Month: September 2016

brainwashedAs recent events have shown, America continues to struggle with freedom and equality for all of its citizens.  And while great progress has been made over the past 50 years, there is still much ground to cover and many thins to understand.  A friend once told me that Black Americans are unique in the world for a variety of reasons but mainly because there is no other group of people similar. At first I didn’t quite understand where she was going with the conversation, but the more I listened and the more I began to digest her words, I came to understand the meaning behind her words and why they sparked such deep thought within me.   Her words however, only covered a fraction of the entire story and as author Tom Burrell points out, the story of the Black American is a long and tragic one that is still not fully understood.  In this exceptional testament to the current day status of Black Americans, Burrell forces the reader to open the eyes and mind as we explore the enduring myth of Black Inferiority (BI).

Some may be tempted to say that no such thing exist and that Black Americans are more successful now than ever before.  While that’s party true, the underlying story is that the successes and achievements of Black Americans across many fields are sometimes a cover and in many cases the exceptions and not the norm.  The election of Barack Obama misleading caused many to believe that America had moved past its ugly past and that for Black Americans, life would be dramatically different.  Not only was it unrealistic to believe one man could change an entire country himself, it was also unfair to place such a huge burden upon him.  However, he is without a doubt, the most recognized and respected role model for millions of young African-American men and women.  Another point that might be made is that slavery ended over 100 years ago and no one in America is a slave today.  True, emancipation did occur in 1865 under President Lincoln, but it is wise to remember, mental slavery is just as dangerous and disheartening as physical slavery. And for many Black Americans, that slavery still exists and in most cases unbeknownst to its victims.

Burrell, who has had a long career in the field of advertising, examines the root causes of the black inferiority complex seeking to understand how and why it exist.  He revisits the system of slavery and the disastrous effects of it on the self-image of those enslaved.  The physical pain and economic depravity continued for decades before Black Americans finally began to advance. But even today, poverty remains a significant issue across the country for Black Americans and as we very well know, Americans of other backgrounds as well.  Financially, Black Americans have made great strides individually, but as a whole, our communities still suffer from decades long conditions and mindsets that do nothing to enhance the well-being of its residents. Burrell shows us the origin of both and why they continue to persist.

The book may give off the impression that the blame for the belief in inferiority lay solely with White America. However, that is not the case for Burrell shows that Black Americans also share some the blame for the current conditions of the Black community.  Degrading images in the music industry, aversion to books and learning, poor spending habits and horrific dietary habits have resulted in a very slow road to destruction of what Burrell calls a form of suicide.  High mortality rates combined with neglect of health and sub par health care have shortened the life span of thousands of Black Americans.  Street violence and domestic violence have caused even more destruction and remain very sensitive issues with the community sometimes seeming to be beyond reproach. The hold of religion over the Black community is also examined to shed light on the complicated relationship between Christianity, slavery and modern day America.  Each of the chapters in the book explores a different avenue that is set to take us to the final destination.  But as Burrell points out, the destination isn’t yet determined but if things don’t change, the future is grim.

James Baldwin once said that the African-American story is America’s story. For if there are no African-Americans, there is no America.   The media reminds us daily of the injustices and crimes committed by Americans against each other and in particular people of color.  Until we understand why our nation’s history affects us today, we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.  Burrell’s focus is on Black America but the lessons in the book can be applied to any group of people deemed to be inferiority for whichever reasons.  As a child, I grew up in East New York, Brooklyn during the 1980s and 1990s, when the area was one of the worst in the City of New York. Burrell’s book struck a chord and many of his points resonated with me and are things I’ve seen and experienced first hand.  This book is a must for all Americans of all backgrounds and even if you don’t live in America, you too might find the information in this book to be eye-opening and highly sobering.  But as we are reminded throughout the book, the inferiority we perceive to see and feel is nothing more than a myth.

