WEIRDLAND: September 2020

Monday, September 28, 2020

Politics and Plagiarism, JFK Elusive Hero

In an address to the California State Democratic Convention on February 3, 1987, Mr. Joe Biden said that "every generation of Americans has been called" to a test of devotion to democracy; John F. Kennedy used the same phrase about national loyalty in his presidential inaugural address in 1961. Other times, Biden uses longer passages almost verbatim. Senator Biden has credited Robert F. Kennedy as "the man I think I admire more than anyone in American politics." But Biden hasn't always given him credit for the words he used first. When Senator Kennedy ran for president in 1968, he spoke in Des Moines and again at the University of Kansas about the measure of a nation."The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play," Senator Kennedy said. '' It does not include the beauty of our poetry, or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate, or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, nor our wisdom nor our devotion to our country.It measures everything, in short, except what makes life worth living, and it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud to be Americans. '' In the California convention speech, Senator Biden spoke about "the ultimate moral test of what this country is," and denounced what he saw as the new materialism of society. "We cannot measure the health of our children, the quality of their education, the joy of their play," he said. after opening his speech stating that he wanted to tell the audience "what I have in mind". It does not measure the beauty of our poetry, the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate, the integrity of our public officials. Neither our wit nor our wisdom, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country count,'' Biden continued to applause. "That end result can tell us everything about our lives except what makes life worth living, and it can tell us everything about America except what makes us proud to be Americans." Fordham's speech recalled that in the same speech, Senator Biden warned against the danger of hopelessness, against the idea that there is little one person can do to affect events. ' Well, few of us have the greatness to modify history itself, '' Biden said. "But each of us can act to affect a small part of the events, and in the totality of these acts the history of this generation will be written." The Biden campaign, in a direct mail fundraising effort, recently aired a partial tape of the California speech that included the quote from "greatness to bend history." 

This memorable subject had been offered by Robert Kennedy in a speech at Fordham University in June 1967. "Few will have the greatness to bend history," Kennedy said at the time. "But each of us can work to change a small part of the events, and in the total of all those acts the history of this generation will be written." The Biden echo of Kennedy was noticed, with surprise, by many regular Democrats in the California convention audience. It was also noticed in other parts of the country by some who watched Biden's performance live on the cable television network C-SPAN. At the White House, N. Jeffrey Lord, associate director of the political affairs office, watched as Senator Biden spoke.A devoted admirer of Robert Kennedy in his youth who keeps a copy of Jamie Wyeth's portrait of John Kennedy in his Reagan White House office, Lord had recently heard a commemorative record of Robert Kennedy's speeches. As Senator Biden spoke, Lord suddenly found himself reciting the words along with him. "I was finishing sentences before him," said Lord, who called The New York Times to point out the similarities. I wanted to hear because Biden had such a reputation as a great speaker that I wanted to hear him. But suddenly I realized that the speech was not Joe Biden, it was Robert Kennedy. He was repeating the exact language, without attributing it. I was really mad. I wanted to hear because Biden had such a reputation as a great speaker that I wanted to hear him. But suddenly I realized that the speech was not Joe Biden, it was Robert Kennedy. He was repeating the exact language, without attributing it. I was really mad.''

JFK was terribly sensitive to the criticism Ms. Kennedy received after her White House tour. He was terribly upset about it because she tried so hard and thought she had done a good job. He thought the criticism (I think it was David Wise of the Herald Tribune) he gave him was very unfair. JFK once gave his definition of happiness which, he said, was ancient Greek philosophy "the full use of all its powers in the line of excellence." I think he always tried to keep his definition up. 

Deep Politics and the Death of JFK by Peter Dale Scott was published in 1993 by the University of California Press. Bruce Cumings, Gaeton Fonzi, and Oliver Stone provided promotional reviews of the book. Kirkus Reviews called the book an "astonishingly well-researched and intelligent insight not only into the assassination of JFK but also into the rising forces that undermine American democracy." Kirkus' review also described the book as a "sort of Rosetta stone to unlock the deepest darkness of American politics." According to Publisher Weekly, "the book's most useful feature is a careful discussion of how US policy in Vietnam abruptly changed after Kennedy's death."In 2013, former Salon editor-in-chief David Talbot included Deep Politics in his list of the seven "best books on the subject", describing the work as a "masterpiece of how operate the high rankings of power."

JFK's adviser Kenneth P. O'Donnell could somehow go into the official record after the 1976 National Enquirer exposition of the Meyer-Kennedy affair and defend the brilliant Camelot myth in his attempt to deny that there had been any a romance between Mary Pinchot Meyer and President Kennedy; However, just a year later, shortly before her death, she confides to author Leo Damore some of the intimate details of their relationship. In the same way that O'Donnell never spoke publicly about how the FBI had discounted his testimony that the presidential motorcade in Dallas was leading into an ambush where at least two shots had come "from behind the fence on the grassy knoll", O'Donnell confirmed twenty-five years later to the Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, in his 1987 memoir The Man of the House. Both Leo Damore and his attorney James H. Smith worked on one of O'Donnell's Massachusetts gubernatorial campaigns, where the three had become good friends. The JFK administration acknowledged that it was trying to get out of Vietnam, including Roger Hilsman of the State Department and Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, who said that was the case. Also adding the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Max Taylor, Advisor Ted Sorensen and assistants Dave Powers and Ken O'Donnell.All of these men said that Kennedy would never have entered Vietnam with combat troops and direct US military intervention. Smith worked on one of O'Donnell's Massachusetts gubernatorial campaigns, where the three had become good friends. The JFK administration acknowledged that it was trying to get out of Vietnam, including Roger Hilsman of the State Department and Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, who said that was the case. Also adding the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Max Taylor, Advisor Ted Sorensen and assistants Dave Powers and Ken O'Donnell. All of these men said Kennedy would never have entered Vietnam with direct US military intervention and combat troops. Smith worked on one of O'Donnell's Massachusetts gubernatorial campaigns, where the three had become good friends. The JFK administration acknowledged that it was trying to get out of Vietnam, including Roger Hilsman of the State Department and Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, who said that was the case. Also adding the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Max Taylor, Advisor Ted Sorensen and assistants Dave Powers and Ken O'Donnell. All of these men said Kennedy would never have entered Vietnam with direct US military intervention and combat troops. Also adding the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Max Taylor, Advisor Ted Sorensen and assistants Dave Powers and Ken O'Donnell. All of these men said Kennedy would never have entered Vietnam with direct US military intervention and combat troops. Also adding the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Max Taylor, Advisor Ted Sorensen and assistants Dave Powers and Ken O'Donnell. All of these men said Kennedy would never have entered Vietnam with direct US military intervention and combat troops. 

