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Posts Tagged ‘JOHN F. KENNEDY’

THE COSTS OF RIGHT-WING ARROGANCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, RELIGION, Social commentary on March 30, 2020 at 12:42 am

It has been said that President John F. Kennedy left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

But there was a fourth legacy—and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy asked his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means hopeless:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, Right-wingers exchange superstition for science and insults for solutions.

One of these was Landon Spradlin, a Virginia pastor who claimed the “mass hysteria” around the Coronavirus pandemic was part of a media plot against President Donald Trump. 

The 66-year-old father and husband from Virginia died due to complications from COVID-19 on March 25. in Concord, North Carolina.

At a time when responsible Americans are self-isolating to halt the spread of Coronavirus, he was returning home from a mission trip to New Orleans to “wash it from its Sin and debauchery.”

On his Facebook page Spradlin misleadingly compared Coronavirus to the swine flu. He added that the media had created “mass hysteria” to damage Trump:

Spradlin also claimed that a missionary in South Africa “protected” himself from the bubonic plague with the “Spirit of God”: “As long as I walk in the light of that law [of the Spirit of life], no germ will attach itself to me.”   

Had Spradin been as knowledgeable about history as he presumably was about the Bible, he would have known:

  • The bubonic plague—better known as the Black Death—raged from 1347 to 1351.
  • It spread quickly and virulently throughout Europe and Asia.
  • It killed 75 to 200 million people.
  • Faith proved no protection from its deadliness.

Reacting to the news, a Twitter user wrote: “On March 13, Pastor Landon Spradlin shared this post suggesting #COVID19 is a hoax. On March 24th he died of that hoax. You can thank Trump and @FoxNews for perpetuating that narrative. This is not a game.”

The despicable role that Fox News Network has played in convincing millions of Americans that COVID-19 is a hoax cannot be overestimated.

By March 9, the virus had stricken 1,016 Americans and caused 31 deaths. It was raging in 33 states.The stock market had had its worst week of trading since the “Wall Street meltdown” of 2008.

But on March 9, Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetime on the Fox Business Network, attacked not the virus but those who do not share her fervent embrace of Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” said Regan. “The hate is boiling. Many in the liberal media are using Coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the President, despite the virus originating halfway around the world.

“This is yet another attempt to impeach the President. And sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the stock market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of the political casualties for them.”

To make certain no one in the television audience missed the point, an electronically generated caption read: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.” 

Unfortunately for Regan, by March 9, too many Americans—including many Fox News viewers—realized the virus was not a Democratic hoax, as she and Trump had claimed. 

A firestorm of outrage descended on Fox—and on March 14, Fox Business Network announced that Regan’s program would be on “hiatus” until further notice.

Another Twitter user posted the following cartoon to mock Spradin’s contempt for science:

View image on Twitter

But far worse is almost certain to come. 

President Trump has repeatedly said he wants to “re-open the country” to end the “social distancing” and shuttered businesses recommended by the medical community. Only this, they believe, will halt or at least slow the spread of COVID -19.

He intended to use Easter Sunday—April 12—as a pretext for his real reason: He wants to return to what many of his critics refer to as “Nuremberg rallies.” Packing stadiums with his most fanatical followers, he thunders insults and lies with abandon.

Unable to do this while “social distancing” is officially on throughout the country, he has substituted nearly constant “press conferences” filled with equal parts of lies and ignorance about Coronavirus.

On March 21, for example, Trump insisted he had a “very good” feeling about using a malaria drug to combat the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had to set the record straight: “No.”

On March 29, Trump announced he would postpone “reopening the country” until April 30. By March 29,  the United States had more than 139,000 COVID-19 cases, with at least 2,425 deaths.

TWO PRESIDENTS, TWO CRISES, TWO DIFFERENT RESPONSES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 18, 2020 at 1:23 am

On March 13, President Donald Trump addressed a subject he clearly resented being asked about: His gutting of an early-warning medical system set up to confront pandemics.

In 2014, following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, President Barack Obama created the White House Pandemic Office, run by the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

Heading it was Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer. Under President George W. Bush, he had successfully fought malaria overseas. His topflight team of infectious disease and public health experts was creating a national bio-defense strategy.  Their goal: Coordinate agencies to make the United States more resilient to the threat of epidemics and biological warfare.

In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down. The reason: Trump’s pathological jealousy of and hatred for Obama.

On March 13, at a White House press conference, Yamiche Alcindor, the PBS Newshour’s White House Correspondent, dared to ask Trump: “My first question is: You said that you don’t take responsibility, but you did disband the White House Pandemic Office and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So, what responsibility do you take to that?

Yamiche Alcindor 1.jpg

Yamiche Alcindor

“And the officials that worked in that office said that you—that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that?”

Then followed this exchange:

TRUMP: Well, I just think it’s a nasty question, because what we’ve done is—and Tony had said numerous times that we saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. And when you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people.

ALCINDOR: It’s your administration.

TRUMP: I could ask, perhaps—my administration, but I could perhaps ask Tony about that, because I don’t know anything about it. I mean, you say we did that. I don’t know anything about it.