ISBN-10: 1401925928
ISBN-13: 978-1401925925

Investigative Report Uncategorized

16057485-_uy200_January 26, 1962, Naples, Italy – Salvatore Lucania, also known as Charlie Luciano and Lucky Luciano, dies of a massive heart attack at Naples Airport at the age of 64.  The aging mobster had suffered several recent heart attacks and had arrived at the airport to meet film producer Martin Gosch, who was to adapt a screenplay of the legendary mobster’s life.  Luciano had resided in Italy since February, 1946 when he left New York Harbor for the last time.  The terms of his parole, granted after lending his help to the allied effort in World War II, required that he leave the United States and never return. Tragically, it wasn’t until death that he was allowed to come home when he was interned at St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, New York.

Luciano never wrote an autobiography and it is for this reason I’d like to point out that this is not his autobiography.  This book is based on notes from the conversations that Gosch (1911-1973) had with Luciano before his death during the years 1961-1962.  Gosch has long been deceased.  Richard Hammer is still alive and has commented on the criticism that the book received. He admits that the originals of the notes are no longer in existence and much of what Luciano said is hard to verify.  With that in mind, I think it is wise to remember that the book is a look at this life but not a word for word autobiography.   And since Luciano is also deceased, he is unable to verify its contents.  But I think on the whole, the book is a good look into the New York underworld of that era and the major players.  The major events in the book are true and have been well documented. The smaller day-to-day events, transactions are thoughts alleged to have come from Luciano himself are sometimes questionable.  Do I believe that all of the statements attributed to Luciano are true? No, but I do believe a large number are probably accurate.

It would have been great if Luciano could have either written this himself or given his approval but since neither is possible, this is the closest we have to any type of statement by Luciano about his life aside from the postcards, letters and other miscellaneous documents in his writing that are currently in existence. Mafia bosses have rarely written or verbally told their life story with the exception of Joseph Bonanno who broke from the norm publishing a book of his life in the mafia. But what we do know is that Luciano was in negotiations to have a movie based on his life produced.  His untimely death canceled any possible deal and the project has been lost to history.

His role in the reorganization of the American mafia can never be understated but it can be overstated.  To many he is the man who built the modern-day mafia but to others, just a smaller part of a big effort to change the  direction of organized crime in the United States.  Here is and his story is left up to the reader to cast judgment.  Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Thomas Dewey and all of the big names from the era make an appearance in the book resulting in an engaging tale that pulls the reader in from start to finish.  But it is important to remember that sometimes the line between fiction and non-fiction can become slightly blurred. Nonetheless, it’s a good look at the legendary figure.

ISBN-10: 1936274574
ISBN-13: 978-1936274574

Biographies Uncategorized

pianistRecently, I watched the 2002 film ‘The Pianist’ starring Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman (1911-2000), the pianist for Polish Radio who miraculously survived in Warsaw, Poland during the Nazi occupation.  The film was recommended to me by someone very  close to me in Buenos Aires and to say the film left me speechless would be an understatement.  After viewing the film, I decided to locate the book that inspired it and found Spzilman’s book on Amazon.  The book left me just as speechless as the film and even more in awe of Szpilman, as I know in order to have written the book, it would have required an extraordinary amount of courage on his part.  The film follows closely to the book with very minor liberties taken by the filmmakers.  Their finished product, is one of the best film adaptations that I’ve seen.

Spzilman’s book is slightly different in that it’s one told from life inside Poland and not Germany. The book begins on August 31, 1939, the day before the Germany Army launched the planned invasion of its Polish neighbor. The invasion had been planned well in advanced and a covert operation, named “canned goods” was used to describe the false flag mission that gave provocation for the Nazi assault.  The Nazi threat had been looming over Poland for some time but as we see in the book, the savagery that resulted post-invasion was never envisioned by the people of Poland. Spzilman, a musician, and his family remain in Warsaw as the Germany army approaches, refusing to leave the only place they’ve called home. Their lives would never be the same after the war and for Spzilman, he would never again see any of his family members.

