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Errol Morris: The Umbrella Man

Posted on Nov 22, 2011

Tuesday marked the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an event that would definitely qualify as a macro-level historical happening, as academic-turned-gumshoe Josiah “Tink” Thompson tells documentary whiz Errol Morris in this clip about the mysterious “Umbrella Man,” one of a cast of characters implicated in the tragic events of that day.  —KA

Click here to watch the clip.


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oddsox's avatar

By oddsox, November 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment

at 41:06, when illustrating the path of the 1st shot that hit JFK, why wouldn’t the Warren Commission at least use a car matching the Presidential limo?
The car pictured is a 1956 Cadillac (GM)like the Secret Service trialing car. 
JFK and Connolly were in a ‘62-63 Continental (Ford).

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By oddsox, November 27, 2011 at 4:33 pm Link to this comment

Am I mistaken here—do I see a Secret Service man riding on JFK’s rear bumper (left side) at 5:45 and again at 5:50 on this video? 

This is the only time I see a SS man riding on the rear of the President’s limo since leaving Love Field.

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By oddsox, November 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

Thanks, Maani.
Kerryrose’s post mentions “seconds before the shooting” and I recall hearing or reading similar language regarding the Secret Service stand-down, which I’ve about for years.

There are bogus JFK conspiracy theories out there, too. 
The driver-shooter theory and and maybe I’ve fallen for one of them myself: the “jumping jack” spectator, who is missing from this original Zapruder film.

Anyone have access or hear of an Assassinated US Presidents segment airing in Dallas the night before the shooting?

So much misinformation and dysinformation—we’ll probably never know everything about JFK’s murder, but I’ll bet we learn more.

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By Maani, November 26, 2011 at 11:30 am Link to this comment


The stand-down of the two rear agents definitely occurs at Love Field - before the limo leaves the airport, since all footage along the motorcade route, right from the beginning, shows no agents on the back of the car.  Never heard the suggestion that it occurred “just seconds” before the shooting.

What DID occur, during the shooting, was that some of the agents (particularly including the driver of the limo) violated almost every single protocol with respect to ANY potential danger to the president.


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By oddsox, November 26, 2011 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

another minor point:
The youtube Secret Service standown video and others say the rear bumper agents were called off just seconds before the shooting.

But it appears from the background this happened much earlier, probably on the tarmac at Love Field.
How do you see it?

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By oddsox, November 26, 2011 at 8:19 am Link to this comment

maani: sidebar: that’s Chopin’s piano sonata #2 (funeral march) playing throughout the Secret Service standown youtube post.  Clever.

My late father was in Dallas when Kennedy was murdered.  He said it was strange they aired a segment (local news?  late night documentary?  don’t recall) on assassinated US presidents the night BEFORE!

He brought home newspapers from 11/21/63 and 11/22/63, but I couldn’t find anything like that in TV listings for that day.  Anybody who can confirm from Dallas TV records on 11/21/63?

Anyway, the whole thing smelled from day 1—even my classmates at the time (I was in 8th grade) guessed something funny was going on.

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By john crandell, November 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment

Has anyone ever verified whether J. Edgar Hoover did indeed fly into Dallas on the evening before the assassination and that he attended a confab at the north Dallas “lodge” of Texas businessman Clint Murchison?

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By Maani, November 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment


As with almost every black op or false flag operation in U.S. history, no one was ever “brought to justice” in any way, including Agent Roberts.  (Okay, Garrison successfully prosecuted Clay Shaw, but that doesn’t really count…)

John M:

Certainly the ballistics question is germane, at least in establishing that there were multiple gunmen.  And I think it is axiomatic for anyone who has studied the JFK assassination long enough that the lone gunman theory is absurd (in fact, it doesn’t even pass the Occam’s Razor test), and the Warren Commission Report was a whitewash (which was one of the tacit findings of HSCOA).

My focus has always been the “qui bono” and “follow the money) aspects.  And while Cubans and the mafia benefitted to a small degree, the latter would have done better to assassinate RFK, who was AG.  But those who benefitted the most was the military-industrial complex, who were terrified (and rightfully so) that JFK was going to withdraw the advisors from Vietnam, and NOT escalate.  That would have meant hundreds of millions (possibly billions) of dollars in lost defense contracts, and “sidelining” the generals et al who very much wanted the war.  (Hence, LBJ’s infamous comment after taking office and sending troops to support the advisors, “Gentleman, you have your war.”)