ALCINDOR: You don’t know about the—

TRUMP: We’re spending—

ALCINDOR: — About the reorganization that happened in the National Security Council?

TRUMP: No, I don’t know. It’s the—it’s the administration, perhaps they do that. You know, people let people go. You know, you used to be with a different newspaper than you are now. You know, things like that happen.

Trump’s refusal to accept responsibility for the greatest crisis of his tenure as President flagrantly contrasts with how President John F. Kennedy responded to a similar crisis.

John F. Kennedy press conference

On April 17, 1961, the U.S. Navy landed 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles on Cuba to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. Landing at the Bay of Pigs, they were supposed to head into the mountains—as Castro himself had done against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1956—and raise the cry of revolution.

When the invaders surged onto the beaches, they found Castro’s army waiting for them. Many of the invaders were killed on the spot. Others were captured.

It was a major public relations setback for the newly-installed Kennedy administration, which had raised hopes for a change in American-Soviet relations.

Kennedy, trying to abort widespread criticism, publicly took the blame for the setback: “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan….I’m the responsible officer of the Government.”

Ironically, the crisis—and his taking responsibility for it—hugely increased Kennedy’s popularity. The national Gallup Poll reported that 83 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing as President.

To a White House aide, Kennedy half-joked: “It’s just like Eisenhower—the worse I do, the more popular I get.”

By contrast, Trump’s “handling” of the Coronavirus plague has brought him probably the worst reviews of his more than three years as President.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks attacked Trump in terms usually reserved for serial killers. On the March 13 edition of The PBS Newshour, he said:

“This is what happens when you elect a sociopath as president, who doesn’t care, who has treated this whole thing for the past month as if it’s about him. ‘How do people like me?’ Minimizing the risks. ‘Does the stock market reflect well on me?’ And he hasn’t done the things a normal human being would do, which was to, let’s take precautions….

“And he’s incapable of that. And he’s even created an information distortion field around him.” 

And Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for The Washington Post, said: “He likes having powerful people around him to praise what he’s done. He tried to get them all up to the podium to talk about how great of a response he has provided, and I think that’s—trying to get that co-signed from CEOs and powerful people is a key part of his presidency.”

Kimberly Atkins, senior Washington news correspondent for WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station: “We have seen the president not only be all over the place but his instinct was to try to downplay it [Coronavirus] because he saw it as a political threat—to say that people would get better….

“Even today he’s saying, ‘We have everything under control. We have this website that people can go to and find out where they can get tested.’ The website isn’t even done yet.”

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY CONTINUES TO HAUNT US: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 3, 2020 at 12:13 am

“John and Robert Kennedy knew what they were doing. They waged a vicious war against Fidel Castro–a war someone had to lose.”

And the loser turned out to be John F. Kennedy.

So writes investigative reporter Gus Russo in Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK, published in 1998.

In what is almost certainly the definitive account of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Russo reaches some startling—but highly documented—conclusions:

  • Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy.
  • He did it alone.
  • Oswald, a former Marine, was a committed Marxist—whose hero was Castro.
  • The CIA’s ongoing campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate Castro was an open secret throughout the Gulf.
  • Oswald visited New Orleans in the spring of 1963.
  • There he learned that Castro was in the crosshairs of the CIA.
  • For this, he blamed John F. Kennedy.
  • Oswald told his Russian-born wife, Marina: “Fidel Castro needs defenders. I’m going to join his army of volunteers.”
  • Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, murdered Oswald because he was distraught over Kennedy’s death.
  • Ruby was not part of a Mafia conspiracy to silence Oswald.
  • Skeptics of the Warren Commission—which concluded that Oswald had acted alone–asked the wrong question: “Who killed Kennedy?”
  • They should have asked: “Why was he killed?”
  • The answer–according to Russo: “The Kennedys’ relentless pursuit of Castro and Cuba backfired in tragedy on that terrible day in November, 1963.”

Another book well worth reading about America’s Cuban obsession during the early 1960s is American Tabloid, by James Ellroy.

Although a novel, it vividly captures the atmosphere of intrigue, danger and sleaziness that permeated that era in a way that dry, historical documents never can.

“The 50’s are finished,” reads its paperback dust jacket. “Zealous young lawyer Robert Kennedy has a red-hot jones to nail Jimmy Hoffa. JFK has his eyes on the Oval Office.

“J. Edgar Hoover is swooping down on the Red Menace. Howard Hughes is dodging subpoenas and digging up Kennedy dirt. And Castro is mopping up the bloody aftermath of his new Communist nation….

“Mob bosses, politicos, snitches, psychos, fall guys and femmes fatale. They’re mixing up a Molotov cocktail guaranteed to end the country’s innocence with a bang.”