The Nazis began to construct the Warsaw ghetto as they continuously redesigned territorial borders expanding the reach of the Third Reich.  As Szpilman relates, the ghetto was in a way worse than a jail cell for in a jail cell there’s a concrete definition of the nature of the relationship that exists.  With the ghetto, no such definitions existed giving the Jews the false sense of well-being which lead many of them to believe that they would return home after serving in the labor camps during the war.  The Germans’ macabre and perverse motto  of arbeit macht frei, posted at the entrance of camps, reveals the level of vindictiveness displayed by unwavering believers of Aryan-supremacy and Jewish inferiority.  Painful as it may be, Szpilman recounts the daily humiliation endured by Jews and the careless acts of murder committed by the Nazi regime.  The crimes committed and disregard for human life are beyond shocking but reveal the truly revolting nature of the Third Reich’s plan for the removal of Jews from Europe that culminated with the deadly “Final Solution”.

By chance, Szpilman is separated from his family and is forced to survive on the streets of Warsaw, literally hiding in plain sight.  Air raids, evacuation of residents and mounting German losses in the field, resulted in the neglect of many parts of Warsaw which would serve as a refuge for Szpilman during his quest to stay alive.  Death, hunger, disease and mental instability are all threats to him on a daily basis but fate was on his side and he survives through sheer determination and help in some of the most unlikeliest of places.

Following the war he returned to Polish Radio but never forgot the events of those years. His story is among many of the horrors of the Holocaust which serve to remind us of the dangers of blind patriotism and fanatical beliefs.  And as we continue to move forward in life and find ourselves at a crossroads in which decency and criminality cross paths, we can turn to the story of ‘The Pianist’ to remind us of the importance of helping others which in turn, allows us to learn about ourselves and the human race.

ISBN-10: 0312263767
ISBN-13: 978-0312263768

Uncategorized

hqdefault

The recent terror attack in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood highlighted the concern many Americans have about fellow citizens of the Islamic faith that have originated in or spent considerable time in the Middle East.   The oft-asked question is usually “why do they hate us?”. Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, are only a few out of many nations in which the United States has involved itself in the nation’s politics.  To many Americans, the dislike and/or intense hatred of America displayed from the region boggles the mind and is utterly incomprehensible. But if we take a closer look at things from another point of view, we come to see there is more than meets the eye as author William Blum points out in this book that is guaranteed to make you question everything you thought you knew about American foreign policy.

From the start, this book will be hard for many Americans to accept.   Blum pulls no punches but instead goes full steam ahead, methodically showing how U.S. foreign policy has destabilized nations resulting in the removal of dozens of foreign leaders and political turmoil which continues to haunt many of those nations to this day.  David Talbot, author of ‘The Devil’s Chessboard‘, revealed the dark rise of the CIA and its actions which influenced American foreign policy following World War II.  Similar to Talbot, Blum brings to light many dark secrets that the average American would rather not know.  Almost all of us born in America were raised to believe that the United States is the leader when it comes to democracy, justice, liberty and freedom for all.  Throughout the years, we have enforced our system of government around the world, or as Blum puts it, exporting democracy.  But a critical question arises.  In the nations to which  we exported democracy, was it needed or asked for?  As Blum shows us, U.S. foreign policy dictated that it was. But in many countries nations, it wasn’t needed  and as a result, millions of people around the world have suffered at the hands of U.S. foreign policy.  Air raids, propaganda and economic penalties are just some of the methods used against those nations which do not comply with the agenda of the U.S.  From Mossadegh in Iran in 1954 to the current war on terror, many important facts have been hidden from the American public, allowing us to believe that all actions carried out in the name of freedom have been in the best interests of the people of the United States.  On a regular basis, the media shows us a purported new “threat” from a number of foreign nations.  But as Blum asks us, “who is really going to attack the US?”.

