Thursday, April 23, 2015

BLUE BROTHERS

Featuring a little Q & A between a reporter and an unnamed source with a big hat and even bigger boots

Q. What branches of the United States military currently utilize military drones for offensive purposes?
A. The U.S. Air Force, The U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Q. I didn't know the CIA was a branch of the military.
A. Think of the CIA as they think of themselves: a para-military organization that also gathers intelligence. Naturally the Border Patrol uses drones too, along with the National Guard.

Q. I see you didn't use the expression "Predator" drones.
A. Actually, I notice you didn't use that expression. You are asking the questions, after all.

Q. Point taken. Who makes these drones we keep hearing about?
A. They are built and sold by a company called General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The MQ-1 Predator is only one of the unmanned remotely piloted aircraft the company builds. Usually they're called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs. 

Q. Pricey?
A. Freedom isn't free.

Q. How much, then?
A. You got your MQ-1B, which lays out at twenty-seven feet long and hits a good speed of 135 miles per hour. Handles what we call armed 
reconnaissance, carries your video cameras and radar detectors. Best of all, it'll carry two Hellfire missiles sure to blow the arms off anyone it strikes. Total cost of that program was a little better'n four billion. The Air Force ain't using any new ones. Just hanging on tight to the 156 they got left.

Q. There's others?
A. Aw, Lord, yes! The Army digs up on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. That bad boy reaches heights of 29,000 feet. Has to have its own de-icing system, that's how cold it gets. Hell, its own mama couldn't find it up that high. Runs for twenty-five hours. And best of all, it carries twice as many Hellfire missiles as its first cousin.

Q. That would for four missiles?
A. It would. You know, don't you, that one of the CIA's first successful uses of the Predator was when we took out Nek Muhammad back in June 2004. He was a Qaeda terrorist guy, loved by the tribes, but he threatened the stability of Pakistan, so the leader we installed there gave us permission to violate their airspace. Boom. Region's been a glorious mess of destabilization ever since. Our boy know what they're doing. 

Q. What else do you have?
A. Saving the best for last. The MQ-9 Reaper. Sort of a grim poetry about that name. In house we call it the Predator B. Powered by Honeywell, this sucker'll hit the sky at 50,000, flies for twenty-seven hours, and has seven external payload stations. You know what that means?

Q. What?
A. Means it can blow up your town, Bucko. Granted, the Reaper costs almost $14 million per model, whereas the Gray Eagle is only $5 million. But our military knows what it's doing. The Eagle program expenditure is $658 million, whereas the more enjoyable Reaper taps out at $11.8 billion. That's with a "b," boy.

Q. I've never even heard of General Atomics.
A. They're out of San Diego. Think General Dynamics with greater anonymity. Fact, General Atomics used Dynamics garages in the late sixties. Used to be owned by Gulf Oil. How's that for coincidence? Then Chevron owned it for a while. Nowadays it's owned by the Blue Brothers, and I don't mean Jake and Elwood. Nope, a couple guys name of Neal and Linden Blue hold title. Nice family business. They bought it from Chevron for only $60 million. And as one of the leading defense contractors, they do other things besides make and sell drones. Lord, yes, they do. Somebody has to make and sell all the electronic doodads those drones carry, like the transactions processing systems, the radiation monitoring systems, the high voltage capacitors, plus the electrostatic systems used by the conveniently located nearby petroleum refineries scattered throughout the Middle East. Of course, these folks is community-oriented, so they work closely with the science teachers in the San Diego area to make sure that the youngsters understand the beauty of nuclear fission and other peacetime uses of annihilation. 

Q. Tell me more about the Blue Brothers.
A. Aw, they're just a couple of good old boys raised in the Depression. They've made a few bucks enriching uranium, dumped nuclear waste on Indian reservations--like there's anything wrong with helping out the Native Americans--spied on potential eco-terrorists, and tried, bless their hearts, to turn that hellhole of a ski resort known as Telluride into a useful tract home community. Of course, they have a long history of humanitarian work with Somoza in Nicaragua, building plantations there to provide full employment for the slaves. I guess they tried to exercise some influence with the CIA in the war against the Sandinistas, but you can  only do so much once you get kicked out of another country. But that setback was nothing. Hell, Linden had been brought down over Havana just a couple weeks before the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Tossed his ass in jail in Cuba. After that, Nicaragua wasn't all that bad. 

Q. So the Blue Brothers and General Atomics invented the Predator drone? That's wild.
A. Naw, actually the Predator was invented by an Israeli name of Abraham Karem. He got the idea during the Yom Kippur War. But that didn't mean shit to the Department of Defense. What they wanted--and what Congress wanted--was some good sales people. That's where the Brothers stepped in. They knew how to hire lobbyists. Cat name of Duke Cunningham--no relation to Richie--was the Congressional Republican for the California District that included San Diego and hence General Atomics. Those lobbyists pumped a payload of green cash into his pockets in the form of quid in return for favorable quo. And boy did they get their quo. Duke got eight years for tax evasion, which is just the cost of doing business these days. Hey, something wrong? Where you going?

Q. Nowhere. Just thinking.
A. Thinking what?

Q. Well, it just seems to me that while the media is fixated on the influence of the Koch Brothers--
A. I hear you. The Koch Brothers may buy the election, but the real contest for power lies in war, son. The mobilizing premise for all human society lies with its war powers. Elections are just for the suckers. Hillary, Rubio, Bush--run them through an x-ray scanner at the airport, look at the images, tell me who is who. 

Q. You're a cynical bastard, huh?
A. Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name. 

George W. Bush and Linden Blue

The Blue Brothers make the cover of Life

Sources:
1. Aerospace and Defense Intelligence Report.
2. General Atomics website: Reaper
3. Aircraft Platforms
4. The Billionaire Brothers Behind America's Predator Drones. Alternet
5. A Secret Deal on Drones. New York Times.
6. U-T San Diego Military Spending

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HOOPTEDOODLE

  While I have no desire to take food from the mouths of a man's inheritors, I'm willing to gamble a piece of my soul in the public interest and provide those interested a link to the complete text of a book first published in 1973 and one which today remains somewhat beyond relevant: Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E. F. Schumacher

   Did you watch "Just Eat It" on MSNBC tonight? I cannot recommend this documentary too highly. A Vancouver couple named Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer decided to go six months eating nothing except rescued food. If you are not familiar with that expression, all the better reason to watch the seventy-five minute movie. Their journey is intercut with interviews with farmers, recyclers, grocery owners and community activists. No matter how much you think you know about food waste, this film will enlighten you.

   Just the other day I was commenting in these electronic pages about how wonderful the Saturday morning filler "School House Rock" was when I was but a twee. One exception exploded in my memory upon publication of that piece. "Grammar Rock" as a whole served its purpose, but the segment about adverbs--"Lolly lolly lolly get your adverbs here," or something to that effect--was dead wrong. I try (and fail) to banish them from everything I write and say (in fact, I have already messed up several times in this piece). My own imperfections should not prevent you from applying the No Adverbs On Board rule, however. But don't take my word for it. Here is what Elmore Leonard has written on the subject:

Never use an adverb to modify the verb ''said'' . . .
. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''


  And if Big El isn't adequate to the task, consider Stephen King's take on the subject: "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops."