As I have noted, only a high-level military person could have issued the “stand down” order for the military on the motorcade route, and only the Secret Service could have (i) changed the motorcade route (and prevented the Dallas paper from printing that route in the early edition the next day), and (ii) violated protocol in at least two, possibly three, ways - calling off the agents from the rear of the limo, having the limo make a turn that would force it to travel at less than 15mph, nearly stopping the limo after the second shot, instead of speeding up and getting JFK out of there.

Oliver Stone may be a bit “over the top,” but his speculative conclusion is probably truer than not.


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By, November 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

John M. asked the question that bothered me for decades (the magic bullet). At least it did until I read “Fatal Error” which was the only book/study made by a ballistics expert. The writer, name slips me at the moment, answered that question.  I’m satisfied that Oswald indeed shot JFK.  But the question of the other bullet is dissected in great detail.  His conclusion is that JFK was shot on accident by secret service agent (named Finley).
After reading Fatal Error I put away the conspiracy theories rattling around in my head.

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By kerryrose, November 25, 2011 at 4:14 pm Link to this comment

John M

Another question:  Why did the security service order two agents to ‘stand-down’ and leave Kennedy vulnerable just seconds before the shots.

The two secret service agents that had been on the back of Kennedy’s car display frustration and confusion, which is clearly visible on film, when they are told to stand down by the commanding agent.

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By John M, November 25, 2011 at 2:58 pm Link to this comment

Ok I’ll buy Oswald was the lone gunman IF some one
can answer 2 questions. Assuming the magic bullet did
in fact go through Kennedy and Connolly and was
slightly bent….

Question one, How did Oswald completely miss the car
when it was closer to him and he was shooting down
into it? ie even if he missed Kennedy there was no
hole in the seat or floor or deck lid so he missed
the entire car?

Question two, If Oswald mad the 3rd shot - the head
shot - why did that bullet not hit Connolly? or If
Connolly was slumped at least hit the dash board or

Bonus question - it the magic bullet was slightly
bent how did the third bullet vaporize just from
hitting Kennedy in the head since it never made it’s
way into the car and was supposed to be the same lot
# bullet as bullet number two?

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By Higgs, November 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment

The NYTimes has a long history of supporting the
Warren Commission Report and the “lone
gunman” theory.  The CIA has infiltrated major
news organizations in the US.  Enough said.

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By kerryrose, November 25, 2011 at 5:53 am Link to this comment

Any research of Errol Morris will reveal a guy who is an establishement whore.  He makes commercials for Miller Beer, etc.  and feeds off the corporate state.

This should be considered when he changes skin to pass himself off as a ‘documentary filmaker.’  To wonder who paid him to make this garbage is exactly the right question.

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By kerryrose, November 25, 2011 at 5:49 am Link to this comment


I never knew about the ss agent Emory Roberts who call the Secret Service off JFK’s car seconds before the shooting.  The agent couldn’t believe the order and shrugged in confusion 3 times.

Was Roberts ever accused of gross negligence leading to the death of the President?


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By Gary Weglarz, November 25, 2011 at 12:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was eleven years old when JFK was assassinated, and our country eliminated even the pretense of democracy.  We’ve now enjoyed nearly fifty years of joint military/intelligence service/buisness facist rule, and have effectively rendered the presidency to the role of the British monarchy.  Eisenhower was prophetic.  Kennedy was in constant conflict with his Joint Chiefs who wanted to first strike Moscow and Havanna, while the president sought nuclear disarmament.  Geeze, where would a motive come from?  JFK, RFK, MLK, Gulf of Tonkin, the saturation bombing of Laos and Cambodia, the over throw of Allende, our support of the death squad “democracies” in Latin America, two Iraq wars, Afgah war, building 7,to revisiting the Holy Inquisition through waterboarding.  Nope, no reason to think the boys running the show have anything to hide.  Nothing to see here folks.  Just an umbrella. Move along. Are American’s really this dense?

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By glider, November 24, 2011 at 8:51 pm Link to this comment

Clearly there is no good reason to think that a commission led by a group of politicians would have any ability to solve the Kennedy murder mystery. So there are reasonable but complicated conspiracy theories mostly around the mafia/CIA/Cuba interaction.  However based upon sheer motive I would bet on the involvement of some powerful bankers fearing Kennedy’s moves in the direction of a sovereign currency.  I still have a few of those Silver Certificate Dollar $20 Bills left which ended shortly after the assassination.