Some will read this book and believe that Blum is unpatriotic, cynical and even treasonous. But I believe that thoughts of that nature are severely misguided.  Contrary to what many may think, it is possible to be patriotic but still question and even expose the wrongdoings by our own government.  And as Jesse “The Body’ Ventura recently said in a video regarding Colin Kaepernick, the government has to earn patriotism.  In the eyes of many around the world, we are seen as the big brother that exerts his influence wherever he goes. But our most tragic mistake is to believe that everyone desires to live as we do.   No government is perfect and every country has its regrettable moments.  But is the duty of every American to acknowledge when our country is wrong and/or misguided and see things from the eyes of those who we persecute either intentionally or inadvertently.  I’ve always felt that people who are the most critical of this nation are also some of the most patriotic.  It is their belief in the good of the nation that forces them to confront its shortcomings.  People such as William Blum are doing their part to show other Americans what has been occurring right under our noses.  You don’t have to agree with everything he says, but if you open your mind and digest what he’s written, you may find that you have a new understanding of the pitfalls of a misguided foreign policy and why it brings shame on the United States of America.

ISBN-10: 1783601671
ISBN-13: 978-1783601677

Investigative Report

14894638

Each year as we revisit the civil rights movement and the contributions of African-Americans,  those of us old enough to remember the movement and the violent and turbulent decade of the 1960s, will recall vivid memories of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party, among others.  The movement contained dozens of highly gifted and intellectual activists whose rhetoric and charisma often galvanized an entire audience. Among these gifted orators was Stokely Carmichael, later known as Kwame Ture. Although he died on November 15, 1998 after  a battle with prostate cancer, his legacy continues and he is remembered by many as one of the most passionate and controversial voices at the time.

The native of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, left a mark on America, even after relocating to Guinea under the government of Ahmed Sékou Touré.  As we look back on his life in this phenomenal biography by Peniel E. Joseph, we are able to revisit a life that was nothing short of extraordinary and spanned across three continents.  Present at nearly every major event of the movement and associate of many of its pioneers, his actions and movements resulted in both praise and consternation from his peers.  His fiery and passionate speeches, encouraging armed struggle, earned him the wrath of several presidents and a spot on the FBI’s list of racial radicals.  He was so despised, that the U.S. government even attempted to prevent him from leaving the country.  And throughout all of this and much more, Carmichael remained committed to the struggle with the full intent of overturning what he saw as an unjust and morally corrupt government and society.

Reading about icons is never easy for that they have as many negative traits as they do positive.  We sometimes make them out to be larger than life but in the process often forget that they are also human.  Failed romances, a troubled marriage, adultery and accusations of misogyny, plagued Carmichael throughout his life.  And for some of his peers, his words were far more extreme than they were willing to accept. Thoroughly researched and presented in an engaging style that keeps the reading stuck to the pages, the book is a gem and a pleasure to read.  In publishing this masterful work, Joseph as done a service to Carmichael’s legacy.   We also revisit the friendships and enemies that were mainstays of his life which including Eldridge Cleaver, Huey P. Newton, Martin Luther King, Jr., Idi Amin and Harry Belafonte to name a few.  And is through these relationships and the public battles he waged, that Kwame Ture was eventually born.

His tragic death at the age of 57, prevented him from seeing the results from the monumental efforts put forth by activists and Carmichael himself.  If he were alive today, perhaps he would still be calling for Pan-Africanism and armed struggled. But I do believe he would feel vindicated by his prior radical beliefs.   Jim Crow has long been demolished and America has made great strides in living up to the reputation as the land of freedom and democracy. Far from perfect, the nation continues to reexamine itself in the effort to move forward progressively.  And as we do move forward, Stokely’s words will be there to remind us of the pitfalls of oppression and ignorance.  He will always been controversial to many but we can all agree that he remains one of the most colorful and dynamic figures in the history of the civil rights movement.

