WEIRDLAND: 2020

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Roots of American Misery

The Roots of American Misery by James K. Galbraith: 

The political scientist Robert D. Putnam has written (in collaboration with Shaylyn Romney Garrett) a sprawling account of American discontent and its evolution over the course of the past century. Their central thesis is that things got better across all measurable dimensions – economic, political, social, and cultural – from the early twentieth century until the late 1960s. But then they got worse, culminating in today’s decadence and dysfunction, so reminiscent of the Gilded Age. Putnam illustrates this grand historical sweep with a single inverted-U curve, which he calls the “I-We-I Curve.” The curve, Putnam tells us, captures the rise and fall of common purpose and collective spirit, and conversely, the fall and rise of self-absorption and narcissism – perhaps indecently reflected in our national leaders.

The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again (2020): Michael J. Sandel, a philosopher, has published a tract ascribing populist anger to the rise of “meritocracy,” by which he means the system of academic testing and scoring that was pioneered by Harvard University’s mid-twentieth-century president James Conant, and now widely adopted as the basis for social mobility in America. Conant and his adherents, at the bright dawn of quantitative social science, believed and argued that the rise of objective merit would lead to a decline of hierarchies based on class, religion, and also race, at least to a degree. Sandel parallels Putnam in developing a social-psychological interpretation of American misery, seeing behind it a rise of isolated insecurity and a waning of solid and self-confident group identities and mutual support. Neither Putnam nor Sandel are economists, yet both draw on economic evidence to establish the core premise that the American malaise is closely tied to high and rising economic inequality. For their facts about inequality, both rely on the well-known and widely cited work of Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman. For example, citing Piketty et al., Sandel asks us to believe that the bottom 20% of US households (26 million of roughly 130 million) have an average income of just $5,400 per year, or $104 per week. A similar reference underpins Putnam’s assertion that real incomes have stagnated since the 1980s for the bottom 50% of Americans, and fallen for the bottom fifth.

While there is no shortage of Ivy League scholars offering ambitious explanations for everything that ails the United States today, there does seem to be a scarcity of sound, fact-based analysis. In fact, the failure of elites to see what is really afflicting the country is itself one of the biggest problems. Putnam also repeats Piketty’s claim that US wealth inequality today is essentially the same as in the 1920s. To a remarkable degree, Putnam and Sandel offer a view of the world centered on Cambridge, Massachusetts. True, there are some references to scholars at Yale, Princeton, and Cornell, but the impression one gets from both books is that most every worthwhile idea can be found between Fresh Pond and the Charles River. Thus, when Putnam argues that “most economists agree” about the roles of technological change and education in generating economic inequality, he duly references Harvard economists Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin. Similarly, both Putnam and Sandel channel the local wisdom on social mobility, which comes from Harvard’s Raj Chetty. We read that while 90% of those born in the 1940s achieved higher incomes than their parents, only 50% of those born in the 1980s will. Never mind that 1940s parents grew up during the Great Depression, whereas 1980s parents lived in a society that was already very rich. If COVID-19 now gives us a new Great Depression and mass poverty, perhaps today’s children will again experience “upward mobility” over the coming decades. While Cambridge liberals fret over inequality, opportunity, education, and technology, they seem blind (or indifferent) to industrial structure, class identity, and corporate power. Their worldview has been airlocked at least since 1973, when the radical young Harvard economists Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis, and Arthur MacEwan were banished to the University of Massachusetts, while Wassily Leontief, Albert Hirschman, John Kenneth Galbraith, and other members of the older generation found themselves edged out. Thus was purged any recognition of the real John Maynard Keynes, or the American Institutionalists behind the New Deal. Putnam’s and Sandel’s books show that the effects have been lasting. Putnam speaks only briefly of unions, claiming “a growing individualism among younger workers, who preferred watching television in the suburbs to bowling with the guys in the union hall.” 

THE “WHYS” OF DESPAIR: In refreshing contrast, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, wife-and-husband economists at Princeton, offer a careful, deep, and troubling look at the America that lies beyond the Ivy League. In a study organized around the grim recent decline of life expectancy among white males and the equally grim rise of deaths from suicide, alcohol, and opioids, they demonstrate a broad range of knowledge, analytical nuance, and open-mindedness. They do not try to explain everything with a single trademark concept, as Putnam does with individualism and Sandel with meritocracy. A great merit of Case and Deaton’s approach is their blunt assault on named villains, starting with the producers and peddlers of opioids. “In the opioid epidemic,” they write: “the agents were not viruses or bacteria but rather the pharmaceutical companies that manufactured the drugs and aggressively pushed their sales; the members of Congress who prevented the Drug Enforcement Administration from prosecuting mindful overprescription; the DEA, which acceded to lobbyists’ requests not to close the legal loophole that was allowing importation of raw material from poppy farms in Tasmania that had been planted to feed the epidemic; the Food and Drug Administration, which approved the drugs; the medical professionals who carelessly overprescribed them; and the drug dealers from Mexico and China who took over when the medical profession began to pull back.” They also single out Republican US Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, former Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, and the now-notorious Sackler family (two of whom were knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1995), the owners of Purdue Pharma and the manufacturers of OxyContin. Skeptical of simple economic explanations, they rule out any direct relationship between deaths of despair and poverty, income losses from the Great Recession, or even unemployment. This absence of economic determination is understandable once one realizes that mere income losses are, to a considerable extent, cushioned by unemployment insurance and Social Security. But if not income losses, poverty, or inequality, then what? Case and Deaton describe “a long-term and slowly unfolding loss of a way of life for the white, less-educated, working class.” 

Case and Deaton do also stress the gap between those with and without a college education. It is tempting to reify the diploma, to read the divide as evidence that if more people went to college, they would ipso facto lead happier, more fulfilling lives. But the US already puts more people through college than most countries, and yet, so far as we know, deaths of despair are decidedly more prevalent in America than in Europe or Asia. A more convincing analysis would lead back to those inconvenient economists: to the early writings of Bowles and Gintis; and to Harvard’s own great mid-twentieth-century reactionary, Joseph Schumpeter – to whom Case and Deaton do pay fair homage. The lesson is that society only has a certain number of open doors to what Thorstein Veblen famously called the “leisure class”: the professions, the academy, competitive finance. College opens those doors, but does not widen the doorways. Expanding college completion without creating better jobs would merely increase the number of frustrated aspirants to the leisure class. That could be a formula for more despair, not less. Among these books, Putnam’s is perhaps the most radical in its proposed solutions. He would like to see a moral reawakening along the lines of the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century. And yet his is a singularly patrician view of social change. Along with trade unions, Putnam has no time for populists, socialists, or radical activists generally. Still, Putnam’s central claim that America’s social solidarity peaked in the 1960s and has been on a long, slow decline ever since rings true enough to a survivor of that era. With the enactment of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society (including its War on Poverty and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts), the 1960s effectively marked the completion of the New Deal. But then came a decades-long parade of recessions, unemployment, and inflation, while America built its “new economy,” a bi-coastal confection of technology and finance. It was the calamitous legacy of this transformation that laid the foundation for the rise of US President Donald Trump. It seems that part of what America lacks these days are voices of an authentic radicalism capable of reaching a mass audience with the full, brutal honesty that the situation demands. It may be too difficult to frame and advance such a critique from the commanding heights of Harvard and Princeton. Meanwhile, a large part of the country has come to distrust everything that its government, media, philosophers, and social scientists want it to believe. Source: www.project-syndicate.org

Friday, September 18, 2020

JFK, The Illusion of Democracy, JFK Jr., Daryl Hannah, Carolyn Bessette

“The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. There is a plot in this country to enslave every man, woman, and child. Before I leave this high and noble office, I intend to expose this plot.” —John F. Kennedy, 1963 (seven days before his assassination)

