Thursday, October 31, 2013

I got a song to sing, all over this land

40,000 books have been written about President Kennedy, according to this week's NY Times Sunday Book Review...

"With roughly 40,000 books about John F. Kennedy published to date, and hundreds planned on the 50th anniversary of his assassination next month, why is it we still know so little about the man and the president?"

That question is "hyperbole" -- if we read any of the 40,000 (ouch! -- too heavy!) books, we do not "know so little" about "the man" and "the president."  We know Something.

You can't know everything about any person.  And we don't need to.  (...Only God knows Everything....)

Some of the stuff written about Kennedy seems "way off" -- some is too much trying to build him up into a super-hero; and some of it is trying to batter him down.  Neither one of those approaches qualifies as a legitimate, serious style in history or biography.  A lot of fluff and pure junk is written about anyone who is known to the public - "famous" -- a word I'm beginning to really dislike.  Along with the word "celebrity."  It's like you have to wade through rivers of garbage to find one "stone" of truth and enlightenment.  A real conversation that the person had.  A true moment.

In the Washington Post:  "A roundup of new books on John F. Kennedy" ....
David Greenberg reviews The Kennedy Half-Century, by Larry J. Sabato:
----------------[excerpts]------------- Political scientist Larry J. Sabato summarizes a recent poll that helps shed light on John F. Kennedy's importance to Americans 50 years after his death.  The survey, by Peter Hart and Geoff Garin, found JFK to be, by a wide margin, the most esteemed president since 1953 -- a striking finding given Kennedy's modest record of legislative achievement in office. 

Even more remarkable, his appeal transcends ideology:  Fifty-two percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats in Hart and Garin's poll called him one of America's best leaders.

By contrast, other strong finishers, such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, are deeply disliked by members of the opposite party. ...

The most promising section of Sabato's book -- its heart -- is the third part, which methodically

 reviews how presidents from Johnson through Barack Obama have made use of JFK's legacy for their own ends....

The most original part of Sabato's book may be its contention that

Republicans now wrap themselves in Kennedy's legacy almost as much as Democrats do. 

And it's true:  alongside the poll numbers showing Republicans' admiration for JFK, Sabato provides evidence of how assiduously Reagan and his aides sought to appropriate the Kennedy luster.  Under Reagan, the Republican National Committee even compiled a Kennedy "quote file" that administration officials could use to argue for conservative policies....

Sabato chalks up the lasting Kennedy mystique to a combination of "powerful optics" and "genuine inspiration."  Those explanations are sound, as far as they go, but not sufficient.  To dig deeper, Sabato might have spent more time, ironically, on the assassination -- not on the arcana of the grassy knoll and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, but on

the reasons Kennedy's bright presidency

and cruelly curtailed life

became, after

November 1963,

a focal point for all that went wrong in the late 1960s -- Vietnam, riots, a loss of trust in government -- and a repository for the dreams of what might have been.

-------------------- [end excerpts, David Greenberg's Washington Post book review, Oct. 25, 2013]


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

how're things in Glocca Morra?

I hear a bird, a Londonderry bird
It may well be he's bringing me a cheering word.
I feel a breeze, a river Shannon breeze.
It may well be it's followed me across the seas.
Then tell me please:

How are things in Glocca Morra?
Is that little brook still leaping there?
Does it still run down to Donny cove?...


When reading about President Kennedy (I can't refer to him as "Jack," the way the biographers do...) learning of his sister's death in a plane accident, while listening to a record, the phrase -- or, song title -- "How Are Things in Glocca Morra" sounded familiar, in a long-ago memory-preserved-untouched sort of style....I heard my dad say that, once..."How are Things in Glocca Morra?"

A tune doesn't come from Ancient-Memory section of my mind, just the phrase. ...

Did all the people who fought in WW II walk around saying or singing that phrase, or listening to the record?  Finian's Rainbow must have been a popular show.  And when people got home from the war, they wanted to have fun, I'll bet, and go to shows.  And buy the record.  And play it.

When you read about President Kennedy's sister Kathleen, it sounds like she was kind of "on a roll" of marrying English aristocrats.  Think that was a tradition sort of borrowed from the 19th century:  the fortune comes from America, the title from Europe:  the two people marry, and then they have money and titles -- though it does sound like her first husband and her next boyfriend, had their own money, as well....

Running around, taking the world by storm, sort of.  That's how people feel, when they're in their 20s.

[Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia] -- Finian's Rainbow is a musical....The 1947 Broadway production ran for 725 performances, while a film version was released in 1968 and several revivals have followed.

