Friday, April 27, 2018

Final Release

As I predicted, the mainstream media headline on the day after President Trump's deadline for the release or continued withholding of JFK assassination records is: Cleveland Browns draft a Quarterback as the first pick in the NFL Draft.

And that's what it is.

There's also the response to Trump's decision to release 19,045 assassination records, 
15,584 with redactions, and withhold in full 520 records under sections 10-11 and 6103 of the IRS tax code. 

Sections 10-11 deal with grand jury records, that are supposed to remain secret forever, but in reality we already have the New Orleans grand jury records that are open in full, and deeds of gift - such as Jackie Kennedy's oral history and William Manchester's papers. 
The key paragraph in the official announcement appears to be an oxymoron, but not if you read it carefully. 

"All documents subject to section 5 (National) of the JFK Act have been released in full or in part. No document subject to section 5 of the JFK Act remain withheld in full. The President has determined that all information that remains withheld under section 5 must be reviewed again before October 26, 2021 to determine whether continued withholding from disclosure is necessary."

The key words here are "have been released in full or in part." In part - refers to the 15,584 records that have been released with redactions. 

In my first quick perusal of these records I found every one significant in some way, and not like the other batches that were previously released that contained many records NBR - Not Believed Relevant. 

Of the dozen documents I reviewed so far, every

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Two Ace of Spies

TWO ACE OF SPIES - James Bond - Henry Pleasants

I have come to meet more than a few interesting characters in the course of my reserach into the assassination of President Kennedy, and a few stand out as exceptionally eccentric or notorious, especially James Bond - the world's most famous spy, and music critic spy Henry Pleasants - who debriefed Nazi General Reinhard Gehlen.

It was the summer of 1976 when I first came across a published reference to the real James Bond in a 1948 Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper article about millionaire philantropist Cummins Catherwood, who I had just learned had served as a secret CIA bursar for covert activities.

Catherwood's CIA connection was exposed by David Ross and Thomas Wise in their groundbreaking book "The Invisible Government," and I was at the Bulletin clipping morgue, reading dozens of newspaper clips that mentioned Catherwood. His CIA activities were readily transparent in the news coverage of his activities, including the support of the anti-Castro Cuban Aid Relief (CAR), providing cover for CIA agent Joseph Smith in the Philllipines, tourist travels behind the Iron Curtain, including the Soviet Union, and the construction of the Vigilant, a yacht that he had built to his personal specifications and as a tax write off - used for scientific and research explorations under the auspicies of the Catherwood Foundation.

In the course of reading the news clips about Catherwood, there was one report of his expedition to some Caribbean out-islands that included a number of scientists, one of whom was identified as "James Bond - whose main interest is birds."

Now that jumped out at me, and I looked at the date of the paper - 1948 - years before Ian Fleming began writing his 007 novels, but the year Philadelphia ornithologist James Bond published his classic work "Birds of the West Indies."

Those familiar with the official and deceptive biographies of Ian Fleming know that the author of the Double-Oh-Seven spy novels appropriated the name for his hero from James Bond - the American author of "The Birds of the West Indies," a copy of which Fleming kept on his breakfast table at Goldeneye, his Jamaican beach house where he wrote all of his 007 stories while on his annual winter vacations. 

So - as opposed to those who claim similiar adventurous exploits, or another person named James Bond, there is only one real James Bond - the American ornithologist and author of the book "Birds of the West Indies."

Readers of Ian Fleming's original fiction know that he appropriated names and characters from real people he knew - as in Dr. No where 007 poses as a bird watcher using the alias Ivor Bryce, Fleming's OSS and NANA associate.

But besides James Bond himself, I was surprised to see Fleming portray a character Milton Krest, who closely resembles Cummins Catherwood, - the rich sportsman whose yacht and expeditions are tax deductable research missions just as Catherwood bankrolled the Vigilant.

While Fleming and his man Krest don't expose the supposedly secret CIA connections to such millionaires and their foundations, the Ruskies knew about it all along, as Kim Philby revealed in his autobiography "My Silent War.``

In his book written from Russia Philiby recalls the CIA's Frank Wisner explaining to him (and his KGB masters) how the "Foundation System" worked - ostensibly philanthropic non-profit organizations were to be used to fund secret CIA covert operations worldwide.

So Ian Fleming based two ostensibly fictional characters on real people from Philadelphia - ornithologist James Bond and philantropic CIA bursar Cummins Catherwood, that made it easier to find another, as when things happen twice they usually happen a third time.

In the course of reading Ian Fleming's New York adventure in which 007 and his CIA sidekick Felix Leiter go to Harlem jazz joints, Leiter is described as being a music critic and writing about jazz and classical music as a cover for his covert CIA shennigans. That got a WOW out of me, as I still had David Wise and Thoms Ross' "The Invisible Government" right there next to me.

And there it was: Henry Pleasants, former OSS interrogator and CIA agent, who debriefed Nazi General Reinhard Gehlen, also wrote classic and jazz music. Besides writing reviews and critiques of classical performances, he wrote a book that declared classical music dead and jazz the future of serious music.