   Albert Einstein said, "Two things are infinite: The universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe." We sit in a state of superiority while watching television programs called "World's Dumbest Criminals," "Pederasts of Pain," and "Stupidest Television Shows of All Time," yet our cerebrums sag, our medullas melt and our cerebellums. . . uh, sag just like our cerebrums in no small part due to the rotten parasite algebra teacher in high school who insisted we all con our parents into buying us calculators. "Won't you forget your multiplication tables?" our parents queried. "Just fork over the dough, will ya?" we responded. "I don't wanna get in trouble."
   It turns out we were right and the folks were wrong, at least according to most studies on the subject, which you can read about from Susan Barton, Linda Collins, and Dennis Roberts
   Does it follow that computers and Apple products are not the real reason why we are stupid today? (Please note the potentially fallacious assumption in this question.) Not according to an article in Bloomberg Business by Charles Kenny called "The False Promise of Classroom Technology," a portion of which I excerpt here:
The University of Chicago’s Austan Goolsbee studied the impact of subsidized Internet rollout in California’s school system in the late 1990s: The program worked to extend Internet access, but there was no impact on learning outcomes. As broadband rolled out across North Carolina, Urban Institute researchers found “modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores.” On the other side of the Atlantic, Carnegie Mellon’s Rodrigo Bello and colleagues looked at schools in Portugal and found significant declines in ninth-grade national exam scores as broadband use increased; meanwhile, “students in schools that block access to websites such as YouTube perform relatively better.” And looking at results from across the countries that take part in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), test scores are lower among students who use computers intensively.

      There you have it: all the hooptedoodle I could remember from the last few days. I will try to get back on course by the next entry in our ongoing journey down the river of confusion. Until then, keep your feet on the stars and keep reaching for the ground. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

LITTLE MAGIC TWELVETOES

   
Multiplication Rock

   Twelve holds magic. 
   Twelve signs of the zodiac exist, which is why today we have twelve members on a jury. 
   Twelve inches comprise a foot. 
   Twelve months make a year. 
   The face of a clock has twelve positions. 
   The tribes of Israel are twelve, each numbering twelve thousand. This comes from Jacob having twelve sons or princes. Likewise, Ishmael had twelve princes. Christ's bride in Revelation 12 wears a crown containing twelve stars. New Jerusalem has twelve gates of pearl. The first words referenced to Jesus (Luke 2:42) occur when He is twelve years old. Solomon appointed twelve officers over Israel. There were twelve great priests of the Chronicles. Twelve explorers were sent in Canaan. 1 Kings references twelve oxen of the Bronze Sea. Moses proclaimed twelve curses to all men of Israel. Twelve shepherds saw the baby Christ in the crib. According to the visions of Anne-Catherine Emmerich, after his temptation in the desert, Jesus is served by twelve superior angels and seventy-two angels of lower level.
   Hercules had twelve tasks.
   There are twelve principal divinities in Greek mythology.
   Troy had twelve ounces in a pound.
   Twelve animals populate the Chinese horoscope. 
  Twelve old British pence make one shilling.  
  Twelve items make a dozen, just as there are twelve dozen in a gross and twelve gross in a great gross. 
   Twelve characters appear on the face of a touchtone telephone. 
  Twelve is the highest number that can be rolled on a pair of dice, the odds of rolling which is one in thirty-six, a factor of twelve. 
  Humans have twelve finger bones on each hand.
  The number twelve has six factors (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12), the smallest whole number with this many.    
   There were twelve original Apostles of Jesus. Mahomet had twelve disciples to spread his doctrine. Confucius had twelve disciples, as did Mithra. There were twelve descendants of Ali, as well as twelve companions of Odin. Napoleon had twelve marshalls.
  There are Twelve days of Christmas. 
  Terry Gilliam's movie is called "12 Monkeys."  
  Twelve is the number of lines that border a cube.
  The planet Jupiter takes twelve Earth years to orbit the sun.
   Okay, we don't need to get too precious here. Suffice it to say, twelve is a number that cosmic folks of all stripes have found, at a minimum, convenient. Just as the number forty was popular in the Bible, meaning roughly "a very long time," twelve seems to mean "a very convenient explanation of a reality too complex for us to otherwise contemplate."
   In 1973, ABC Television did something pretty remarkable, something that attempted to explain a reality too complex for most grown-ups to otherwise contemplate. They introduced a series of three-minute educational tunes at the end of each cartoon program aired on Saturday mornings. They hired a guy named Bob Dorough to write and perform some tunes that would help kids remember the multiplication tables. "Multiplication Rock" was born.
   We kids were treated to future classics such as "My Hero, Zero," "The Four-Legged Zoo," "Lucky Seven Sampson," "Naughty Number Nine," and my personal favorite, "Little Twelvetoes." 
   Imagine small children being introduced to the duodecimal system! Grown people busied themselves sweating over ways to program obedience and acceptable of authority onto a generation of young inquisitive minds, only to have their efforts derailed by a series of bubblegum tunes. 
   I am not making this up. Here are the "lyrics" of the first part of the song.
Now if man had been born with 6 fingers on each hand,
He'd also have 12 toes or so the theory goes. Well, with twelve digits, I mean fingers, he probably would have invented two more digits when he invented his number system. Then, if he saved the zero for the end,
He could count and multiply by twelve just as easily as you and I do by ten.
Now if man had been born with 6 fingers on each hand,
He'd probably count: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, dek, el,
Doh. "Dek" and "el" being two entirely new signs meaning ten and eleven. Single digits! And his twelve, "doh," would be written 1-0. Get it? That'd be swell, for multiplying by 12.
   
   The duodecimal system is a mathematical conception that uses a base of twelve rather than the standard base ten. Under base twelve, the place value changes from 10 to 12. Quantities are explained in terms of twelves, such as dozens, grosses, and great-grosses, rather than tens, hundreds, and thousands. In the duodecimal system, there are new symbols for 10 (X or dek) and 11 (E or el). Dozen is called dodo, and dozenal is a synonym for duodecimal. The system has some natural advantages over the base ten system. One of those advantages is a lower abundance of repeating decimals for simpler fractions. Another advantage is the high divisibility of 12. Larger numbers would also take up less space and duodecimal is easier to convert into binary, octal, and hexadecimal should the need arise, and it might just. The benefits of decimal are only that we have ten fingers. Well, most of us do. But in my mind, that little twelvetoes guy is still out there, seeking new life and new understanding.    I'm no mathematician. I was very happy to receive a final grade of B in my Algebra II class. I remember passing Trigonometry. I do not remember how. 
   But I will remember "Little Twelvetoes" forever. 
   Strange, isn't it?
  

