Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ten plus One (minus two)


We're told there are over 10,000 books, mostly or wholly, about the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy registered with the United States Library of Congress. Most are chum, illiterate or self-serving, off the point or below it, corrupt and venal, distracting or downright conspiratorial.

These are, in my opinion, the best eleven (with a coda). Meagher is the best place to start.


Accessories After the Fact (1967) by Sylvia Meagher

She was the first and remains in many ways the best and most comprehensive. Her fury at the flagrancy and incompetence (for this was an incompetent whitewash) of the Warren/Dulles/Hoover/LBJ cover-up -- and toward the whore mass media, a Sixties media whose bondage to Power was much weaker than our own -- burns through every page. Unlike most authors (good and swill) attracted to this topic, Meagher is a beautiful writer; and a great detective. Perhaps her best chapter is on the concoction known as the murder of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. Not only does Meagher prove accused cop-killer Lee Harvey Oswald innocent, since not at the scene, but that Tippit's very strange movements before and after the assassination suggest that J.D. may have been offed by one of his own. A masterpiece getting more masterful through time, even though written only two years after release of the Warren Report and its 26 volumes of non-supporting evidence.


Six Seconds in Dallas (1967) by Dr. Josiah Thompson

The perfect early-stage companion to Meagher. Dispassionate and architectonic, Josiah Thompson takes us as far as anyone has toward knowing the (because of massive corruption and destruction of evidence and witnesses) unknowable: when and from where the Dealey Plaza shots came. With immense photographic and artwork detail, Six Seconds in Dallas proves the two shots from the front, one to JFK's throat, the other to his right temple; two shots from the rear, one to Kennedy's upper back, the second to the top right of his skull; a missed shot from behind, flying over the limousine, hitting a curbstone, and causing a chip which injured bystander James Tague; and a shot from behind traveling through Texas Governor John Connally (and unfortunately not killing him). Here, the Magic Bullet Theory is destroyed. The Single Bullet Theory is destroyed. And so is the Warren Commission's nonsensical time sequence. Thompson's amazing work was accomplished without access to a moving Zapruder film, the autopsy photos, or the Dallas police dictabelt recording of the shooting.


Conspiracy (1980) by Anthony Summers

The first major book written on the case after public release of the Z-film and the dreadful autopsy materials, and after completion of the post-Watergate investigations (the Rockefeller Commission, the Pike Committee, the Church Committee, the House Select Committee on Assassinations). Itself, it is a magnificent piece of investigative journalism, a trove of leads. Summers makes available to the general public for the first time: Rose Cheramie; the witnesses to the strange incident at Clinton, Louisiana during the summer of  '63; Lee Oswald working for Guy Bannister; David Atlee Phillips and David Morales; Oswald's curious route through Finland on his way to his Soviet "defection"; the impersonating of Oswald in Mexico City; the fake Secret Service agents behind the grassy knoll fence immediately after the shooting. Here, an Irish-born journalist does what no U.S. journalist dared to do, what no U.S. journalist would permit any colleague to even begin. However, one must emphasize the 1980 edition of the work. For tragically, Anthony Summers turned tail and became just another greasy pole climber, just another condescending defamer of serious researchers who reject the Lone Nut fairy tale. First in a 1994 eviscerating "update" of Conspiracy, now named (nonsensically) Not in Your Lifetime -- Summers climbing aboard the hate Oliver Stone / love Gerald Posner media gravy train. And last month Summers did it again, with a second downgrading "revision" -- again with the nitwit Not in Your Lifetime title -- in which he runs headlong into the dear arms of the Obamian corporate / media police state by bravely dumping on his own original research, on long-dead Jim Garrison, on long-irrelevant Mark Lane, on the ignored Joan Mellen, and on everyone else who has anything to do with anti-Establishment action or thought. No rebel he, is sniffy Summers. Anthony Summers, he dead. Conspiracy (1980) lives on.


On the Trail of the Assassins (1988) by Jim Garrison

The great American patriot and district attorney tells of his breaking of the case, of his trial and investigative innocence and incompetence, of his own destruction by FBI, CIA, Johnson Administration, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and his aides, television and newspaper media, and the cracker establishment of Louisiana. Garrison was not only a great patriot, but an elegant writer and storyteller. And a very funny one.


Spy Saga (1990) by Philip Melanson

A micro-view of the assassination. Actually, not about the assassination at all. Philip Melanson takes the dribs and drabs given to us by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, fills in many gaps through his own sleuthing and forensic genius, and gives us a Lee Harvey Oswald as an operative who was never really allowed to come in from the cold. Under Melanson, Oswald was recruited by military intelligence while in the Pacific as a Marine (perhaps even earlier courtesy of Civil Air Patrol leader David Ferrie), taught Russian at CIA's Monterey School of Languages, sent to the Soviet Union in 1959 as a false defector, brought back to the States (now with a Russian wife) in '62, and used as a "dangle" in up to a half-dozen covert ops in Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico City (mail order gun sales, anti- and pro-Castro infiltration, voter registration drives, Communist Party USA) until his ultimate dangling in Dealey Plaza on 11/22/63. An astonishing read of very scanty (and withheld and destroyed) evidence.


Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1993) by Peter Dale Scott

Looking through the other end of the telescope from Phil Melanson, our greatest political historian maps Dallas with a macro-coverage, using much the same method: Scott links small pieces of evidence through an economic, political, and criminal labyrinth most of us could not begin to fathom; for what we are used to seeing, trained to see from birth, is the public state, the public economy, and a concept of crime embraced by everything from Batman to Dragnet, from Columbo to The Wire. What Scott brings to life here is what he calls the Deep State, a malignancy which was nascent throughout the 1940s and 1950s, what was fully born on 11/22/63, and what has since swallowed the public state whole: a parallel international secret power system, composed of mafias, private corporations, military cadres, intelligence and security and police apparatus; financed by drugs, stolen government dollars (the 2008 "bank bailout" being the largest and most historic example), corporate funding; engaging in illicit violence to protect the status and interests of the powerful. In Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, Dallas is the template, a template which since '63 has suffocated us all. Honore de Balzac was the greatest of all conspiracy theorists. Among modern English language historians, Peter Dale Scott comes the closest to him. A dense, sometimes opaque book not for the faint-hearted.