Another major attack on democracy took place in July 1999, though most journalists attributed John F Kennedy Jr.’s plane crash to “the Kennedy curse.” People assumed that the news reports were honest and blamed Kennedy for flying as a reckless pilot, in poor weather, endangering his wife and sister-in-law. These statements could not be further from the truth. Despite the media’s attempts to characterize John Jr. as a jet-setting playboy, his mother Jackie actively kept him out of the realm of wealth and leisure and insured he grew up level-headed. John Jr. was the founder of a political magazine called George, which featured stories that the mainstream media would not cover. Two of the most notable stories were “Israel’s Crimes of Mossad Against Citizens,” and an article by Oliver Stone called “Our Counterfeit History”. Rumors were rampant that the upcoming issue of George was going to announce that John Jr. was running for New York Senate. The popularity of another Kennedy, especially in the northeast, could not be tolerated by The Globalist Enterprise. Knowing that the earliest reports tend to be the truest and most reliable, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a statement saying that no mechanical problems were reported, the weather was clear, and the moon was visible at the end of the flight. Protocol dictates that when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Low Altitude Alarm goes off, or a plane fails to check-in for landing, a search is issued for that plane within five minutes. Despite a frantic early morning phone call from Senator Ted Kennedy pleading with President Clinton, a search did not begin for fifteen and one half hours. Protocol was also broken in regards to press briefings. After the initial reports of the missing plane, all future briefings were handled by the Pentagon. The FAA mysteriously would no longer comment on the flight and refused to issue further statements on John Jr.’s communications. The Air Force violated protocol and took over the search.  They utilized two planes and two helicopters to begin searching a 20,000 square mile area, despite ABC News broadcasting for hours the complete radar NTAP route of the flight; ending where the blips disappear nineteen miles out from landing. ABC News continued to broadcast the location where the Emergency Locator Beacon went off. All this was airing before most people were out of bed. Although Lieutenant Colonel Steve Roark claimed that he was not sure John Jr. had made contact with the tower to request landing, fortunately ABC News had interviewed Petty Officer Todd Bergun, the air traffic controller that supplied the radar NTAP proving the flight path. Petty Officer Bergun told ABC News that John Jr. had contacted the tower, and was assigned flight N529JK. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Stanley stated on air that the Coast Guard was “on scene” with helicopters and had found the wreckage despite the fact that the Pentagon had not yet begun the search. When the plane was recovered, they found in the wrecked plane that the Fuel Selector Valve was in the “off” position. A fourth seat was missing (even though those seats double as safety flotation devices). The NTSB has refused to release John Jr.’s cell phone records. This is relevant because the records show the phone calls he made prior to the flight while delayed. Nine Flight Instructors gave testimony on John Jr.’s flying practices. They explained John had been a pilot for over seventeen years. The Instructors detailed John’s methodical and meticulous flight planning, his cautious decision making, and they attested that he never flew without an Instructor. With regards to John’s aptitude as a pilot, he had an Instrument License. This means that he was licensed to fly blind relying on only the instruments on the plane. Prior to the crash John was so serious about flying that he applied for his own Instructor’s License so he could teach other pilots. Two witnesses said they saw Israeli Mossad agent Michael Harari at the Essex County, New Jersey airport standing next to JFK Jr.’s Cessna - just two days before the doomed plane took off with JFK Jr., his pregnant wife, and her sister." —The Illusion of Democracy: A More Accurate History of the Modern United States/Second Edition (2017) by Phil Mennitti

Although John Jr obviously loved his father JFK's legacy, he'd thought of him as a "skirt-chaser" and obsessed with sex, a trait probably inherited from the patriarch Joe Kennedy, who got rich as a Wall Street insider trader and Hollywood studio RKO owner, then became notorious as the 1938-1940 US ambassador to the UK—and who believed Europe was doomed and not worth for US intervening. One of JFK's lovers, the former Miss Denmark Inga Arvad, described the 35th President as “the best listener between Haparanda and Yokohama”. The journalist John Hersey, who had married a former girlfriend of Jack Kennedy’s, made him famous with a big New Yorker piece about PT-109, which anointed him a war hero. Among Fredrik Logevall’s most important observations, he notes that during the decade before Dallas, Kennedy lived with a tension between his own intelligently nuanced view of the ideological forces at play in the world — especially in Indochina — and the crude anti-communism of an instinctively conservative US electorate: “Many voters liked simple explanations and quick fixes.” JFK's caution and bravery about telling the American people unwelcome truths persisted throughtout his short mandate. 

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss believed that JFK Jr. had a “sort of post-modern political sensibility—a grasp of the fact that politics is heavily entangled with risk taking, that we were living at a time where especially young people were skeptical about politicians. John was trying to fashion an approach to politics that allowed him to sort of get across the old Kennedy ethic of public service and idealism, but to do it in the new vernacular of Generation X. And had he run for President in the twenty-first century, I think he would have won on his own terms.” John’s uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, argued that John’s destiny was politics, encouraging his nephew to set his sights on the White House. By the summer of 1999, Teddy believed the time had come for John to think seriously about initiating the Kennedys Restoration. In Teddy’s view, Albany, the capital of New York, would be the strongest possible launching pad for an eventual run for the presidency. He urged John to begin raising money and political backing for the New York governor’s race in 2002.  

JFK Jr. used to live with his girlfriend Daryl Hannah in the Penthouse of The Harmony House at 61 West 62nd Street back in the late 1980s when it was still a rental building. The late editor and political heir John F. Kennedy Jr. and actress Daryl Hannah met, according to historian Steven Gillon, in the early ‘80s while on their respective family vacations. Daryl Hannah had been diagnosed as autistic at age 9. “John found it odd that Daryl seemed to carry a teddy bear with her wherever she went, but he also found her fascinating,” Gillon writes of their initial meeting. Until 1989, they didn't date officially. At the time, both were in relationships with other people — Hannah had spent the last 10 years with singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, while Kennedy had been dating actress Christina Haag since 1985. Hannah and Kennedy remained non-exclusive until 1992 when John flew to L.A. after Daryl had a reported domestic incident with Browne.

The Breakup: Steve Gillon, a friend to John as well as a historian, told InStyle magazine that he thought “John just found Daryl too self-absorbed.” In America’s Reluctant Prince he writes that while Jackie was in the hospital in New York, just days ahead of her death in 1994, John was in L.A. for the funeral of Hannah’s dog. Fueling the absurdity of this story, Hannah then got angry with John because he hadn’t chosen a more elaborate box for the dog’s ashes. “That just infuriated him,” Gillon explained. “And even after Jackie died, Daryl had another dog that was sick and John was up in Martha's Vineyard or Hyannis Port, and Daryl's on the phone talking about her dog all the time and John is there in the kitchen with his longtime friend Sasha Chermayeff, and he says, ‘Can you believe this. I just lost my mom and all she wants to talk about is her sick dog.’” No doubt adding to the mounting tensions between them through the years, Jackie had not been a fan of Daryl Hannah. According to Gillon, while the former First Lady never directly confronted Hannah about John, whenever the actress came over to her apartment for dinner she would manage to eat on a tray in another room. By August of 1994, about three months after Jackie’s death, John Kennedy Jr. and Daryl Hannah had split officially. Source: www.yahoo.com

In November 1993, Daryl Hannah had posed -in extremely poor taste- for Spy magazine in the Jackie's pink Chanel outfit for the 30th Anniversary of JFK's death, which was ill received by both Jackie and John Jr. Although Hannah was always reticent to talk about her relationship with John Jr., in 2003 she wanted to put to rest the widespread belief that Jackie Kennedy Onassis put the kibosh on the star's romance with John F. Kennedy Jr. because she didn't want her son marrying an actress. "It bothers me when it's assumed that John's mother didn't approve of me," Hannah told the March issue of Glamour magazine. "I had a great relationship with her and treasure my memories of her kindness, humor and grace," the "Splash" star claimed. John had confided his friend Billy Noonan Jackie tolerated Daryl but she didn't appreciated her lack of social decorum. Instead, Jackie had sensed Carolyn, his mysterious new girlfriend, was sincere in her love for her son. John took Jackie's approval nod towards Carolyn as the greenlight he needed to go definitely serious with the middle class beauty from Connecticut. “I just completely dig Carolyn, in every possible way,” John confided to Noonan. "His voice cracked with emotion when he explained me how different he felt with Carolyn. I flashed back to Daryl Hannah—and how much she'd hurt him. Carolyn was more romantic, more vulnerable, more real. I realized Carolyn was defining and illuminating John. I was so happy for him. John thought with all his great heart that he had found his dream girl. He was going to marry her, and I was excited! Marriage is the most important decision, I believe, anyone is going to make in his life."

According to Carolyn Bessette's roommate at Boston University, Colleen Curtis: "Carolyn was a magnet. She was a party girl then, with a close circle of friends and came across as “cold” to people outside her group, but she was really just shy - and people were always after her to be friends because she was so beautiful. She didn’t photograph well, but in person she was luminescent. She tried modeling but because she photographed so poorly, it went nowhere. Carolyn was complex, unpredictable, spontaneous and sometimes exasperating. But she was never dull. She was a great listener, though she would often get the same intense look when she was lost in thought, and she could drift so far away that she would forget it was her turn to talk. This is a polite way of saying she was a bit absent-minded. She started two kitchen fires in one week, making toasts and popcorn. Fortunately, only the popcorn incident required the Boston Fire Department. I can't think of anything more boring than the months we worked as cocktail waitresses at a restaurant in Harvard Square, but the money was good, and we were such good friends, it made the nights pass more quickly. In truth, most of that money went to clothes. Carolyn loved to hit Filene's Basement and the sales racks at upscale boutiques, hunting wonderful bargains. Although she was a professional at her job at Calvin Klein, Carolyn was never a slave to the fashion world and she never talked about it away from work. She liked nice clothes, she appreciated creative new ideas, but she recognized that the fashion industry could be one-dimensional. I think John Kennedy fell in love with Carolyn when he saw how much she truly cared for others. John insisted she quit her job, because the long hours were strenuous. Before she left her job, she talked about translating the skills she'd learned in fashion PR into something more meaningful such as fund-raising for nonprofit organizations." —The Kennedy Heirs: A Legacy of Tragedy and Triumph (2019) by J. Randy Taraborrelli 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Blackening of Europe, Male Suicide Stats

Camus: ‘The non-existence of races, like the non-existence of classes, is indispensable for the industrial production of l’homme remplaçable: replaceable man; exchangeable man; decultivated, decivilised, denationalised, and unrooted, such as needed by and for generalised exchange: of man with man, of man with woman, of people with people, of animals with things, of man with machines, with prosthesis and with objects — the post-human condition.’