IN SEARCH OF MAURICE BISHOP--The Last Investigation Part 5

  The search for Maurice Bishop occupies the vortex of Gaeton Fonzi's revelatory investigation into the JFK assassination via the reporter's work for Senator Richard Schweiker, co-chairman of the subcommittee of the assassination of John F. Kennedy (as a part of the larger Senate Select Committee on Intelligence), as well as for the anti-Castro Cuban connection investigation for the House select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). 
    During the course of many interviews with Antonio Veciana, the founder of Alpha 66, Fonzi learned much about the activities of anti-communist Cuban exiles, especially as their interests led them to participate in organized assassination attempts. Veciana told Fonzi that from 1960 through 1973 he had been directed and advised in his activities by an American he knew as Maurice Bishop. Veciana said that Bishop, over the span of more than one hundred meetings, had guided him in planning assassination attempts on Fidel Castro in Havana in 1961 and in Chile in 1971, that Bishop had directed him to organize Alpha 66 in 1962, and that Bishop had paid him $253,000 in cash at the end of his services. More to the point of the HSCA investigation, Veciana disclosed that in either late August or early September 1963, he saw Maurice Bishop in Dallas meeting with a man he later recognized as Lee Harvey Oswald. Here is what Veciana said: "I have been in Dallas many times and remember a meeting of August 1963, perhaps the first days of September, I was there. At that time the U.S. Government had confined me to Miami Dade County. No matter, I traveled to other cities anyway, Dallas was one of them. In August 1963 I had a meeting in downtown Dallas with Mr. Maurice Bishop, a United States Intelligence Officer. I remember that Lee Harvey Oswald was present at that meeting. Oswald remained silent all the time. Bishop discussed with me different matters about the Cuban situation and other efforts in the war against Castro."
    By coincidence, when he was arrested by Dallas police, Oswald had the word "Bishop" written in Russian in his address book. [Warren Commission Exhibit 18 p. 24]. He also had the word "Knight." These were found in a list of chess pieces. In the autobiography Give Us This Day, E. Howard Hunt used the cryptonym "Knight" when he referred to David Atlee Phillips.
   Gaeton Fonzi is convinced that Maurice Bishop was none other than the CIA's own David Atlee Phillips, Head of the Western Hemisphere's Operations and Chief of Station in Mexico City. 
David Atlee Phillips
  For more on the background of the late Dave Phillips, read "The Last Investigation, Part 2," in Philropost
  Fonzi's widow claims that Veciana later admitted to her that Bishop and Phillips were one and the same, something Antonio apparently never admitted to Gaeton himself. Fonzi speculated that the reason for Veciana's reticence in making the connection official was due to his (Veciana) having been set up by Phillips on a cocaine bust in order to secure his silence, as well as a shot to the head that Veciana suffered and survived. [1][2][3]
   Assuming Gaeton Fonzi was correct in the idea that Bishop and Phillips were the same person, why is it important? 
   It was Phillips' job as Mexico City Station Chief at the time of the assassination to spy on the people who entered and left the Cuban and Russian Embassies in Mexico City. It was Phillips who claimed that Oswald had been seen visiting both embassies in September 1963, as part of an effort for Oswald to get into Cuba. Phillips claimed that the CIA had pictures of Oswald standing outside the Cuban Embassy and that they had recordings of telephone calls made by Oswald from the Cuban Embassy to the Russian Embassy. Since that kind of evidence would have given support to the "Castro did it" wing of conspiracies, Phillips' declarations were very important. The only problem was that the photograph that finally emerged looked nothing like Oswald and the recordings of the telephone conversations were "routinely destroyed" before they could be provided to the Warren Commission.
   If Phillips had had a meeting with Oswald prior to the latter's alleged visit to Mexico City and then tried to frame him viz a vis a nonexistent connection with Fidel Castro, a reasonable person might be forgiven for suspecting the involvement of Phillips-Bishop in the operational planning of the murder of JFK. 
   That's a strong argument. After all, Bishop was directing Veciana to commit acts of terror against the country of Cuba, acts which included attempted assassinations. How different would it have been to have shifted the focus from killing Castro to killing Kennedy and laying the blame at the Cuban premier's front door?
   
   On May 31, 1978, a woman named Marita Lorenz testified before the HSCA [4]. According to her testimony, she was recruited to participate in anti-Castro work by a man she knew as Frank Fiorini, someone more familiar to followers of Watergate as burglar Frank Sturgis. A few days before the assassination of JFK on November 22, 1963, Lorenz accompanied Sturgis and several other men on a trip from Miami to Dallas. she testified that they traveled in two automobiles. The men she traveled with, she says, were Sturgis, Orlando Bosch, Pedro Diaz Lanz, Jerry Patrick Hemming, "the Novo brothers," and Lee Harvey Oswald. Upon arriving in Dallas, they checked into two adjoining motel rooms. The men brought rifles in from the trunks of the cars. A man introduced to Lorenz as Eduardo arrived to deliver some much needed funds to Sturgis. Lorenz later recognized Eduardo to be future Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt. Another man showed up later, although he and Sturgis talked either in the motel room doorway or outside the door. She identified this man as Jack Ruby. The owner of the Carosel Club appeared to be upset that Sturgis had brought a woman along. In any case, Marita became uncomfortable with the group and Sturgis arranged for her to return to Miami. 
  While Lorenz' testimony before the HSCA occasionally frustrated the interrogators because she was crisp on some details and either ignorant or vague on others, her statements to the committee were consistent with the deposition she gave to the attorneys for Howard Hunt when the paymaster sued Liberty Lobby for defamation. 
   The anti-Castro Cubans were a tight group, despite the many different organizations active in Miami and along the I-10 corridor stretching to Dallas from the 1960s through the 1980s. While it is possible that Lorenz plucked the names of her traveling companions out of the local arena, at least two of those she mentioned look very good for involvement in the assassination. They are Orlando Bosch [5] and Luis Posada [6]
   Tight group as they may have been, anti-Castro Cuban groups operating in the United States since Castro came to power in 1959 included the following: Accion Cubana, Alpha 66, American Students Pro-Alpha 66, Assault Brigade 2506, the Cuban Democratic Party, the Cuban Independent Party, the Cuban Revolutionary Party, Comandos L, Comision Gestora Pro-Unidad, Comando Martiano, Cuban American National Foundation [7], the Cuban Assistance Liberation Party, the Cuban Defense League, the Cuban Democratic Coalition, the Cuban International Front, the Cuban National Commission, the Cuban Nationalist Association, Cubanos Desterrados, Cubanos Unidos, Cumbre Patricica Cubana, Fundacion Valladares, Junta Patriotica Cubana, Movimiento de Recuperacion Democratica, Presido Politico Historico Cubano, Partido Unidad Nacional Democratica, and Veterans of Special Missions. 
   Who are these groups and what is their connection to Bosch and Posada? An excellent list of the memberships of most of these groups can be found on the Cuban Information Archives.
   A couple of groups might be singled out. 
   The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) gave money to Luis Posada to assist in his efforts to bomb Castro and his supporters.
   Orlando Bosch formed Accion Cubana in 1974 with support from the Chilean fascist junta, They organized fourteen terrorist attacks against diplomatic missions and Cuban personnel in Canada, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Venezuela. hey also plotted the assassination of Cuban ambassador Emilio Aragon in Argentina. 