The Last Investigation (1993) by Gaeton Fonzi

Alas, it would be so. Gaeton Fonzi was lead investigator for the hopeful, degraded, hijacked, yet still valuable House Select Committee on Assassinations (1976-79), a committee whose final report would point to more than one shooter firing at the Dallas motorcade. Under enormously difficult conditions -- funding cut by Congressional reactionaries and intelligence stooges; blasphemed by the press; cut-off at the knees by feuding staffers (some of whom were double agents) -- Fonzi was a miner finding much golden ore. It was he who discovered the key witness (Antonio Veciana) linking patsy Oswald to Kennedy assassination ringleader David Atlee Phillips; linking Phillips to CIA / JMWAVE Miami station chief David Sanchez Morales (Morales would also participate in the CIA execution of Che Guevara in Bolivia four years after Dallas, a fascist murderer for all seasons); Fonzi would nail George DeMohrenschildt, Oswald's Texas handler, to the wall, until DeMohrenschildt's untimely death, the day before a crucial interview with Fonzi. For it is death which destroyed the Last Investigation. Beyond DeMohrenschildt, there are the murders of Jimmy Hoffa, Sam Giancana, John Rosselli, top FBI administrator William C. Sullivan (supposedly shot when someone mistook him for a deer), Rolando Masferrer, Charles Nicoletti, Carlos Prio, Sheffield Edwards, William Harvey, David Morales, William Pawley, Thomas Karamessines, John Paisley: all murdered during HSCA's time, rivers of mid-70s blood, the glue holding together the fetid deep state system while it tottered. And my how it worked, leading to the Reagan Restoration -- and beyond. But not only blood. As Gaeton Fonzi tells it, one man castrated the HSCA from within: corrupt legal bagman, and Chief Counsel, G. Robert Blakey. It was Blakey who made sure all pointed toward Oswald, or the Mob (same distraction); all pointed away from CIA. Richard Sprague -- lion-hearted, unimpeachable, incorruptible, fearless Philadelphia D.A. Richard Sprague and his Chief Investigator Bob Tannenbaum were originally put in charge, before Blakey. Sprague was character assassinated  by the intelligence media, then fired. Tannenbaum quit. Leaving the HSCA to the stinking fixer Blakey. Gaeton Fonzi, a blessing, a hero, stayed on, giving us this brave, grand book.


Breach of Trust (2005) by Gerald McKnight

Professor McKnight's inside/outside investigative history is the first major work of the new century and it is the finest picture we have of what the Warren Commission truly was: a funnel for every piece of distortion, misrepresentation, false witness, suppressed witness, crime lab fakery, photographic fakery, autopsy fakery, ballistics fakery, Ivy League shyster and cover-up artist, ideological distortion, personality distraction, and psychobabble necessary to paint the Lone Nut fairy tale portrait -- composed, perhaps most disturbing, against a faux mournful tribute to the late President. McKnight makes clear: three men ran the Oswald Star Chamber, none of them named Warren: Kennedy assassin Allen Dulles, accessory-after-the-fact J. Edgar Hoover, and chief beneficiary of the crime Lyndon Baines Johnson. This is our J'Accuse!


Brothers (2006) by David Talbot

The most beautifully written, most passionate, and probably the saddest of all the books in the canon; rejecting all irony, camp, narcissism, deconstructionism, moral relativism, nihilism, sexual prurience and other malignancies of our time. John and Robert Kennedy were heroes. They were murdered by evil men. End of story. Talbot takes the top off the cesspool of enemies who brought down the US Government in 1963 and murdered the leading Presidential candidate of 1968. Who were the enemies? Sex haters, race haters, America-Firsters, oil junkies, mob guys, fascist intelligence agents, military dictators, tweed-covered garbage such as Dick Helms and Des FitzGerald, right-wing publishers and editors, drug executioners, psychopathic politicians, Goldwaterites. And that's the horror of the book. Fifty years later, what is left on a popular or establishment level of the idea that society and government must be judged by the way the weakest and most vulnerable among us are taken care of? The answer is: nothing. There is nothing left of that. Which is why the sense of doom and sorrow one takes from Brothers will be long lasting. The worst of our history murdered the best and got away with it. Scott free. Not only did they get away with it, but they've created the sort of society diametrically opposed to everything JFK and RFK stood for: a country where the least human and most nakedly aggressive dominate everything. This was the newer world others' sought. Born from the gore of Dealey Plaza, they've achieved it. For a bracing and deeply moving reminder of what was lost, one cannot do better than David Talbot's magnificent book.


JFK and the Unspeakable (2007) by James Douglass

If Talbot's Brothers is a tributary hymn-of-despair, Jim Douglass's JFK and the Unspeakable is also a hymn, in a way a companion piece to the Talbot book. But Douglass's sound is a hymn of belief, hope, and transcendence. In Kennedy's murder by the forces of the Unspeakable, a contemporary crucifixion, Douglass sees meaning beyond the resulting Vietnam genocide, beyond the takeover of our society by back-stabbers, soul-crushers and ghouls, beyond the shifting of cultural meaning toward something hideously empty and narcissistic -- meaning in the symbol of a man willing to die for his beliefs, for his (in Douglass's term) "turning." One can argue with this, for at the heart of Douglass's profoundly spiritual argument, there is something anti-political. Rather than view John Kennedy's murder as a political and economic act by men who saw themselves only in those terms, we experience it through Douglass's writing as a modern day Stations of the Cross. First Station: Kennedy refuses war with Laos. Second Station: Kennedy refuses invasion and air attacks during the Bay of Pigs; Third Station: Berlin Wall goes up, Kennedy lets it stand. Etc. It is an agony, as we follow Kennedy's turning and his movement toward the Golgotha of Dallas. So what do we do? Much can be said for acceptance and a belief in transcendence, a belief in Grace. But as Jack Kennedy said: "Here on earth, God's work must truly be our own." Do we let this crucifixion stand? Do we accept the vampires now in almost total control? Do we take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them? Can they ever be ended here on earth? Do we let Catholicism be defined by Hitler-Jugend Joseph Ratzinger and his successor, men who led the war against Liberation Theology? Do we let Christianity be defined by Tim LaHaye and his life-haters? Such questions. That JFK and the Unspeakable forces us to ask them marks the Douglass book as a rare and beautiful masterpiece, one to go back to many times through the years.


Into the Nightmare (2013) by Joseph McBride

Amid the cascade of assassination books covering us this 50th Anniversary season, Joe McBride's is the best. This journey by one of our great film critics (works on Hawks, Ford, Capra, Spielberg, several on Welles) begins with his role as a 12-year-old volunteer during JFK's run in the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic primary. (Kennedy's state chairman was McBride's mother.) We follow the author through the agony of Dallas, his belief -- as a patriotic anti-Communist Irish-Catholic teenager -- in the bona fides of the Warren Report, his transformations -- via Vietnam, race riots, the murders of Malcolm / King / RFK, and Watergate -- into something very different, to his search for the truth of the day (as Norman Mailer wrote) the post-modern world was born. And what a start to the search: it was McBride in a 1988 Nation magazine piece who exposed then Vice President George H.W. Bush, then running against sap Michael Dukakis, as a CIA enforcer from way back, beginning in the late-1950s, and who was up to his preppie neck in the Texas intrigues of November '63. The most valuable and astonishing parts of Into the Nightmare are the very fresh and convincing sections concerning officer J.D. Tippit. Rather than the unknowable dumb cop who just happened to get in homicidal Marxist maniac Lee Harvey Oswald's way during his escape from Dealey Plaza, Joe McBride makes Jefferson Davis Tippit well known: as part of the plot to kill Kennedy, Tippit's role was to track down Oswald immediately after the ambush and gun him down, before arrest, before Oswald had any chance to declare himself a patsy. He also suggests that Tippit -- a crack shot -- may have been one of the gunmen in Dealey Plaza. A beautiful and stunning book, with rare photographs, streets maps, and analysis.