Indigenous Europeans are becoming demographic and political minorities in European nation-states. Europeans, understood as White, are already a world minority as a race. Out of about 7.7 billion people worldwide approximately one billion people are considered White; this means that Whites comprise less than 13% of the world population. Whites also have the lowest birth-rates in the world. For a population to exactly replace itself through births, the total fertility rate must be 2.1. The total fertility rate for the European Union is around 1.6, whereas the global average is 2.5, with the continent of Africa having the highest fertility rate in the world at 4.7. However, it is not the low fertility rate of Europeans that renders them ethnic minorities within their own nations, but elite-sanctioned large-scale non-European immigration, which began about sixty years ago and which is now integral to the cosmopolitan EU project. Because Kant thought human sensibilities were not wholly rational, being based as they are on self-interested impulses, they tended toward disobedience of moral law, so Kant’s cosmopolitan rationale did not mean universal freedom in a kingdom of ends. Instead, only a world based on a ‘simulacrum’ of ends is possible, a place where cosmopolitan normativity cultivates hope and gradually instils a sense of humanity, solidarity, and sympathy through cultural reforms, global social communication, and education in the arts and sciences. Kant also rejected colonialism, but thought that ‘colonization could sometimes be justified in terms of “bringing culture to uncivilized peoples” and purging the home-country of “depraved characters” ’; he argued, however, that ‘there could be no justification for the injustices of plunder, slavery and extermination’. Since the 1960s European nations and European-based nations have been practising large-scale Third World immigration, which has often involved immigrants bringing their domestic political issues to domestic political levels of their host countries, leading in turn to harmful and divisive sub-national politics, among many other problems, such as various forms of disrespect to the host political community, plundering of social welfare benefits, and the extermination of indigenous peoples in acts of terrorism. Critics have also compared mass immigration into European nations to a form of neocolonization by the rest of the world (Africanization, Islamization, Eurabia), often carried out through illegal immigration and the current ‘migrant crisis’ occurring in Europe, but also through legal immigration in the form of population-replacement projects and the complete rejection of European laws and culture by immigrants who seek to replace these with their own. Immigration has also resulted in the ethnic mixing of European populations and the dilution of the majority ethnic group. In March 2006 John J. Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen M. Walt, Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University published an essay entitled ‘The Israel Lobby’, and in September of that same year they published a revised Working Paper titled ‘The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy’ in the Middle East Policy journal. In these works, they argue that US foreign policy in the Middle East is ‘primarily’ influenced by ‘domestic politics and especially … [by] the activities of the “Israel Lobby” ’ in America, and that this group has convinced ‘Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical’. Cultural Marxism is a bourgeois revolutionary ideology backed by capitalist forces (a socialist-capitalist alliance) that seeks the gradual gain of power via a destructive ‘long march’ through the existing institutions, the superstructure of Western Civilization. And, in contrast to economic Marxism, cultural Marxism relies on a coalition of Third World racial movements and New Left/New Class oppositional forces as their source of revolutionary change (new proletariat). -The Blackening of Europe: Ideologies & International Developments (2020) by Clare Ellis

The rate of male suicide in England and Wales last year reached its highest level for two decades, according to new figures. Men accounted for three-quarters of suicide deaths registered in 2019, making up 4,303 of the 5,691 deaths by suicide. Based on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, that puts the rate of male suicides at 16.9 deaths per 100,000 - the highest since 2000. The figures show no drop in the rate of male suicide since the year before either, with the rate in line with that of 2018. Men aged 45 to 49 had the highest age-specific suicide rate at 25.5 deaths per 100,000. The highest rate among women was for 50 to 54-year-olds, at 7.4 deaths per 100,000. The overall suicide rate for women in 2019 was 5.3 deaths per 100,000 - the highest since 2004. CALM CEO Simon Gunning told ITV News: "The real worry for CALM is that we saw in 2008, with the financial crash, a distinct increase in the suicide rate among men in their 40s. What we have to do now is ensure that isn't repeated with the potential impact of Covid." Source: www.itv.com

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, JFK, JFK Jr

A passionate love affair between Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy has been assumed for so long that it has achieved as solid a place in public awareness as almost any other event in the man’s presidency. All that can be known for certain is that on four occasions between October 1961 and August 1962, the president and the actress met, and that during one of those meetings they telephoned one of Marilyn’s friends from a bedroom; soon after, Marilyn confided this one sexual encounter to her closest confidants, making clear that it was the extent of their involvement. In October 1961, after a photography session for a magazine, Marilyn asked Allan Snyder to deliver her to a party at Patricia and Peter Lawford’s Santa Monica beach house. The occasion was a dinner party honoring President Kennedy, and among the other guests were several blond movie stars—Kim Novak, Janet Leigh and Angie Dickinson, for all of whom the president had a keen appreciation. All contrary allegations notwithstanding, this was the first meeting between Marilyn Monroe and John Kennedy; hearsay about any earlier introduction simply cannot be substantiated. The schedules of Monroe and Kennedy since his January 1961 inauguration reveal wide geographic distances between them. That October night, Marilyn was driven back to her apartment by one of the Lawfords’ staff.

The second encounter occurred during February 1962, when Marilyn was again invited to a dinner party for the president, this time at the Manhattan home of Fifi Fell, the wealthy socialite widow of a famous industrialist. She was escorted to the Fell residence by Milton Ebbins. The third meeting occurred on Saturday, March 24, 1962, when both the president and Marilyn were houseguests of Bing Crosby in Palm Springs. On that occasion, she telephoned Ralph Roberts from the bedroom she was sharing with Kennedy. “She asked me about the solus muscle,” according to Roberts, “which she knew something about from the book The Thinking Body, and she had obviously been talking about this with the president, who was known to have all sorts of ailments, muscle and back trouble.” That night in March was the only time of her “affair” with JFK. “A great many people thought, after that weekend, that there was more to it. But Marilyn gave me the impression that it was not a major event for either of them: it happened once, that weekend, and that was that,” said Roberts. Accounts of a more enduring affair with John Kennedy, stretching anywhere from a year to a decade, owe to fanciful supermarket journalists and tales told by those eager for quick cash or quicker notoriety: those who fail to check the facts of history and are thus easily dispatched as reliable sources.

“Marilyn liked President Kennedy, the man as well as the office,” according to Sidney Skolsky, among the first friends to be informed of the March tryst; he added that she also enjoyed the fantasy that this experience carried—“the little orphan waif indulging in free love with the leader of the free world.” And as she soon after told Earl Wilson, Rupert Allan and Ralph Roberts, she found John Kennedy amusing, pleasant, interesting and enjoyable company, not to say immensely flattering. As for Mrs. Kennedy, as Skolsky added, “Marilyn did not regard her with envy or animosity.” The exaggeration of his “affair” with Marilyn is part of the myth of King Arthur’s Camelot. There was a need to believe in the tradition of courtly intrigues and infidelities—Lancelot and Guinevere, Charles II and Nell Gwynn, Edward VII and Lily Langtry. But in this case there was but one rendezvous between the attractive, princely president and the reigning movie queen; to follow the Arthurian simile: the mists of Avalon are easily dispersed by shining reality’s clear light onto the scene. It is important to establish definitively the truth of this matter not only for the sake of historical accuracy but also because of a far more damaging rumor that began after Marilyn Monroe’s death. 

The unfounded and scurrilous accounts of a concomitant or subsequent sexual affair with Robert F. Kennedy, has been even more persistent than that of the presidential liaison. It has also led to the completely groundless assertion of a link between Robert Kennedy and Marilyn’s death—a connection so outrageous as to be hilarious were it not also injurious to the man’s reputation. The rumors of an affair with Robert Kennedy are based on the simple fact that he met Marilyn Monroe four times, as their schedules during 1961 and 1962 reveal, complementing the testimony of Edwin Guthman, Kennedy’s closest associate during this time. But Robert Kennedy probably never shared a bed with Marilyn Monroe. Guthman, a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter and journalist, was Special Assistant for Public Information in the Kennedy administration as well as senior press officer for the Justice Department. The travel logs of the attorney general’s schedule for 1961–62 (preserved in the John F. Kennedy Library and in the National Archives) support the detailed accounts provided by Guthman. These, collectively, attest to the fact that Robert Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe enjoyed a socially polite relationship—four meetings and several phone calls over a period of less than ten months. But their respective whereabouts during this time made anything else impossible—even had they both been inclined to a dalliance, which is itself far from the truth on both counts.

