Reclaiming History Review


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Reclaiming History Review
  BOOK REVIEWS / Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History   ASSASSINATION RESEARCH / Vol. 5 No. 1 © Copyright 2007 David W. Mantik Reclaiming History   by Vincent Bugliosi: A Not-Entirely-Positive Review David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D. Memorial Day 2007 Revised 12 June 2007 It is surely interesting how intelligent people can differ in looking at the same evidence … ——“Doggedness and the Talpiot Tomb,” James Tabor, 22 May 2007  1   Biographical Details Vincent Boo-liosi (no “g” sound) 2  was born on 18 August 1934. According to one web site, he is the third   most famous person from Hibbing, Minnesota. 3  After moving to California, he graduated from Hollywood High School. Bugliosi (simply designated as “B” hereafter) graduated from of the University of Miami in Coral Cables, Florida (BA, 1956). Eight years later he received his law degree from UCLA (1964), where he was president of his graduating class. As a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, he successfully prosecuted Charles Manson and several other members of Manson’s “family” for the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and six others. He lost only one of the 106 felony cases he tried as a prosecutor, which included winning 21 out of 21 murder cases. He later wrote a book about the Manson trial called Helter Skelter. B has been out-spoken in the media about the incompetence and/or malfeasance of lawyers and judges in major trials. He wrote a bestselling book, Outrage  , on the acquit-tal of O. J. Simpson, in which he detailed the work of the district attorney, prosecutors, the defense lawyers, and presiding judge and illustrated what he saw as broader problems in American criminal justice, the media, and the po-litical appointment of judges. He also condemned the Supreme Court’s deci-sions in Jones vs. Clinton and in the 2000 presidential election. He wrote a lengthy criticism of the decision in an article for The Nation   titled “None Dare Call It Treason”, which was later expanded into a book titled The Betrayal of 1   The Jesus Dynasty Blog  . 2  Endnotes, p. 7; this is how he pronounces his name. (Citations from the main text are identified herein by a naked page number.) 3  Hibbing, population 17,000, Minnesota’s largest city (by area), lies about 50 miles north and 35 miles west of Duluth (Jim Fetzer’s former turf) and is famous for its Bob Dylan memorabilia and the world’s largest open pit iron mine. According to this web site for Hibbing, its second most famous character is Kevin McHale, former teammate of Larry Bird with the 1980s Boston Celtics and regular opponent of Magic Johnson and the Lakers in the NBA finals. Hibbing is also close to the crash site of Senator Wellstone’s plane.  David W. Mantik 2 Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History   ASSASSINATION RESEARCH / Vol. 5 No. 1 © Copyright 2007 David W. Mantik America.  Some of his criticisms are portrayed in the 2004 documentary Orwell Rolls in his Grave  . B is also an expert on the JFK and RFK assassinations. His book, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F Kennedy,  was released in May 2007. That book is the subject of this review. It contains 1612 numbered pages, an introduction (xlvii pages), plus a CD of Endnotes (958 pages) and Source Notes (170 pages); it is literally bursting with second-hand information. Its total page count would appear to be about 2786, almost exactly three times as long as the 888-page Warren Report  . B is of Italian ancestry, married, and has two children, Wendy and Vince Jr. Like many characters in JFK assassination research today, he is an agnostic (in matters of religion, but not regarding the assassination) although he is open to the ideas of deism (but not to those of conspiracy). 4   Though I have not read Helter Skelter   (the subject bored me) my wife loved it, while I thoroughly enjoyed And the Sea Will Tell (also a 1991 TV movie with Richard Crenna), which B kindly autographed for my nurse. I have also been a great fan of Outrage   and his critique of the Supreme Court for putting us in the Bush leagues. (Everyone knows that our current Bush is a former major league baseball owner.) A Personal Encounter On a lovely Sunday morning, I knocked on the front door of B’s corner house, a modest, but charming affair, located very near the Arroyo Seco, home to the Rose Bowl. Because he had written to me about my work, I was curious to meet him in the flesh. While en route to see my son at Occidental College, I decided that the time had come to pay him a personal, albeit unannounced, visit. The door was quickly answered by B. After an initial puzzled expression, he imme-diately waved me in, with all the old country charm one would expect from a fellow Midwesterner. He was warm, courtly, and gracious, quite unlike his writ-ing. After this encounter I understood why he had been president of his law school class. Following introductions to his wife, we sat together with drinks at the kitchen table, a la Nixon and Khrushchev (24 July 1959). The conversation was congenial though not substantive. I was able to ascertain that he had in-deed received the requested information from me. Most especially he had “Twenty Conclusions after Nine Visits”, 5  a summary of my work at the National Archives. 4  The preceding paragraphs were adapted from the Wikipedia  . No hobbies are listed. For an excellent photo of Bugliosi see 5  To my surprise, I just discovered that a Google search of this title promptly displays my paper, which was presented at the 2003 Pittsburgh Symposium.  David W. Mantik 3 Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History   ASSASSINATION RESEARCH / Vol. 5 No. 1 © Copyright 2007 David W. Mantik An Immediate Disaster for B According to Max Holland, 6  B’s stamina for setting the record straight (on the assassination) is unequalled and will probably never be surpassed. After all, who else would be heroic enough—some would say foolhardy enough—to give birth to a book that weighs nearly as much as a newborn? It is likely that this book will stand forever as the magnum opus of this case—though not without serious flaws. Holland implies that its length makes it especially vulnerable to factual errors. I would liken the book to a house held aloft by a multitude of stilts. The more such posts are required, the more likely it is that one of them will fail. Unfortunately for B, that has already   happened. I refer, of course, to the neutron activation analysis (NAA) work, which was strongly supported by B in his book. See Dr. Gary Aguilar’s transparent and extremely well-written summary of this subject. 