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Arlen Specter Zelig, America's Unsung Pulp Star

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Message Carola Von Hoffmannstahl
As Senator Arlen Specter returns to the Democratic fold he left back in 1966, his career is being covered by many a pundit. But one aspect isn't getting the high beam it deserves. For 45 years Specter has appeared at critical points in lurid national dramas, skipping from part to part like a pulp fiction Zelig. For example, when crusading D.A. Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone's lyrically paranoid and campy JFK denounces the "ambitious junior counselor" behind "one of the grossest lies ever forced on the American people" it's Arlen Specter to whom he refers.

Double Body Hit

In 1964 Arlen Specter, an assistant district attorney from Philadelphia (and a Kennedy Democrat) was legal counsel to the Warren Commission. As prime mover of the Single Bullet Theory (SBT) Specter was crucial to the commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he assassinated President Kennedy. Specter was recommended as counsel by future president and Warren Commission member Gerald R. Ford. Ford, a Republican congressman from Michigan, was tight with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. According to FBI records released years later, Ford volunteered to keep the feds secretly informed about the commission's private deliberations and passed along info that two of the seven commission members had doubts about the location from which President Kennedy was shot.

SBT in a nutshell: President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally, traveling in the same car in the Dallas motorcade, were wounded almost simultaneously by one of three bullets fired by Oswald from the 6th floor of the book depository. (Kennedy's fatal head wound was caused by another Oswald shot.)

SBT importance: If Kennedy and Connally weren't hit by the same bullet another shooter had to be involved; Oswald wouldn't have had time to reload. When the public shouted out who killed Kennedy, SBT made it possible for the Warren Commission to say after all, it was only Lee.

The Warren Commission's conclusion left the majority of Americans unsatisfied. Conspiracy theories have abounded ever since, ranging from reasonable to zany. Much of the credibility of the debate has gotten lost in decades of factional infighting among proponents of this, that, or the other. Oh to be a fly on the wall in a few hundred years when historians deliver a verdict.

In the here and now, fans of SBT (which some prefer to call Double-Body Hit or DBH) say new findings re blood spatter patterns and the condition of the bullet that allegedly hit Kennedy and Connally prove Specter's theory true. Luckily, Oswald's bullet still exists to be examined. After passing through Kennedy's neck and Connally's chest and wrist, it lodged temporarily in the latter's thigh. The bullet fell out of the thigh but was found later on Connally's stretcher at the hospital and became Warren Commission Exhibit 399 (CE399). Those who gaze upon CE399 tend to find what they seek. So far, no one has seen the face of Mary or Jesus.

Black Mafia/American Gangster

By the end of the '60s, Arlen Specter was Philadelphia district attorney. It was crime time in Philly. Organized crime had a new face. Hitherto spoils went to white ethnic groups. But Philly's Black Mafia was getting together. Smiling on their brothers for the media, posing as community organizers. Collecting government funds from anti-crime initiatives while robbing black neighborhoods blind, skimming the drug trade, and killing their way to the top. Turning the Nation of Islam's local mosque, Temple 12, into a nest of disciplined criminals. The story of the Black Mafia is told in Sean Patrick Griffin's book Black Brothers Inc., which Black Entertainment Television (BET) turned into a stellar episode of their series American Gangster. But the book is the place to go for deep history-- including D.A. Arlen Specter's role in funneling money from the U.S. Justice Department into the nonprofit corporation Safe Streets, Inc.

Ultra liberal municipal judge Paul Dandridge headed the Safe Streets board; D.A. Specter (by then a Republican) was board member. Dandridge and Specter pushed the idealistic notion that members of criminal gangs, if given proper encouragement and public funding, could rid inner city nabes of criminal gangs. Safe Streets would also bring gang members together in peace through activities such as ping-pong and spiritual retreats. The bringing together part worked fine. Safe Streets and a related nonprofit, Black Brothers Inc. (established a few years later) served as criminal recruitment centers.

Safe Streets Inc. had two centers in Philly. The director in North Philadelphia was Clarence Fowler, aka Shamsud-din Ali. Captain of the Fruit of Islam, the bone crunching security force of Temple 12. Ali's career advanced through a murder conviction (later overturned) to a star turn in the corruption scandals of the 2000-2008 administration of Mayor John Street. By then Shamsud-din Ali was an Iman (a Muslim cleric) an influential community leader and a member of Mayor Street's transition team. Ali is now doing time for pay-to-play public contract deals and looting a Muslim school serving inner city residents. No charges were filed re the allegations of shaking down drug dealers.