Marilyn’s first meeting with Robert Kennedy occurred several weeks before her introduction to the president. “On either October 2 or 3, 1961,” said Guthman: “Kennedy and I were attending a series of meetings with United States attorneys and members of the FBI in Albuquerque, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. The attorney general and I attended a dinner party at the Lawfords, and around midnight Marilyn decided to go home. But she had drunk too much champagne, and we were worried for her. Bobby and I would not let her drive her car, and we did so together, delivering her safely to her door.” The second meeting between the attorney general and Marilyn occurred on Wednesday evening, February 1, 1962, when he and his entourage dined at the Lawfords en route from Washington to the Far East on a diplomatic journey. “That evening,” according to Guthman, “Marilyn was quite sober—a terrifically nice person, really—fun to talk with, warm and interested in serious issues.” Pat Newcomb, also present at the dinner, remembered that Marilyn really cared about learning. The day before [the dinner party], Marilyn told me, “I want to be in touch, Pat—I want to really know what’s going on in the country. She was especially concerned about civil rights. She had a list of questions prepared. When the press reported that Bobby was talking to her more than anyone else, that’s what they meant. I saw the questions and I knew what they were talking about. She identified with all the people who were denied civil rights.” —Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (2014) by Donald Spoto

Madonna has finally confirmed that the mystery project she's been writing throughout quarantine with Oscar-winning Juno scribe Diablo Cody is in fact a movie about her life. In a Thursday evening Instagram Live session, the pop icon revealed extensive details about the film's plot, describing its focus as a tale of the making of a superstar. The 62-year-old confirmed the pair have so far written 107 pages of the script, which they said will likely end up with a two-hour runtime. "We do talk about Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Martin Burgoyne and the whole coming up as an artist in Manhattan, downtown, Lower East Side in the early '80s," Madonna said of the project. "Honestly, it's one of the best times of my life, and one of the worst times. I hope I can portray or express what a thrilling time that was for me in every way." It appears Cody's signature wit and signature comedic edge will make their way into the movie, given that Madonna describes Warhol's dialogue as "monosyllabic". The currently untitled movie is set to feature scenes about the creations of some of Madonna's most memorable works like True Blue, Material Girl (inspired by Marilyn), including a "great scene of me writing Like a Prayer with Pat Leonard," and her devastating experience with Pepsi, referencing the soft drink company infamously severing its sponsorship contract with the superstar after intense social backlash over the 1989 single.

Over the years, fans have speculated as to who could potentially play the singer-songwriter in an eventual biopic, and in recent weeks their focus turned to Ozark actress Julia Garner (Emmy Award winner) after it was discovered that both Madonna and her manager, Guy Oseary, had followed the 26-year-old on Instagram. In her Instagram video Madonna begins by joking, 'I'm writing a different script.' Cody, 42, laughs at this and says, 'What if you're writing someone else's life story, while I write yours?' Source: ew.com

At a newsstand, JFK Jr. looked at the latest edition of Vanity Fair with a provocatively blonde Madonna on the cover. Inside she had posed for a photoshoot as part of an “Homage to Norma Jean/Marilyn” pin-up layout. JFK Jr. and Madonna were seen working out together at a gym called Plus One, in Manhattan’s Soho district, after which they were also spotted jogging together at Central Park. Here was America’s most eligible bachelor, dating the world’s “most glamorous and exciting singer.” However, Madonna had hesitated to pose again as Marilyn for John's magazine George, maybe sensing a looming curse if she did. Ever since the 1940s, Jackie had read Life magazine and the issue that most shocked her was the one featuring Madonna imitating the physicality of Marilyn Monroe. Ted Sorensen said, “It was like Marilyn coming back from the grave to haunt Jackie. Marilyn had an adventure with her husband. Now Madonna was trying to take her son away.” During her son’s affair with Madonna, John didn’t keep her abreast of developments, so Jackie had to read about him in the papers.

“Madonna realized that adding John F. Kennedy Jr.’s scalp to her sexual belt would be another good publicity coup,” said author Wendy Leigh. In his biography of Madonna, Andrew Morton wrote: “Although JFK Jr. and Madonna dated for a brief period, the affair was not a success. John Junior was intimidated by Madonna’s reputation and she was not really his type. His psychology therapist had explained him Madonna represented insurrection for him, not romance, just a way of acting out his rebellious ways against his mother. Rather ruefully, Madonna explained to some friends that John Kennedy Jr was just too nervous in her presence for them to click sexually. The chemistry certainly wasn’t there. ‘Some guys can handle the fame, others can’t,’ she said. “And he couldn’t.” Even if passion wasn’t there, Madonna knew a hunk when she saw one: “He is extraordinarily handsome, and when he looks down at you with those bedroom eyes, you melt.” Author J. Randy Taraborrelli quotes a friend of John who claimed, “I heard from good sources that Madonna did what she could to interest John, but he didn’t take the bait and kept his distance.” According to former law school classmate Christopher Mayer, John had confessed: “I don't want to be alone with her. She scares the hell out of me.” Besides, Madonna was still married to Sean Penn, an estranged husband prone to jealousy. Penn had an arsenal of handguns in the basement of his Malibu villa. At one point he put up a poster of John and fired with bullets from his .357 magnum. He got John right between the eyes.

John F. Kennedy Jr. was considered a perfect specimen of young American manhood. But was he really? Similar to the medical handicaps that had plagued his father JFK, it's not difficult to infer he had inherited some of his health ailments, in his case Graves Disease. Although less serious than JFK's Addison disease, when it flared, it left him depleted of energy for long periods of time. Despite his seemingly social charisma, there were hidden signals of a traumatized youth who was often overly medicated, taking Ritalin for Attention Deficit Disorder when he was a kid and antidepressives (Wellbutrin) in his adult age. It seems that in some respects, his mother Jackie had been his harshest critic, and to some extent his sister Caroline echoed these sentiments. Jackie had called him “an underachiever.” He defended himself by claiming he was dyslexic. Jackie equivocally thought Onassis would leave his son a $15 million trust fund when he passed away. But when the Onassis will was published on June 6, 1975, the Greek magnate had left JFK Jr. only a meagre bequeath of $ 25,000. Jackie had warned her son that if he wanted to be president, “You’ve got to stop dating all those floozies. America likes its First Ladies respectable. Posing nude for Playboy is not the way to go if you want to sit in the Oval Office one day.” He did not want to remind his mother that her own nude pictures taken in Skorpios had been put in circulation in 1972 by Hustler magazine. Jackie Kennedy, in fact, had the dubious honor of being the first First Lady ever featured in a nude centerfold.

Christina Haag dated JFK Jr. since 1985-1989: In the intimacy, John demonstrated me a great deal of masculine energy which made me immediately connect to my feminine energy, and I truly loved it. He demonstrated enough curiosity when I gave him a book about Tantric sex for Christmas. John always was more interested on the romantic side during the relationship, but he seemed to be very fascinated by the possibilities that Tantric tecniques offered us. He always took responsibility for my pleasure first and he was most attentive, with a fondness for lenghty cuddly sessions. John believed his father actually had not been that great of a lover. But he also thought men were supposed to take action and take the lead. Since the beginning, I had realized he would be great husband material someday. Leadership was a quality so important and attractive for me. Come to the Edge: The Love Story of John Kennedy Jr. and Christina Haag (2011)

During his first semester at Phillips Academy in Andover, John Jr met Sasha Chermayeff, who would become one of his closest friends. He would later refer to her as the “platonic love of my life” and “the coolest, least stuck-up girl I know.” She had attended the prestigious Dalton School while John was at Collegiate, and they had both made the unusual decision to transfer to Andover in the eleventh grade. “It was unusual,” she reflected, “because most people did not go to Andover for only two years.” Since both of them were new to campus, John and Sasha naturally bonded, ending up enrolled in many of the same classes. She described him as “this funny, sweet, loving guy.” “Two weeks into that first semester, we were already quite friendly,” Sasha recalled. “We made out once but we didn't go further.” It was Jackie’s decision to transfer John from Collegiate, where he was performing well with high grades, to a new school in rural Massachusetts. “His mother was very anxious about safety in Manhattan,” recalled Collegiate history teacher Bruce Breimer. “She was afraid he was going to get hurt, that some nut was going to find him.” John had lost his Secret Service protection and he could become an obvious target. Soon Sasha and John engaged in long conversations, and she quickly realized that he was more complicated than he appeared. “John didn’t have a carefree background,” she reflected, “yet he came off like this carefree guy.” About John's interest to study film, “I really think that’s just a myth,” reflected Sasha. “I think he enjoyed acting. But he had no intention of pursuing acting professionally, ever. I never ever heard him say anything seriously about wanting to pursue it as a real life’s work.” She learned from their conversations “that there were big difficulties in his life,” and his problems became “more complex as he got older. It wasn’t easy being John, but he carried his burden with such enormous grace.” On 8 July 1999, Sasha Chermayeff joined her close friend John F. Kennedy Jr. for a dinner in Manhattan. Afterward, as the two walked home through the city streets, Kennedy turned to her and said: “I really want to have a child with Carolyn.” Eight days later Sasha had lost John forever. —The Day John Died (2007) by Christopher Andersen

