Robert F. Kennedy saw conspiracy in JFK’s assassination

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By Bryan Bender and Neil Swidey

Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was sitting at his backyard patio table, clutching a tuna fish sandwich, when the call came through. Kennedy had spent the morning at a Justice Department conference on his intensifying war against organized crime. He had invited two of his employees from New York, US Attorney Robert Morgenthau and an aide, back to his sprawling home, Hickory Hill in McLean, Va., to continue the conversation over a private lunch.

A key focus of the morning meetings had been the Justice Department’s efforts to put Mafia kingpins behind bars. Now, by the pool on an unseasonably warm day in November 1963, Kennedy talked optimistically about efforts to neutralize one of those mob leaders, Carlos Marcello. At the very moment when Kennedy and his guests were digging into their sandwiches and clam chowder, Marcello was sitting in a packed courtroom in New Orleans, awaiting the verdict in his deportation trial.

Kennedy had turned 38 just two days earlier, and his mop of brown hair, slim frame, and charging intensity had always combined to project an aura of youth. Still, the bags under his eyes betrayed the weight of responsibilities he had been shouldering for the previous three years, serving as not just the nation’s top law enforcement official but also the president’s most trusted adviser and fixer.

Kennedy glanced at his watch. It was 1:45 p.m. “We’d better hurry and get back to that meeting,” he told his guests.

Just then his wife, Ethel, called over to him, holding the patio phone extension. “It’s J. Edgar Hoover,” she said, a look of worry playing over her face. They both knew the FBI director never called Bobby at home.

Morgenthau, in a recent interview, recalled watching Kennedy drop his sandwich, race over to the phone, and then quickly cup his hand over his mouth as he heard the devastating news. “Jack’s been shot in Dallas,” Bobby said with a gasp. “It may be fatal.”

No one had done more than he to create enemies for the Kennedy administration — the right kind of enemies, to the brothers’ way of thinking. In the mob, in corrupted labor, in Castro’s Cuba, in the rogue wing of the American intelligence system.

There is no indication that Bobby ever found evidence to prove a wider conspiracy. But judging from his actions after hearing the news out of Dallas, it’s clear that he quickly focused his attention on three areas of suspicion: Cuba, the Mafia, and the CIA. Crucially, Bobby had become his brother’s point man in managing all three of those highly fraught portfolios. And by the time the president was gunned down, Bobby understood better than anyone how all three had become hopelessly interwoven, and how much all three bore his own imprint.

An immediate focus, according to several of his aides with direct knowledge, was Hoffa. Bobby knew that a year earlier, according to a Teamster middle-manager turned FBI informant, Hoffa had complained, “I’ve got to do something about that son of a bitch Bobby Kennedy. He’s got to go.” Hoffa had also allegedly asked that informant if he knew anything about “plastic explosives” and suggested opportunities for getting Kennedy, when he was swimming alone in his pool at home or driving alone in his convertible, according to historian David Kaiser’s book, “The Road to Dallas.”

Bobby knew he had given Hoffa and his heavyweight mob pals plenty of new reasons to want to cut him down. At the same time the shots were being fired in Dallas, Bobby’s Justice Department was preparing for the jury-tampering trial of Hoffa in Nashville, which had sprung from its unremitting probe of the Teamster leader. From the federal courthouse there, Walter Sheridan, who had been Bobby’s aide-de-camp in the mob war ever since the Rackets Committee, told his boss in another phone call RFK made that afternoon that he hadn’t been able to find any evidence linking Hoffa to the assassination.

But, according to an oral history that Sheridan would eventually give to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Sheridan later informed Bobby that Hoffa had been at a restaurant when he learned JFK had been shot. The reaction of the pugnacious labor leader was unlike that of most other Americans. “He got up on the table,” Sheridan said, “and cheered.”

Meanwhile, another Mafia leader and Hoffa associate, Carlos Marcello, sat in that New Orleans courtroom, awaiting his verdict. The second deportation trial for Marcello, who ran the mob in New Orleans and Dallas, was the culmination of a relentless three-year campaign by Bobby’s team to get him out of the country.

