Overnight!

I see these ads for home-equity loans and mortgages and I laugh. The companies can’t possibly get you one because there is no way that anyone will give them the money to do so. These homebuilders are dead right now. Moribund.

Gee, I wish I knew some Fed governors and presidents. I wish I knew the chairman. I wish I had a better relationship with the Treasury. Because someone has to do something.

Minutes after this post, Mr Cramer appeared on CNBC (the old Financial News Channel) and starting yelling at the Fed for sitting on its hands and mouthing academic nostrums.

He then blogged:

I’ll Keep Telling It Like It Is: Bad.
8/3/2007 3:34 PM

Look, I don’t lose it on national television for no reason. In the last 48 hours, I have spoken with most of the big desks and mortgage lenders in this country.

… I had to say it. I had to say what’s happening. I had to say what people I trust are telling me.

I have talked to more board members of major financial institutions in the last two days than I have in the last 20 years. People are coming to me because they trust me and want me to say something.

They don’t want me to say, “Don’t worry about it.” They don’t want me to say “Don’t panic, anyone.”

What they say to me is, “Please, please say something.”

So I did. And I don’t regret it. Not one bit.

And will do it again. And again. And again.

Until someone hears me.

August 1st, 2007

Florida report on Electronic Voting Machines sees Big Problems

It seems maybe some people in Florida want to be able to vote for president in 2008.