Biden Debate: Media Bellwethers and Bed-Wetters


 Personal attacks overshadowed policy discussions between former President Donald J. Trump and President Biden during the debate. (New York Times photo by Kenny Holston).

Personal attacks overshadowed policy discussions between former President Donald J. Trump and President Biden during the debate. (New York Times photo by Kenny Holston).

U.S. media punditry following the Biden-Trump debate reveals an extraordinary divide between commentators advocating for President Biden's replacement as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and those arguing against panic-driven decisions by Democrats.

This debate about the debate has evolved. The near-universal dismay by left-leaning pundits on the MSNBC cable channel Thursday night moved to a New York Times editorial on Friday calling on Biden to quit. Now a revisionist interpretation is arising whereby several prominent independent analysts are publishing data suggesting that Biden's poor performance is no reason for him to quit -- and that many of those seeking his resignation are slipshod analysts at best and at worst working on personal agendas advancing their careers or niche ideologies.

As one who has evolved in this way personally (although not written about it until this column), I thought it would be useful to excerpt the arguments about this voiced by prominent pundits, primarily those self-identified as Democrats or otherwise left-learning.

bellwether sheep wGiven what I now regard as the compelling arguments of the pro-Biden analysts, who included Seth Abramson, Heather Cox Richardson, and Thom Hartmann, this report identifies them as "bellwhethers," a name arising in English medieval eras from the practice of attaching a bell to the lead sheep in a herd so that shepherds could determine where the sheep are headed. In modern political discourse, the term refers to those who set or influence trends.

We need not define the term "bed-wetters" here, beyond noting that the current list includes the editorial boards of the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Journal & Constitution and Washington Post -- and a number of their prominent political reporters and opinion columnists. Some of these publications, while ostensibly “liberal” in their presidential endorsements (doubtless in recognition of their urban-centered readerships), are nonetheless controlled by billionaire owners and hard-right hedge funds with agendas that remain opaque even to the vast majority of employees. That's the way it is.

dnc horizontal logoFor those readers here who read the excerpts below as well as the original stories, you may find it shocking, as did this reporter, to see how few of those writers advocating for Biden's renunciation of his hard-won primary victories to achieve an overwhelming majority of delegates for the August Democratic National Convention address in their column's the logical consequences of any renunciation. Those consequences include, of course, the identity of a successor nominee, the process by which such a nominee might be selected, whether nominee would be as popular as Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris (not according to current polling) -- and whether current campaign funds and state ballot positioning could be transferred (perhaps not, some argue!).

Without such answers, that kind of punditry is so unprofessional that the term "bed-wetter" is more charitable than deserved.

We begin this comparison with excerpts from the "Bellwethers," starting with an extraordinary series of investigative reports by Seth Abramson, a best-selling author, attorney and professor who alleges shocking errors in polling on the debate as well as clear-cut logical lapses by what he describes as a mainstream pundit class afflicted by the mentality of a panicked herd.

Whatever the case, events are assuredly moving fast with many more developments likely.

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Trend-Setting News and Entertainment Pioneer John Barbour Informs, Inspires


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Trend-Setting News, Entertainment, Film Pioneer

John Barbour Inspires, Informs and Dishes Unplugged

About MLK, RFK, Show Business and Much More


By Wayne Madsen and Andrew Kreig 

In the world of television, cinema, investigative reporting, storytelling, and comedy there is no greater a polymath than the multiple Emmy Award-winning John Barbour. Spanning some 75 years, Barbour’s career includes having hosted what many consider was television’s first reality show, Real People, which aired on NBC from 1979 to 1984. Instead of celebrities, the program featured regular folks having unusual jobs, talents, or hobbies.

District Insiders, co-hosted by Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen, interviewed Barbour about his impressive and storied career, including his william pepper headshotmost recent major work, a powerful and affectionate documentary about the recently deceased human rights attorney William F. Pepper, right. Pepper devoted decades to documenting shocking revelations challenging conventional court findings and media narratives about the deaths of his close colleagues Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) and Robert F. Kennedy (RFK).

Barbour's video interview, boldly entitled Greatest Piece of Investigative Journalism in 75 Years: Barbour & Osanic's Tribute to Wm. F. Pepper, compiled with historically powerful photos and videos by Black Op radio host Len Osanic, chronicles how Pepper became so convinced that convicted killers James Earl Ray and Sirhan Sirhan could not possibly have killed MLK and RFK, respectively, that Pepper decided to represent Ray and Sirhan in their separate appeals.