*
Other necessary titles: Jim DiEugenio's Destiny Betrayed (second edition) and Reclaiming Parkland; Jefferson Morley's Our Man in Mexico; Joan Mellen's Farewell to Justice; Robert Tannenbaum's Corruption of Blood; Cover Up by Gary Shaw; Harvey and Lee by John Armstrong; The Assassination Tapes by George O'Toole; Crime of the Century by Michael Kurtz; Don Thomas's Hear No Evil; The Man Who Knew Too Much by Dick Russell; Pat Speer's web work; Girl on the Stairs by Barry Ernest; Oswald in New Orleans by Harold Weisberg; Mark Lane's Last Word; John Newman's Oswald and the CIA.

*
Finally, two keystones from the Land of Fakery edifice.

Vince Bugliosi's Reclaiming History is a 3,000 page monument to True Believing in Official Fairy Tales. Unlike 90% of Reclaiming History commentators, I've actually read all 1,700 text pages, 1,000 pages of endnotes (outstanding endnotes), hundreds of source note pages, plus two photo sections. You must hand it to Mr. Bugliosi: he is the Joan of Arc of this event. Regardless of POV -- and of course his POV is to basically suffocate and de-mystify the mysterious -- one cannot but admire his passion and hard work. And, he is a very funny writer. His various descriptions of Oswald the Cheapskate, Oswald the Potential Jet Hijacker ("jumping around the house in his underwear, preparing athletically for the hijacking, only caused baby June to think he was playing with her"), Marina the Sex Maniac, Marguerite the Harpie (and the Sex Maniac). His best humor (and his nastiest spite) is left for the real chuckleheads in the research community: the pathetic Robert Groden, the hapless photo expert Jack White, Mark Lane's endless self-promotion etc. But the fatal problem with the book is its boy scout level worship of everything official. Bugliosi discredits most everything he writes because from early on we see that his prism is exactly what one would expect from an establishment-based former D.A. So the book is a valentine to the honor of Gerald Ford, Earl Warren, Allen Dulles, David Belin, Arlen Specter, Henry Wade(!), Jesse Curry, Will Fritz, J.Edgar Hoover(!!), every member of the Dallas Police Department (except Roger Craig), every member of the FBI, every member of the Clark Panel/Rockefeller Commission/HSCA/ARRB, every member of the Secret Service (except Abraham Bolden), every member of the mainstream media circa 1963-64, the Bethesda autopsy doctors, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dick Helms and James Angleton, those fine patriots David Phillips, David Morales, and Guy Bannister, plus every official crime lab Vince could think of. How touching. (Or as Vinnie would write, "my, my.") My-my indeed. What sort of world does Bugliosi live in? Are we really supposed to take on faith -- which is what one must do to accept much of the evidence he provides -- the honor of people involved in investigating such a history-changing event? Yes, we are. There must be a 1,000 instances in the text and endnotes along the lines of: "What kind of loonie-bird could believe [fill-in-the-blank] would jeopardize his life/career/reputation/freedom by covering up murder?" Well, where do we start? Sadly, the history of the world is one long continuing account of people in power doing exactly that in order to remain in power, exactly to keep their reputations/freedoms/careers. If a bunch of cheap Ivy League (and oh my how VB loves the Ivy League!) legal hustlers trying to make their bones are faced with the challenge of covering up a crime which if exposed would crack in two the very establishment they wish to enter and dominate, and if there is already plenty of proof that being offered that gig and turning it down for some kind of pusillanimous and righteous reason may lead to harmful effects (Ruby/Oswald being Exhibit A), the really confusing and naive conclusion would be to assume the hustlers would not grab for the brass ring. And to assume some sort of holy righteousness on the part of the apparatchiks who made up the Warren Commission, a personal morality that would lead John McCloy to stand up and say "Hey, Mr. Chief Justice. This stinks. And the odor is coming from my pal James Angleton's death-squad offices down at Langley, and from our Mexico City Station" -- to quote the great philosopher Michael Corleone: "Who's being naive, Vince?" If only the world and the powerful were that way. We know they are not. And surely former D.A. Bugliosi knows they are not. So one wonders what private ghosts he is trying to exorcise with this book. He's a brilliant man with a great sense of humor -- he can't possibly believe in the automatic honor of these people, can he? Is he trying to convince himself in a late stage of life that everything he did in service to establishment power was not so much sound and fury, signifying nothing? Is Mr. Bugliosi trying to make up for not becoming a revolutionary? Is he trying to avoid the same feeling Dave "Maurice Bishop" Phillips felt on his death bed, when he confessed to his estranged brother that "Yes" he was in Dallas on 11/22/63? -- the kind of feeling one gets when one looks toward eternity? I believe Mr. Bugliosi is -- unlike practically all members of great power elites -- an honorable man. There is no way someone creates this sort of work for the money. And it is heroic how far he went with his obsession. (In medieval times, like his role model Joan of Arc, he would've been burned at the stake.) An honorable book, however deranged.

No honor in the other, more typical, keystone. For it is something normally found in a dung heap. For thirty years, Norman Kingsley Mailer blew the trumpet of JFK assassination conspiracy, generally pointing his noise toward CIA, the military, and LBJ. As the 80s turned to the 90s, as Jim Garrison and Oliver Stone commandeered the discussions concerning how Power in America really works, and as Mailer married his 8th wife while his 7 previous brides were suing him for back alimony (half of whom he may have stabbed), this once-great, bravery-obsessed writer took on a pimp job offered up by Random House editor-in-chief and Reichsmarschall of the Culturally Depraved Sir Harold Evans. (Evans's immediately preceding hire was of some plagiarizing Botox-patient by the name of Gerald Posner.) Mailer's assignment turned into something called Oswald's Tale, which should have been called Mailer's Tail since the book is almost 700 pages of Norman Kingsley taking it up the bum from Warren Commission liars, U.S. fascist intelligence sources of all flavors, pathetic psycho-babble about Oswald's probable homosexuality (hence his need to shoot the virile JFK from behind), marriage counselor guidance, and "newly released" KGB forgeries concocted by Boris Yeltsin's mafia goons. For decades Mailer lived off the pose of being the most courageous dude -- and certainly most courageous writer -- in America: the Miller / Mailer / Manson man, Gore Vidal would call it. "God is not love. God is courage. And love is the reward." So it went. That we're all born with a cancer-gun inside us. That we're all faced with a moment when that gun is cocked, when we must choose between bravery and fear. If we fail to be heroic, the gun goes off. Cancer = cowardice. Norman Mailer lived for a dozen years after writing what surely is one of the most venal and corrupt books ever coming from a major writer. And it seems he did not die of cancer. Yet the cowardice contained within Oswald's Tale resounds with the force of an atomic blast.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Conspirators