Finian moves to the southern United States (the fictional state of Missitucky...) from Ireland with his daughter Sharon, to bury a stolen pot of gold near Fort Knox, in the mistaken belief that it will grow.  A leprechaun follows them, desperate to recover his treasure before the loss of it turns him permanently human.  Complications arise when a bigoted and corrupt U.S. Senator gets involved, and when wishes are made inadvertently over the hidden crock.  The Irish-tinged score also includes gospel and R & B influences. ...

A combination of whimsy, romance, and political satire.... --------------- [end Free Encyclopedia excerpt]

The theme described there reminds me of "Born Yesterday" -- film made in 1950, based on a play...same time frame as Finian's Rainbow -- "romance-and-political-satire"...the villain-of-sorts in "Yesterday" is a "corrupt tycoon" who goes to Washington to try & buy a Congressman ("half-off if you buy a carton of bananas"...)

We can sense a pattern, here -- a "corrupt U.S. Senator"... "a corrupt tycoon"... After the War, nice people in America were opposed to corruption, and wanted to see it cleaned up.  At the end of Born Yesterday, the William Holden character tells it to Broderick Crawford -- "we're not going to put up with this anymore!"...something....

You could feel idealistic and strong, at the same time, because we had just won the War.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

then tell me please...

"That young American friend of yours, he hasn't got a year to live."  John Kennedy's English physician, who diagnosed his Addison's disease during the freshman congressman's 1947 trip to Ireland, made that statement to Pamela Churchill, according to the JFK bio An Unfinished Life.
--------------------- excerpt---------When he came home from London in September 1947, he was so ill that a priest came aboard the Queen Mary to give him extreme unction (last rites) before he was carried off the ship on a stretcher.

In the following year, when bad weather made a plane trip "iffy," he told Ted Reardon, "It's okay for someone with my life expectancy," but he suggested that his sister Kathleen and Reardon go by train....

Events affecting Jack's sister Kathleen deepened his feelings about the tenuousness of life.   Jack was closer to her than to any of his other siblings.  They shared an attraction to rebelliousness or at least to departing from the confining rules of their Church and mother.

Jack had supported "Kick" in a decision to marry Billy Hartington, outside of her faith.  Billy's death in the war had brought her closer than ever to Jack.  Each had a sense of life's precariousness, which made them both a little cynical and resistant to social mores.  And so in the summer of 1947, during his visit to Lismore Castle in Ireland, Jack was pleased to learn that Kathleen had fallen deeply in love with Peter Fitzwilliam, another wealthy English aristocrat and much-decorated war hero. 

A breeder of racehorses and a man of exceptional charm, with a reputation for womanizing despite being married to a beautiful English heiress, Fitzwilliam reminded some people of Joe Kennedy -- "older, sophisticated, quite the rogue male."  Jack saw Kathleen's determination to marry Fitzwilliam -- who would have to divorce his current wife first -- despite Rose's warnings that she and Joe would disown her, as a demonstration of independence and risk taking that he admired. 

Before any final decision was reached, however, a tragic accident burdened the Kennedys with a far greater trauma.  In May 1948, while on an ill-advised flight in stormy weather to the south of France, Kathleen and Fitzwilliam were killed when their private plane crashed into the side of a mountain in the Rhone Valley.

Jack found it impossible to make sense of Kathleen's death.  When it was confirmed by a phone call from Ted Reardon, Jack was at home listening to a recording of Ella Logan singing the lead song from Finian's Rainbow, "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"  She has a sweet voice, Jack said to Billy Sutton.  Then he turned away and began to cry. 

"How can there possibly be any purpose in her death?" Jack repeatedly asked Lem Billings.----------- [end excerpt]

An Unfinished Life
Robert Dallek
Little Brown


Friday, October 25, 2013

is the sky falling?

"5 Big Retailers That'll Be Gone in 5 Years"
is the title of a Yahoo article from 6 months ago.

Barnes & Noble
Radio Shack
and what's the other one...?

oh -- JC Penney's.

Comments from Readers make many points....Lots of people loved buying Craftsman tools at Sears....Lots of people say hope B & N stays open because they like the feeling of a real book in their hands, instead of e-reading.

One said all anyone needs now is a "Tablet"....

Comment:  Invest in delivery services.  No matter what, companies still have to get the product to the lazy consumer who doesn't care to shop.

Comment:  You call it lazy?  I call it being fed up with lazy and rude clerks.

One suggests we buy from the Amish -- they make good stuff.

Comment:  Want to see real change in America?  Stop buying stuff.

Comment:  Now how about telling us what banks won't be here in five years.

Comment:  Perhaps the saddest of the group is Radio Shack.  About 20 years ago I wrote the chairman to tell him they were going down the wrong route.  At the time they switched from selling components and niche electronics to TVs and phones.  I told him those things I could buy anywhere and I wanted back their focus on really unique components.  Funny that even as a 20-year-old at the time I could see this coming.  Of course, the chairman didn't respond - indicative of a company that doesn't listen to their customers.