Recognizing the challenge that such a fight entailed, particularly when Pepper knew and loved the assassination victims MLK and RFK, Barbour describes in his District Insiders interview how Pepper on his deathbed this spring was able to savor the film's ending whereby Barbour imagines that a National Mall monument to America's greatest lawyers includes Pepper at the side of Abraham Lincoln.

It is a fact, however, that Dr. Bernice King, CEO of the King Center in Atlanta and youngest daughter of MLK and Coretta Scott King, wrote a letter read at Pepper's Memorial Service in Harlem on April 27 describing Pepper as one of the nation's greatest attorneys, as illustrated by his unique courage and expertise in pursuing justice in the assassination of her father.    

More generally regarding Barbour's impressive career, there are very few other figures from the golden age of television and cinema who are able to bear witness to the transition of the media from its apex to the situation in which it finds itself today. Barbour was the nation’s first TV news film critic as KNBC’s Critic-at-Large. Also, he spent ten years as the film critic for Los Angeles Magazine. He served also as the host of KNXT’s (later KCBS) morning show AM Los Angeles, which was followed by a stint as co-host of AM Chicago on the Windy City’s flagship station, WLS.

john barbour garrison tapes part 2 posterBarbour, like many Hollywood talents, including William Shatner, Lorne Greene, Dan Akroyd, Leslie Nielsen, and John Candy, was born in Canada but made his mark in television in the United States. Barbour became known to television audiences by doing comedy stand-up on such programs as The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and The Dean Martin Show. His 1965 comedy album, It's Tough to Be White, spotlighted the state of race relations in the United States during a time when the subject was treated by network executives as a sensitive subject, even in a comedy setting.

Continuing to tackle sensitive subjects, Barbour directed and wrote the 1992 documentary, The JFK Assassination: The Jim Garrison Tapes, which featured Barbour’s in-depth interview with New Orleans District Attorney General Jim Garrison on his investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That was followed by his 2017 follow-up documentary, The American Media and The Second Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, right, which revealed the lengths to which the news media covered up not only Garrison’s findings but the entire conspiracy surrounding the 1963 coup d’état against Kennedy.di avatar name

Click below to watch, share and like the latest interview at these sites or others (via audio or video), and sign up for future shows!

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Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D. (1931-2024): Acclaimed Pathologist, Professor, Author, Civic Leader and Devoted Family Man



Dr. Cyril Wecht

“There was, and will only be, one Dr. Cyril H. Wecht.”
President Ken Gormley, J.D., Duquesne University.

By Glenda de Vaney, Chair, Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) (Guest Column)

No one who came before him or who will come after him can be compared with Dr. Wecht (shown above in his laboratory). He stands alone in his accomplishments, whether they be connected to his skill as a forensic pathologist or as a truth-teller about the John F. Kennedy assassination.

That’s the view of virtually all those who knew the man, including the Board of CAPA, an organization he founded and chaired. He advanced to the post of Chairman Emeritus earlier this year and continued to provide active participation at all our board meetings this year until the most recent one.

We’ll describe below our experiences at CAPA working with this brave, honorable and civic-minded leader exploring such sensitive matters as jfk 1959 senate office lookmagcurrent research on the 1960s deaths of President John F. Kennedy, left, his brother Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

First, however, it’s both necessary and appropriate to describe how the world, his nation and his other varied communities benefited from his rare expertise and dedication.

Helping illustrate his scope and impact is, for example, the obituary published by the Associated Press via the Los Angeles Times on May 13 under the headline: Dr. Cyril Wecht, celebrity pathologist who argued more than 1 shooter killed JFK, dies at 93.

He became world famous as an expert broadcast commentator, author, and courtroom expert analyzing the true cause of deaths for such celebrities as JFK, RFK, MLK, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, JonBenet Ramsey, Brian Jones and many, many others.

But the essence of the man is reflected also in his service for 20 years as the elected part-time coroner of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, the locale of Pittsburgh. His was a position of trust whereby he served as the indispensable independent expert providing judgment and sometimes accountability regarding the deaths of non-celebrities — including on occasion those who may have met their demise in ways not apparent to police or prosecutors — or even perhaps at the hands of rogue law enforcers, and then covered up.

His renown emanated also from his close collaborations and enduring friendships with other leading coroners and medical examiners, including thomas noguchisuch iconic figures as Dr. Henry Lee of New Haven, Dr. Michael Baden of New York City and Dr. Thomas Noguchi of Los Angeles, right, plus his prodigious output as an author and teacher. He authored or co-authored 45 professional books for doctors and lawyers, the five-volume set Forensic Sciences, plus other books for general readers, plus more than 500 expert articles in his field — or we should say “fields” because his wide-ranging expertise covered several.