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Inheritance, JFK vs. Allen Dulles

The Inheritance – Poisoned Fruit of JFK’s Assassination (2018) by Christopher Fulton with an Introduction by Dick Russell. The Inheritance concerns some of the most important and significant records and evidence in the assassination of President Kennedy that remained out of government control for a long time, and crushed the lives of everyone who crossed paths with it, including RFK, Evelyn Lincoln, Robert White and Christopher Fulton. Only Fulton is left alive to tell the story and a convoluted one it is, but one that is factually well-documented and confirmed by other sources, at least the key aspects we are concerned with. The list of coincidences between the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy first garnered my interest, one being Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy and Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln. The basic facts that can be acknowledged and elaborated on is that RFK knew that his brother was the victim of a conspiracy, one that was being covered up by the federal government, and he began collecting evidence and records on the assassination he wanted kept out of the government's control and left them with Mrs. Lincoln. We knew that RFK didn’t even trust the National Archives when he instructed the secretary at the National Photo Interpretation Center (NPIC) to collect, box and deliver the NPIC records on the assassination to the Smithsonian, instead of the NARA where they belonged. Fulton says that because the Cartier watch was only inches from JFK's head when he was shot, traces of the mercury coated bullet that exploded through JFK’s head could be found on the watch's surface, proof of a conspiracy having taken place. Source: jfkcountercoup.blogspot.com

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.” -John F. Kennedy

I don't know if you'd call it a coup from the inside but Abraham Lincoln did have the Treasury print money rather than borrow from the Federal banks. That way kind of a coup in that without that change the North might have had a lot more trouble. During the Civil War (1861-1865), President Lincoln needed money to finance the War from the North. The Bankers were going to charge him 24% to 36% interest. Lincoln was horrified and went away greatly distressed, for he was a man of principle and would not think of plunging his beloved country into a debt that the country would find impossible to pay back. Eventually President Lincoln was advised to get Congress to pass a law authorizing the printing of full legal Treasury notes to pay for the War effort. Lincoln recognized the great benefits of this issue. At one point he wrote: “We gave the people of this Republic the greatest blessing they have ever had – their own paper money to pay their own debts.” In America's Secret History by Steve Harris, the author argues that 20th president of the United States James Garfield's assassination was the first American coup. Source: educationforum.ipbhost.com

JFK vs. Allen Dulles: Battleground Indonesia (2020) by Greg Poulgrain, with Foreword by Oliver Stone and Afterword by James DiEugenio. "In 1936, an Allen Dulles-established company discovered the world's largest gold deposit in remote Netherlands New Guinea. In 1962, President Kennedy intervened, and Netherlands New Guinea was added to President Sukarno's Indonesia. Neither Sukarno nor JFK was aware of the gold reserves, since Dulles had not informed Kennedy. Dulles planned a complicated and ruthless CIA regime-change strategy to seize control of Indonesia's vast resources, including its gold. Yet Kennedy's plan to visit Jakarta in early 1964 would have sunk Dulles' master plan, which included the destruction of the Indonesian communist party as a wedge to split Moscow and Beijing. Did Allen Dulles arrange for JFK to be killed to save his plan? Using archival records as a basis, Greg Poulgrain adds word-of-mouth evidence from those people who were directly involved—such as Dean Rusk who worked with President Kennedy and Allen Dulles at the time; or Michael Rockefeller when he disappeared in West New Guinea during this whole affair. What many people do not realize is that large US corporations were the ones who essentially yelled and screamed at Eisenhower and Dulles to do something about Castro, since he knew they were undervaluing the price of land under Batista."

In 1959, Cuba’s Nicaro nickel-and-cobalt operation, abiding at Moa Bay, was the fourth-largest in the world. The Nicaro nickel plant, through various subsidies cost American taxpayers $100,000,000. The rest of the money came from a group of American steel companies and major automobile makers. The Batista Government made lucrative deals with Freeport Sulphur Co. to grant tax exemptions and other privileges (Time Magazine, 1958). The tax break led to charges that the U.S. Ambassador to Cuba and Langbourne Williams of Freeport had made a special deal with Batista. The contract would eventually lead Freeport into a Senate investigation and a confrontation with President Kennedy over the issue of stockpiling. (Batista's Tax Break for Freeport Sulphur, September 12, 1960 issue of The New Republic). Kennedy asked Congress to look into the war-emergency stockpiling program, stating it was "a potential source of excessive and unconscionable profits." JFK said he was "astonished" to discover that the program had accumulated $7.7 billion worth of stockpiled material, exceeding projected needs by $3.4 billion. Kennedy also pledged full executive cooperation with the investigation. After the revolution by the Castro brothers, Allen Dulles reported that the Freeport Sulphur Company would close down their operations in the country because the new government had demanded a tax on all facilities. Since the deal was negotiated under Batista's regime, the Castro government wanted to end the special tax exemption. Atomic Energy Commission Chairman John McCone (post CIA Director) explained that Freeport’s Moa Bay plant could not operate alone. Undersecretary of State Douglas Dillon also said the refinery in Louisiana could not operate independently. Freeport considered the takeover a battle cry and wanted to invoke international law to protect its rights to the plant. Therefore, United States ends attempting to invade Cuba under the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation. One of the planners of the BOP, as well as an advocate for assassinating Castro, was Admiral Arleigh Burke. Burke later become a director of Freeport Sulphur. Press Secretary Pierre Salinger stated that the Kennedy administration planned to make stockpiling and monopoly an issue in the 1964 campaign. As we know, JFK didn't live long enough in order to fulfill that promise. —JFK vs. Allen Dulles: Battleground Indonesia (2020) by Greg Poulgrain

The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs (2011) by Jim Rasenberger: A balanced, engrossing account of the Bay of Pigs crisis drawing on long-hidden CIA documents and delivering the vivid truth of five pivotal days in April 1961. JFK did not want any air strikes and he made this clear to the CIA, according to the plans he signed off in mid March. This is one reason they moved the landing site. Given that the operation's military commanders had been screened from the high level briefings that meant that JFK was not getting the full details on how exposed the landing ships were to attack. Richard Bissell had also made sure JFK and McGeorge Bundy were not told that those operational commanders had only stayed on because Bissell assured them he would obtain expanded air strikes from JFK. Although there would have been time to call off the landings, neither Bissell nor Cabell chose to talk to JFK about the issue of the last minute strike cancellation. The fact that JFK was not fully briefed on the importance of the total destruction of the Cuban Air Force nor by the initial raids failure to do so was critical. Even the JCS staff report had pointed out that risk,  stating that the total success of the landings would be at risk if even a single Cuban aircraft was able to attack the supply ships. The JCS assessment also stressed the absolute necessity for a simultaneous, major Cuban resistance effort - the CIA chose not to inform JFK or his staff. JFK was also not told that mainline American Army tanks were being landed on the beach - a fact which would have overridden any concept of "deniablity" in the landings. Decades later, with access to documents, Jacob Esterline finally concluded that Bissell had made sure he was not in key meetings because his comments would likely have exposed the serious operational risks, and JFK likely would have cancelled the whole thing. Neither of the two operational commanders were in direct contact with JFK as the operation launched, if they had been issues would have come up which would likely have aborted the landings - and ended Bissell's career then and there. To sum it up, JFK refused to be blackmailed by CIA and the Joint Chiefs who set him up with false information about the Bay of Pigs. —The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs (2011) by Jim Rasenberger

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” ―Aeschylus

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Fredrik Logevall goes on to pardon “our hero,” as he chummily refers to JFK, for some marital truancy. Jackie Kennedy, to her credit, had already paid JFK back for his womanizing. After hurriedly losing her virginity to the novelist John P Marquand in a lift that had stalled between floors, she flitted off for a refresher fling with him just before her marriage. “Say what one will about Joseph P. Kennedy,” Logevall writes, “it’s not every multimillionaire father who takes such broad interest in his children and who, together with his wife, instills in them, from a young age, a firm commitment to public service.” At one of his shiftiest moments, JFK hesitated about openly attacking the commie-baiting charlatan Joe McCarthy. But his evasive dodges only sharpen the contrast between his nimble ingenuity and the crude belligerence of McCarthy, whose foul-mouthed enforcer Roy Cohn became Donald Trump’s tutor in villainy and vengeance. As it happens, Logevall’s scornful characterisation of McCarthy and Cohn reads like a glance ahead to America’s present moral morass: Trump has inherited their thuggish bigotry, while JFK serves as a reminder that politics is not necessarily the preserve of cynical self-publicists and can be, as he said, a “most honourable adventure”, fit calling for a modern Lancelot. We know how it will end, as the Lincoln convertible passes the Dallas Book Depository, turns beside the hump of a grassy knoll and approaches a doomy-looking traffic tunnel – not quite the Arthurian cavalcade evoked by Steinbeck’s elegy, but the story of how JFK reached what he called his “rendezvous with death”. Source: www.theguardian.com

John F. Kennedy came of age in a second world war, then rose all the way to the presidency, only to be cut down at forty-six while leading a United States that stood at the zenith of its power. Through his magnetic leadership and inspirational rhetoric, he elevated Americans’ belief in the capacity of politics to solve big problems and speak to society’s highest aspirations, while in foreign affairs he showed it was possible to move from bitter hostility toward the Soviet Union to coexistence. By the middle of 1963, close to 60 percent of Americans claimed that they had voted for Kennedy in 1960, although only although only 49.7 percent had actually done so. After his death, his landslide grew to 65 percent. Kennedy’s average approval rating of 70 percent while in office puts him at the top among post-1945 American presidents, and later generations would rate his performance higher still. The more we understand Kennedy and his coming of age, in short, the more we understand the United States in the middle decades of the century. I am struck by historian and Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s remark, in his memoirs, A Life in the 20th Century: “For my generation, four dates remain indelibly scarred on memory: Pearl Harbor, the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the death of John Kennedy, and the landing of men on the moon.” 