While not on trial at the time, another mob leader close to Hoffa was also chafing under the intense scrutiny of the Justice Department. Santo Trafficante Jr. was the Florida mob boss and former big-time Havana casino owner who lost millions when Castro took over Cuba. (Trafficante had been imprisoned in Cuba in 1959. His visitors during that stretch, according to Kaiser, included Dallas nightclub owner and mob foot soldier Jack Ruby, who gunned down Oswald in the basement of Dallas police headquarters two days after JFK’s murder.)

In addition to lots of underworld associations, Trafficante and Hoffa even shared a lawyer, Frank Ragano. In his book “Mob Lawyer,” Ragano detailed how Hoffa had instructed him in the summer of 1963 to tell Trafficante and Marcello that the time had come to kill the president. He thought Hoffa was just venting, and delivered the message jokingly, but said the two mobsters seemed to take it much more seriously.

The Boston Globe

This Moment, This America

This election is revealing not only the greatness of democracy but the greatness of the American people. Now go vote.

New citizens wave US flags before being sworn in during a Naturalization Ceremony conducted to swear in 125 new citizenship candidates at a ceremony on Liberty Island on October 28, 2011 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. AFP PHOTO/TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

By David Rothkopf

I have traveled to more than 70 countries. In 2016 alone, I have been on six continents. I have never been to a place that was not endowed with people, history, culture, or other qualities that did not recommend it — even the roughest of places in the roughest of times. The world is like that. It’s not a bad place.

Yet every time I return home to the United States, I feel a surge of pride and joy. There is no place else I would rather live, no place with so much to recommend it. From natural splendors to economic opportunities, from personal freedoms to the riches of our cultural mosaic, this is a wonderful country, and it’s getting better all the time.

I know that’s not a popular point of view in some quarters these days. If you’ve listened to much of the rhetoric of this election year, you would think we were on our knees. The slogan of one of our major political parties at the moment is “Make America Great Again,” implying that we are not great now, that we have lost our mojo. But I would argue that not only are we still great; we are greater than ever.

In fact, we are at a special moment in our history.

But this election is revealing not only the greatness of democracy but the greatness of the American people. Democracy — messy, ugly, coaxing out of the shadows our inner demons — is actually working. When this election is said and done, provided voters do not become too complacent and do their duty on Election Day, not only will sanity prevail and the most qualified candidate win (and Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified, accomplished, and deserving candidates for president America has ever seen), but the forces of darkness will be repudiated soundly, unmistakably rejected by the majority of the American people.

Foreign Policy

Endorsement: Hillary Clinton is the only choice to move America ahead

Hillary Clinton knows the issues, history and facts. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton knows the issues, history and facts. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

The Arizona Republic editorial board endorses Hillary Clinton for president.

Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.

This year is different.

The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.

That’s why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.

What Clinton has (and Trump doesn’t)

The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting.

Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not.

Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Donald Trump does not.

The Arizona Republic

Sen. Cory Booker: People are ‘more outraged’ over Kaepernick protests than murder of unarmed black man

United States Senator Cory Booker (Tris Hussey/Flickr)
United States Senator Cory Booker (Tris Hussey/Flickr)

By Arturo Garcia

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) ripped the double standard surrounding reactions to Terence Crutcher and Colin Kaepernick during an interview with Buzzfeed on Tuesday.

“Right now on the Internet you have another unarmed African American who was murdered this week — or killed this week,” Booker said in reference to Crutcher’s death at the hands of a Tulsa police officer. “From the video that I saw, even with the way he was being referred to, I mean there is this dehumanization going on on the audio, and people seem to be more outraged by an NFL player taking a knee than the murder or killing of an unarmed black man.”

The Raw Story

Donald Trump was just endorsed by the National Fraternal Order of Police

Donald Trump meets with active and retired law enforcement officials at the Fraternal Order of Police in Akron, Ohio, in August.
Donald Trump meets with active and retired law enforcement officials at the Fraternal Order of Police in Akron, Ohio, in August. Photo credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

By Zak Cheney Rice

The National Fraternal Order of Police has officially endorsed Donald J. Trump — a noted racist with a track record of violent rhetoric against Mexicans, Muslims and black people — for president of the United States.

FOP is the biggest labor union in the country representing law enforcement officers, with more than 330,000 members, according to a press release published on the organization’s Twitter account Friday.