In John Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Chris Matthews does a good job of describing Kennedy's famous military service and rescue mission at PT 109. He also makes helpful sketches of Kennedy's early runs for the House of Representatives and Senate. The book is also apt on the 1960 Democratic presidential primaries and the 1960 convention. But here the trouble begins. If one looks at the footnotes and reads Matthews's own comments on the subject, one of the sources for his favorite books is Herbert Parmet's two-volume biography of Kennedy, which first appeared in 1982. I have been familiar with these books since I used them to write my first book, Destiny Betrayed. Parmet is a conventional historian in the manner and method of, say, David McCullough and the late Stephen Ambrose. He is not the type of man to push boundaries or forge a new frontier for others to follow. And with Kennedy, that's necessary since a lot of the things he was doing were quite unconventional. Let me name just four books that go further and forge a new frontier: JFK Ordeal in Africa, The Kennedy Tapes, Battling Wall Street, and JFK and Vietnam.What is particularly surprising is that Matthews writes that one of the things that attracted him to Kennedy and made him write this book was JFK's handling of the Missile Crisis. 

But then why ignore The Kennedy Tapes? Since it is, from the American side, the most complete chronicle of the crisis that we have today. It is made up of actual transcribed tapes that were recorded during those dangerous thirteen days when the world was on the brink of nuclear war. Any true historian always consults the primary sources recorded during the actual event as his baseline. Matthews' curious choice in historiography tells us something negative about his book. Take, for example, Kennedy's constant refusal to send combat troops to Vietnam. This 1961 decision was made despite the fact that almost all of his advisers urged Kennedy to do just that. (John Newman, JFK and Vietnam). It is a choice that Kennedy never doubted while in office. However, President Lyndon Johnson revoked it in early 1965, just 14 months after Kennedy's assassination. And Johnson's decision was backed by former President Dwight Eisenhower. (Gordon Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster) Now, any rather curious biographer would want to delve into this question. I mean, why did Kennedy steadfastly refuse to do what both his predecessor and his successor had no qualms about doing? Matthews elaborates or explains little.

The reason for Kennedy's faith in Edmund Gullion was related to the fact that he had explained to the young Kennedy that France could not win in Vietnam because they had no one who could match Ho Chi Minh's nationalist appeal. So when Kennedy returned to America, he expressed these ideas in a speech he gave in November 1951: "This is an area of ​​human conflict between civilizations struggling to be born and those desperately trying to retain what they have had for so long. Matthews completely omits the 1961 debates in the White House on the commitment of American troops to Vietnam, an omission that is a great feat in itself. As Gordon Goldstein points out, Kennedy's advisers mentioned it no less than nine times. Each time, Kennedy turned him down. (Lessons in Disasters, pp. 52-60) Now, another important incident to explain Kennedy's later policy on Vietnam is his reaction to Operation Vulture of 1954. This was the plan drawn up by President Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, CIA Director Allen Dulles, and Vice President Richard Nixon to relieve the doomed French garrison surrounded by Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu. The plan was to fly more than 150 US air sorties, culminating in the use of three tactical atomic weapons.When news of this mission broke, Senator Kennedy stood up and directly challenged the Secretary of State. He wanted to know how "Dulles' new policy and its reliance on the threat of atomic retaliation in these areas of guerrilla warfare will fare." Operation Vulture was canceled, but Eisenhower established a coalition of anti-communist states in the area called SEATO. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles then used this front to have the United States represented at the Geneva Conference that planned the future of Vietnam. This plan sealed future US involvement there. 

As Kennedy's national security adviser McGeorge Bundy wrote, before he died, Kennedy never viewed Vietnam, as Munich was, as an East-West test of the balance of power. On July 2, 1957, Kennedy took the Senate floor to deliver what the New York Times called the next day "the most comprehensive indictment of Western policy toward Algeria ever made by an American in public office." It was a blunt and ruthless indictment of the French refusal to acknowledge that it was repeating Vietnam's mistakes only three years later, except this time in North Africa. Again he was trying to hold on to a Third World colony, in a civil war that he could not win as it was not fought on conventional terms.But in addition, Kennedy also attacked the Eisenhower administration for not being a true friend of France. Because a true friend would have accompanied France to the negotiating table before she was forced out. (The entire speech is contained in The Strategy of Peace, edited by Allan Nevins.) The White House was not happy. Nixon called the speech a political move to embarrass the administration. He further added that "Ike and his staff held a full-blown policy meeting to pool their ideas on the why's underlying Kennedy's harmful fishing in troubled waters." (Mahoney, p. 29) Kennedy's speech was also directly attacked by both Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles. How does Matthews characterize this powerful and profound speech? 