It just so happened that before Henry Pleasants moved to London, he was the chief music critic of the Philadelphia Bulletin, whose clipping morgue I routinely mined, and his wife Virginia played the cello in the Philadelphia Orchestra.

While attending a concert at the Philadelphia Academy of Music, the former home of the orchestra, I asked an old black usher if he remembered Henry Pleasants and got a positive response.

Wearing a uniform, and in a very proper English voice, the usher snapped to attention, almost clicked his heals, saying, "Yes. Mr. Pleasants the writer and critic, and his wife Virginia, are now living in London, sir."

And so it was, a few years later, enroute home from Berlin after the collapse of The Wall in 1990, I just happened to be in London in a pub with a phone directory that listed Henry and Virginia Pleasants, and called them on a whim.

Mrs. Pleasants, very polite, said that Henry was at a music festival in Vienna, but as I was an American from Philadelphia, she said that Henry would be in New York in a few weeks, and she arranged for me to meet him there.

It was in the basement of an old church where Pleasants had scheduled a lecture, a well attended talk on the earliest recordings of opera singers - as they could be heard on old player piano type rolls, and a fascinating class it was. After which, I approched him, introduced myself and asked if I could have an interview. Sure he said, but back at his hotel, a few blocks away a little later. 

There, he poured us each of us a drink of whiskey over ice, and sat down and asked what I wanted.

Well, I said I read many of his Philadelphia Bulletin music reviews, and wrote about a weekly music column myself, but I was really more interested in Gehlen and Ian Fleming, to which he bristled a bit and sat back.

It was no secret that he had debriefed Gehlen, but he said, standing up and walking across the room, opening the door - he said he was expecting someone else. - But it just wasn't a subject that he could talk about. It was all still classified and he just shrugged and said he couldn't talk about it.

What about Fleming?

Well, I showed him the reference to him in "The Invisible Government," and then quoted the lines from Ian Fleming's Harlem adventure.

"That's me all right," he acknowledged with a smile, as I asked him how he knew Fleming, or how Fleming knew him?

Pleasants thought about it for awhile and then he said, almost to himself in wonder, "My wife Virginia played the cello in a chamber group with Ian Fleming's sister, who also played the cello," but otherwise he couldn't explain it.

Then I found another character in one of Fleming's short stories - "The Living Daylights," in which 007 is assigned a sniper's rifle and assigned to kill a Soviet sniper who will attempt to shoot someone escaping East Berlin.

It turns out the Soviet sniper is a women, a beautiful women, who kept her rifle in the cello case, so instead of killing her Bond only wounds her in the hand so she can't fire.

It should also be noted that President Kennedy was in the audience when Leonard Bernstein introduced a teenage cellest Yo Yo Mass to the world at a Washington concert, so the cello comes into play a number of times in this story. 

So Ian Fleming took the name for his secret agent from an American ornithologist, and based two other characters on Philadelphia personages - Cummins Catherwood and Henry Pleasants, and adapted his sister and Virginia Pleasants for the cello playing sniper.

But what did all this have to do with the assassination?

Well there was Michael Straight - an ex-patriate American at Cambridge where he was recruited into a communist spy ring by Guy Burgess, one of the bevy of KGB spies - the others being Kim Philby, Donald MacClean and Sir Anthony Blunt, the surveyor of the Queen's pictures.

When JFK nominted Straight for appointment as the head of the national federation of the Arts, the FBI background investigation led to the Cambridge ties, and Straight confessed. The problem was that while Burgess and MacClean had fled to Moscow, Philby and Blunt were still on the loose.

Straight was a close friend of Fleming, and it was Fleming's primary liason to MI5 who was given the responsiblity of informing Kim Pilby of Straight's confession and his implication.

Of course when J. E. Hoover found out about the Cambridge spy ring he ordered an investigation of every American who attended Cambridge - and that would include American ornithologist James Bond, who was also a member of the Cambridge Pitt Club, Guy Burgess' fraturnity.

The plot thickens.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

MLK Fifty Years Gone

MLK - 50 Years Gone

                                                                                                                       Patrick Duff inspects the MLK House in Camden
Michael King

There's a lot to be said on this 50th anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr..

As James Douglas concluded in his book "Why JFK Was Killed and Why It Matters," the nation, including you and me were in denial over the murder of President Kennedy, and blandly accepted the government's cover-story, which set the stage for the subsequent murders of MLK and Robert F. Kennedy.

Douglas contends that if the accused assassin lee Harvey Oswald wasn't himself killed while in police custody, and JFK's murder was properly investigated and prosecuted, MLK and RFK would not have been killed in the way they were, with set-up patsies to take the fall while we all look the other way.

And I will take that a step further as I believe that if Brian DeBeckwith didn't shoot Medgar Evers in the back as Evers got out of his car after watching JFK give a civil rights speech, and get away with it for decades, then JFK would not have been killed the way he was.

King was killed as he leaned over the railling of a second floor balcony of the Loraine Motel in Memphis, where King was supporting a sanitation workers strike. Well King would be glad to know that those municiple sanitation workers were just awarded $70,000 each when it was noticed that they were the only municiple employees who didn't get a pension. One guy, eighty some years old, who was on strike when King was killed, is still driving a truck today because he didn't get a pension.

