Facts, Fictions, and Everything Else In Between – Part 1

Now that I’ve decided to pursue my interest in learning more about the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, I’ll be reading many different books from different authors. I’ll be subjected to a barrage of “facts” and information.

Unfortunately, facts are not always as plain and simple as they appear to be. This has always been true, and it’s become even more so in this age of the internet.

As an amateur historian, I’ve learned to read with a critical eye. I’ve learned, too, to question what I read, to delve deeper when necessary, and to search for corroborating evidence to support the claims being made.  It’s paid off.

For the benefit of those who might be doing a bit of searching or researching on their own, I thought I’d take a moment to list some of the guiding principles I use in my attempts to discern facts from fictions — and to recognize a lot of things that fall between the extremes.

First, what is a fact? Dictionary definitions speak of facts as things which are “indisputably the case”.  My personal definition is that a fact is information that’s generally accepted by consensus. Additionally, I know that I could find evidence or documentation to support the claim.

Fact: John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917.

When I read a fact such as this, I can accept it with a near 100% degree of certainty that it’s correct. There’s always a slight chance that the book I’m reading might have a misprint, but if and when I turn to another source and find the same information, I can reasonably assume that this fact is correct.

There are a lot of “correct facts” to be found. In researching a person or an event, these obviously correct facts should be accepted. It’s not possible to verify every statement. At some point, we have to say “Yes, I believe this is true,” add it to our list of facts, and move on.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we find complete fictions or fabrications. These are usually so far-fetched, we have no trouble recognizing them for what they are. With the proliferation of tabloids, online news reports, spoof sites, and anybody-can-publish-anything journalism, the day of “If you read it in the paper, it must be true” is long gone. Claims that aliens abducted JFK or that he survived the shooting but remained a vegetable hidden away in a secret location probably aren’t really facts, despite the headlines telling us that it’s so. Any time a source offers a hard-to-swallow idea with no possible means of verification, we can probably discount it. We don’t really need to spend time disputing the claim.

But…crazy though it sounds, we should never close our minds completely to any possibility, no matter how ridiculous it seems to be. Even though what we’re hearing, reading, or seeing may be outlandish and wholly untrue as presented, there may be a tiny little bit of truth hidden away.  Just as I’m willing to accept “correct facts” with a “near 100% degree of certainty”, I can comfortably reject “obvious fictions” with the same “near 100% degree.”

Most of what we read when researching history, however, is neither an absolute, unequivocal fact, nor a complete fabrication. That’s where the challenge arises. How are we to judge the accuracy of all the rest of it? How can we decide what’s true and what’s not?

Between the facts and the fictions that are published, what we’ll most often find are “reported facts”. This is information that we could probably verify if we chose to do so.

Let’s talk about verification for a moment. In research, what standards apply?

Here are my guidelines:

  • Is the source reputable?
  • Have I read the same information from other sources?
  • Could I find legal documents, certificates, transcripts or other source materials if I looked?
  • Are there any “primary sources” available?

“Reported facts” look like this, quoted from The Man Who Killed Kennedy by Roger Stone:

Longtime aides and secret service agents are in agreement that even before his presidency, Johnson was known for doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, simply because he could. The Secret Service, the FBI, and the CIA did a commendable job of covering up Johnson’s true persona. And what an evil personality he had: vicious, mean spirited, vengeful, aggressive, arrogant, abusive, sex crazed . . . the descriptions of his vile actions go on and on.


Should I accept this assessment, these “facts”,  as true? Yes, I will. Here’s why. First, there’s the old adage to consider the source. That’s nowhere more true than in historical research of any kind. I’m willing to trust the author, Roger Stone, based on his biography and based, too, on what I’ve read of his work to this point. He’s previously mentioned many “facts” I’ve already accepted as correct. No source is likely to ever have my 100% acceptance, but as before, I can go with a “high degree” of certainty that what I’m reading is probably correct. It’s not 100%. Not even 95% — but I’ll talk more about that later.

Back to the claims of LBJ’s vile actions. Have I come across these claims in other sources? Yes, most definitely. I’ve studied presidential history for many years and have previously read numerous books and articles about Lyndon Johnson. What I’m reading now in Stone’s book is in complete accord with “reported facts” I’ve previously read in other sources.