Of particular pride was his long association with Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he taught forensic pathology to duquesne logomedical students for many years and founded The Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law, which provides a wide range of continuing learning opportunities on cutting-edge issues vital to medical, law enforcement, and other legal professionals. The programs, organized in significant part by Program Director Benjamin Wecht, his son, have long provided both in person and by remote video expert analysis of cause-of-death mysteries, sometimes using for teaching case history medical evidence that is confidential and so unlikely to be available for other purposes.

Some of these highlights are available in two recent books that reflect his prodigious energies even late in life, when he performed more than 500 cyril wecht life and deaths coverautopsies a year (double the average number for coroners) until just three years ago. One book is The JFK Assassination Dissected: An Analysis by Forensic Pathologist Cyril Wecht,” co-authored by Dawna Kaufmann and with a forward by Oliver Stone (Exposit/McFarland, 2022). The other book is his memoir, The Life and Deaths of Cyril Wecht: America’s Most Controversial Forensic Pathologist, right, coauthored with Jeff M. Sewald, (Exposit/McFarland, 2020).

He was well-known for his ability to fight effectively on some of the nation’s hottest and most-longstanding controversies. This includes the medical evidence regarding the JFK assassination, while also maintaining cordial relationships – up to a point – even with some of his major forensic adversaries.

arlen specterOne was the late U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, left, who as a Warren Commission staff member in 1964 successfully advocated to Commission members that they endorse the so-called “single-bullet theory” that pointed, erroneously in the analysis of Dr. Wecht’s analysis and a number of other experts. This was the concept that one bullet supposedly fired by Lee Harvey Oswald caused JFK’s death plus multiple other wounds in him and Texas Governor John Connally, a fellow presidential limo passenger, during the fateful motorcade through Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Connally himself maintained until his death that there must have been more than one shooter.

Dr. Wecht served as a pallbearer at Specter’s funeral at the request of the deceased.

Those of us at CAPA came to know him from his pioneering work through the decades to expose, based on scientific evidence, the shortcomings of the Warren Report and conventional wisdom in most of mainstream media that parroted the Warren Report’s misleading narrative, much the same as misreporting or biased narratives on certain other cases, including the deaths of RFK and MLK.

Dr. Wecht has been a leader in forensic pathology. His career is best described by Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor and prolific commentator, who observed, “When Cyril Wecht started practicing, his profession was not highly regarded.…Forensic science is “in” today; however, in those days, when he was first practicing, Cyril was the lone ranger and he created the profession, professionalized it, and made it what it is today, which is central to the administration of justice.”

Dr. Cyril Wecht, shown at the National Press Club describing during the news media's annual Sunshine Week the extreme reluctance of the nation's national news media to report on the forensic medical evidence undercutting the Warren Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John).pc st john

Dr. Cyril Wecht is shown at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, describing during the news media's annual Sunshine Week the extreme reluctance of the nation's national news media to report on the forensic medical evidence undercutting the Warren Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John)

Peter Vaira is a former U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania who acts as special hearing master in the state. He has written an article about Dr. Wecht that states, "Dr. Wecht has shaped the law such that the use of forensic pathology is now de rigueur in death cases."


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Legacy Endures For Injustice Fighter William Pepper After April Death


MLK, RFK Supporter Dared Challenge Official Assassination Accounts

Dr. William (Bill) F. Pepper, an international civil and human rights attorney best known for defending the innocence of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s accused assassin, James Earl Ray, died at age 86 in New York City on April 7, 2024, after a long series of illnesses.

william pepper headshotPepper, shown at left in a file photo, had become a friend and close collaborator of King before King's 1968 assassination and then undertook Ray's defense post-conviction at the request of King Family members after Pepper's own independent investigation persuaded him that Ray had been framed to hide the guilt of King's actual killers. 

Pepper's investigation, three books on the topic (the first, Act of State, shown below right) and other advocacy proved controversial. But the controversies failed to deter him from similar legal representation of Sirhan Sirhan, advocating the innocence of the convicted murderer of 1968 Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, whom Pepper also had strongly supported william pepper act of statein 1960s politics.

Late in life, Pepper, who served as both a director and counsel of the Justice Integrity Project, brought this editor/attorney into his orbit on several of his projects, including legal representation of Sirhan's so-far unsuccessful effort to win parole.