King's last words, as he called them down to the band and choir director in the parking lot, was a request for a favorite gospel song "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," that Elvis even covered.

Take My Hand Precious Lord

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I'm tired, I'm weak, I'm lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When my way grows drear, precious Lord linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When the darkness appears and the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my…

All I remember of MLK's death is the riots where young blacks took to the streets, turned over cars, set fires and stores as my father, a Camden policeman, carried my grandmother out of her North Camden house, and she lost everything she had.

While the official investigators continue to blame James Earl Ray, another deranged loner framed for the crime, Loranne Motel cafe proprietor Loyd Jowers has testified in a Memphis trial that the real sniper was a Memphis police lieutenant. Former Oxford professor and British barrister William Pepper brought that trial to court, and wrote a book "Act of State," that sets much of the record straight.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded there was a conspiracy, and then locked away their MLK records for fifty years, records not included in the JFK Act of 1992 that freed the HSCA JFK records, though many of the MLK records are among the batches of JFK Act records released in 2017.

There are a number of MLK connections to South Jersey. King's personal attorney Clarence Jones, was the song of the cook and servants of the wealthy Quaker Lippincott family who owned the Chalfont-Haddon Hall and lived in Longport, where the future attorney for King recalls his first racist experience as a child.

In 1958, as King was studying Ghandi's non-violent civil disobedience tactics in freeing India of British colonial rule, MLK gave a speech to a Cape May, NJ conference of Quaker Friends on using non-violence techniques in the Civil Rights movement to end segregation. On April 4, 1968 Walter Cronkite began his national news cast announcing the death of King, who he called "the Apostle of non-violence in the civil rights movement."

King's first civil act occurred in South Jersey in June 1950 when he was refused service at Mary's Place in Maple Shade, where when King and three friends refused to leave when they were refused service, and the bar owner, a German World War I veteran Ernest Nichols, pulled out a gun, opened the door and fired the gun in the air. That was enough and King and company left but went to the police station where they pressed charges against Nichols for refusing service and weapons violation.

King was assisted in he case by Camden Dr. Ulyssis Wiggins, but the case was dismissed when the parents of three college students who were sitting at the bar pressured their kids not to testify. Today, MLK boulevard in Camden ends at the Delaware River waterfront park named after Dr. Wiggins.

Patrick Duff, a South Jersey car salesman, deserves much of the credit for researching the published records of MLK's time in South Jersey, especially the incident in Maple Shade, where the site of Mary's Place will soon have an historic plaque to recognize what occurred there.

Duff found a copy of the original report signed by "Michael King," as he was yet to be known as Martin Luther King, Jr., and they called him Mike.

That report also lists King's legal address as 753 Walnut Street, Camden, New Jersey, where King and his best friend, fellow Crozier seminary student Walter McCall lived as the row house was owned by McCall's uncle and his cousins lived there.

That row house was boarded up and slated for demolition until Duff called attention to its historical significance and King's friend Rep. John Lewis (D. Ga.) said the house should be preserved for future generations, so they will know the story behind it.

Duff interviewed a number of people who also lived at the house at the same time and they recalled Michael King living there, but that was before he was famous and he was just another guy passing through, a friend of their cousin. King also gave sermons at the local Baptist Church when he lived in the small bedroom in the back of the second floor while one of the sons was away in the Army.

Duff recently came up with a newspaper story about King''s time in Camden that included an interview with the young man who said he just got out of the Army that very day in June 1950 and was still in his uniform when King told him they were going to Maple Shade to get something to eat. The young soldier warned King that he wouldn't get served in Maple Shade, but King replied, "We'll have to change that so we can go anywhere."

So King and his friends went to Maple Shade because they knew they wouldn't get served, and they provoked that incident and wanted to test the relatively recently passed New Jersey state civil rights law that ended segregation.

One of the old houses still standing on MLK Boulevard is the Walt Whitman house, owned and run by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection Agency - Parks and Recreation Department. It is still standing today despite the race riots of the sixties and seventies because of its late caretaker Elizabeth Ray. Ray was a local neighbor who graduated from Rutgers and worked at the Whitman House, where during the height of the riots she stood out front swinging a broom stick at any rioter who came near the place.

Now the NJ state DEP is taking nominations for the 28th annual NJ Historic Preservation Awards [ ], that should be named after Elizabeth Ray and I intend to nominate Patrick Duff for the 2018 Award as I can think of no one more deserving.

As Acting DEP commissioner Catherine R. McCabe has said, "We look forward to honoring the many projects being done in communities across the state to preserve priceless pieces of New Jersey's legacy. Our history is being preserved because of the efforts undertaken by people who are moved to action because they care so much about the indelible mark these places and people have had on their communities. These efforts have contributed significantly to the preservation and understanding of our treasured past."

And nothing fits that description better than MLK's Camden house and the role Patrick Duff played in preserving it and calling attention to an important chapter in King's life that has so far escaped his biographies and the history of the civil rights movement.