Could I find additional proof of these claims? I think so. To be honest, this test of veracity often comes down to a “judgment call.”  In this instance, I strongly suspect that I could find any number of verifiable source documents — journal entries, personal letters, interviews — which would show these reported aspects of Lyndon Johnson’s personality.

As with “correct facts” — ones that can be easily verified and really aren’t questionable — I’m willing to accept “reported facts” as long as I feel they meet my standards for verification.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll accept everything, even from a source I trust. I will always question what I’m reading, and if something doesn’t sound right or feel right, I’ll dig a little deeper.

That’s what happened when I came to this “reported fact”, again from The Man Who Killed Kennedy:

In Johnny Rosselli’s final interview, Jack Anderson of the Washington Post heard a lot about the Kennedy assassination. The key bit of information in Anderson’s article was that the Mafia had ordered Jack Ruby’s slaying of Oswald. 1

OK, so you notice that little subscript numeral there, right? Yeah, it’s a footnote, a reference to a source.  Footnotes are good, but they’re even better if and when they’re followed to back to their source.

At the time I read these “reported facts”, I was trusting Roger Stone…hmmm, about 95%. But this information stopped me in my reading tracks. Was it true that mobster Johnny Roselli had told the Washington Post in an interview that the Mafia had ordered Ruby’s slaying?

When I checked the footnote and saw that this “interview” had been published in The Washington Post in September, 1976, my trust factor with Stone began to go down a bit. Johnny Roselli didn’t give anyone an interview in September, 1976. His hacked-up body had been found in an oil drum floating in Biscayne Bay several weeks before.

Needless to say, I immediately searched out the source material — the article that ran in The Washington Post that day. What I found was not an interview with Johnny Roselli, not even an interview made before his death. It was a piece by columnist Jack Anderson reporting on Roselli’s demise, and mentioning some of the information the mobster purported to have.

The article says things like this:

“Roselli hinted to associates…”

“By Roselli’s cryptic account…”

“Roselli could never be pinned down on names and details…”

“…difficult to assess whether he knew what he was talking about…”

“…no real evidence to support Roselli’s story.”

All in all, a far cry (in my opinion) from Roger Stone’s claim. My trust factor after this? About 90%. He’s still a credible source, but one who obviously bends “facts” when necessary in order to bolster his own conclusions.

For now, I’ll leave this little dissertation at this point. I do have much more to say about facts and fictions, about pseudo-facts, speculations, opinions, and statements that can be both true and misleading.

Watch for “Facts, Fictions, and Everything Else In Between — Part 2” coming soon.


For Further Reading

Recently, as I watched more footage from the JFK assassination, I posted here with the question, “Who Killed JFK?”

When I made the post, I wasn’t ready to delve back into assassination research. Why should I? It’s impossible to read all the books, learn all the theories, and check out all the facts about the heinous crime committed in Dealey Plaza that November day. Besides, no matter how much I read or learn, I’m never going to have all the answers.

Still, I soon  found myself caught up again in the stories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson. I found myself intrigued once more by claims of conspiracy, rumors surrounding J. Edgar Hoover, and questions about the death of former attorney general, Robert Kennedy.

Despite a busy schedule, family obligations, writing deadlines — and a need to occasionally stop and sleep — I couldn’t let go of the assassination story.

Although in the previous post, I jokingly pronounced that it was probably “Colonel Mustard in the library with a pipe wrench”, that’s not how I really feel. Surprise, surprise, right?

Even now, after all these years, I’m reluctant to state any unequivocal opinions about JFK’s death. Yes, I’m entitled to my own opinion, and no, nobody really cares what I think, so why not come out and say it?

Of course, I think my thoughts will probably become clear as I share some of the book titles I’m currently reading or re-reading.  Although I have very definite thoughts about who was responsible for killing John Kennedy, I don’t fully understand how it happened. I maybe have a good grasp on why, but I can’t put all the pieces together. There are still too many unanswered questions in my own mind for me to start spouting off and sharing opinions with others.

I’d be very interested in discussing this topic with others who are still searching for information and answers. I’d also like to get book recommendations on the assassination and related topics.

For starters, here’s what I’m reading now, bouncing back and forth from one book to another:

Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy

The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ

LBJ: The Mastermind of the Kennedy Assasssination

Act of Treason:The Role of  J. Edgar Hoover in the Assassination of President Kennedy


Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on...

Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963 


I’ll be writing more about the assassination in future posts, listing additional resources I’ve found, sharing interesting bits of information I’ve learned, and most likely, asking a lot of questions.