As a result, Pepper's widow, Mina Nguyen-Pepper, invited me to undertake three readings at his funeral service in Harlem on April 27, 2024. Among the readings was that of a letter the family had received the previous day from Dr. Bernice A. King, the youngest daughter of the slain civil rights leader and his late widow, Coretta Scott King. The letter from Bernice King, now CEO of the King Center in Atlanta, GA, reproduced below, stated the daughter's belief that Pepper had exhibited the rarest combination of bravery, skill and effectiveness in researching the true cause of her father's death and identifying those responsible.

The materials below, which include this author's personal perspectives, seek to preserve Pepper's legacy and inspire others by recreating below elements of the service. The service was enhanced by a series of powerful speakers, including Pepper's widow, daughter and pastor, who described Pepper's is personal and civic qualities in the historical framework of the ongoing global struggle for human rights.

william pepper mlk

 William F. Pepper, left, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. confer at the headtable of the 1967 National Conference for New Politics civil rights and anti-war conference.


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Book Launch Exclusive: Lee Harvey Oswald Friend Debunks Norman Mailer's Epic 'Oswald's Tale'


Introduction: The Justice Integrity Project proudly presents the never-before-published recollections of Professor Ernst Titovets debunking his portrayal and that of his friend Lee Harvey Oswald in the late Norman Mailer's epic 1995 book, "Oswald's Tale," a near-800-page biography of Oswald, whom Mailer described as a psychologically tormented sole assassin of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

ernst oswald titovets cover Through the decades, Titovets researched and then published his own recollections of his friend Oswald, resulting in a 541-page memoir entitled Oswald: Russian Episode, published in multiple print and electronic editions. In 2024, the book is being published for the first time in a Russian-language edition. It debuts this week in a Jan. 25 lecture (postponed from Jan. 17) by the author at the Pushkin Library in Minsk.

The book refers the reader to the events of the early 1960s and the odyssey of Oswald, an alleged assassin of JFK. "In some uncanny way," Titovets says, "the norman mailer oswald bestfate of this book has crossed with that of Oswald’s Tale: An  American  Mystery, Mailer's book. In the center of both books is the greatest still-unsolved mystery of the 20th century, the assassination of JFK and the disputed involvement of Oswald in this act."

Both authors (Mailer and Titovets, shown below right in a recent photo) met in Minsk, the Belarus capital then within the Soviet Union, where Oswald once resided. Both authors interviewed a largely overlapping spectrum of people who knew Oswald, received the same information about his background, and his life in the Soviet Union. They acquainted themselves with the same official documents on relevant issues, although Titovets has largely confined his appraisals to Oswald's years in the Soviet Union, not the rest of his life and the vast numbers of commentaries by others about it.

Ernst Titovets newest 2024Surprisingly, each author arrived at mutually exclusive conclusions about Oswald’s character and guilt. Mailer portrays Oswald as a mentally unstable man with megalomaniac tendencies and as the assassin of JFK, in keeping with official statements by the FBI and Warren Commission in the year after the killing. On the other hand, Titovets portrays Oswald as a young, grassroots philosopher seeking ways to make life better for the poor and dispossessed, and a patsy in the JFK assassination. The emergence of these two polar-opposite Oswalds on the basis of similar sourcing within the Soviet Union should be a puzzling and important occurrence, and is thus the topic for this column.

In the autumn of 1992, Norman Mailer, age 69, was an esteemed American writer, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and the author of many books. When he came to Minsk his aim was to research his book about Oswald, who resided in the city for two-and-a-half years.

Oswald’s close friend Erich [Ernst] Titovets, who also lived in Minsk, prompted special attention from Mailer, doubtless because Titovets was a rare English-speaker in the city, thereby fostering an unusual amount of time spent with Oswald three decades previous.

At the time of the Mailer visit, Titovets, age 53, had earned both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees and served as the head of the Experimental Department at the Neurology and Neurosurgery Research Institute. At his department, Professor Titovets and his 21-person team were engaged in brain research, cerebral pathology and therapy. In his spare time, Titovets was working on his own book about his late friend Oswald.

The two authors met when Mailer and his entourage visited the professor at his office without preliminary notice in October 1992. We travel back in time to try to witness that meeting, with the rest of this account in the words of Titovets:


By Ernst Titovets:

There appeared before me two rather corpulent senior men in the formal suits of some couturier. An elegant, platinum-blonde woman accompanied them. The men introduced themselves as Norman Mailer and Larry Schiller. The English-speaking Russian woman, called Mila, was their interpreter.