The names of those who plotted, directly or indirectly, the murder of John F. Kennedy; and the names of those with foreknowledge of the plot. (Not inclusive.)
Allen Dulles
James Jesus Angleton
William Harvey
Lee Oswald
David Atlee Phillips
David Morales
Ann Egerter
Richard Helms
Desmond FitzGerald
McGeorge Bundy
Robert Maheu
Lawrence Houston
Frank Wisner
Ferenc Nagy
William Pawley
Tracy Barnes
Bill Bright
Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge
Ambassador Thomas Mann
Thomas Karamessines
Richard Cain
Colonel Boris Pash
J.C. King
Thomas Clines
I. Irving Davidson
Lt. Lucien Conien
Carl Jenkins
General Lyman Lemnizter
George Joannides
Sergeant Daniel Groth
E. Howard Hunt
Sheffield Edwards
General Thomas Power
Louis Bloomfield
Dr. Sidney Gottlieb
Hal Hendrix
Floyd Boring
Sam Halpern
Edward Lansdale
Lt. Col. George Whitmeyer
Sergio Arcacha Smith
Emilio Santana
Carlos Quiroga
William Sullivan
Ruth Paine
Henry Luce
Michael Paine
Cord Meyer
Eddie Bayo
Anne Goodpasture
Forrest Sorrels
John Rosselli
Eladio del Valle
Frank Sturgis
Mitch WerBell III
Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell
Richard Case Nagell
General Lucius Clay
Richard Bissell
Win Scott
Felix Rodgriguez
Elmer Moore
Jane Roman
Claire Booth Luce
John Martino
Rip Robertson
Jack Ruby
Thomas Eli Davis III
Emory Roberts
Jack Crichton
General Curtis Lemay
General Charles Cabell
Clint Murchison
Charles Willoughby
David Ferrie
Guy Banister
Ted Shackley
Cliff Carter
Lyndon Johnson

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Changed

The best documentary so far on the Dallas background, made mostly from outtakes of Assassination Weekend: reporters primping themselves before going on-air; color home movies of the entire motorcade, not just Dealey Plaza; local security warnings announced before Kennedy's arrival; corridors of the panicked Parkland Hospital; the sinister suffocations of the police department and Sheriff's office. Rare and fascinating stuff from pre-Technology Land.

The movie takes no POV on what happened that day or why. One thing stands clear: Lee Harvey Oswald was a tough motherfucker. Through the two days under arrest and before his public execution and silencing, Oswald never backed down, never stopped complaining about his treatment or lack of legal representation, never lost his cool, never made a single political pronouncement, and never admitted guilt. This isn't a man who's just committed political murder. This is a man with terminal confusion.

Nightmare on Elm Street

The best and most stylish documentary yet on Dallas (like Errol Morris with a purpose): Terrence Raymond's Evidence of Revision.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

50 Reasons. . .


. . . for 50 Years is Len Osanic's masterful YouTube series memorializing the November 22nd, 1963 Dallas coup. Osanic's weekly show -- Black Op Radio -- is a must listen for all those who care about what's happened to America and to the world.

Here, Osanic and author Joe McBride expose the cover-up role of the Media Industrial Complex.

Lost

What was, that day, per Oliver Stone.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Something Has Happened in the Motorcade

The best and most complete compilation I know following the trip from Dallas Love Field to Parkland Memorial Hospital, made from all known photographs and home movies.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Welcome



Dallasites celebrate Thanksgiving, 1963.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Conspiracy Theorists


Jim Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable:
One summer weekend in 1962 while out sailing with friends, Kennedy was asked what he thought of Seven Days in May, a best-selling novel that described a military takeover in the United States. JFK said he would read the book and did so that night. The next day Kennedy discussed with his friends the possibililty of their seeing such a coup in the United States.
"It's possible. It could happen in this country, but the conditions would have to be just right. If, for example, the country had a young President, and he had a Bay of Pigs, there would be a certain uneasiness. Maybe the military would do a little criticizing behind his back, but this would be written off as the usual military dissatisfaction with civilian control. Then if there were another Bay of Pigs, the reaction of the country would be, 'Is he too young and inexperienced?' The military would almost feel it was their patriotic obligation to stand ready to preserve the integrity of the nation, and only God knows just what segment of democracy they would be defending if they overthrew the civilian establisment. Then, if there were a third Bay of Pigs, it could happen. But it won't happen on my watch."
Director John Frankenheimer was encouraged by President Kennedy to film Seven Days in May "as a warning to the republic." Frankenheimer said, "The Pentagon didn't want it done. Kennedy said that when we wanted to shoot at the White House he would conveniently go to Hyannis Port that weekend."
The Pentagon need not have worried.

Director John Frankenheimer did complete Fletcher Knebel's Seven Days in May (screenplay by Rod Serling) in the late summer of '63; and his views of the Kennedy White House during the final months of its life haunt the picture and give it an emotional and historical weight it does not deserve. The story is well-known. Air Force Commanding General -- and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- James Matoon Scott (Burt Lancaster) plans to overthrow the President of the United States (Fredric March in a manly, beautiful performance, his last starring role) -- a "criminally weak sister" who has just negotiated total and complete disarmament with the Soviet Union. Scott's executive assistant, a man named Jiggs (played in characteristically constipated style by Kirk Douglas), a man who has been cut out of the plot, stumbles across it, reports it to President Jordan Lyman, and after a number of twists and turns -- including the assassination of White House Chief of Staff Paul Gerard (a very effective and furtive Martin Balsam in a too-small role) -- the overthrow is suppressed, the plotters are forced to resign, all the happenings are kept from the childish U.S. public (something the movie endorses), and the Constitution of the United States is preserved.

Boy . . . does John Frankenheimer love the Constitution, and -- as we will see in the previous year's The Manchurian Candidate -- all the established institutions it "preserves and protects." Seven Days opens with the Constitution as backdrop, before giving us the director's vision of the political wars of the early '60s: the John Birch Society/Minutemen/KKK vs. SANE/SNCC. A brawl breaks out before the gates of the Kennedy White House. Perhaps Jack was inside at the moment taking a dip in the pool with Fiddle and Faddle, his two favorite WH secretaries. (The first thing Richard Nixon ordered when entering office was to have Kennedy's swimming pool ripped out.) Not to worry. Here come the D.C. police in full riot gear to the rescue. . .

General Scott's plot is this: kidnap Lyman and hold him incommunicado while taking over all radio and television broadcasting by armed force; then announce on TV and radio the temporary but necessary suspension of civilian authority in order to prevent the military castration of the country. (Scott's plot would later be improved upon by Nixon/Kissinger/David Phillips/Pinochet in the 9/11/73 destruction of Chile.) What is to happen to Lyman? Is he to be assassinated along with other recalcitrant members of the Administration? (The Chief of Staff has just been killed to hide proof of the plot.) What is to be done with public resistance, even if it is merely of the NAACP/SANE/ACLU sort? Scott and the plotters have arranged for the takeover of electronic communications. What about the Washington Post or Time Magazine? ('Though Scott would certainly have had the full support of the Luces.)