The Black Mafia organization lasted till the mid 1980s. Fear kept them rolling. Folks living in crime ridden neighborhoods didn't trust the justice system. They assumed government goodies delivered to the Black Mafia by Philly's leaders (Judge Dandridge and District Attorney Specter weren't alone) meant the group was connected to the max. They didn't get the idealism thing.

The Unicorn and the Pubic Hair

By 1979 Arlen Specter was in private practice with a prestigious Philadelphia law firm. A streak of failed runs for various public offices was about to end with his being elected U.S. Senator. In the interim, Specter was defending Ira Einhorn, prominent peace activist and New Age guru. In 1977, Einhorn had bludgeoned his girlfriend Holly Maddux to death and hid her body in a trunk in his closet. As time passed, downstairs neighbors complained to the landlord about the smell and stains on the ceiling. Though Einhorn lived in a college nabe his landlord responded to the complaints. Einhorn refused to let workmen into the padlocked closet. What's a landlord to do? Some repairs can only be made by force. In Spring 1979, homicide detectives, acting on info provided by private detectives hired by Holly Maddux's family, popped the lock, opened the trunk, and discovered the dessicated remains of Holly.

Like the Black Mafia, Ira Einhorn had idealistic supporters in high places. Einhorn was The Man Who Knew Too Much about global conspiracies, weapons development, and psychic research. The CIA and/or KGB had framed him. Barbara Bronfman of the Seagram distillery family posted the bail won by defense attorney Arlen Specter. Specter lauded Einhorn as a man of peace and honor, for whom violence or bail jumping was unthinkable. Getting bail was an amazing feat in a murder case where the body was found in the defendant's home. More amazing was the amount-- $40,000. Which translated into $4000 cash.

Arlen Specter became Senator in January, 1981. Ira Einhorn's trial was to begin the same month. But Einhorn skipped. He was tried and convicted in absentia in 1993. Found living in France in 1997, he was extradited in 2001 and retried and re-convicted in Philadelphia in 2002. The four years prior to Einhorn's extradition were filled by complex international legal battles over his extradition and in absentia trial. France and the United States locked horns, President Clinton got into the act, and the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a law (Einhorn's Law) aimed at clearing up the mess. It only added to the tangle. Holly Maddox's parents died (her father by suicide) before Einhorn was retried.

Einhorn means one horn in German. Ira Einhorn called himself Unicorn. In The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer, a 1999 TV miniseries, Gregory Itzin plays Arlen Specter. A small part. Being denounced by Kevin Costner in JFK counts more on Specter's resume. Plus every time SPECTRE is mentioned in a James Bond movie, dimwits think "Arlen". Hey-- the only bad publicity is no publicity.

Specter appeared in-the-flesh in the 1993 documentary Sex and Justice: Anita Hill vs Clarence Thomas. Narrated by Gloria Steinem, "Sex" is powered by conviction that Supreme Court Justice nominee Thomas did indeed make a lame lewd joke re an apocryphal pubic hair on a can of Coke to his former underling, attorney Anita Hill, and that this constituted sexual harassment. Thomas and Hill are powerful leads but Specter is the scene stealer. As Hill's inquisitor on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he equals Erich von Stroheim in classic films where von Stroheim was The Man You Love To Hate. Von Stroheim worked his bullet head and beady stare, his lechery made fiendish by Prussian rigidity. Whereas Specter is all reptilian movement, with darting obsidian eyes and sudden head thrusts. Specter's style is naturalistic; he inhabits his character. Of course detractors like to say he always plays himself. Whoever that is.

Upcoming Specter projects: a historical musical (kinda like 1776) set in the Bush White House. The Specter character tap dances in the Judiciary Committee while slipping a clause into the Patriot Act that helps Bush fire a bunch of pesky U.S. Attorneys. Also in the hopper: a big screen remake of Welcome Back Kotter. With Specter as Kotter and top Democrats as the Sweathogs.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Mondo QT

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After several years of NYC go-go dancing and wacky radical fun (including a trip to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago) Carola Von H. became a No Wave band leader and Mail Artist. Picking up change as a free lance writer. Her pen ranged (more...)
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