Among the legacies of America’s twisted romance with anti-Castro Cubans:

  • Following the JFK assassination, there was a cover-up.
  • Its purpose: To protect the reputation of the United States Government—and that of its newly-martyred President.
  • The CIA and FBI concealed the CIA-Mafia assassination plots from the Warren Commission assigned to investigate Kennedy’s murder.
  • Other government officials participating in the cover-up included Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • Ironically, this secrecy ignited the widespread—and false—belief that the President had died at the hands of a government conspiracy.
  • Robert Kennedy feared that his relentless pursuit of Castro might have led Castro to “take out” JFK first.
  • Fearing his own assassination if he continued Kennedy’s efforts to murder Castro, President Johnson ordered the CIA to halt its campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate the Cuban leader.
  • The huge Cuban community throughout Florida—and especially Miami—continues to exert a blackmailing influence on American politics.
  • Right-wing politicians from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump have reaped electoral rewards by catering to the demands of this hate-obsessed voting block.
  • These Cuban ex-patriots hope that the United States will launch a full-scale military invasion of the island to remove Castro. 
  • Having grown rich and soft in the United States, they fear to risk their own lives by returning to Cuba to overthrow the Castro regime—as he had overthrown Fulgencio Batista.
  • Only President Barack Obama had the political courage to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba—in 2015.
  • This occurred long after the United States had done so with such former enemies as the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam.  
  • Donald Trump—obsessed with reversing Obama’s record—has reinstated travel and trade restrictions on Cuba. It has also allowed American citizens to sue foreign businesses using property seized during the 1959 Cuban revolution, 

The Cuban Missile Crisis remains the single most dangerous moment of the 50-year Cold War, when the world stood only minutes away from nuclear Armageddon.

That crisis stemmed from the American Right’s twisted obsession with Cuba, an obsession that continues today.

So what are the lessons to be learned from that obsession?

  • The United States should end the half-century contamination of American politics by those Cubans who live only for their hatred of Castro—and those political candidates who live to exploit it. 
  • (For example: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ recent—and truthful—statement that Castro created a literacy program for poor Cuban children has ignited bipartisan outrage. If Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, it has virtually guaranteed his 
  • A population of about 1,700,000 Cuban exiles living in Florida should not be allowed to shape the domestic and foreign policy of a nation of 300 million.
  • Those who continue to hate—or love—Fidel Castro should be left to their own private feud.
  • But that is a feud they should settle on their own island, and not from the shores of the United States.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY CONTINUES TO HAUNT US: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 2, 2020 at 12:06 am

On October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy went on nationwide TV to announce the discovery of nuclear missiles in Cuba—and his blockade of that island.

He warned that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union—and would trigger “a full retaliatory response” upon the U.S.S.R.

President John F. Kennedy addresses the nation

And he demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba:

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are, but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world.

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

On October 26,  the United States raised the readiness level of Strategic Air Command forces to DEFCON 2—the step just short of war. For the only time in U.S. history, B-52 bombers were dispersed to various locations and made ready to take off, fully equipped, on 15 minutes’ notice.

Other measures taken included:

  • One-eighth of America’s 1,436 bombers were on airborne alert.
  • About 145 intercontinental ballistic missiles stood on ready alert.
  • Air Defense Command redeployed 161 nuclear-armed interceptors to 16 dispersal fields within nine hours with one-third maintaining 15-minute alert status.
  • Twenty-three nuclear-armed B-52 were sent to orbit points within striking distance of the Soviet Union.

An invasion date was set for October 29. But the Kennedy Administration—and the American military–didn’t know that the Russian soldiers guarding the missiles had been armed with tactical nuclear weapons.

Had the Marines gone in, those mini-nukes would have been used. And a fullscale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union would have almost certainly followed.

At the height of the crisis, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy offered a solution.

Khrushchev had sent two teletypes to Kennedy. The first had agreed to remove the missiles, but the second had demanded that the United States remove its own missiles from Turkey, which bordered the Soviet Union.

Robert Kennedy’s solution: The administration should ignore the second message—and announce that it had accepted Khrushchev’s offer to remove the missiles.

After this announcement was made, President Kennedy said to his advisers: “It can go either way now.”

John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office

The crisis ended on October 28. Under enormous pressure, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.

Behind his decision lay a secret promise by the Kennedy administration to remove its obsolete nuclear missiles from Turkey, which bordered the Soviet Union. And a public pledge to not invade Cuba.

On the night the crisis ended, there occurred a prophetic exchange between the two Kennedy brothers.

JFK: “Maybe this is the night I should go to the theater”—a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s fatal attendance of Ford’s Theater at the end of the Civil War.

RFK: “If you go, I want to go with you.”

John F. and Robert F. Kennedy

But President Kennedy was not finished with Castro. While continuing the campaign of sabotage throughout Cuba, the Kennedys were preparing something far bigger: A fullscale American invasion of the island.

On October 4, 1963, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted its latest version of the invasion plan, known as OPLAN 380-63.  Its timetable went:

  • January, 1964:  Infiltration into Cuba by Cuban exiles.
  • July 15, 1964:  U.S. conventional forces join the fray.
  • August 3, 1964:  All-out U.S. air strikes on Cuba.
  • October 1, 1964:  Full-scale invasion to install “a government friendly to the U.S.”