ISBN-10: 0465013635
ISBN-13: 978-0465013630

Biographies Uncategorized

20180602_215808January 12, 2017 will mark fifty-two years since Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (1930-1965) died at the age of thirty-four after a long battle with intestinal cancer. Her masterpiece A Raisin In The Sun and the Broadway play of the same name, broke new ground in America for African-American playwrights. In fact, her play was the first by an African-American woman to have a run on Broadway.  The story of the Younger family has been played out in cities all over the country as people have desired to leave their own communities in search of a better quality of life. The book remains her most popular work but just who was the real Lorraine Hansberry?  In this biography, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack tell the story of the playwright’s life from start to finish. And what we see is the formation of the one of the most gifted Americans to have ever lived.

Tupac Shakur had always mentioned Hansberry as one of his idols. The same applies for the myself.  Her tragic death at such a young age, is one literature’s and society’s greatest losses.   She was born into a family of descendants of slaves on both sides but grew up in a very affluent household.  Educated in schools of high prestige and was surrounded by family members committed to excellence who instilled in her from a young age, a commitment to excellence and other traits that remained with her through life as she becomes a playwright and spokeswoman for the growing movement to eradicate Jim Crow and obtain civil rights for all people in the United States.

The Lorraine we come to know as we read through the book, is one who is not afraid to break new ground, challenge social norms and express her thoughts.  She remains disturbed by racial prejudice, war and poverty.   Writing becomes her outlet and as a result, she produced classic works that have stood the test of time.  Her personal life in many ways, made as much of a statement as her works of fiction.  She was present at the now famous meeting with then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, in which she and several other activists made their case for civil rights heard.  Kennedy came away from the meeting browbeaten but in just a few short years, he would become a candidate for President of the United States and a leading icon of the movement to reshape America through a liberal lens.   Her marriage to Robert Nemiroff was a social taboo at the time and illegal in some states.  She smoked cigarettes, supported the gay cause, wore long pants and even challenged Malcolm X on his views against interracial marriage during his tenure under the Nation of Islam.  Reportedly, the two became friends later on.  Never one to be controlled, she lived her life on her own terms and at her own pace. And even as she was dying from terminal cancer, she continued with her work while focusing on the many issues that continued to plague Black Americans.  Her vivacious personality, sharp mind and literary skill, earned her the respect, admiration and friendship of an endless list of writers, actors, government officials and activists.

Today I often wonder what would she think if she were alive today, about the current state of America. I think she would ask us if we have learned anything from A Raisin In The Sun.  More than fifty-seven years later,  America still struggles with acceptance of those of us that come from different countries, speak different languages, eat different foods and worship different gods.  We have come a long way since Hansberry’s time and  are decades past the inhumane system of Jim Crow.  However, we still have a long path in front of us where much work is needed.  If she were here with us, she would encourage us to continue to make our voices heard in opposition to injustices afflicted upon anyone of any background.  As A Raisin in the Sun continues to be re-made for film, television and Broadway, Hansberry lives on in immortality with her words continuing to remind us of the importance of self-reflection and the struggles we all face.

I highly recommend that anyone who is a fan of Lorraine Hansberry read this biography of her life.  She and her family were quite unique in many ways but Lorraine by far was the standout.  As a person who loves literature, it would have been a pleasure to just sit and talk with her about a range of topics.  Reading through her material, I have become acquainted with a voice that touches deep inside human emotion forcing us to confront the very things we wish did not exist.  Had she lived, I believe her career would have reached new heights and Broadway would have been in her debt. This is the life of Lorraine Vivian Hansberry.

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think”. -Lorraine V.  Hansberry

ISBN-10: 0823413004
ISBN-13: 978-0823413003

Biographies

11437988

Alan Turing is famously remembered for developing the machine used to crack the encrypted messages of the German military during World War II.  However, in the Pacific, where fighting against the Japanese army and navy was just as brutal, coded messages sometimes meant the difference between life and death.  U.S. military officials, looking to gain the advantage  in the battles against Japan, decided to use a language unknown to the Japanese that could be used to transmit highly important messages between soldiers and commanders.  Officials decided to try a new approach and selected members of the Navajo tribes. Chester Nez (1921-2014), one of the original Navajo code talkers, presents his autobiography with the help of Judith Schiess Avila.