He calls it Kennedy's "first bow to the Democratic left, a stoplight that indicates he shared the more sophisticated attitudes of liberals." Again, compared to the expedient adduced, this is absurd. By then, Kennedy had been making these kinds of statements about imperialism for six years. But also, for many liberals, what Kennedy said was too inflammatory even for them. For, as Mahoney points out, when Kennedy made one of these speeches on the subject of the liberation of the Third World for Adlai Stevenson's presidential campaign in 1956, the candidate's office telegraphed him to "make no further statements in any way associated with the bell". Clearly, Matthews had an agenda, which was made quite clear in his previous book, Kennedy and Nixon. And it continues here, in a slightly more disguised way. Matthews wants the reader to believe that JFK was not all that it is believed to be, that it was actually a classic Cold Warrior that was not that different from Nixon. This, of course, has been the message of most of the establishment and mainstream media since about the time of Oliver Stone's JFK film. in 1991. As shown above, the problem is that one can only make that argument by distorting things or omitting them altogether. And Matthews is consistently rigorous in omitting key points.Matthews omits why Kennedy took the unprecedented step of ending the entire top tier of the CIA. By the time of the firings, in late 1961, Kennedy had read the CIA's own internal report on the Cuba debacle, written by Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick. He also read one that he commissioned from General Maxwell Taylor. They were both quite tough on the CIA planning and executing the unfortunate operation.

In fact, the Kirkpatrick report states that the CIA's excuse for failure, that Kennedy canceled the D-Day airstrikes, which, unsurprisingly, Matthews uses against Kennedy here, was not tenable. In fact, these strikes were contingent on the establishment of a beachhead, something that did not happen. (Peter Kornbluh, Bay of Pigs Declassified, pp. 127-28) But as Kirkpatrick pointed out, this question about the D-Day airstrikes is really a distraction from the real point. He wrote: "It is essential to keep in mind that the invasion was doomed in advance, that an initially successful landing of 1,500 men would eventually have been crushed by Castro's combined military resources strengthened by military personnel provided by the Soviet bloc." Kirkpatrick goes on to estimate the combined size of all Castro's forces at more than 200,000 men, plus Soviet armor and tanks. So the question is, did the CIA really think the invasion would be successful? Or did they have a hidden agenda? Many years later, scholar Lucien Vandenbroucke shed light on this key question in an important Diplomatic History article (1984), after discovering, among Allen Dulles papers in the Princeton Library, coffee stained notes made by Dulles. The notes were the remains of an article the Director was going to write about the Bay of Pigs. In them, Dulles confessed that he and other CIA officials led Kennedy to a plan that they knew violated the rules of engagement previously announced by the president, that is, there would be no direct intervention by US forces.Although Dulles understood that this restriction condemned the plan, he went ahead with it anyway, tricking Kennedy into telling him that it would work on its own, since a similar CIA plan had succeeded in Guatemala in 1954. Dulles admitted in these notes that what they were What he really hoped was that the emerging "realities of the situation" would force Kennedy to violate his own promise. Or, as Dulles wrote, "We felt that when things went wrong, when the crisis came true, any action necessary for success would be empowered rather than allowing the company to fail." It puzzles me how Matthews missed this crucial article by perhaps the most important participant in the disaster.

But there is an even more striking omission when it comes to Kennedy's policy toward Cuba. After the conclusion of the Missile Crisis in October 1962, Kennedy made a promise of "no invasion of the island" to the Russians. He then altered his policy toward Cuba significantly. In fact, as declassified documents reveal, in the last half of 1963 there were five raids in total. But more importantly, Kennedy decided to open a secondary channel of communication with Fidel Castro. This continued for 11 months, until the Kennedy assassination. It was hosted for Kennedy by ABC reporter Lisa Howard, diplomat William Attwood, and French journalist Jean Daniel. The problem was that both the CIA and the Cuban exiles found out about them and tried to hinder them. In fact, one of the exiles, José Miro Cardona affirmed that, "The fight for Cuba was in the process of being liquidated." However, inexplicably and unbeknownst to Kennedy, the CIA initiated another assassination attempt on Castro. This time using the disgruntled Cuban diplomat Rolando Cubela. Negotiations continued and Castro expressed his willingness to negotiate his most valuable token: Russian influence in Cuba, which even extended to Soviet personnel and military equipment. When Kennedy realized this, he sent diplomat Attwood to contact Carlos Lechuga, Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations.On November 19, 1963, when Castro received this message, he suggested that Attwood fly to Cuba via Mexico. Castro said that "Suddenly, a president arrives at the place who tries to support the interest of another class." The CIA initiated another assassination attempt on Castro. This time using the disgruntled Cuban diplomat Rolando Cubela. Negotiations continued and Castro expressed his willingness to negotiate his most valuable token: Russian influence in Cuba, which even extended to Soviet personnel and military equipment. When Kennedy realized this, he sent diplomat Attwood to contact Carlos Lechuga, Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations.On November 19, 1963, when Castro received this message, he suggested that Attwood fly to Cuba via Mexico. Castro said that "Suddenly, a president arrives at the place who tries to support the interest of another class."

He added that "Kennedy would now go down in history as the greatest president since Lincoln." Three days later, Castro and Daniel received the news that Kennedy was dead. Castro was heartbroken. He repeated three times: "This is bad news." Then he declared: “Everything has changed. Everything is going to change". And he did. By December 17, Attwood was clear that President Johnson had no interest in continuing the talks. Attwood later wrote: “I have no doubts. If there hadn't been an assassination, we probably would have entered into negotiations aimed at normalizing relations with Cuba. A historic diplomatic opportunity had been overlooked.

“It is not necessary to manipulate Time magazine, for example, because there are people from the Central Intelligence Agency at the managerial level. The Agency's relationship with The New York Times was by far the most valuable among newspapers. It was general policy of the Times to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible ”- William B. Bader, former CIA intelligence officer, briefing members of the Senate Intelligence Committee for The CIA and the Media, by Carl Bernstein. "The Central Intelligence Agency owns all the important people in the mainstream media." –William Colby, former CIA director, quoted by Dave Mcgowan, Derailing Democracy.