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert Kennedy—referring to the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—had resisted demands for a “sneak attack” on Cuba by saying: “I don’t want my brother to be the Tojo of the 1960s.”

Now the Kennedys planned such an attack on Cuba just one month before the November, 1964 Presidential election.

Then fate—in the unlikely figure of Lee Harvey Oswald—intervened.

On November 22, 1963, while the President rode through Dallas in an open-air automobile, a rifle-wielding assassin opened fire. He scored two hits on Kennedy—in the back of the neck and head. The second wound proved instantly fatal.

The nation and the world were shocked—and plunged into deep mourning.

But for some of those who had waged a secret, lethal war against Fidel Castro for the previous two years, Kennedy’s death—at least in retrospect—didn’t come as a surprise.

Robert Kennedy, in particular, spent the remaining years of his life agonizing over the possibility that his highly personal war against Castro had backfired.

That Castro, fed up with the CIA’s assassination plots against him, had retaliated with one of his own.

Robert Kennedy’s fears and guilt were compounded by the fact that, while waging war on Castro, he had waged an equally ruthless crusade against organized crime.

He knew that some of the mobsters he had tried to send to prison had played a major role in the CIA’s efforts to “hit” Castro. Had the Mafia—believing itself the victim of a double-cross—put out a “contract” on JFK instead?  

It was a question that haunted him until the day he died.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY CONTINUES TO HAUNT US: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 28, 2020 at 12:12 am

In April, 1961, the CIA tried to overthrow the Communist regime of Cuba’s “Maximum Leader,” Fidel Castro, at the Bay of Pigs.

When that failed, President John F. Kennedy ordered Castro’s removal through a campaign of sabotage and assassination.

These covert operatives became known within the CIA as the Special Group, and were ultimately supervised by Robert F. Kennedy, the President’s brother and Attorney General.

The war against Castro became known within the CIA as Operation Mongoose.

But not everyone in the CIA was enthusiastic about the “get Castro” effort.

“Everyone at CIA was surprised at Kennedy’s obsession with Fidel,” recalled Sam Halpern, who was assigned to the Cuba Project. “They thought it was a waste of time. We all knew [Fidel] couldn’t hurt us. Most of us at CIA initially liked Kennedy, but why go after this little guy?

“One thing is for sure: Kennedy wasn’t doing it out of national security concerns. It was a personal thing. The Kennedy family felt personally burnt by the Bay of Pigs and sought revenge.”

It was all-out war. Among the tactics used:

  • Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder Cuban police officials and Soviet technicians.
  • Sabotaging mines.
  • Paying up to $100,000 per “hit” for the murder or kidnapping of Cuban officials.
  • Using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry.

“Bobby (Kennedy) wanted boom and bang all over the island,” recalled Halpern. “It was stupid. The pressure from the White House was very great.”

Among that “boom and bang” were a series of assassination plots against Castro, in which the Mafia was to be a key player.

Chicago Mobster Johnny Rosselli proposed a simple plan: through its underworld connections in Cuba, the Mafia would recruit a Cuban in Castro’s entourage, such as a waiter or bodyguard, who would poison him.

The CIA’s Technical Services division produced a botulinus toxin which was then injected into Castro’s favorite brand of cigars. The CIA also produced simpler botulinus toxin pills that could be dissolved in his food or drink.

But the deputized Mafia contacts failed to deliver any of the poisons to Castro. 

Rosselli told the CIA that the first poisoner had been discharged from Castro’s employ before he could kill him, and the back-up agent got “cold feet.” 

Other proposals or attempts included:

  • Planting colorful seashells rigged to explode at a site where Castro liked to go skindiving.
  • Trying to arrange for his being presented with a wetsuit impregnated with noxious bacteria and mold spores, or with lethal chemical agents.
  • Attempting to infect Castro’s scuba regulator with tuberculous bacilli.
  • Trying to douse his handkerchiefs, tea and coffee with other lethal bacteria.

Former members of the Kennedy Administration later insisted that neither John nor Robert Kennedy knew or approved of these assassination plots. But the sheer weight of available evidence indicates otherwise.

Bobby, in particular, was constantly pressing the CIA to “do something” about Castro. In the world of covert action, words like “Kill Castro” aren’t committed to paper. Or even spoken.

Castro, rightly seeing his life and regime threatened, appealed to Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, for assistance.

1960s poster of Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev

Keizers [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Khrushchev was quick to comply: “We must not allow the communist infant to be strangled in its crib,” he told members of his inner circle.

By October, 1962, the Soviet Union had sent more than

  • 40,000 soldiers,
  • 1,300 field pieces,
  • 700 anti-aircraft guns,
  • 350 tanks and
  • 150 jets

to Cuba to deter another invasion.

Most importantly, Khrushchev began supplying Castro with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

Their discovery, on October 15, 1962, ignited the single most dangerous confrontation of the 50-year Cold War.

Suddenly, the United States and the Soviet Union—bristling with nuclear weapons—found themselves on the brink of nuclear war.