7  Aguilar cites the very latest on this subject, including a statistical paper just published in the Annals of Applied Statistics   by former FBI lab metallurgist William A. Tobin and Texas A & M University researchers Cliff Spiegelman, William D. James and colleagues. The first major salvo across the deck had been fired not long before by Patrick M. Grant, Ph.D. and Erich Randich, Ph.D. in the Journal of Forensic Science  . I had the great pleasure of hearing Grant and Randich present their findings to a small group in San Fran-cisco last summer at a Saturday seminar arranged by Dr. Aguilar. Their find-ings left no doubt that Robert Blakey’s so-called scientific “linch pin” of the as-sassination had totally exploded in his face. 8  If any doubt remained after Grant and Randich, this latest paper has inexorably vaporized that scintilla. Sturdivan and Rahn (B’s favorites) can massage and squeeze Guinn’s srcinal data all they want, using one statistical test after anther, but nothing can save them. It’s a simple matter of garbage in, garbage out. Guinn’s data are the problem—they are simply inadequate to the task, as has now been demonstrated twice over, by well respected, even-handed scientists. The problem now for B, of course, is that when one supporting pillar has been so thoroughly—and immediately— demolished, one can only wonder what other pillars are already infested with termites. Another not-so-minor point is this: After all is said and done, everyone now knows, totally contrary to B’s repeated expostulations, that he is sometimes wrong—even if he won’t admit it! 6  I have paraphrased Holland’s review from The Wall Street Journal  , 19–20 May 2007, P8. See my own negative comments about the very bright, but misguided, Max Holland in Murder in Dealey Plaza   (2000), pp. 399–400. (I will hereafter abbreviate this book as “MIDP”  .) 7  Just Google: “Is Vincent Bugliosi Right that Neutron Activation Analysis Proves Oswald’s Guilt?” or see the web site: 8  My own background in physics (I had taught a course on nuclear physics to seniors at the University of Michigan) quickly led me to suspect this data when I first reviewed it at the UCSD library, very early in my JFK research and before I had drawn any final conclusions about conspiracy. My response to this data was simple and prompt: if this was the best that modern science could do for the lone gunman case, I suspected that the rest of the case could hardly be stronger.  David W. Mantik 4 Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History   ASSASSINATION RESEARCH / Vol. 5 No. 1 © Copyright 2007 David W. Mantik  The problem, as we shall amply soon see, is that he wears permanent blinders, particularly when it comes to experts, and especially so for those from science. How Can the Truth Be Known? In 1959, C. P. Snow, a physicist and a literary man, gave his brilliant Rede Lec-ture, which was then published as The Two Cultures   (a Second Look   was added in 1963). His message was straightforward: a huge, unbridgeable chasm had grown between the scientists and the literati, so much so that neither under-stood the most basic knowledge of the other. The scientists did not know their Shakespeare and the literati could not even define mass or acceleration, let alone the second law of thermodynamics. Occupying both of these worlds at once, days in physics and evenings in literature (with famous individuals), Snow was acutely aware of this chasm. Lawyers would not usually be classified with the literati, 9  but Snow did raise the possibility of a third culture (or even more). The point remains—the gap between different specialties in the modern world is still wide, perhaps wider than ever, as Alan Sokal has proven. 10   As I see it, the fundamental difference between scientists and lawyers lies in epistemology   —i.e., how does one define, or even find, truth? 11  For lawyers, 9  p. xlv. B states, “I don’t read fiction but I’ve been told … [more second-hand informa-tion].” By definition, then, he does not read Shakespeare, poetry or great novels, not even James Joyce. Some wags, to help him safely avoid fiction, would advise him also to steer clear of the Bible [see The Bible Unearthed   (2000) by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman] or even the WC volumes (B’s book, p. 860; see comments by Dr. Cyril Wecht). 10  Alan Sokal, a physicist, raised these old specters with his “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” The srcinal article, a parody, was published in Social Text    46/47 , pp. 217–252 (Spring/Summer 1996). The paper was a thoroughgoing, tongue-in-cheek hoax of the Post-Modernists, hilarious in many places, though the humor was quite lost on the humanities crowd, which was why it got published. In a follow-up paper, declined (!) by Social Text  , he stated, “One of my goals is to make a small contribution toward a dialogue on the Left between humanists and natural scientists—“two cultures” which, contrary to some optimistic pronouncements (mostly by the former group), are probably farther apart in mentality than at any time in the past 50 years.” Also see Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science   by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. For me (DWM), this issue was strongly reintroduced to my consciousness this past year when my 21 year old son at college began forced consumption of the Post-Modernists, French linguistic philosophers, and James Joyce. I was thrilled to introduce him to Sokal’s work. He, in turn, enlightened me about Joyce. I then spent many long hours listening to Joyce on tape. This may be a family thing for us, but my 19 year old daughter has  just left Dublin after touring the sites from Bloomsday ( Ulysses  ). She assured me that she was keenly aware of the allusion to Bloom in the Broadway musical, The Producers  . 11  Jim Fetzer (e-mail to me) has suggested the following. “Epistemology, as the theory of knowledge, does encompass differences among different kinds of proof, which I discuss in ‘Assassination Science and the Language of Proof’, in Assassination Science  . There are important differences between the law (resolving conflicts in a limited interval of time based upon such evidence as is available, relevant, and legally admissible) versus science (discovering truths over an open interval of time where new evidence and new
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