Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Why was John F. Kennedy murdered?

Jim DiEugenio with the answer. Poor video, great insight.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Lightning @ 100

Yes, it's a cold war document. Yes it was written and directed (and scored!) by right wing loon Bruce Herschensohn (borrowing heavily 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?

Sunday, May 28, 2017


"I'm afraid we were misled. All the critics, myself included, were misled very early. I see that now. We spent too much time and effort microanalyzing the details of the assassination when all the time it was obvious, it was blatantly obvious that it was a conspiracy. Don't you think that the men who killed Kennedy had the means to do it in the most sophisticated and subtle way? They chose not to. Instead, they picked the shooting gallery that was Dealey Plaza and did it in the most barbarous and openly arrogant manner. The cover story was transparent and designed not to hold, to fall apart at the slightest scrutiny. The forces that killed Kennedy wanted the message clear: 'We are in control and no one -- not the President, nor Congress, nor any elected official -- no one can do anything about it.' It was a message to the people that their government was powerless. And the people eventually got the message. Consider what has happened since the Kennedy assassination. People see government today as unresponsive to their needs, yet the budget and power of the military and intelligence establishment have increased tremendously.
"The tyranny of power is here. Current events tell us that those who killed Kennedy can only perpetuate their power by promoting social upheaval both at home and abroad. And that will lead not to revolution but to repression. I suggest to you, my friend, that the interests of those who killed Kennedy now transcend national boundaries and national priorities. No doubt we are dealing now with an international conspiracy. We must face that fact -- and not waste any more time microanalyzing the evidence. That's exactly what they want us to do. They have kept us busy for so long. And I will bet, buddy, that is what will happen to you. They'll keep you very, very busy and, eventually, they'll wear you down."
-- Vince Salandria to Gaeton Fonzi, late-1975

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sacred Hearts

[Originally posted during the too-hopeful autumn of 2011, 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 emerging 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 challenges.]

"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 RKO masterpieces.

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 (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: you 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, lust, suffering, severity, ecstasy, longing, relics. There are many Holy Relics in Les Anges: Anne-Marie's mirror and family photographs, Thérèse's gun, police handcuffs, the dour Assistant Superior's black cat, the nuns' bare feet, the hands of Anne-Marie and Thérèse.

Although reshaped by the fresh winds of Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, and Vatican II (eventually causing inanities such as 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 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 does not 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 wonderfully under Pope Francis.

To have defined the Catholic Church by the likes of the former Nazi pope and his fellow pederasts was 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 flowed 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 begun 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 Europe.) 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 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.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

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 54 years ago and for 54 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 the 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 watching also. 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 crazy 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 here 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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Paul Craig Roberts:
This Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2017, is the 100th birthday of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States.

JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963, as he approached the end of his third year in office. Researchers who spent years studying the evidence have concluded that President Kennedy was assassinated by a conspiracy between the CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secret Service.

Kennedy entered office as a cold warrior, but he learned from his interaction with the CIA and Joint Chiefs that the military/security complex had an agenda that was self-interested and a danger to humanity. He began working to defuse tensions with the Soviet Union. His rejections of plans to invade Cuba, of the Northwoods project, of a preemptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, and his intention to withdraw from Vietnam after his reelection, together with some of his speeches signaling a new approach to foreign policy in the nuclear age, convinced the military/security complex that he was a threat to their interests. Cold War conservatives regarded him as naive about the Soviet Threat and a liability to US national security. These were the reasons for his assassination. These views were set in stone when Kennedy announced on June 10, 1963, negotiations with the Soviets toward a nuclear test ban treaty and a halt to US atmospheric nuclear tests.

The Oswald coverup story never made any sense and was contradicted by all evidence including tourist films of the assassination. President Johnson had ro cover up the assassination, not because he was part of it or because he willfully wanted to deceive the American people, but because to give Americans the true story would have shaken their confidence in their government at a critical time in US-Soviet relations. To make the coverup succeed, Johnson needed the credibility of the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Earl Warren, to chair the commission that covered up the assassination. Warren understood the devastating impact the true story would have on the public and their confidence in the military and national security leadership and on America’s allies.

As I previously reported, Lance deHaven-Smith in his book, Conspiracy Theory in America, shows that the CIA introduced “conspiracy theory” into the political lexicon as a technique to discredit skepticism of the Warren Commission’s coverup report. He provides the CIA document that describes how the agency used its media friends to control the explanation.

The term “conspiracy theory” has been used ever since to validate false explanations by discrediting true explanations.

President Kennedy was also determined to require the Israel Lobby to register as a foreign agent and to block Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. His assassination removed the constraints on Israel’s illegal activities.

Memorial Day is when Americans honor those in the armed services who died serving the country. JFK fell while serving the causes of peace and nuclear disarmament. In a 1961 address to the United Nations, President Kennedy said:

“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us. It is therefore our intention to challenge the Soviet Union, not to an arms race, but to a peace race – to advance together step by step, stage by stage, until general and complete disarmament has been achieved.”

Kennedy’s address was well received at home and abroad and received a favorable and supportive response from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, but it caused consternation among the warhawks in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The US led in terms of the number of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, and this lead was the basis for US military plans for a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Also, Many believed that nuclear disarmament would remove the obstacle to the Soviet Army overrunning Western Europe. Warhawks considered this a greater threat than nuclear armageddon. Many in high military circles regarded President Kennedy as weakening the US viv-a-vis the Soviet Union.

The assassination of President Kennedy was an enormous cost to the world. Kennedy and Khrushchev would have followed up their collaboration in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis by ending the Cold War long before the military/security complex achieved its iron grip on the US government. Israel would have been denied nuclear weapons, and the designation of the Israel Lobby as a foreign agent would have prevented Israel’s strong grip on the US government. In his second term, JFK would have broken the CIA into a thousand pieces, an intention he expressed to his brother, Robert, and the Deep State would have been terminated before it became more powerful than the President.

But the military/security complex struck first, and pulled off a coup that voided all these promises and terminated American democracy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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.

Monday, May 22, 2017

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 U.S.
"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 1960s: the John Birch Society/Minutemen/KKK vs. SANE/SNCC. A brawl breaks out before the gates of the 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 around). 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:

One President dead,
another arrives.
What changes?

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. 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. 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 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.

Friday, May 19, 2017

New Normal

Adam Curtis's incendiary masterpiece HyperNormalization (2016) proves its main point: that the Kulturkampf "radicals" of the past 40 years not only were wholly co-opted by their Corporate Masters; but they really dug being so.

Monday, May 8, 2017


In the midst of our America Year Zero, this magazine hit the newstands on April 17th. Per Time-Life, it sold out on April 17th (at $19.95!) and is now in its twelfth printing, three weeks later.

The man was born 100 years ago this month and every day which goes by John Fitzgerald Kennedy seems more and more beyond a miracle: a ghost haunting a depraved, ruthless, and broken-hearted land, his chains made up of all the ways the American character could have gone, but did not.

The necessary website Kennedys and King honors the Centennial with a four-part celebration of the man's life and leadership.

1917 - 1960 From Brookline to Washington




Friday, May 5, 2017

Question of the Day

Monday, May 1, 2017

Affirmative Action

David Walsh on how art should never be judged on the basis of race or gender.