Thoughts, opinions, links to relevant websites…all will be appreciated.

Related articles:

Who Killed JFK?

A few days ago I wrote about “simple answers”, and maybe it would be good to have a simple answer to all the questions surrounding the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Of course, that’s never going to happen. 

I do find it rather interesting that the official White House website makes no claim at having a definitive answer, but adroitly sidesteps the entire issue in their short biography of the 35th president:

On November 22, 1963, when he was hardly past his first thousand days in office, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin’s bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President; he was the youngest to die.

In contrast, the official stories clearly state that Abraham Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth, that William McKinley died at the hands of “a deranged anarchist”, and that James Garfield was shot by “an embittered attorney.” Even though names aren’t always mentioned, history has recorded them. For the curious, McKinley’s assassin was Leon Czolgosz, and Garfield was mortally wounded by Charles Guiteau.

Yet all the White House says about JFK is that he was killed by “an assassin”. This, despite the 26-volume Warren Commission Report purporting to present all the facts, all the evidence, and all the answers about John Kennedy’s death.

Of course, nobody believes the Warren Report.

Over the last 50 years, a lot of men and women have made a name for themselves — along with a decent living — by continuing the investigation into the most well-researched crime of our time. It’s rather mind-boggling, when you think about it, really. Thousands of witnesses, thousands of photographs, thousands upon thousands of pages written about the shooting, yet nobody really knows what happened, how it happened, or why it happened.

Every year during November, television stations begin replaying old footage. The Zapruder film is shown over and over. It’s been analyzed, criticized, cleaned up, restored, and viewed by millions. Each year, we see those same news clips, too. Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald. A very young Dan Rather reporting events to the public. A weary Walter Cronkite slowly removing his eyeglasses and breaking the news that “The president is dead.”

Even though most of what we know or think we know about the assassination is questionable, there is one definite fact I can share here: Next to Abraham Lincoln, no president has had more books written about him than John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Many of those books, of course, focus on the events in Dallas, 1963.

A simple entry at Amazon.com for “Kennedy  Assassination” returns a staggering seven thousand results! Those aren’t all single titles, I’m sure. There are no doubt separate listings for various formats. The listing includes videos, too.  Even so, seven thousand reports about a single moment in time makes it clear that, quite obviously, a lot of people are still looking for answers.

I’ve read a few of those assassination books. I’m not going to list titles because, to tell the truth, many of the books and their authors have become blurred in my mind. Reading about the assassination is a challenge, I’ve found, because facts aren’t really facts.

It’s the same in any attempt to step back in time and research historical events — not a phenomenon that occurs only with the JFK assassination. In any quest for information about a past occurrence, you’ll find facts changing from one source to another. You’ll find speculation tossed into the mix. You’ll find opinions, too.

In doing historical research, I learned long ago not to believe everything I read but to keep an open mind and as the old adage goes, literally “consider the source”. Speaking of source material, any historian — even an amateur one like moi — will tell you nothing beats original source material. There’s a huge difference, for example, in reading a letter written by Thomas Jefferson and reading another historian’s thoughts about the letter.

While reading various books about JFK over the years, I’ve found instances where facts not only differed from one book to the next, but where they differed from one page to the next within a single book.

Who’s a girl to trust? Who’s a girl to believe?

That’s up to the girl — in this case, me.

No, I don’t know whom to trust. Usually, when doing historical research, I can read all the “alleged facts” — from many sources — and come to a conclusion that satisfies me. That is to say, I can review the material available and form an opinion of my own.

With the JFK assassination, I can’t do that. There’s too much information, too many different voices, too many competing theories — many of which do actually make sense.  Add in Kennedy’s political maneuverings and the question of who wanted him dead becomes moot. Who didn’t want him dead?

Some theories, of course, make more sense than others. I’m much more willing to give credence to the possibility of Lyndon Johnson being involved than to buy-in to the off-the-wall theory that Jackie Kennedy contracted to have her husband killed that day in Dallas. Yep. That’s one of the theories going around.

What about Oswald? A lone gunman? A trained CIA operative? A Manchurian candidate?

Claw Shaw? James Files? Oh, wait! Let’s see…somewhere in the clutter that has become MLWR (my little writing room) I have a recent edition of one of those tabloids with a screaming headline of another man claiming to have been the one who fired the fatal shot. Could it be true?

