Funeral Disservice

No matter what your opinion of Nelson Mandela, you can’t argue that he was super-duper famous. His funeral was the biggest-ticket event of year. Nearly 100 heads of state jostled with truly important people such as Bono and Oprah Winfrey for face time at the former South African president’s memorial service and celebrity gala. If a man’s measure can be taken by his funeral, then Mandela leaves the world with a gaping hole in its A-list photo ops that not even Jay-Z can fill.

President Barack Obama attended. It’s difficult to tell if he knew much about Mandela beyond some study packet provided by his minions; he spent much of his time snapping jocular “selfies” and generally having a grand old time. He did deliver a speech that touched on his usual themes of blaming wealthy people (other than he and his cronies, of course) for the plight of the poor and disenfranchised (other than the people of Detroit and Washington, D.C.). During his turn on the main stage, Obama also exhorted the assembled thusly: “Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.” The irony of a President expressing such magnanimous concerns while illegally snooping on and/or using the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency to harass Americans who don’t share his politics was predictably lost on the cheering crowd and the fawning media.

Obama also made time to shake hands with murderous Cuban tyrant Raul Castro, another unfortunate moment which Obama’s cheering section — an increasingly hard bunch to find within American borders — thought worthy of praise instead of deserving of scorn. At least Senator Ted Cruz was there to represent the Americans who actually oppose tyranny; he pointedly walked out on Castro’s own oration.

Not all the proceedings were marked by the usual preening. The E! Network didn’t have some washed-up comedienne stationed out front of the venue, asking the attendees about their wardrobe choices. In at least two instances, the festivities took a decidedly less festive tone. Boos and catcalls met the introduction of current South African President Jacob Zuma, who appears to be almost as unpopular in South Africa as Obama has become in the United States. Another round of boos reportedly rained down on former U.S. President George W. Bush when his face popped up on the Jumbotron. Apparently, the boobirds are unaware that Bush’s Global Health Initiative has probably done more to combat illness and suffering in Africa than any other entity on the planet — all without so much as a decent write-up in People magazine.

The global celebrity set wasn’t alone in bathing in the adulation. The cheering section came alive for Palestinian martinet Mahmoud Abbas and Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie. Abbas is an Islamofascist who has built his career on the corpses of Israelis and Palestinians alike. Winnie Mandela is a convicted criminal. She’s a monstrous coattails passenger whose entourage of thugs and killers (known to the unfortunate residents of Soweto as the “Mandela United Football Club”) was notable for its use of “necklacing,” a particularly brutal method of execution involving tires, gasoline and a total lack of even basic humanity on the part of the perpetrator.

Nelson Mandela’s own legacy is, and will remain, a topic of significant debate. For the purposes of this column, however, his legacy is entirely immaterial — mostly because he’s dead. Let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and presume that Mandela was an outright saint. I hardly think a hero who believed in freedom and justice for everyone — regardless of race — would be all that pleased to see his admirers cheering those who have done the least for his people, while jeering those who have done the most.

–Ben Crystal

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

Most of us first met President Barack Obama’s uncle, Onyango Obama, back in 2011. At the time, Onyango found himself in a scrape with the authorities in Framingham, Mass., following a drunken jaunt behind the wheel of his SUV. By the time Framingham’s finest managed to drag Uncle Onyango to the station, his blood alcohol level had subsided to a mere .14 — just a bit under double the legal limit. And then, the real fun began. As it turned out, not only was Uncle Onyango behind the wheel illegally, he was in the United States illegally. Much like the President’s Aunt Zeituni Onyango, who eventually “earned” asylum, Onyango Obama was an illegal alien.

These days, Onyango is still here, somehow securing his own stay of deportation despite his criminal record and the fact that he dodged immigration authorities for nearly two decades before the boys in blue popped him on the DUI charge. According to what little press coverage there has been on the wayward first uncle, Uncle Onyango told arresting officers that 2011 night, “I think I will call the White House.” It’s possible that was the booze talking; because the White House not only didn’t acknowledge taking Uncle Onyango’s call, but chief Barack Obama mouthpiece Jay Carney told reporters that his boss expected no special treatment for his drunken relative. In fact, the President did everything short of an extraordinary rendition to distance himself from his Uncle Onyango.

What confuses me is not that President Obama has an uncle who occasionally makes him wince. Onyango Obama is hardly the first first relative to flit across the headlines over the years. There is no “Uncle O’s Kenyan Lager” to compete with “Billy Beer.” The first daughters have never tried to buy hooch at the Gas’n’Go while their Secret Service detail lingered uncomfortably on the sidewalk. And I’m fairly certain Uncle Onyango hasn’t tried to lobby his nephew for any Presidential pardons for drug convictions.