Silliness aside, the movie does speak of something real. James Matoon Scott was mostly based on General Edwin Walker, the man stripped by President Kennedy for insubordination and the spreading of fascist propaganda to soldiers under his command. Resigning his rank, Walker in the autumn of '62 led the insurrection against the enrollment of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi, resulting in the deaths of two reporters. Attorney General Robert Kennedy issued a warrant for Walker's arrest on charges of sedition, insurrection, and rebellion. Walker's only response to the warrant, besides having it successfully quashed by a racist Mississippi judge, was to announce his candidacy for Governor of Texas (a race won by John Connally). Walker's last contribution to official history was to be the murder target of Lee Harvey Oswald seven months before Dallas, a Warren Commission canard thought ridiculous by General Walker himself.

Seven Days in May also speaks of how strongly John F. Kennedy had blown away the numbing Eisenhower fog of "cold war consensus" -- leaving him to face the fracturing of the culture formed by that fog and all the new power centers hidden within it, as he tried to guide the society into a quieter and more modest world, one more inward-looking and conscious-stricken. (Perhaps this was what his murderers hated most.)



The movie is beautifully told and paced, trim and clean (but for the bizarre detour taken on Ava Gardner's sad, slatternly performance, nicely introduced by Frankenheimer under "Stella by Starlight"). It also embodies the era's growing obsession with all things public and communal, as seen in its movies: Lilies of the Field, A Child is Waiting, Manchurian Candidate, The Best Man, Dr. Strangelove, Advise and Consent, Fail Safe, The Miracle Worker -- a time when the sight of fruit-salad, generals, admirals, and military bluster caused fear and loathing in the popular culture.

The scenes between Douglas as Jiggs and Ava Gardner  -- all her screen time is with him -- are on a different track from everything else; they go nowhere. Gardner's deepening private heartbreak and her skill overcomes Frankenheimer's mere exploitation of her fading beauty and personal distractions (while Douglas just stands there). The movie wastes time on a cul-de-sac concerning compromising love letters written by the married General Scott (as if their exposure would somehow stop the coup) while eliding, beyond March's heartfelt loss over the death of his friend, the assassination of Chief of Staff Gerard. The intentional downing of Paul Gerard's airplane isn't even dealt with, it is merely presumed -- with no effect on future action. And after all, the love letters aren't even used. . .

There was a real-life Jiggs the whistleblower. His name was Abraham Bolden. Bolden was the first black Secret Service agent assigned to Presidential detail, and became a favorite of John F. Kennedy's. Because of complaints made regarding blatant racist treatment, and concerns expressed about sinister attitudes held toward JFK's safety by other WH agents, he was transferred to the Chicago S.S. office in early '62. In late October 1963, Bolden came across evidence of an assassination plot against Kennedy scheduled for November 2nd, during a motorcade from O'Hare Airport to the Army-Air Force football game at Soldier Field. Four men, four high-powered rifles, and a patsy -- working in a building overlooking the President's route. The potential patsy, Thomas Arthur Vallee (an ex-Marine loner with emotional problems), was picked up and held. Two of the snipers were also arrested, then released. The other two escaped the city. Kennedy's Chicago trip was cancelled as in 1963 the country seethed with plots: June '63, Beverly Wilshire Hotel (trip cancelled); November 2nd in Chicago; November 17th in Tampa (motorcade cancelled); Miami, November 19th (trip cancelled); Dallas on the 22nd.

After Kennedy's death, perplexed by the general embrace of the Lone Nut Theory, Abraham Bolden kept speaking to supervisors about the obvious connection between the local plot and what happened three weeks later, and repeatedly requested to testify before the Warren Commission about his Chicago evidence. On May 17, 1964, he directly called J. Lee Rankin, General Counsel to the Commission. On May 18th, Bolden was arrested and charged with fraud, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy, in connection with a black counterfeiting ring. In August 1964, he was convicted on all three counts. Abraham Bolden served three years and nine months in federal prison.

In focusing on a small group of cartoon conspirators vs. a small group of patriots, Seven Days in May ignores -- in the Year of Goldwater -- the rise of Western cowboy economies (space, oil, weapons, big agriculture), ignores the growing nationalist movements across the world, ignores the economic basis of the U.S. war machine, and ignores the ongoing wars within the American deep state itself. A coup launched for purely ideological reasons? Never.

But for a tender version of Iceman Cometh (1973, originally made-for-TV but given theatrical release) starring Lee Marvin, with final roles for Fredric March and the immortal Robert Ryan, Seven Days in May would be the last interesting feature Frankenheimer would make. Although his connection to political murder would carry on. He would host, at his Malibu home, Robert F. Kennedy on his last full night and morning, and drive the Senator to his Ambassador Hotel execution.



Frank Sinatra met John Frankenheimer at a 1960 Hollywood campaign party for Senator John F. Kennedy. Legend has it, Kennedy mentioned (between dances) a book he had just enjoyed, a best-selling political thriller by Richard Condon called The Manchurian Candidate.

The director's work prior to the party consisted of almost 200 (mainly social issue) television dramas. In 1960, godfathered by Burt Lancaster, Frankenheimer was given his first shot at a full-blown feature (a forgettable independent called The Young Stranger came-and-went in 1957): The Young Savages, starring Lancaster in a sort of black-and-white version of West Side Story without the songs. During Savages, Frankenheimer and producer George Axelrod (screenwriter of Breakfast at Tiffany's) bought the rights to the JFK-endorsed Condon novel, a project already rejected by several studios. In early '61, they grabbed the interest of Sinatra and the movie went into production one year later.

The Manchurian Candidate would not be the first instance Frank Sinatra dove into assassination waters. Toward the end of his tortured, hopeless husband-love for Ava Gardner, before his Hollywood-career saving Oscar for From Here to Eternity, he contracted to play in Lewis Allen's Suddenly (1954) -- an inert, pointless movie made twice interesting: it is a movie the Warren Commission claims was TV-viewed by Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before Dallas; and Sinatra's raw, almost-hysterical performance as an Army section-eight turned mob-hired presidential assassin.



If The Manchurian Candidate has too much politics (or not enough of the right sort), Suddenly has none. Johnny Baron (Sinatra) doesn't know who is paying him $500,000 to kill Ike. And doesn't care. (My money is on Nixon and the Dulles Bros.)

Johnny summarizes the story's POV:

BARON
One President dead,
another arrives.
What changes?
Nuthin'!

The great Sterling Hayden, fresh off Johnny Guitar, plays a small-town California sheriff and is totally wasted. The whole movie feels post-dubbed; and has a McCarthyesque love of police authority. Sinatra doesn't appear until 20 minutes into a 73-minute movie, but when he does he blows a hole in the screen. We are now used to seeing strung-out military-trained psychopaths performing blowback when returned to families and country, as movie characters. Hardly at all in the Fifties, and Sinatra's in Suddenly is the most frightening. (The way he yells "It didn't stop!") Career desperation or not, what other star in that time would have signed on to play such a repulsive character?

How Ava deepened his talent; and his soul. . .