Were there two shots? Three? Four? Who’s on first? Who were the Babushka Lady and the Umbrella Man? What happened to the Three Tramps? Was Howard Hunt among them?

Personally, my conclusion, after studying as much evidence as my feeble brain can hold, is that it was Colonel Mustard in the library with a pipe wrench.

* * *

What do other bloggers have to say?

Rushing On!

Whew! Can I slow down and catch my breath? For a minute or two, at least?



I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m feeling rushed…and dreadfully behind on everything.

It’s the holidays, of course. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, lots of family birthdays, and my usual busy schedule, I’ve got more things going on than I can possibly keep up with.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve worked on two 50,000 word “rough-draft” novels for National Novel-Writing Month (one I’ve finished, the other I’ll set aside until Camp NaNo comes along next summer), signed a contract with my publisher for three novels to be part of a series (one of which happens to be that NaNo rough draft I finished), and put together a sketchy outline for another novel-writing project.

We entertained family and friends with our annual “Scarecrow party” last month, and a few days ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving with an early morning “open house”.

Usually at this point in the season, I would have Christmas shopping literally “all wrapped up”. Nope, the gifts are not all wrapped. In fact, although I hate to admit it, the gifts are not even all bought. I’m so far behind now, I don’t know how I’ll ever catch up.

The house is a wreck, MLWR (my little writing room) is so cluttered I can barely make it through the mess to reach my desk, and even when I find time to get laundry done, when will I ever get it all put away?

How did life get so busy? I’m feeling disorganized…and that’s not good. I definitely need to spend a little time going to my “quiet place” inside my head…but when?

I don’t deal well with confusion. When life gets too busy, I buckle. I run to the bedroom, jump into the bed, and pull the covers up over my head. Wake me up when the holidays are over, all right?

Of course, that’s not a practical solution. Guess I’ll have to do the mature, adult thing — clean up the mess, finish the shopping, and schedule time to finish my writing projects.

I will. I promise. But let me stop and catch my breath first. Thanks. 🙂



The Answer is Simple

Got a question?

Well, maybe you don’t, but I sure do. I always have lots of questions and right now the one that’s uppermost on my mind is “How do I put up with a grouchy, fussy, stressed-out husband?”

Never mind the circumstances behind his grouchiness. It’s an on-going situation, and it’s going to keep right on going until he decides to deal with it.

OK, so I suppose he is dealing with it in his own way. Unfortunately that way involves a lot of four-letter words, a lot of shouting, and a lot of heavy stomping from one end of the house to the other, along with a lot of complaints about those people who are part of the problem and who are causing him so much frustration. What I seriously don’t understand is why our parrot has never picked up the obscenities and squawked them back.

Oh, well. Be thankful for little things, right?

Now, let’s return to my search for simple answers. Everyone is always searching for simple answers, right? Actually, my search is over. I’ve found all the answers. Yes, the simple ones.

I don’t recall where I first found out about these simple answers, but I ultimately found the answers themselves on Amazon. Yep. Amazon. All the simple answers you’ll ever need for $12.76 plus shipping and handling.

OK, so by now, you’ve figured out that I’m not really talking about intangible, thoughtful, logical, rational answers to questions. Why would you have thought I was? Never mind.

I’m talking, of course, about “oracle cards” — the quick and easy way to get a simple answer to any question.

The Answer is Simple Oracle Cards

Yesterday, as the turmoil first began for hubby, I suggested he come into MLWR (My Little Writing Room) to search for an answer. I handed him the cards. He drew one.

The answer was simple, indeed. “Just say NO.” Which is what he should have done. He needs to say NO — in a loud voice — to all the people who put expectations upon him, to all the friends and family who count on him to do things whenever they need help, to all those who expect him to always be there when they want something.

When I showed him the answer — the SIMPLE answer — he was appalled. He couldn’t possibly say NO to the people involved. It was out of the question.

Next, I read through the guidance given for the “Just Say NO” card, looking for helpful, encouraging advice. I found it. It spoke of saying NO to toxic situations, saying NO to situations that cause unnecessary stress. It spoke eloquently of choices. That’s what it’s really all about, you know.

Choices. We have them. We make them. We live with the results of them.

Of course, if you’re like my husband, you make the choices for all the wrong reasons, then bitch and complain about the results.