   As mentioned earlier, Antonio Veciana formed Alpha 66 and of course Brigade 2506 was the group of 1400 who attempted to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
  One name not mentioned by Lorenz but singled out by Fonzi is David Sanchez Morales. This is certainly a fellow who had the ability to personally carry out the mechanics of a presidential assassination, as well as the will to do so. His most incriminating statement was that "Well, we took care of that son of a bitch [Kennedy], didn't we?" [8]
  It must be said that Fonzi's investigation into the JFK assassination eclipses the work of all but a few people (his only significant competitors, if one wishes to call them that, are Jim Garrison, Mark Lane, and Penn Jones). Time and again he dismisses idiotic hyperbole in favor of hard evidence and reliable testimony. He has the added benefits of fearlessness and the ability to write. 
    As I said way back at the beginning of what began as a brief book review, more than 640 tomes have been written about the murder of the thirty-fifth President of the United States. Of these, twenty to twenty-five have added significant research to the process of getting to the bottom of the crime. The Last Investigation is among the very best of these. I hope that the text of this review (see Parts One, Two, Three and Four) adds to The Reader's knowledge and prompts him or her to pursue the matter further. The Rosetta Stone of our current quandary deserves consideration.
 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

THE CHARADE--THE LAST INVESTIGATION Part 4

  The continued relevance of research into the assassination of John Kennedy manifests once again this week with the ongoing charade of political opportunism in what some people refer to as the American political process. As I write this, Hillary Clinton has announced her candidacy for the White House in 2016. Beating her out the gate have been both Theodore Cruz of Texas and Randall Paul of Kentucky. Clinton operates on a shrewd level, as do her other two named opponents, all of them with a good idea as to their base. Understanding Cruz's base is perhaps the easiest: "Short-sighted narrow-minded sons of Tricky Dick" sums it up well (and thank you Dr. Winston O'Boogie). Rand Paul's nocturnal efficacy probably lies more with the pseudo-intellectual fraternity brother mentality, a la Bill Maher and your Uncle from Miami. 
   Who then are the Clinton voters? I have no idea, but I hope they are not members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party because if they are then there is no progressive wing of that organization. 
   One of the charades that festers in many a craw is that Hillary Clinton is some type of advocate for women's rights. The last time I checked into the matter, women were still human beings and so in order to support equal opportunities for women one needs to be on the side of humanity against unbridled corporate interests and Clinton's record simply does not support the idea that she cares much one way or another about people, as is evidenced by the following article: Hillary Clinton's Empowerment. In truth, it matters not one bit whether Clinton is elected, or Cruz, or Paul, or Rubio, or anyone else The Reader might name because the actual outcome will be different only in a stylistic manner. And that sad fact presents itself due to not only the economic system under which we all struggle but far more to the point because of the duplicitous nature of our policy-making apparatus. Those who determine policy are not those who are elected. And those who influence and sometimes administer policy are often men and women whose names do not appear on the directorships of corporations. While I doubt that our contemporary decision-makers have the intellect to comprehend Machiavelli, they nevertheless have absorbed some of his more cogent proscriptions for global domination. 

   What kind of democracy enlists assassination squads? Well, the successful kind does. Democracy is fraught with instability. Instability makes financial predictions problematic. Solution? Alter reality so that outcome is no longer a variable. The only variable is perception. You can look at a video of a police officer in South Carolina shooting an unarmed and fleeing suspect in the back eight times and actually convince yourself that there may be more than one way to interpret that event. We do much the same thing with the American version of the democratic electoral process. We look at twenty or thirty prospective candidates who aspire to support the best interests of corporations and convince ourselves that we will get different outcomes from each of them. The complexities involved in limiting outcomes while expanding the perception of choice gets messy. The more sophisticated the populace believes itself to be, the messier the process of deluding it becomes. Hence, we have had assassination teams at work both for and against our government for decades. One of the leaders of such a team was a man with the unlikely name of William King Harvey
   In November 1961, General Edward Lansdale (whom we discussed last time out in Two Red Herrings) appointed CIA agent Harvey to head Task Force W, the purpose of which was to destroy the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. One part of this operation involved Harvey directing a subordinate to supply certain members of the Mafia to carry out an executive action to murder Castro with poison. A fanatical anti-communist, Harvey even disobeyed Attorney General Robert Kennedy's orders to desist from attacks of the island of Cuba during the Missile Crisis. Harvey directed three commando teams to strike Cuba during negotiations between President Kennedy and Russia's Nikita Khrushchev. When the Kennedy brothers ordered that Operation Mongoose be disbanded, Harvey continued his involvement with organized crime figures such as John Rosselli and Sam Giancana. "Ousting the beard" was their collective goal.
   Giancana, as you may have heard, was murdered in June 1975, prior to his planned testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. More than a few former CIA operatives have suggested the possibility that Harvey shot Giancana. 
   In 1963, Harvey was stationed in Mexico City, where part of his responsibilities were to fabricate reports that Lee Harvey Oswald had visited the Cuban and Russian embassies there. When the HSCA requested detailed information from the CIA on William Harvey during its investigation of the JFK assassination, the Agency withheld a 123-page file from the government. The file is still classified. [1][2][3]
   One of Harvey's most enthusiastic and sinister employees was Ted Shackley, a member of an assassination squad known as Operation 40, so-called because its original membership comprised forty men. To fund this group (established in 1960), Vice-President Richard Nixon reached out to private sources, specifically oilmen George Bush Sr. and Jack Crichton. Paul Kangas is an investigator who has claimed that George Bush was involved with members of Operation 40. In an article published in The Realist in 1990, Kangas stated: "Among other members of the CIA recruited by George Bush for (the attacks on Cuba) were Frank Sturgis, Howard Hunt, Bernard Baker and Rafael Quintero.” 
   Most of the field agents for Operation 40 were anti-Castro Cuban exiles (including such men as  Antonio Veciana, Luis Posada, Orlando Bosch, Rafael Quintero, Roland Masferrer, Eladio del Valle, Guillermo Novo, Rafael Villaverde, Virgilio Gonzalez, Carlos Bringuier, Eugenio Martinez, Antonio Cuesta, Hermino Diaz Garcia, Barry Seal, Felix Rodriguez, and Ricardo Morales Navarrete). The first of these, Veciana, is a primary source of Gaeton Fonzi for the report of his research in The Last Investigation. Fonzi occupies considerable space with information about his source's connection to Alpha 66 [4], but makes no mention of the far more dangerous Operation 40. 
   A U.S. spy named John Martino made an interesting admission to his friend and business associate Fred Claasen. Claasen told the HSCA what Martino told him. “The anti-Castro people put Oswald together. Oswald didn’t know who he was working for--he was just ignorant of who was really putting him together. Oswald was to meet his contact at the Texas Theatre. They were to meet Oswald in the theatre, and get him out of the country, then eliminate him. Oswald made a mistake. There was no way we could get to him. They had Ruby kill him.” Martino's wife Florence told Anthony Summers in 1994 that her husband said to her on the morning of 22nd November, 1963: "Flo, they're going to kill him (Kennedy). They're going to kill him when he gets to Texas."
   Shackley and the other members of Operation 40 certainly would not have been out of place in carrying out the assassination of a head of state. In 1966, they began a secret war in Laos. The anti-communist forces in Laos was a General named Vang Pao. The General also happened to be the leader of the country's heroin trade. Shackley and his friends helped destroy the General's competitors. 
   As head of the Operation Phoenix program in South Vietnam, Shackley proved himself formidable. Phoenix was a pacification program with the stated objective of coordinating attacks by all South Vietnamese and American military, police and intelligence units against the infrastructure of the Viet Cong. CIA funds served as the catalyst for the project. Ted Shackley and future CIA Director William E. Colby played the key supervisory roles in its implementation. What this really meant was that between 30,000 and 50,000 Vietnamese civilians were murdered by the CIA assets. The Phoenix Program is where the CIA learned to use its enhanced interrogation methods later employed in Iraq. [5][6][7][8]