Frankenheimer's style in The Manchurian Candidate is as baroque and wet as his style in Seven Days is flat and officious. Yet the two works have much in common: worship of a behaving military and its honor; a 6th-grade history book's presentation of how power works; a classical conservative's faith in how it should; embrace of all existing institutions (lone exception, MC's Republican Party, not exactly a career-breaker in 1962); media power absent; so, of course, is capitalism. The two movies' decapitation plots are like Potemkin villages. In Seven Days the cadre of generals exist apart from national and state law-enforcement, from international support, from banking or other financial hierarchies. The word "corporation" is not used in either film. The intelligence community does not exist. (Did James Angleton secretly bankroll Frankenheimer as means of distraction?) Manchurian Candidate's plot is a Bircher nightmare, only worse. Here even the most virulent of the far right are Sino-Soviet front men and women. When Angela Landsbury (great ~ Sinatra wanted Lucille Ball for the part!) reveals to her son Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) the final piece of the plot, she announces her intention to betray her Communist sponsors. How? For what purpose? For whose benefit? Raymond's? We see no plans made for his escape after assassinating drip candidate Benjamin K. Arthur. She says she will create the most vicious and bitchiest police state of all time. Again, how? By a Russian/Chinese land invasion? (The Sino-Soviet split was already obvious by '62.) Then Frankenheimer blows the scene with that stupid mommie-kiss.

In the screenplay adaptation, it's clear Frankenheimer and Axelrod hoped to push the more mythomaniacal and (worse) Freudian aspects of the Condon novel to comic book levels. All hopes crushed by Frank Sinatra's brave, naked, deeply-wounded performance.



Inside the thick political shell of the movie there exists two worlds elsewhere: Josie (Leslie Parrish) and Raymond; Rosie (Janet Leigh) and Major Marco. (Leave the Josie/Rosie rhyme to Laura Mulvey and similar dopes.) Here the work's obsession with ideology and plots quiets and ends. And briefly, it embraces a Borzagian world apart from the power-saturated universe. Perhaps the strangest and most unsettling parts of Manchurian Candidate are the flashback sequences with Raymond and Josie, and her dad Senator Thomas Jordan (John McGiver, stealing every scene he's in). For Raymond and the father seem irremediably gay. (Not that it needs to be redeemed.) Nowhere to be found in the Condon book, the gayness extends to Raymond's first boss (and domestic victim) Hobart Gaines and his very fruity bedroom, and to the star-chamber scenes in Korea. (Similar to the torture in Michael Cimino's reactionary and stupid The Deer Hunter, in MC the facts are turned upside-down. The U.S. military and its puppet SVN army used tiger-cages for torture. The U.S. government in the 1950s -- the movie is set in the 1954-56 period -- created brainwashed/torture/assassination victims via Allen Dulles-sponsored programs such as MK Ultra.) And let's not forget the Red Queen.


With Raymond Shaw, Frankenheimer and Axelrod have added to Norman Bates of two years before in creating a new American type: the sexually-frustrated loner whose only real orgasms are acts of violence. Shaw could be Bates with a Cambridge polish and an alive mother. It was just the beginning: Oswald, Speck, Ray, Sirhan, Bremer, Hinkley, Manson, Whitman. All ostensible loners, all with very sinister intelligence connections.

Frankenheimer is so successful with the brief scenes of Rosie and Ben Marco he almost capsizes the film. (Perhaps the half-hour cut after disappointing previews contained much more of the couple.) They exist in a different movie. (Days of Wine and Roses or perhaps Axelrod's Breakfast at Tiffany's.) We only get a taste which leaves a serious question: What draws her to this clearly sick and broken man? Has Rosie been sent to cover Ben, as Eva Marie Saint covers Cary Grant in North by Northwest? And let's hear it for Janet Leigh, such a talented gal who was indispensable to some of the key works of her time: Candidate, The Naked Spur, Touch of Evil, Psycho.



The Manchurian Candidate was a box-office bomb and -- along with Suddenly -- removed from circulation after 11/22/63. Seven Days in May was scheduled for an early-December '63 release, postponed until the following February with the planned ad-campaign and nation-wide showings trashed. (It only opened in select theaters in select big cities. None in Texas.) It was also taken out of circulation until around the time of Watergate. Both films are in an honorable and classical tradition of liberal filmmaking as vanished as the Hollywood Palace. (The only modern equivalent I can think of is Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck [2005], a fine chamber piece whose sole theme seems to be: people should treat each other decently.)

While Seven Days in May made its final pre-release adjustments, and The Manchurian Candidate disappeared after completing its theatrical run, David Atlee Phillips, Richard Helms, General Curtis Lemay, Admiral Arleigh Burke, Allen Dulles, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Des FitzGerald, Tracy Barnes, Jim Angleton and others murdered John F. Kennedy. Two days later, his accused assassin was killed on national television. On Novermber 25, 1963, Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. On the 26th, Frank Sinatra, George Axelrod, producers Howard Koch and Edward Lewis, Rod Serling, Burt Lancaster, and John Frankenheimer all went back to work.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lightning

Yes, it is a cold war document. Yes it was written and directed (and scored!) by right-wing loon Bruce Herschensohn (borrowing from Leni Riefenstahl). And yes we have to listen to Gregory Peck's voice.

But it is a great documentary (ignore the part about Dallas): earnest, transcendent, and -- like the man himself -- honorable and very moving. He left behind a more compassionate country (and world). What more can one do?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Pleasure of His Company


The video quality stinks (and who needs Edward G. Marshall?), but perhaps the closest we came to the private John F. Kennedy was given to us by his public press conferences. Wonderful stuff.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Winter is Coming

"The devil is no fool. He can get people feeling about heaven the way they ought to feel about hell. He can make them fear the means of grace the way they do not fear sin. And he does so, not by light but by obscurity, not by realities but by shadows, not by clarity and substance but by dreams and the creatures of psychosis."
-- Thomas Merton
Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds premiered in New York City 50 years ago and for 50 years audiences have asked the movie the same basic question: Why do the birds attack? You could fill a small library with the monographs and books which have tried to answer that question, almost all of them throwing up their hands in confusion, cliché, or pedantry: God's punishment of Man; Nature's punishment of Man; Fate; Science; the Unknown; the Absurd. Or mere storytelling incompetence and exhaustion on the part of an aging, burned-out director (in Pauline Kael's aging, burned-out "analysis"). Yet the movie, I think, provides the answer, a mystery solved consistent with Alfred Hitchcock's chain of wounded masterpieces beginning with The Wrong Man (1956) and ending with Marnie (1964) -- a run of artistic achievement equal to any of the 20th Century.