Yesterday, he made what he felt was the right choice. Say YES to the people asking for help, and NO to the feelings of guilt he’d endure if he didn’t step up to help. A good choice in some ways, maybe, but maybe he was missing the point a bit. Maybe “Just Say NO” really meant “Just Say NO.”

So today, he’s been ranting and raving, cursing and stomping from the moment he got out of bed. The situation has worsened, he’s feeling more pressured than ever, and needless to say, I’m in the path of the storm.

How should I deal with him? Should I talk to him? Remind him he should have said NO yesterday? Ignore him? Sit here and keep typing while he’s fussing and fuming?

Hey, I have an idea! Why don’t I draw an oracle card and find a simple answer for myself?

What is my simple answer?


Not exactly the answer I wanted, but I suspect that most of the time we fail to see the simple solutions to our problems precisely because they’re not what we want.

I should find an adviser, a counselor, someone trained in how to deal with grouchy, fussy, stressed-out husbands who can’t see that they’re the source of their own problems.

Sometimes, folks, yes, we do need to seek expert help, and sometimes, we really do need to say “NO”.   Maybe the wisdom lies in knowing when to do each.

As often as not, life really can be simple, if we’ll just get out of the way and stop complicating things.


Reach Out and Read

Just a short little post here and now to share a link.

Reach Out and Read is an organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud.


Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read 


To me, few gifts we give our children are as vital as the gift of reading. Please join with me in support of literacy.



Zen and the Art of … Everything

I’ve been “pinning” again. Yeah, I’ve started a new board at Pinterest, one that makes me feel good each time I look at it. It’s called “Simply Zen” and features pictures designed to bring about a quiet state of mind, along with gentle reminders of the need for stillness in our lives.

In looking back, I find the concept of “Simply Zen” to be a bit mind-boggling. Zen is simplicity, isn’t it? And yet it encompasses … everything. Zen is all about divinity, it’s about eternity, and it’s about universal truths so powerful that they move the world. At least, I think that’s what it’s about.

But then again, what do I really know? I know that I don’t know a lot more than I do know.  I know, too, that not knowing is the essence of Zen…isn’t it?

Here’s the problem. We can’t know the unknowable, nor can we define the indefinable. Trying to understand Zen is futile, really. It’s like the experience that comes so often during meditation. We sit quietly, legs crossed, eyes closed, our fingers touching. We still our minds and erase all thoughts. We become one with something greater than ourselves. What a precious, priceless moment! After all our strivings, all our frustrated efforts to find inner peace, suddenly, it’s there! Our mind shouts out “Yes! I’ve done it! I’ve found it!” And with that awesome discovery, our meditative state is gone. We’ve found what we sought only to destroy it in the very moment of finding it. It’s like an endless circle. You know … like that familiar yin and yang drawing. It’s light and dark and day and night. It’s everything.

In searching for a simple answer to the question “What is Zen?” I visited the Kwan Um School of Zen. This is an international organization of more than a hundred centers and groups founded by Zen Master Seung Sahn, the first Korean Zen Master to live and teach in the West. Surely I could find my answer there, I thought.

Yep. There it was.  Obviously I’m not the first truth-seeker to have asked that question.  Zen, the answer told me, is very simple. But there the simplicity both begins and ends, for that answer is followed by a question: What are you?

My mind thought again of the yin and yang, like darkness and light chasing one another in endless circles. As day leads to night, answers lead only to new questions, and round and round we go again.

In my search for knowledge — my foolish quest to put aside my not-knowingness and gain enlightenment — I also learned the identity of relative and absolute, and whatever you do, please don’t ask me what I’m talking about!

I don’t know.

But I found it in the words of Shih-tou. Please, don’t ask me about Shih-tou, who he was, what he did.

I don’t know.

He wrote:

Within light there is darkness,
but do not try to understand that darkness.
Within darkness there is light,
but do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair,
like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.
Each thing has its own intrinsic value
and is related to everything else in function and position.
Ordinary life fits the absolute as a box and its lid.
The absolute works together with the relative,
like two arrows meeting in mid-air.

Beautiful, isn’t it? But what does it mean? Please, don’t ask me to interpret or explain. Please don’t ask me what it’s all about.

I don’t know.

That, I think, is what Zen is all about. Finding something in nothing, and nothing in something. Finding everything everywhere yet also finding that nothing at all is there.

The Kwan Um teachings tell me it’s really very simple, not difficult at all.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.