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By kerryrose, November 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

I’m not sure why Errol Morris would use one incident to discredit the last century of purely valid conspiracy theories including future ones… Somehow we are all crazy to believe anything but the official narrative because Umbrella Man was a bust.

Did someone pay him to make this Doc?

Oops, that’s another conspiracy theory.

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By Maani, November 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment


Re 9/11, I invite you to watch the following video.  And pay attention to the credentials and expertise of the experts being interviewed.

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By Maani, November 24, 2011 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment

Here is footage re the umbrella man, including part of his video testimony to HSCOA.  [N.B. I realize now that not only does he not look 15 years older, but who has the same umbrella in their possession for 15 years?!]

Here is the footage of the secret service stand-down.  Note that it is very “jumpy,” but what occurs is pretty obvious:

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By tops, November 24, 2011 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

Part 3-
(The previous quotes in last post were from Wikipedia)

This piece by the NY Times seems to be trying to convince people that it is impossible to figure out the very nature and reality of events and simply accept a whatever version of events the government asserts, even when evidence is discovered that makes that makes this highly improbable.

Sorry about the disjointed nature of this post but the comment section is behaving strangely and wouldn’t let me post as a single post.

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By tops, November 24, 2011 at 11:27 am Link to this comment

Part Two of Comment—-
Furthermore, many Kennedy researchers have shown with convincing evidence that the Warren commission systematically down played, or ignored evidence that suggested more than one gunman, or a conspiracy.
I find it interesting that the Errol Morris video conveniently leaves out the fact that the very committee (house select committee) that took the umbrella man’s testimony did indeed come to the following conclusions about the Kennedy assignation.

    “Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that at least two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President. Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations.”
    “The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.” “President John F. Kennedy did not receive adequate protection.”
  “The investigation into the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination was inadequate. The conclusions of the investigations were arrived at in good faith, but presented in a fashion that was too definitive.”

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By tops, November 24, 2011 at 11:22 am Link to this comment

This video is another typical “you must believe the Warren Report lone gunman theory or you are a conspiracy theorist” hit piece. Just because the “umbrella man” didn’t turn out to be involved in the assignation (at least according to his testimony given over ten years after the assignation) of President Kennedy in no way discounts the large body of evidence that suggests the Warren report ignored much evidence and possible lines of inquiry regarding Kennedy’s assignation.

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By tops, November 24, 2011 at 11:17 am Link to this comment


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By Maani, November 24, 2011 at 9:59 am Link to this comment

There are a few problems with the “umbrella man.”  First, there is absolutely no way to know whether the man who testified to HSCOA was, in fact, the man who was in the Zapruder film and photographs of Dealey Plaza.  In fact, there is some evidence that he was not.  The assassination occurred in 1963, he testified in 1978 - 15 years later.  Yet he did not seem to have aged 15 years.  Also, he showed up toward the END of the investigation - it began in 1976, and ended in late 1978.  This, despite the fact that HSCOA had put out a widely broadcast public appeal for him (and certain others) to appear.

Second, there is some question as to whether the umbrella man was “in cahoots” with the man next to him.  Yet the man who testified did not remember anyone standing next to him.

Third, in actual fact, the CIA HAD developed an umbreall-based dart gun by 1963.  (I don’t actually believe such an item was used, since it would have been near-impossible to aim it accuately, even from such a close position.)

All that said, a much more salient fact came to light recently re the assassination.  This was the “calling off” of the Secret Service agents from the back of the presidential limo.  The limo had “running boards” and griprails on the back for agents to stand behind the president and first lady.  This was SOP for all motorcades.  Yet just before the limo left the airport, the agent in charge “called off” the two agents from the back of the limo.  There is a video of this, and you can see one of the agents raise his hands in a gesture of “Huh?  Why are we not taking our places?”  Needless to say, had the agents been in their pl;aces, any shots from behind the limo would have hit THEM, not the president.  And if there was a conspiracy, the shot(s) from the front would have been easier to identify.

However, there are three pieces of evidence that still remain unexplained, and which could not have been accomplished by the mafia, Cubans, or anyone besides government agencies (CIA, military, etc.) themselves.