JFK was, from the start, a man of the world, deeply inquisitive about other political systems and cultures, comfortable with competing conceptions of national interest. This was partly an outgrowth of his Irish heritage and the sensibility of his parents, who looked outward, beyond the nation’s shores. Partly, too, it resulted from his expansive reading as a bedridden child and teenager, which tilted toward European history and statecraft. Most of all, the internationalist ethos emerged from Kennedy’s travels during and after his college years—in addition to his grand excursion in 1939, there were substantial trips in 1937, 1938, and 1941. These trips broadened his horizons, as did his subsequent combat experience in the South Pacific. Herein lies a third theme: on matters of politics and policy, JFK was always his own master. He was the daydreamer, the introspective son, the one who relished words and their meaning, who liked poetry. Alone among the older kids, he had a romantic imagination, a feel for the things of the spirit, for the intangibles in human affairs. Source: www.nytimes.com

Joseph McBride: I find it highly suspicious that March 31 1968, LBJ announces he will not seek a second term and then immediately thereafter we have MLK (4/4/68) assassinated and RFK assassinated (6/5/68). To me this was some sort of cabal at the height of their power flexing. Later on, in 1983, the USSR was convinced that the United States was going to carry out a nuclear first-strike on them. In TV programs about this people always say "it's boggling that they believed we would do that" but if you look at it a certain way you can see why they would definitely believe that. Assuming JFK, RFK, and MLK were all assassinated as the result of a conspiracy and foisted upon the public and the world, you can see how the Russians would view us as irrational and violent and certainly capable of doing a first strike. Surely the Soviets knew the truth about these assassinations and the coup, and so it's with these things in mind that we have to consider their suspicions in 1983. Peter Dale Scott writes in Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, “In each case an incumbent President was removed from office, after a build-up of suspicion and resentment inside his administration because of his announced plans and/or negotiations for disengagement from Vietnam.” In fact, as I was beginning to recognize at the time of Nixon’s resignation in 1974, three presidents in a row -- Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon -- had been removed from office. 

It was becoming hard not to notice how the political system had changed with the Coup of ’63 and the coverup that followed. The calamitous turn in the Vietnam War when the Vietcong mounted the Tet Offensive in January 1968 led to President Johnson’s forced withdrawal from that year’s presidential race at the behest of his senior advisers, “The Wise Men.” That group was largely drawn from the leadership of the eastern establishment and including Clark Clifford, Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, Henry Cabot Lodge, Douglas Dillon, and George Ball. Henry Brandon, the chief American correspondent of the Sunday Times of London, reports in his autobiography, Special Relationships: A Foreign Correspondent’s Memoirs from Roosevelt to Reagan (1988), about a conversation he had with President Johnson in 1968, after that decision was made: “LBJ, aware by then of his public repudiation, seemed to drag a burden of anguish in his wake when he spoke his own epitaph during a flight to visit President Truman in Independence, Missouri. ‘The only difference between Kennedy’s assassination and mine is that mine was a little more torturing.’” Carl Oglesby in The Yankee and Cowboy War interprets what he calls Johnson’s forced “abdication” as a Yankee power play by the Wise Men to “break off from the Cowboys a war believed to be unwinnable except through an internal police state, both sides fighting for control of the levers of military and state-police power through control of the presidency. Johnson’s Ides of March was a less bloody Dallas: it came of a concerted effort of conspirators to install a new national policy by clandestine means.” Source: educationforum.ipbhost.com

In the summer of 1988, JFK Jr. poured his inner anguish on his friend Sasha Chermayeff: “You know, you never get over it,” (reflecting on his father's assassination). There was an impenetrable core of John to which no tragedy, no sadness seemed to have ever broken him up. But John explained to her: “When I was growing up, I learned a person only reaches a total perspective after he's suffered. I realized I had to be broken to be whole.” When his wife Carolyn had gone several weeks without leaving their Tribeca apartment, John asked Sasha to talk with his wife. Carolyn was in bad shape when Sasha arrived. John could philosophically shrug the unrequited attention off, but Carolyn was different. He was anguished at the way she flinched under the pressure, recoiling back. On one occasion on the Cape he became so enraged at a photographer that he rushed at the man and broke his camera. “Fuck with me, but leave my wife alone!” he yelled, furious. John was so upset at the paparazzi that he talked to the district attorney’s office about getting them out of there, but that was legally impossible. Jackie had visited Istanbul, Turkey in 1985 and had told John that if he ever married, it was an ideal place to honeymoon. Traveling as “Mr. and Mrs. Hyannis,” Mr. and Mrs. John F. Kennedy Jr. arrived in Istanbul and checked into their penthouse suite atop the five-star Ciragan Palace Hotel, a former palazzo on the shores of the Bosporus.

Christiane Amanpour said: “I knew the manager, so I called him and expressed the need for privacy.” Upon arriving, the couple hired a cabdriver to give them a guided tour, visiting the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia Church, and the Grand Bazaar, where John bought Carolyn jewelry. That evening they dined on the patio at the Tugra, one of several chic restaurants owned by the Ciragan Palace. The next day, they stopped at a café for honey cake and cups of Turkish coffee. At lunchtime they dropped into a local McDonald’s for a taste of home. Looking like typical American tourists, they went largely unnoticed and unrecognized except by other American tourists. That afternoon, while Carolyn napped, JFK Jr. lounged next to the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool when he saw a familiar face. The Globe had dispatched New York photographer Russell Turiak to Turkey in search of the newlyweds.

Despite her commitment to psychological therapy, Carolyn hadn’t yet become immune to the constant scrutiny exerted by the press, a process that obviously took time. “Carolyn used to hang out at her sister Lauren’s house in Tribeca and complain about the invasion of her privacy,” said mutual friend William Peter Owen. “She’d stay until late some nights. John would return to 20 North Moore Street, and she wouldn’t be there for him. This happened on several occasions. Carolyn feared he might abandon his magazine and enter politics overnight. As I understood it, he planned on a political career, and she intended to support him. She'd had a similar block against having children. I’d say that had they lived the next year or two, she’d have been both a mother and the wife of a senator.” Another charge levied against Carolyn by author Edward Klein in The Kennedy Curse, was cocaine use. The stories that periodically had surfaced—and later in Klein’s book—were, according to Littell, “wildly exaggerated. Carolyn may have done an occasional line of cocaine, but I saw no evidence that she had an addiction. I never saw her intoxicated from alcohol or incapacitated from drugs, and I’m certain John would have told me if there had been a problem, or if she’d done hard drugs like heroin or crack.” None of John’s other friends, including Richard Wiese, Chris Overbeck, John Hare, or John Perry Barlow, ever encountered Carolyn on a drug binge. Carole Radziwill, one of Carolyn’s closest companions, dismissed Edward Klein’s “unscrupulous” conjectures as “sheer nonsense.” Carole wondered: “Who is this group of anonymous friends of John and Carolyn’s who were so helpful in writing Klein’s book? No one in the Bessette or Kennedy family spoke to him, and I have spoken to many of Carolyn’s closest friends—none of us were asked to cooperate. Klein’s assertion of ‘hard drug’ abuse on Carolyn’s part is ludicrous. In the ten years that I knew Carolyn, I never once saw her use drugs. She was as much a ‘cokehead’ as Klein is a biographer. Some columns whispered they weren’t having sex any longer; that was the most ridiculous part, since no matter how their fights began, they ended in only one way. ”