Mailer, later speaking at D.G. Wills Books in 1995, would recall that his friend Schiller had prompted the research and publication of his Oswald’s Tale. Mailer would indulgingly refer to him as the "somewhat rascally" Larry Schiller. In the 1980s, Schiller had directed in Russia the picture Peter the Great and was thus familiar with certain aspects of the local culture and momentous changes underway when the Soviet Union started to disintegrate. Schiller had approached the KGB in Moscow and somehow managed to extract from them a promise to show their secret Oswald’s files to Mailer. Schiller argued that Mailer was a great writer, an American Tolstoy, and this seemed to have worked. Schiller then called Mailer, outlined the situation and persuaded him to write about Oswald's time in Minsk, a possibility that Mailer had already been considering. According to Mailer, Schiller showed that he could solve various research problems, including interview arrangements.

ernst titovets norman mailer 1992

Professor Ernst Titovets (left) and writer Norman Mailer at the professor’s office in Minsk (October 1992).

This was the background when I first met Mailer in my office. The eminent writer struck me as a dignified man with an imposing, well-mannered presence. Schiller, by contrast, produced an impression of a shifty sort with somewhat aggressive and informal manners. We chatted for a brief time, with just small talk. Before they left, we agreed to see more of each other in the near future.

I was duly impressed and indeed happy with my new acquaintance. I looked forward to seeing more of Mailer, discussing things with him, exchanging ideas, learning about his vision of Oswald and of the JFK issues.

My euphoria turned out to be short-lived. Before we met again, I received an ice-cold shower in the form of a 1967 book, The Scavengers and Critics co-authored by Lawrence Schiller and Richard W. Lewis. My long-distance American friend David S. Lifton, the California-based author of The Best Evidence, had sent me a copy. The book was a harsh attack against authors who had voiced objections to the official treatment of the JFK assassination. The book  was based on an investigation by Lawrence Schiller, that very Larry Schiller who had accompanied Mailer to my office.

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New On 'District Insiders': The TV movie that deterred nuclear war danger


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The TV movie that deterred nuclear war danger

Director of ABC-TV’s 1983 “The Day After” Tells Why


By Wayne Madsen and Andrew Kreig

Famed storyteller Nicholas Meyer – Director of The Day After, the most-watched television film in U.S. history – this week described on the investigative podcast District Insiders his film’s enduring impact in deterring nuclear war.

More than 100 million Americans are estimated to have watched The Day After during its broadcast on ABC-TV. Many times that number watched in the Soviet Union and elsewhere globally.

nicholas meyerMeyer, right, described also why he and others associated with the film and the 2020 follow up documentary Television Event, produced by Jeff Daniels, have been making public appearances this fall that included visits to the United Nations and, on Dec. 4, to Lawrence, Kansas for a showing of Television Event, with a panel discussion that Meyer joined via Zoom.

The Day After portrayed the Kansas locale, the U.S. geographic center and home also to the University of Kansas, as a devastated ruin if nuclear war erupts. The film’s treatment was so powerful that it shocked many viewers, including President Ronald Reagan, into dramatic actions to reduce the risks of nuclear war.

“At a time when the world seems to be sleepwalking toward nuclear disaster, a new documentary aims to shake us into recognizing the danger -- just as The Day After did 40 years ago,” Meyers and his team said in advance of the forthcoming American release of Television Event early next year via the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) network.

District Insiders hosts Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen, reporters and authors long based in Washington, DC, explored further with Meyer the creative vision leading to the documentary and its enduring impact in motivating him, his colleagues and many others determined to raise alarms about cataclysmic threats.

The director, whose credits include directing three of the Star Trek films, several other major hits and authoring seven novels, recalled that while he was trying to decide whether to accept the offer to direct this film he shared with a psychiatric counselor how the project seemed likely to be squashed by hostile forces, thereby wasting everyone's time and hindering careers.

Nonetheless, recalled Meyer, himself the son of psychiatrist, his counselor stepped out of that profession’s traditional listening mode to advise that all of us robert oppenheimer 1944have a responsibility to try to do what's right if the stakes are high enough for the world.

In his 67-minute District Insiders interview, Meyer recalled also a lasting memory of an encounter when at age seven his family met Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, right, widely regarded as “The father of the atomic bomb” because of his leadership in developing it during World War II.

Oppenheimer, subject of the blockbuster film Oppenheimer released last summer, seemed like one of the saddest people Meyer ever met, Meyer recalled, noting that the sadness was striking even to a seven-year-old who had only the vaguest understanding of Oppenheimer’s past.

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