Donald Jeffries (January 5, 2012): Jim DiEugenio does an excellent job of exposing this fluffy part of McHistory (Elusive Hero, Kennedy & Nixon) by Chris Matthews, a typical media "journalist." JFK's legacy has been twisted for decades, at least since the days of Judith Campbell Exner, with her lurid and incredible accusations. What Matthews and his ilk are still desperately trying to avoid is an honest assessment of the JFK presidency, which would naturally include an actual investigation into his death, which remains a source of great interest to many of us. If JFK's life can lose its meaning, then his death also becomes insignificant.If he can be painted as a reckless and immoral man, then the inference is that his death was not really so tragic, it did not alter the course of history. This poisonous message has been carried relentlessly for at least twenty years now, by "journalists" like Matthews. JFK was different. He was trying real renovations. Our story would have been very different if he had lived. And his murder was undoubtedly the result of a powerful conspiracy. Source:

“The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people and further away from a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron”. – H. L. Mencken (Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920) 

JFK Jr: "Hatred, I really think it's hatred which lies in the heart of the establishment. They love money and power. But hatred is the driving force. And I don't really know what the hatred is about. I don't think they have had a hard life in any way, but they possibly want to make life hard for others. They feel a deep, crazy hatred most of the time. Maybe some people are just like that."

Friday, September 25, 2020

Holding On to Reality: The Nature of Information (Albert Borgmann and Samuel Fleischacker)

In 1964 public opinion surveys indicated that over 75 percent of the American people trusted the government to do the right thing most of the time. The consensus was that the federal government under the leadership of the Democratic Party had ended the Great Depression, won the Second World War, and was managing an economy in which nearly everyone got pay raises every year that beat inflation. By 1980, only 25 percent of the American people trusted the government to do the right thing most of the time. Information can illuminate, transform, or displace reality. Without information about reality, without reports and records, the reach of experience quickly trails off into the shadows of ignorance and forgetfulness. Plato was among those early philosophers who tried to subordinate contingency to structure. In the Timaeus, Plato tried to build up the world of direct experience from the regular solids that in turn, he thought, were constructed from two kinds of triangles. The things and processes of the visible world he explained as compounds and transformations of the elementary particles. The word real has many meanings. In its widest sense, everything that can be thought, perceived, or felt is real. If it were not, it would be nothing to us. But real and reality also convey the more particular meaning of presence and validity. Just as the decline of courage was noticed and mourned early in the modern period and forever after, so the waning of reality as commanding and engaging presence has been documented and was deplored already in post–Civil War America. At times the commodification of reality is so subversive and complete today that actual reality seems to have slipped irretrievably from our grasp. Consider the “reality” television shows. They promise to put us back in touch with reality. But the commodifying eye of the television camera turns every reality into a commodity. What’s left are bursts of hunger for reality. 

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the face of fascism and communism, called for a Second Bill of Rights to secure such basic dignity for all. But the myth of rugged individualism first and the anesthetic effect of technological comfort later made us the least compassionate among peer societies. If dignity lends or ought to lend substance to equality, what are the grounds of dignity? What entitles us to take a high-minded view of ourselves? Each of us is entitled to self-determination. The new world was seen as the land of freedom and challenge where people could escape the bonds of poverty and oppression and make something of themselves. The classic work of Kant’s moral philosophy is his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals of 1785 revealed the moral skeleton that has given modern ethics its cardinal shape. Here we find the moral norms of equality, dignity, and liberty. Kant articulated them as commands. The norm of equality he spelled out as the celebrated categorical, that is, unconditional, imperative: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can want at the samet ime that it becomes a universal law. Kant was convinced, put scholarly ethics on a solid footing, and thus put an end to “the disgusting mish-mash of cobbled-together observations and semi-intelligent principles” that, as Kant saw it, dominated the popular writings on ethics of his time. Kant, in fact, was inclined to set the ordinary person’s moral sense above that of the philosophers since “it may hope to hit the mark as well as any philosopher may assure himself he will, indeed may here be almost more certain than the latter because he has no other principle than it has; his judgment, however, can be confused and deflected from the right direction by a lot of inappropriate and irrelevant considerations.” And here too he was in agreement with Jefferson: “State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.” Jefferson was a statesman, architect, musician, horseman, naturalist, historian, and plantation owner. He was a loving husband, though widowed early, and a devoted father if not such to all his children. He traveled widely in the United States and in Europe. Philosophers like to hold forth on the influence of Kant, but what actual impact he had on German and Western culture is one of the great sociological unknowns. There is no doubt, however, that Jefferson had a strong hand in shaping the beginning of the United States, its geographical extent, its educational system, its architecture,and, to sum it up, its culture. But both were men of the Enlightenment and were profoundly attuned to the rational and egalitarian spirit of their time. Reason was for both of them the source of light. It figured prominently in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and The Critique of Practical Reason (1787). “ ‘Dare to use your own reason!’—that is the motto of the Enlightenment,” Kant said in his essay “What Is Enlightenment?” (1784). 

In his new book, Samuel Fleischacker delves into the work of Adam Smith to draw out an understanding of empathy that respects both personal difference and shared humanity. David Hume had understood empathy (what he and Smith called “sympathy”—the word “empathy” wasn’t invented until after their time) as my feeling whatever you feel. Smith understands it as my feeling what I think I would feel if I were you, in your situation. Hume’s empathy is a kind of contagious feeling—I “catch” your feelings, whether of sadness or of joy, whether I want to do that or not. Smith’s empathy requires more action on our part and depends on imagination. I try to show that Smith’s kind of empathy is deeper and more important to morality. Smith is extremely famous, but I think he is vastly different from the popular image of Smith—the supposed defender of a ruthless capitalism—and indeed is someone who can help us work against the selfishness that is rampant in our modern world. I also think he is a thoughtful, nuanced theorist of empathy who avoids the simplifications of those who imagine that sharing feelings with other people will solve all our moral problems. He’s a wonderfully sensible figure to bring to our modern moral debates. Samuel Fleischacker is LAS Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Source:

