FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME. President Kennedy is murdered. The suspected assassin, a former Marine who defects and undefects to the Soviet Union, is himself murdered two days later by a Dallas nightclub owner who migrated from Chicago. Had it been a movie, it would have a convoluted plot involving the Mob and Dr. Strangelove and Jack Bauer's father. Oh, sorry, that's two movies.

I just finished watching The Kennedy Assassination: Beyond Conspiracy, which is as compelling a demolition of the assorted conspiracy theories as I have had occasion to watch. History Channel will be running it again. It's worth watching, particularly for my readers who aren't able to remember what they were doing on November 22, 1963. It uses the latest in computer-assisted modeling to view the events in the Zapruder film from every possible angle, including from the sniper's nest and from a trailing motorcycle escort. That modeling demonstrates, quite conclusively, that the second shot, which wounded the President and Governor Connally, was not a magical shot, and that the fatal third shot came from behind. (Some years ago, Nova (or was it Frontline?) ran simulations that drew the same conclusion although the modeling wasn't quite as compelling.)

More persuasively, the show interviews Lee Oswald's older brother Robert, who, quite simply, states that if he had the least bit of information that others were involved in a plot he would be public with it, and Jack Ruby's brother, who explains that Jack was prone to exaggerating any involvement he had with anything that would add to his fame. One of the dancers from the Carousel Club recalls that Jack Ruby was quite angry and sounding off on the evening of November 22 about wanting to kill the assassin. Both Lee Oswald and Jack Ruby were loners (today one might call Oswald a "throwaway kid") seeking notoriety.

So what happened? A Quaker couple, Michael and Ruth Paine (who appear in the show, looking exactly like Silent Generation Quakers) befriend Marina Oswald, and through a friend find Lee Oswald a job as warehouseman for the School Book Depository. A few days after he starts work, the press reports the motorcade route. Oswald, who envisioned himself an assassin, sees an opportunity.

On Sunday morning, November 24, Jack Ruby goes downtown to wire one of his dancers an advance on her pay. He then slips into police headquarters. Lee Oswald's transfer is running a bit late, and he arrives just in time to commit the first murder to be televised live.

A series of small decisions combine in such a way as to look like a conspiracy. But for a different favor from the friend, or a longer line at Western Union, or a faster transfer ...

The show concludes with a meditation from William Manchester that explains the fascination with assassination conspiracies. I can't locate it online quickly, it's the one that has the Shoah precipitated by the Third Reich (an atrocity worthy of its cause) on one hand while the assassination is the work of a nobody (the books don't balance.)

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