A native of New Mexico, Nez begins his odyssey when he and fellow Navajo tribe members enlist into the United States Marine Corps. They are told they will have to develop a secret code based of their native tongue.  But just how do you develop a code from a language which isn’t written in any shape or form? Navajo is a rare language in that it is taught by word of mouth and not through books.  The young code talkers start working and as we see in Chester’s memories, they develop a code that proved to be unbreakable throughout the entire war.  The code was so secret, that it wasn’t declassified until 1968.  And even today, their story is still largely unknown and many of them remain unsung heroes in the story of World War II.

In 2001, Nez received the Congressional Medal of Honor from then president, George W. Bush.  As he explains in the book, it was one of his proudest moments and he proudly served the nation he’s always called home.  His courage and patriotism are remarkable considering that in grade school at Fort Defiance, the students were prohibited from using their native Navajo language and were subjected to physical punishment as a result. But when the Marines came calling, Chester and his friends answered the call and in the process would change the course of World War II.  His story is an invaluable part of American history as today, Native Americans still struggled with the dark history of the United States which includes acts of extreme violence and prejudice to those of Native American heritage.  This book should be required reading by all students and for those who find English to be a second language, his courage and acts of heroism can serve as positive reinforcement for anyone concerned about the acceptance of their heritage among their peers.

In 2002,  John Woo directed Nicholas Cage in ‘Windtalkers’, the story of a Marine designated to protect a Navajo code talker.  As expected from Hollywood, the effects and actions sequences are visually stunning. But the focus of the film lies in the wrong place and doesn’t come close to telling the whole story of the code talkers.  To date, this is the only biography of a code talker and many of them are now deceased. In fact, Chester was the last living code talker until he died on January 4, 2014.  He life is an example of those who proudly serve their country even when their country doesn’t serve them.  The courage and never-ending efforts to protect the lives of American soldiers shown by the code talkers while risking theirs on the battlefield, make them true American heroes.

ISBN-10: 0425247856
ISBN-13: 978-0425247853

Uncategorized

1The workplace in a sense becomes a second home to the majority of us, and for some of us, they become even closer to us than those with whom we have a biological link. But what happens when you’re an agent in the Secret Service?  There is no set eight-hour workday for agents assigned to the first family. Instead, their hours are often unpredictable, long and extremely fatiguing. Nevertheless, the agents do their jobs to the best of their abilities and in the process create bonds with the members of the first family that sometimes remain in place many years after their service has ended.  Clint Hill, long retired from the Secret Service, is best remembered by many people from the Zapruder film, in which he is the sole agent that attempts to come to the aid of the president as jumps on the back of the motorcade as the Secret Service transports a mortally wounded John F. Kennedy to Parkland Memorial Hospital.  He has written several books on his time as a Secret Service agent with several presidents and the events that took place during that fateful trip to Dallas, Texas.  This is his memoir of his time with the former first lady and the relationship that developed.

The book begins as the JFK wins the election becoming the president-elect.  Hill, who previously served Dwight Eisenhower is assigned to guard Mrs. Kennedy.  At first, we see that he’s not thrilled with the assignment, but as we follow Mrs. Kennedy and Hill on their journey, we come to see that it was nothing short of incredible.  And even years later, the news of her death proves to be as much of a devastating blow as JFK’s death decades earlier. As Hill admits himself, he never fully recovered from Dallas and other agents handed in their resignations, unable to cope with what now be classified as post-traumatic stress disorder.  Cigarettes and alcohol become his sedatives of choice but remarkably, he was able to transform those dreadful memories into several well-written books about the personal lives of the first couple.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, later Onassis, is still recalled as one of the finest first ladies to have ever occupied the White House.  Fluent in several languages, physically agile and highly intellectual,  her poise has been unmatched by many with the possible exception of the current first lady who will depart the White House at the end of year.  For year following JFK’s death, the press continued to follow her and her every move  garnered attention from all over.  In some places, it could  be argued that she might have been even more popular than JFK himself.  Through Hill’s memories, we are able to see her private side; fun-loving, cigarette smoking, thrill taking and highly personal, genuinely concerned about the privacy of her children.   Attempting to live as close to a “normal” life as possible, she takes great strains and places upon Hill, great burdens to maintain the strictest levels of privacy throughout their tenure together.  A monumental feat without question, but time and time again, Hill comes through earning the respect and permanent trust of the first lady.