What confuses me is why Barack Obama lied when asked about his Uncle Onyango’s adventures in driving. In November 2011, just a couple months after Onyango Obama’s arrest, the White House claimed the President had never met the uncle to whom he referred in one of his oddly premature memoirs as “Uncle Omar.” And then, last week, Uncle Onyango embarrassed his nephew again. According to Onyango Obama, the President lived with his uncle while a student at Harvard Law School. And the reason for the latest ever-changing story from the White House strains credulity to the breaking point. The Boston Globe reported:

On Thursday, a White House official said the press office had not fully researched the relationship between the president and his uncle before telling the Globe that they had no record of the two meeting. This time, the press office asked the president directly, which they had not done in 2011.

The Obama White House denied any meeting between the two men, without bothering to ask Obama. If you believe that, I have $30 million dollars waiting in Nairobi. Let me transfer it through your bank account, and I’ll give you 10 percent. Honest!

The truth is: Uncle Onyango hardly qualifies as all that big a deal. Nearly every family has a resident Uncle Onyango. Most of us simply keep him away from the liquor cabinet. If he’s particularly unappealing, we send him a lovely card at Christmastime and cross our fingers that he doesn’t roll into the driveway unannounced like Uncle Eddie from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Most of us handle troublesome relatives that way, but not President Obama. Confronted with a vexing relative, Barack Obama automatically defaulted to dishonesty. Barack Obama lied. Barack Obama always lies. He lied about Obamacare. He lied about Benghazi. He lied about Operation Fast and Furious. He lied about raising taxes on the middle class. And he even lied about poor Uncle Onyango. If Barack Obama were just another liquor store clerk, his lying would be creepy and sad. But Barack Obama is the President of the United States. When Barack Obama lies, people die.

Drive-Thru Economics

It’s almost as if the left simply refuses to comprehend it, despite its simplicity. Americans will not pay more for the borderline-toxic trimmings and unidentifiable animal parts that we call “fast food.”

Liberals can kick up all the dust they want over the fast food industry’s average hourly wage of 8 bucks or so. They can demand every burger-flipper, fry-cooker and order-screwer-upper in the solar system be paid $45 per hour with full medical and dental benefits, two weeks paid vacation and stock options. They can even picket outside the Taco Bell from now until the Tex-Mex-ish chain offers a free-range chicken burrito with organically grown heirloom tomatoes and handmade guacamole. But they’re never going to convince anyone that a “McRib” should cost $14. Therefore, they will never convince anyone that assembling a McRib from whatever its actual contents might be is anything other than an entry-level job.

Yet our liberal friends from such notable organizations as the Service Employees International Union have retaken their places on picket lines in front of thousands of fast food emporia across the fruited plain. Their demands haven’t changed, nor has their chosen method of shrieking at the top of their lungs. They want the government to mandate the fast food industry pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour. Should they win this battle — and their access to virtually unlimited resources from spigots like George Soros and even the Barack Obama Administration (your tax dollars at work) suggests they’ll certainly continue the fight — their victory will result in either fewer fast food workers or no fast food workers.

Raising entry-level salaries in the fast food industry will do more than just jack up the cost of the No. 2 Super Combo with a Coke. It will force a reciprocal wave of cost increases throughout the industry. If the lettuce guy gets $15 per hour, then the assistant day manager will immediately demand an increase in her salary. After all, she worked for her promotion. Of course, once she gets a raise, the day manager will be in the boss’s office and so on, up through the chain until the company is left choosing between raising prices, lowering labor costs or simply shuttering operations. Since profit margins for the average McDonald’s franchise hover somewhere between 6 percent and 8 percent, something’s gotta give; and I doubt it will be the percentage of actual chicken in Chicken McNuggets. It’s worth noting that more than 50 percent of the labor force of McDonald’s is drawn from minority groups, meaning big labor’s assault on Big Mac will send a disproportionate number of minorities to the curb.