The endorsement is a telling decision at a time when the nation’s police are facing a crisis of confidence from communities of color. According to a survey published in June from the Pew Research Center, 84% of black respondents and 50% of white respondents believe the police treat black people less fairly than whites.

Black people in 2016 have been killed by police at more than twice the rate of their white counterparts, according to The Counted, a data project from the Guardian that tracks police-involved killings.

Trump has proffered in false data claiming black people are responsible for 81% of homicides against white people, when in fact 83% of white people are killed by their other whites. He has also claimed undocumented immigrants from Mexico are overwhelmingly criminals — with designs on pouring across the border to rape American citizens — when the available data actually shows immigrants commit less crime than native-born citizens.

Mic.com

The ugliest, most appalling spectacle in American politics

Members of North Carolina student chapters of the NAACP. Photo credit: Geery Broome/Associated Press)
Members of North Carolina student chapters of the NAACP. Photo credit: Geery Broome/Associated Press

By Eugene Robinson

Every once in a while, the curtains part and we get a glimpse of the ugliest, most shameful spectacle in American politics: the Republican Party’s systematic attempt to disenfranchise African Americans and other minorities with voter-ID laws and other restrictions at the polls.

If you thought this kind of discrimination died with Jim Crow, think again. Fortunately, federal courts have blocked implementation of some of the worst new laws, at least for now. But the most effective response would be for black and brown voters to send the GOP a message by turning out in record numbers, no matter what barriers Republicans try to put in our way.

The ostensible reason for these laws is to solve a problem that doesn’t exist: voter fraud by impersonation. Four years ago, you may recall, a Republican Pennsylvania legislator let slip the real reason for his state’s new voter-ID law: to “allow” Mitt Romney to win the state. In the end, Romney didn’t. But Republicans tried mightily to discourage minorities, most of whom vote Democratic, from going to the polls.

Now, thanks to documents that surfaced in a lawsuit, we have an even clearer and more egregious example of attempted disenfranchisement, this time in North Carolina. As The Post reported, the documents show “that North Carolina GOP leaders launched a meticulous and coordinated effort to deter black voters, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.”

The article continued, “The law, created and passed entirely by white legislators, evoked the state’s ugly history of blocking African Americans from voting — practices that had taken a civil rights movement and extensive federal intervention to stop.”

The Washington Post

What Does Black Lives Matter Want?

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By Robin D. G. Kelley

On August 1 the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of over sixty organizations, rolled out “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice,” an ambitious document described by the press as the first signs of what young black activists “really want.” It lays out six demands aimed at ending all forms of violence and injustice endured by black people; redirecting resources from prisons and the military to education, health, and safety; creating a just, democratically controlled economy; and securing black political power within a genuinely inclusive democracy. Backing the demands are forty separate proposals and thirty-four policy briefs, replete with data, context, and legislative recommendations.

But the document quickly came under attack for its statement on Palestine, which calls Israel an apartheid state and characterizes the ongoing war in Gaza and the West Bank as genocide. Dozens of publications and media outlets devoted extensive coverage to the controversy around this single aspect of the platform, including The Guardian, the Washington Post, The Times of Israel, Haaretz, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of course, M4BL is not the first to argue that Israeli policies meet the UN definitions of apartheid. (The 1965 International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the 1975 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid define it as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”) Nor is M4BL the first group to use the term “genocide” to describe the plight of Palestinians under occupation and settlement. The renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, for example, wrote of the war on Gaza in 2014 as “incremental genocide.” That Israel’s actions in Gaza correspond with the UN definition of genocide to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” by causing “serious bodily or mental harm” to group members is a legitimate argument to make.

The few mainstream reporters and pundits who considered the full M4BL document either reduced it to a laundry list of demands or positioned it as an alternative to the platform of the Democratic Party—or else focused on their own benighted astonishment that the movement has an agenda beyond curbing police violence. But anyone following Black Lives Matter from its inception in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict should not be surprised by the document’s broad scope. Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi are veteran organizers with a distinguished record of fighting for economic justice, immigrant rights, gender equity, and ending mass incarceration. “A Vision for Black Lives” was not a response to the U.S. presidential election, nor to unfounded criticisms of the movement as “rudderless” or merely a hashtag. It was the product of a year of collective discussion, research, collaboration, and intense debate, beginning with the Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland last July, which initially brought together thirty different organizations. It was the product of some of the country’s greatest minds representing organizations such as the Black Youth Project 100, Million Hoodies, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, and Southerners on New Ground (SONG). As Marbre Stahly-Butts, a leader of the M4BL policy table explained, “We formed working groups, facilitated multiple convenings, drew on a range of expertise, and sought guidance from grassroots organizations, organizers and elders. As of today, well over sixty organizations and hundreds of people have contributed to the platform.”