Comment:  The times they are a-changing, great song sometimes just part of life.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

a number of my illusions have been shattered

--------------[excerpt, An Unfinished Life - John F. Kennedy]------------...He immediately requested transfer to the South Pacific and prevailed upon Senator Walsh to arrange it.  By the beginning of March, he was on his way to the Solomon Islands, where Japanese and U.S. naval forces were locked in fierce combat.  After U.S. victories in the Coral Sea and at Midway in the spring of 1942, both sides had suffered thousands of casualties and lost dozens of ships in battles for control of New Guinea and the Solomons.

Jack's eagerness to put himself at risk cries out for explanation....Was he hoping for a war record he could use later in politics?  Almost certainly not.  In 1943, Joe Jr. was the heir apparent to a political career, not his younger brother.  Instead, his compelling impulse was similar to that of millions of other Americans who believed in the war as

an essential crusade against evil,

an apocalyptic struggle to

preserve American values against totalitarianism. 

One wartime slogan said it best:  "We can win; we must win; we will win."  ...Jack applauded [his school friend] Lem's success in getting himself close to combat in North Africa by becoming an ambulance driver in the American Field Service.  "You have seen more war than any of us as yet," he told Billings, who had failed his army physical, "and I certainly think it was an excellent idea to go."  Jack also admired their friend Rip Horton for thinking about transferring from the Quartermaster Corps to the "Paratroopers -- as he figured if my stomach could stand that [the PTs] he could stand the other. 

He'll be alright if his glasses don't fall off."

The seventeen months Jack would spend in the Pacific dramatically changed his outlook on war and the military.  "I'm extremely glad I came," Jack wrote Inga, "I wouldn't miss it for the world, but I will be extremely glad to get back. . . . A number of my illusions have been shattered."

Among them were assumptions about surviving the war.  The combat he witnessed in March 1943, on his first day in the Solomons, quickly sobered him.  As his transport ship approached Guadalcanal, a Japanese air raid killed the captain of his ship and brought the crew face to face with a downed Japanese pilot, who rather than be rescued by his enemy began firing a revolver at the bridge of the U.S. ship. 

"That slowed me a bit," Jack wrote Billings, "the thought of him sitting in the water -- battling an entire ship." 

An "old soldier" standing next to Jack blew the top of the pilot's head off after the rest of the ship's crew, which was "too surprised to shoot straight," filled the water with machine-gun fire.  "It brought home very strongly how long it's going to take to finish the war."

...His Harvard friend Torbert Macdonald described a letter Jack wrote the next day, telling Macdonald "to watch out and really get trained, because I didn't know as much about boats....and he said I should know what the hell I was doing because it's different out in the war zone."

A visit to the grave of George Mead, a Cape Cod friend who had been killed in the Guadalcanal fighting....was "among the gloomier events," he told Inga.  "He is buried near the beach where they first landed."  It was "a very simple grave" marked by "an aluminum plate, cut out of mess gear . . . and on it crudely carved 'Lt. George Mead USMC.  Died Aug. 20.  A great leader of men -- God Bless Him.'  The whole thing was about the saddest experience I've ever had and enough to make you cry."...

What impressed Jack now was not the eagerness of the men in the war zone for heroic combat -- that was romantic stuff dispelled by battlefield losses -- but their focus on getting home alive....What "the boys at the front" talked about was "first and foremost . . . exactly when they were going to get home."  He wrote his parents:  "When I was speaking about the people who would just as soon be home, I didn't mean to use 'They' -- I meant 'We.'"  He urged them to

tell brother Joe not to rush to join him in the Pacific, as "he will want to be back the day after he arrives, if he runs true to the form of everyone else."

= = = = = = = = =

------------------ Although Joe assured Jack in his letter of August 10 that he was not "intending to risk my fine neck . . . in any crazy venture," he knew that he had taken on what might well be a suicide mission.  Several earlier attempts to strike the V-1s in this way had failed with casualties to the pilots, who had to bail out at dangerously high speeds and low altitudes.  "If I don't come back," Joe told a friend shortly before taking off,

"tell my dad . . . that I love him very much."

The mission on August 12 ended in disaster when Joe's plane exploded in the air before reaching the English Channel coast.
------------------ [end excerpts]

An Unfinished Life.  John F. Kennedy; 1917 - 1963.  Robert Dallek.  2003.  Little, Brown.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

and I say, Why not?

----------------George Bernard Shaw, speaking as an Irishman, summed up an approach to life: . . . "I dream things that never were -- and I say:  Why not?"