When do the birds attack?
Gulls attack Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) when she reverts to posing and primping, after exposing herself emotionally to Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) by finding out where he lives, buying love birds for his little sister's birthday, traveling to his family home in Bodega Bay, and dropping off the love birds. Love birds.
A gull crashes into Annie Hayworth's (Suzanne Pleshette's) door after Annie and Melanie have opened their hearts and emotional secrets to each other -- their love for Mitch -- on a night of full moon. Perhaps a warning to them from the witch of the Bay: Lydia (Jessica Tandy), Mitch Brenner's mother.
Gulls attack the children at Cathy Brenner's (Veronica Cartwright's) birthday party -- immediately upon Melanie's revelation to Mitch of her hatred of her own abandoning mother: a crooning that opens the door to Mitch's own mother-hatred -- while Annie Hayworth, the junior witch of the town and its sole elementary school teacher, watches Mitch and Melanie talk among the dunes, as Lydia stands close by also watching. The birds attack the children . . .
Sparrows explode into the Brenner family house as Lydia's hysteria is made manifest, over Mitch's invitation to Melanie to sleep overnight in an upstairs bedroom.
Handsome neighbor Dan Fawcett -- whose chickens won't eat -- is murdered by crazed birds, his eyes eaten out -- mother Lydia's rage killing the man she'd been having an affair with (or hoping to) -- the better to focus on Mitch; the better to keep him near.
Crows attack Annie Hayworth's world, her school and school children, her house where Melanie Daniels is also staying -- the attack beginning instantly after Lydia sends Melanie to the school to check on Cathy Brenner's safety; Lydia willing to risk the sacrifice of her young daughter if it will forever take Melanie and Annie out from between herself and Mitch. Perhaps take Cathy out as well, another future rival.
At last, Lydia loses control, her nightmare of loss released into the open air, as her fury begins to destroy all. Her home and neighbors. Her town. Perhaps Mitch himself.
There are witches in Bodega Bay. And does in lovely human forms. And a cold calculating cunt on her way to becoming a doe. It is always overcast in Bodega Bay, the whole place haunted, the colors muted, earthtones exhausted, like a Braque. The only vibrancy there is the blood red of Annie Hayworth: she is the earth, the wounded, with heart and orgasm -- vows taken for life and the furies of vengeance if one is untrue to the depths of passion.

And something else. The personal panics of Hitchcock's characters seem born of their time. They can hear the ominous, distant drums. The powerful, perhaps smug, confidence of American life growing since the War is reaching a cross-roads -- the Eisenhower consensus is coming apart, so is the Nuclear Family, as sexual repression comes home to roost. Kennedy -- and Rod Taylor could be his twin -- as Fertility God. All the terrors and conflicts to come, as much of the best in American life is about to go away forever. He is in danger! So is the love. The Birds rejects the Kennedy promise. The call for togetherness and love, emotional exposure, sexual relaxation, will be destroyed. The year the movie is released will be the call's high point -- all downhill from here. Hitchcock rejects the promise -- not emotionally or spiritually -- but as a simple impossibility, as something forever out of character with the brutish, hateful, mob-oriented, and violent American "character." Togetherness will not work, cannot, against the furies of reaction to come, Just as he sensed in Psycho (1960) the new-born lone-gun Oswald sickness emerging from the American miasma, here Hitchcock senses the Kennedy hope -- and the doom it will soon face.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sacred Hearts


[Originally posted during the too-hopeful autumn of 2011, please forgive the swill regarding Occupy. Who knew it would turn out to be little more than a punchline, a detour between iPhone 3 and iPhone 4? A strange concoction that emerged from nowhere just when the drive toward a Democratic Party primary challenge to Obama was strongest; a concotion which then disappeared when it was too late to file any primary challenges. I stand by the rest.]


"Film is a phenomenon whose resemblance to death has been ignored for too long." -- Norman Mailer

There were movies made during the 1940s war different from all other movies, from all other times; as tens of millions lost their lives in waves of newborn death-machine technologies, these works exist, on the cusp of noir, somewhere between life and death: La Nave Bianca, 47 Ronin, Heaven Can Wait, Ivan the Terrible - Part I, the Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur masterpieces at RKO.

Robert Bresson's Ladies of the Bois de Bologne.


The Magnificent Ambersons.


Day of Wrath.


And the greatest directorial début in movie history, Bresson's 1943 Les Anges du Peche (The Angels of Sin), a film Bresson -- because of Occupation and air raids -- had to shoot entirely at night. (Also occasionally lacking were electricity and heat: we can sometimes see the actresses' breath.) The movie is the Catholicism of my youth: secrets, magic, sorrow, hysteria, purity, suffocation, mystery, passion, furtiveness, wonder, humiliation, pride, miracle, sacrifice, self-abnegation, monumentality, prostration before power, ceremony, despair, blood, terror, eroticism, suffering, severity, ecstasy, longing, relics. There are many Holy Relics in Les Anges: Anne-Marie's mirror and family photographs, Thérèse's gun, the police handcuffs, the dour Assistant Superior's black cat, the nuns' bare feet, the hands of Anne-Marie and Thérèse.

'Though reshaped by the fresh winds of Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, and Vatican II (eventually causing the inanities of singing masses, church architecture more suited to high school gymnasiums, Saturday services, folk guitars, no Latin, congregational call-and-response, and the elimination of incense because it was making some people sick), my parish embraced the individual over the communal, mostly divorced from good works. One burns for good or evil by one's own flame. Not in relation to others'.


A young and beautiful aristocrat joins a convent dedicated to the resurrection of lost souls -- female prison inmates released at the end of their sentences (or commuted) into the grace and mercy of the Sisters. Anne-Marie (Renée Faure) becomes obsessed with inmate Thérèse (a hard-bitten girl who rejects the convent upon release, but who later runs to it for sanctuary after shooting her ex-boyfriend, the man who framed her.) Because of excessive willfulness and pride, Anne-Marie is asked to leave the order. She refuses to return to her family, instead sneaking onto the convent grounds at night to remain close to the Sisters and Thérèse. The characters float through Bresson and photographer Philippe Agostini's black-and-grey-and-white labyrinth of moral hierarchies and dimensions, embraced by Grunenwald's awe.


"Love, unannounced, soon has God's ear. Intelligence and wit He takes longer to hear." -- Silesius

Les Anges du Peche was released the summer of Simone Weil's death:

He entered my room and said:
“You understand nothing,
you know nothing.
Come with me and I will show you things.”
I followed him.

He took me into a church.
It was new and ugly. He led me
to the altar and said:
“Kneel down.”
I told him I had not been baptized.
He said, “Fall on your knees,
in love, as before the place where
truth lies.”
I obeyed.

He took me out and made me climb up
to his room. Through an open window
I could see the whole city, and the river.
The room was empty, except for a table
and chairs. He told me to sit.

We were alone. He spoke. From time
to time, other women would come in,
then leave.

Winter had gone; spring had not yet
come. The branches of the trees were
bare, without buds, in the cold air
full of sunshine. The light of day would
come shining, and fade away; then the
moon and stars would enter through
the window. And then once more
dawn would come.

At times he would be silent,
take some bread from a shelf,
and we would share it. This bread
really had the taste of bread.
I have never found that taste again.
               
He would pour some wine for me,
and some for himself ~ wine which
tasted of the sun, of the city. Other times
we would stretch ourselves out on the floor,
and sweet sleep would enfold me.
Then I would wake with the sun.
He had promised to teach me, but he
didn’t teach me anything.
We talked about all kinds of things,
as do old friends.