   The potential for involvement of the members of Operation 40 in the killing of a sitting U.S. President is something to consider at a time when our current President attempts to normalize relations with Cuba. While I personally believe that Obama's efforts in this regard stand a good chance of being among his greatest political achievements, one wonders how an opponent such as Marco Rubio may be inclined to stir up support for a series of failed policies that have accomplished nothing other than to enrich the military establishment and feather the nests of egomaniacs such as Harvey and Shackley.
   While we ponder all this, remember that the best way to further the delusion of democracy here at home is to vote early and vote often. Hoping all remains well where you are. . . 


   

TWO RED HERRINGS--THE LAST INVESTIGATION Part 3

   Having given the premises of the Gaeton Fonzi book, The Last Investigation, as well as a promise to discuss the main players any relevant research would query, we move from  Richard Helms and David Atlee Phillips to yet another key operationalist, General Edward Lansdale. Lansdale may be familiar to The Reader as the man in the Philippines who successfully discredited the fearless Huks in their battle against colonial tyranny, or as the man who developed the Strategic Hamlet pacification program in South Vietnam, or as the inspiration for the Graham Greene Novel The Quiet American, or as the man appointed by President John Kennedy to leader the anti-Castro project Operation Mongoose. 
   His ideas were complex, especially compared to others involved in the escalation that resulted in what we today call the Vietnam War. Lansdale stated more than once that he supported a non-military solution to the conflict, that the practices of the National Liberation Front needed to be understood in terms of the way the guerrillas maintained positive relations with civilians, and that Ngo Diem should not be overthrown. These arguments got him removed as assistant to the Secretary of Defense. 
   Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty believed to his dying day that the photos of the tramps arrested in Dallas shortly after the assassination of JFK were significant because they captured Lansdale walking away from the camera. Prouty knew Lansdale well, and while it would not be unreasonable to credit Fletcher with an occasionally wild imagination, he never wavered from this argument. 
Lansdale was a master writer and planner. He was a great "scenario" guy. I still have a lot of his personally typed material in my files. I am certain that he was behind the elaborate plan [to kill Kennedy] and mostly the intricate and enduring cover-up. Given a little help from friends at PEPSICO he could easily have gotten Nixon into Dallas, for orientation and LBJ in the cavalcade at the same time, contrary to Secret Service policy. He knew the Protection units and the Secret Service, who was needed and who wasn't. Those were routine calls for him, and they would have believed him. Cabell could handle the police. The hit men were from CIA overseas sources, for instance, from the Camp near Athens, Greece. They are trained, stateless, and ready to go at any time. They ask no questions, speak to no one. They are simply told what to do, when and where. Then they are told how they will be removed and protected. After all, they work for the U.S. Government. (From a letter to Jim Garrison, March 6, 1990).

   Lansdale never specifically denied Prouty's allegation, but he made it clear he didn't like the Colonel. 
I continue to be surprised to find Fletcher Prouty quoted as an authority. He was my cross to bear before Dan Ellsberg came along. Fletch is the one who blandly told the London Times that I'd invented the Huk Rebellion, hired a few actors in Manila, bussed them out to Pampanga, and staged the whole thing as press agentry to get Magsaysay elected. He was a good pilot of prop-driven aircraft, but had such a heavy dose of paranoia about CIA when he was on my staff that I kicked him back to the Air Force. He was one of those who thought I was secretly running the Agency from the Pentagon, despite all the proof otherwise.
   

    Richard E. Sprague discovered seven unpublished newspaper photographs taken in Dealey Plaza shortly after 2PM on November 22, 1963. They were photographs of three men taken off a railroad car behind the plaza and marched down Houston Street to the sheriff's office. Because the identity of the three hobos was not released until 1992, for nearly thirty years a great deal of speculation existed about who these three men might have been. Some of the names suggested were E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, and Charles Harrelson. It turns out their real names were John Gedney, Harold Doyle, and Gus Abrams. They were exactly what they appeared to be: tramps. 
   The significance of this red herring cannot be overstated. Credible evidence does exist that E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis played support roles in the assassination of John Kennedy. To mingle what may have been their actual involvement in the removal of a U.S. head of state by assuming that because the identity of the arrested tramps had not been made public ipso facto meant Hunt and Sturgis had impersonated hobos holds about as much water as the tale of the Umbrella Man firing paralyzing darts into the President's throat to immobilize him or that there were men firing from Kennedy from below manhole covers. [1][2][3]
   That said, I think it's possible that Prouty was correct about Lansdale. I am not alone in that belief. According to former Brigadier General and Special Assistant for Counter Insurgencies Activities to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Victor Krulak, "That is indeed a picture of Ed Lansdale. The haircut, the stoop, the twisted left hand, the large class ring. It's Lansdale." [4]
     
   Another red herring involves former Marine Cord Meyer, who joined the CIA in 1950 at the request of future Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles. Meyer's job was propaganda, specifically to influence the mass media into buying into and reporting pro-American, anti-communist information. As a member of the Office of Policy Coordination, Meyer worked on something called Operation Mockingbird, a program that involved coordinating the efforts of between four and six hundred media assets working for, among others, The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS, and The Washington Post. Cord Meyer was a big fan of One-World-Government, so long as that government was noncommunist. He thought of himself as a world federalist. His wife Mary apparently agreed with him, right up until her brutal murder in 1964. A man named Raymond Crump was charged with the killing, but a jury found him not guilty. Perhaps more significant is the information that James Jesus Angleton, chief of counterintelligence for the CIA, confiscated Mary Meyer's personal diary and had the book destroyed. Rumors existed that Mary had been JFK's mistress. What the diary actually said is something Angleton took with him to hell. 
   Meyer even told a biographer that he believed "the same sons of bitches" who killed his wife were the ones who murdered JFK.
   I have the same respect for the conviction that Kennedy was murdered for his philandery as I do for the Mafia-Did-It conjecture--none whatsoever. But that type of drek does accomplish the convenience of getting people interested in non-political titillation rather than in thinking for themselves. [5], [6][7][8]
   Join us next time out, friends, when we take a look at some people who probably were involved in the murder--William Harvey, Ted Shackley, Antonio Veciana, David Sanchez Morales, and Orlando Bosch, among other vile creatures. 
   

Thursday, April 9, 2015

THE LAST INVESTIGATION, Part 2

This is Part 2 of the review of The Last Investigation. Part 1 is available here.    