  -- John F. Kennedy before the Irish Parliament, June 28, 1963

----------[excerpt, Dallek's Unfinished Life]-------------- For Joseph Patrick Kennedy, whose drive for social acceptance shadowed most of what he did, being described as an "Irishman" was cause for private rage.  "Goddamn it!" he once sputtered after a Boston newspaper identified him that way.  "I was born in this country!  My children were born in this country!  What the hell does someone have to do to become an American?"

But his second son had taken his cue from his mother's father, John F. Fitzgerald.  "There seems to be some disagreement as to whether my grandfather Fitzgerald came from Wexford, Limerick or Tipperary," Kennedy would later recall.  "And it is even more confusing as to where my great grandmother came from -- because her son -- who was the Mayor of Boston -- used to claim his mother came from whichever Irish county had the most votes in the audience he was addressing at that particular time." ...

= = = = = = = = = = =
In August 1947, John F. Kennedy traveled to Ireland. ... Though his thirtieth birthday had passed in the spring, Congressman Kennedy looked like "a college boy"....He contributed to the impression with his casual attire, appearing sometimes on the House floor in khaki pants and a rumpled seersucker jacket with a shirttail dangling below his coat or in the House cafeteria line in sweater and sneakers.  At six feet and only 140 pounds, his slender body, gaunt and freckled face, and tousled brown hair made him seem younger....

Although he conveyed a certain coolness or self-control, his radiant smile and genuine openness made him immediately likable....

The Ireland trip, officially, was a fact-finding mission to study the potential workings of the Marshall Plan in a Europe still reeling from the devastation wrought by the Second World War.  Unofficially, it was a chance to relax with Kathleen Kennedy Hartington, Jack's favorite younger sister....Though her husband, William Cavendish Hartington, who was in line to become the next duke of Devonshire, had died in the war, Kathleen had stayed in England....

A visit to New Ross, a market town on the banks of the Barrow River...filled some of Jack's time in Ireland.  Kathleen, who spent the day playing golf with her guests, did not join him.  Instead, Pamela Churchill, whom Jack asked "rather quietly, rather apologetically," went along.  They drove for five hours in Kathleen's huge American station wagon over rutted roads along Ireland's scenic southeastern coast before reaching the outskirts of the town.

As they approached, with only a letter from his aunt Loretta, his father's sister, to guide him, Jack stopped to ask directions to the Kennedy house.  ("Which Kennedys will it be that you'll be wanting?" the man replied.)  Jack tried a little white farmhouse on the edge of the village with a front yard full of chickens and geese.  A lady surrounded by six kids, "looking just like all the Kennedys," greeted him with suspicion.  After sending for her husband, who was in the field, the family invited Jack and Pamela for tea in their thatched-roof cottage with a dirt floor.  Though Pamela was impressed with the family's simple dignity, she compared the visit to a scene from Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road.

Jack believed that he had discovered his third cousins and seemed to enjoy himself thoroughly.  When he asked if he could do anything for them, the cousins proposed that he "drive the children around the village in the station wagon," which he did, to their pleasure and his.  For her part, Pamela clearly did not understand "the magic of the afternoon."  Neither did Kathleen, who was angry when Jack returned late for dinner.  "Did they have a bathroom?" she asked snidely.

The successful striving of her great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents -- the unceasing ambition of the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys -- had catapulted the family into another realm, an ocean and a century apart from the relatives left behind in Ireland.  In America anything was possible -- the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys were living proof.  For most of the family, these Kennedys of New Ross were something foreign, something best ignored or forgotten.  But not for Jack.----------- [end excerpts]

excerpts from An Unfinished Life.  John F. Kennedy; 1917 - 1963.  Written by Robert Dallek.  Copyright 2003 - Robert Dallek.  Little, Brown and Company.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

freezing at night and pretty cold in the daytime

> > > "It's a pretty good place," he ["Jack" Kennedy] wrote a relative, and "the swimming pool is great," but he saw little else to recommend the school.  ---------------- {excerpt, An Unfinished Life}---------He was "pretty homesick the first night" and at other times thereafter. 

The football team looked "pretty bad."  Worse, "you have a whole lot of religion and the studies are pretty hard.  The only time you can get out of here is to see the Harvard-Yale and the Army-Yale [games].  This place is freezing at night and pretty cold in the daytime."

His attendance at chapel every morning and evening would make him "quite pius [sic] I guess when I get home," he grudgingly told Rose.  He also had his share of problems with his classes.  English, math, and history were fine, but he struggled with science and especially Latin, which drove his average down to a 77.

In the fall of 1930, when he was thirteen and a half, Jack was more interested in current events and sports than in any of his studies. 