At the time, Kennedy officials claimed they couldn’t understand why Khrushchev had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. “Maybe Khrushchev’s gone mad” was a typical public musing.  

This remained the official American view for years afterward—as depicted in Robert Kennedy’s memoir, Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis, published in 1969, the year after his assassination. 

No admission was made that JFK had been waging a no-holds-barred campaign to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate its leader.

The same proved true for the 1974 doc-u-drama, The Missiles of October, starring William Devane as John F. Kennedy and Martin Sheen as Robert Kennedy. 

On October 16, President Kennedy was informed of the missile installations. He immediately convened a group of his 12 most important advisers, which became known as Ex-Comm, for Executive Committee.

Then followed seven days of guarded and intense debate by Kennedy and his advisers. Some of the participants—such as Air Force General Curtis LeMay—urged an all-out air strike against the missile sites.

Others—such as Adlai Stevenson, the United States delegate to the United Nations—urged a reliance on quiet diplomacy.

It was Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara who suggested a middle course: A naval blockade—a “quarantine” in Kennedy’s softened term—around Cuba. This would hopefully prevent the arrival of more Soviet offensive weapons on the island.

Finally, the President decided to to impose a naval blockade.

On October 22, Kennedy went on nationwide TV to announce the discovery of the missiles and his blockade of Cuba.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY CONTINUES TO HAUNT US: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2020 at 1:14 am

On November 25, 2016, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s longtime “Maximum Leader,” died at the age of 90.

Old age and disease finally achieved what years of plotting by CIA and Mafia assassins could not.

To his supporters he was a tireless champion of the poor and a foe of American imperialism. To his enemies he was a ruthless dictator who drove his country to economic ruin in the name of a failed ideology–communism.

His reign began on January 1, 1959, when he swept triumphantly into Havana after a two-year guerrilla campaign against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel Castro

Almost immediately, hundreds of thousands of Cubans began fleeing to America. The first émigrés were more than 215,000 Batista followers. The exodus increased, peaking at approximately 78,000 in 1962.

In October, 1962, Castro stopped regularly scheduled travel between the two countries, and asylum seekers began sailing from Cuba to Florida.

Between 1962 and 1979, hundreds of thousands of Cubans entered the United States under the Attorney General’s parole authority.

By 2008, more than 1.24 million Cubans were living in the United States, mostly in South Florida, where the population of Miami was about one-third Cuban. Their sheer numbers transformed the state’s political, economic and cultural life.  And not entirely for the better.

Many of these Cubans viewed themselves as political exiles, rather than immigrants, hoping to eventually return to Cuba after its Communist regime fell from power.

The large number of Cubans in South Florida, particularly in Miami’s “Little Havana,” allowed them to preserve their culture and customs to a degree rare for immigrant groups.

With so many discontented immigrants concentrated in Florida, they became a potential force for politicians to court.

And the issue guaranteed to sway their votes was unrelenting hostility to Castro. Unsurprisingly, most of their votes went to Right-wing Republicans.

John F. Kennedy was the first President to face this dilemma.

During the closing months of the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA had begun training Cuban exiles for an invasion of their former homeland.

The exiles’ goal: To do what Castro had done—seek refuge in the mountains and launch a successful anti-Castro revolution.

But word of the coming invasion quickly leaked: The exiles were terrible secret-keepers. (A joke at the CIA went: “A Cuban thinks a secret is something you tell to only 300 people.”)

Kennedy insisted the invasion must appear to be an entirely Cuban enterprise. He refused to commit U.S. Marines and Air Force bombers.

More than 1,400 invaders landed on April 17, 1961 at the Bay of Pigs—and were quickly overwhelmed, with hundreds of the men taken prisoner.

Kennedy publicly took the blame for its failure: “Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.” But privately he seethed, and ordered the CIA to redouble its efforts to remove Castro at all costs.

To make certain his order was carried out, he appointed his brother, Robert—then Attorney General–to oversee the CIA’s “Castro removal” program.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

It’s here that America’s obsession with Cuba entered its darkest and most disgraceful period.

The CIA and the Mafia entered into an unholy alliance to assassinate Castro—each for its own benefit:

  • The CIA wanted to please Kennedy.
  • The mobsters wanted to regain their casino and brothel holdings that had made Cuba their private playground in pre-Castro times. They also hoped to use their pose as patriots to win immunity from future prosecution.

The CIA supplied poisons and explosives to various members of the Mafia. It was then up to the mobsters to assassinate Castro.

The CIA asked Johnny Roselli, a mobster linked to the Chicago syndicate, to go to Florida in 1961 and 1962 to organize assassination teams of Cuban exiles. They were to infiltrate their homeland and assassinate Castro.

JohnRoselli.jpg

Johnny Roselli

Rosselli called upon two other crime figures: Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana and Santos Trafficante, the Costra Nostra chieftain for Tampa, for assistance.