Liberals operate under the mistaken presumption that if a business makes a profit, then its workers must suffer. In fact, the only causal relationship that exists between a fast food company’s profits and its workers’ wages is a positive one. Without fiscal successes, McDonald’s doesn’t expand to become the largest company in the industry and one of the most ubiquitous icons on the planet. Without that expansion, there are 14,000 or so empty commercial spaces providing taxable income to the Federal, State and local — not to mention global — economies. Without that expansion, there are 14,000 or so fewer entities providing jobs. Including the corporate staffers of McDonald’s, that’s just shy of a half-million more Americans cast onto the government dole — a dole that would supported by a half-million fewer Americans. And the 1.3 million McDonald’s employees outside the United States would be thrilled to learn the American big labor movement turned their jobs into collateral damage.

But there is good news for the fast food industry’s millions upon millions of customers. Should big labor manage to force a 100 percent increase in the minimum wage, thousands of fast food employees will be replaced by hundreds of automated order-takers and -makers, dramatically increasing the odds that you’ll actually get what you ordered.

–Ben Crystal

Black Friday

I know I should already expect them, but they still surprise me every year. Whether it’s a crowd trampling some poor security guard to death at the 5 a.m. Doorbuster Black Friday sale at the mall or someone stabbing someone else over the chance to buy an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, I’m still routinely unprepared for the holiday season headlines of mayhem and manslaughter amid the mirth and merriment.

In Philadelphia, a small group of women got into a closed-fist, prison-yard rumble — complete with the deployment of a stun gun — that may have involved at least one of their children. A mall in Sacramento, Calif., hosted a barn burner of a beat down, which began over a pair of panties at a Victoria’s Secret. And Wal-Mart stores nationwide saw their yellow smiley faces splattered with blood as Black Friday shoppers turned the electronics departments into Mixed Martial Arts cage fights.

I forget these seasonal reminders of just how ridiculous our consumer culture can make some of our less inhibited compatriots. They do such a marvelous job of proving themselves throughout the rest of the year by blaming their problems on productive Americans, shrieking into their “Obamaphones” and voting for Democrats. Nonetheless, in modern-day parlance: Really?!?

The only way I might get violent at a mall would be if they wouldn’t let me leave. And I’m smart enough to stay the hell out of stores like Victoria’s Secret; they have a website, for cripes sake. I shop at Wal-Mart on at least a semi-regular basis, and I have yet to encounter any of their wares that are worth another shopper’s blood — much less his life.

But don’t read this as an indictment of the American love of stuff — especially stuff we can’t afford. At least these melees break out over people’s sense-occluding desire to buy stuff, as opposed to just stealing or looting it (New Orleans not included). Through most of the year, we tend to buy, sell and/or lease with a minimum of bloodshed. While our pursuits might well make many of us debt-ridden fools who are trying to drown their sorrows in professional-grade espresso makers and theater-style popcorn machines, they also partially fuel an economy that has withstood the broadsides of President Barack Obama’s bumbling for nearly six years. Of course, it would be lovely if Americans were motivated by more altruistic factors. However, consider that comparing the poorest Americans to the poorest people in places where “stuff” means “foliage near the hut” is like comparing Stephen Spielberg to a film student with a broken 8mm Bell and Howell — meaning our consumer-driven culture provides even its non-producers with the chance to be consumers.

And even amid our most murderous mall-marauding moments, we can’t sniff the title for “Most Likely to Kill Each Other Over Something Truly Ridiculous.” We can’t compete with the Mideast, where they’ve been fighting the same battle since at least the 7th century. We can’t compete with Asia, where politics trumps life to the tune of Tiananmen Square (although we are catching up with the Chinese in the state-sponsored infanticide standings). We can’t compete with Central and South America, where murder is often considered a hobby, if not a legitimate vocation. We can’t compete with Europe, where homicide is an acceptable response to an adverse result in a soccer game. In fact, we can’t even compete with Detroit, where life is worth slightly less than the price of the newest Nikes.

The annual American Black Friday free-for-all is weird, sad and — most importantly — tragic. But it could be worse; at least we get some lovely parting gifts. Now, who wants an espresso?

–Ben Crystal

Thanks For Thanksgiving

When I was just a lad, my parents would open our home each Thanksgiving to a wide variety of friends and family members. The house would fill to the rafters with the joyous noise of literally dozens of people, ranging in age from infant to — in at least a few instances — close to centenarian. Babies cried, children played, teenagers hid in the basement and adults swapped stories and told jokes to which children already knew the punch lines. After the meal was gone and before the tryptophan took its inevitable toll, the men would retire to a corner room to smoke cigars, drink amber liquor and tell jokes to which the children better not have known the punch lines.