Football, basketball, hockey, squash, skating, and sledding

were Jack's first priorities, but feeling closed off in the cloistered world of a Catholic academy made him increasingly eager to keep up with the state of the world.  He wrote Joe from Canterbury:  "Please send me the Litary [sic] Digest, because I did not know about the Market Slump until a long time after, or a paper.  Please send me some golf balls."  A missionary's talk one morning at mass about India impressed Jack as "one of the most interesting talks that I ever heard."  It was all an early manifestation of what his later associate Theodore C. Sorensen described as "a desire to enjoy the world and a desire to improve it...."

...In 1960, when Time journalist Hugh Sidey asked Jack, "What do you remember about the Great Depression?" he replied, "I have no first-hand knowledge of the depression....About the only thing that I saw directly was when my father hired some extra gardeners just to give them a job so they could eat.  I really did not learn about the depression until I read about it at Harvard."

> > > The Kennedy children ... had little sense of being confined to a place and time.  One of Jack's childhood friends remembered them this way:  "They really didn't have a real home with their own rooms where they had pictures on the walls or memorabilia on the shelves but rather would  come home for holidays from their boarding schools and find whatever room was available. . . . 'Which room do I have this time?'" Jack would ask his mother. 

> > > Joe Jr., bigger and stronger than Jack, bullied him, and fights between the two -- often fierce wrestling matches -- terrified younger brother Bobby and their sisters.  Jack particularly remembered a bicycle race Joe suggested.  They sped around the block in opposite directions, meeting head-on in front of their house.  Never willing to concede superiority to the other, neither backed off from a collision that left Joe unhurt and Jack nursing twenty-eight stitches.

Joe Jr. patiently instructed all his younger siblings in the rules and techniques of various games, except for Jack.  A football handoff became an opportunity to slam the ball into Jack's stomach "and walk away laughing as his younger brother lay doubled up in pain."

Jack, who refused to be intimidated, developed a hit-and-run style of attack, provoking Joe into unsuccessful chases that turned Jack's flight into a kind of triumph.

But for all the tensions, Jack thought Joe hung the moon....A young woman Jack dated as a teenager remembered that whenever they were alone, Jack would talk about his brother.  "He talked about him all the time:  'Joe plays football better, Joe dances better, Joe is getting better grades.'  Joe just kind of overshadowed him in everything."

> > > Charles Spalding, one of Jack's close childhood friends, who spent weekends and holidays with the family, noted, "You watched these people go through their lives and just had a feeling that they existed outside the usual laws of nature; that there was no other group so handsome, so engaged.

There was endless action . . . endless talk . . . endless competition,

people drawing each other out and pushing each other to greater lengths....The Kennedys had a feeling of being heightened and it rubbed off on the people who came in contact with them.  They were a unit.  I remember thinking to myself that there couldn't be another group quite like this one."

> > > Jack's first ten years were filled with memories of Grandpa Fitz taking him and Joe Jr. to Red Sox games, boating in Boston's Public Garden, or on the campaign circuit around Boston in 1922, when the old man made a failed bid for governor....

Young Jack regularly took morning walks with Rose and one or two of his siblings to the local shopping area, the five-and-ten, and the parish church, which Rose explained was not only for Sunday or special holidays but part of a good Catholic's daily life.  And there were the summers away from Boston, first at Cohasset, a Protestant enclave on the South Shore,

where the family met a wall of social hostility in 1922,

including Joe's exclusion from membership in the town's country club, then at the Cape Cod villages of Craigville Beach in 1924 and Hyannis Port, beginning in 1926, both more welcoming....The Kennedys rented a two-and-a-half-acre estate overlooking the Hyannis Port harbor.  There, Jack learned to swim and enjoy the outdoor activities that became a constant in the family's life.---------------------- {end, excerpts}

Excerpts from An Unfinished Life.  John F. Kennedy; 1917 - 1963.  Written by Robert Dallek.  Copyright 2003 - Robert Dallek.  publisher:  Little, Brown and Company -- Boston, New York, London


Monday, October 21, 2013

ain't you heard? there's a war on!

Approaching up ahead, November 22nd, and it'll be 50 years since assassination of President Kennedy.

With people thinking and talking about that, I wanted to think and type about him when he was alive....last Thursday I took an excerpt out of an interesting nytimes article, about two significant speeches the president made, on close-together dates in spring of 1963 -- and thought later, maybe by taking out just that piece of the article, I might have made it sound like Pres. K just made these two speeches and abra-ca-dabra stuff happened -- things changed....wasn't trying to leave that impression.

The president spoke on civil rights -- (" old as the Scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution...") and that movement had been happening, apparently all through the 1950s.  It was significant that the president was giving that attention to it -- attention is promotion, when you're in that powerful position.  But he didn't -- like -- start it that day, or anything....

And the process of not blowing up the world with nuclear weapons had been going on under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower for more than a decade, also....