  As we consider one of the best written and potentially most valuable books whose subject matter is the assassination of John Kennedy, we skirt the danger of emphasizing the demons who rubbed out the President rather than focusing on the leader of the country himself. One of the few serious flaws with Gaeton Fonzi's book, The Last Investigation, is his inclination to pull back on the subject of motive. While he dedicates ample space and discussion to the Bay of Pigs (the decision being to decline air strikes to provide support for Brigade 2506 may have been Kennedy's or it may have come from National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, but the anti-Castro Cubans and CIA believed the decision was from Kennedy), the cancellation of the training camps in preparation for a Cuban invasion, and the apparent detente with Russia's Nikita Khrushchev, Fonzi nevertheless draws back regarding the incredible vitriol the antagonists felt as they witnessed these events. In order for the death of the President to retain its imperative nature in our modern history as a signpost for much of the ghastliness that followed, the decidedly anti-democratic and uncontrolled impulses of the anti-Castro Cubans and their supporters in the Central Intelligence Agency need to be explored.
   One could argue that perhaps that would be another book, or that it already has been several books and that recovering the melodramatic sentiments of the planners and operators was not the author's intent. I would argue that their motives were so crucial to the understanding of how such a thing as the murder of a head of state is possible that at least some of the writer's credibility is at stake unless such issues are addressed. In order to address those matters, we have to have some sense as to who these men and women were. 
   One could begin almost anywhere. For the sake of maintaining as much continuity as possible so that The Reader is not as confused as the average novice when exploring the JFK killing, we will divide the people into groups: Operations and Plannings, Handlers, Witnesses, and Cover-Ups. 

Operations and Planning

  No discussion of the historical base of JFK's murder can proceed far without delving into the life of Richard Helms. At the time of the Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963, Richard Helms was the Deputy Director of Plans for Central Intelligence. (For a good explanation of the current management hierarchy within the agency, fas.org provides a useful guide.) The DDP is responsible for what civilians think of as the cloak and dagger or black operations division of the CIA. Helms held this post from February 1962 through April 1965. His ascent to the Directorate of Plans came as a result of Kennedy firing Agency Director Allen Dulles and his DDP Richard Bissell after their failure to (a) successfully mount the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, and (b) provide him, Kennedy, with a plausible deniability regarding U.S. involvement in the operation. Picking up where his friends and predecessors had let off, Helms approach to the "Cuban problem" involved covert attacks against the Cuban economy. It also involved the use of a CIA operative named William King Harvey who, under Helms' direction, sent commando squads into Cuba during the Missile Crisis at a time when the world faced the very real prospects of nuclear annihilation, prospects Kennedy and his advisors were working hard to prevent. On the day of Kennedy's murder in Dallas, Texas, a member of the CIA's Special Affairs Staff named Desmond Fitzgerald supplied a case officer known as AMLASH (true name: Rolando Cubela) with a poison pen to be used in the planned murder of Cuban President Fidel Castro. Fitzgerald's immediate superior in the CIA was Richard Helms. 
   In 1998 the CIA was forced to disclose that during the summer of 1963, George Joannides, a Miami attorney, funneled $25,000 a month to an organization of anti-Castro Cuban university students in Miami. After Kennedy's murder, these students used forged photographs and false text to claim that Lee Harvey Oswald had carried out the assassination under orders from Castro. This operation was carried out under the approval of Richard Helms. 
   As Director of Central Intelligence under President Richard Nixon, Helms was charged with a number of dirty operations, including the Huston Plan to combine the various U. S. intelligence forces to spy on and disrupt the various groups in the United States that Nixon felt threatened his Presidency. Helms was also instrumental in coordinating the overthrow and murder of democratically-elected Chilean President Salvador Allende. After several disagreements about which of them actually ran the country, Nixon or Helms, the former ordered the latter to pay hush money to a blackmailer named E. Howard Hunt. Helms refused. Nixon fired him. [1][2][3].

   One man who is at the core of Fonzi's investigation is David Atlee Phillips. A former theatrical actor, David Phillips joined the CIA in 1950. Within four years he had risen to a position that allowed him to coordinate the media propaganda campaign component of the CIA operation to overthrow (wait for it) the democratically-elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. It was during what the Agency code named Operation Success that Phillips met and befriended future Watergate operative E. Howard Hunt. One part of Operation Success' campaign involved distributing 100,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled Chronology of Communism in Guatemala. Phillips' group created three films on Guatemala for showing in cinemas. Phillips and Hunt ran the CIA's "Voice of Liberation" radio station. They forged photographs that claimed to show bodies mutilated by the Arbenz regime.

   A few years later, Phillips found himself involved in the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba. According to an article he wrote in 1986, Phillips claims he believed that JFK would bail out the CIA if the operation--which had been based on the "victory" in Guatemala--should fail. Compounding what Phillips viewed as Kennedy's failure to provide air support to the 1,400 Cuban exiles-turned-invaders was the President's firing of the CIA's unholy triumvirate Dulles, Bissell, and Cabell. 
   At the time of Kennedy's assassination, Phillips CIA job was Chief of Cuban Operations. He was stationed in Mexico City. 
   Antonio Veciana, leader of Alpha 66, a terrorist organization that plotted and attempted many assassinations against Cuban leader Fidel Castro throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, knew Dave Phillips. He took orders from the man. During those years, he recognized Phillips as Maurice Bishop. Six weeks before JFK's murder, Veciana has sworn that he saw Bishop meeting with Lee Oswald in Mexico City. 

   According to the Warren Commission, Oswald arrived in Mexico City on September 27, 1963. They claim he departed for Texas on October 2 of that year, after attempting to gain a travel visa that would permit him to go to Cuba. 
   The only problem with Veciana's claim of having inadvertently seen Phillips and Oswald together in Mexico City just happens to be an enormous one. Gaeton Fonzi argues with force that the testimony of Sylvia Odio, an anti-Castro Cuban living in Dallas in the fall of 1963, is corroborative of a conspiracy to murder JFK. Odio stated that on either September 25 or 26, 1963, she was visited in Dallas by three men, one of whom was identified to her as Leon Oswald. The other two men were Hispanic. One of the two Hispanics referred to himself as Leopoldo. He told her that they knew that her father was a political prisoner being held in Cuba and that they sympathized with her. Leopoldo further explained that they had come to Dallas from New Orleans and were going to go on a trip of some sort. He confided to Sylvia that this former Marine Leon was considering joining the Cuban resistance movement. 
   The men made Odio nervous and she did not prolong the conversation. The following day, Odio received a phone call from Leopoldo. He was intent on telling her about this Leon Oswald person, claiming the ex-Marine was a great shot with a rifle and that if Cubans had any guts they would have assassinated JFK immediately after the Bay of Pigs. 
   When the news of the arrest of Kennedy's suspected assassin hit the television, Odio instantly recognized Leon as Lee Harvey Oswald.
   While the Warren Commission rejected Odio's testimony, the House Select Committee on Assassinations found her a credible witness.
   The problem, as you might guess, lies with the timeline. Veciana claims to have seen Oswald in Mexico City with Phillips in late September 1963. The Warren Commission places Oswald there no earlier than September 27. So how did Lee Oswald get from Dallas, where he met Odio, to Mexico City? Oswald did not know how to drive a car. We know that Oswald was in New Orleans on September 25 because he picked up and cashed an unemployment check there on that date. It is 500 miles from New Orleans to Dallas. It is an additional 240 miles from Dallas to Houston, where the Warren Commission has Oswald boarding a bus for Mexico City. 
   While it is extraordinary that someone was setting up Oswald as the killer of the President six weeks before the murder happened, the only way Oswald could have met with Odio a day and a half prior to arriving in Mexico City is with some help. 
   The other possibility is that someone was impersonating Oswald in Mexico, a scenario that has legs insomuch as the photographs of the man David Phillips--as Station Chief in Mexico City--claimed was Lee Oswald looked nothing like him. [4][5][6][7][8]