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Paranoid Style in American Politics, JFK

In The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It (1948), historian Richard Hofstadter argues that, sectionalist conflicts aside, American politics has been characterized by a 'shared belief in the rights of property, the philosophy of economic individualism, and the value of competition' that runs across the political spectrum. The Library of America is now ensuring that Hofstadter's legacy at least will be preserved by collecting his work from the mid-1940s to 1970 in a three-volume series edited by Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. The first of these surveys Hofstader's middle period, from 1956 to 1965, during which he published some of his most famous work and was at the height of his reputation as a public intellectual along with the likes of Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazin, and Daniel Bell. The book presents two complete works, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963) and The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964), along with a decade's worth of previously uncollected essays, including several appearing for the first time. It is a volume that is timely in tracing the history of ideas and cultural currents that continue to be alive and well in American society today. Published in 1963, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life seeks to trace the hostility toward the intellect and intellectuals in American culture dating back to its roots. It is conceived as what Michel Foucault would term 'a history of the present', a genealogy of the ideas that explains current circumstances. Hofstadter writes: 'Men and women living under conditions of poverty and exacting toil, facing the hazards of Indian raids, fevers, and agues, and raised on whiskey and brawling, could not afford education and culture; and they found it easier to reject what they could not have than to admit the lack of it as a deficiency in themselves.'

Similarly to the early Puritans, the generation that founded the American republic were learned men who formed a patrician elite. And as Hofstadter wryly notes: 'It is ironic that the United States should have been founded by intellectuals; for throughout most of our political history, the intellectual has been for the most part either an outsider, a servant, or a scapegoat.' But the patrician elite soon fell out among one another, opening the door for factionalism. The first victim of attempted political assassination was Thomas Jefferson at the hands of the Federalists. He was attacked for being a 'philosopher' given to 'abstract theories' who lacked the character to lead; worse, he was a Francophile and a Deist. Anti-intellectualism became firmly embedded in American politics with the rise of Andrew Jackson in the 1820s, which twice pitted the 'natural genius' of 'Old Hickory' against the patrician intellectualism of John Quincy Adams. Jackson won a plurality of votes in 1824, but not enough electoral votes to secure the Presidency. Jackson had appealed by proposing a series of national initiatives for educational and scientific improvement that even his own Cabinet at times would not support. 

Four years later, Andrew Jackson beat Adams in a landslide with his supporters founding the modern Democratic Party in the process. As president, Jackson sought to advance the rights of the "common man" against a "corrupt aristocracy" and to preserve the Union. Born in the colonial Carolinas to a Scotch-Irish family in the decade before the American Revolutionary War, Jackson became a frontier lawyer. In 1816, the Second Bank of the United States was chartered by President James Madison to restore the United States economy devastated by the War of 1812. Jackson believed that the Bank was a fundamentally corrupt monopoly. Its stock was mostly held by foreigners, he insisted, and it exerted an unfair amount of control over the political system. Jackson used the issue to promote his democratic values, believing the Bank was being run exclusively for the wealthy. Jackson stated the Bank made "the rich richer and the potent more powerful." He accused it of making loans with the intent of influencing elections. In his address to Congress in 1830, Jackson called for a substitute for the Bank that would have no private stockholders and no ability to lend or purchase land. Its only power would be to issue bills of exchange.The address touched off fiery debate in the Senate. On July 4, 1832, Jackson declared, "The Bank, Mr. Van Buren, is trying to kill me. But I will kill it." A clear purveyor of anti-intellectualism has been the business class, whose proprietary interests in property and profit have facilitated consensus in American politics going back to the Founding Fathers, as Hofstadter argued in The American Political Tradition. 

Through what Hofstadter terms 'the practical culture', the business class, particularly since the onset of the industrial age, has bent the intellect toward strictly technological, materialistic, and above all utilitarian ends. The need for technical training becomes more pronounced toward the end of the 19th century with the rise of large-scale bureaucracies, which resulted in the creation of business schools to instruct in the principles of management, finance, and other aspects of the commercial enterprise. Alongside it, interestingly, grew the whole field of self-help to promulgate development of personal characteristics necessary for success, a secularization of the evangelical spirit epitomized in the exhortations of Norman Vincent Peale. Rather than serve as a bulwark against this trend, American higher education has participated in the leveling down of the intellectualism. Part of the dilemma has been the need to balance unencumbered intellectual inquiry with access to the knowledge necessary to sustain a functioning democracy. The democratization of higher education has been well-suited to the anti-intellectual and utilitarian impulses within American culture. However, here Hofstadter is not arguing against the democratization of education so much as attempting to open it up to the embrace of more 'playfulness', as he terms it in the book's introduction, in the sense of being amenable to 'the quest for new uncertainties' and equipped with the ability and the desire to turn 'answers into questions'. 

The anti-intellectualism of American culture provides the fertile ground in which the subject of Hofstadter's follow-up book has taken root and flourished. The Paranoid Style in American Politics is a collection of essays, written over a 14-year period, once again in the shadow of McCarthyism but this time imbued with a new sense of urgency in response to the rise of the far right in American politics as embodied by the ascension of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater to the Presidential candidacy of the Republican Party in 1964. The collection is divided into two parts, the first dealing with the American right and the second with other considerations of the modern era. Part I still reads as a Foucauldian history of the present. The title essay started out as a lecture given at Oxford University in November 1963, the day before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and it was published in abridged form in that month's issue of Harper's Magazine. As if he were writing of the present moment, Hofstadter begins by observing that: 'Although American political life has rarely been touched by the most acute varieties of class conflict, it has served as an arena for uncommonly angry minds. Today this fact is most evident on the extreme right wing, which has shown how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority.' It must be noted that the paranoid style is not necessarily a function of the right or the left—as Hofstadter notes, the Moscow Trials of the Great Purge of 1938-1939 under Joseph Stalin were steeped in the paranoid style of an abstruse ideological construct.