(A person puts up an interesting "snapshot" of historical moments, but always have to remember they're not isolated....history is a process.  Ongoing.  With any snapshot, there's stuff surrounding it -- stuff before, stuff after....)

--------------- So wanting to think of JFK in life, went through some of Robert Dallek's bio, An Unfinished Life.

Health problems, health problems, health problems, aaahhgghh! 
pill taken for one thing made the other thing worse....
(groan -- gggrrroooaaannn...rrhhmmnn...)

All through his childhood, John Kennedy was in and out of hospitals, school infirmaries, specialists' offices, back to the hospitals....

He got good and tired of it. 

The doctors would be telling his parents, Joe and Rose Kennedy,
"He isn't growing properly -- he can't put on weight as he ought to...."

And all the while they're sending him to boarding schools....
It seems to be the "thing" of some of the wealthier people -- at least back then, to send kids away to school....

(Not sure I "get" that.  Like -- I have my cat.  I got him so I could have a cat, at home, & have the pleasure of his company...I wouldn't think of sending him away to -- I don't know -- Cat School, or whatever....It seems like -- these folks want to have all these children, and then just when they're becoming interesting people, it's "Off!  Off to boarding-school with ye - !")

So basically anytime he wasn't in a hospital or medical testing clinic of some kind having something fixed, operated on, or tested, he was rolling through school, playing sports like a maniac -- (how would you feel like doing that when you're sick all the time?? -- well, I guess I'm not an 11-year-old Kennedy male so I wasn't schooled in WINWINWIN!!!!!!!!!!! and maybe if I was him, in that time and place, I'd do the same...)

-------------- WWII -- while some wealthy-and-influential people might pull strings to get their son out of military service, or into a less dangerous area of it, Joseph Kennedy did the opposite:  pulled strings and used influence to get the military to accept his second son, John Fitzgerald, in spite of his many health concerns / mysteries.  (Doctors did all this stuff and could never really define what was wrong with JFK and then successfully treat it....)

So, you're in near-constant pain, where do you want to be?  In the Solomon Islands looking for Japanese to get rid of before they get rid of you....Yikes.  And ouch.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

as old as the Scriptures

---------------[excerpt,]------------------ On
Monday, June 10, 1963,
Kennedy announced new talks to try to curb nuclear tests, signaling a decrease in tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Speaking at American University's morning commencement, he urged new approaches to the cold war, saying,

"And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity."

"In the final analysis," he continued, "our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children's future.  And we are all mortal."

The next evening, Kennedy gave an address on national television, sketching out a strong civil rights bill he promised to send to Congress....

"We are confronted primarily with a moral issue.

It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated."

Action followed.  An agreement to establish a hot line between Washington and Moscow came in a few days, and a limited nuclear test ban treaty in four months.  In just over a year, the 1964 Civil Rights Act became the most important American law of the 20th century. ...

{  "When Presidential Words Led to Swift Action" - written / Adam Clymer.  June 8, 2013}


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

phantom observations

Have read about government shutdown and contemplated situation:  Now -- onward to something really important -- the new "Bridget Jones" book. ...

Bridget Jones:  Mad About The Boy

went on sale yesterday.

Helen Fielding, the author of the first two Bridget Jones novels, is listed on Mad's cover as its author, but reading only a little of it on-line convinced me this one was "ghost written."  It just doesn't sound like the same voice. ...

I remain a fan and enthusiastic re-reader of the first two books,
Bridget Jones's Diary
Bridget Jones:  The Edge Of Reason.
Would recommend them to anyone.  They are masterworks of comic genius.


These thoughts caused me to think about ghost writing.
Ghost writing?

Picturing -- a white-sheet-clad figure sitting spookily at a desk, typing on computer....

Or -- no one at the desk, but the computer's keys depressing and un-pressing themselves, as Ghost is invisible -- creating player-piano-like effect.


New Yorker Magazine satirist Andy Borowitz -- recent headlines:

October 1, 2013

October 3, 2013

September 25, 2013

October 11, 2013

September 20, 2013

October 7, 2013


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

don't bring everybody down like this

To "wind someone up" is an idiosyncratic phrase which you don't hear very often, but when you hear it or read it, you can tell from the context what it means.

I'd heard it before, but not for a long time.

Reading The Diana Chronicles, written by Tina Brown, I encountered the phrase twice that I could remember, and looked to find the passages. ...

----------------------[excerpts, The Diana Chronicles]-------------{from Chapter 8, "Whatever In Love Means"...On his tour of India, the press hounded Charles for a commitment, but they were asking him to make clear feelings that were not yet clear even to himself -- something calculated to panic any bachelor.  "I can't live with a woman for two years, like you possibly could," he ruminated aloud in an off-the-record aside.  "I've got to get it right first time because if I don't, you'll be the first to criticize me."  "And then," said Arthur Edwards, "we thought, 'This is the one.'"