   Tune in next time for more on the operations and planning background. While I admit this may go a bit far afield of a traditional book review, the attempt is to place Fonzi's writing within the necessary historical context. Besides, it's an interesting subject.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

REVIEW OF THE LAST INVESTIGATION--Part 1

Review of The Last Investigation: What Insiders Know about the Assassination of JFK. Gaeton Fonzi. Skyhorse Publishing. 2013. (Originally published in 1993.)   
   
   As a lead investigator for both the Church Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, journalist Gaeton Fonzi was in a rare position of integrity and authority in researching the anti-Castro Cuban involvement in the murder of President John Kennedy. 
   Since November 22, 1963, at least six hundred forty books have been published about the assassination of the President. Few if anyone has read all of these. Most people would not want to read the majority of these. And no one wants to read the worst of these. Of the ones I have read, my favorites, in terms of both persuasion and literary talent, are JFK: The Book of the Film by Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison, Conspiracy by Anthony Summers, Plausible Denial by Mark Lane, The Yankee and Cowboy War by Carl Oglesby, and The Last Investigation by Gaeton Fonzi. Skill as a writer probably ought not to be a determining factor in a case of the magnitude of the murder of a sitting U.S. President. But it is. This becomes frustratingly clear as one labors to read the JFK books by John Newman and Joan Mellen. One finds oneself scouring the pages for the author's insights, only to invariably get bogged down in a morass of details, names, dates and places, which, if not woven into some type of literate tapestry, are ultimately stripped of their value. The horrendous becomes trivia. And we find ourselves no closer to a solution of what many people consider to be the Rosetta Stone event of the twentieth century and beyond. To grasp even the potential of truth in the case of the murder of John Kennedy is to begin a thought process of critical analysis of everything else that has followed. The other political murders, coups, all matter of foreign affairs, terrorist activities and even public relations can be understood with greater clarity as a result of studying one's history. Studying the history that led to, culminated in, and followed the killing of John Kennedy is like looking at current events with a microscope to one eye and a telescope to another. That is to say, tremendous concentration is required to make some semblance of sense, even when one may be staring truth, is it were, in the eye.
   Fonzi, who passed away in 2012, took pains to reinforce our understanding that his bona fides stayed with him after he transitioned from Philadelphia to Miami. Being an investigative reporter in Miami in the 1970s meant you were going to interact with Cubans--mostly what we now think of as anti-Castro Cubans. Fonzi's relationships with certain of these people--notably Antonio Veciana--may leave the reader a bit uncomfortable. Veciana founded Alpha 66, an organization which some people have called a terrorist group. Certainly, Veciana's organization launched multiple attempts on the life of Cuba's President Fidel Castro. And while Fonzi never comes right out and says, "Hey, way to go, guys," neither does he directly or otherwise make the case that these men were doing something wrong. On the contrary, part of getting the story for Fonzi was to put the other guy's hat on his own head in order to establish the trust necessarily to get at what actually was going on. Besides, there may be some personal value in breaking bread with the Beast. I have always loathed Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy, but the man would not be a boring dinner companion. 
   As with any great detective story, our man Fonzi needs to come up against obstacles which in a reasonable world would be outside the concerns of an average thinker. But in the world in which Gaeton spent several years working, "normal" becomes one of those words that loses its meaning.
   The original formation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations was charged with investigating the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. While the last of these was quickly abandoned, the HSCA did eventually declare that both President Kennedy and Reverend King had "probably" been murdered as the result of a conspiracy. Unfortunately, that hedged statement in and of itself did nothing toward getting the American citizenry any closer to the truth of what happened to our national leaders. 
   Fonzi's part of the investigation, as he writes in The Last Investigation, comes very close to naming names. To be clear, at no point does he come out and say, "These are the shooters," or "These are the operational leaders of the murder," or "Here is the getaway driver," or anything that specific. However, because of the emphasis and space given to certain key characters in the complex scenario, it is not difficult to get a strong sense of the proper suspects as revealed in the investigation.
   To that end, this is one of the least murky books ever written on the subject. The writer's passion for the investigation shouts from every page without once lapsing into hysteria. 
   The impulse toward hysteria has throttled the credibility of many another writer.
   One of the efforts I make whenever reviewing a book or movie is to do more than simply file a report. What I attempt to do is to fit the subject matter into some type of historical context so that The Reader will have the information necessary to fathom why I think the subject matter deserves the space allotted. He or she is then free to accept or reject my arguments, or even remain indifferent to them. But to simply use highfalutin word choice, grammar and syntax to persuade you of the brilliance of my insight into the thinking of someone else feels cold, anemic, and even more arrogant than I actually am.  
   It is within that context and in an attempt to use Gaeton Fonzi's highly readable book as a springboard that we begin what I like to call a false digression. What is a false digression? That kind of thing happens when a writer--often with some abruptness--steps back to give The Reader the historical information required at such unfortunate length that a reasonable person might by the end of it have forgotten what the original topic was supposed to be about. Nevertheless, if the digressor in question has done the job well enough, the reader will be pulled along through the swamp of details with enough enthusiasm to keep the original raison d'etre in mind. In other words, a false digression isn't actually a digression so much as it is a necessary and prolonged aside. 
    Fonzi does an excellent job of placing the key characters in the assassination into a logical historical context. I thought it might be of some value to talk about who some of those people are. For the sake of clarity, we can divide the most significant people into categories: Operationalists, Handlers, Accessories After the Fact, and Witnesses. 
   And that is where we will pick up next time out. What? Pardon? Oh, you didn't think I was going to be able to wrap this whole thing up in a single article, did you? 



