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Friday, 16 August 2013

Law Enforcement - what's not there to trust?

Forty-nine year old Chris Jones was detained for eight hours as a suspected sex offender. He was on a train, as was the real culprit, twenty years younger and with differently coloured hair who sat in a different carriage. Chris Jones did wear a blue jacket, which of course is easy to confuse with the blue shirt the sex offender wore. According to the police Chris Jones was arrested because he ‘appeared similar to a description of the suspect’

It is easy to smile at this but sometimes law enforcement can take more sinister turns. 

Those who doubt that DrDavid Kelly committed suicide in an Oxfordshire wood are assailed by leading establishment figures with the argument that he couldn’t have been murdered because…we don’t know why he should have been murdered. No motive. No murder apparently. So the official line remains that the former weapons inspector and leading authority on biological warfare emptied a blister pack of medication, and then cut his wrists with a blunt pruning knife without leaving finger prints…or without leaving blood. Even his mobile had been wiped clean.

Conspiracy theories are compulsive and Kennedy’s death is right up there. Imagine my delight when I read about the death of Billie Sol Estes earlier this year. Billie who? And no, I’m not delighted he’s dead. The pleasure comes in reading about him.

Billie Sol Estes was a Texan conman and former business partner of LBJ. Good connections help, and sometimes, as Estes later claimed, it’s two way traffic.  In 1961 a key investigator into Billie Sol Estes’ nefarious doings – Henry Marshall - was found dead. He had been bludgeoned in the head, shot five times in the chest and had serious amounts of carbon monoxide in his bloodstream. It was classed as ‘suicide,’ the chief FBI investigator writing: ‘My theory was that he shot himself and then realised he wasn’t dead.’

Six other men involved in the case also met unexpected deaths: three in ‘accidents;’ two others, business partners, were discovered in cars filled with carbon monoxide. The final death also appeared to be suicide by carbon monoxide – but for the absence of carbon monoxide.

This man, Estes’ accountant, was found dead in his car with a rubber tube connecting the exhaust pipe to the vehicle’s interior. No monoxide was found in his body but there was a severe bruise on his head – so death was attributed to…heart attack.

Estes was eventually jailed, but in 1984 made a ‘voluntary record to clear the record.’ He told a grand jury investigation that Henry Marshall, the investigator who had put five bullets in his own chest and then bludgeoned himself had in fact been killed on the orders of Lyndon Johnson, then U.S. Vice President.  

Terrified that his own involvement in agricultural fraud would come to light Johnson had his aide, Malcolm Wallace kill the chief investigator along with everyone else in a position to incriminate him. Wallace had form, having already been convicted of shooting the man having an affair with Johnson’s sister.

But Billie Sol Estes played his Ace last. Wallace, acting on Johnson’s orders, organised not only Kennedy’s assassination but the clean up that immediately followed starting with Oswald’s murder and Ruby’s death soon after that. And what happened to Wallace?

He was involved in a car crash in 1971 after ‘falling asleep’ at the wheel.

I reckon forty nine year old Chris Jones got off lightly when he was detained on a train for looking nothing like a sex offender.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

I need magnetic legs

Recently went to the Tate Modern in Liverpool. Saw two parrots in a cage…which was interesting. It saved me a visit to the Zoo but Rembrandt it wasn’t. A little farther on was something even more interesting: a collection of model dogs on rollers scattered with artistic integrity on a large shallow plinth. On their backs were various metallic objects, mostly bottle caps and behind them was a map of Mexico City, an ink-marker showing where these various dogs had roamed – or rather the ‘artist’. The artist had taken each model dog out for a walk, their magnetic rollers and legs attracting any stray metal on the ground. These had been subtly transmuted into art and now dogs and bottle-tops held their place in the Tate.

I was pondering over this in my favourite pub, The Philharmonic, more commonly known as the Phil. Did the fact that I was thinking of it and now passing on my response validate these dogs as art? I sipped my pint, for a second convinced. But then again, had I been mugged I’d have had an even stronger response and would be passing on my response to the nearest policeman - and hope he wasn’t a fan of conceptual art. ‘But how was the experience?’ he might say.

 I took a sizeable swallow, and then another, contemplated the glass for a moment or two. Beer wouldn’t count – far too ephemeral even for the Tate…though perhaps if I nursed it through Liverpool 8…

 Just then an American tourist came in to view. He squatted and took a considered photo of the Phil’s mosaic floor. This is not unusual. The Phil is a masterpiece (too big for the Tate) of late Victorian excess, from its ornately carved panelling, intricate plasterwork, chandeliers, brass and stained glass to the fine mosaic floors the tourist was currently recording.

At last, satisfied with what he had, the tourist turned to the snug, just off from the main bar, where I was drinking my pint, and I realised I was going to be part of his picture. I averted my head slightly and stared into my drink with what I hoped was a mysterious expression. He’d have a fine picture of art nouveau panelling, and me with my best enigmatic gaze. If I knew who he was I’d suggest him contacting the Tate. The photo has everything: the ephemeral nature of beer against a background to die for, and a response both pro-active and retrospective from its subject, contemplating whether he had time for another one. The only thing lacking, I suppose, were the magnetic legs and a bottle-top on my head.

 (with thanks to Tony Smith)

Friday, 2 August 2013

Confused by a bottle of whisky

My friend and host had a bike with a mind of its own. It was like a mule with attitude and it didn’t like me. The feeling was mutual though towards the end I grew to respect what I now call the beast.
Together we cycled to distant castles:


                                                           And more distant woods.

                                                             Occasionally I fell off.
                                                              The Beast at rest

But one thing I remember more than the beast is a magical bottle of whisky.

You must bear in mind that alcohol is prohibitively expensive in Sweden. Supermarkets sell nothing above 3.5% and you have to go to a special shop with cash up to your armpits to buy anything stronger.
Imagine our surprise then when a couple sitting on a nearby table left a near-full bottle of whisky. We waited, toying with our waffles, wondering whether they were coming back. An hour later it was clear that they weren’t. 

Now it bothers me in 'soaps' when characters, for no reason at all, just up and go leaving an unfinished pint. This is just not done in real life. If my house was burning down I’d find time to gulp what was left before running to put out the flames. 

But a bottle of whisky.

In Sweden

The cost of a small mortgage just left for wasps with a thirst. It didn’t bear thinking about. 
But that is what we did.
Had it been poisoned?
Was this a police sting?
Did Sweden do Candid Camera?
Was it spiked - Rohypnol – perhaps - Valkyries waiting, ready to pounce?
Was it in fact not whisky but tea – or worse - piss?

That thought for some reason bothered me. The veranda was empty. It was time to find out. The product of a hundred million years of evolution pitted against a ten year old malt. There could be only one winner. I walked over and sniffed.
It was whisky. 

When I was younger I’d have taken it. No problem.
Now I just left it without knowing why, but puzzled and just a little uneasy.
Had I become Mr Sensible? A terrible thought.
And was the whisky still there, waiting to play mind-games with somebody else?