Sam Giancana.jpg

Sam Giancana

Giancana, using the name “Sam Gold” in his dealings with the CIA, was meanwhile being hounded by the FBI on direct orders of Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

The mobsters were authorized to offer $150,000 to anyone who would kill Castro and were promised any support the Agency could yield.

Giancana was to locate someone who was close enough to Castro to be able to drop pills into his food. Trafficante would serve as courier to Cuba, helping to make arrangements for the murder on the island.

Rosselli was to be the main link between all of the participants in the plot.

The available sources disagree on what actually happened. Some believe that the Mob made a genuine effort to “whack” Fidel.

Others are convinced the mobsters simply ran a scam on the government. They pretended to carry out their “patriotic duty” while in fact making no effort at all to penetrate Castro’s security.

The CIA’s war against Castro was known as Operation Mongoose—the mongoose being a deadly enemy of the cobra. And those entrusted with this assignment were known as the Special Group.

“We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter,” Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara later testified before Congress about these efforts. “And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro.”

COWARDICE–NOT TRUTH–RULES AT THE WASHINGTON POST

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2020 at 12:09 am

During the early and mid-1950s, “CBS” came to have two meanings.

For the overwhelming majority of Americans, it stood for “Columbia Broadcasting System.”

But for many of the reporters and editors working in its News Division, “CBS” came to mean “Cowardly Bastards Syndrome.”

William L. Shirer had worked as a newspaper reporter for Universal News Service, a wire service for William Randolph Hearst. Assigned to Germany, he had been one of the first American reporters to chronicle Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.

In 1937, with the Hearst empire losing money, he found himself fired. Shortly afterward, he was hired by Edward R. Murrow, European manager for CBS News. Murrow hadn’t had any experience in journalism; he needed a top-flight reporter.

Shirer, a veteran reporter speaking fluent German and French, fit that bill.

Together, Shirer and Murrow were the beginning of what would become the CBS News empire. Shirer remained in Nazi Germany until December, 1940, when just ahead of the Gestapo, he left for the United States by passenger ship.

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William L. Shirer 

Meanwhile, Murrow achieved international fame reporting on the London Blitz, his signature introduction to each broadcast being: “This….is London.”

Thus, when both men returned to the United States after the war, they were genuine celebrities. Murrow took a job as a CBS vice president. Shirer continued to work as a correspondent.

In 1947, however, their longtime friendship came to an end.

Americans’ attitudes toward the Soviet Union—their ally during World War II—were hardening. Right-wingers saw no difference between liberalism and Communism. And Shirer was strongly critical of the Truman “loyalty oath” program for government employees and his catering to foreign dictators like Chiang Kai-Shek.

J. B. Williams, a maker of shaving soap, withdrew sponsorship of Shirer’s highly-rated Sunday news show. Within a month, CBS, through Murrow, moved Shirer’s program to Sunday midday and then canceled it.

Shirer blamed Murrow for not defending him—or the independence of the news division. After being fired by CBS, Shirer warned Murrow; “I’ve been through this before with newspapers. But you’re going to get it, too. Don’t kid yourself.”

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Edward R. Murrow

Murrow’s turn did come, starting in 1958, with the cancellation of his hugely successful—and controversial—investigative series, See It Now.

Then, on October 15, 1958, in a speech before the Radio and Television News Directors Association in Chicago, Murrow attacked TV’s emphasis on entertainment and commercialism at the expense of  public interest.  

William S. Paley, the chairman of CBS and a longtime Murrow friend, never forgave the broadcaster for “biting the hand that feeds him.”

His influence almost ended at CBS, in 1961 Murrow accepted President John F. Kennedy’s invitation to direct the United States Information Agency. 

In 1965, Murrow, a heavy cigarette smoker, died of lung cancer at 57. Shirer died in 1993, at 89.

But the Cowardly Bastards Syndrome didn’t die with Shirer and Murrow. It lives on in American journalism—most recently at The Washington Post.

On January 26, basketball celebrity Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Several hours after Bryant’s death, The Washington Post’s national political reporter, Felicia Sonmez, tweeted a 2016 Daily Beast story that detailed a 2003 sexual assault allegation made against him. 

The criminal charge was dropped, but Bryant settled a civil suit with his accuser for an undisclosed amount of money. He didn’t admit guilt, but he admitted that while he saw the encounter as consensual, his accuser did not.

Sonmez’s initial tweet about the allegation against Bryant ignited a firestorm of outrage. But she defended it, writing that “any public figure is worth remembering in their totality.”

Sports-obsessed fans, who worship celebrity jocks as genuine heroes, loudly disagreed. Sonmez found herself deluged with insults and death threats on Twitter and in her Inbox.

Then came the indignity of being put on suspended leave by her employer—The Washington Post.

Before she was suspended, Sonmez received an email from the Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron: “A real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.”

Tracy Grant, the Post’s managing editor, said in a statement that Sonmez’ tweets “displayed poor judgement that undermined the work of her colleagues.” 

How tweeting a true story about a dead celebrity “undermined the work of her colleagues” was not explained.

Bryant had been charged with rape.