The result is actually more than a platform. It is a remarkable blueprint for social transformation that ought to be read and discussed by everyone. The demands are not intended as Band-Aids to patch up the existing system but achievable goals that will produce deep structural changes and improve the lives of all Americans and much of the world. Thenjiwe McHarris, an eminent human rights activist and a principle coordinator of the M4BL policy table, put it best: “We hope that what has been created carries forward the legacy of our elders and our ancestors while imagining a world and a country profoundly different than what currently exists. For us and for those that will come after us.” The document was not drafted with the expectation that it will become the basis of a mass movement, or that it will replace the Democratic Party’s platform. Rather it is a vision statement for long-term, transformative organizing. Indeed, “A Vision for Black Lives” is less a political platform than a plan for ending structural racism, saving the planet, and transforming the entire nation—not just black lives.

Boston Review

By 4 To 1 Margin, Business Economists Say Clinton Would Manage Economy Better Than Trump

(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

By Maggie McGrath

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump has pledged to put “America first,” suggesting that the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants should be deported and flatly rejecting the concept of globalism. But because of the potential economic consequences of these stances, a group of business economists is now flatly rejecting him.

A policy survey of National Association for Business Economics (NABE) members released Monday shows that 55% of business economists feel that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would do the best job as president of managing the U.S. economy. The candidate with the next-largest percentage of the vote was Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson: 15% of NABE members said he’d do the best job managing the economy. Another 15% or respondents said they didn’t know who would be best or that they didn’t have an opinion.

Just 14% chose Donald Trump.

The survey results are remarkable because NABE members aren’t your average ivory tower-dwelling, left-leaning egg heads. They work for businesses, trade associations and government agencies across the country. As NABE director and survey chair LaVaughn Henry put it, these are people who have skin in the game.

Forbes

Pieces of Silver

 Donald Trump at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Tuesday. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times
Donald Trump at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Tuesday. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

By Paul Krugman

By now, it’s obvious to everyone with open eyes that Donald Trump is an ignorant, wildly dishonest, erratic, immature, bullying egomaniac. On the other hand, he’s a terrible person. But despite some high-profile defections, most senior figures in the Republican Party — very much including Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader — are still supporting him, threats of violence and all. Why?

One answer is that these were never men and women of principle. I know that many in the news media are still determined to portray Mr. Ryan, in particular, as an honest man serious about policy, but his actual policy proposals have always been transparent con jobs.

Another answer is that in an era of intense partisanship, the greatest risk facing many Republican politicians isn’t that of losing in the general election, it’s that of losing to an extremist primary challenger. This makes them afraid to cross Mr. Trump, whose ugliness channels the true feelings of the party’s base.

The New York Times

GOP senator Susan Collins: Why I cannot support Trump

United States Senator Susan Collins (R) Maine
United States Senator Susan Collins (R) Maine (Photo credit: Evan Vucci/AP)

By Susan Collins

I will not be voting for Donald Trump for president. This is not a decision I make lightly, for I am a lifelong Republican. But Donald Trump does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country.

When the primary season started, it soon became apparent that, much like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mr. Trump was connecting with many Americans who felt that their voices were not being heard in Washington and who were tired of political correctness. But rejecting the conventions of political correctness is different from showing complete disregard for common decency. Mr. Trump did not stop with shedding the stilted campaign dialogue that often frustrates voters. Instead, he opted for a constant stream of denigrating comments, including demeaning Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) heroic military service and repeatedly insulting Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

With the passage of time, I have become increasingly dismayed by his constant stream of cruel comments and his inability to admit error or apologize. But it was his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing — either because they do not share his power or stature or because professional responsibility precluded them from engaging at such a level — that revealed Mr. Trump as unworthy of being our president.

The Washington Post