Among the early purveyors of the paranoid style was Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, whose 1835 screed Foreign Conspiracy Against the Liberties of the United States railed against 'the popes and the despots'. Hofstadter began mapping out the paranoid style in the mid-1950s, represented in the collection by the 1954 essay 'The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt'. Hofstadter picks up the term 'pseudo-conservative' from the 1950 book The Authoritarian Personality (1950) by Frankfurt School critical theorist Theodor W. Adorno and his associates written while he was living in exile in California after the Second World War. Hofstader's argument is that pseudo-conservatism is a product of the rootlessness and heterogeneity of modern life and the striving for status and identity that it engenders. Like the members of the Tea Party surveyed in sociologist Arlie Russell Hocschild's 2016 book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, 'The pseudo-conservative always imagines himself to be dominated and imposed upon because he feels that he is not really dominant, and knows of no other way of interpreting his position.' Pseudo-conservatism gets updated in the 1965 essay 'Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited', the writing of which was prompted in large part by the Goldwater Presidential campaign. Here Hofstadter notes that the far right has grown in organization and influence, a statement that resonates today. The conclusion Hofstadter makes is that the success of Goldwater and the pseudo-conservatism he represents is not an accidental effect of moderate Republican ineptitude, but the result of an organized effort within the party. 

And as if speaking of President Donald Trump, Hofstadter observes of Barry Goldwater: 'How are we to explain the character of a 'conservative' whose whole political life has been spent urging a sharp break with the past, whose great moment as a party leader was marked by a repudiation of our traditional political ways, whose followers were so notable for their destructive and divisive energies, and whose public reputation was marked not by standpattism or excessive caution but with wayward impulse and recklessness?' From an electoral campaign perspective, the plan didn't work. Goldwater lost to Lyndon B. Johnson, carrying only five states in the Deep South and his own state of Arizona, in the largest landslide since James Monroe defeated John Quincy Adams in 1820. But as Hofstadter notes, the Goldwater faithful and their pseudo-conservative fellow travelers were apparently satisfied in having established themselves as a force to be reckoned within American politics in their ability to attain leadership of the party from a minority position. As Hofstadter predicted, the far right, in its obstructionism, creating 'a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible'. In his collection of essays in 1965, Hofstadter cites the sociologist C. Wright Mills who defined the power elite 'throwing its preponderant weight on the side of responsibility'. Hofstadter closes the essay with a charge to the 'moderates' of the Republican Party to regain the political center in order to establish a position within the broader consensus of the American public. Hofstadter died of leukemia in 1970 at the age of 54 and did not live long enough to see that the pseudo-conservatism continued to gain force in American politics despite its minority position. Rather than move toward the center, the Republican Party has doubled down on pseudo-conservatism, using racial politics, gerrymandering, and the unequal representation of the Electoral College to win elections, with the last two Republicans attaining the Presidency doing so while losing the popular vote.

Hofstadter greatly appreciated the French aristocrat Tocqueville of whom it is said wrote the best book on democracy, which is also the best book about America. The final essay, written around 1962 and previously unpublished, is a personal note of Hofstadter's on his origins and evolution as an historian and a thinker, and makes the case for history as a literary practice and not just a recitation of facts. And indeed, Hofstadter is a master stylist. The entire volume from the Library of America is assiduously annotated by Robert Sean Wilentz, a formidable historian in his own right, with notes on persons, events, and references that may not be well known to contemporary readers. In the 50 years since his premature death, Hofstadter has come in for criticism from the right and the left. It can be argued that his notions of the American body politic didn't acknowledge what we now call 'intersectionality', or that some of his interpretations of the facts don't hold up to present-day scrutiny. But in the main, Hofstadter's contribution to our understanding of America's past and its relevance to the present still command attention. The current volume from the Library of America is a testament to its power. The subsequent volumes in development, one of which will include the full text of The American Political Tradition, promise to reaffirm his enduring legacy. Source:     

Oliver Stone should have won an Oscar for Best Director for JFK (1991). It's superior to that of the others nominated that year, earning his cinematic stripes with his truly epic examination of the Kennedy Assassination and the flawed Warren Commission follow-up. JFK deserved more than two mere technical wins. Through the JFK assassination and the events that followed, including the Vietnam War, the public became aware of the dark underbelly of the American system. Oliver Stone’s JFK uses media, information to discuss a perceived truth, who was really behind the assassination of Kennedy? Stone’s theory is as skeptical as any others, but the way in which he anticipates the information by using footage from the time, by drawing up dossiers, using courtrooms and the recurring theme of secretive meetings makes a stronger case than most of the standard political biopics. Stone’s film creates its own historical memory of the events around the era and the assassination, at times both contradicting and confirming parts of the story issued by the government and the media. It contains documentary footage, newsreels, reenactments, and fictional scenes to question and confront what had, in the public’s mind, long been identified as a pure memory. Stone uses the same footage more than once, sometimes black in white, sometimes in color, sometimes on a monitor in one corner of the screen. He asks the audience to question what they see and how they see it.

The film not only destroys nostalgic warmth by hinting that the seedy underbelly has always been a part of American society, but by suggesting that there is no clear cut truth. As Robert Sklar notes in his book Movie Made America, “sensational as they are, the political accusations that JFK makes almost pale alongside the emotions the film expresses: its sense of displacement and unrecoverable loss; its anger at the illegitimacy of power; its myth of transformation contained in a martyred president who is victim of the ruinous policies and ideologies of his era.” Media influences memory and, as Sklar points out, memory compounds media to the effect that no truth, even caught on film, is certain. Both Oliver Stone and Stephen King (11/22/63) play with the nostalgic idea that had Kennedy lived, America would have withdrew from Vietnam and continued to prosper. Nostalgia for this era seems to indicate that if the president had not been assassinated, the Happy Days may have continued ad infinitum. The particular focus on this particular point in American history, when innocence was lost, when unwilling knowledge was brought out into the forefront, brings to the forefront society’s combative relationship with truth. Evil had always had a face and voice which we cannot see or hear. 