Caroline Kennedy proved herself to be influential in rousing his brother's desire to eventually enter the political arena. In private John told friends and colleagues that the prospect interested him, that sooner or later he intended to make the transition from magazine editor to political candidate. Carolyn Maloney, New York Democratic congresswoman for the 14th District, heard that when John learned of Hillary Clinton’s interest in entering the senatorial race in New York in 2000, he polled for Maloney’s seat. He considered several other possibilities as well, among them the race for governor of New York. When Ted Kennedy suggested he consider running for office in Rhode Island, John responded, “That’ll put me in the same boat as Hillary—I’ll be regarded as a carpetbagger.” “Don’t be silly,” said Ted Kennedy. “Bobby was accused of being a carpetbagger when he ran for the Senate in New York in the mid-1960s. It didn’t stop him from winning.” John obviously also feared he would end up like his uncle Bobby if he ran for the Senate. On April 22 1998, John fulfilled the requirements for a private pilot’s license and purchased his first plane, the Cessna 182. Caroline Kennedy warned his brother by insisting that he took flights with extreme caution. “After all,” a family friend overheard Caroline say to him, “you’re no longer alone—you have a wife to worry about.” Caroline recognized that his brother was crazy about Carolyn. “‘Whenever she’s around,’ said once Caroline, ‘he’s got that goofy, fool-in-love expression on his face.’” —The Day John Died (2007) by Christopher Andersen

Friday, September 04, 2020

Jackie's Girl: Memoirs of Jackie Kennedy


“Kathy McKeon's delightful memories have been tucked away for fifty years, and thankfully, she has brought them out to share the enchanting magic of Camelot with us all.” —Kirkus Reviews

"An endearing coming-of-age memoir by a young woman who spent thirteen years as Jackie Kennedy’s personal assistant and occasional nanny—and the lessons about life and love she learned from the glamorous first lady. In 1964, Kathy McKeon was just nineteen and newly arrived from Ireland when she was hired as the personal assistant to former first lady Jackie Kennedy. Kathy not only played a crucial role in raising young Caroline and John Jr., but also had a front-row seat to some of the twentieth century’s most significant events. Because Kathy was always at Jackie’s side, Rose Kennedy deemed her “Jackie’s girl.” And although Kathy called Jackie “Madam,” she considered her employer more like a big sister who was also her mentor. Kathy witnessed Jackie and Aristotle Onassis’s courtship and marriage and Robert Kennedy’s assassination, dutifully supporting Jackie and the children during these tumultuous times in history. A rare and engrossing look at the private life of one of the most famous women of the twentieth century, Jackie’s Girl is also a moving personal story of a young woman finding her identity in a new country, along with the help of the most elegant woman in America." amazon.com

Shoes were actually the very first thing Jackie Kennedy and I bonded over. I somehow convinced myself that the thick-soled nurse’s shoes I bought were as stylish as they were practical. Off to the kitchen I picked up Jackie’s tray of tea, toast, a soft-boiled egg, and the daily newspapers. Her corner bedroom faced the broad sweep of Fifth Avenue and Central Park along the front, and the narrower, quieter Eighty-fifth Street to the side. But as I walked from window to window I became aware of a persistent little squeaking sound. The realization that it was coming from my feet, which were perspiring against the rubber of my new shoes made me more nervous. I hurried into the bathroom, hoping Jackie would think I was merely arranging towels, and frantically rummaged through her cupboards until I found the talcum powder. I sat down on the closed toilet lid and thoroughly dusted the inside of each shoe. I hurried back into the master bedroom, my shoes blissfully quiet. All that powder felt silky on my feet, too. No cheap drugstore stuff in that bathroom. My relief was short-lived when I noticed something floating around my feet at ground level, like a little white cloud. Jackie was busy with her breakfast by then and hadn’t noticed what I now spotted—powder marks all over her carpet. I took a few tentative steps and saw white puffs shooting out of my shoes. I darted back into the bathroom, shutting the door this time, and sat on the toilet lid again, trying to figure out what to do, now that my shoes were emitting what looked like smoke. Now I was trapped in Jacqueline Kennedy’s bathroom. I put my head in my hands and started laughing uncontrollably. “Kathy, is everything all right?” I heard the door open, and the worry in Jackie’s voice as she took in the sight of me with my face still buried in my hands, shoulders shaking. “What’s wrong?” she asked kindly. I was too embarrassed to answer, and in the midst of my giggling fit I wouldn’t have been able to get an intelligible sentence out anyway, so I jumped up and ran past her, shooting puffs of powder from my shoes as I fled. I was losing too much powder, though, and the squeaking noises were back, sounding louder and more urgent as I sprinted to my room. I collapsed on the bed, burying my face in the pillow to muffle my laughter. “Kathy?” Jackie tapped on the closed door. She stepped in, her perfectly arched brows furrowed with concern. The look on her face quickly turned to bewilderment when she realized that I was laughing, not sobbing. Unless I wanted a Secret Service escort to the loony bin, it was time to come clean. As I started to explain the whole story, Jackie burst into laughter, which sent me into another spasm of hysterics, and by the time I led her into the hallway to point out my telltale trail of powdered footprints, both of us had tears running down our cheeks.The rest of the staff took turns peeking around the corner, trying to see what was so amusing. We finally composed ourselves, and Jackie was still chuckling when she ventured into the kitchen, where the rest of the staff were clamoring to know what had just happened with the new girl. “Oh, that Kath is just too funny,” I overheard Jackie say.

While we were on holiday in Ireland, I would take John and Caroline on long walks through the green countryside, and they would delight in the sheep ranging free in the hills around us. I explained how the different-colored x’s painted on their backs helped identify which farmer they belonged to. John and Caroline had a deep compassion for all living things. One of John’s favorite toys was that big semi-truck he used to roll noisily down the hallway at the crack of dawn in hopes of rousing Maud Shaw, or me to come keep him company. It opened and closed like a garage in the back, and John often shut his hamster inside to give it joy rides, the joy being likely more John’s than the hamster's. One day he took a break from playing to wander into the kitchen for a midafternoon snack. He parked his truck by the back elevator and forgot about it. The next morning, when he went to get his hamster out of its cage and discovered it empty, he raced to me in tears. We went and found the truck. The guinea pig was alive, but wobbly. Caroline pounced on her forgetful brother. “How could you do such a horrible thing, John? she wailed. “I didn’t mean to!” John cried. The guinea pig was revived with food and water, and he lived to ride again.

Despite his intense gaze and coarse exterior, Mr. Onassis quickly proved to be a true gentleman; I had expected such a rich, important man to be cold and demanding, but he was friendly to the help, which always says something promising about a person’s character. He was also extremely generous. I knocked gently on Caroline’s door and went to sit on her bed, where she was curled up with her face in the pillow, her small shoulders heaving with her sobs. I couldn’t begin to imagine how she felt. A framed picture of JFK was always on her nightstand. I knew that however great a hero he was considered as president, he would always be ten times that hero to Caroline and John as a father. “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “It’ll all work out good. He’s a nice man.” Hollow as the words must have sounded to a despairing ten-year-old, I meant every one. From what little I had seen of Aristotle Onassis, he seemed to genuinely want the children to like him. “We’re going to Greece,” Caroline said desperately. Caroline, always the good girl who minded her mother, composed herself and got up to pack for whatever new life was awaiting her now. “She told me I would need a couple of nice dresses.” We pulled out some shorts and bathing suits, too, and I went to see about John, who was hanging close to his mother but didn’t seem visibly upset by the prospect of getting a stepfather. 

It took some doing for John to dislike anyone, and Onassis had shown him only kindness. By the time she returned from her honeymoon cruising the Greek isles, Jackie Kennedy had become Jackie O. I was touched when Jackie went out of her way to make me feel special, surprising me with a strawberry and whipped cream cake and some lovely gifts—two turtleneck sweaters, a suede purse and a silver cigarette holder—for my twenty-first birthday.

“I envy you two starting out, doing it all your way,” Jackie said wistfully one day. She was hungry to hear all about my plans for setting up house with Seamus. I realized for the first time that she must have felt the same way I had, though on a much grander level, about the magnetic force of the Kennedy family pulling you close. She had famously redecorated and restored the White House, but here she was wondering what it was like to pick out tea towels at Gimbels. “Kathy, why don’t you and Seamus come down to my storage unit and see what you could use?” Jackie offered. She didn’t have to ask twice. The unit, it turned out, was more like a warehouse, packed with art, furniture, and all kinds of crates and boxes. She led us through the maze of things she’d even forgotten she had, making a list of what we were getting as she went. It was like winning a TV game show starring our very own host, Jacqueline Onassis. She arranged for everything to be loaded onto a truck and delivered to our apartment. Her thoughtfulness touched me more deeply than she could have known. My mother wasn’t going to make it for the wedding, and it felt nice to have Jackie’s attention and interest in my big new beginning. Her generosity didn’t stop there. “Where are you two going on your honeymoon?” she asked. “Someplace warm,” Seamus said. I wondered what lottery he’d won and not told me about. At the rate we were burning through our budget, he could scratch tropical paradise off his list unless Coney Island had palm trees and hula girls. “You should go to Barbados!” Jackie exclaimed. “I have a friend there who runs a resort. Let me book it for you as my wedding gift.” We were floored. Nancy Tuckerman swiftly followed through on the offer, making all the arrangements. 