Sunday, April 5, 2015

PROMISE BREAKERS

   All manner of vile correspondence arrives in my mailbox every day. Bulletins from the Church of Scientology, rescheduled zoning commission meetings, notifications of utility rate hikes, you name it. Today, however, the contents of my mailbox descended to a low from which only a good case of the bends will render me clean. That's right. Today I received a flyer inviting me to attend a meeting of Promise Keepers at my local Grand Canyon University Phoenix Arena facility. When first to my wide-opened eyes this did appear, I took it for an ultra-militaristic video game. Would that it were.
   Has something of an Armageddon aroma, doesn't it?
   That is not coincidental.
   Men, it turns out, have been just a bunch of life-denying sissies lo these many years and the time has come for us to stare down with total clarity all those peace creeps and communists who have been emasculating our sacks of testosterone in the name of Satan, who, as we all know, sometimes comes as a man of peace. Just ask Netanyahu. Now he's a man. That's one Jew who knows that eventually his religion will be swallowed up by the father religion of Judaism: Christianity. Nevermind that Jews came first. The devil's in the details and there ain't no room for Lucifer in the PK faith. 
   The flip side of the flyer is headed with the legend BATTLE LINES. Beneath that admonition comes the words: "Society confronts us with many challenges: Challenges to our marriages, to our children and to our own lives. But there is hope! It's time to draw battle lines with no compromise. Join us as we stand TOGETHER!"
   I think it is fair to claim that PK is a patriarchal organization. I get that impression from the news that women are not invited to their upcoming event. "Men," their website states, "are challenged to embrace their calling to lead their families, churches and communities. . . " 
   I'm such a chump. While I was getting all hung up on the majesty of The Beatitudes, these real men were sifting through the true militia mentality at the core of the Scriptures. "We are calling men to come together city-wide and region wide, and unite in the battle for our homes, churches and communities," says Dr. Raleigh Washington, Promise Keepers president and CEO, who is himself a 20-year U.S. Army veteran. "Our duty is to contend for the faith, without compromise."
The theme verses for 2015: I Corinthians 16:13 ("Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.") and Isaiah 7:9b ("If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.")

    This movement began in 1990, became official in 1993, and has proved itself to be a force with which to be reckoned. Former college football coach Bill McCartney kicked off the movement and today the speakers on its behalf include all manner of washed up never-weres, such as former baseball player and drug-enthusiast Darryl Strawberry, conservative stand-up comedian Brad Stine, anti-gay pastor Francis Chan, Larry Acosta of the Urban Youth Workers Institute, a singer I'm sure you know from K-LOVE called Lincoln Brewster (think Flock of Seagulls haircut and less than half the talent) and other assorted contemporary panderers. 
   I think it's probably okay to refer to them as panderers. After all, on their website they do sell t-shirts, many in snappy military fatigue colors and designs. In their clearance section, they even offer a cross on a chain that resembles a set of dog tags. "Who's your commanding officer, private?" 
   "Sir! Jesus H. Christ, sir!" 
   These are some foul swine, folks. They believe a man's job is to keep his women (there's always more than one) in line. The women are supposed to experience themselves as property, which is the same crap that anti-feminists such as Marabel Morgan (The Total Woman)were preaching back in the 1970s when men's scrotum first started shrinking as a consequence of women deciding they too were human beings. 
   You see, women have just been too damned uppity. That's why pornography is such a disease. Women know that men are big, hairy and lusty and have no natural defense against the feminine wiles. So the moral decay brought forth upon us chest-thumpers is only our own fault to the extent that we have failed to tame--not own own impulses--but rather our own women. 
   I wish I could tell you I am making this up. 
   Here is an excerpt from Rational Wiki about PK. Unfortunately, the last sentence appears overly optimistic:
Promise Keepers peaked about 1997 when they held a large gathering at the Washington, D.C. mall called "Stand in the Gap". A year later they were in such financial trouble they had to lay off their entire paid staff. Attendance at subsequent rallies dropped off considerably. They announced plans to hold New Year's Eve rallies at every U.S. state capitol on December 31, 1999, then canceled them citing concern over the Y2K computer bug. They're still around but not much has been heard from them of late.

  The Christian Courier takes an understandably less secular approach to its criticism of the group:
1. The PK leaders contend for a supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit—when no such experience is available today. While miraculous revelation and signs were a part of the apostolic experience in the first century, those wonders were removed from the church’s possession when the New Testament canon was completed (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
Today, there is not one fact that anyone knows about the character of God, the life and work of Jesus Christ, the gospel, or what God’s will for man is, except that which is learned from the Bible. No person has ever been discovered in any remote region of the earth who knowsanything of these matters, if he has been totally isolated from the influence of the written Word. And yet the PK literature suggests just the reverse of this. It is even contended that “the ideafor Promise Keepers was planted in the heart” of Bill McCartney (emphasis added). Bywhom? Do ideas exist apart from words or other communicative symbols? If they do not, might not one then conclude that Mr. McCartney claims a divine revelation for the origin of PK?
2. The PK administrators have no respect for the New Testament concept of the church of Jesus Christ. In the first century there were no denominations. The PK organization asserts an ecumenical theory regarding the church that is entirely contrary to New Testament doctrine.
The PK system, therefore, does not promote genuine biblical unity; rather, it fosters sectarian division. 
3. The PK emphasis on male togetherness, as a formalized movement, finds no scriptural sanction. In Christ, we are neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28).
4. The PK dogma is wholly at odds with New Testament teaching relative to the plan of redemption. 
Finally, this query must be raised: in view of the foregoing (and much more), how could anyone—who possesses a fundamental level of Bible knowledge—endorse or support the PK enterprise? And yet some, who should have known better, have done so. It is to their shame.

  But I'm just warming up.
   The always helpful website www.religioustolerance.org has this to say:

In recent years, they have toned down the militaristic language. No longer emphasized are the "squads of men" engaging in "spiritual warfare" as "God's army," fighting "a raging battle" with Jesus as their "commander-in-chief" and clergy as "commissioned officers." They still base much of their belief that a man should be the head of the family on Ephesians 5:23: "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church..." (NIV). PK has recently been downplaying the matching verse 22 which states: "Wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord" (NIV).

   An article in the May 2006 issue of The Sociological Quarterly called "Neo-Institutionalism, Social Movements, and the Cultural Reproduction of a Mentalite" says:
The notion of a mentalit√© to demonstrate that Promise Keepers’ leadership reproduces a “culturally ascendant” sexual script, one that juxtaposes a bipolar Madonna/Whore image of female sexuality against a biologically driven, uncontrollable male sexual drive.

      This all smells like what Susan Faludi called (as the title of her fine book) Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. Faludi recognized that a coordinated media revolt against the progress women had made in the 1970s was endemic to a system that needed to make women subservient in order to market to them more effectively as well as to use them as marketing tools. She made equally cogent observations in the book, but the ones about the benefits to the economic system for women to scale back their advances are the points that seem most important. 
   See, my own favorite Biblical characters were always the people who might be misconstrued as weak. Given the choice between David and Goliath, I pick the former--and not only because he was out-manned. Jesus was up against the Roman Army, for Christ's sake, as well as some preordained history. And Mother Mary always struck me as the real leader of the Mary and Joseph family. Without her, who indeed would remember Joe? 
   But the patriarchal interpretation of life has its appeal. After all, without that, how would the steroid wing of the pharmaceutical industry survive? How would the military industrial complex run the world? How would we maintain a backdoor draft? Who would treat all the brain concussions from football injuries? In the words of John Adams, "Good God, man, we're at war!" Adams meant against the British, of course, but the real war, as these New Manly Apostles appear to see it, is against a society that makes its men weak through social programs, secular education, and porn, which are all basically the same thing.
   Meanwhile, on this Easter Sunday, I'll be meditating on a more peaceful understanding of the cosmos, one right out of the book of Matthew:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.


   It may lack the brimstone appeal of certain evangelicals, but those guys (Falwell, Robertson, and the PKs) are just messing with The Kid, a dangerous path where I come from.