With the JFK assassination, with the advent of television news, the discussion went deeper--that we could witness the atrocity, even the perpetrator, but we can still not wrap our heads around the why. There has to be something more. We wish we could turn back the clock. There have been too many of these tragic events in the past months, years, decades. It’s become an unfortunate fact of life. But if these tales of nostalgia have taught us anything, it’s not that we suffer because of our new knowledge. It’s that the memories we cherish should not just be things we merely hold onto, but should be what propels us forward. We continue to persevere, to carry on. We find solace, not only in nostalgia or memory, but community. Our collective memory may shift and distort events, but our identity as a society remains. Source:

JFK Jr. (George magazine, 1998): “I like the idea of educating the masses, of being an inspiration to the downtrodden. I like the idea of fighting for equal rights for all American citizens. I like the idea of embracing other countries and other cultures and promoting world peace. Fighting the good fight, as it were. I think artists are allowed to make more mistakes, they are allowed to dress badly and have a not so perfect past. In short, artists are allowed to be human. And presidents are not. So the question is: How can someone be a good leader if he or she isn’t allowed to be human? I’d rather eat glass.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Great Replacement (Renaud Camus)

Renaud Camus: One of the central concepts of my thinking is in-nocence, non-nocence, non-nuisance, the fact of not harming. The in-nocence pact seems to me to be the nodal point of civilization and, incidentally, of ecology. It is the title of one of my first public speeches, at least in the political sphere: “Nocence, an instrument of the Great Replacement.” Nocence, or if you prefer delinquency, big and small, from the snatching of old lady’s bag to mass terrorism, is the military means of conquest. Nocence is what we have to fight with all our might: it is absolutely not what we have to adopt. Nothing would be dumber than to imitate the methods of our adversaries, even if they are successful to him: we must find our own. On the other hand, if unfortunately we had no other choice than submission and war, I would prefer war, then, without hesitation. I do not have to highlight my social and doctrinal “distancing” from Nazism, since never having had the slightest affinity with it, to say the least. 

On the contrary I believe that the antireplacists of my kind, furiously opposed to the industries of man, that is to say to the assembly lines of death, to the camps, to the gulag, to the universal slum which is the unsurpassable horizon and the constant secretion of global replacism, are the only consistent anti-Nazis, just like they are the only consistent ecologists. The Faustian momentum involves a pact with the devil which, for my part, I am absolutely not ready for. The face of the Nemesis is more and more clear. So long as the ecologists do not care about population growth, which is the root cause of nearly all environmental ills that the Earth suffers, anything they can suggest is utterly futile. They pose as defenders of biodiversity, and they would be right to be so, but they attach no importance to its most precious side, human biodiversity, that of races, civilizations, cultures; worse still, being almost all antiracist and immigrationists, they are determined to destroy it, that human biodiversity, through mass immigration, which they promote, and through the ethnic substitution that it implies. And, to top it off, they put no value on the beauty of the world, what ends up rendering all their efforts pointless and all their ideas meaningless.

The Great Replacement despairs me as much in Great Britain as in France. And that the British are being replaced by Hong Kong citizens instead of Sudanese or Pakistani, I find it to be very little consolation. Why do they need to be replaced? Because of your Faustian ideal of perpetual growth and development? Cannot they stay English? Whether they are replaced by Mandarins or Hottentots, the crime will be no less, and the loss will be no less great. The genocide by substitution, or Great Replacement, or change of people and civilization, in short the destruction of the Europeans of Europe, is the XXI century’s crime against humanity. It is arguably the worst monstrosity in history: perhaps not the most criminal, for it is largely mechanical, automatic, accountable; but the fullest, the widest, the most cataclysmic in its effects. Source:

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Love in the Western World, Emophilia

British-French writer and historian Hilaire Belloc: “There is -as the greatest of the ancient Greeks discovered- a certain indissoluble Trinity of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. You cannot deny or attack one of these three without at the same time denying or attacking both the others.”

Some individuals suffering romantic rejection were researched recently. According to Journal of Neurophysiology (2010), recovery from a breakup may be akin to recovering from drug addiction: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers recorded the brain activity of adults who had previously been rejected. Upon viewing photographs of their former partners, several key areas of participants' brains were activated: the ventral tegmental area (involved in feelings of romantic love) which controls motivation and reward; the nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex, which are associated with craving and addiction (specifically the dopaminergic reward system); the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex associated with physical pain and distress. "Romantic love, under both happy and unhappy circumstances, may be a "natural addiction" said neuroscientist Lucy Brown at Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "Our findings suggest that the pain of romantic rejection may be a necessary part of life that nature built into our anatomy and physiology." Source:

“Love is civilization’s miracle”, wrote Stendhal in his insightful essay on Love. He was talking about the high ideal of love elaborated in Western Europe, from twelfth-century courtly love to nineteenth-century romanticism. Aristocratic non-clerical culture values love as the source of the greatest spiritual joy, and therefore cannot conceive of Paradise without it. Some poems sarcastically reject the loveless Christian Paradise: the male protagonist of the 12th century poem Aucassin et Nicolette, threatened with Hell by a cleric if he persists in loving Nicolette, answers that he prefers Hell, if that is where those who value love, chivalry and poetry are destined to go. In Guillaume de Lorris’s Roman de la Rose (1225-1230), the narrator dreams himself in a wonderful garden with a Fountain of Love and the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. According to specialist Jean Dufournet, we find in this work “the elements of a very strong spiritual current that make the protagonist an emulator of the mystics.” The god Amor who strikes the narrator’s heart may be a poetic hypostasis, but he poses as a competitor of the Catholic God of asceticism; incidentally, Amor is Roma in reverse. These notions played a crucial role in the tradition known today as “courtly love”, first formalized in the troubadours’ poetry in Aquitaine, where the duchess Alienor (1122-1204), granddaughter of the first troubadour, introduced it to the court of her first husband, the King of France, then to her second husband, the King of England, where it combined harmoniously with the Celtic traditions of Wales and Britain, to produce for example the fairy lays of Marie de France or the Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes. 