Everything was being taken care of, from our flights and the gorgeous villa to our meals and even a rented cabana around the island. Mr. Onassis was wishing me well, and said he looked forward to meeting the gentleman lucky enough to marry me, and how lucky I was to have a carpenter as a husband, because I would always have a nice home and someone who was handy at fixing things. Did I know Saint Joseph was a carpenter? he went on. “Do you know what my first job was?” he asked. “I was a busboy cleaning tables. You always have to start from the bottom up to make something of yourself.” There was a check inside the cornflower envelope, too. It was one thousand dollars. His generosity blew me away. This was ten times the annual bonus I had always received from Jackie at Christmastime! John and Caroline had each written me little notes, too, wishing me a happy wedding. I was at home opening RSVPs when several names fluttered out of one envelope. “Seamus, they’re coming to our wedding.” I was in shock. “Oh my God, what do we do now?” He knew exactly who “they” were. I fanned out the response cards: Jacqueline and Aristotle Onassis, John Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy. We decided not to tell anybody. If we did and they didn’t show, we’d look like foolish braggarts. And if they were coming, we didn’t want word to leak out ahead of time, or the Astoria Manor would get overrun with paparazzi and crowds of looky-loos. Jackie had lost her Secret Service protection when she remarried. John and Caroline would keep their Secret Service until they were sixteen. 

“Why don’t you bring your family for the summer and stay in the Cape house?” Jackie suggested. We would be the caretakers for the season, and that way the house would always be ready whenever John or Caroline wanted to come. Seamus, she also knew, would ensure that the historic home was well maintained. It was a win-win proposition all around, and every June thereafter, we’d pile the kids, the dog, and all our gear for the summer into our van, bicycles strapped to the roof, and drive up to the Cape. John came back more frequently than Caroline, but the Cape was where she chose to have her wedding in the summer of 1986. I was touched to receive an invitation. John was staying over at the Cape house and immediately offered to babysit our kids Clare, Heather, and Shane; the kids were crazy about John. He was practically a superhero in his eyes. One very funny anecdote was when John admitted that he’d been making hamburgers and left the pan on the burner when he went to take a shower. John had a checkered history of combining showering and cooking; his attention disorder tended to sabotage that kind of multitasking. Seamus and me still remembered that time he had been fresh out of the shower with a towel around his waist when he fired up the grill to make us hamburgers. He’d turned around and lost his towel, causing Seamus to drily remark, “I thought you were making us hamburgers, John, but it looks like we’re getting wieners instead.” John laughed it off, a bit embarassed.

I still saw Jackie every so often, and we were in regular contact by phone, but it had probably been a year since I’d last seen her when I picked up the newspaper and read that she had cancer. There was a paparazzi shot of her in the park. She looked terribly thin and frail. I immediately dialed 1040. John came on the line. “Hi, Kathy,” he said. “It’s so nice of you to think of my mom.” I asked how she was doing, and he told me it didn’t look good. “She’s very, very ill.” We talked for a while, and I hung up, heartsick. I bought a get-well card and mailed it to her with my prayers. One of Jackie’s blue note cards arrived in the mail. On it was a typewritten message thanking me for my lovely card. “I think of you and Seamus and your children often,” it said, “and I hope we can all get together before long.” The last two words, handwritten, were her last to me: Much love. She died just two weeks later. I called Nancy Tuckerman, who told me I could come at two-thirty the next afternoon for the pre-funeral viewing. Jackie’s coffin was in the living room, draped with her favourite floral bedspread. I felt a deep pain in my heart. I had lost a great lady who had been so kind and made me feel like a friend so many times. John came out to greet us warmly. Caroline was at home with her children; the oldest of the three the same age she had been when I first met her. Caroline had sent gifts for my children over the years as well, and her graciousness reminded me so much of her mother.

John and his wife, Carolyn Bessette, were spending more time at Martha's Vineyard, and the place desperately needed some updating to suit a modern young couple. The big burn mark a hot pan had left on the Formica countertop in the kitchen had been hidden by a cutting board for decades, and that was just for starters. John had called Seamus to ask if Seamus could come give him some advice about renovations on the house. The stereo was blasting “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” when Seamus and I walked up the familiar path to the house at the Cape. John had been playing that same Rolling Stones record for a good quarter century—the song was his all-time favorite. How was it even possible that John was now thirty-eight years old? I hadn’t met Carolyn Bessette before, though of course I’d seen pictures of her all over the magazines. She was imposing and very pretty, but different from the other girls John had romanced over the years. Carolyn was harder to read, more distant and mysterious in a way. Her skin was almost as white and translucent as fine porcelain. She wore beige shorts and a black cashmere sweater. She was holding a fluffy tuxedo cat as he shed all over her sweater and cardigan. Seamus later told me John had confided how hurt he was by Carolyn’s apparent disinterest in the house remodeling, which John had tackled with enthusiasm. Carolyn never came up to offer her input. “Isn’t that strange?” John asked. I found it odd, too. You could tell with one glance that Carolyn had flawless taste and a great sense of style. Provi’s Dominican roots made her the absolute queen of daiquiri-making. She insisted on buying the best rum, dozens of fresh limes she squeezed by hand, plus bags of brown sugar. We sat down to dinner, with John insisting I take the seat at the head of the table, the one that had always been Jackie's, back when I was Jackie’s girl.

Carolyn opened up about feeling besieged by the paparazzis. John was clearly worried about his high-strung wife. “Kath, tell Carolyn how Mom used to handle them,” he prompted me. Provi jumped in to answer first, but John cut her off. “No, wait, I want to hear from Kathy,” he said. “When she was up here, she’d leave the gate smiling, give them one good picture, and they’d let her go,” I remembered. “No!” Carolyn nearly shouted. “I hate those bastards! I’d rather just scream and curse at them.” “That’s exactly what they want you to do,” I argued. “They’ll get great pictures.” She described how she had gotten chased down the sidewalk by a wolf pack of photographers, and ducked into a building to escape them. They cornered her by the elevator as she frantically pushed the button. “I can’t take it!,” she said exasperated. John interjected: “You gotta just take it easy,” he insisted. “Relax.” I told Carolyn how Jackie perfected the art of not responding to Ron Galella when he stalked her. “She knew if she kept the same blank expression on her face, he wouldn’t have a picture to sell,” I explained. “They all need something different. That’s why they yell things and try to scare you. They want a reaction. They want to get a picture showing you angry or scared.” We finished up dinner, and John soothed Provi’s ruffled feathers by complimenting her cooking. “This fish is delicious, Provi,” he told her. “The flavors are fantastic.” The gin and all that lime had made it more delectable. The Stones were still playing in the background, the volume lower, but the song was the same. It would finish then start again. I knew it was because John had done what he used to do as a boy with that very record player, adjusting a little pin on the arm so the needle set down in the same groove each time. With John and Carolyn making it their second home, we no longer moved up to the Cape with our family for the summer, but Seamus gave John fatherly advice about the work he was having done and John would ask for estimates and contractor’s bids on his behalf. “If they see my name, they think they’ve hit the lottery and the price gets jacked up four times what it should be,” John said. When they last spoke in the summer of 1999, John was eager to get the place in shape, a few weeks before he and Carolyn went for his cousin Rory’s impending wedding.

Seamus turned on the TV and the screen instantly filled with the image of John’s face with the words BREAKING NEWS beneath it. The reporter was saying the single-engine plane John was piloting had vanished the night before on a flight from the airport in New Jersey up to the Cape for Rory’s wedding. John, Carolyn, and Carolyn’s sister, Lauren, were aboard. I called Provi, who was summering at the compound with her son Gustavo. Provi told me she had dinner ready for John and Carolyn the night before, that Gustavo had left John’s Jeep for him at the airport earlier so it would be there when he landed. On Saturday afternoon, the news reported some piece of luggage bearing Lauren’s ID had washed up on a beach at Martha’s Vineyard. A coast guard admiral delivered a press briefing at the Pentagon, describing all the search efforts under way. Seamus and I had moved out from Queens when the children were growing up, buying a house a block from the shore in Rocky Point, Long Island. Seamus was sure the flight path John had taken would have had him flying right past our house. The night would have still been clear and beautiful then. He would have been safe with us. At Mass on Sunday, we prayed with our congregation for the Kennedy family, and for the Bessettes. The priest left prayer cards and red roses at the back of the church to take on our way out. Later that night, the coast guard admiral was back on TV, announcing that they were shifting their focus from search and rescue to search and recovery, official words to say they had given up hope. On the fifth day, the bodies of John, Carolyn, and Lauren were recovered and cremated. Their ashes were scattered at sea the next morning. Attending the funeral service at St. Thomas More, we ran into Ethel Kennedy. “We lost a good man today,” Seamus told her. “Seamus, we don’t know what we lost today,” she replied urgently. “We have no idea.” “That’s the end of Camelot,” I said, sobbing. I woke up convinced I had dreamed it all, or maybe blacked out. It didn’t happen, none of it. It couldn’t happen again. "Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family" (2017) by Kathy McKeon