First, there was the last-minute change in the route.  The original route - shown in a front-page map in the Dallas paper the night before - had the motorcade going straight down Main Street, with no turns.  Yet by morning, the route had been changed to include the (fateful) turn that forced the limo to make the turns.  In fact, this violates Secret Service protocol, since the presidential limo is nver supposed to goless than 15 mph, but the turn causedit to slow to 10 mph.

Second, it has been SOP that if there is even the hint of “shots fired,” or any other activity potentially dangerous to the president, the limo is to speed up and leave the scene.  Yet after the first shot was fired, the limo SLOWED down - and after the second shot, IT ALMOST STOPPED COMPLETELY.

Third, and most damaging, it was SOP for ALL presidential motorcades that there be a military presence along the route.  Yet there is not a single military person - not even National Guard - on the entire route, since the military had been told to “stand down” - an order that can ONLY come from within, at a very high level.

There are just the three most obvious and powerful clues to a government conspiracy, as opposed to a lone gunman, or even a conspiracy that was hatched and organized by the mafia, Cubans, or anyone else (who may well have been used in it, but were NOT the planners).

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By oddsox, November 24, 2011 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

@Sebastian Lawhorne, so many unanswered questions about JFK’s assassination. 
—4 shots or 3?  If 4, how could Oswald have gotten them off in time?  If 3, explain the magic bullet.
—Was the Zapruder film doctored? 
Why the skip in the first few seconds (just before the limo gets to the Umbrella Man.)?  A Bell & Howell 8mm camera doesn’t skip in that way.  An edit? 
Did JFK’s driver slow down?  Why, at the moments just before and after fatal shot, are the flags, tail lights and wheels of the limo (which would give clues as to speed) all not visable. 
What about the “jumping jack” spectator near the end of the film?
Much much more.

As for 9/11, my questions begin with WTC7.  Explain that one, can you?

But, then, and perhaps to your point:
We read regularly on TruthDig of CIA/Zionist & globalist conspiracies and Orwellean tactics being used by our military and various government agencies. 
Elsewhere, UFOs and time-traveling Nazis, no less. 
And on the right-wing blogs we still have Vince Foster and Ron Brown theorists.
My take on Bush’s 2000 election was a cluster-f**k but legit as best we could sort it out.  His 2004 election seemed pretty straight-forward to me, but right on this thread you see Michael Calvan RN questioning them, along with Paul Wellstone’s demise.
These things can’t ALL be results of conspiracies, can they??

IMO, the Kennedy assassination and the Warren Report coverup that followed, opened Pandora’s Box and spawned the virtual cottage industry of conspiracies we see today.
Each conspiracy theory that followed, and those to come, gains credence from the fishy smell surrounding the Warren Report.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, November 24, 2011 at 4:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Much painstaking work has been done which corroborates the conclusion of the Warren Commission report that Oswald acted alone.  There is a website which debunks most of the elements of various conspiracy theories concisely but thoroughly for people who don’t have the time or the interest to read all the books.

Among many other things McAdams explains why people at the scene that day thought they heard shots coming from the so called grassy knoll and why Kennedy’s head shot backward when he took a bullet in the back of the head.

Only in America do people engage in conspiracy theorizing.  It is a form of entertainment.

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By examinator, November 24, 2011 at 2:36 am Link to this comment

Good piece,
I am inclined to believe it.Simply because in my experience a lie covering up something is usually a lot ordinary having been worked out before.
Re conspiracy theorists are generally of mind set that start with a conclusion and seek confirmation of it. In the event that such evidence is lacking they attribute the event to supernatural causes rather than acknowledge they simply don’t know.
In essence it has been argued that it’s a form of the fight or flight instinct. People tend to be more frightened of what they don’t understand (the unknown).
Try this; Imagine you are a lone hiker in the wilds and suddenly a violent storm erupts almost out of no where. You searching for cover running for a patch of trees. With lightening starting sheltering under trees isn’t such a good idea so you push on through the undergrowth. Just a a lightening bolt strikes a tree a bit behind you. there in front of you, is a large hollow in the middle is a large, old, obviously deserted two story house in darkness. You go in the house. the door is unlocked and stiff rusty hinges. On entering you look around and see that the furniture is under dust coverings. A layer of dust on the floor tells you the house hasn’t been occupied for a very long time. You check your map but neither the hollow or house shows. You settle in to wait the storm out or the morning. You light a fire with your matches in the fire place from the wood stacked in the box and a some old paper. eventually you hunker down for the night. While asleep the rain eases and stops. You are woken by a strange noise.  The fire had gone dark. The room is pitch black and deathly silent. half asleep you feel around for your matches but can’t find them. By now the sleepiness is clearing. Your ears are straining for a sound, you can almost hear the blood pulsing through your head. As you sit there you feel a cold shiver up your spine, a bead of sweat appears and your pulse is quickening. You reach forward to search for the box of matches when it’s placed in their hands.  What happens next?