One day he said to me, “Now go.”
I fell down before him, I clasped his
knees, I implored him to not drive me
away. But he threw me out. I went down
the stairs unconscious of everything,
my heart was in shreds. I wandered
down the stairs. Then I realized I had
no idea where his room lay.

I have never tried to find it again.
I understood that he had come for me
by mistake. My place is not in that room.
It can be anywhere ~ in a prison cell,
on a train, in a red plush lobby ~
anywhere, except in that room.

Sometimes I cannot help trying,
with fear and remorse, to repeat
to myself a part of what he said
to me. How am I to know if I remember
rightly? He is not there to tell me.

I know well that he does not love me.
How could he love me? And yet deep down
within me something, a particle of myself,
cannot help thinking, that perhaps in spite of all,
he loves me.

"I know there is a God -- and I see a storm coming.
If He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready."
-- John F. Kennedy
Comparing Les Anges to Lilies of the Field, Bresson to Ralph Nelson, is like comparing the Missa Solemnis to "If I Had a Hammer" or "Blowin' in the Wind." Still, both movies embody their time and place via a detailed, beautiful, and intense Catholicism as different as Vichy France and Kennedy's America, as apart from each other as were the most despairing moments in man's history from some of the brightest.

Driving across the flatlands of some southwestern state, Homer Smith's car breaks down, near to a broken-down convent. He asks the nuns for some water for his engine, and allows himself to be roped into doing odd jobs for what Homer (Sidney Poitier) assumes will be for pay. The pay doesn't come, the odd jobs multiply, and eventually Smith agrees to personally build the Sisters -- a platoon of German/East European nuns on the run from Godless Communism, in director/producer/actor Ralph Nelson's genuflection before Cold War liberalism -- a new church, brick-by-brick. The local community -- the poor and working class, plus one cracker businessman with a heart of gold (nicely played by Nelson) -- insist on contributing, as Homer steps away from his pride, toward the common good.


In another season, the movie may have been ignored. 1963 would be the last year before Nixon without a Long Hot Summer. Instead it had a March on Washington, George Wallace standing in a schoolhouse doorway, the death of Medgar Evers in the first American political assassination of the decade, four little girls blown up in a Birmingham church, a Civil Rights Bill, and the President of the United States declaring the elimination of race prejudice a supreme moral issue.



So a small, dignified, kind movie gets lots of attention and its star becomes the first black actor (playing a human being) to win an Oscar. A handsome, gleaming black man can appear on screen before white nuns, some of them young and pretty, in his underwear. Quite a-ways from 1960, movie-wise.

The experience of our lone Catholic Administration can be seen as the country's Stations of the Cross, on the road to the Golgotha of Dallas:

First Station -- Kennedy refuses troop involvement in a collapsing Laos, instead helps form a neutralist-coalition government which stands until the middle-1970s.

Second Station -- Kennedy refuses United States air cover and troop involvement during the rout at the Bay of Pigs.

Third Station -- Berlin Wall goes up. Kennedy takes no action.

Fourth Station -- South Vietnam on the brink of collapse, as most of JFK's government pushes strongly for the sending of 250,000 troops to stabilize the Diem regime. Kennedy sends 10,000 "advisers" instead.

Fifth Station -- Kennedy takes on U.S. Steel, forcing the leaders of the steel industry to rescind a price increase which violated a Kennedy-brokered agreement to combat inflation.

Sixth Station -- Refusing calls to bomb and invade Cuba, refusing the calls of some to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Moscow, Kennedy resolves the Missile Crisis by agreeing to not attack Cuba and to remove U.S. nuclear missiles stationed in Turkey, on the Soviet border.

Seventh Station -- Kennedy and Indonesian President Sukarno take steps to form a neutralist government in troubled Indonesia, JFK again refusing to approve any covert actions aimed at the country, a refusal reversed two years later by LBJ, leading to the murder of over 1,000,000 suspected "leftists" and the overthrow of Sukarno.

Eighth Station -- Kennedy forms back-channel to Castro government.

Ninth Station -- At American University, JFK calls for an end to the Cold War, reminding us that "we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's futures, and we are all mortal."

Tenth Station -- The next day(!), Kennedy announces his intention to help lead the Black Revolution instead of fighting it.

Eleventh Station -- Kennedy forms back-channel to North Vietnamese government, through the Ngo brothers.

Twelfth Station -- Signs the Nuclear Test Ban treaty with the Soviets, banning all nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underground, or underwater.

Thirteenth Station -- Kennedy orders first 1,000 Americans withdrawn from South Vietnam by the end of '63, in phase-one of a planned total Vietnam withdrawal.

Fourteenth Station -- At the United Nations on September 20, 1963, JFK calls for world disarmament, for a world government in the interests of peace, a world center for conservation and food distribution, and a world system of health bringing all people of the earth under medical protection. He also calls for an end to the Space Race, for a unified effort to explore the stars, the planets, the moon -- and a ban on all outer space weapons and military-oriented satellites. This, combined with Kennedy's refusal to Americanize the war in Southeast Asia, would have cost the corporate/military/intelligence vampires trillions of dollars.


Liberation Theology begins here. And continues. To define the Catholic Church by the likes of the current Nazi pope and his fellow pederasts is like defining togetherness along the lines of the Manson Family. In the face of virulent attacks from Rome (most of them directed by Ratzinger), the magnificent socialist liberations across Central and South America flow from the Theology as does the continuing model of the Cuban Revolution.

The timing of the original attacks on the Church, ignited by the child abuse scandals, has always smelled. One thinks of Chomsky's defense of government: "There's a lot of things wrong with government, but what the US Elites hate about it is what is right: that government is reachable and controllable by the people, that is it the only weapon available against increasing privatization and inequality." The attempt to destroy the public face of the Catholic Church -- a jihad coincidentally began under the most extreme WASP war administration in U.S. history -- emerged to destroy what is right with the Church: its remaining preference for the poor, its involvement with anti-war, anti-globalist, anti-capitalist movements across the world.

As far as is known, no part of the Catholic Church is currently engaged in the destruction of Palestinian and other Middle Eastern cultures, homes, women, children or old men. Nor is the Church part of the Holy WASP Capitalist Crusade against the world in places like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan or Afghanistan. (Or Greece.) Let's face it, the buggery of children has gone on forever in the hallowed halls of:

Yale Skull & Bones
The Council on Foreign Relations
The TriLateral Commission
Sullivan and Cromwell
The CIA
The Carlyle Group
Lutherans, Calvinists, and Presbyterians
Methodists, Anabaptists, and Anglicans

And all the other WASP bloodsuckers who have caused the deaths of billions of people over the past centuries.


Nuns, the poor and working class, the despairing. Who notices now? The message is clear: you are waste product, the world would be better off without you; in fact, doesn't even see you. The generosity of the country's heart has shut. Liberation Theology is Occupy Wall Street, our current Lilies of the Field. Doubtless they are generally unprepared for the shitstorm which will rain down once the show stops and the corporate walls begin to crack, but they are the few honorable, those here in this once great city, now a lost heap of sorrow and rage who still try to do their best and to do good. They are fine troops, with the courage to live at war every day in a society now run by beasts.