Although our Thanksgiving Day celebrations might have been routine, they were never rote. The sameness called to mind a favorite sweatshirt more than a threadbare hand-me-down. The timeline got to the point that it was beyond predictable, but I cherished every moment as if it were brand-new. Looking back on all those holidays, I wish I had spent less time trying to sneak beer with my teenage pals, and more time just being around the goings-on upstairs.

Therefore, allow me to share with you a few suggestions:

Take pictures of anything that seems remotely worth remembering. When my older brother was still in diapers, my great-grandmother attended the annual Turkey Day soiree at our house. By all accounts, my great-grandmother was a seriously formidable woman. Imagine my mother’s horror when my older brother took the familial matriarch’s purse and dumped its contents out on the floor. Now imagine my mother’s sigh of relief when this prim and proper empress of the fold leaned down and said “that’s wonderful, dear. Now do it again!” No image exists of that moment outside my parents’ memories. I’d pay a king’s ransom to see one. I bet they would, as well.

Turn away no family. Thanksgiving is well known for its status as the most-traveled day of the year. Children, many toting grandchildren, make annual pilgrimages across the fruited plain to spend the holiday with family. Mothers and fathers well into their twilight years turn back into their former parental selves at the sound of their progeny’s feet in the halls of the family home. If they’re anything like my parents, the presence of grandchildren delivers more joy than Publisher’s Clearing House could imagine.

Watch the parade. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an overwrought, over-produced homage to consumer waste. It’s kitschy and corny, and it occasionally features Kathie Lee Gifford. But it also includes the Rockettes and concludes with Santa Claus, and that’s purely awesome.

Bring no politics to the table. That means not only should the college kid with the nose ring leave to the dormitories the tales of smallpox-infused blankets, trails of tears and genocide, but the fathers should resist the urge to point out to the ungrateful little twerps that their sociology professor is an overpaid, under-bathed ninny who “teaches” because he couldn’t keep a private sector job for more than 20 minutes. Pops should also take the night off from wanting to rip the jewelry out of Junior’s nostril and holding him down and shaving that rat’s nest off the ungrateful little jerk’s head. For those of you so twisted by liberalism that you refuse to acknowledge the holiday, or call it something like “Rape of Native Cultures Day,” it is perfectly permissible to give the talking points a rest — at least until after the younger kids get the table cleared. If you struggle to endure the national holiday commemorating the white man’s desecration of a previously verdant paradise and its innocent inhabitants, consider how much everyone else will enjoy it when you spike a drumstick in Grandma’s gravy boat while calling the assembled “Euro-fascist murderers” (or whatever).

I wish you all a sincerely happy Thanksgiving Day. May your holiday be filled with family, fun and enough caloric excess to keep you in a permanent food coma through the New Year.

–Ben Crystal

Killing Liberty

Last Thursday, the Senate Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), committed what might have been the most important assassination in 50 years. In a shocking move, Reid murdered the lone protection against a misguided Congressional majority: the Senate filibuster. While some have suggested Reid’s move was an attempt to distract the Democrats’ low-information base and sycophant media from the flaming wreckage of Obamacare, others noted that killing the filibuster was merely a continuation of Reid, President Barack Obama and their accomplices’ efforts to crush dissent by any means: legal, ethical or — perhaps especially — otherwise.

Reid’s attack doesn’t bring him into conflict merely with over two centuries’ of Senatorial standards. By killing the filibuster, Reid has also brought himself into direct conflict with… Senator Harry Reid. In May 2005, then-Senate Minority Leader Reid rose in defense of the filibuster:

[The filibuster] encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority, so that cooler heads may prevail. It also separates us from the House of Representatives — where the majority rules. And it is very much in keeping with the spirit of the government established by the Framers of our Constitution: Limited Government… Separation of Powers… Checks and Balances. … [T]he filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check.

In a further demonstration of Reid and the Democrats’ almost pathological tendency to venerate partisanship over principle, Reid’s murder of the filibuster also puts him at odds with another fairly prominent former Senator. In 2005, a rising star in the Senate ranks sounded the alarm against ending the Senate filibuster. Then-Senator Barack Obama of Illinois whined:

[E]veryone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster — if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate — then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.

Ironically, although the then-majority Republicans did consider the “nuclear option,” they stayed their hands out of respect for the filibuster’s necessity, history’s lessons of unfettered majority and a willingness to maintain a semblance of comity about which their Democrat colleagues have no concern.