In his memorable essay Love in the Western World (originally published in French in 1938, revised in 1952, and followed in 1961 by Essays on the Myths of Love), French author Denis de Rougemont sought to understand the intricate relationship between the erotic and the religious in the tradition of the troubadours and their romantic heirs. From a Platonic perspective, the Idea is more real than its manifestations on earth, and for the medieval poet, as for the medieval philosopher, visible realities are always the symbol and the sign of more essential, invisible truths (Étienne Gilson, The Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy, 1922). From that perspective, the psychological phenomenon that Stendhal called “crystallization”, which makes the beloved appear glowing with all perfections, takes on a very different meaning. Love does not lie; simply, its truth is not of this world. The key to Beatrice’s cryptic identity in The Divine Comedy is provided by Dante in an earlier book titled Vita Nuova (The New Life). Here Dante first introduces “my mind’s glorious lady, she who was called by many Beatrice, by those who did not know what it meant to so name her” (the name Beatrice means “she who confers blessing”). Nine times in his life, Beatrice appeared to him, Dante says. The first time, Beatrice “greeted me so virtuously, so much so that I saw then to the very end of grace.” Beatrice is the essence of feminine grace and virtues, manifested in all women: “my lady came into such grace that not only was she honoured and praised, but through her many were also honoured and praised.” In several passages, Dante indicates that when he is sensitive to the charm of real women (Beatrice’s friends, for example), it is Beatrice that he sees through them: “They have seen perfection of all welcome / who see my lady among the other ladies.” Robert Graves wrote that, “The purpose of poetry is religious invocation of the Muse,” whom he also called the White Goddess and the Mother of All Living. Painters and sculptors have also devoted much effort to capturing and communicating the essence of feminine grace. The aesthetic experience, according to Schopenhauer, means getting lost in the contemplation of the Platonic Idea behind the phenomenon, thus escaping the cycle of unfulfilled desires. 

Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855), the emblematic French romantic poet, gave another beautiful expression of this theme in his last novel Aurélia (he was found dead soon after finishing it). As the narrator gets convinced by some sign that his death is near, he falls sick and, in his delirium, sees a woman of supernatural beauty, whose body grows until embracing the whole cosmos. The romantic ideal of love as a mystical encounter with the eternal feminine, or the Goddess, has had a very profound influence on European culture. The main reason why romanticism is mostly foreign to Jewish culture is that there can be no truly romantic conception of love without faith in the immortality of the soul, and Jewish anthropology is fundamentally materialistic (read my article “Israel as One Man”). It is therefore no surprise that romanticism has been regarded with contempt by most Jewish intellectuals. Kevin MacDonald (A Culture of Critique) explains it by an inherited Jewish culture where love was seen “as an invention of the alien gentile culture and thus morally suspect.” From the 1930s, American Jewish authors found in the theories of Freud and his Jewish disciples the justification for assaulting the romantic ideal and challenging the obscenity laws. Ludwig Lewisohn, “the most prominent Jewish writer in interwar America,” is a case in point. He had been analyzed briefly by Freud, and was a close friend of Otto Rank. Like Rank, Lewisohn liked to “portray traditional, unassimilated Jewish sexuality as uniquely healthy.” He also shared Wilhelm Reich’s ideas (The Mass Psychology of Fascism, 1934), that anti-Semitism is a symptom of sexual frustration and can be cured by liberating the Gentiles’ libido (a message echoed in Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization, 1955, as well as in Theodor Adorno’s The Authoritarian Personality, 1950). So did Isaac Rosenfeld, who said: “I regard anti-Semitism as a symptom of a serious, underlying psycho-sexual disease of epidemic proportion in our society.”

In Anton Myrer’s novel The Last Convertible, set in the 1940s, the lovable narrator, George Virdon, a solidly middle-class product of a public high school who is at Harvard only because of a scholarship, describes the particular snobbery of the “St. Grotlesex” men—that is, the graduates of St. Mark’s, St. Paul’s, Groton, and Middlesex—who “by and large kept to themselves, dined and hung out at their exclusive final clubs, took a very casual attitude toward classes and grades, and very nearly constituted a college within the college. A Groton man sat next to me in a course on the Hapsburg Empire and never said a single word to me. Not one. It wasn’t that he cut me, exactly—I don’t think he ever even saw me. Some, like me, can accept it with equanimity and go their way. For others it eats away at the vitals like acid: they may suppress it, but they never get over it.” Source:

“Although Emophilia correlates with anxious attachment and sociosexuality, it predicts life outcomes (Jones, 2015) and motivational forces (Jones & Curtis, 2017) not accounted for by the other variables. Further, the personality profile of emophilia is unique compared to other relationship variables such as insecure attachment and sociosexuality. Specifically, with respect to the Big Five personality traits: anxious attachment is significantly and positively correlated with neuroticism, and sociosexuality is significantly and negatively correlated with agreeableness. However, emophilia is uncorrelated with all Big Five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (Jones, 2017). Finally, emophilia has a unique predictive quality in some of the realms of relationships such as emotional infidelity, lower age of first marriage, or likelihood to engage in unprotected sex (Jones, 2015; Jones & Paulhus, 2012). Therefore, emophilia is important in explaining variance in relationships, and because of their peculiar emotional disposition, the affected individual may overlook the downside of dark personality traits in a partner, or even be attracted to them.” Source:

Sunday, September 20, 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:

Saturday, September 19, 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:

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