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By SteveL, November 23, 2011 at 10:30 pm Link to this comment

What’s new?  In 1963 the press was just as ball-less as they are now.

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By sdemetri, November 23, 2011 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment

Actually, there are very good reasons to think the Bush Admin and the Guiliani Admin had a connection to what occurred in NYC on Sept. 11, 2001.

The pile of charred bodies in front of a bank of elevators that greeted firefighters when they entered the mezzanine through the West St. entrance on the 1st floor within 10 minutes of the aircraft striking the building, sealed elevator shafts top and bottom that only reached the 30th floors, with 60 plus intact floors between the top of the shaft and the conflagration at the damage site, is simply not explained by jet fuel seeping into that particular shaft and vaporizing to concentrations sufficient to explode killing or maiming those by the elevator doors. Common sense OUGHT to tell you that.

NO explanation based on the configuration of the elevator shafts, the ventilation systems, the quantity of available jet fuel, the probability of jet fuel traversing the 60 plus intact intervening floors, the actual amount of jet fuel necessary to vaporize to a concentration sufficient to cause an explosion, or the time necessary for all of that to happen, has EVER been offered by ANY official investigation. It has been glossed over as an assumption, and accepted without question.

What has been offered by way of eyewitnesses, however, both in national television interviews by journalists that experienced massive explosions at ground level, and in the Oral History statements by the NYC firefighters, 118 NYFD employees give 178 accounts of explosions, secondary devices, synchronized blasts and flashes in what should have been sound, intact floors of the building well below the damage site is entirely in conflict with the un-investigated but widely circulated story that jet fuel caused those deaths on the 1st floor within moments after the aircraft struck.

What has also been offered in the NCSTAR 1 report, the official “scientific” investigation, is documentation of witnesses experiencing or seeing explosion events from a couple hundred people who were in all levels of the building and escaped, interviewed by the NIST investigators that compiled the NCSTAR 1 report.

There most certainly is good reason to believe the official conspiracy theory of the 9/11 attacks is a complete sham and cover up. The heavily redacted Joint Investigation by Congress, as well, contains a story hidden beneath the redacted entries. What that story is, or how the accounts of explosions and blasts of the 118 NYFD employees contribute to the story of what actually took place on 9/11 has yet to be investigated, but it is absolutely certain that the official story is utter bull shit.

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By Sebastian Lawhorne, November 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@Saoirse: As always, “The Onion” makes better arguments than I ever could on a TD comment thread…,10584/

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By Saoirse, November 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“I have no rational reason not to. JFK conspiracy theorists are no different than 9/11 conspiracy theorists and “birther” conspiracy theorists in my books.”
Atta boy Lawhorne, stifle any meaningful debate by shoving all “conspiracy theorists” into the same bag and then claiming to be rational. Thompson just happens to be one of them by the way but I’m sure you never read any of his works because apologists like you are too busy sucking up to the likes of the liberal establishment that write your “books”. Get over yourself.

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By Sebastian Lawhorne, November 23, 2011 at 12:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


But does ANYONE still believe the findings of the Warren Report—that Lee Harvey Oswalt acted alone in killing JFK?

I have no rational reason not to. JFK conspiracy theorists are no different than 9/11 conspiracy theorists and “birther” conspiracy theorists in my books.

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By Michael Cavlan RN, November 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm Link to this comment

Or that George Bush won the selections 2000 and 2004
or that Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash
Or that 20 Arabs, directed by a man on dialysis brought the twin towers down.

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oddsox's avatar

By oddsox, November 22, 2011 at 6:05 pm Link to this comment

fine and good, Umbrella Man.

But does ANYONE still believe the findings of the Warren Report—that Lee Harvey Oswalt acted alone in killing JFK?

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