The One was furious that Charles did not call from India.  Sarah Spencer, suspicious that her little sister had pulled off the romantic coup she had believed would be hers, wound Diana up further by probing the course of the romance.  Diana confided to Mary Robertson, for whom she was still nannying two days a week, "I will simply die if this doesn't work out.  I won't be able to show my face."

[second excerpt -- Chapter 20, "The Last Picture Show"]---------- [[ The Tiggy Legge-Bourke referred to here was nanny to Charles & Diana's two boys after the parents separated and divorced...]]
Bolland was a shrewd go-to guy with a marketing background....He lived in the real world, not the Palace bubble.  He owed his job to Camilla; he had come to Charles at the recommendation of her divorce lawyer, Hilary Browne Wilkinson.  ...Part of his writ was to end the War between the Waleses.  It got in the way, he believed, of the necessary rebuilding of Prince Charles's image.  Bolland's first act was to persuade Charles to fire his private secretary, Commander Richard Aylard, the facilitator of the Dimbleby fiasco, and rid the Prince's office of holdovers from the bitter years of marital competition.  Nor was Bolland a fan of the undislodgeable Tiggy Legge-Bourke, sharing Camilla's belief that Tiggy spent a lot of her time "winding Charles up."----------------[end excerpts]

> > > The elder sister "wound Diana up further..."
> > > Tiggy spent a lot of her time "winding Charles up"...

On-line definitions / explanations I could find seemed lacking, I thought -- lightly grazing across meanings for the phrase like -- "annoying someone"...
No, it's more than that -- it's -- thicker. ...
It's a process where, the object of the "winding up" is being pushed, or "egged on" to think what they think, believe what they believe, or be insecure about what they're insecure about -- more -- to a greater degree.  It's like -- somebody's upset or angry, and the other person gets them more upset, makes it worse. ...The perpetrator rides the wave of energy from the person who's upset.

Contemplating the government shutdown and tea-party-republicans' antics, I thought of the film Nixon in which there are several scenes -- several -- where people are discussing politics in a room together, and they "wind each other up" and the results aren't good.  I think that happens with the current extremists in the House of Representatives.  They have, in a sense, their own world, their own "bubble" -- (not a "Palace bubble," but a bubble....)  Any input they hear is not constructive, they only hear -- or accept -- input that says, "Yeah!  Yeah!  Rah!  Rah!  Rah-rah-rah!..."

In Nixon, as the scenes where he's in a meeting with his advisers play out, you can see where -- a president wants to bounce his ideas off of his aides, and get feedback, they want to give good advice, they want to help, he wants their help and thoughts...and sometimes it works out well.
But sometimes it doesn't.
Sometimes they just "wind him up" further.
In one scene Pres. Nixon is upset about something -- exasperated, frustrated -- when you're pres. of the U.S. things are difficult sometimes -- and he's blaming this, and throwing that, and Haldeman sort of adds to it, and you feel pulled between feelings of --
++ Everyone gets upset sometimes and needs to vent, and let off the pressure
and feelings of
++ No no no stop!  Don't keep going that way!  Calm down, this is not helping...sssh...

Henry Kissinger says it:  "Mr. President, I fear we are drifting toward oblivion, here...."


Monday, October 14, 2013

stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains

"Back Door Secession"
is the title of an article written by
Garry Wills
in the New York Review
(NYR) --

On Monday, The New York Times reported that eleven counties in Colorado are promoting efforts to secede from their state government.  Of course, men like Governor Rick Perry of Texas have gone further and threatened secession from the federal government.  It is not much noticed that parts of the country act as if they had already seceded from the union.  They do not recognize laws and Supreme Court decisions, or constitutional guarantees of free speech. 

For instance seventeen states have violated the First Amendment by preventing or hindering the work of "navigators" -- organizations and businesses funded by the federal government to educate people on ways to follow the rules of the Affordable Care Act. 

Some groups routinely attempt to block health centers from advising women on the legal right to contraception. 

Eight state legislatures this year have passed voter restrictions that may violate the Fourteenth Amendment, and similar measures are pending in other states.

The people behind these efforts are imitating what the Confederate States did even before they formally seceded in 1861.  Already they ran a parallel government, in which the laws of the national government were blatantly disregarded. 

They denied the right of abolitionists to voice their arguments, killing or riding out of town over three hundred of them in the years before the Civil War.  They confiscated or destroyed abolitionist tracts sent to Southern states by United States mail.  In the United States Congress, they instituted "gag rules" that automatically tabled (excluded from discussion) anti-slavery petitions, in flagrant abuse of the First Amendment's right of petition.