He had settled out of court on the same charge.

And truth is supposed to be the ultimate defense in a libel or slander lawsuit.

On top of that, Somnez had not even written the story—she had merely posted a Daily Beast story on Twitter. 

Erik Wemple, the Post’s media critic, wrote that Grant told Sonmez in an email that her tweet didn’t “pertain” to her “coverage area”—politics.

Responded Wemple: “If journalists at The Post are prone to suspension for tweeting stories off their beats, the entire newsroom should be on administrative leave.”

The Washington Post has had many proud moments—such as the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and its monumental coverage of Watergate from 1972 to 1974. 

For journalists who cherish their freedom, this moment will long live in infamy.

OBAMA VS. TRUMP—IN FICTION

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 10, 2020 at 12:04 am

Presidential legacies live on in unexpected ways.  

Right now, the legacies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump are vying for the attention of—fiction readers.

In Hope Never Dies: An Obama-Biden Mystery, author Andrew Shaffer has fashioned a novel that is half-mystery, half-bromance.   

Vice President Joe Biden has just left the Obama White House and doesn’t know what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Then Finn Donnelly, his favorite railroad conductor, dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues.

To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” calls on the skills of his former boss: The 44th President of the United States. Together they scour biker bars, cheap motels and other memorable haunts throughout Delaware.

Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery (Obama Biden Mysteries)

Then Biden unearths a disturbing truth about his longtime—and now dead—friend. This, in turn, leads Biden and Obama to uncover the sinister forces behind America’s opioid epidemic.

The book is pure fantasy fun, as evidenced from this review by Alexandra Alter in The New York Times

“[Hope Never Dies is] a roughly 300-page work of political fanfiction, an escapist fantasy that will likely appeal to liberals pining for the previous administration, longing for the Obama-Biden team to emerge from political retirement as action heroes. But it’s also at times a surprisingly earnest story about estranged friends who are reunited under strange circumstances.”

A reader named Casey, reviewing the novel for Goodreads, writes: “While Shaffer could have leaned into nostalgia alone, he’s written a solid mystery with the characters fleshed out as more than just cliches.

“The reader really feels Biden’s longing to be helpful and his anguish over seeing 44’s legacy undone so quickly by an individual who shall remain nameless. (The presidential zings in this book are incredible, truly.)

“The tension between the two rings as true as it did when they were in office….By all means, this book shouldn’t work as well as it does. For a few hours, I got to enjoy the company of politicians who behaved like adults (mostly). It sure was nice.”

Contrasting with the relatively lighthearted fictional image of Barack Obama is the immensely darker one of Donald Trump.

Don Winslow offers Trump an extended cameo appearance in The Border, his massive, 736-page novel about America’s war on drugs—and the horrific violence it has spawned in Mexico. It’s the third of a trilogy of novels vividly portraying the violent costs of an unwinnable conflict. 

The Border: A Novel (Power of the Dog Book 3)

Art Keller is a dedicated agent of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). For over 40 years, he has waged all-out war on Adán Barrera, the godfather of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.

Appointed director of the DEA, Keller now faces a series of deadly enemies:

  • A heroin epidemic surging across America; 
  • Hitmen who want to kill him;
  • Politicians who want to sabotage his agenda; and
  • An incoming administration that’s allied with the very drug traffickers he’s trying to destroy.

And heading this administration is John Dennison—Donald Trump in all but name—who:

  • Gratuitously insults people on Twitter;
  • Fires a Special Counsel;
  • Gets blackmailed by a woman he once bedded; and
  • Colludes with drug traffickers for a multi-million dollar loan to finance his Presidential campaign.

Whereas the reviews for Hope Never Dies were as upbeat as the book itself, those of The Border reflect the novel’s mercilessly grim take on a war that can’t be won. 

Los Angeles Times:The Border is intricate, mean and swift, a sprawling canvass of characters including narco kingpins, a Guatemalan stowaway, a Staten Island heroin addict, a kinky hit woman, a barely veiled Donald Trump and DEA agent Art Keller, who….has been noble and merciless, a conflicted wanderer who makes America face the transgressions committed in its name.”

Rolling Stone: “Clocking in at over 700 pages, it is his most overtly political installment yet. He takes on the Trump administration directly, creating a fictional candidate, then president, who stokes racist fears of Mexicans, campaigns on ‘building the wall’ and, along with his venal son-in-law, gets caught up in a shady real estate deal involving Cartel money.”

NPR: The Border becomes a book for our times. Like Shakespeare, it makes a three-act drama of our modern moment. Like Shakespeare’s plays, it shows us a world that is our own, a history that is our own, a burden that is our own, rendered out into the rhythm of scenes and arcs, chapters and parts.”

The signature slogan of Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign was: “Yes, We Can!” The slogan of Trump’s 2016 effort could have been: “No, You Can’t.” 

Obama concentrated the full force of his attention on reforming American healthcare—by making it available to millions whose insurance refused to provide coverage.

Trump’s top priority is to separate the United States from Mexico with an impenetrable wall—and he has even diverted $3.6 billion from Pentagon funding to pay for it. 