With their own statements obviating any Democrat claim that the hit on the filibuster was motivated by anything other than a naked lust for power, they’ve resorted to their sad, old dodge of blaming the opposition. The President formalized his membership in Reid’s hypocrisy herd by lauding Reid’s political hatchet-job:

[O]ver the past five years, we’ve seen an unprecedented pattern of obstruction in Congress that’s prevented too much of the American people’s business from getting done. … A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to refight the result of an election is not normal, and for the sake of future generations, we can’t let it become normal.

It never occurs to Obama and the Democrats that his abysmal track record — including, but certainly not limited to, Obamacare, Attorney General Eric “Fast and Furious” and Benghazi, Libya — might have something to do with conservative resistance. They also seem to have missed out on Mom’s advice about large groups of stupid people and the Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s also worth noting that if a simple majority is the Democrats’ idea of an acceptable method of governance, then Obama himself should be booking his flight home. (And he should take Obamacare with him when he goes.) Obama has tumbled so far down the polling scale that 50 percent might as well be on the moon, and Obamacare has never achieved a majority approval.

Then-future President James Madison stated in Federalist No. 10: “[T]he public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”

When they didn’t own the majority in the Senate, both Reid and Obama shouted their agreement with that sentiment. Now, their shameless hypocrisy and raw desire for authority have gunned down a key aspect of that which separates the great American republic from the chaos of pure majority rule. In slaying the filibuster, Reid and the Democrats have not assassinated liberty. But combine this latest crime with the rest of Obama’s war on freedom, and liberty is certainly in need of a rescue — and soon.

–Ben Crystal

The Kennedy Question

I was nearly a decade from joining the ranks of God’s creation when President John F. Kennedy took his untimely leave. As a result, I have no real perspective on that horribly remarkable day in the history of not only the Nation, but the world. While many of my generation will point to the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger as “our JFK assassination” and although anyone with a soul has the images of 9/11 burned into his memory, I have a sense that Kennedy’s assassination has a unique place in the uglier chapters of the American story.

When I ask my parents to talk about that day, their voices have neither the pure sorrow of people discussing the Challenger disaster, nor the outrage that we all feel when recalling 9/11. Instead, they take on oddly hushed tones similar to veterans reliving combat. I have long thought that my younger-generation compatriots and I simply cannot relate to the experience of that dark November day. By the time we came of age, the world of television, followed by the Internet age, had inured us to much of the shock factor of catastrophes. Those who remember the Kennedy assassination firsthand were the first to confront such horrors without any sort of filter. In fact, Jack Ruby’s execution of Lee Harvey Oswald was the first-ever killing televised live.

It’s the uniqueness of the Kennedy assassination that, therefore, commands so much attention. Add the fact that apparently no one on the planet has an identical theory about the specific events of that day, and welcome one of the few unsettled long-term debates that hasn’t become a crushing bore.

Lest you think I’m about to launch into another entry on the endless list of long-winded Kennedy assassination theories about which their proclaimers are absolutely convinced, fret not: I don’t know who killed Kennedy. And I’m beginning to suspect we may never really know. However, I do have some doubts about a few of the more prominent possibilities.

Sam Giancana and/or the Mafia did it.

It’s not that I don’t think Giancana and the mob hated Kennedy the way I hate cancer. By their own standards, they doubtless though they had good reason. Giancana and his La Cosa Nostra buddies reputedly provided invaluable assistance to Kennedy in the 1960 Presidential election; their “voter recruitment” efforts in places like Chicago and West Virginia may well have been the difference between a Kennedy victory and a Nixon victory. In return, Kennedy sicced his brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, on them like a dog on a wounded quail doused in bacon grease. And I suspect Giancana was less than thrilled about Kennedy’s rumored dalliances with Giancana’s own reputed mistresses, Marilyn Monroe, Judith Campbell Exner and Phyllis McGuire. While it is possible the mob of the 1960s could have pulled off killing the President, the likelihood that they could have kept that quiet for five decades is slim. These are guys who roll on each other to shave a couple of years off the dime upstate for RICO; I doubt they could sit on the crime of the century for half that century. And though Giancana might personally have had the contacts to hire a Presidential hit, the low number of people willing to try, able to succeed and capable of keeping the secret is probably fairly low. That translates to big money, and Giancana couldn’t have moved that kind of cash without raising eyebrows on both sides of the law. And I have never accepted the idea that mob killed Kennedy out of retribution for the loss of their assets in Cuba. For one, Cuba was coming apart at the seams before Kennedy was in a position to do something worthwhile about it. For another, Kennedy’s obsession with trying to kill Fidel Castro ran a close second to his obsession with the fairer sex.

The Kennedy fixation on Castro brings us to the next theory I think misses the mark:

Fidel Castro did it.