The Southern states were able to live in such open  disregard for national law because of two things. 

First, the states were disproportionately represented in Congress because they got three extra votes for seats in the House of Representatives for every five slaves owned in the state -- giving them 98 seats instead of 73 in 1833, and similar margins up to the war. 

Second, the national Democratic-Republican Party needed the Southern part of its coalition so badly that it colluded with the Southern states' violations of the Constitution.  In 1835, for instance, President Andrew Jackson did not enforce the sacredness of the US mail, allowing states to refuse delivery of anti-slave mailings unless a recipient revealed his identity, requested delivery, and had his name published for vilification.

Just as the Old South compelled the national party to shelter its extremism, today's Tea Party leaders make Republicans toe their line. 

Most Republicans do not think laws invalid because the president is a foreign-born Muslim with a socialist agenda.  But they do not renounce, or even criticize, their fellow party members who think that.  The rare Republican who dares criticize a [cable television entertainer who shall not be named here] is quickly made to repent and apologize. 

John Boehner holds the nation hostage because the Tea Party holds him hostage. 

The problem with modern Republicans is not fanaticism in the few but cowardice in the many, who let their fellows live in virtual secession from laws they disagree with.

Republican leaders in Congress are too cowardly to say that the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures are racially motivated. 

They accept the blatant lie that they are aimed only at non-existent "fraud." 

They will not crack the open code by which their partners claim to object to Obama because he is a "foreign-born Muslim" when they really mean "a black man." 

They will not admit that the many procedural laws adopted to prevent abortion are in violation of the law as defined by the Supreme Court.  They go along with the pretence that all the new rules are "for women's health."  De facto acts of secession are given a pseudo-legal cover.

Thus we get people who say they do not want the government in control of women's health under Obamacare -- just after they order doctors to give women probes the doctors do not consider medically necessary.  Or that they do not want the government telling Americans what they should do about their health -- just before they prohibit "navigators" from even discussing choices about their health.  The same people who oppose background checks for gun purchases now want background checks for anyone the government authorizes to explain the law to people.  This is a gag rule to rank with antebellum bans on the discussion of slavery.

So we have one condition that resembles the pre-Civil War virtual secessionism -- the holding of a whole party hostage to its most extreme members.  We also have the other antebellum condition -- the disproportionate representation of the extreme faction.  In state after state in the 2012 election, there was a large vote for President Obama, but a majority of House seats went to Republicans.  In Pennsylvania, for instance, Obama won 52 percent of the votes cast, but Republicans got over twice as many seats (13 to 5), thanks to

carefully planned gerrymandering

of districts by Republican state legislatures.  This advantage will be set in stone if all the voter restriction laws now being advanced block voters who might upset the disproportion.

The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule. 

We see this in the Senate, where a Democratic majority is resisted at every turn by automatic recourses to the filibuster.  We see it in the attempt to repeal the seventeenth amendment, which allows a majority of voters to choose a state's senators.  The repealers want that choice to go back to the state legislatures, where they rule thanks to

anti-majority gerrymandering.

The Old South went from virtual to actual secession only when the addition of non-slave Western states threatened their disproportionate hold on the Congress and the Court (which had been Southern in makeup when ruling on Dred Scott).  It is difficult to conjecture what will happen if the modern virtual seceders do not get their way.  ...
[end of post]
--written, Garry Wills
   October 9, 2013

There's a blog post to make you gather your thoughts.

One thing that would soothe -- "ice down" -- some of the bitterness and resentment and insecurity in our society would be to get the economy moving in a healthy and positive direction ...

And -- I hope it is not as frightening as the writer seems to be painting long as there's been human society, there've been crackpots.  And yes, of
course they want to be in politics...!  In too many cases, the very people who shouldn't have any power over anything are the most desperate to have it conferred on them. ...  That never changes -- that's why in life, we never run outta work to do...fixing what they screw up... (We never need to be "bored" - !)


Friday, October 11, 2013

politics is art, Jack

"Jack, I've learned politics is the art of compromise.

I learned it the hard way --

I don't know if you have...."

-- President Nixon [portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in the film Nixon]

= = = = = = =

Study Assignment for members of the U.S. House of Representatives




The Making of the President 1960
Theodore White

The Year Of The People
Eugene McCarthy

Who Stole the American Dream?
Hedrick Smith

The Party is Over
Mike Lofgren

Jane Austen.

-------  by Monday.

(So get crackin', folks.
And tea partiers, watch 'em and read 'em twice....)

= = = = = = = = =


Jack, I've learned politics is the art of compromise --
I learned it the hard way --
I don'know if you have.
But let me tell you this, Jack; if you don't like it there's an election in November and you can take your money out in the open and give it to Wallace.  How about it, Jack?  Willing to do that?