Like John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama will likely be positively remembered as much for what he tried to do as what he succeeded at doing.

Like Richard M. Nixon, Donald Trump will likely be remembered as a menacing stain on American history. 

SUBVERTING OTHER GOVERNMENTS? IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 3, 2020 at 12:03 am

“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

The speaker was White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. And in an October 17 press conference, he was trying to put the best possible spin on President Donald Trump’s latest outrage: An attempt to extort a “favor” from the president of Ukraine.

In July, 2019, Trump told Mulvaney to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine.The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Donald Trump

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

As far as known, this marked a first in American foreign policy: Trying to extort a patently illegal favor from an ally.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t hesitate to leverage the great economic and military power of the United States to gain concessions from Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Great Britain.

At Roosevelt’s insistence, for example, it was an American—General Dwight D. Eisenhower—who was appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Had the British gotten their way, the post would have almost certainly gone to British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery.

Roosevelt’s insistence, however, had nothing to do with personally benefiting himself. 

But the unpleasant truth remains that subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. For example:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

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Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913.
  • He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista.
  • On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende.
  • Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking). In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

Americans reacted to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—with indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like  Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Jacobo Arbenz, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

SELLING CLOTHES—AND PRESIDENTS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 30, 2019 at 12:06 am

President Donald Trump was furious.

Nordstrom department store had just dared to drop the clothing and accessories lines of his daughter, Ivanka.

So, true to form, on February 8, 2017, he aired his displeasure on Twitter: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”

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Donald Trump

He used his personal Twitter account—@realDonaldTrump—to send this message. In fact, he sent it 21 minutes into his daily Intelligence briefing.

Still not satisfied, he retweeted his attack on Nordstrom on his official POTUS (President of the United States) Twitter account.  

In short, he used a taxpayer-funded account to benefit his daughter.

Not content to attack Nordstrom by himself, Trump enlisted other members of his administration as assailants.

One of these was his then-press secretary, Sean Spicer:

“There’s a targeting of her brand and it’s her name. She’s not directly running the company. It’s still her name on it. There are clearly efforts to undermine that name based on her father’s positions on particular policies that he’s taken. This is a direct attack on his policies and her name. Her because she is being maligned because they have a problem with his policies.”

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Sean Spicer

Nordstrom retorted that its decision to drop the Ivanka Trump line was “based on performance.”

“Over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn’t make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the Ivanka Trump team. We’ve had open conversations with them over the past year to share what we’ve seen and Ivanka was personally informed of our decision in early January.”

But for the Trumpinistas, that wasn’t the end of it.

On Februrary 9, 2017, Kelleyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Trump, became a TV shill for Ivanka.

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Kelleyanne Conway

Appearing on the Right-wing Fox News Channel program, “Fox and Friends,” Kelleyanne spoke from no less prestigious a forum than the White House itself:

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff. I hate shopping and I’m going to go get some myself today. It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”

For Democrats and even some Republicans, Conway’s behavior was simply unacceptable.

Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, a member of the the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the committee.

In it, he requested a referral to the Office of Government Ethics for possible disciplinary action against Conway. 

The office does not have investigative or enforcement authority, but officials there can contact and provide guidance to other enforcement agencies.

Chaffetz told the Associated Press that Conway’s behavior was “wrong, wrong, wrong, clearly over the line, unacceptable.”

Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization of election law experts, said Trump’s tweet was “totally out of line.”

“He should not be promoting his daughter’s line, he should not be attacking a company that has business dealings with his daughter, and it just shows the massive amount of problems we have with his business holdings and his family’s business holdings,” Noble said.

Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert, said the Nordstrom tweet could make other retailers hesitate to drop the Ivanka Trump brand. They may fear being similarly attacked by the President.

“The implicit threat was that he will use whatever authority he has to retaliate against Nordstrom, or anyone who crosses his interest,” said Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

* * * * *

In 1969, 25-year-old Joe McGinnis became famous overnight with the publication of his first book, The Selling of the President.

At the time, Americans were shocked to learn how Presidential candidate Richard Nixon had been sold to voters like any other product. In fact, the original book jacket featured Nixon’s face on a pack of cigarettes. 

Today, Madison Avenue doesn’t simply sell Americans their Presidents. Now—with Donald J. Trump—Americans have a President determined to turn the White House into Trump, Inc. 

A single example will serve to illustrate: 

On January 27, 2017, Trump signed an executive order that:

  • Suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days;
  • Barred Syrian refugees indefinitely; and
  • Blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Four Islamic countries not covered by Trump’s travel ban:

  • Saudi Arabia
  • The United Arab Emirates
  • Egypt 
  • Turkey.

Approximately 3,000 Americans have been killed by immigrants from those countries—most of them during the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey are all countries where President Trump has close business ties. His properties include two luxury towers in Turkey and golf courses in the United Arab Emirates.

The full dimensions of Trump’s holdings throughout the Middle East aren’t known because he has refused to release his tax returns.

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