Putting aside the fact that Castro was a Marxist monster, even someone who isn’t a blight on the history books would grow tired of constant attempts on his life. The fact that none of them succeeded would hardly mitigate the endless fear, much less the added headaches, of a top ranking on the CIA’s most-wanted list. And the abortive Bay of Pigs assault doubtless soured Castro’s mojito. Nonetheless, if the Cubans of the 1960s were in any way involved in the assassination of Kennedy, they participated only as subcontractors. At that time, Cuba was little more than a tropical colony of the Soviet Union, a cheap communist knock-off of Miami. If Castro and his Cuban comrades played any part, it was only at the behest of their masters:

The Russians did it.

Given Kennedy’s rather contentious relationship with then-Soviet dictator Nikita Krushchev, the Soviet’s increasingly erratic saber rattling and the backdrop of some of the hottest days of the Cold War, leaving the Russians off the list of suspects would be foolish. In addition, Kennedy’s failures in places like the Bay of Pigs disappeared behind his resounding victories in Berlin and — most glaringly — the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy captured the world’s attention with his unblinking resolve in the face of a communist empire that grew like shower mold through the darker corners of the planet. The fact that the young, telegenic Kennedy made Krushchev look like Elmer Fudd doubtless added an extra bitter mote to Krushchev’s borscht. But while Krushchev might have been outwardly bombastic, the fact that he quailed before Kennedy at each turn — combined with what appeared to be a somewhat reformist heart (at least compared to his predecessor, the almost incomparably monstrous Josef Stalin) — leads me to believe that he lacked the killer instinct necessary to carry out such a world-shaking crime.

Lee Harvey Oswald did it.

There is no doubt in my mind that Oswald fired at — and likely hit — Kennedy from his perch in the Texas School Book Depository. There is, furthermore, no doubt in my mind that Oswald was an absolutely willing participant in the assassination. But the idea that Oswald acted alone seems almost ludicrous to me. While Oswald was certainly a good shot (he demonstrated marksmanship skills during his tenure in the Marine Corps), he was not the steely-eyed sharpshooter of legend. According to at least one of his fellow Marines, a man named Nelson Delgado, Oswald was far from perfect on the rifle range. And the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository under what must have been almost intolerable stress is as far a cry from the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro as a mail-order surplus Mannlicher-Carcano 91/38 is from an M14 being maintained by a Marine. Those who hold to the “lone gunman theory” give Oswald a great deal more credit than I expect he deserves.

Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover did it.

Hoover hated Kennedy, clearly had some bats in his own belfry and surrounded himself with fiercely loyal — and dangerous — acolytes. Hoover also knew who Oswald was, thanks to Oswald’s Cuban and Soviet travails. And Hoover collected secrets the way fat people collect calories. Hoover could easily have ordered, cajoled and/or blackmailed all the players he needed for Dealey Plaza. However, Hoover was also unapologetically patriotic. I possess lingering doubts that Hoover would have conducted such a direct assault on his homeland.

Thus, the question that has burned in our imaginations for a half-century: Who did it? If I’m right (and I’ll gladly admit that there’s no reason to think I’m any more so than anyone else), then Oswald was a participant in a larger conspiracy. Presuming such a conspiracy did exist, then its masters must have been capable of not only planning it and carrying it out successfully, but controlling players like Oswald and others without any of them revealing their involvement. In 2013, such a secret would be impossible to keep under the blanket. Even in 1963, the secret would have required a very small group of people who were almost supernaturally loyal. If Oswald was a player, then Ruby’s actions make sense if viewed as an effort to tie off a loose end. Ruby’s own terminal disease further fits that theory. But who stood behind him?

I’m left with only a few possible perpetrators. Those with means, motive and opportunity are: the CIA, rogue elements inside the KGB, Vice President Lyndon Johnson or some combination thereof. While a case could be made for any or all of them, it occurs to me that it doesn’t matter. Kennedy has been gone for 50 years. Those passing years have only muddied the waters surrounding that terrible day. If anyone who knows the truth behind Kennedy’s assassination is even still alive, I doubt he would suddenly resolve to unburden himself after all this time. Even if someone did, I’m not sure he’d be believed.

Kennedy was a deeply flawed man, and a far from imperfect President. But he died far too soon, and in far too cruel a manner. Perhaps his greatest legacy is America’s survival of his final day, and the days which followed. I seriously doubt we’ll even know this whole story. I also doubt that it actually matters anymore.

–Ben Crystal