True friendship is not easy to come by. But during his time as the protector of the first lady, he becomes one of her closest friends and confidants and the memories he shares are that of a man who truly enjoyed his job and lives with those moments, good and bad, every day of his life.

ISBN-10: 1451648464
ISBN-13: 978-1451648461

Journals

the_brothersOn July 26, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signs the National Security Act, establish a new intelligence agency to gather information deemed critical to the protection of the United States from foreign threats.  The new agency is known as the Central Intelligence Agency and its initial members are former members of the Office of Strategic Services which had been discontinued following the allied Victory in World War II.   As the Cold War heated up with the Soviet Union and new leaders came to light in several continents, the members of the new agency felt a surging sense to act preemptively to what was perceived to be direct threats to the safety and stability of the western hemisphere.  Among the large number of those afraid of Communist infiltration and the end of U.S. business interest were two brothers who controlled an overwhelming majority of power over U.S. foreign policy whose names today are largely unknown to the younger generation.  John Foster and Allen Welsh Dulles, the former Secretary of State and Director of the C.I.A., remain controversial and pivotal figures in 20th century American history.  In this expose about their time in high posts within the U.S. government, author Stephen Kinzer reveals the dark side of the U.S. government as two brothers used the White House, military and Central Intelligence Agency to advance their financial agenda across several continents resulting in the overthrow of governments, assassination of foreign leaders and financial exploitation of smaller nations caught in the grip of U.S. occupation.

Many years have passed since the Dulles brothers controlled the foreign policy of the U.S. government but the effects of their policies were felt and are being felt even today.   Following World War II, many nations began to seek a different course after witnessing and in other cases, learning of the atrocities in Nazi controlled Germany and in parts of China occupied by the Japanese Army.   The Soviet Union, seeking to expand its influence and domain, began to offer to support smaller nations looking to break the shackles of colonialism and implement an independent government. This new form of free thought combined with the looming threat to business interest and monetary gains would result in some of the darkest moments in the history of U.S. foreign policy.  Some of these actions would forever tarnish the reputation of the C.I.A. and even today in 2016, more information once classified is coming to light revealing the true nature of business of the once mysterious agency.

One month after the assassination of John. F. Kennedy, former president Harry S. Truman penned an article including a strong advisory that the nation needed to watch the actions of the C.I.A.  Since its inception, the agency had grown to become a government in itself and as Stephen Kinzer shows, the collaboration between two brothers in positions of power, had deadly implication for those determined to be enemies of the United States. Patrice Lumumba, Mohammed Mossadegh,  Jacobo Arbenz and Fidel Castro are only a few of the many figures that became targets of the Dulles’ vengeance.   Kinzer’s research brings the past alive and takes us right into the lion’s den to bear witness to the process in which the plots unfolded and the course of history was change.  And similarly as author David Talbot also points out in ‘The Devil’s Chessboard‘, the agency at its height, was unstoppable committing illegal and treasonous acts.  The programs known as Operation Paperclip, Operation Sunrise, MK Ultra and ZR/Rifle have opened the public’s eyes to the deadly and mind-boggling programs initiated by the agency in under the tutelage of Allen Dulles himself as both an operative of the C.I.A. and as its director.  And many of these actions came with the blessing and encouragement from Foster as Secretary of State to President Eisenhower.

Today, the Dulles’ brothers are nothing more than relics of history to most. Foster died on May 24, 1959 and Allen on January 29, 1969.  And aside from Washington Dulles International Airport,  their names have been forgotten by most.  But as Stephen Kinzer reminds us in this excellent inside look into their lives and actions, there was a time in United States history when the two of them controlled U.S. foreign policy and waged their own secret world war.

“Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan” President John F. Kennedy, April, 1961

ISBN-10: 1250053129
ISBN-13: 978-1250053121

Investigative Report

lbj blood money powerPrior to his death from cancer, Jack Ruby, the convicted murdered of Lee Harvey Oswald who executed his prey live on national television, once remarked that to get answers in the murder of John F. Kennedy, it would wise to ask the man currently in office.  That man as we all know was Lyndon B. Johnson.   In most history classes, Lyndon Johnson or LBJ for short, is seen as a pioneering president, responsible for the passage of the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964.   However, what is often looked over is his role in the escalation of the U.S. military in southeast Asia resulting in the Vietnam War.   As the body count of American soldiers climbed, his approval rate dropped to absurdly low levels, possibly the worst in recent history.  And the announcement of Robert Kennedy for candidacy for president served as a final nail in the coffin forcing Johnson to withdraw his name in the 1968 presidential race.  Many years after his death, the true story of the life of Lyndon Johnson has come to light in dozens of books.  And what we learn through each of these books is that there was a very dark side to the 36th President of the United States.

Barr McClellan worked as an attorney at the firm of Clark, Thomas and Winters, the firm that worked intimately with Johnson, handling many of his private affairs.  This book is McClellan’s recollections of the things he saw, heard and took part in over a multi-decade service to the firm under Johnson’s primary attorney and close friend, Edward A. Clark.  The cover of the book alludes to a smoking gun in the book.  Having read dozens of books on the Kennedy murder, I wouldn’t quite go that far.  And as McClellan points out, many of the discussions that took place among some of the partners and various nefarious figures associated with Clark were never put on record as an official transcript.  While he presents to us a picture of what might have been said, the participants are lone gone and can neither confirm of deny the statements in the book.  Also, the allegations regarding Lee Harvey Oswald are direct but gloss over many important details that not only cast doubt on him being Kennedy’s assassin, but also being the murderer of Officer J.D. Tippit and the attempted assassin of Gen. Edwin Walker.

The beauty in the book are the revelations about the relationships between Johnson, Clark, Thomas, Mac Wallace, Bobby Baker, Clifton Carter and Billie Sol Estes.  This close group of conspirators, pulled off some of the biggest scams in Texas history and are complicit in the murders of several individuals, possibly including John F. Kennedy. Of all of the players, Baker is the only one still alive and has disclosed a lot of what he did for Johnson and other politicians in Washington during his career. However, out of all of these mysterious and fascinating figures, the two that stand out in the book as the most interesting are Edward Clark and Mac Wallace.  Johnson, while complicit in many illegal activities,  always maintained a safe distance in the event that a scandal arose.  However, when problems did come up and people need to be taken care of, Clark and Wallace would prove to be the most loyal and deadly associates of Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Wallace has been long known to assassination researchers and people familiar with Johnson’s activities in Texas.  And if McClellan’s account is correct, then it shows the assassination into an entire different perspective.  Clark is lesser known to those outside of the State of Texas but McClellan clues us in to another major participant of the crime of the century in the United  States of America.

While I do believe that LBJ did have foreknowledge of the crime, I do not think that the law firm of Clark, Thomas and Winters had the sole role they did as described by McClellan. Did they play a part? Absolutely.  But I also believe that there were many things transpiring in Dallas that day that went far beyond the control of both Edward Clark and Lee Harvey Oswald. A conspiracy of that magnitude needs many participants with plans made far in advance in many different sectors of government.  Of interesting note, McClellan does shows that the plan to remove Kennedy began as early as 1961 which coincidentally is when multiple Oswald sightings first began.  Was there a plan to remove JFK from office? Undoubtedly.  Was a sole lawyer the mastermind behind the entire plot? You be the judge.

ISBN-10: 161608197X
ISBN-13: 978-1616081973

Assassinations